Tuesday, September 25, 2012

"Military Readiness" group says that obesity is a national security issue: a bit strident, maybe?


Media outlets have calmly reported the press release by a group “Mission Readiness” (comprising ex-military), saying that one-fourth of high school students are too overweight to meet military enlistment standards and that this represents a national security problem.

The title (or url name) of the press release is rather strident, “Still too Fat to Fight”, link here

The tone of the communique insinuates that citizens have an inherent moral obligation to remain fit to defend the homeland from the foxhole position.  I remember this kind of thinking from the days of the Vietnam era draft and student deferments. 

Teenage obesity does seem to be related to parent income and social class.  Among the churches that I sometimes attend where there is a large population of upper middle class families, there is very little obesity.  I certainly noticed this trend when I substitute taught.  In my observation, young people from a Native American background or Hispanic background seemed more vulnerable to obesity than African Americans, probably because the “thrifty gene” persisted in “hunting” native populations before European diets were introduced.  (Adult onset diabetes is particularly common in native populations when eating the processed foods of western diets.)   I also noticed that the public school  cafeteria selections a few years ago (in northern Virginia at least) were greasy and not very healthful.

The one place where most people (men, at least) are slender is a gay disco. I wonder how a “Military Readiness” panel feels about that. 

YouTube report from Harrisburg PA TV station on the Military Readiness statement is here

Sunday, September 23, 2012

NYTimes questions whether 24x7 Internet cloud is over-using electricity, causing carbon emissions; do individuals expect too much reliability? Could local solar, wind help?


James Glanz has a big front page story in the Sunday New York Times today (September 23) about the enormous power use of Internet companies that keep all their servers (and redundancies) running all the time. The title is “Power, Pollution and the Internet: Industry wastes vast amounts of energy, belying image”, link here

The story suggests that enormous resources are consume (and possibly pollution generated) by servers that must retain redundancy for “cloud” customers 24x7, even in periods of low use.

The story notes that individual server site managers feel extreme pressure to keep their own facilities up at all times, even when there is little use,  and that they can lose their jobs because of outages.  The news story suggests that this pressure on local  server operations may not be good for the environment as a whole.

While e-commerce is a big user, so would be self-publishing platforms, that expect 24x7 availability, even for low volume (or low cash-generating) sites and blog. Whether in a free-service but paid (but low cost) shared-hosting environment.

It would seem as though server farms could make use of solar and wind power where possible, and reduce use of the central grid (even selling power back). But many companies increased their backup server capability at various locations in northern Virginia (especially Loudoun and Prince William counties) after major distribution lines through Pennsylvania and West Virginia were connected to Dominion Power’s grid a couple years ago.  (The June derecho, by the way, damaged some of this grid when it moved through the high country in West Virginia.)

Small businesses and individuals, especially those working at home and telecommuting or running their own sites, expect 24-hour reliability, which can demand a level of customer service and robustness not always economically practical; but the high degree of cloud redundancy and backup capacity was very important in allowing the smallest businesses to come back up quickly after this summer’s storms.

Culturally, the dependence on the power grid cuts both ways.  People have a sense of global reach and autonomy that depends on a strong infrastructure, and may not have the social interdependence of past generations to deal with really severe disruptions.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Closing of underground coal mines cuts both ways


Underground coal mines are closing even as surface and mountaintop mining has expanded.  A Washington Post and AP story from Sept. 19 reports on the closing of another mine in SW Virginia, owned by Alpha Natural Resources (link)

The story was of interest to me because the mine is near an area of heavy strip-mining that I and a former graduate school roommate toured in May 1972 in southwestern Virginia (not even West Virginia), and found an area north of Norton and Pound of absolute devastation, but now reclaimed (according to another visit in February 1990).

The story discusses coal exports – good for trade balance, but not good from a climate-change perspective.
The increase in strip mining eliminates underground mining jobs and some older surface mining jobs; but many in the coal industry now maintain that surface mining provides a lot of high-paying jobs, and that refusing mountaintop removal  permits (for which the Obama administration is not sympathetic) could cost jobs. 

The film “October Sky” back in 1999 (about a young inventor growing up in a coal-mining family) pointed out the dangers of underground mining: the black lung, and the tendency in the past for sons to have to work in the mines and quit high school when their fathers became ill. 

Thursday, September 20, 2012

DC and many other school systems must set achievement goals that vary by race, income


The District of Columbia and many states allow school districts to set achievement standards for schools (and, indirectly, performance standards for teachers) based on relative progress over time, within a school’s population.  As a result, some conservatives feel that school districts are reducing standards by race or parents’ income.  Former president George W. Bush used so speak of “the bigotry of low expectations” when  selling “no child left behind”.

The controversy would certainly have a bearing on the teachers’ strike (now suspended) and contract issues in Chicago.

Emma Brown discussed this on the front page of the Washington Post Wednesday, September 19, with an article “New student goals not colorblind; D.C., many states set lower achievement targets for minorities and the poor”, link here

When I was a substitute teacher, I had more discipline issues with low-income students (although when I was assigned to special education – not in my profiles  -- race and income had little bearing.  In northern Virginia, Hispanic students sometimes had more difficulties than African American students.  Sometimes an “anti-intellectual” attitude persisted. On the other hand, the best students were very good indeed.  A few students had (or today have) the skills for full time employment in areas like software engineering (or in one case, film editing) at around age 16, well before finishing high school. 

The Washington Post, as noted before, has taken the position that teachers should take up the challenge of bringing all students up, and basically step up where parents fail.  But a lot of "us" think that's unrealistic. (Apparently that's what the Chicago school district wants, too.) 
  
Washington DC seems to be aiming for flexible standards, despite the influence of Michelle Rhee for several years. 

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Reconciling bad biker and bad driver behavior, on "Mean Streets"


The Washington Post on Wednesday morning (Sept. 19, 2012) has several Letters to the Editor (“Sharing the road: a two-way street”) on the behavior of cyclists, both on the street and on sidewalks.  The primary link is here
   
The piece refers to an earlier story that needs a direct link, too, by Ashley Halsey III (based on Maryland law), “What drivers should know about sharing the road with bicylclists (and vice versa)”, here
  
First, many cities (including Minneapolis, where I lived downtown and on the Skyway from 1997-2003)  have laws banning all cycling on the sidewalk.  I think there are some areas where it is the safest place for everybody for cyclists, when there are no cycle lanes.

Arlington, VA has been adding a lot of cycle lanes, and marking a lot of other right-hand lanes as fully privileged for cyclists. 

My position is that, when bicycles use the road, they should (by law) behave as motor vehicles and be respected as such – with the only exception that they use bicycle lanes where available.  I try to give them a full lane when passing them.  I expect them to stop at lights (so I don’t have to pass them multiple times)  and at stop signs (or at least yield right-of-way properly at stop signs).  Cycle lanes can be tricky, because a right-turner needs to look for someone moving quickly from the blind spot – so I think that motor vehicle laws should require them to stop and yield to all turning vehicles at all intersections when using the lanes. 
     
Cycle lanes can also be tricky when people can park cars beyond them, making pull out difficult.  Cyclists, given how I see them behave, sometimes do not seem to realize they may be difficult to see in time. 
Cyclists should never ride the “wrong way”.  It is simply setting up a situation where drivers do not have enough time to see them (especially when making right turns onto a street where a cyclist is riding the wrong way).

I'm rather shocked to encounter cyclists at night with no lights or reflectors. 
   
And cyclists should get fines and tickets, and have license plates for photo violations, just like drivers.
  
Similar concerns exist for unlicensed mopeds.
   
I see variability in biker behavior.  One night, I saw someone I know from Libertarian Party connections operating perfectly when turning onto trendy 17th St in NW Washington DC, signaling properly, etc – but where was his helmet?  (And this was a very responsible person.)  I see a lot of very dangerous biker behavior and near misses in Arlington, a little more of it (especially wrong-way riding and light running) in lower income neighborhoods.
  
It strikes me that in New York City, which I visit frequently enough,, bikers are a quite a bit more skilled than in DC.  Pianist-composer-bicycle-enthusiast TimO Andres posted a comment (“Mean Streets”) on New Yorker bike behavior and link to a short film (“Three Way Street”) on his own site here (“no one ever seems to blame pedestrians”).   I also discussed that short film in my review of “Premium Rush” on Aug. 28 on my movies blog -- with due recognition of actor Joseph Gordon-Levitt's own cycling skills.  NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg would enjoy this "reality" video (as well as Timo’s concerts). 
   
I haven’t tried Capital BikeShare yet, and lately I’ve had trouble getting my own tires inflated properly, but, given cooler and drier fall weather, I’ll be getting to this soon.  The link for the share service is here

It’s good for the environment and general public health to get more people onto bikes.  Middle school and high school students could help school districts save money on bussing if they had enough safety skill and an adequate infrastructure of bike lanes and properly designed intersections.  But riding a bicycle (or even a motorcycle) in competition with trucks and cars with orders of magnitude more momentum is inherently dangerous. It’s just basic high school Newtonian physics.  Yup – physics (and calculus) teachers – you could make up test problems based on bicycle safety, and maybe increase some awareness. 

Here is a video "The Rights and Duties of Cyclists."  I don't like to "share" a lane because of the risk of sideswiping. The source is Cyclist View (link). 

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Mitt Romney's idea of "The 47%".


Mother Jones” has published all the details of the private event where Mitt Romney characterized Obama’s “47 per cent” as those who believe they are victims and that the government must take care of them.  The link, including the full video, is provided in a story by David Corn here

I find it hard to believe that “45%” pay no income taxes, or that that percent of voters would characterize themselves this way.  So is this an example of Romney’s “private arrogance”?

There’s another message hidden here, though.  If people don’t want to pay taxes to government (and surrender a lot of family-based freedom) to take care of the elderly, disabled and disadvantaged, than individuals and families must do this themselves – and that puts much more on the shoulders of the childless.  It also helps explain why come social conservatives seem to want to meddle with the sexuality and expressive purposes of others.   A somewhat prohibitionistic culture, they think, will force everyone into “the game”.  

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Should teachers take on the inner-city challenge personally? (Chicago strike); a joke about Wisconsin's governor


As a solution to the teacher’s strike in Chicago approaches, the Washington Post offers an editorial on p. A14 of the Saturday, September 15, 2012 paper, “What’s best for Chicago’s schoolchildren” (online), or “The Chicago strike: The teacher’s union should drop its low expectations and become part of the solution”, link (wesbite url) here.

These subtitles refer, of course, to the union’s insistence that standardized tests not be overly relied upon when judging teacher performance with low income students.  The Post seems to think that union complaint is a baloney, a bit of whining.

Teachers, in the Post’s view, have taken on the challenging of making up for poverty and, more often, bad parenting and even gang influence.

When I was a sub, I personally found all that way too much to handle. 

Is this about being spoiled?

It’s also been reported that a federal judge  (Juan Colas) has struck down almost all of a Wisconsin law, promoted by Governor Scott Walker (R) that would strip away the collective bargaining rights of most public workers.  Scott Bauer’s story in a Boston newspaper is here

The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel has a detailed account by Jason Stein, Don Walker and Erin Richards, link here
   
On the Internet, there had circluated a widespread twitter joke, that Scott Walker would not observe Labor Day.


One other note: every man, woman and child in the U.S. owes about $50000 as a personal share of the national debt (CNN). 

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Should desktoys made of buckyballs, not intended for kids, be banned completely to protect "some" kids? ; the "nanny state" strikes again


ABC Nightline this evening covered the controversy over the safety of buckyballs, little magnetic spheres made with rare earth elements that make their magnetic fields particularly strong. 

They are sold as office decorations and "desktoys", and are not marketed to children.  However, in a few cases, parents have accidentally, after bringing them home, allowed small children to access them and a few children have been injured.  The little spheres stick together in the intestines.  ABC reports that one child will need a bowel transplant.

The Consumer Products Safety Commission is trying to ban the sale of the ornaments, with a “total recall” (pun).

The site for the product is here.

Sharyn Alfonsi, Nick Capote and Chris James have the ABC story  (website url) here

Here is CSPC's own account of its action, link

Should those without children be prevented from having a product because parents can’t watch their kids? Libertarian-leaning conservatives call the CSPC's actions indicative of the "nanny state". 

It would sound like it would not be a good idea to put the magnetic buckyballs too close to a laptop, flash drive, or even cell phone.

I saw the buckyballs on sale at a bookstore on the grounds of the Virginia Air and Space Museum. 


The “buckyball” or fullerene (of Buckminster Fuller) figures into the plot of James Rollins’s 2004 novel “Sandstorm”.  It would make a good thriller movie.

(Note: this post was originally written with the spelling of "buckeyballs" (eg. "buckeye"), but "buckyballs" is preferred.) 

Monday, September 10, 2012

Our "unnecessary" vulnerability to storms: is this any way to live?


The storm Saturday was not too bad at my location in north Arlington, VA; the skies darkened quickly, it started to sprinkle, and suddenly there was a huge gust , maybe 50 mph on the ground and 65 mph at the tree tops, that lasted less than a minute, with heavy rain.  The wind settled down to maybe 30 mph for a few minutes, and then there was some heavy rain.

The storms had calmed down early Saturday, but as the cold front crossed the Blue Ridge (especially the higher 4000-ft central section), it encountered dense humid air that had piled up on the east side of the mountains from the souther winds, and storms started to explode.  The storms themselves don’t move; the air mass does, causing the atmosphere to tumble in front of it, after humid air is kicked into the stratosphere.

The power and cable stayed on (although they flickered once, coming right back).  Only small branches fell into the yard or on the street and roofs.  But about an hour after the storm, the power went off for about thirty minutes, and I went on generator.

The next time, I’ll make a video – but I was distracted by the tornado warning (not just a watch).

I’m still struck by the way we live – constantly “threatened” by more weak trees falling not just on power and cable lines but on houses and possibly resulting in condemnation.

Why don’t we cut down all trees that can fall on anything? Why do we put up with this?

In Dallas and in Minneapolis, there were fewer trees, and power rarely went out because of downed trees. But large tornadoes were a bigger threat.  Actually, in the mid-Atlantic, very small tornadoes are common and always have been (such as the two twisters Saturday in NYC and two in northern VA).  We don’t face Joplin-style events here (although they have happened in La Plata MD, down near the water, and near Frostburg MD, oddly in the mountains).

Even in the DC area, storms are worse in some areas than others.  They tend to be worse from Frederick MD to northern Montgomery County, probably because the Harpers Ferry gap channels them.  And they are worse in southern Maryland, probably because of flat terrain and being surrounded by warm water.

We’re certainly safer than folks in the Gulf (hurricanes and 20-inch rain from tropical storms), or in much of the Great Plains (brush fires) or mountain west (forest fires).   Despite the quake in 2011, we’re safer than folks in California (although we should not be na├»ve  -- the East is more vulnerable than we think).   If you have a lot hardware and work to protect, you have to make it as portable as possible and store it in multiple, preferably inland and away from danger, locations.

There have been reports of tornado-proof construction, with heavy and well-anchored metal roofs. 

Our parents built suburban houses in the heavily forested DC area in a day when the trees were younger and stronger, and when we weren’t as heavily wired and susceptible to breakdown.  Our parents thought of disaster preparedness as inevitable and as a responsibility that should be shared collectively by entire families, which in the past were larger.   They were not as dependent on immediate “customer service” from utilities as we are.  Fortunately, wireless technology (including wireless Internet and enhanced broadcast) is giving us some what of a backup.   

Here's a CBS video (from 2011) on the limitations of "tornado-proofing".


Take Shelter!

Saturday, September 08, 2012

WSJ examines the status of "the Shale Revolution"; what about strip mining?


The Wall Street Journal weekend edition (Sept. 8) has a very important overview of the shale industry, “The Shale Revolution: What could go wronmg?”   The link (paywall subscription) is here

What got my attention is a map that shows almost all of West Virginia, and much of the rest of Appalachia beyond the known “coal measures” as included.  Could that lead to more strip mining or “mountatintop removal” in areas not now involved?

The article does cover the safety issue inherent in the “fracking” debate, with the possibility of introducing earthquakes. 

Another issue is the idea that lower natural gas prices could interfere with the shale industry even if oil remains high.

Shale could make us independent of foreign oil. And it could, if mismanaged, send us toward the tipping point on carbon emissions and climate change.

Here is the “CHEC Marcellus Shale Gas Extraction Documentary with the Carrs" on YouTube (20 min, 2010)




Friday, September 07, 2012

Social conservatives talk about the "common good", to find it an elusive concept


Well, the Democrats (I sometimes say “Democats”) are the home team (because of incumbency) and got to bat last, and hold their pinch hitters (like Bill Clinton) until the last at bat.  And the Republicans may not have much of a bullpen for facing the “bottom of the Ninth”.   

Seriously, I think it’s time to talk about a little ideological reconciliation, among the four parts of the “Nolan Chart”.

Conservatives and libertarians generally believe it is not the responsibility of central or federal government to provide a social safety net.  Social conservatives add to this the idea that taking care of the individually disadvantaged is the inherent responsibility of all individuals (it isn’t something you choose the first time you’re intimate), and should happen largely within families, including extended families, and to some extent surround communities.  Of course, liberals rightly point out that (unearned or undeserved) wealth remains concentrated in certain families, and the needs of the poor go unmet.  Social conservatives come back and say that to some extent “trickle-down” works (even though Ross Perot disagreed in 1992).  Mitt Romney’s own LDS church takes care of its own with tremendous internal welfare programs and was one of the best prepared major volunteer entities to respond en masse to huge national crises like Hurricane Katrina.

Typically people in socially conservative communities accept shared goals often shaped by religious faith, which individually they don’t get to question.  Sometimes, as with Mormon missionaries, a lot of proselytizing is part of the faith experience. Yet when people are dedicated by faith and willing to sacrifice some personal choice for it, even if that faith is hard to justify on a purely intellectual level to those outside the faith (as would be the case with Romney’s Mormon church), they often do very well in life and sometimes very well in business.  And some of them do pay if forward and give back. But not all.

Social conservatives often talk about the “common good”, and this has been particularly true of Roman Catholic conservatives like Rick Santorum.  They speak of “social capital” and equate that with strong “natural families”.  The common good is to be served by dutiful behavior by individuals, mostly from within their families.  Liberals, on the other hand, are likely to see the “common good” as managed by government.
The notion of “common good”, however (particularly as Santorum presented it in his 2005 book “It Takes a Family” (Book reviews, March 5, 2012)) is a bit deceptive.  Typically (as George Gilder had described in his 1986 book “Men and Marriage”) when “average” or “normal” (gasp!) men marry traditionally and particularly when they become fathers within marriage, their granularity of their individual sense of self shifts to the family and away from the former ego.  This does not happen today as much in upper income families, particularly when both spouses have their own careers.  Today, there is an emphasis on maintaining some separateness (look at the idea of pre-nuptials!)   In the past, it has almost never happened with gay men, who were always the ultimate individualists, but the whole development of same-sex marriage, if accepted, could turn some of this individual granular focus around. 

But once the “traditional family” has largely replaced (or displaced) the self, then “individualism” takes on a new meaning. Promoting and protecting the family, including the “value” of one’s lineage, becomes a “selfish” goal, which can often lead to tribalism or to neglect of the needs of others outside the family locus.  Liberals are correct in being concerned that some oversight is necessary to maintain some focus on the common good, in many areas, such as financial stability, global climate, and public health. (The vaccination debate [v. autism] leads to some interesting paradoxes in looking at the individual, family, and “common good” interests of a whole society.)

Even so, family formation, let alone maintenance, requires a lot of “altruism” and acceptance of the long-term sustainability (including lineage) goals of a family and of a whole local community.  It takes a lot of a man to remain sexually interested in the same partner, to the point of desire and passion every night in bed, for decades on end, as both partners age and face the normal physical frailties and uncertainties of life.  (It takes a lot to accept attention from others when one has stumbled.) Marriage and child rearing is part of a bigger process of “living with people” which can become a matter of necessity anyway.  It always was, until society was richer and could afford to allow individuals more autonomy.  But capability for local interdependence, including within the family, can be an important factor in a community’s longevity and ability to resist hardships, whether from nature or from possible enemies.

Social conservatives talk of freedom and self-reliance, but it’s a little hard to pin down exactly what they mean at an intellectually consistent level, since the focus of individual self-awareness is so mutable.  But it does seem that in the socially conservative world, the non-conformist must be brought into line, and made to accept some of the "given" goals of the family and larger groups around the family -- that is, share their own personal stake in family future with their own skin.  That is why social conservatism seems to come down on gay men (and lesbians, somewhat less so) over the ages, and seem to demand such unusual emotional sacrifices from men who used to want to be left alone (and who used to stay away from the risks of procreation and posturing of gender roles, when "we" lived in urban exile on socially separate planets) but who now have to demand full “equality” (as a result of what author Clive Barker would call "Reconciliation").  Everyone must deal with sacrifice sometime, a conservative can say.  That’s part of social capital and necessary eusocial “altruism”.  No one should “get out of things.”  And sometimes those who seem the most aloof and the most distant turn out to be the most likely to turn over everything.  Even Shakespeare taught us that. 


Above, Bill Clinton’s 50-minute speech in Charlotte (2012).



Thursday, September 06, 2012

Success with special education requires unusually dedicated teachers


School districts that do achieve better academic results from special education students do so by employing better or more dedicated teachers, not just by spending more money. This is the finding of a study by the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, with a summary by Nathan Levenson, primary link here

The Washington Post link by Lyndsey Layton is here.  

Yesterday, on my main blog, I discussed a USA Today story reporting that a much higher percentage of teachers is new, and that the recent recession, along with tighter standards, has driven older teachers out.

It would be daunting for many teachers to be held to test result scores when dealing with special education students.

When I worked as a sub (2004-2007), I was amazed at the emotional involvement some teachers had in the job.

In middle and high school, many special education students are “mainstreamed” and sent to team-taught regular classes.  But at least one teacher in such a class must be special-education certified.  Sometimes that teacher “cracks the whip”.  Substitutes in Virginia do not have to be certified, even when they fill in for special education teachers, and that was a problem.

I do remember a particular team-taught algebra class.  I got to make up the pop quiz: four polynomials to factor. 

Here's a 10-minute Introduction to Special Education from the University of Wisconsin.

short film made in 2009. 

Wednesday, September 05, 2012

Partisan fundraising from "superdonors" seems out of control, and highly secret from the press


On Nightline, late Wednesday night, Brian Ross of ABC News reported on  the “Money Trail” in both parties, which have been able to set up subcommittees that can protect the anonymity of superdonors, whose practically unlimited political contributions have been largely protected by recent Supreme Court ruling, finding them protected First Amendment speech.

Ross reported about a party on a yacht the “Cracker Bay” for Romney “victory” forces. (Any relation to "Cracker Barrel" restaurants?)

He also reported on the appointment of a Democratic fundraiser, Rajiv Fernando, a securities trader, to a political job as a state department security advisor.

In Tampa, and perhaps also in Charlotte, Ross and other professional journalists were told to put away their cameras and leave or else face arrest.

There is extreme pressure in inner circles to raise money for candidates.  As a paean in the political world (which I have not tried to enter), even I have been approached. (For Log Cabin Republicans, I was asked if I would host a fundraiser "in my home" when all I had was a small apartment.  But that's OK.  At an event in the Capitol around 1996, I was asked if I would like to "serve food" to the Dem bigwigs/) 

The ability to raise money is seen as evidence of “team play” and part of “social capital”.

Leaders of both parties say they hate the money corruption, but it’s legal and constitutional, and neither party can let up, for fear of allowing the other party a “competitive advantage”.

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Tuesday, September 04, 2012

Virginia county claims zoning rules limit a church's use of its own electronic sign


One of the silliest zoning cases ever has occurred in Fairfax County, in Oakton, north of I-66.  The Church of the Good Sheperd (United Methodist) was told by the county that it can’t legally have more than two separate messages on its electronic sign per day.  I’ve never heard of anything like this!

The church had filed a federal lawsuit (against the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors) based on the First Amendment, and the county agreed to back down on the rule. The brief Washington Post story by Corinne Reilly Aug. 30 is here.

The Oakton Patch has a brief story showing the court papers, here.

The Boy Scouts affiliation is interesting. 

Monday, September 03, 2012

West Virginia wedding calls accidental attention to mountaintop removal


Well, if there is an antidote to mountaintop removal, maybe it’s a mountaintop wedding.

A couple,  Bob and Antoine Hodge Ewing,  in heavy wedding tux and grown, climbed up a 900 foot monolith, the Seneca Rocks, in the “Ridge and Valley Province” in West Virginia, for their nuptials.

ABC’s story is here

The formation is located on Route 28.  The next ridge to the west is Allegheny Mountain, the Eastern Continental Divide and highest ridge in mid-Atlantic US. 

There are no surface coal mines in the immediate area (although there are old mines north around Mount Storm and some people worry about Dolly Sods).  There is no coal in this area east of the divide (although in NE Pennsylvania, that isn't true). 

But maybe a “wedding” on a mountaintop will draw attention to the issue.  No one would try a wedding on Kayford Mountain in southern W Va (July 27). 
Last picture: a toy "Big Muslie".

Saturday, September 01, 2012

New insect-born virus, unknown before in US, reported in Missuouri


CNN is reporting a possible occurrence of another arbovirus in Missouri, with at least two farmers who may have been infected by tick bites.

The root disease is Severe Fever with Thrombocytopenia Syndrome, documented by CDC as caused by a bunyavirus  (SFTSV) in parts of China.  CDC’s link is here

The outbreak in Missouri was documented in the New England Journal of Medicine here 
 .
CNN documents the story here

The outbreak is called the first “phlebovirus” to cause illness in the  Western  Hemisphere.

Symptoms would include loss of platelets and white blood cells, meaning increased internal bleeding.  But the virus is distinct from hemorrhagic fevers as well as from West Nile and Hanta, also reported recently. (Wikipedia says that Hantavirus is a bunyavirus.)

The new virus has a high mortality rate in Asia.

The only protection right now would be insect repellants and long-sleeve clothing when outside. 

There are no reports right now that any of these viruses have other means of transmission.