Death toll rises to 400

More than four hundred people have been killed in Nigeria’s recent Christian-Muslim mob violence in the city of Jos. Rival groups burned churches, mosques, businesses, and homes.

We are being governed by criminals

The Liberal Party, the New Democratic Party, and the Bloc Québecois have been holding talks about forming a coalition government to replace the the Conservatives, who have a minority government. It is entirely legal and appropriate for them to explore options.

Now it turns out that the Conservatives bugged their conference rooms, recorded their talks, and have now released some recordings. It is illegal to record other people’s conversations without their knowledge or consent.

We are being governed by criminals.

Asthma may be overdiagnosed by 30%

A study in Canada suggests that cases of asthma in Canada may be overdiagnosed by as much as 30%.

Almost a third of adult Canadians diagnosed with asthma and taking medications to treat their wheezing, coughing and shortness of breath may not actually have the allergic respiratory condition at all, researchers say.

In a study of about 500 adults who had previously been told they have asthma, airway-function and other tests showed that about 30 per cent did not in fact have the disease, suggesting that asthma may be significantly overdiagnosed in Canada.

“What we think is happening … is that if patients come to a physician complaining of shortness of breath or cough or wheeze, oftentimes the physician will assume that the diagnosis is asthma, and based on the patient’s history and complaints prescribe medicines to treat asthma,” lead investigator Dr. Shawn Aaron said from Ottawa.

“And what they won’t do is order the appropriate diagnostic test to confirm asthma.”

Happy U.S. Thanksgiving

Faisel Nagel

Cool courage during an attack: Faisel Nagel

Mumbai, India, was subjected to several co-ordinated attacks by terrorists yesterday, on Colaba market and a Jewish Centre, two hotels, a cafe, a hospital, and the Chattrapati Shivaji Railway station. Over 100 people are killed and 1,000 wounded. It’s almost as bad as the attacks in 2006 or 1993.

Here’s something to be thankful for: the South African cricket team, including its team’s six security advisers, led 120 people out of the Taj hotel in Mumbai after it was attacked by terrorists. They organized, armed, called hotel security to tell them noncombatants were coming out, and led the people down 25 flights of stairs via a fire escape and out the back.

The story is here; it says 150 people escaped and the team advisers led 120 people out so I guess that puts 30 people with the cricket team the numbers are approximate. Check out the picture of the security guy: he looks like a serious dude.

Previous attacks in Mumbai:

  • July 11, 2006: More than 200 people killed in seven blasts on suburban trains and stations.
  • Aug 25, 2003: 46 people killed in two blasts including one near the Gateway of India.
  • March 12, 1993: A series of bomb blasts left 257 dead and around 700 injured. Buildings attacked included the Bombay Stock Exchange, hotels, theatres, passport office, Air India building and Sahar Airport.

A major Atlantic cod population heads for extinction

Years after halting the cod fishery, experts are seeing no recovery in the population.

A new study predicts for the first time that a major population of Atlantic cod, near Newfoundland, Canada, will essentially go extinct within 20 years, despite best attempts to manage it. “This is the most shocking and disturbing news I’ve ever heard about a marine fish population,” says fisheries biologist Jeffrey Hutchings of Dalhousie University in Halifax, Canada.

Atlantic cod is a symbol of boom-and-bust commercial fishing. After 50 years of heavy harvesting in the late 20th century, the Canadian cod fishery collapsed in the early 1990s. Total bans ensued, and fisheries managers expected to see a recovery. However, after 15 years of little to no fishing, local populations show no sign of rebounding. In fact, some will continue to spiral downward, according to projections reported in this month’s issue of the Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences.

Biologists Douglas Swain and Ghislain Chouinard of Canada’s Department of Fisheries and Oceans used well-established models of fishery stocks to predict the future of the fourth largest population of cod, in the southern Gulf of St. Lawrence, southwest of Newfoundland. The models took into account the population’s productivity, based on the proportion of young fish that mature, the growth of adults, and natural mortality rates. The results were sobering: The southern Gulf cod stock will be extirpated (local extinction defined as less than 0.3% of the species’ original biomass) within 20 years if limited fishing is allowed. Even if the fishery is completely closed, the stock will hit rock bottom in 38 years.

The main problem, according to Swain and Chouinard, is that adult cod have been dying at an unusually high rate in recent years. No one knows why, but Swain suspects the cause might be increased predation by seals. The problem may be more widespread: The neighboring Scotian Shelf cod population also took a nosedive in the 1990s based on data from a Canadian report published in 2003. Furthermore, while most other cod populations off Canada appear to be stable, the same could have been said about the southern Gulf population up until a few years ago, says Swain.

Although biologists have traditionally assumed that stocks will rebound if fishers simply stop fishing, Hutchings notes, the new study of cod is an “extremely compelling example of the fallacy of that assumption.” As for extirpation of a cod population, Hutchings says he never considered it possible until this analysis. However, fisheries biologist Ralph Mayo of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in Woods Hole, Massachusetts, says the outlook could be better for smaller U.S. cod stocks in the Gulf of Maine and on Georges Bank. “The Gulf of Maine population has even been increasing,” he says. That, of course, is small consolation for Canada.

Emergency preparedness

I hope this is part of an obsolete emergency plan.

funny pictures
moar funny pictures

“The Demise of Evolution” — not.

We’ve heard ID proponents and Creationists talking about “the imminent demise of evolution” for years. In fact, it’s been going on for more than 100 years. “Imminent demise” has been a theme since before Darwin. Back then, it was used against the old-earth theory that the earth’s landscapes were a result of evolution and natural forces, not one God-given, supernatural, brief flood. Deniers soon switched over to claiming the imminent death of evolution, but they waited their whole lifetimes while evolutionary theory went from strength to strength.

Answers in Science has a nice, long compilation of these claims, dating back to 1825. Far from being predictive, they are rhetorical rallying cries for the faithful young-earthers and evolution-deniers. Read The Demise of Evolution” — the longest running falsehood in creationism“.

Nature magazine endorses Obama


Cognition and Language Lab blog points out that Nature science magazine endorsed Barack Obama, but not because of his science policy. Instead they like him because he listens to a diverse group of advisers.

On a range of topics, science included, Obama has surrounded himself with a wider and more able cadre of advisers than McCain. This is not a panacea. Some of the policies Obama supports — continued subsidies for corn ethanol, for example — seem misguided. The advice of experts is all the more valuable when it is diverse: ‘groupthink’ is a problem in any job. Obama seems to understands [sic] this. He tends to seek a range of opinions and analyses to ensure that his opinion, when reached, has been well considered and exposed to alternatives. He also exhibits pragmatism — for example in his proposals for health-care reform — that suggests a keen sense for the tests reality can bring to bear on policy.

%d bloggers like this: