[MARINE_BIOLOGY_INTERNATIONAL] Veterinarian: Let dolphins be dolphins


Vet's view: Let
dolphins swim with
dolphins -- not

Posted 3h 27m ago

By Patty Khuly, Special for USA TODAY

If you're reading this column on the date of its
original publication, you can safely assume I'm in
Costa Rica, a country I adore for all kinds of
reasons. Not only is the flight quick and
inexpensive (from Miami, anyhow), the food is
fantastic, the rain forests are breathtakingly
beautiful, and the country has a way with ecological
preservation bar none in the region.

Recently, CR put the latter sensibility to good use
with its ban on so-called "swim-with" dolphin
facilities … and thereby earned even more of my
respect. Dolphins, after all, do not deserve to be
penned, poked and prodded for the amusement of
the public.
Yes, in an increasing number of swanky locations
worldwide, you can swim with the dolphins while
awaiting your massage, pilates class or para-sailing
adventure. You can arrive with no training in marine
mammals, slip into the water alongside them, give
signals for tricks and offer fish at the end. A lucky
child might get gently splashed, ride a small circle
while attached to a dorsal fin and receive a dolphin-
style "kiss" on the mouth.

It's undoubtedly "sweet." Onlookers coo and clap,
every bit as delighted as the well-heeled little
children or the newlyweds awaiting their dolphin-
buddy photo op. And why not? A dolphin is a rare
sight in Minnesota and Montana, right?

These dolphins are always absolutely beautiful,
delightfully well-trained and happy-go-lucky in
every perceptible way. They're perfectly maintained.
Well-loved, even.

Why not take a swim? For around $100 (on average),
you, too, can contribute to the maintenance of
dolphins that might otherwise have no place to go.
After all, we all know that municipal aquariums are
underfunded, many dolphin programs (public and
private) are no longer packing in the crowds, and
the welfare issues related to keeping marine
mammals are significant.

Indeed, that's the sales pitch. Not only are these
"animal ambassadors" teaching children to respect
all of nature, they were once "unwanted."

What to do with an elephant after the circus shuts
down? With a Silverback gorilla no zoo needs? With
a dolphin, now that the Navy can no longer justify
them, now that seaquariums and small water parks
everywhere can no longer turn a dime on their
expensive, in-house presence?

Send them to a swim-with facility! These places
know a thing or two about profitability. I mean, who
wouldn't want to spend $100 to hang out with
Flipper for five minutes? In fact, this resort feature
has gotten so popular that the active trade in live
bottlenose dolphins is again on the rise.

All of which invariably raises a wide variety of
ethical issues:

While I understand why any parent might want to
inspire adoration and respect for wildlife by
granting their children this opportunity, I see
absolutely no reason to contribute to this farce by
allowing my son to have the same experience. It's
just not worth it given the fact of the dolphins'
blatant exploitation.

It's not that it's not fun. or potentially even life-
changing. to swim with dolphins. I've had the
opportunity in a veterinary capacity and will forever
cherish the memory of my experience. Still, it's not
something I would elect to repeat in a commercial

In practice, dolphins should have next to nothing to
do with humans. Spied from ashore, frolicking from
afar … that's about it. Can't think of any other r
easonable excuse to interact with them up close
and personal beyond veterinary attempts on their

Now that we've (yes, I'll use the incendiary word)
"enslaved" them into our company, we have to live
with the ones we have left, even if we can barely
afford them. As long as releasing them is not widely
considered a reasonable option (as it is not for most
animals raised in captivity or kept out of their kind's
company for wide swaths of time), they'll have to
make do by earning their keep. Or so the story goes.

But that doesn't mean I can justify a pricey swim-
with. Not if it means someone's still turning a profit
off their backs. Not if it means my dollars will in any
way be construed as a tacit endorsement of their
captivity in a small, petroleum-laced lagoon with
small children for company instead of their own.
Might as well go to the circus. Or not.

Thankfully my vacation will remain unmarred by
solicitations to spend my time in any dolphin
company. At least one country understands that
highly intelligent sentient beings don't deserve to
spend their days sucking up to humans for a morsel
of mackerel. Would that ours would go the same

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[MARINE_BIOLOGY_INTERNATIONAL] Dolphin collision off Sanibel


Dolphin collision off Sanibel

This video is a little old, but is now making the rounds on the internet. It shows a dolphin cruise off Sanibel that goes slightly awry for "Flipper" and a friend.


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[MARINE_BIOLOGY_INTERNATIONAL] 2nd Sea World whistle-blower surfaces


(Experience tells me that anyone who willingly mistreats a killer whale will also mistreat a human being.)

The Huffington Post
SEPTEMBER 30, 2010

This is the print preview: Back to normal view »

David KirbyAuthor/Journalist
Posted: September 30, 2010 01:19 PM
Troubled Waters at Sea World: Another Ex-Employee Alleges Obstruction in OSHA's Investigation of Orca Trainer's Death

Last month, the former head of safety at Sea World Orlando made headlines and rocked the marine mammal industry when she accused company officials of blocking a federal investigation into the death of senior trainer Dawn Brancheau, who was killed in February by a six-ton orca with a bloody past.

Now a former human resources director has come forward with her own allegations of obstruction and "stonewalling" during the Occupational Safety and Health Administration's official inquiry, which ended Aug. 23 with a "willful" violation in Brancheau's death and $75,000 in fines.

Sea World is contesting OSHA's findings and penalties and vigorously denies the two former officials' allegations -- accusing one of lying and extortion, and suggesting that both women fabricated their accusations to seek monetary damages from the popular central Florida park.

The charges and counter-charges are messy. Michelle Dillard, who resigned in July as HR Director at Sea World, said:

I personally witnessed [the Sea World Management team] outright lying to OSHA, using intentional delay tactics to stonewall the investigation and, behind closed doors, revealing an inflexible and obstinate refusal to be forthcoming and accommodating toward OSHA.
Dillard made her allegations in a written statement provided to OSHA that I obtained.

She denounced what she called a "historical culture" of misinformation and cover-up at the company and charged that her former boss, Sea World's VP of human resources, "hid documents, pretended to not know that documents existed and obstructed OSHA's investigation. I personally witnessed [my boss'] intention to refuse to cooperate with a single request from OSHA without being forced to do so by her own counsel."

Dillard resigned in July, she says, because of a work environment where there was pressure to forestall the inquiry, which was emotionally overwhelming. The associated stress was likewise detrimental to her health. (She faced similar management behavior during prior audits and investigations, Dillard says).

The investigation "was important to me personally," she wrote to OSHA, "since the information they gathered might have a great impact on practices at the park that were unsafe and might lead to another hideous and unnecessary death as the one suffered by Ms. Brancheau."

On February 24, 2010, Dawn Brancheau, a highly experienced senior trainer, was pulled into the killer whale tank in front of horrified tourists by Tilikum, a 12,000-pound orca previously associated with two other human deaths. He grabbed Brancheau by her long ponytail and dragged her to the bottom of the pool, then took her in his mouth and thrashed her around violently. It took 30 minutes to retrieve Brancheau's body from Tilikum's mouth.

The autopsy revealed the cause of death as drowning and "traumatic injuries," including a broken jaw, crushed ribs, fractured sternum, liver lacerations and tearing away of Brancheau's scalp and left arm.

One reason why Dillard has come forward, she said in an interview, is to publicly support Linda Simons, the former Director of Health & Safety at Sea World Orlando, who was fired by the company in April, just two months after the incident.

Simons shocked the world and called into question Sea World's pristine, family-friendly image by accusing the company of having lax safety standards for animal trainers, and claiming she was dismissed for refusing to cooperate in Sea World's "obstruction" of the OSHA investigation.

Simons, who was hired just one week before Brancheau's death, had been named by Sea World as its official liason to the OSHA investigation. But, she said in a legal complaint against Sea World, "I was told to obstruct the investigation, manipulate documents, withhold documents, make witnesses unavailable and other improprieties which were unlawful when a government agency is doing an investigation."

On Aug. 23, Simons appeared with her attorney, Maurice Arcadier, on CNN's Larry King Live, in which she repeated the allegations:

Sea World did not fully cooperate. From the very beginning, they wanted to block them [OSHA] from coming onsite. They wanted to withhold documents. When I was terminated, there were still documents that OSHA had requested and never been given. They also wanted to make sure that those documents were never disclosed out to the public, because of the damage that could be done. So they did not fully cooperate with the investigation.
Tough stuff. But Sea World fired back with equal ferocity. Larry King read the statement on the air:

We have cooperated fully in OSHA's inspection of the February 24th accident. We're not at all surprised to hear that Ms. Simons has reached out to the media with these unfounded charges. Since her termination several months ago, her representatives have used the threat of negative publicity to seek a sizable monetary payment from Sea World in exchange for her not going public with these false allegations. [She] was fired not for the reasons she cites, but rather for poor performance during the OSHA inspection of Dawn Brancheau's death. During those critical weeks, Ms. Simons repeatedly demonstrated an inability to conduct herself to the acceptable standards of competence, transparency, integrity or professionalism demanded of an inspection of this magnitude. Any claim to the contrary is simply false.
In addition to a wrongful termination lawsuit and a formal OSHA complaint, Simons has now filed a defamation lawsuit against Sea World, saying the company falsely accused her of extortion, poor job performance, lack of integrity, and "a crime of moral turpitude."

Sea World is trying to force Simons' defamation lawsuit into private arbitration, and it may succeed. But Simons has now received backup from Sea World's former HR director, Michelle Dillard. She wrote to OSHA:

I personally witnessed Linda Simons do everything in her power to cooperate with OSHA and still protect the interests of Sea World. She pled with the Sea World management team to cooperate with OSHA so that another park employee might avoid Ms. Brancheau's fate. However, it was clear from my extensive and unfortunate bitter past experiences with the Sea World management's culture that it was highly likely she would soon be a victim of retaliation.
Dillard said that only half of the staff members who were in Shamu Stadium to rescue Brancheau that day had been made available to OSHA for interviews. And she claimed that Sea World did not turn over observation reports of its killer whales made by college student volunteers, who watch and take notes on the animals 24 hours a day, according to Dillard.

But Fred Jacobs, VP of Communications for SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment, disputed those accounts, and said that Dillard and Simons are not to be believed.

"Ms. Dillard was not involved in the OSHA inspection of Dawn Brancheau's death," Jacobs told me. "Sea World cooperated fully with the agency and, since the OSHA investigation continued for months after (their) employment with Sea World ended, they have no knowledge as to what documents or witnesses were provided to the agency."

OSHA officials, meanwhile, would not comment on the allegations because Sea World is suing OSHA to overturn its findings. But people with knowledge of the investigation told me that there is some evidence to support the claims of Simons and Dillard (who could be called to testify against Sea World when it takes OSHA to court).

In particular, OSHA demanded all training records pertaining to orcas and their trainers in all Sea World parks, but only received some of those records, sources close to the investigation said. And they added that Sea World executives had denied the existence of animal profiles and "aggression incident notebooks," even though several trainers (and Linda Simons) told OSHA they had personally seen them.

It's conceivable that some of those notebooks could contain information on unusual behavior exhibited by Tilikum in the days or hours before the attack.

But instead, Sea World "made life hell for the six months of the investigation," according to one government official, who asked for anonymity.

Despite this, OSHA still hit Sea World with the first-ever safety violation on this type of live interaction between humans and animals.

"Sea World recognized the inherent risk of allowing trainers to interact with potentially dangerous animals," Cindy Coe, OSHA's regional administrator, said in a statement. "Nonetheless, it required its employees to work within the pool walls, on ledges and on shelves where they were subject to dangerous behavior by the animals."

OSHA said that video footage "shows the killer whale repeatedly striking and thrashing the trainer, and pulling her under water even as she attempted to escape." Meanwhile, Sea World trainers "had an extensive history of unexpected and potentially dangerous incidents involving killer whales at its various facilities, including its location in Orlando. Despite this record, management failed to make meaningful changes to improve the safety of the work environment for its employees."

OSHA issued a "willful citation" against Sea World for exposing trainers to "struck-by and drowning hazards" when working with orcas. A willful violation is "one committed with plain indifference to or intentional disregard for employee safety and health."

Now, in the wake of Brancheau's tragic death, Sea World's attorneys will be busy for months or years to come.

First, they must fight to overturn the federal violations. Sea World said on its website:

OSHA's allegations are unsupported by any evidence or precedent and reflect a fundamental lack of understanding of the safety requirements associated with marine mammal care. We look forward to challenging OSHA's unfounded allegations and are confident that we will prevail.
And they will have to ward off lawsuits from Brancheau's husband Scott, and from a New Hampshire family whose young son reportedly was severely traumatized after witnessing the attack by Tilikum.

And of course, they still have their ex-employees to contend with. Michelle Dillard and attorney Maurice Arcadier are asking for compensation through arbitration for what is called "constructive termination," (when working conditions are so unbearable that one is forced to quit) and Simons has her wrongful termination and defamation complaints.

But Sea World is ready to fight back. Both women "are involved in legal action against Sea World and both are represented by the same attorney," Jacobs noted.

"That lawyer, in May and August of this year, threatened that Simons would go to the press with these unfounded allegations unless Sea World agreed to pay her hundreds of thousands of dollars," he said.

Simons and Arcadier deny that allegation. Like I said, it gets messy.
Books & More From David Kirby

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[rael-science] [with Rael's comment] Recession rips at US marriages, expands income gap



The Raelian Movement
for those who are not afraid of the future : http://www.rael.org  

RAEL'S COMMENT: Marriage is simply becoming obsolete. It's a trace of the past, when women were traded and owned like cattle.


Source: Yahoo News

Recession rips at US marriages, expands income gap

WASHINGTON – The recession seems to be socking Americans in the heart as well as the wallet: Marriages have hit an all-time low while pleas for food stamps have reached a record high and the gap between rich and poor has grown to its widest ever.

The long recession technically ended in mid-2009, economists say, but U.S. Census data released Tuesday show the painful, lingering effects. The annual survey covers all of last year, when unemployment skyrocketed to 10 percent, and the jobless rate is still a stubbornly high 9.6 percent.

The figures also show that Americans on average have been spending about 36 fewer minutes in the office per week and are stuck in traffic a bit less than they had been. But that is hardly good news, either. The reason is largely that people have lost jobs or are scraping by with part-time work.

"Millions of people are stuck at home because they can't find a job. Poverty increased in a majority of states, and children have been hit especially hard," said Mark Mather, associate vice president of the Population Reference Bureau.

The economic "indicators say we're in recovery, but the impact on families and children will linger on for years," he said.

Take marriage.

In America, marriages fell to a record low in 2009, with just 52 percent of adults 18 and over saying they were joined in wedlock, compared to 57 percent in 2000.

The never-married included 46.3 percent of young adults 25-34, with sharp increases in single people in cities in the Midwest and Southwest, including Cleveland, Phoenix, Los Angeles and Albuquerque, N.M. It was the first time the share of unmarried young adults exceeded those who were married.

Marriages have been declining for years due to rising divorce, more unmarried couples living together and increased job prospects for women. But sociologists say younger people are also now increasingly choosing to delay marriage as they struggle to find work and resist making long-term commitments.

In dollar terms, the rich are still getting richer, and the poor are falling further behind them.

The income gap between the richest and poorest Americans grew last year to its largest margin ever, a stark divide as Democrats and Republicans spar over whether to extend Bush-era tax cuts for the wealthy.

The top-earning 20 percent of Americans — those making more than $100,000 each year — received 49.4 percent of all income generated in the U.S., compared with the 3.4 percent made by the bottom 20 percent of earners, those who fell below the poverty line, according to the new figures. That ratio of 14.5-to-1 was an increase from 13.6 in 2008 and nearly double a low of 7.69 in 1968.

At the top, the wealthiest 5 percent of Americans, who earn more than $180,000, added slightly to their annual incomes last year, the data show. Families at the $50,000 median level slipped lower.

Three states — New York, Connecticut and Texas — and the District of Columbia had the largest gaps between rich and poor. Big gaps were also evident in large cities such as New York, Miami, Los Angeles, Boston and Atlanta, home to both highly paid financial and high-tech jobs as well as clusters of poorer immigrant and minority residents.

Alaska, Utah, Wyoming, Idaho and Hawaii had the smallest income gaps.

"Income inequality is rising, and if we took into account tax data, it would be even more," said Timothy Smeeding, a University of Wisconsin-Madison professor who specializes in poverty. "More than other countries, we have a very unequal income distribution where compensation goes to the top in a winner-takes-all economy."

Lower-skilled adults ages 18 to 34 had the largest jumps in poverty last year as employers kept or hired older workers for the dwindling jobs available. The declining economic fortunes have caused many unemployed young Americans to double-up in housing with parents, friends and loved ones, with potential problems for the labor market if they don't get needed training for future jobs, he said.

Homeownership declined for the third year in a row, to 65.9 percent, after hitting a peak of 67.3 percent in 2006. Residents in crowded housing held steady at 1 percent, the highest since 2004, a sign that people continued to "double up" to save money.

Average commute times edged lower to 25.1 minutes, the lowest since 2006, as fewer people headed to the office in the morning. The share of people who carpooled also declined, from 10.7 percent to 10 percent, while commuters who took public transportation were unchanged at 5 percent.

The number of U.S. households receiving food stamps surged by 2 million last year to 11.7 million, the highest level on record, meaning that 1 in 10 families was receiving the government aid. In all, 46 states and the District of Columbia had increases in food stamps, with the largest jumps in Nevada, Arizona, Florida and Wisconsin.

Other findings:

_The foreign-born population edged higher to 38.5 million, or 12.5 percent, following a dip in the previous year, due mostly to increases in naturalized citizens. The share of U.S. residents speaking a language other than English at home also rose, from 19.7 percent to 20 percent, mostly in California, New Mexico and Texas.

_The poorest poor hit record highs. Twenty-eight states had increases in the share of people below $10,977 in income, half the poverty line for a family of four. The highest shares were in the District of Columbia, Mississippi, Kentucky, Arkansas and South Carolina. Nationally, the poorest poor rose to 6.3 percent.

_Women's average pay still lags men's, but the gap is narrowing. Women with full-time jobs made 78.2 percent of men's pay, up from 77.7 percent in 2008 and about 64 percent in 2000, as men took bigger hits in the recession.

_More older people are working. About 27.1 percent of Americans 60 and over were in the work force. That's up from 26.7 percent in 2008.

The census figures come weeks before the pivotal Nov. 2 congressional elections, when voters anxious about rising deficits and the slow pace of the economic recovery will decide whether to keep Democrats in control of Congress.

The 2009 tabulations, which are based on pretax income and exclude capital gains, are adjusted for household size where data are available. Prior analyses of after-tax income made by the wealthiest 1 percent compared to middle- and low-income Americans have also pointed to a widening inequality gap, but only reflect U.S. data as of 2007.

WARNING FROM RAEL: For those who don't use their intelligence at its full capacity, the label "selected by RAEL" on some articles does not mean that I agree with their content or support it. "Selected by RAEL" means that I believe it is important for the people of this planet to know about what people think or do, even when what they think or do is completely stupid and against our philosophy. When I selected articles in the past about stupid Christian fundamentalists in America praying for rain, I am sure no Rael-Science reader was stupid enough to believe that I was supporting praying to change the weather. So, when I select articles which are in favor of drugs, anti-semitic, anti-Jewish, racist, revisionist, or inciting hatred against any group or religion, or any other stupid article, it does not mean that I support them. It just means that it is important for all human beings to know about them. Common sense, which is usually very good among our readers, is good enough to understand that. When, like in the recent articles on drug decriminalization, it is necessary to make it clearer, I add a comment, which in this case was very clear: I support decriminalizing all drugs, as it is stupid to throw depressed and sad people (as only depressed and sad people use drugs) in prison and ruin their life with a criminal record. That does not mean that there is any change to the Message which says clearly that we must not use any drug except for medical purposes. The same applies to the freedom of expression which must be absolute. That does not mean again of course that I agree with anti-Jews, antisemites, racists of any kind or anti-Raelians. But by knowing your enemies or the enemies of your values, you are better equipped to fight them. With love and respect of course, and with the wonderful sentence of the French philosopher Voltaire in mind: "I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it".

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"Ethics"  is simply a last-gasp attempt by deist conservatives and
orthodox dogmatics to keep humanity in ignorance and obscurantism,
through the well tried fermentation of fear, the fear of science and
new technologies.

There is nothing glorious about what our ancestors call history, 
it is simply a succession of mistakes, intolerances and violations.

On the contrary, let us embrace Science and the new technologies
unfettered, for it is these which will liberate mankind from the
myth of god, and free us from our age old fears, from disease,
death and the sweat of labour.


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[MARINE_BIOLOGY_INTERNATIONAL] Marine Biology: Out of the blue


Woods Hole, MA - The ten-year Census for Marine Life is about to unveil its final results. But how deep did the $650-million project go?

It took just an hour and a half to get the ball rolling, says Jesse Ausubel, thinking back to the day in July 1996 when Frederick Grassle came to his office at the Marine Policy Center of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Massachusetts.

Grassle, a marine scientist at Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey in New Brunswick, had come armed with a year-old report from the US National Research Council highlighting just how little scientists understood about marine biodiversity. Even well-explored ecosystems such as coral reefs, temperate bays and estuaries contained vast numbers of undiscovered species, to say nothing of the unknown organisms lurking in remote, under-sampled areas such as the polar seas and hydrothermal vents. The report, which Grassle had helped to write, argued that there was an "urgent need" to expand such research, not least because it is so important for fish management and marine conservation.

Ausubel, who is vice-president of programmes for the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation in New York and an adjunct scientist at Woods Hole, was astounded. "I knew that the measurements of life, especially at the species level, were not very good or plentiful," he recalls. "But I learned from him that just the most basic things hadn't been done."

None of the usual government agencies seemed willing or able to tackle the problem, said Grassle, who had been doing his best to talk them into it. But the Sloan Foundation had a mandate to back ambitious projects that had trouble securing funding from traditional sources — which was why Grassle had come to see Ausubel.

"At the end of the conversation, we agreed that we should try to do something big," says Ausubel.

That 'something big' — originally a fairly straightforward survey of marine fish — evolved into perhaps the largest and most expensive programme of marine-biology research ever (see 'An oceanic inventory'). The decade-long Census of Marine Life, which will officially conclude with the announcement of the full census on 4 October, ended up involving scientists from more than 80 countries, in studies not only of fish, but also of organisms such as sea birds, marine mammals, invertebrates and plankton. The scientific goals of the census are as simple as they are ambitious: diversity, distribution and abundance. What lives in the sea? Where does it live? And how much of it is there?

Granted, the project is still a long way from fully answering those questions; a multitude of gaps remains to be filled by future research. And there are doubts about how much of a future there will be: in many countries, marine census projects are still seeking continuing funding.

Nonetheless, the idea that Grassle and Ausubel concocted on that July day in 1996 "has exceeded our wildest dreams", says Ronald O'Dor, a biologist at Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada, echoing a sentiment widely expressed by census participants. Discoveries include a tubeworm that drills for oil in seeps at the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico, and then eats it; the finding that despite the 11,000 kilometres between the polar seas, at least 235 species are found in both; and the existence of a 'brittlestar city', in which tens of millions of starfish-like creatures live arm-tip to arm-tip atop a seamount south of New Zealand.

"The programme has produced, to date, more than 2,500 publications and has made accessible more than 30 million distributional records that are available to everyone," says Ian Poiner, chief executive of the Australian Institute of Marine Science in Townsville, Queensland, and chair of the census's scientific steering committee. "I would doubt we could be criticized for our contribution to science."

With Ausubel's support, the Sloan Foundation eventually put some US$75 million into the census, which formally began in 2000. But that was only a down payment to cover the project's organizational infrastructure — the committees, meetings and interactions between the thousands of scientists worldwide. To fund the research itself, these scientists had to seek out further funding from their respective governments and other sources. The global, ten-year total comes to roughly $650 million.

The various national efforts were coordinated under 14 census field projects. One example was the Mid-Atlantic Ridge Ecosystem Project, which mapped the organisms living over and around the ridge using everything from manned submersibles and robotic gliders to more traditional fishing equipment such as trawl nets. Another was the Census of Marine Zooplankton, which used techniques ranging from DNA bar-coding to specially developed upwards-scanning sonar to monitor the roughly 6,800 species of plankton.

The census also included projects to understand the history of marine animals, and to model how they would be affected in the future by ecological forces such as fishing and climate change. Most importantly, according to many participants, the census created an Ocean Biogeographic Information System database to hold the millions of records generated by the surveys.

Broadly speaking, says Ausubel, "the greatest advances of the census are in diversity, somewhat less in distribution". When the full roster of results is unveiled next month, those advances will include at least 5,000 new species — many of them strikingly photogenic (see 'Highlights from the deep') — and the publication of many new range maps.

But the results on abundance have been patchy. "Abundance is the hardest," says Ausubel. First the species have to be discovered, then enough observational data have to be collected to create a range map, and then more data are needed on the numbers. Only then can an estimate of biomass be extrapolated.

This incompleteness has fuelled critics of the census, who fault its decentralized organization and the huge number of broad projects that resulted. "Unfocused", is the sceptical summary of Alan Longhurst, a retired marine biologist and author of Ecological Geography of the Sea.

Perhaps so, says Paul Snelgrove, an oceanographer at the Memorial University of Newfoundland in St John's, Canada, and chair of the census synthesis group. But without the census, Snelgrove argues, the various national survey projects might have been performed "on a smaller scale and also more in a haphazard fashion" — if at all.

The census was "a bit of a roulette", says Carlo Heip, general director of the Royal Netherlands Institute for Sea Research in Texel and a member of the census's scientific steering committee. "It was not precise planning of what was going to be funded or not." But Heip maintains that there were no major gaps in the census, as the committee made a point of identifying key individuals in the various countries with the power to get proposals financed in priority areas.

Some census participants even hold up its decentralized structure as a model for future big science projects. It does offer practical advantages, says Niki Vermeulen, who researches scientific collaboration in biology at the University of Vienna in Austria, and who studied the census for her book, Supersizing Science. She says that large international research projects often falter because of the desire of member countries to fund only their own researchers. "The census structure at least provides a way of solving that issue," she says. "To say, 'Okay, we do the global coordination from separate money, and for the research projects we can still go to the national funding.'"

Looking back on it, says Ausubel, "have we done everything that the public expects a census to do? Probably not." But the creation of the framework is "historic", he says. "That in itself is huge."

"I don't think ten years is the time we should be assessing it," agrees James Sanchirico, who studies marine management at the University of California, Davis. "Maybe it's at 20 years you can look back and say, what has been the impact?" he says, once it has become clear how the data have been used by scientists and decision-makers alike.

Meanwhile, most of the scientists involved in the first census would like to see a second. Without it, the collaborative framework they built in the first decade — which many cite as the census's most valuable achievement — could begin to dissipate. "Unless we find a sugar daddy who is committed to holding these projects together," says O'Dor, "they're going to drift farther and farther apart."

But the Sloan Foundation has always been clear that its funding would not continue beyond ten years. And no other organization has, as yet, agreed to take its place.

Complicating the situation is the fact that there are two very different possibilities for future work in this area, says O'Dor. One is to repeat the census over another ten-year period to monitor how the known populations change. The other is to continue looking for more species. Although O'Dor says he can put a back-of-the-envelope figure of "a few hundred million dollars" on the first option, there is no real limit on the money scientists could spend on the second. "These two jobs are competing with each other," says O'Dor — and the community has yet to agree how to divide the available funding between them.

Grassle, who is on a quest to find support for a repeat census, is undaunted. "Somehow it will happen," he insists. "The rewards are too great to ignore it."

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[rael-science] 'Firefly' Stem Cells May Help Repair Damaged Hearts

The Raelian Movement
for those who are not afraid of the future : http://www.rael.org

'Firefly' Stem Cells May Help Repair Damaged Hearts

ScienceDaily (Sep. 28, 2010) — Stem cells that glow like fireflies
could someday help doctors heal damaged hearts without cutting into
patients' chests.

In his University of Central Florida lab, Steven Ebert engineered stem
cells with the same enzyme that makes fireflies glow. The "firefly"
stem cells glow brighter and brighter as they develop into healthy
heart muscle, allowing doctors to track whether and where the stem
cells are working.

Researchers are keenly interested in stem cells because they typically
morph into the organs where they are transplanted. But why and how
fast they do it is still a mystery. Now Ebert's cells give researchers
the ability to see the cells in action with the use of a special
camera lens that picks up the glow under a microscope.

"The question that we answered was, 'How do you follow these cells in
the lab and find out where they're going?'" said Ebert, an associate
professor in UCF's College of Medicine.

If doctors can figure out exactly how the cells repair and regenerate
cardiac tissue, stem cell therapies could offer hope to more than 17.6
million Americans who suffer from coronary disease. The glow of the
enzyme also means therapies would no longer require cutting into
patients' chest cavities to monitor the healing.

The study, funded by the National Institutes of Health and the
American Heart Association, is a featured cover story in this month's
highly ranked Stem Cell and Development Journal.

Now that scientists can track the stem cells, Ebert said he hopes to
use them in disease models to determine how they heal a damaged heart
and what conditions are most suitable for the stems cells to thrive.

Ebert's team includes Ramana K. Kammili, David G. Taylor, Jixiang Xia,
Kingsley Osuala and Kellie Thompson of UCF and Donald R. Menick of the
Gazes Cardiac Research Institute at the Medical University of South
Carolina in Charleston.

Story Source:

The above story is reprinted (with editorial adaptations by
ScienceDaily staff) from materials provided by University of Central
Florida, via EurekAlert!, a service of AAAS.


"Ethics" is simply a last-gasp attempt by deist conservatives and
orthodox dogmatics to keep humanity in ignorance and obscurantism,
through the well tried fermentation of fear, the fear of science and
new technologies.

There is nothing glorious about what our ancestors call history,
it is simply a succession of mistakes, intolerances and violations.

On the contrary, let us embrace Science and the new technologies
unfettered, for it is these which will liberate mankind from the
myth of god, and free us from our age old fears, from disease,
death and the sweat of labour.


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[rael-science] Genetic Science Oozes Out of Amateurs' Garages

The Raelian Movement
for those who are not afraid of the future : http://www.rael.org

Genetic Science Oozes Out of Amateurs' Garages
By Jeremy Hsu, LiveScience Senior Writer
posted: 27 September 2010 11:30 am ET

Melanie Swan did not panic upon learning she had inherited a genetic
mutation that seemed to put her at a higher risk of heart attack and
cardiovascular disease. Instead she and another "garage biologist" ran
a pilot study from their own homes and came up with a countermeasure.

They represent the vanguard of the do-it-yourself biology movement —
DIYBio, which aims to spread the power of genetic understanding beyond
research institutions and corporate labs.

Harnessing knowledge of genetic inheritance to create better health
outcomes represents "one flavor of DIYBio," Swan says.

A future full of garage biologists is far off, slowed by the expense
of equipment and the difficulty of the science itself. It holds the
promise of quicker and less-expensive treatments for disease, along
with the other advantages — and dangers — of widely sharing such
potent information.

Swan became enraptured with the transformative power of genetic
science while working as an entrepreneur in Silicon Valley for 12
years. That led to her most recent startup, a nonprofit service called

DIYgenomics presents an open-source online and mobile platform for
people to better understand what their genetic inheritance means in
terms of certain health risks.

Android and iPhone users alike can download web apps that compare
genomic sequencing services being offered by commercial companies. But
DIYgenomics also guides the curious individual who wants to design
studies about how a certain genetic makeup can affect one's athletic
performance or response to a certain drug.

"We are trying to do preventive medicine," Swan said, by examining a
person's genomic data in conjunction with physical measurements for
certain conditions like macular degeneration and aging. "We're doing
citizen science experiments, where we try different interventions to
influence the levels of current biomarkers while they are still
pre-clinical," she said

Decoding your health

Anyone today can get his or her entire genome sequenced by commercial
services — at a cost of thousands of dollars. But cheaper genetic
tests, such as those offered by the company 23andme, also can give
potentially useful information for people to act on.

Genetic testing revealed Swan was among the individuals who have
inherited a deficient form of the MTHFR gene. The deficiency can lead
to higher levels of an amino acid called homocysteine in the blood.
Too much of this amino acid has been linked to a higher risk of
coronary heart disease and stroke, according to the American Heart

During her pilot study, Swan, her colleague and three other volunteers
relied upon commercial blood-testing services to monitor their health
condition. They also tested different treatments by methodically
taking Centrum multivitamins and folic acid supplements.

By testing single and combination remedies in sequence, Swan found a
particular intake of vitamin B9 and folic acid helped bring down her
homocysteine levels. The overall pilot study succeeded in slashing
homocysteine levels by 30 percent, she said — comparable to previous
results from large-scale clinical trials.

Swan hopes the broader DIYBio movement can eventually help bring down
the cost of running homegrown experiments. Rather than rely upon a
commercial company's $100 lab blood tests for homocysteine, she
envisions a shared lab space, with cheaper versions of finger-prick
tests that can be read in real time.

Introducing the citizen scientist

The idea of citizen scientists in modern genetics goes back to the
beginning of that field — it was an Austrian monk, Gregor Mendel, who
discovered the laws of genetic inheritance by breeding pea plants in
his monastery garden during the 1800s.

That kind of DIY spirit has inspired Biocurious, a nonprofit group
located in Mountain View, Calif., which offers a community lab space
for interested hobbyists and citizen scientists. Its efforts bring
together people as diverse as molecular biologists, mechanical
engineers, computer programmers and artists.

"With BioCurious, we are trying to provide essential infrastructure
and an environment for a new generation of technologists to acquire
the skills needed to leverage the power of cheap [genetic] sequencing
and synthesis," said Joseph Jackson, co-founder of Biocurious.

Exactly when garage biology might truly take off remains unknown,
Jackson said. Today's practitioners could merely be the equivalent of
a 1970s home brew computer club — or they could embody the Internet in
1993 just before the first huge boom.

Operating without corporate money or government grants is difficult.
To upgrade its facilities, Biocurious launched a project on the
crowd-sourced website Kickstarter, where it raised more than $35,000
in pledges. (In return for contributions, it offered prizes beyond the
usual T-shirts. Pledge contributors were able to snag a poster of
their own fluorescent cells seen under microscope, and even had a
chance to win a PCR machine, which is used for rapidly replicating
pieces of DNA for analysis.)

The pledges, plus monthly membership fees — which according to the
Biocurious founders are not expected to exceed $200 per month — would
help upgrade the current lab to allow more-advanced research in hot
areas such as synthetic biology, Jackson said. Unlike traditional
genetic engineering, which typically swaps in pieces of existing
genetic code, synthetic biology aims to make or redesign living
organisms by creating code that does not already exist in nature.

Testing the limits

A shortage of funding, equipment and expertise means garage biologists
still can't come close to replicating the latest achievements of
researchers such as J. Craig Venter. In May Venter's group became the
first to transplant a synthetic genome into a living cell.

Biology is very hard," Jackson told LiveScience. "There is a tendency
to overhype what can be done in the short term while not appreciating
what can be done by citizen scientists in the long term."

Garage biology points to how the practice of science, and its
benefits, can spread beyond the doors of major institutions,
universities and companies. While scientists imagine such a leap would
mean a future world where anyone with a home lab could create a better
microbe to clean up oil, they also worry that same playing field could
allow anyone to develop, say, a super-strain of the flu.

Such implications prompted the Presidential Commission for the Study
of Bioethical Issues to investigate the future of garage biology, as
part of a July meeting in Washington about synthetic biology. The
commission convened again in Philadelphia and has another meeting
scheduled for November in Atlanta.

Researchers already can put together a million base pairs from
scratch. (A base pair consists of two nucleotide molecules that sit
opposite one another on complementary strands of DNA and RNA.) In six
more years, they might assemble 100 million base pairs, or close to
the size of genomes belonging to the worm C. elegans or the fruit fly

Still, leading researchers face huge challenges in figuring out how to
piece together the millions of DNA base pairs in a way that makes
sense. Not knowing how to design a functional genome from scratch
places huge limits on synthetic biology today.

Keeping a watchful eye

Despite the current practical limits on both garage biology and
synthetic biology, experts have begun considering how government
regulators could monitor synthetic biology in the more informal
settings of the garage lab.

More than half of Americans want government regulators to keep an eye
on synthetic biology research, according to a recent survey. Just 36
percent would prefer voluntary guidelines developed by both industry
and the government.

Yet detecting any threats or dangers from newly made, unknown gene
sequences could prove tricky. No biosecurity system in the foreseeable
future could predict the possibility of harm within a snippet of DNA,
according to a report released by the National Institutes of Health in

The NIH did suggest that a system at least could screen for gene
sequences of known dangerous agents, such as the Bacillus anthracis
responsible for anthrax.

Companies that supply synthetic DNA have already begun to voluntarily
keep watch, so that a customer's request for a particular gene
sequence belonging to a harmful virus or bacteria might trigger a
warning. The companies have also teamed up to spot other suspicious
activities, such as a customer spreading his requests for gene
sequencing among several companies.

But Swan of DIYgenomics said, "The shorter-term worry would be the
inadvertent misuse of biohazard materials, rather than printing
something harmful from DNA synthesizers."

While garage biologists have taken great pains so far to ensure safe
working environments, Swan said, sharing expertise and equipment could
reduce the more- immediate risks of a lab accident.

Better vision through cooperation

Experts take issue with the name DIYBio, pointing out that garage
biology requires a group effort. Jackson of Biocurious said that he
prefers the moniker "DIWO" for "do it with others."

At the July meeting of the presidential commission, Robert Carlson,
head of the Seattle-based startup Biodesic, pointed out that open
collaboration not only allows more experienced members of the
community to help novices, but gives them the chance to monitor and
discourage potentially dangerous or illegal activities.

"I think that trying to keep track of what people are doing, trying to
have people volunteer and do it together, that's great," Carlson said.

The FBI seems to have embraced that collaborative approach, by openly
attending many of the garage biology conferences and workshops in
recent years. In turn, garage biologists have welcomed the FBI's
interest, because the agency has made itself the obvious contact for
any law enforcement-related issues that might arise.

Forecasting the future

No one can guarantee how well garage biology and synthetic biology
will work together to forge the future. But one resource could provide
a peek: Prediction markets have helped forecast everything from
numbers of flu cases to Hollywood box office figures.

A prediction market focused on synthetic biology may soon get started,
courtesy of a grant from the National Science Foundation and the
Woodrow Wilson Center in Washington, D.C.

Just as stock market investors buy a Fortune 500 company's stock
because they think the price will go up, prediction market
participants place bets on certain outcomes, purchasing "shares" that
pay out if their hunch proves correct.

The new prediction market aims to recruit a few hundred participants
but could make do with just a few dozen, according to Patrick
Polischuk, a research associate with the Woodrow Wilson Center's
Synthetic Biology Project.

The effort is expected to help researchers pool their expertise
regardless of whether they work in a government lab or in a garage.

"In terms of goals, this is as much an engagement tool as it is a
predictive tool," Polischuk said in an e-mail. "It should be helpful
to see what kinds of questions the synthetic biology community would
like to ask, as well as helpful to potentially get some predictive


"Ethics" is simply a last-gasp attempt by deist conservatives and
orthodox dogmatics to keep humanity in ignorance and obscurantism,
through the well tried fermentation of fear, the fear of science and
new technologies.

There is nothing glorious about what our ancestors call history,
it is simply a succession of mistakes, intolerances and violations.

On the contrary, let us embrace Science and the new technologies
unfettered, for it is these which will liberate mankind from the
myth of god, and free us from our age old fears, from disease,
death and the sweat of labour.


Tell your friends who love scientific news that they can
subscribe to this list !!

They can do it by sending a blank email to:

It's free !
To unsubscribe, send an email to:
To change your e-mail address, unsubscribe from the old address and subscribe from the new address (see above).

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