Making Unique Observations in a Very Cluttered World

Friday, 1 March 2013

Controversial new study says neutering your dogs can triple their risk of cancer or joint disorders -

Controversial new study says neutering your dogs can triple their risk of cancer or joint disorders - 

Neutering dogs can double or triple their risk of cancer or joint disorders, a controversial new study reveals.
In fact, the risk of lymphatic cancer (lymphosarcoma) was three times more common in early neutered males than non-neutered males. And cancer of the blood vessel walls (hemangiosarcoma) was quadrupled in late-neutered females than non-neutered.
The study also found neutering male and female golden retrievers produced weak protection against mammary or prostate cancer, contrary to popular belief.
Researchers at the University of California Davis studied 759 golden retrievers registered at their Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital.
Golden retrievers are popular and common but also more vulnerable to certain cancers and joint disorders than other breeds, the study pointed out.
The results can only be extrapolated to other breeds to a certain extent, lead researcher Dr. Benjamin Hart told the Toronto Star.
What’s a dog owner to do?
“Two things. Certainly avoid early neutering, before a year. This takes away the developmental effect of gonal hormones,” said Hart, a veterinary professor and animal behaviourist at UCD.
“A golden retriever is not much of a behaviour (aggressive) dog. Why not just not neuter unless you have to? There is nothing to be gained by neutering a male early.”
“If it’s females, don’t spay too early. Wait until she’s a year or 13 months so you can get past the knee and elbow and hip dysplasia problems. That’s early enough in goldens.”
Hart has been debating his results — since they were published in PLOSone — with staff at animal shelters, which often forbid adoptions of unneutered animals regardless of age.
“I don’t want to adopt a dog if the neutering doubles or triples the chance of a hip disorder,” Hart said. “I can be a responsible pet owner. People should have the dignity of deciding for their pets.”
He advocated a vasectomy or tubal tying for dogs before a shelter adoption instead of neutering.
“These operations are much less expensive and less traumatic for the dogs. The weird thing is we don’t teach these simple operations yet in vet schools, but shelter vets could learn it in an afternoon wet lab.”
The Ontario SPCA chief veterinary officer disputed the findings.
“There is no clear or obvious link between these diseases and neutering, we can say there is no clear nor proven causal relationship. There were various issues with this study such as the lack of numbers of cases for comparison, lack of discussion of limitations and potential bias, and therefore we would conclude very little from this study,” said Dr. Magdalena Smrdelj.
“We recommend spay/neuter for all animals, preferably at early age.”
The study is the first to examine the effects of early (before one year) and late neutering on several types of joint disorders and cancers in one breed of dog, the report said.
Hart made it clear that even with the strong evidence in the study, the numbers of golden retrievers that developed cancer or joint disorders were still low.
For example, while the number of early-neutered males diagnosed with lymphosarcoma was tripled, it was still only 10 per cent of the golden retrievers studied.
And while cases of hemangiosarcoma in late-neutered females quadrupled, compared with early-neutered or unspayed females, it was still only 8 per cent.
“You have to remember most of the dogs did not get cancer. It’s a matter of risk. Most people don’t want to double or triple the risk.”
The UCD researchers next intend to study the effects on Labrador retrievers and then German shepherds.


Growing number of universities want to fly drones over campus -

Growing number of universities want to fly drones over campus - 

As college students are finding themselves, are schools using drones to find them?
Thirty-four colleges and universities applied for permission to fly unmanned surveillance drones over campuses across the country in 2012, according to records obtained by a privacy watchdog group. The schools cite plans for a wide array of scientific research, yet activists and privacy experts are nevertheless concerned about the high-flying spies.
“I find it troubling that this is the first most students have heard of secret plans to fly military-grade spy machines high above their dorms, classrooms and quads,” Josiah Ryan, editor-in-chief of conservative education blog Campus Reform, told FoxNews.com.
"The constitutional right to privacy does not end on campus. The presidents of each of these 34 institutions owe their students, donors and taxpayers an explanation."

The use of unmanned drones has soared in the U.S. military, which has come to rely on the robotic planes for targeted attacks and covert spying worldwide. Domestically, drone use has skyrocketed as well: More than 80 applications for drone-flying permits were filed with the Federal Aviation Administration in 2012, including more than thirty universities, according to records obtained by watchdog group the Electronic Frontier Foundation.
“We were concerned about the domestic use of drones. Especially about who would be using them,” Jennifer Lynch, staff attorney for the EFF, told FoxNews.com. “It’s been good to get the information because people can go informed with questions to their local officials.”
The lists of higher-learning institutions that have applied for the drone permits include:
Cornell University, which applied for a permit to use a university-built unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) to collect atmosphere and weather data as well as to track airborne spores in a study drafted to combat potato blight. The study was done in 2012 and the permit has since expired, and school officials say they have no other active permits.
the University of Michigan for use on Lake Michigan's Grand Traverse Bay for “persistent surveillance on open water by gathering data as a drifting surface buoy that repositions via flight.”
the University of Florida, which applied for a permit to fly a NOVA “in support of ongoing aerospace, geomatics, ecological and aquatic research.”
the University of Wisconsin-Madison for the purpose of attaching a camera to a remotely controlled plane to take “low-altitude pictures” for a river restoration project.
One campus public safety organization even applied to use drones to assist in monitoring the school grounds.

Read more: - 

Consumer Spending Drought: 16 Signs That The Middle Class Is Running Out Of Money -

Consumer Spending Drought: 16 Signs That The Middle Class Is Running Out Of Money - 

Is “discretionary income” rapidly becoming a thing of the past for most American families? Right now, there are a lot of signs that we are on the verge of a nightmarish consumer spending drought. Incomes are down, taxes are up, many large retail chains are deeply struggling because of the lack of customers, and at this point nearly a quarter of all Americans have more credit card debt than money in the bank. Considering the fact that consumer spending is such a large percentage of the U.S. economy, that is very bad news. How will we ever have a sustained economic recovery if consumers don’t have much money to spend? Well, the truth is that we aren’t ever going to have a sustained economic recovery. In fact, this debt-fueled bubble of false hope that we are experiencing right now is as good as things are going to get. Things are going to go downhill from here, and if you think that consumer spending is bad now, just wait until you see what happens over the next several years.

Even though the Dow is surging toward a record high right now, everyone knows that things are not good for the middle class. A recent quote from CPA Howard Dvorkin kind of summarizes our current state of affairs very nicely…

“The fact of the matter is that America is broke — whether it’s mortgages, student loans or credit cards, we are broke. The old rule of thumb is that people should have six months’ of savings,” Dvorkin says.”If you talk to people, most don’t have two pennies.”

These days most Americans are living from paycheck to paycheck, and thanks to rising prices and rising taxes, those paychecks are getting squeezed tighter and tighter. Many families have had to cut back on unnecessary expenses, and some families no longer have any discretionary income at all.

The following are 16 signs that the middle class is rapidly running out of money…

#1 According to one brand new survey, 24 percent of all Americans have more credit card debt than money in the bank.

#2 J.C. Penney was once an unstoppable retail powerhouse, but now J.C. Penney has just posted its lowest annual retail sales in more than 20 years…

J.C. Penney Co. (JCP) slid the most in more than three decades after the department-store chain lost $4.3 billion in sales in the first year of Chief Executive Officer Ron Johnson’s turnaround plan.

The shares fell 18 percent to $17.40 at 11:28 a.m. in New York after earlier declining 22 percent, the biggest intraday drop since at least 1980, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. J.C. Penney yesterday said its net loss in the quarter ended Feb. 2 widened to $552 million from $87 million a year earlier. The Plano, Texas-based retailer’s annual revenue slid 25 percent to $13 billion, the lowest since at least 1987.

How much worse can things get? At this point the decline has become so steep for J.C. Penney that Jim Cramer of CNBC is declaring that they are in “a true tailspin“.

#3 In the United States today, a new car has become out of reach for most middle class Americans according to the 2013 Car Affordability Study…

Looking to buy a new car, truck or crossover? You may find it more difficult to stretch the household budget than you expected, according to a new study that finds median-income families in only one major U.S. city actually can afford the typical new vehicle.

The typical new vehicle is now more expensive than ever, averaging $30,500 in 2012, according to TrueCar.com data, and heading up again as makers curb the incentives that helped make their products more affordable during the recession when they were desperate for sales. According to the 2013 Car Affordability Study by Interest.com, only in Washington could the typical household swing the payments, the median income there running $86,680 a year.

#4 The founder of Subway Restaurants, Fred Deluca, says that the recent tax increases are having a noticeable impact on his business…

“The payroll tax is affecting sales. It’s causing sales declines,” he said, estimating a decline of about 2 percentage points off sales at his restaurants. “There are a lot of pressures on consumers,” Deluca said, adding “I think this is on the permanent side, but I think business will adjust to it.”

#5 Many other large restaurant chains are also struggling in this tough economic environment…

Darden Restaurants, which owns the casual dining chains Oliver Garden, LongHorn Steakhouse and Red Lobster, said blended same-store sales at its three eateries would be 4.5 percent lower during its fiscal third quarter.

Clarence Otis, Darden’s chairman and chief executive, said that “while results midway through the third quarter were encouraging, there were difficult macro-economic headwinds during the last month of the quarter.”

“Two of the most prominent were increased payroll taxes and rising gasoline prices, which together put meaningful pressure on the discretionary purchasing power of our guests,” he added.

#6 The CFO of Family Dollar recently admitted to CNBC that this is a “challenging time” because of reduced consumer spending…

At Family Dollar where the average customer makes less than $40,000 a year, the combination of a two-percent hike in the payroll tax, rising gas prices and delayed tax refunds has created a “challenging time and an uncertain time for the consumer right now,” said Mary Winston, the company’s chief financial officer.

“In our case, anything that takes money out of our customer’s wallet gives them less money to spend in our stores,” she told CNBC. “So I think all of those things create nervousness for the consumer, and I think there are sometimes political dynamics going on that they might not even fully understand the details, but they know it’s not good.”

#7 Even Wal-Mart is really struggling right now. According to a recent Bloomberg article, Wal-Mart is struggling “to restock store shelves as U.S. sales slump“…

Evelin Cruz, a department manager at the Wal-Mart Supercenter in Pico Rivera, California, said Simon’s comments from the officers’ meeting were “dead on.”

“There are gaps where merchandise is missing,” Cruz said in a telephone interview. “We are not talking about a couple of empty shelves. This is throughout the store in every store. Some places look like they’re going out of business.”

This all comes on the heels of an internal Wal-Mart memo that was leaked to the press earlier this month that described February sales as a “total disaster”.

#8 Electronics retailer Best Buy continues to struggle mightily. Best Buy just announced that it will be eliminating 400 jobs at its headquarters in Richfield, Minnesota.
#9 It is being projected that many of the largest retail chains in America, including Best Buy, will close down hundreds of stores during 2013. The following is a list of projected store closings for 2013 that I included in a previous article…

Best Buy

Forecast store closings: 200 to 250

Sears Holding Corp.

Forecast store closings: Kmart 175 to 225, Sears 100 to 125

J.C. Penney

Forecast store closings: 300 to 350

Office Depot

Forecast store closings: 125 to 150

Barnes & Noble

Forecast store closings: 190 to 240, per company comments


Forecast store closings: 500 to 600


Forecast store closings: 150 to 175


Forecast store closings: 450 to 550

#10 Another sign that consumer spending is slowing down is the fact that less stuff is being moved around in our economy. As I have mentioned previously, freight shipment volumes have hit their lowest level in two years, and freight expenditures have gone negative for the first time since the last recession.

#11 Many young adults have no discretionary income to spend because they are absolutely drowning in student loan debt. According to the New York Federal Reserve, student loan debt nearly tripled between 2004 and 2012.

#12 The student loan delinquency rate in the United States is now at an all-time high. It is only a matter of time before the student loan debt bubble bursts.

#13 Due to a lack of jobs and high levels of debt, poverty among young adults in America is absolutely exploding. Today, U.S. families that have a head of household that is under the age of 30 have a poverty rate of 37 percent.

#14 According to one recent survey, 62 percent of all middle class Americans say that they have had to reduce household spending over the past year.

#15 Median household income in the United States has fallen for four consecutive years. Overall, it has declined by more than $4000 during that time span.

#16 According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the middle class is currently taking home a smaller share of the overall income pie than has ever been recorded before.

Are you starting to get the picture?

Retailers are desperate for sales, but you can’t squeeze blood out of a rock.


Massive whisky spill at Chivas distillery sends spirits pouring into Scottish sewer -

Massive whisky spill at Chivas distillery sends spirits pouring into Scottish sewer - 

A massive spill at a Chivas plant has sent the smell of spirits flowing through a Scottish sewer and sorrow coursing through the hearts of Scotch whisky fans.
Chivas Brothers Ltd. spokeswoman Jennifer Stevenson says the group is investigating what she described as an “accidental loss” of spirit at the company’s bottling plant in Dumbarton, Scotland on Feb. 26.
She declined to estimate how much of the bulk whisky had been lost, saying only that it was less than the 18,000 litres (4,755 gallons) mentioned in media reports.
Bulk whisky can be used in various ways, and it wasn’t immediately clear which Chivas brand the liquid was meant to fill.
Stevenson said Friday she did not want to comment on the spill’s circumstances until the company had completed its investigation.


NASA Discovers New Radiation Belt Around Earth -

NASA Discovers New Radiation Belt Around Earth - 

A ring of radiation previously unknown to science fleetingly surrounded Earth last year before being virtually annihilated by a powerful interplanetary shock wave, scientists say.

NASA's twin Van Allen space probes, which are studying the Earth's radiation belts, made the cosmic find. The surprising discovery — a new, albeit temporary, radiation belt around Earth — reveals how much remains unknown about outer space, even those regions closest to the planet, researchers added.

After humanity began exploring space, the first major find made there were the Van Allen radiation belts, zones of magnetically trapped, highly energetic charged particles first discovered in 1958.


The Dachshund UN - dachshunds re-enacting a meeting of the United Nation Commission on Human Rights -

The Dachshund UN - dachshunds re-enacting a meeting of the United Nation Commission on Human Rights - 
Dachshund Un

The world's leaders spent an hour barking, sniffing one another, and chasing their own tails in what was far from a normal United Nations meeting.
Dachshund UN, a miniature version of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights where the world's leaders are replaced by dogs, made its North American debut in Toronto on Thursday night.
Harbourfront Centre's Enwave theatre was host to 36 dachshunds that filled in for United Nations representatives from France, Germany, the United States and other nations.
"It's a powerful, profound piece of work but it's kooky on the surface," said Tina Rasmussen, artistic director of Harbourfront Centre's World Stage 2013 performances.
Rasmussen said that the audience plays an important part in the performance as well because they gauge what the dogs' actions along with what the nation that they are representing signifies.
"The audience reaction is nearly as powerful."
"What does it mean when China is asleep or when Chile is aggressive," asked Rasmussen.
Australian artist Bennett Miller created the show to question humanity's potential for creating a universal justice system.
Miller, who had already showcased the installation in the United Kingdom, says many of his works use animals to stand in for humans.
"It gets the audience to consider human behaviour differently," said Miller.
The artist chose dachshunds specifically for what he says is an interesting correlation between the breed and members of the United Nations.
"Dachshunds are impressive but restricted, you can match that to the United Nations," Miller said.
The diversity of dachshunds also played a crucial role in the artist's decision.
"Their racial variety of red, black, tanned, short-hair and long-hair makes them (as diverse as humanity) and is similar to a United Nations meeting."
World Stage officials said that a near maximum capacity audience of about 350 packed into the theatre to watch the dachshunds interact with one another.
The United States representative was the most vocal and aggressive, often barking loudly at his companions.
Argentina's representative was quiet and still for most of the performance, barely mustering a whimper.
And Nigeria mounted Saudi Arabia for a few moments while Germany and France exchanged a few harsh barks throughout the evening.
Susanne Feeley, owner of Mr. Smalls who represented Ukraine and Carrots who represented France, was proud of her dachshunds.
"I don't have kids but tonight it was like I was seeing my kids at a school performance," said Feeley.
Feeley said that she heard that Miller and World Stage were looking for volunteers and she immediately filled out the application along with sending in pictures so that the brother dachshunds could participate.
Dachshund UN will be performing in Toronto through March 4 as part of Harbourfront Centre's World Stage 2013 productions, and in Montreal in May.