Making Unique Observations in a Very Cluttered World

Wednesday, 29 May 2013

Toxic waste from Greek yogurt poses danger to waterways -

Toxic waste from Greek yogurt poses danger to waterways  - 

Greek yogurt has become an increasingly popular low-calorie treat in the United States, as it is thicker and contains more protein than regular yogurt.  In fact, the yogurt is in such high demand that total yogurt production has nearly tripled in New York state over the last five years.
But the new diet fad harbors a dark secret. When Greek yogurt is strained, a thin, runny waste product known as acid (sour) whey is left over.  According to a new report from Modern Farmer, whey acid – a liquid containing mostly water, lactose (sugar), protein and yogurt cultures – is extremely toxic to the environment, making it illegal to dump.  The substance is so detrimental to the environment that if it enters nearby streams and rivers, it robs the water of so much oxygen that fish and other aquatic life start to die off over potentially large areas.
The Modern Farmer report stated that for every 3 to 4 ounces of milk used, Chobani and other manufacturers can only make 1 ounce of Greek yogurt – the rest becoming acid whey.  Chobani is so desperate to get rid of the whey, the report maintained, they pay nearby farmers to haul the whey somewhere else.  They claim that 70 percent of their excess whey winds up in livestock feed.
But the yogurt industry has remained relatively secretive on the issue, as there are currently no industry-wide statistics regarding where all of this excess whey is going..
Fortunately, the Modern Farmer report noted a possible consumer of excess whey: babies.  Dave Barbano, a dairy scientist at Cornell University, believes that the tiny amount of protein left over in acid whey could be used in infant formula.  Cheese manufacturers have managed to sell similar products from sweet whey, a byproduct of cheese. Whey protein is sold as an ingredient in body building supplements and in other foodstuffs – and Greek yogurt manufacturers are eager to try the same tactics.
“There are a lot of people coming in and out of New York state looking at whether this is a good opportunity for investment,” Barbano told Modern Farmer.
Other researchers at the Center for Dairy Research at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, are trying to figure out a way to extract the sugar from acid whey, which could be used as an ingredient in things like icing and bread.  And a farm in Scipio Center, N.Y., is hoping to convert the whey’s lactose into methane – which could ultimately be used to generate electricity.
No matter what, the Modern Farmer report maintained that a solution needs to be found as soon as possible, because the development of excess whey isn’t slowing down.


'Mars rat' spied by NASA's Curiosity rover - 

Mars Rat Big.jpg

Is that a rat on Mars?
A photo from the mast camera on NASA’s Curiosity rover reveals the dusty orange, rock-strewn surface of the Red Planet -- and what starry-eyed enthusiasts claim is a dusty orange rodent hiding among the stones.
The photo, taken Sept. 28, 2012, depicts the “Rocknest” site, where NASA’s rover took a scoopful of sand, tasted it, and determined it was full of weathered basaltic materials -- not unlike Hawaii, the space agency’s scientists said last year.

No word on how the rodent tasted, however.
The “creature” was identified on the UFO Sightings Daily website, where its finder, ScottCWaring, held tight to his opinion: That’s one darn cute rodent on Mars.
“Note its lighter color upper and lower eyelids, its nose and cheek areas, its ear, its front leg and stomach. Looks similar to a squirrel camouflaged in the stones and sand by its colors," he wrote. "Hey, who doesn't love squirrels, right?”
Others pointed out that the similarity in coloring and position mean it was most likely just a rock, fingering the psychology phenomenon known as pareidolia, a propensity to pick out faces from everyday objects and structures.


Moon telescope would offer online views of Earth from lunar surface -

Moon telescope would offer online views of Earth from lunar surface - 

Ever wonder what it would be like to stand on the moon and look back at Earth?
You'll soon have to experience that view, via the Internet.
There's a plan to send a telescope the moon next year to allow Earthlings to view the Earth from the lunar surface.

The privately funded telescope, known as the International Lunar Observatory precursor, was designed and built by Silicon Valley-based Moon Express.
Company CEO Bob Richards says the shoebox-sized telescope will provide a unique view.
The Canadian-born Richards says people on Earth will even be able to manoeuvre the telescope by remote control to give them out-of-this-world access to galaxies, stars and planets.
The telescope was tested in December 2011 from the summit of the Mauna Kea volcano in Hawaii and the flight-test hardware was unveiled Tuesday in Vancouver.


Eyelid lifts for Medicare patients cost taxpayers millions  - 

Aging Americans worried about their droopy upper eyelids often rely on the plastic surgeon’s scalpel to turn back the hands of time. Increasingly, Medicare is footing the bill.

Yes, Medicare. The public health insurance program for people over 65 typically does not cover cosmetic surgery, but for cases in which a patient’s sagging eyelids significantly hinder their vision, it does pay to have them lifted. In recent years, though, a rapid rise in the number of so-called functional eyelid lifts, or blepharoplasty, has led some to question whether Medicare is letting procedures that are really cosmetic slip through the cracks — at a cost of millions of dollars.

As the Obama administration and Congress wrestle over how to restrain Medicare’s growing price tag, critics say program administrators should be more closely inspecting rapidly proliferating procedures like blepharoplasty to make sure taxpayers are not getting ripped off.

From 2001 to 2011, eyelid lifts charged to Medicare more than tripled to 136,000 annually, according to a review of physician billing data by the Center for Public Integrity. In 2001, physicians billed taxpayers a total of $20 million for the procedure. By 2011, the price tag had quadrupled to $80 million. The number of physicians billing the surgery more than doubled.

“With this kind of management malpractice, it’s little wonder that the [Medicare] program is in such dire shape,” said Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., who is also a physician. “The federal government is essentially asking people to game the system.”

Plastic surgeons say there are a number of legitimate reasons for the spike, including a tendency among the elderly to seek fixes for real medical issues they might have quietly suffered through even a decade ago. But surgeons also acknowledge an increased awareness of the surgery fueled by reality television, word-of-mouth referrals, and advertising that promises a more youthful appearance. And doctors concede they face increased pressure from patients to perform eyelid lifts, even when they do not meet Medicare’s requirement that peripheral vision actually be impaired.

Thomas Scully, former Medicare administrator under George W. Bush, has a blunter assessment; he doubts the jump is caused by anything other than seniors seeking younger-looking eyes. “How many seniors among your friends or family have needed eyelid surgery?” he said. “I bet a hell of a lot of them at 65 say, ‘You know what, I bet I can get Medicare to pay for this.’ And I can imagine the plastic surgeons love it. If you can go to patients and say that Medicare will pay, they will do it in much larger numbers.”

Florida surgeon bills Medicare for more than 2,200 eye surgeries a year

Surgeons who bill Medicare for large numbers of eyelid surgeries dot a map of the United States. Yet 11 of the 20 highest billers in 2008 were in Florida, which is both an elderly mecca and the country’s foremost magnet for questionable Medicare billing.

Among the top surgeons, the data show a South Florida doctor billed Medicare more than $800,000 in 2008 for about 2,200 eyelid lifts. That’s an average of six a day, including weekends. This same doctor was also a top biller in 2006 and 2007.

The Center is barred from naming the Florida surgeon. A 1979 federal court injunction blocks the Department of Health and Human Services from publicly releasing doctor’s names in conjunction with specific Medicare billing information. The Center sued HHS to obtain the Medicare data but, as a condition for obtaining it, signed an agreement not to publish the names of individual doctors, unless they agreed to discuss their billing histories. After repeated calls for comment, and a fax including the billing referenced by the Center, the Florida physician’s office assistant said he would not talk “due to prior engagements.”

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Google plans 'wireless balloons' to spread the Internet -

Google plans 'wireless balloons' to spread the Internet  - 

Is it just a lot of hot air?

Google aims to help wire the world by bringing the Internet to a billion or more new people, including small villages and cities outside of major urban areas in Southeast Asia and sub-Saharan Africa -- using special balloons to broadcast the wireless connection.

According to The Wall Street Journal, Google plans to team up with local telecommunications firms and equipment providers in the emerging markets to develop the networks, as well as create business models to support them, people familiar with the project said. The networks also could be used to improve Internet speeds in urban centers, the paper reported.

To speed the spread of the Internet in these areas, the company has worked on special blimps, called high-altitude platforms, to broadcast a signal over hundreds of square miles.

Google has also considered helping to create a satellite-based network.

"There's not going to be one technology that will be the silver bullet," meaning that each market will require a unique solution, said one person familiar with Google's plans.