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News Round Up August 10, 2017

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Another mine opens close to the Alaska border

KRBD by Ed Schoenfeld

The Brucejack Mine had what’s called its “first pour” this summer. That’s when refined ore is melted down to make a project’s first bar of gold.

The high-altitude mine is about 25 miles from the Alaska border and around 80 miles east of Wrangell. It’s within the watershed of the Unuk River, which drains into the ocean northeast of Ketchikan.

A company press release said its main ore body has proven reserves of 1.6 million ounces, worth around $2 billion in U.S. currency. It projects total reserves of four times that much gold, plus a significant silver deposit.

Brucejack is far less controversial than some other British Columbia mining projects across the border from Southeast Alaska.

Heather Hardcastle is a fisheries-business owner and campaign director for the environmental group Salmon Beyond Borders.

“It is a lot smaller than the other mines in the transboundary region and it is an underground mine. So as far as the disposal of tailings go, we certainly feel better about their plans to put the tailings and the waste back underground,” she said. [Read the rest]


Alaska Airlines' frequent flyer program once again named No. 1 loyalty program by U.S. News & World Report

 BY ALASKA AIRLINES

For the third year in a row, Alaska Mileage Plan has received top honors in U.S. News & World Report's list of Best Airline Rewards Programs.

The Best Airline Rewards Programs ranking identifies the top frequent flyer programs for everyday travelers using a methodology that weighs six components: ease of earning a free round-trip flight, benefits, network coverage, flight volume, award flight availability and airline quality ratings.

Alaska Airlines, together with Virgin America and its regional partners, flies 40 million guests a year to 118 destinations with an average of 1,200 daily flights across the United States and to Mexico, Canada, Costa Rica and Cuba. [Source]


Federal dollars scored for Alaska fisheries, programs – Some hits and gains

by Laine Welch

Alaska’s fishing-related programs got a mix of budget hits and gains for 2018 before Congress left for its five week recess.
On the hit list: total funding for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) budget was set at $5.6 billion – an $85 million cut – but far less than the $900 million cut proposed by Donald Trump.

Senate appropriators rejected Trump’s call for a 32 percent cut for climate, weather and oceans research, and instead provided a budget of nearly $480 million for those programs.

Coastal Zone Management grants also were fully funded, and fisheries data collection, surveys and stock assessments were boosted to nearly $165 million.

Regional fisheries councils and commissions received robust funding of $36 million.

Pacific Coastal Salmon Recovery Funds were maintained at $65 million, and Pacific Salmon Treaty activities received a $2 million increase to $14 million.

Weather satellite programs at nearly $420 million reflect a $90 million funding increase and $239 million above the Trump administration’ request. [Full article]

Study shows how food preservatives may disrupt human hormones and promote obesity


Can chemicals that are added to breakfast cereals and other everyday products make you obese? Growing evidence from animal experiments suggests the answer may be "yes." But confirming these findings in humans has faced formidable obstacles - until now.

The three chemicals tested in this study are abundant in modern life. Butylhydroxytoluene (BHT) is an antioxidant commonly added to breakfast cereals and other foods to protect nutrients and keep fats from turning rancid; perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) is a polymer found in some cookware, carpeting and other products; and tributyltin (TBT) is a compound in paints that can make its way into water and accumulate in seafood.

The investigators used hormone-producing tissues grown from human stem cells to demonstrate how chronic exposure to these chemicals can interfere with signals sent from the digestive system to the brain that let people know when they are "full" during meals. When this signaling system breaks down, people often may continue eating, causing them to gain weight.

"We discovered that each of these chemicals damaged hormones that communicate between the gut and the brain," said Dhruv Sareen, PhD, assistant professor of Biomedical Sciences and director of the Induced Pluripotent Stem Cell Core Facility at the Cedars-Sinai Board of Governors Regenerative Medicine Institute. "When we tested the three together, the combined stress was more robust."
Of the three chemicals tested, BHT produced some of the strongest detrimental effects, Sareen said.

"This is a landmark study that substantially improves our understanding of how endocrine disruptors may damage human hormonal systems and contribute to the obesity epidemic in the U.S.," said Clive Svendsen, PhD, director of the institute and the Kerry and Simone Vickar Family Foundation Distinguished Chair in Regenerative Medicine. More than one-third of U.S. adults are considered to be obese, according to federal statistics. [Full Source]


A New Explanation for One of the Strangest Occurrences in Nature—Ball Lightning

POSTED BY CHRIS DRUDGE

Every so often, given the proper conditions, a small and roughly spherical piece of the atmosphere around us will briefly catch fire. As they are best viewed late into the night and have no obvious natural explanation, it’s perhaps no wonder they’ve inspired a rich mythology. Names for balls of fire include ignis fatuus, will-o’-the-wisp, ghost lights, and ball lightning. They’ve been said to hover above graves, dance along the banks of rivers, signal the imminent arrival of an earthquake, and stalk the aisles of airplanes. Even today, we don’t have a crystal-clear understanding of how they form and do what they do. Which doesn’t mean scientists have, well, dropped the ball. Chinese scientist H.-C. Wu recently offered a compelling new explanation in Scientific Reports.

Microwave bubbles were the focus of the paper by Wu, a scientist at Zhejiang University in Hangzhou, China. While researchers have previously proposed such bubbles could be formed by microwave radiation emitted from thunderclouds or atmospheric masers, Wu theorizes the microwaves instead arise from a bunch of electrons accelerated to speeds approaching the speed of light when the Earth is struck by lightning. Specifically, the electrons are accelerated by the strong electric field created as a channel of electrons moves stepwise from the base of a cloud toward the ground, just prior to the bright flash we know as a lightning bolt. “At the tip of a lightning stroke reaching the ground,” Wu says, “a relativistic electron bunch can be produced, which in turn excites intense microwave radiation.”

Regardless of their source, the atmospheric microwaves produce plasma by charging up the surrounding air. The radiation exerts sufficient pressure to push the plasma outward into a bubble, which we see as ball lightning. Microwaves trapped inside continue to generate plasma and so maintain the bubble for its brief lifetime. The ball lightning eventually fades as the radiation held within the bubble is dissipated. On the offhand chance the bubble is ruptured, microwaves can leak out and cause the ball to come to an explosive end.

What sets Wu’s microwave origin theory apart is that it explains how ball lightning can appear inside an aircraft. Electrons, being tiny relative to atoms, are able to pass through the metal shell of an aircraft after being accelerated outside of it via a lightning strike. Microwaves are then emitted by the suped-up electrons inside where they form ball lightning. The electron-microwave-plasma pathway also explains the size of ball lightning, since the length of the electron bunch sped up by a lightning strike matches up with the typical 20-50 centimeter diameter of the resulting microwave bubble. As is ever the case for science, more work needs to be done to firm up Wu’s theory. [Read the rest]

How sleep helps us to remember and forget at the same time

By Ana Sandoiu

Can we both learn and unlearn while we sleep? A new study suggests that we can. Both processes occur during different phases of sleep, the research shows.

Our brains have the ability to come up with creative solutions to problems when we least think about them, and, some think, to learn new things while we are resting.

It is a known fact that sleep and memory are deeply connected. For instance, studies have shown that neuroplasticity - that is, the brain's ability to retrace new connections between neurons and to forge new pathways that enable us to learn new information - is heavily dependent on sleep. It is during sleep that our synapses relax and regain their plasticity.

Despite some of these studies suggesting that our brains have the ability to learn while asleep, the scientific literature available shows mixed results. Some studies managed to produce evidence in favor of this theory, while others did not.

This is why a team of scientists based in Paris, France, set out to examine in more depth whether or not learning occurs during sleep. They hypothesized that perhaps the reason why different studies produced different results is that they studied different sleep phases, each with a different effect on learning abilities.

Overall, the study revealed significant differences between the sleep phases. When participants heard the sound sequences during REM sleep or during light NREM sleep, they were better able to recognize the sounds. By contrast, when they were exposed to the new sounds during deep NREM sleep, they performed significantly worse at the recognizing tests when awake.

These findings were confirmed by EEG markers. And quite surprisingly, the experiments revealed that during deep NREM sleep, the brain seems to not aid learning as well as suppress it.

After waking, not only did the participants find it difficult to recognize the sounds that were played to them while asleep, but they also found it even harder to (re)learn them than entirely new sounds. The role of deep NREM sleep, therefore, seems to be to suppress previous learning. [Read the rest]


Stefan Molyneaux Interviews Fired Google Manifesto Writer




In case you missed this story, Damore authored an internal memo/manifesto questioning Google’s diversity programs. It was originally written for internal consumption but the memo was leaked and quickly became a massive news story. The publicity surrounding it prompted Google to fire him alleging that he had violated their “Code of Conduct.” The thing in his manifesto/memo that sparked the most controversy was his statement about males and females being biologically different. Which isn’t even an opinion. It is merely a statement of fact that no sane person can argue with.

His manifesto also stated that he thought diversity was a good thing, he just emphasized how diversity of "thought" is the most important component of diversity. If Google will fire someone like Damore--they’ll fire anybody. This type of mindset as evidenced by Google is present in companies throughout the entire Western World. [Full Manifesto here]


Quote of the Week:

"Failure is simply the opportunity to begin again, this time more intelligently." - Henry Ford

Read More: Thorne Bay Market Sale August 3-16, 2017

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