“Heavy Rains Linked to Humans”- New York Times Headline

Talk of climate change was in the news this week as the Supreme Court made what has been called the most important decision about environmental law in years.

The Court ruled against a lawsuit brought by six states against five power companies as a way to force them to regulate their greenhouse gas emissions.

James Vicini of Reuters reported, “In a defeat for environmentalists, the Supreme Court agreed with the companies that regulating greenhouse gases should be left to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) under the clean air laws.”

The EPA has not yet made rules on gas emissions from power plants.

Why does it matter how much greenhouse gases are emitted? According to Don Nardo, author of Morgan Reynolds’s Extreme Threats: Climate Change, these gases are what is causing the Earth to warm, the polar ice caps to melt, and could eventually cause devastation among our species. And we are mostly to blame for their being so abundant.

“Scientists now recognize that an unnatural forcing–human activities–is the chief culprit [of recent climate change]. It started in a small way when people began to farm and build cities, but its effects were insignificant until the height of the Industrial Revolution, in the 1800s and 1900s. As factories multiplied… huge amounts of smoke and various gases poured from smokestacks into the atmosphere.”

Nardo explains that these gases are helping to heat up the Earth’s surface, which is good, until it becomes too hot.

“Sunlight passes through the structure’s glass ceiling and walls and heats up the air inside… the glass traps the warmth, keeping it from leaving the greenhouse. This causes the temperature inside to steadily increase….Besides water vapor, the chief greenhouse gases are carbon dioxide, methane, and ozone. On the positive side…this process keeps Earth’s surface warm and mild enough to support life. On the negative side… if the volume of greenhouse gases in the air increases too much, the planet could become uncomfortably warm.”

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In another Supreme Court ruling this week, the Court dismissed the largest sex discrimination suit in history.

The suit was brought against Wal-Mart on behalf of 1.5 million of its female employees.

According to the New York Times, “The suit claimed that Wal-Mart’s policies and practices had led to countless discriminatory decisions over pay and promotions.”

The Court was divided 5-4 in the ruling, with all three of the court’s women justices against the majority, ruling they would have sent the case back to the lower courts to be reviewed under a stricter standard of class certification.

 

Adrianne Loggins
Associate Editor

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To learn more about Climate Change, check out Extreme Threats: Climate Change by Don Nardo. (ISBN 9781599351193)

For more information on the Supreme Court and its justices– including Sonia Sotomayor, one of the justices who ruled in favor of the plaintiffs in the Wal-Mart case–see the Morgan Reynolds series Supreme Court Justices:

Sonia Sotomayor by Sandra Shichtman (ISBN 9781599351568)

Thurgood Marshall by Nancy Whitelaw (ISBN 9781599351579)

Earl Warren by Leslie Wolf Branscomb (ISBN 9781599351582)

John Marshall by Jim Corrigan (ISBN 9781599351599)

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Published in: on June 23, 2011 at 12:54 pm  Leave a Comment  
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There is hope.

We are continuing with the disease trend from last week’s post, but instead of discussing bad news (E. Coli outbreak in Europe), we have good news.

In the past week, word of one British man’s victory over HIV has spread like wildfire. Timothy Ray Brown was a leukemia patient who was also HIV positive in 2007, when he underwent surgery for a bone marrow transplant. Mr. Brown received his bone marrow transplant from a donor who was immune to HIV. According to Yahoo! News, and estimated 1 percent of Caucasians are immune to the disease. After is surgery, the article reports, ” His HIV went away.” His symptoms disappeared, the virus has stopped replicating, and he does not take any medicine for the illness.

News of this medical breakthrough is fantastic, and comes almost thirty years to the day when the Centers for Disease Control issued its first report on the emerging AIDS epidemic. Kevin Cunningham, author of Morgan Reynolds’ Diseases in History: HIV/AIDS, writes, “One of the most terrifying aspects of the early AIDS epidemic was the fact that nothing worked against the disease. No medicine stopped it, certainly none cured it, and no vaccine prevented it.

“The epidemics and the pandemic that followed [HIV/AIDS] have taught us a lot–about ourselves and the world and our vulnerability to new and undiscovered viruses,” Cunningham adds. “Where HIV leads, and whether its lessons help us with the next disease to appear, remains to be seen.”

Brown’s case gives millions of HIV positive people reason to hope. However, bone marrow transplants are extremely dangerous and often deadly. It is unrealistic to assume that the 30 + million of HIV positive patients worldwide could receive this extreme treatment. But its discovery is a step in the right direction.

Adrianne Loggins
Associate Editor

For more information on HIV/AIDS and the history of the disease, check out Diseases in History: HIV/AIDS by Kevin Cunningham (ISBN 978-1-59935-104-9)


Published in: on June 7, 2011 at 1:36 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“No infectious disease rains down on humanity out of nowhere.”-Kevin Cunningham

The wonderful thing about being an evolved species is that we are capable of developing ways to protect ourselves from disease. Unluckily for us, however, viruses and bacteria can also evolve–or rather, mutate, into new and deadlier forms of disease.

That is exactly what has happened with the most recent outbreak of E. coli. This deadly strain of E. coli has already taken sixteen victims in Germany, and several hundred people have been infected.

Kevin Cunningham, author of the Morgan Reynolds series Diseases in History, writes, “All [diseases] have been (and are) assisted by human behavior…. Humans have always created conditions agreeable to pathogens…”

These diseases, in turn, not only make us sick, they also turn whole economies upside down. In the case of malaria, for example, Cunningham writes, “The effects reverberate across the entire economy… malaria keeps workers from working. A bout of malaria costs a worker between four and six days on the job….a case of fever at harvest time means less food gets picked. That can lead to nutritional problems or starvation, not just for the farmer but for his extended family.”

Some agricultural workers in Spain have had to stop working as a result of the panic the E. coli outbreak has caused in Europe. People are scared to purchase produce, making demand for their summer cucumbers pretty much zilch, and thus workers have nothing to pick.

We will always be plagued (no pun intended) by diseases. It’s a fact of life. Until we find an omnipotent vaccine that eradicates illness of all kinds, we have to assume that nature will create obstacles such as new strains of E. coli, malaria, and influenza, to name a few.

Some facts about some of the world’s most infectious diseases:

-Since 1981, HIV has infected roughly 65 million people around the world.

-No one actually dies from AIDS, rather from infections or lesser viruses that wreak havoc on the immune system.

-Between 1,000-3,000 cases of bubonic plague are confirmed each year.

-Malaria has been around since prehistory.

-The most common victims of malaria are pregnant African women and African children under the age of five.

-Around 1 million people die from influenza annually.

-Scientists have predicted a severe influenza pandemic will strike in the future, and although they do not know when or what exactly will happen to those infected, they predict that as many as 207,000 could die in the U.S.

Adrianne Loggins
Associate Editor

 

For more information about Malaria, HIV, Influenza, and Plague, check out the Diseases in History series:

Diseases in History: Malaria (ISBN 978-1-59935-103-2)

Diseases in History: HIV/AIDS (ISBN 978-1-59935-104-9)

Diseases in History: Flu (ISBN 978-1-59935-105-6)

Diseases in History: Plague (ISBN 978-1-59935-102-5)

Published in: on June 3, 2011 at 1:09 pm  Leave a Comment  
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