Stop the trade in Bear Bile!

Two brother bear cubs rescued from suspected smugglers in Vietnam have become poster children for a campaign against the use of capturing and harvesting bears for their bile. The two men arrested said "they bought the cubs for $1,500" and were "going to sell them for a much higher price," most likely to a farm that harvests bear bile, Tuan Bendixsen, the Vietnam director for the nonprofit charity Animals Asia, told NBC News. "To get the cubs they would have to kill the mother," Bendixsen added, "and the mother's body parts would be sold" for the trade in purported medicinal cures from bear parts. The body parts most in demand are gallbladders and paws.

The Next Pandemic will likely come from wildlife

Experts believe the next deadly human pandemic will almost certainly be a virus that spills over from wildlife to humans. The reasons why have a lot to do with the frenetic pace with which we are destroying wild places and disrupting ecosystems. Emerging diseases are in the news again. Scary viruses are making themselves noticed and felt. There's been a lot of that during the past several months — West Nile fever kills 17 people in the Dallas area, three tourists succumb to hantavirus after visiting Yosemite National Park, an Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo claims 33 lives. A separate Ebola outbreak, across the border in Uganda, registers a death toll of 17. A peculiar new coronavirus, related to SARS, proves fatal for a Saudi man and puts a Qatari into critical condition, while disease scientists all over the world wonder: Is this one — or is that one — going to turn into the Next Big One?

The Great Rice Debate

Following alarming reports from the United States about the discovery of high arsenic levels in rice sold in the US market, experts from the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) in the Philippines have reassured consumers that rice is safe to eat. In a statement released to SciDev.Net, IRRI said that "that there is no evidence to show that people should stop eating rice grown in Asia because of concerns about arsenic." But it stopped short of denying claims that arsenic was present in rice.

New Absorbent for Oil Spills

An oil spill is the release of a liquid petroleum hydrocarbon into the environment, especially marine areas, due to human activity, and is a form of pollution. There are several possible methods to remove the oil from the environment. A new absorbent has been proposed which is a polyolefin-based petroleum superabsorbent called PETROGEL that not only absorbs floating oil, but allows for its recovery and subsequent refining. When applied to a spill, PETROGEL immediately begins to absorb oil (but not water), and within 10 minutes will increase its weight by more than 10 times. Within 12 hours, Chung (Penn State researcher) says, it can absorb 40 times its own weight in oil. "The resultant solid mass will continue to float on the surface," he says, "and can be scooped up from the water or shore."

Learning from Cephalopods: Creating Better Colors for E-Paper

Over millions of years, animals like the chameleon and cuttlefish, octopus and squid, have adapted color-changing abilities through natural selection. Depending on the trait, these adaptations can help organisms stay camouflaged from predators, better communicate warning signals, or even attract mates. While humans do not have the color-changing ability minus maybe a seasonal tan, researchers are suggesting we should use this biological information to develop more sophisticated color in electronic devices.

Diaz Superfund Site

Diaz Chemical was a manufacturer of specialty organic intermediates for the agricultural, pharmaceutical, photographic, color and dye, and personal care products industries. The Diaz Chemical product line varied over the years of operation but primarily consisted of halogenated aromatic compounds and substituted benzotrifluorides. The Diaz Chemical facility has a long history of spills, releases and discharges of various materials to the environment that dates back to about 1975. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has finalized a plan to clean up contaminated soil and ground water at the Diaz Chemical Corporation Superfund site in Holley, New York. The soil and ground water are contaminated with volatile and semi-volatile organic compounds, which can cause serious damage to people’s health. The EPA’s cleanup plan uses a technology to treat six areas of soil and ground water that continue to cause contamination of ground water in a broader area.

Mayan Warrior Queen

Kalomt'e K'Abel was one of the great warrior queens of the Maya and bore the title Kaloomte which is Supreme Warrior. She is mostly forgotten because Mayan history is not very well known and is even now well hid in jungles. Archaeologists in Guatemala have now discovered the tomb of Lady K’abel, a seventh-century Maya Holy Snake Lord considered one of the great queens of Classic Maya civilization. The tomb was discovered during excavations of the royal Maya city of El Perú-Waka’ in northwestern Petén, Guatemala, by a team of archaeologists led by Washington University in St. Louis’ David Freidel, co-director of the expedition.

The Fight for Renewables Rages On, Despite Drought

Has renewable fuel development in the U.S. hit a brick wall, or at least a fork in the road? After all, recent developments seem to point in that direction. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is looking at waiving the Renewable Fuels Standard (RFS) due to the recent harsh drought conditions in the mid-western U.S. this summer, which have driven up corn prices.

Changing Elasticity of Collagen: What echinoderms can tell us about looking young

Some people will do just about anything to stay and look young. From Botox to facial creams, exercising and meditation, society is always looking for the next new anti-aging fad. Well now according to scientists at Queen Mary, University of London, sea cucumbers and sea urchins may actually hold the key to maintaining a youthful appearance. Published online in the journals PLOS One and General and Comparative Endocrinology, the study investigated the genes of various echinoderms like sea urchins and sea cucumbers. They found the genes for "messenger molecules" known as peptides, which are released by cells and tell other cells in their bodies what to do.

Healthy Vitamin D Levels Can Decrease Mortality

Vitamin D is a vitamin that is commonly lacking for many people when they get their blood tested. The vitamin is essential in our diet, but it also can be synthesized from exposure to the sun, much like plants can photosynthesize chlorophyll. A new study looked at the mortality of humans who suffer from vitamin D deficiency. Low levels of the vitamin and high levels of parathyroid hormone have been found to increase mortality for African American and Caucasian older adults. However, there is a greater impact in African Americans due to a higher prevalence of insufficient vitamin D levels.