Category Archives: Daily Scan

Weather and volcanic eruptions could eclipse tonight's rare lunar event

Tonight and into the wee hours of Tuesday morning, sky watchers will have their first opportunity in 456 years to see a total lunar eclipse occurring on the winter solstice — the shortest day of the year.

A lunar eclipse occurs when the moon travels through the shadow created by the Earth, thus blocking the reflective light from the sun, which enable us to see the moon. Recent volcanic eruptions, which dumped tons of dust and ash into the atmosphere caused astronomers to predict that the moon may take on a darker than usual appearance for an eclipse.

Lunar experts from NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center will host two live Web chats to discuss the eclipse. On Monday, Dec. 20, from 3-4 p.m. EST, and from midnight to 5:00 a.m. EST.

According to the NASA, North and Central America should be able to view the entire show, which is expected to last three hours if skies are clear.

Total eclipse begins at 11:41 p.m. PST Monday or 2:41 a.m. EST Tuesday. The totality phase — when the moon is entirely inside Earth’s shadow — will last a little over an hour.

Veteran eclipse watchers in all of Southern California like myself, will most likely be eclipsed out of seeing the astronomical event up close and personal. Experiencing an event of cosmic proportions ourselves, it has been raining almost non-stop for five days with another three days still in the offing.

But not to worry. All is not quite lost. “Our event will go on rain or shine,” said astronomer Anthony Cook of Los Angeles’ Griffith Observatory. If the local view is obstructed by clouds or rain, the Griffith Observatory will broadcast a live video stream of the rare eclipse from the Internet. The event will also be shown live by NASA from its camera at the Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama.

Fed Judge: Mandatory Health Insurance Unconstitutional

U.S. District Judge Henry Hudson ruled Monday that a central requirement in the health care reform law is unconstitutional. Hudson ruled that requiring people to purchase private health insurance overextended Congress’s authority contained in the Constitution’s commerce clause.

Virginia Attorney General Kenneth Cuccinelli II filed the lawsuit against the federal government. The health insurance requirement is to take effect in 2014.

The ruling brings up many questions, including:

  • Will the insurance industry not retreat, but reload their lobbying efforts to retain the millions of new customers promised under the law? 
  • Could this challenge to the reform law been avoided if a public option were included in the law? On the face of it (from a non-lawyer) there does seem to be something fundamentally wrong with being forced to buy a service from a private company.

Call for global ban on asbestos intensifies

There should be a total ban on asbestos across the globe in favor of safer synthetic alternatives, according to scientists at the Collegium Ramazzini, an international society focused on occupational and environmental medicine, based in Modena, Italy.  The reserachers urged for the ban in the International Journal of Environment and Health.

While 52 nations have banned asbestos, some, including Canada, continue to mine and export the mineral. Canada came under intense criticsim today by the Lancet for its plan to re-open the Jeffrey Mine in Asbestos, Quebec, that would produce asbestos for export to Asia.

An Asian delegation of asbestos victims, trade unionists and health organizations have joined with the Ban Asbestos Canada group to protest asbestos exports.

“We call on the Canadian government to end all exports of asbestos to south Asia, Mexico, and the global south, according to a Ban Asbestos Canada statement. “We condemn efforts to expand and reopen the Jeffrey mine in Quebec. Tonnes of exported Quebec asbestos will kill tens of thousands of workers around the world.”

Asbestos includes any of six naturally occurring fibrous minerals. Serpentine asbestos, also known as chrysotile or white asbestos, is by far the most commonly used in buildings. Amphibole asbestos minerals including amosite (brown asbestos), crocidolite (blue asbestos), and tremolite, anthophyllite, and actinolite, are no longer used.

Asbestos is used in building contruction for its ability to withstand fire, heat and acid, and insulate against heat and sound.

The incidence of mesotheliomas and lung cancers due to asbestos exposure are on the rise, according to the Lancet. The toxic effects from asbestos generally appear decades after exposure. The World Health Organization estimates about 125 million people worldwide are currently exposed to asbestos.


Asbestos is still with us: repeat call for a universal ban. International Journal of Environment and Health, 2010, 4, 380-388

Canada accused of hypocrisy over asbestos exports. The Lancet, Early Online Publication, 9 December 2010. doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(10)62242-8


Vitamin D and Calcium Recommendations Updated

The Institute of Medicine released new guidelines for vitamin D and calcium intake today, specifying slightly higher recommended dietary allowances by age and sex, and set new limits for intake.

Institute of Medicine: Dietary Reference Intakes for Calcium and Vitamin D

Vitamin D deficiency reports due to overestimations?

Contrary to recent reports that suggest most Americans are deficient in vitamin D, experts with the Institute of Medicine say that after analyzing national surveys on blood levels, most Americans and Canadians are getting enough in their diets.

“With a few exceptions, all North Americans are receiving enough calcium and vitamin D,” notes the IOM. “Higher levels have not been shown to confer greater benefits, and in fact, they have been linked to other health problems, challenging the concept that ‘more is better.’”

The IOM also found that there are no standardized measurements of sufficiency and deficiency so that an individual could be declared deficient or sufficient depending on which laboratory reads the test.

The IOM panel noted that while calcium and vitamin D play important roles in bone health, the scientific evidence does not support their use for other health concerns such as preventing cancer, depression, diabetes, high blood pressure and other conditions.  

Several new research findings on Vitamin D and cardiovascular disease were presented at the recent American Heart Association annual meeting in Chicago.

Not Even Children are Immune from TSA Scan or Grope Policies

Last week John Tyner was evicted from San Diego International Airport and threatened with a fine after telling TSA staff “Don’t touch my junk.” Things have gone downhill from there.

This week a bladder cancer survivor endured humiliation caused by a rough TSA inspector who dislodged Tom Sawyer’s urostomy bag, soaking him in urine. A breast cancer survivor  told of having to show her breast prosthesis to a TSA agent as part of the new security procedures at U.S. airports.  

Some travelers plan to fight back Nov. 24, one of the busiest travel days of the year, with “National Opt-Out Day” to protest full body scans, which some are calling “naked” and “porno” scans. That means more will be undergoing enhanced pat-downs. For everyone traveling this weekend – get to the airport early and be careful out there!

A passenger at Salt Lake City International shot video of a young boy being strip searched by TSA staff.

This TSA stuff is out of hand. When she was a toddler I told my daughter to scream, kick and hiss if anyone tried to touch her fanny. She took note. Once when she was running across the room with a shirt but no pants on my mom patted her little behind as she ran past. Three-year-old daughter stopped, glared at her and said: “That’s private!”

So now we tell our kids that it’s inappropriate for any strange adult to touch their bottom except for the nice TSA man?