Mar 31, 2009 | 1
Oh nuts! Just when you thought it was safe to eat peanut butter again (the stuff in jars is fine but be wary of baked goods that contain it), the feds are warning consumers to avoid pistachios. The alert comes in the wake of a voluntary recall of around a million pounds of the little green nuts due to possible salmonella contamination.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the California Department of Public health are investigating the possibility that pistachios shipped on or after September 1 by Setton Pistachio of Terra Bella, Calif., were to blame for several reported cases of salmonella. The FDA said it's conducting genetic testing on samples from recalled batches to determine if salmonella strains in them match those in people sickened by the bacterial infection.
Mar 27, 2009 | 9
It will be exactly 30 years tomorrow since the nation's worst commercial nuclear accident occurred on a three-mile (five kilometer) slip of land in the Susquehanna River in the shadow of Harrisburg, Pa. Until that day, few people had ever heard of Three Mile Island—now there are few who haven't.
Once a majestic symbol of nuclear power, the plant would become synonymous with its dangers after one of its two reactors—the newer one, known as Unit 2—nearly melted down on March 28, 1979, just months after it was fired up.
The plant was shuttered, and Pennsylvania Gov. Richard Thornburgh recommended that pregnant women and preschoolers within five miles (eight kilometers) of the plant evacuate; some nearby hospitals and nursing homes were also evacuated. Today steam billows from the chunky, twin cooling towers of TMI's only functioning unit; the crippled reactor, now a skeleton, never reopened.
Mar 20, 2009
The Senate yesterday gave its nod to President Obama's picks for key science slots in his administration. Both appointees are leading advocates of aggressive government action to stem and reverse climate change.
Lawmakers confirmed Harvard physicist John Holdren as director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, and Jane Lubchenco as chief of the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Lubchenco, 61, a marine biologist, becomes the first woman to head the agency, which oversees the National Weather Service and ocean and atmospheric research.
Holdren is well-known for leading the charge to reduce the threat of global warming as well as to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons. As Obama's top science adviser, he will help sculpt science and tech policy.
Mar 18, 2009 | 2
Tony Award-winning actress Natasha Richardson died today after a fall yesterday at a Quebec ski resort, according to a family statement. No cause of death was given, but it has been widely reported that the seemingly minor tumble led to bleeding in the brain.
As ScientificAmerican.com reported earlier, Richardson, 45, appeared to be okay and refused medical care after taking a spill on a beginner's slope during a private lesson at the Mont Tremblant Ski Resort some 80 miles northwest of Montreal, according to a resort spokesperson. But about an hour later, she was taken to a local hospital -- and then transferred to Hôpital Sacré-Coeur in Montreal-- after complaining of a severe headache. Her husband, actor Liam Neeson, 56, rushed to her side from a movie set in Toronto. The couple have two sons, ages 12 and 13.
Mar 14, 2009
President Barack Obama today tapped former New York City Public Health Commissioner Margaret Hamburg, 54, to head the embattled U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and announced creation of a new panel to examine and update food safety laws in the wake of an outbreak of salmonella that sickened hundreds.
Obama announced the moves during his weekly radio address in which he blamed a lack of food inspections and antiquated laws and regs for creating a "demoralized" FDA as well as conditions ripe for a string of food-borne infections over the past few years, including the recent salmonella outbreak linked to peanut butter and paste churned out at a contaminated Georgia plant.
Mar 6, 2009 | 10
President Obama is reportedly set to sign an executive order Monday lifting the Bush administration ban on federal funding of embryonic stem cell research. The move is being heralded by scientists, who charge the limit has hobbled research efforts that hold the promise of new treatments and even cures for spinal injuries and debilitating disease such as Parkinson's, Alzheimer's and cancer.
CNN reports that the White House is planning an 11 a.m. ceremony to repeal President George W. Bush's executive order limiting federal funding to research on 21 cell lines extracted from embryos prior to Aug. 9, 2001. Researchers say that most – if not all – of those lines have been compromised or contaminated and are no longer suitable for research.
Mar 5, 2009 | 1
CNN is reporting that its chief medical correspondent Sanjay Gupta today withdrew from consideration as the nation's surgeon general. The network said that its go-to health guy declined to comment.
News outlets reported in January that President Obama had offered Gupta, 39, a practicing neurosurgeon, the top health slot after a face-to-face in November.
The correspondent, who is known for reporting on public health crises from around the world, also has some political cred: he served as a White House fellow in 1997 and as a special adviser to then- first lady Hillary Clinton.
Last we checked, Gupta was reportedly weighing whether he could afford (or wanted) to trade in his lucrative TV and medical gigs for a government job -- and move his pregnant wife and two kids from his base in Atlanta to Washington, D.C.
Mar 4, 2009 | 4
Coming on the heels of a sweeping salmonella scare, a bipartisan group of senators yesterday introduced legislation designed to give the feds the financial and regulatory muscle they need to protect the nation's food supply.
"Over the last year, we've seen major recalls of peanut butter spiked with salmonella, spinach laced with E. coli and chili loaded with botulism," Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., said during a press conference held to announce the move. "These are not isolated incidents and are the result of an outdated, underfunded and overwhelmed food safety system. [This] bipartisan bill will improve the [U.S. Food and Drug Administration's] ability to prevent food-borne illness outbreaks and ensure the FDA responds quickly and effectively when outbreaks do occur."
Feb 13, 2009 | 5
The company responsible for the nation's salmonella outbreak that has sickened some 600 people and may have led to the deaths of eight others today declared bankruptcy. The move comes after the bacterial infection traced to Peanut Corporation of America's (PCA) Blakely, Ga., plant led to one of the biggest product recalls in U.S. history; some 1,800 products have been stripped from store shelves since last month, because they contained or may have contained contaminated peanut butter or peanut paste.
PCA filed a Chapter 7 bankruptcy petition in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Western District of Virginia, claiming that the mass recall had an "extremely devastating" impact on its finances, according to Reuters. Under Chapter 7 companies liquidate their assets to repay creditors rather than reorganize.
Feb 12, 2009 | 4
In a major legal setback for parents of children with autism, a special court today ruled that vaccines do not cause the disorder.
The U.S. Court of Claims—set up by Congress as part of the Vaccine Injury Compensation Program—in long-awaited decisions said that years of scientific evidence indicated that there was no link between the measles–mumps–rubella (MMR) vaccine and the mysterious neurological condition.
"It was abundantly clear that petitioners' theories of causation were speculative and unpersuasive," the court ruled in one of three test cases considered. "The weight of scientific research and authority [was] simply more persuasive on nearly every point in contention."
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