Apr 8, 2009 | 9
In recent years, the U.S. Navy has come under fire because of training exercises involving sonar that whale-lovers charge is deafening marine mammals and, in some cases, leading to their deaths by disrupting their communications and sending them astray. New research suggests that sonar does cause hearing loss, but only when it's extremely loud and extremely close.
Anecdotal evidence abounds of links between sonar training and beachings. For instance, a pod of whales apparently lost their way and washed ashore in the Puget Sound, Wash., in the summer of 2005 following a naval training. But until now, no one had tested the actual impact of the sub "pings" on marine mammals.
Marine biologist Aran Mooney of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution and his colleagues report in Biology Letters that they exposed a bottlenose dolphin with an electro-encephalogram (EEG) strapped on his head to a tape of the sonar sounds from that same Puget Sound exercise—15 sonar "pings" over two minutes—and measured his reaction.
Mar 4, 2009 | 4
In one of the most eagerly awaited decisions of this Supreme Court session, the justices today ruled that drug companies are not shielded from personal injury claims even if the feds approved their products and packaging. The 6-3 decision is a victory for Diana Levine, a Vermont musician, now in her 60s, who sued drug giant Wyeth after she had to have her arm amputated because of a botched injection of the anti-nausea med Phenergan.
The ruling has wide-reaching implications for product liability and personal injury lawsuits, including those pending against Merck & Co. charging that its anti-inflammatory drug Vioxx dramatically increased heart attack and stroke risk.
"Federal law does not pre-empt Levine's claim," the justices wrote, "that Phenergan's label did not contain an adequate warning about the IV-push method of administration."
Feb 5, 2009
U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg had surgery today after she was diagnosed with early-stage pancreatic cancer, according to a court news release.
The court said that Ginsburg, 75, underwent surgery at the Memorial Sloan–Kettering Cancer Center in New York City; her surgeon Murray Brennan said she would likely remain in the hospital for a week to 10 days.
According to the court statement, a CAT (computerized axial tomography) scan "revealed a small tumor" measuring about 0.4 inch (one centimeter) in the center of Ginsburg's pancreas during a routine annual exam late last month at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in Bethesda, Md. The court said that Ginsburg "had no symptoms prior to the incidental discovery of the lesion."
Nov 12, 2008 | 16
The U.S. Supreme Court in a 5–4 decision today ruled that the Navy does not have to consider the effect of sonar on whales when training with sonar off the coast of California. "The Court does not question the importance of plaintiffs' ecological, scientific and recreational interests, but it concludes that the balance of equities and consideration of the overall public interest tip strongly in favor of the Navy," Chief Justice John Roberts wrote for the majority. "The determination of where the public interest lies in this case does not strike the Court as a close question."
Environmentalists, including the Natural Resources Defense Council, which sued to stop the sonar exercises, and the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) charged that the high-intensity mid-frequency active (MFA) sonar blankets vast areas of the ocean with noise pollution, causing whales, including endangered beak whales, to beach and/or die. The Navy does not dispute the potential danger to the mammals, acknowledging in its own environmental assessments that the sonar may permanently damage as many as 500 whales and temporarily deafen at least 8,000 whales.
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