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Bats in Your Belfry and Fracking

• Often we fuss that “lobbyists” influence decisions made in Washington. However, it is important to keep in mind that there are two kinds of lobbyists. One kind lobbies to enact legislation that will personally benefit them, or their corporations, with little regard to the welfare of all Americans. The other kind lobbies for legislation or programs that will benefit everyone. A case in point is that for years advocates for Alzheimer’s research (a polite way to say lobbyists) have hammered away at the administration and Congress to spend more money on Alzheimer’s research. The National Institutes of Public Health already spend about $450 million a year on the disease, but sadly this is grossly insufficient. The cost of treating an ever-growing population of Alzheimer’s patients will become a massive financial burden on America. We need more researchers and a greater investment by the pharmaceutical industry to find new ways to deal with the Alzheimer’s epidemic. Thanks to relentless lobbying by advocates, Congress, working with the administration, found an additional $156 million to help find the cause and a cure for Alzheimer’s Disease. They did this by relocating funds from other programs. (Science, Feb. 24, 2012)

• Ever have bats in your belfry (or house)? Just be thankful it is not the Giant Golden-Crowned Fox Bat (Acerodon jubatus), which has a maximum wingspan of six feet. Fortunately, these bats are found only on the islands around the Philippines, and they feed mainly on figs. We have much smaller bats in Door County, mostly Big or Little Brown Bats (Eptesicus fuscus and Myotis lucifugus, respectively). The wingspan of the Little Brown Bat is 9 to 11 inches, while its larger relative has up to a 13-inch span. When the wings are folded, these bats look much smaller. Body length of the Little Brown Bat is 2.5 to 4 four inches. Just feed them mosquitoes and they will be happy. (various sources)

• Ovarian cancer kills about 14,000 American women each year, and one problem is that symptoms do not appear until the cancer is far along. Until recently it was thought that the cancer cells arise directly in the ovary, but new research suggests that the malignant cells may originate in the open, fringed end of the fallopian tube and then metastasize to the ovary and other organs. Although the research was done in mice, it raises the possibility that this may occur in humans as well. Evidence also exists that BRCA genes (BReast CAncer genes) may predispose a woman to fallopian tube cancer. In both kinds of cancers there is an alteration in certain genes, called tumor-suppressor genes, that prevents them from doing their job in repairing damage to cellular DNA, and these cells begin dividing in an uncontrolled manner. (Proc. of the National Acad. of Sciences, Mar. 6, 2012; http://www.benchmarks.cancer.gov)

• The use of “fracking” (pumping liquid under high pressure down deep bore holes to fracture shale, release natural gas, and capture it above ground) was reviewed at a recent meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. The reputable U.S. Geological Survey led the study. The report concluded that there was no evidence of drilling fluids “leaking deep underground and concluded that methane in water wells in some areas probably comes from natural sources.” Problems attributed to fracking appear closer to the surface, where “gas and drilling fluid escapes from poorly lined wells or storage ponds.” The report went on to state that “gaps remain in understanding fracking, including whether pumping wastewater into the ground causes small earthquakes.” (Science, Feb. 24, 2012)