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Monday, May 26, 2008

Calgary’s new green skyscraper by Foster + Partners

What does one of the largest independently owned oil and gas companies do to turn over a more sustainable leaf? Well, in this case, EnCana hired green-tech architecture firm du jour Foster + Partners to design their new, environmentally sustainable headquarters in Calgary, Canada. Dubbed The Bow, the new tower’s namesake comes from its overall shape, as well as the breathtaking views it offers inhabitants of the Bow River. As expected from a Foster + Partners design, the form of this sustainable skyscraper follows some very green function.

The first steel tower to be built in Calgary, The Bow’s use of this core structural material reduces overall material use by 30%. Additional green features (often found in Foster + Partners’ designs) include a system of interior green spaces, and three sky gardens. These integrated green spaces will separate the commercial, residential, and retail spaces planned for occupancy following the building’s completion in 2010. The most pronounced green feature of the design is the building’s bow shaped tower which contains a south-facing atrium. Running the entire height of the façade, this passive solar space will absorb the sun’s energy to warm the tower in cold Calgary winters.

The mixed-use scheme of The Bow tower offers up a model of sustainable urban living without even leaving the premise. Even so, we suggest residents and visitors step outside in one of the cleanest cities in the world, renowned as an ecotourism destination.

+ EnCana
+ Foster + Partners

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Push for stricter plastic surgery rules swells in wake of death of Kanye West's mother

SACRAMENTO -- -- Six months after the mother of Kanye West died following liposuction and breast implant surgery, the reverberations of the tragedy continue to be felt. Now lawmakers and physicians are urging greater protections for patients undergoing cosmetic surgery.

Across the country, such surgeries are increasingly done outside hospital settings in outpatient clinics, where a doctor can avoid the rigorous review that, say, a heart surgeon would face at a traditional hospital.

Those lobbying for greater surveillance say attempts to regulate the fast-growing industry have faltered.

"These [clinics] are not hospitals. You have to raise the standards," said state Sen. Mark Ridley-Thomas (D-Los Angeles), chairman of the senate Committee on Business, Professions and Economic Development.

California is not alone in looking to tighten oversight of doctors performing cosmetic surgery. Two years ago, Florida passed a law designed to educate patients about their doctor's credentials.

And in the Canadian province of Ontario, officials are increasing scrutiny after the death of a Toronto woman who received liposuction from a general practitioner.

More than a decade ago, California pushed to regulate outpatient surgical centers amid high-profile reports that patients were critically injured or dying during procedures.

Legislators passed a law that said such centers must be accredited by an agency recognized by the state, which requires a clinic to have resuscitation equipment and procedures to transfer a patient to a hospital.

But Ridley-Thomas says the law has not been effective; he has proposed legislation requiring regular inspections.

In addition, across-the-board budget cuts forced the Medical Board of California about five years ago to disband a five-person investigative team designed to ferret out unlicensed doctors, said board spokeswoman Candis Cohen.

The budget cuts came as cosmetic procedures overall were booming in popularity. In 2007, there were 11.7 million cosmetic procedures performed in the United States, a 59% increase over 2000.

In California, the death of Donda West, 58, in November prompted two lawmakers to push for additional patient safety protections.

A bill, AB 2968, by Assemblywoman Wilmer Amina Carter (D-Rialto) calls for a patient to receive a physical examination before undergoing cosmetic surgery.

Yolanda Anderson, West's niece, said her aunt did not receive a physical exam by her surgeon, Dr. Jan Adams, before undergoing surgery.

A spokesman for Adams has previously said it was his understanding that both Adams and the anesthesiologist thoroughly questioned West before her surgery.

"It's not like she was 90 or terminally ill with cancer," Anderson said. "It was something that did not have to happen."

Another doctor whom West had previously seen declined to operate on her, saying that she was at risk of having a heart attack if she were to undergo the cosmetic surgery.

A coroner's report cited West's heart disease and clogged coronary arteries as a factor in her death. According to the coroner, there was no evidence that her death was caused by a mistake in surgery.

West, who was 5 feet 2 and weighed 188 pounds, had part of her right breast removed, both breasts enlarged and her abdominal muscles tightened.

She had significant liposuction as well as a "belt lipectomy," which excises fat around the abdominal area and tightens the surrounding skin.

West was sent home after her 5 1/2 -hour surgery.

She was not hooked up to medical equipment to monitor her recovery, something experts now say should have been required, given her extensive surgery and her pre-existing heart disease.

Ridley-Thomas' legislation, known as SB 1454, would require that outpatient facilities be inspected at least once every three years.

There now is no state requirement for how often the facilities must be inspected.

New advertising requirements would go into effect, such as banning statements or photos "likely to create false or unjustified expectations."

But some doctors say that some of the additional regulations being proposed won't fix what will affect the patients most.

"There's no way to control surgical judgment," said Dr. Michael F. McGuire, vice president of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons and an associate clinical professor at UCLA.

A solution, McGuire said, is for patients to know how qualified their surgeons are.

McGuire said he wants all healthcare providers, including cosmetic surgeons, to disclose their educational background and specialty training before treating patients, an idea he has pressed with lawmakers.

The idea would be a more robust version of a "Truth in Medical Education" law passed in Florida in 2006.

In this scenario, a patient would receive a document detailing the practitioner's license, identifying the provider's schooling, residency training program, what boards had certified the physician -- and what boards the doctor failed to complete, McGuire said.

State law permits medical doctors to practice whatever medicine they want, which "goes back to the old general practitioner days where a doctor delivered you, fixed your broken bones and took care of your heart attack," McGuire said.

McGuire said he would favor laws allowing only doctors who are board certified in plastic surgery to perform cosmetic procedures.

West's doctor, Adams, who has promoted himself as an expert on cosmetic surgery in books and on TV shows, is not board certified in plastic surgery or any other specialty overseen by the American Board of Medical Specialties.

But McGuire said "any legislation that tries to limit in any way a doctor's ability to practice" would face tremendous political opposition from other doctors.

One province in Canada, however, does precisely that.

In British Columbia, doctors must be recognized as plastic surgeons or otherwise certified by the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada to perform major cosmetic surgical procedures, such as liposuction or anything involving a scalpel.

And in Ontario, officials are considering barring doctors from calling themselves "surgeons" unless they are certified as such by the Royal College.

In September, a 32-year-old real estate agent who lived in Toronto died after receiving liposuction from a general practitioner.

The California Medical Assn. would oppose Canadian-style restrictions, said its president, Dr. Richard Frankenstein.

Physicians must be vetted by an independent medical staff and malpractice insurers before they can pick up a scalpel in California, Frankenstein said in a prepared statement.

"The Canadian model wouldn't enhance these protections and would risk depriving people who live in underserved areas of access to physicians," he said.

Certification is not a guarantee of competence.

There have been cases where board-certified plastic surgeons are involved in cases of gross negligence, said Janie Cordray, research director for the Medical Board of California.

In Florida, the state increased oversight over non-hospital surgeries after at least 12 people who underwent surgery in office-based settings died in 1998, said Chris Nuland, general counsel to the Florida Society of Plastic Surgeons.

The number of reported deaths has decreased, but a couple of patients still die each year, Nuland said.

He said that a significant problem is doctors who inappropriately clear patients who are too ill to have the surgery.

For example, he said, "a 55-year-old obese person with diabetes, there is no reason that person should have been selected for an office surgery," Nuland said.

"You can't legislate good medical judgment."
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How to Ask Someone if He or She Is Suicidal


Genetically Engineering Our Children

The other day, I watched a Law and Order SVU episode about a child who had a genetic defect that caused her to grow abnormally. In order to be able to better care for her, the parents forced her to take medication that permanently stunted her growth. The episode was based on real life events.

In January of 2007, the parents of a girl named Ashley had a surgery entitled “growth attenuation” performed on her to permanently stunt her growth to keep her at 4 feet 5 inches. This treatment also includes sterilizing Ashely. Ashley has severe physical and mental disabilities. The parents stated the treatment was for her comfort and to make it easier to carry her and include her in family activities. Ashely was of course much to young to consent to or even understand what was being done to her.

The case created a huge medical and ethical controversy. The hospital and parents defended their decision to to do the surgery while others in the medical community and general public were outraged. You can read the story and see photos of Ashley here

The hospital and the doctors who performed the surgery were roundly criticized for performing the procedure. The Seattle hospital performing the surgery was later found to have broken state law when doctors performed a hysterectomy on Ashley as part of the treatment. Under Washington law minors can not be sterilized without court order.

At what point does the attempt to control genetics become perverse and who gets the say in how much is too much? In Ashley case, there was no guardian ad litum appointed. There was no independent voice speaking for Ashley. Do we need better legal checks and balances before we permanently alter the life course of those who can not speak for themselves. I am not passing judgment on what went down. I do not have children and don’t know what I would do. You can get her parent’s perspective by viewing their website.

Where do we draw the line between the best interest of the child and the best interest of the parents.

This is just the tip of the genetics sword. What if genetic testing during pregnancy told Ashley’s parents that Ashely would have these problems? It is a given that in my lifetime, your lifetime or your child’s lifetime, genetic testing will advance to the point where many deadly and life changing maladies will be able to be detected prior to birth. Genetic engineering and testing is BIG business.

Am I a going to far when I state that I see a world in the not to distant future where genetic testing for certain diseases will be mandatory and it will be a crime to conceive if you test positive for certain genetic disorders. Such a movement would most likely start in more overpopulated areas of the world with less freedoms but I do see it coming. China already has its’ “one child policy“. Is the next genetic step a “One Child No Defects” policy?

The law is now only beginning to address these issues. We can expect that it will lag behind scientific discovery. Lawmakers are not known for foresight. It is fear that generates action. Congress just recently reached an agreement clearing the way for a bill to prohibit discrimination by employers and health insurers on the basis of genetic tests. You can read about it here.

Are we moving towards a “Gattaca” society?

Original here



Fruity link too juicy for kids

After going to a website listed on a bag of mandarins, Levi Finer was directed to porn sites. Photo / Simon Baker

After going to a website listed on a bag of mandarins, Levi Finer was directed to porn sites. Photo / Simon Baker

A healthy food website promoted to children on hundreds of bags of pre-packed mandarins has turned out to be a link to hardcore pornography.

Canterbury mother-of-four Lara Finer was horrified when her 8-year-old daughter Levi stumbled across a porn menu on Monday.

She had asked her mother's permission to look up the site, which was advertised on the label of a 1kg bag of Fresh Max mandarins bought in Rangiora on May 15.

Instead of taking her to Munch Island, where children can complete interactive puzzles and read about the merits of eating fruit, Levi was confronted by links such as Hot Gay Bareback Porn and OneFreePorn DVD.

A disbelieving Finer told the Herald on Sunday her daughter clicked on a link to a website offering hardcore gay porn. "A big, cartoon, purple monster completely directed at kids then popped up, asking her to press enter if she was over 18," says Lara. "Luckily my 17-year-old saw what was happening and clicked her straight out of there."

Thinking her daughter had made a typing mistake, Finer re-entered the address, only to get the same result.

She replaced .com with .co.nz and found what Levi was looking for - "a brilliant interactive site for children".

Finer said she phoned FreshMax thinking the .com address was a misprint. She said she was told the unregistered .com site had been hacked into. The company phoned back apologising for the glitch and promising to fix the problem.

Fresh Max managing director Peter Smith said old labels had been used on one batch of mandarins by mistake and the company regretted the mistake. He said the offensive site was shut down within 24 hours.

Smith blamed cyber squatters - hackers who set up porn sites with domain names a letter or two different from those popular with children.

Smith said the company became aware of the practice three months ago after a similar incident.

Since then it had bought eight variations on the address to stop it happening again.

He said the company had been trying to buy the .com domain since the first incident and agreed a deal last week.

Lee Chisholm, of Netsafe, said that extreme violence or sex- ually explicit material was often a couple of mouse clicks or a mis-spelt word away.

Early results from Netsafe research suggested 90 per cent of year 9 students had viewed porn online. It recommended software filters and close parental supervision.

A free download available at netsafe.co.nz offers young computer users an icon called Hector's Button. Used in many primary schools, it teaches children to click on a swimming dolphin on the com- puter screen if they come across anything that upsets them.

Chisholm said the screen would immediately be replaced with an underwater scene featuring Hector and a message tell- ing the child to get an adult.

Original here

Diet Coke to drop additive in DNA damage fear

CAN OF DIET COKE Diet Coke: Linked to hyperactivity and DNA damage

Coca-Cola is phasing out a controversial additive that has been linked to damage to DNA and hyperactivity in children.

Sodium benzoate, also known as E211, is used to stop fizzy drinks going mouldy.

Coca-Cola said it had begun withdrawing the additive from Diet Coke in January in response to consumer demand for more natural products.

By the end of the year no can or bottle will contain E211.

The company plans to remove it from its other products as soon as possible, but said that at present it had not found a satisfactory alternative to replace the additive in some soft drinks with a higher juice content, including Fanta, Dr Pepper, Sprite and Oasis. The chemical is not used in regular Coke.

While sodium benzoate occurs naturally in some fruits, it is used in greater strengths by the soft drinks industry.

But research by Peter Piper, a professor of molecular biology at Sheffield University, found that the additive could switch off parts of DNA, the genetic code in the cells of living creatures, that could be linked to cirrhosis of the liver and Parkinson's disease.

However, the Government-backed Committee on Mutagenicity has dismissed the research.

It argues that while sodium benzoate has been shown to be harmful to yeast cells, human cells are stronger.

Research by Southampton University found that sodium benzoate was one of seven additives - the six others are food colours - hat can lead to hyperactivity in children.

The Food Standards Agency has called for the six colours to be withdrawn from products but not sodium benzoate.

The Daily Mail has campaigned for a ban on harmful additives.

A Coca-Cola spokesman said: "We are continuously listening to our consumers' thoughts about ingredients."

The firm stressed that E211 was approved as an additive by many bodies around the world including the European Food Standards Agency.

Original here

Diet Coke to drop additive in DNA damage fear

CAN OF DIET COKE Diet Coke: Linked to hyperactivity and DNA damage

Coca-Cola is phasing out a controversial additive that has been linked to damage to DNA and hyperactivity in children.

Sodium benzoate, also known as E211, is used to stop fizzy drinks going mouldy.

Coca-Cola said it had begun withdrawing the additive from Diet Coke in January in response to consumer demand for more natural products.

By the end of the year no can or bottle will contain E211.

The company plans to remove it from its other products as soon as possible, but said that at present it had not found a satisfactory alternative to replace the additive in some soft drinks with a higher juice content, including Fanta, Dr Pepper, Sprite and Oasis. The chemical is not used in regular Coke.

While sodium benzoate occurs naturally in some fruits, it is used in greater strengths by the soft drinks industry.

But research by Peter Piper, a professor of molecular biology at Sheffield University, found that the additive could switch off parts of DNA, the genetic code in the cells of living creatures, that could be linked to cirrhosis of the liver and Parkinson's disease.

However, the Government-backed Committee on Mutagenicity has dismissed the research.

It argues that while sodium benzoate has been shown to be harmful to yeast cells, human cells are stronger.

Research by Southampton University found that sodium benzoate was one of seven additives - the six others are food colours - hat can lead to hyperactivity in children.

The Food Standards Agency has called for the six colours to be withdrawn from products but not sodium benzoate.

The Daily Mail has campaigned for a ban on harmful additives.

A Coca-Cola spokesman said: "We are continuously listening to our consumers' thoughts about ingredients."

The firm stressed that E211 was approved as an additive by many bodies around the world including the European Food Standards Agency.

Original here

One in Eight U.S. Biology Teachers Teaches Creationism

Survey reveals that creationism and ID are hardly extinct in high schools

Too bad he can’t sub: Are those worry lines, Mr. Darwin? Photo by J. Cameron, 1869

The results of the first national survey of teachers about evolution in their classrooms are in. Darwin would quiver in his boots to learn that in this day and age, one in eight American biology teachers teach creationism and intelligent design as a sound alternative to his theory. In fact, 13 percent of the country’s teachers think they can run an excellent biology class without even mentioning Darwin or evolution. A few findings of note:

  • The surveyed teachers spent an average of 13.7 classroom hours per year on general evolutionary processes in their biology classes.
  • The majority spent no more than five hours a year on human evolution, and 17 percent did not cover it all.
  • Only two percent of teachers did not teach about evolution, human or otherwise, at all.
  • Thirteen percent of teachers thought an excellent biology course could exist without mentioning Darwin or evolutionary theory.
  • Twenty-five percent of teachers said that they devoted at least one or two classroom hours to creationism or intelligent design. About half of this subset—one in eight biology teachers—taught it not in critique but as a “valid, scientific alternative to Darwinian explanations for the origin of species” and one that “many reputable scientists” endorse.
  • Sixteen percent of all teachers surveyed believe personally in the “young earth” story of origins: that human beings were created by God in their present form at one time within the last 10,000 years. About 48 percent of the general public believes this.

The survey, which was conducted by a team of Penn State political scientists last spring, assessed 939 randomly sampled U.S. biology teachers. It appears in PLoS Biology.

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