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Archive for May 2013

Gun crime has plunged in the United States since its peak in the middle of the 1990s, including gun killings, assaults, robberies and other crimes, two new studies of government data show.

Yet few Americans are aware of the dramatic drop, and more than half believe gun crime has risen, according to a newly released survey by the Pew Research Center.

In less than two decades, the gun murder rate has been nearly cut in half. Other gun crimes fell even more sharply, paralleling a broader drop in violent crimes committed with or without guns. Violent crime dropped steeply during the 1990s and has fallen less dramatically since the turn of the millennium.

The number of gun killings dropped 39% between 1993 and 2011, the Bureau of Justice Statistics reported in a separate report released Tuesday. Gun crimes that weren’t fatal fell by 69%. However, guns still remain the most common murder weapon in the United States, the report noted. Between 1993 and 2011, more than two out of three murders in the U.S. were carried out with guns, the Bureau of Justice Statistics found.

The bureau also looked into non-fatal violent crimes. Few victims of such crimes — less than 1% — reported using a firearm to defend themselves.

Despite the remarkable drop in gun crime, only 12% of Americans surveyed said gun crime had declined compared with two decades ago, according to Pew, which surveyed more than 900 adults this spring. Twenty-six percent said it had stayed the same, and 56% thought it had increased.

It’s unclear whether media coverage is driving the misconception that such violence is up. The mass shootings in Newtown, Conn., and Aurora, Colo., were among the news stories most closely watched by Americans last year, Pew found. Crime has also been a growing focus for national newscasts and morning network shows in the past five years but has become less common on local television news.

“It’s hard to know what’s going on there,” said D’Vera Cohn, senior writer at the Pew Research Center. Women, people of color and the elderly were more likely to believe that gun crime was up than men, younger adults or white people. The center plans to examine crime issues more closely later this year.

Though violence has dropped, the United States still has a higher murder rate than most other developed countries, though not the highest in the world, the Pew study noted. A Swiss research group, the Small Arms Survey, says that the U.S. has more guns per capita than any other country.

Experts debate why overall crime has fallen, attributing the drop to all manner of causes, such as the withering of the crack cocaine market and surging incarceration rates.

Some researchers have even linked dropping crime to reduced lead in gasoline, pointing out that lead can cause increased aggression and impulsive behavior in exposed children.

The victims of gun killings are overwhelmingly male and disproportionately black, according to Bureau of Justice Statistics and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data. Compared with other parts of the country, the South had the highest rates of gun violence, including both murders and other violent gun crimes.

Source: LA Times

The US government has blocked a Texas-based company from distributing details online of how to make a plastic gun using a 3-D printer.

The ban, by the State Department citing international arms control law, comes just days after the world’s first such gun was successfully fired.

Defense Distributed, the company that made the prototype, stated on Twitter that its project had “gone dark” at the instigation of the government.

The company is run by Cody Wilson, a 25-year-old University of Texas law student who has said the idea for freely distributing details about how to produce the guns online was inspired by 19th century anarchist writing. Wilson argues everyone should have access to guns.

A State Department spokesman said: “Although we do not comment on whether we have individual ongoing compliance matters, we can confirm that the department has been in communication with the company.”

The action came too late to prevent widespread distribution of the files: Defense Distributed told Forbes that the files have already been downloaded more than 100,000 times in the two days since they were uploaded. The largest number of downloads initially were to addresses in Spain, followed by the US, Brazil, Germany and the UK.

Fifteen of the gun’s 16 pieces are constructed on the $8,000 Stratasys Dimension SST 3D printer, Forbes said. The final piece is a common nail, used as a firing pin, that can be found in a hardware store.

Betabeat posted a copy of the letter reportedly sent by the Department of State to Wilson. The department said the blueprints had to be taken offline because they may contain data regulated by the State Department. The departement said it would review the files.

“I immediately complied and I’ve taken down the files,” Wilson told Betabeat. “But this is a much bigger deal than guns. It has implications for the freedom of the web.”

Defense Distributed does not host the files in the US; instead it has uploaded them to the Mega website run by the internet entrepreneur Kim Dotcom, based in New Zealand, and where user information – including who has logged into the site and downloaded files – is encrypted.

The files have also been uploaded to the Pirate Bay file-sharing site, where they have proved a popular download.

The gun blueprints take the form of computer-aided design files, which have to be read by specialist software which can then be used by industrial 3D printers to build up the hair-thin layers, one by one, to create the finished parts.

On Thursday, a British expert in 3D printing and a ballistics expert separately warned that building a gun from the parts could be lethal to the user, because the physics involved in firing a bullet – with pressures in the gun chamber of more than 1,000 atmospheres, and temperatures of over 200C – could put catastrophic stresses on the plastics used it its construction.

Even so, two British newspapers are understood to have asked 3D printing companies to try to build the gun for them.

In the US, a reporter who downloaded the file found that companies with sufficient 3D printing capability refused to produce the device, citing laws against the production of such weapons – or asking prices that were substantially higher than those for high-quality rifles available in shops.

Wilson has been on a public mission to create a 3D printed gun since September 2012. He initially attempted to fund the project using crowdsourcing site Indiegogo, but the site removed his pitch for breaching the company’s rules. Wilson then raised $20,000 in Bitcoins for the project but Stratasys repossessed his printer.

He has since gained access to a second Stratasys printer which was presumably used to create the gun fired over the weekend.

Source: The Guardian

(NaturalNews) Found in a variety of soaps, hand sanitizers, fabrics, toothpastes, mouthwashes and even tap water, researchers have discovered triclosan is far from harmless. Linked to heart failure and decline in muscle strength, the agent has come under scrutiny due to its widespread use in common household products. Considering the Environmental Protection Agency estimates over one million pounds of the chemical are produced each year in the United States, such excessive daily exposure has researchers worried – and for good reason.

Impede muscle strength, stop the heart

Increasingly detected in human blood plasma, urine and breast milk, triclosan is setting off alarms in the scientific community. A study at the University of Davis in California showed that the chemical impairs the excitation-contraction coupling mechanism in mice, thereby hindering the heart’s capacity to circulate blood. Limb muscle strength was seriously compromised as well. The researchers exposed the animals to the equivalent level of triclosan as a person is exposed to each day from household products. The first mouse died within a minute of heart failure. The scientists then lowered the dosage and found the chemical decreased heart function by 25 percent within 20 minutes. Limb strength was reduced by 18 percent for 60 minutes after the agent was administered. Dr. Nipavan Chiamvimonvat, the study’s co-author and professor of cardiovascular medicine, said in a press release, “The effects of triclosan on cardiac function were really dramatic … Although triclosan is not regulated as a drug, this compound acts like a potent cardiac depressant in our models.”

Despite the fact that it’s a leap from animal trials to humans, researchers suspect triclosan may have serious ramifications for people as well. Michelle Castillo, author of the ABC News article, “Antibacterial agent Triclosan shown to hinder muscle movement in mice, fish,” notes:

“Triclosan binds to blood proteins and is easily expelled through urine or other body processes, which is why it typically considered to be harmless to humans. However, for people who do not metabolize the agent quickly, it can remain in the blood for quite some time. Also, some of the experiments the researchers conducted was done with blood proteins available, and even though the triclosan was binding to them, it still disrupted the muscle activity. However, most concerning is the fact that people with heart conditions may be more affected by exposure because of their weakened muscle state.”

Taking into account the sheer levels an average person is exposed to on a daily basis, scientists are correct to be concerned. Isaac Pessah, principle investigator of the study, warns, “These findings provide strong evidence that the chemical is of concern to both human and environmental health … We have shown that triclosan potently impairs muscle functions by interfering with signaling between two proteins that are of fundamental importance to life. Regulatory agencies should definitely be reconsidering whether it should be allowed in consumer products.”

Learn more: Natural News

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(NaturalNews) The maitake, also known in English-speaking countries as the hen-of-the-woods, is a large, earthy-brown mushroom that grows at the base of trees, especially oaks. It is native to northeastern Japan and certain parts of North America, and is one of Japan’s major culinary mushrooms. It is equally popular in China, where it has been used in traditional medicine for centuries due to its alleged healing properties.

Health benefits

Cancer-fighting properties – Ongoing research with human cancer patients has shown that a specific portion of the maitake mushroom, called the ‘MD-fraction,’ can inhibit tumor growth. Maitake also enhance the activity of cells, thereby increasing the production of interleukins (immune cells) that are know to prevent cancer growth and can even improve the effects of chemotherapy.

Immune-boosting properties – Maitake contain polysaccharide fibers called beta-glucans that stimulate the production of neutrophils, T-cells, and macrophages (white blood cells). These cells help our immune system to combat illnesses in a rapid and efficient manner, remove cellular debris, and hasten our recovery from tissue damage.

Lowers blood sugar levels – According to a 1996 study by two researchers at the Kobe Pharmaceutical University in Japan, mice that regularly consumed maitake experienced a greater decrease in blood sugar levels than the control group. The researchers concluded that a polysaccharide found in maitake, called the ‘X-fraction,’ has the ability to decrease insulin resistance, thus increasing insulin sensitivity. This fact, coupled with maitake’s low glycemic index score, makes it a great food for diabetic and prediabetic individuals.

Reduces blood pressure – A 2002 study by researchers at the Georgetown University Medical Center in Washington D.C. showed that hypertensive rats that were fed maitake mushroom powder experienced a considerable decrease in blood pressure compared to the control group. A similar result was seen in a separate study, whereby maitake lowered the blood pressure of rats from 200 to 115 millimeters of mercury (mm Hg) in just four hours.

Weight loss properties – One 100-gram serving of raw maitake contains a mere 37 calories and virtually no fat. The same amount also contains 2.7 grams of dietary fiber, which is 11 percent of an adult’s recommended daily intake. Fiber is a plant food that can absorb water from the large intestine, which induces a feeling of fullness and prevents us from overeating. For this reason, individuals who are trying to lose weight should always favor fiber-rich foods like maitake.

Lowers cholesterol – A 2001 study by researchers at the Obihiro University of Agriculture and Veterinary Medicine in Japan showed that rats that were fed powdered maitake and shiitake experienced a noticeable drop in cholesterol compared to the control group. They attributed this decrease to properties in the mushrooms that increase fecal cholesterol excretion.

Rich in trace nutrients – 100 grams of raw maitake also contains 1.9 grams of protein (four percent of our RDI), various B-vitamins (which are needed for cellular metabolism), 2 percent of our RDI of magnesium and iron, 3 percent of our RDI of manganese and selenium, and between 5 and 7 percent of our RDI of zinc, potassium, and phosphorous. The same amount also contains an impressive 0.3 milligrams of copper (13 percent of our RDI), and small amounts of omega-6 fatty acids, which are needed for brain function.

Learn more: Natural News

Springfield farmer Ryan Loflin on Monday planted the nation’s first industrial hemp crop in almost 60 years.

Loflin’s plans to grow hemp already have been chronicled, and Monday’s planting attracted the attention of more media in southeastern Colorado and a documentary film crew.

Hemp is genetically related to marijuana but contains little or no THC, the psychoactive substance in marijuana. Hemp has dozens of uses in food, cosmetics, clothing and industrial materials.

Read more: Denver Post


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