Category Archives: News

Professors Want Student DNA

UC Berkeley will be requesting DNA samples from incoming students this fall. It is voluntarily. It appears to be the idea of Jasper Rine, a professor in the Department of Molecular & Cell Biology. The news has been spreading, prompting numerous poor quality copycat stories. The best reports are by KTVU, USA Today, and Popular Science.
[T]est results will help students make decisions about their diet and lifestyle. . . show[ing] the student’s ability to tolerate alcohol, absorb folic acid and metabolize lactose.”
 A campus science-themed art contest will award the four best entries with a full genetic analysis.

Mt. St. Helens: Remembering the 1980 Eruption

Thirty years ago today, on May 18, Mt. St. Helens, not far from my hometown of Salem, Oregon, let loose.
I have visited the site many times and was also enthralled with books, particularly the ones with lots of pics, on the eruption and the various characters involved, including Harry Truman. I love odd eccentrics who live by their own code. Harry was certainly one of those. Some of his photo collection is at the University of Washington.
Check out this original broadcast on KATU, channel 2, in Portland. Dan Rather was subbing for Cronkite on the CBS Evening News that night. One mother, on her way to Sunriver with her kids, decided to film a bit along the way.
Wikipedia has articles on the mountain and the 1980 eruption. Nova on PBS dedicated an entire show to it. It’s fascinating to watch. Since the area’s wildlife and recovery are critical, the Forest Service has been given jurisdiction. It’s officially a national monument.
Stories in The Columbian, the newspaper in Vancouver, and NPR, partnering with National Geographic, focus on the ecology thirty years after total devastation. National Geographic also reports on how dangerous the volcano remains, has some interactive art and maps, and a photo gallery.
The Statesman Journal has a special section on the mountain. Discovery News has an interview with Don Swanson, one of the geologists at Mount St. Helens during the 1980 eruption. He was in Vancouver when it began and witnessed a majority of the eruption by air, hovering in a helicopter.
The Washington Post has a brief, but memory-provoking photo gallery. And Wired magazine has photographs showing a 30-year time lapse from space. The now web-only Seattle P-I has quite a bit of material on it. MSNBC also has an article on some of the science behind the explosiveness of the eruption itself.

‘I was really too honest a man to be a politician and live.’

The Washington Poison Center is tracking cases of hemlock poisoning. Five cases have been reported, according to three media outlets covering the story: the Tacoma News Tribune, The Bellingham Herald, and The Associated Press.

“That was an unusual number for us,” said Katie Von Derau of the Poison Center.

One woman “apparently put hemlock in a salad she ate, thinking it was something else . . .”

It’s scientific name is Conium maculatum, and it’s “the same poison that killed Greek philosopher Socrates.”

The center and the Noxious Weed Control Board have partnered to warn the public about mistaking hemlock for edible plants. It is sometimes thought to be parsley, parsnip, wild carrot and anise, which have similar flowers, leaves and seeds. Poison hemlock is in the same plant family as carrot.

That whole plant family is either very edible or very deadly, and it’s important to know the difference. It’s hard to tell the difference sometimes.”

The white flowers and leaves look like a cross between Italian parsley and a fern. All parts of the plant are poisonous and affect the nervous system.

It “grows along roadsides and waterways, in pastures and playgrounds, in vacant lots and cracks in the pavement.”

Poison hemlock is common, second as a noxious weed only to tansy ragwort in Pierce County.

“I have found it in people’s gardens, however, sometimes lovingly cultivated, either for its attractiveness or under the mistaken impression that it is one of its edible relatives,” he said.

David Westerlund of Bellingham nearly died from it.

He . . . put what he thought was a carrot in a bowl of fermented vegetables. . . He expects to make a full recovery, but is lucky he wasn’t killed . . .”

Westerlund didn’t think “something toxic or deadly could be in my garden.”


Old Government Posters, Military History and Military-Commissioned Dr. Seuss Drawings

Ed O’Keefe of The Washington Post has posted some details on the Government Printing Office blog on his blog, the Federal Eye.

“Sure, there are plenty of government blogs, but it’s rare to find one driven by one author allowed to let his creativity and personal interests run wild,” he writes.

I’ve been checking out the GPO blog for a few weeks now.

“[I]t’s bookmark-worthy for history buffs and Beltway nerds who love old government posters, military history and military-commissioned Dr. Seuss drawings.”


A Young Man Named Mark

While reading a days old copy of the Statesman Journal today my eyes were drawn to a lengthy obituary, unlike most of what a person sees these days in print because of the cost. It was about a young man named Mark Andrew Histed.

He was born in 1981 in England, St. Albans in Hertfordshire to be precise. His parents, George and Mira, moved the family to Madison, Wisconsin in 1985 and then in 1994 they settled in Salem, Oregon. He went to Judson and Sprague, then Western Oregon University and finally Willamette University where he studied history.

Mark’s love of history and travel began at a very early age. Before even reaching his second birthday, he had played on beaches in Spain and Portugal and walked along the Rhine River in Switzerland. In the coming years, he could be found touring Windsor Castle or watching the ‘Trooping of the Colors’ at Buckingham Palace. He climbed the stadium steps at Delphi, stared in wonder at the Acropolis and explored ancient ruins on Andros Island. He rode the white water rapids of the Salmon River in Idaho, saw bears in Yellowstone Park and lived again the Battle of the Little Big Horn. Mark traveled to Oshima Island off the coast of Japan to visit the first Christian Church established there by his Great Grandmother, missionary Anna Setterlund.”

His death was from drug-resistant bacteria.

Mark had recently been treated for a bacterial infection, most likely caused from a spider bite on his leg. The bacteria was resistant to antibiotics and treatment continued for several weeks. Unfortunately, the bacteria had become attached to Mark’s defective aortic valve and entered the blood stream, finding its way to the blood vessels in the brain. In the early morning of April 24, Mark suffered a massive and fatal brain hemorrhage.”


WGBH’s Online Archives

While reading the actual New York Times (meaning the paper and ink was in my hands), I read about a project at WGBH, the PBS affliate in Boston, probably most well-known for its electricfying logo accompanied by its theme. It’s called Open Vault and noted as the WGBH Media Library and Archives. It was mentioned in the ‘Arts, Briefly’ section compiled by Rachel Lee Harris (‘Rare Interviews Tell Vietnam’s Story Online‘).


Kim Jong Il’s Assassins

USA Today reported on Kim Jong Il, obviously through intermediaries, trying to assassinate one of his former mentors, Hwang Jan Yop.

Posing as refugees, a pair of North Korean spies [North Korean army majors] slipped into South Korea to assassinate the North Korean regime’s most high-profile defector: a man who once mentored leader Kim Jong Il . . .

He was the “chief architect of North Korea’s guiding juche philosophy of self-reliance” and “one of the North’s most powerful officials when he fled the Stalinist dictatorship 13 years ago.”

High-profile defectors are always targets. In 1997, a nephew of one of Kim Jong Il’s former wives was killed outside a Seoul apartment, 15 years after defecting to the South. The killers were never caught.

Hwang has routinely condemned Kim’s totalitarian regime. He “made the decision to flee the North after Kim’s policies led to mass starvation in the mid-1990s.”

“Everybody other than Kim Jong Il in North Korea are slaves, serfs,” Hwang said.

Message in a Bottle

The Spokesman-Review has a story on some people finding a glass bottle after 86 years since being cast into a creek. It had “an old-fashioned cork stopper.” The bottle contained a surprisingly well-preserved letter written in pencil and dated March 30, 1913. I came across the article reprinted in The Seattle Times. With a little leg work, the letter writer’s nephew was found and talked about his uncle, who died in 1978. The reporter ended the story with a nice touch: “Emmett, we finally found your bottle.”