Time of death may not be accurate


Collecting insects from dead bodies is a staple of crime shows. CSI Posers also carefully note the internal temperature of the recently expired. Why do they do that?

Blow flies lay eggs within a minute of death, summoned by chemicals with the fabulous names of putrescine and cadaverine. The age of a maggot predicts the time someone began their dirt nap. Elaborate mathematical formulas* are used for calculating maggot age.  Plug in the size of the maggots, body temperature, and environmental temperature, and Voila! Estimated PMI, or Post-Mortem Interval.

Just one small problem in this nice, neat methodology. Maggots generate heat as they consume a body. They generate enough heat that there are multiple cases of maggots continuing to develop in refrigerated morgues.

However, the forensic equations used to calculate time of death don’t factor in maggot heat, which could be a problem for accurately estimating PMI. Knowing when someone actually died is kind of critical in crime investigations. A recently published paper attempted to quantify just how hot a bunch of maggots can get:

Quantifying the Temperature of Maggot Masses and its Relationship to Decomposition. Heaton et al. J Forensic Sci. 2014  doi: 10.1111/1556-4029.12396.

Feds Stop Snatching Tax Refunds — Because They Got Caught


That “discretion under current law” may be a major caveat. The confiscations without warning that were taking place were allowed because someone — we still don’t know who — snuck a change of the statute of limitations into the 2008 farm bill. So from that perspective, “current law” allowed Treasury to do what it was doing.

But children are not obligated to pay their parents’ debts from their own assets, according to the Federal Trade Commission. Treasury was violating that in taking the children’s tax refunds. And there’s the matter of due process, which the federal government was just ignoring outright. Someone should face prosecution for violating Americans’ rights.

Americans rising up against government


America’s ruling class has been experiencing more pushback than usual lately. It just might be a harbinger of things to come.

First, in response to widespread protests last week, the Department of Homeland Security canceled plans to build a nationwide license plate database. Many local police departments already use license-plate readers that track every car as it passes traffic signals or pole-mounted cameras. Specially equipped police cars even track cars parked on the street or even in driveways.

The DHS put out a bid request for a system that would have gone national, letting the federal government track millions of people’s comings and goings just as it tracks data about every phone call we make. But the proposal was suddenly withdrawn last week, with the unconvincing explanation that it was all a mistake. I’m inclined to agree with TechDirt’s Tim Cushing, who wrote: “The most plausible explanation is that someone up top at the DHS or ICE suddenly realized that publicly calling for bids on a nationwide surveillance system while nationwide surveillance systems are being hotly debated was … a horrible idea.”

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Is Obama Cooking the Census Books for Obamacare?

That answer is easy…

For several months now, whenever the topic of enrollment in the Affordable Care Act came up, I’ve been saying that it was too soon to tell its ultimate effects. We don’t know how many people have paid for their new insurance policies, or how many of those who bought policies were previously uninsured. For that, I said, we will have to wait for Census Bureau data, which offer the best assessment of the insurance status of the whole population. Other surveys are available, but the samples are smaller, so they’re not as good; the census is the gold standard. Unfortunately, as I invariably noted, these data won’t be available until 2015.

I stand corrected: These data won’t be available at all. Ever.

No, I’m not kidding. I wish I was. The New York Times reports that the Barack Obama administration has changed the survey so that we cannot directly compare the numbers on the uninsured over time.

A woman on the street

When we see someone different than ourselves — someone appearing to be down on their luck — what is our first reaction? Step carefully around them, avoiding eye contact and murmur that “there by the grace of God go I?” Or do we try to speak to them and learn more of their differences, or lifestyle? A woman on the street has the ability to impart wisdom and instill compassion as much as a preacher or minister speaking from the pulpit. A co-worker reached out to what appeared to be a homeless woman in town and the result was almost tear-jerking. One can never know another’s experiences, which could have taken the place of abuse, but each one has a story to tell.

The woman, shrouded in black, from a distance could have been mistaken for the Grim Reaper, pushing a derelict shopping cart, but upon closer inspection, it contained the woman’s greatest treasure – a vase filled with silk black roses, a blanket and other items carefully preserved from her travels. The woman is well-spoken and intelligent, choosing to “Master the Earth” on her own terms. At one time, she was a master jewelry maker in Harvard Square in Massachusetts and her ornate necklace was reflective of her deft hand. She counseled one of the officers who attempted to help her that “You should be digging in the ground and not carrying a gun.” She speaks solemnly of the beauty and reverence of birds.

Due to her travels, she is a cautious soul, but is respectful of those she encounters. My coworker felt inspired to give her peacock feathers after hearing that those she previously had were stolen. It took a moment for her to accept them, asking if they came from dead birds, as they carry disease and bad energy, but accept them she did, proceeding to arrange them delicately in the vase and thanking the giver. She is not one who suffers fools gladly, though she has a pride that refuses hand-outs, but not those given meaningly and generously. There is an innate fear of men and police, especially causing one to determine that somewhere in her life she was scarred from an encounter with law enforcement. But, that is her right and should not be scoffed at.

How often do we take the time to learn the differences in those we meet? It humbles me to hear of tales from those who did, indeed, feel the motivation to get outside their comfort zone and discover knew ideologies from those who have given much in their lives, yet have had much taken away. We should always be sensitive to encounters with others different from us. They may have something to impart that we may need to know or learn.

If you think your plastics are all recycled…

Think again…

For many environmentally conscious Americans, there’s a deep satisfaction to chucking anything and everything plasticky into the recycling bin—from shampoo bottles to butter tubs—the types of plastics in the plastic categories #3 through #7. Little do they know that, even if their local trash collector says it recycles that waste, they might as well be chucking those plastics in the trash bin.

“[Plastics] 3-7 are absolutely going to a landfill—[China's] not taking that any more… because of Green Fence,” David Kaplan, CEO of Maine Plastics, a post-industrial recycler, tells Quartz. “This will continue until we can do it in the United States economically.”

The Green Fence went up…and it’s not coming down

Kaplan is referring to an initiative the Chinese government launched last year ostensibly to reduce pollution. Dubbed “Green Fence,” the policy bans the import of all but the cleanest, most tidily organized bales of reusable rubbish—and bars some types altogether1

The program was supposed to end in November of 2013. Now Chinese industry sources say that Green Fence is here to stay, reports American Metal Market, supporting what many in the US recycling business have suspected.


All roads lead back to Harry Reid…


The BLM claimed it was moving in to protect an endangered desert tortoise. The government had killed thousands of them, claiming it could no longer afford to protect them just a couple of years ago. And despite more than 150 years of the Bundy family using those lands, the tortoises seem to be doing just fine with the cattle.

But as the story of the Bundy Ranch made it through the media in the last few days, disturbing questions began to be raised.

In 2011, attorney Rory Reid, son of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, went to China and returned with a new client — ENN Energy.

There were accusations that the Bundy Ranch and the area the Bundys use to graze their cattle are in an area called the Dry Lake Solar Energy Zone. If the cattle continued to use the area, it would be impossible to use the land for a solar energy installation.

The current head of the Bureau of Land Management is Neil Kornze, who was hand-picked by Harry Reid. Until 2011, Kornze was on Harry Reid’s Senate staff.

de Toqueville got it right…


Other… speak in the name of liberty, as if they were able to feel its sanctity and its majesty, and loudly claim for humanity those rights which they have always disowned. There are virtuous and peaceful individuals whose pure morality, quiet habits, affluence, and talents fit them to be the leaders of the surrounding population; their love of their country is sincere, and they are prepared to make the greatest sacrifices to its welfare.

Not far from this class is another party, whose object is to materialize mankind, to hit upon what is expedient without heeding what is just, to acquire knowledge without faith, and prosperity apart from virtue; assuming the title of the champions of modern civilization, and placing themselves in a station which they usurp with insolence, and from which they are driven by their own unworthiness.

Someone Tucked an Obscure Line into the Farm Bill That Allows the Treasury Department to Destroy Due Process


The Washington Post has an outrageous story about how the Treasury Department is going after thousands of Americans to collect on debts — which may not have ever been real debts — it says deceased family members owed the government.

There is no recourse for Americans who have had their money taken. They can file a claim, but it will probably go nowhere. Only 10% of appeals have been successful so far, even though the government can’t even prove that the debts ever existed in most cases.

The farm bill that enabled Treasury to torch due process is always notoriously long and full of obscure subsidies and other things that the congresspeople who pass it never bother to read. No one will even own up to lifting the statute of limitations, but clearly Treasury got wind of the change very quickly and acted on it.

If your tax refund is smaller than you expected this year, you may be a victim of this criminal government theft spree.

Lab-Grown Vaginas Successfully Implanted In 4 Teenage Girls; Offer Normal, Pain-Free Function 8 Years Later


The four teenagers, ages 13 to 18 at the time of their surgery, were all born with Mayer-Rokitansky-Küster-Hauser (MRKH) syndrome, a rare genetic condition in which the vagina and uterus either under-develop or fail to develop at all. Given the success of the current patients, researchers from Wake Forest University’s Institute for Regenerative Medicine believe the treatment could also apply to women who suffer from vaginal cancer or have sustained serious injuries.

“This pilot study is the first to demonstrate that vaginal organs can be constructed in the lab and used successfully in humans,” said team leader Dr. Anthony Atala in a news release, adding that the study reflects regenerative medicine’s wide applicability. “This may represent a new option for patients who require vaginal reconstructive surgeries.”


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