Attempt to 'prevent' homosexuality decried
EVANSTSON, Ill., July 1 (UPI) -- A U.S. bioethics professor is protesting the use of an unapproved drug by New York researchers who she says are trying to prevent homosexuality in the womb.
Alice Dreger, professor of clinical medical humanities and bioethics at Northwestern University, says the condition being "treated" is congenital adrenal hyperplasia, a serious endocrine disruption that sometimes results in ambiguous genitalia, a university release said Wednesday.
Research has shown that females born with CAH have increased rates of tomboyism and lesbianism.
Prenatal treatment with a drug called dexamethasone is used by some clinicians to prevent the development of abnormal genitalia.
But the New York-based group of clinical researchers whose work is traced by Dreger suggests that prenatal dexamethasone can also be used in this population to prevent the "abnormality" of homosexuality.
"This is the first we know in the history of medicine that clinicians are actively trying to prevent homosexuality," Dreger says.
Major medical organizations including the American Academy of Pediatrics say this use of prenatal dexamethasone is experimental and not to be treated as standard of care.
An investigation led by Dreger showed the chief proponent of this "off-label" use, pediatric endocrinologist Maria New, treated hundreds of women with this experimental drug without proper research ethics oversight, Northwestern University said.
Study: Gobal warming by humans not new
WASHINGTON, July 1 (UPI) -- Global warming caused by human activity may not be a modern phenomenon because even prehistoric man may have affected his environment, researchers say.
Early hunters contributing to the extinction of wooly mammoths around 15,000 years ago may have contributed to a side effect of heating up the planet, an American Geophysical Union release said Wednesday.
In a study published in the AGU journal, researchers propose a scenario to explain how the ancient hunters could have triggered global warming.
In northern regions, mammoths would have grazed down birch trees, leaving only grasslands. As mammoth populations dropped because of human hunting, birch trees spread, dominating the grasses.
The trees would change the color of the landscape making it much darker, the study says, and absorbing more of the sun's heat, in turn heating up the atmosphere.
Researchers examined ancient pollens preserved in Alaska, Siberia and the Yukon Territory. Around 15,000 years ago, they say, the amount of birch pollen started to rise quickly.
"With the extinction of this (wooly mammoth) keystone species, it would have some impact on the ecology and vegetation -- and vegetation has a large impact on climate," says lead study author Chris Doughty of the Carnegie Institution for Science in Stanford, Calif.
"A lot of people still think that people are unable to affect the climate even now, even when there are more than 6 billion people," says Doughty. The new results, however, "show that even when we had populations ... of magnitude smaller than we do now, we still had a big impact."
Scientists dispel oil rig disaster myths
WASHINGTON, July 1 (UPI) -- U.S. scientists say worst-case scenarios circulating on the Internet about the Gulf of Mexico oil spill have little scientific basis.
Web sites are awash with disaster predictions like collapsing sea beds, oily rain or oil-contaminated seafood, the Christian Science Monitor reported Thursday.
One scenario has the earth around the wellhead sinking and cracking, creating gushers that would never stop or giant exploding methane gas bubbles, events scientists say can't happen.
"The idea that there could be a catastrophic cave in, or a methane gas explosion, that's not a reasonable worry," said Gary Byerly, a professor of geology at Louisiana State University. "The rock formations on top of this oil deposit have enough strength that nothing like that is going to happen."
Byerly admits that oil and gas do leak from natural cracks in the gulf floor.
"That has been going on for tens of thousands of years, and petroleum and natural gas will find any kind of fault to come to the surface," he said.
A recent YouTube video purportedly showing oily rain falling in a New Orleans suburb has also been debunked by scientists.
"I don't think what is supposedly shown in the video could happen," said Alberto Mestas-Nunez, a professor of oceanography at Texas A&M University. "Oil is a complex mixture of hydrocarbons, and I don't see how these separate components could evaporate and then recombine in the atmosphere and come down as something like oil."
Regarding contaminated seafood, experts note that much of the seafood sold in the United States is imported or comes from Alaska, and multiple inspection systems ensure that gulf seafood is being caught in clean water.
Study: What you drank could locate you
WASHINGTON, July 1 (UPI) -- People's locations and movements could be tracked based on beverages they drank at a particular place, a U.S. study suggests.
Bottled water, soda, beer and other beverages contain natural chemical imprints that are unique to different locations, and that chemical imprint is left in a person's hair and could be used to track movements over time, a study published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry says.
Study author Lesley Chesson says the body removes hydrogen and oxygen atoms from water and beverages containing water and incorporates them into proteins, including the protein in hair.
Hydrogen and oxygen exist in different forms or isotopes, the study says, and the proportions of those isotopes vary in a predictable way geographically.
Since manufacturers typically use local water sources in producing beverages, isotope patterns in hair could produce a chemical "fingerprint" to reveal the geographic region where a person has been, Chesson explained.
A person who consumes a beer or soda in Denver, Des Moines or Dallas would show a different isotope signature than a person drinking in Las Cruces, Las Vegas or Laramie, the study says.
Such a "signature" could allow criminal investigators to identify the geographic travels of crime suspects and other individuals through analysis of hair strands, the study suggests.