Link between gasoline fumes and brain damage established in lab mice; human corollary suspected


Hi again, from the shores of the Salish SeaWell, it’s now scientific fact.  Fossil fuel emissions can cause brain damage to white mice, including memory loss and a form of rodent Alzheimer’s disease.  As even those of us who kept those ivory little creatures as pets knew at the time ~ they are used in experiments designed to improve human health.  Lest I enflame any animal rights activists, as medical computer models become more sophisticated, the need for living organisms for this purpose will decline and, I believe, eventually vanish. 

For now, we know that fossil fuel emissions are harmful to animals who, in the most fundamental systemic ways,  are very similar to ourselves.  We know from experience, when similar tests are applied to human beings, the results are often the same.  A part of me is going, “I thought we already knew that, considering how toxic we know these fumes are to the rest of the body politic. 

We did already know, didn’t we, exhaust fumes, soot and particulates play havoc with the immediate environment, fauna and flora?  We are cognizant of the fact that black lung disease, tuberculosis and a host of cardiac conditions resulting from the inability of the blood to get the oxygen it needs have been killing coal miners for several millennium now, aren’t we? 

One of the things that made 19th Century cities the hells they sometime were to live in is that on a windless or rainless day, the air was choked with fumes from whale oil, a half dozen lamp oils, coal, wood and horse manure.  There were no scientific instruments back then which could measure the particulate density but I was partly raised on a ranch with wood smoke, lamp oil, livestock and Morgans.  I’ve also marched in parades behind horses so I know from experience, we are NOT talking sylvan aromas here. 

I’m thinking that if it is soon proven that fossil fuel exhaust can cause brain damage in human beings, it’s probably been going on in cities for a very, very long time.  I wonder how much of our species’ frequent plunges into global insanity were the result of too many breathing too much really bad air.  I wonder how Paris smelled during the French Revolution; or the iron and steel cities of post-WW I Germany; or the ghetto of Watts in smoggy Los Angeles in August of 1965. 

What happens to mind of the puddler in Allentown; the battery assembler on the line in Detroit; the attorney or the architect who spends four hours a day commuting on crowded expressways in New York/New Jersey; industrial janitors and soldiers too often in the heat of battle.  How much of this explains road rage?  Or the love of 18-wheelers for country-western music.  Scarier even for me to contemplate are the decisions made in the nation’s capitol, itself built on what was also once a disease-ridden swamp which sometimes bubbled when methane broke the surface. 

I’m glad we’ve discovered that fossil fuel emissions are not good for the brain of a white mouse.  I’m wondering how much more “scientific” evidence we need before we decide to stop poisoning ourselves and go both green and clean.  I’d also like to see those ivory rodents obsolete in the lab and out making lazy cats chase them, which, as we all know, is the true purpose of the white mouse in the universe. 


The Obama administration broke a long-term siege on the Environmental Protection Agency when the US Senate rejected a bill introduced by Conservative members of that body, which would have stripped the EPA of its regulatory and enforcement powers.  Taking nothing away from our state and local environmental watch dog agencies, quite a few of us have been glad the EPA is also here among us.  Like the others, these federal employees are also our neighbours, members of our congregations, PTA members, etc.  For more on this one, then, please go here

Even while construction slowed in the Pacific Northwest last year, the timber industry has been booming, thanks to new orders from China, whose traditional wood supplier was Russia until that country imposed an export tax on its trees.  The Vancouver, BC-based International Wood Markets Group estimates American log exports to China from the U.S. rose more than  than doubled over the past year. 

Here in the States, we’ve been hearing a lot lately about a possible government “shut down” if the jackass and that other monumental beast of burden which labors so prodigiously on Capitol Hill but often with such dubious results didn’t come up with a federal budget.  It didn’t happen but that it could have really made me angry, both at the government and at myself for becoming so dependent on it.  I feel a lot better though, after reading this article on what a shutdown would actually be like and it’s not as bad as I imagined


Well, I’m not sure what the fact that sardines in record numbers ~ millions of them ~ are returning to the coast of British Columbia says to the International Community and particularly America about Canada in general but it strongly suggests to me that the Maple Leaf is doing something right.  Those nutritious little fish had lots of other places they could have gone.  Instead, the chose waters of a land which could use another fishery and whose harvesters of the sea also share with their less fortunate neighbours.  And where there is a fundamental respect for all life because even in the majour cities ~ modest by world standards ~ like Vancouver and the provincial capital, Victoria ~ that wildlife is a part of the integral human experience.  I personally am glad the sardines are back because I love them and I’ve got a cousin in BC who knows a guy who knows this other guy.  And so it goes. 

The Canadian timber industry is preparing for a transcontinental invasion of the mountain pine beetle when it demonstrated it could leap from its main host, the lodge pole pine to jack pine.  The former cover the western half of the country while the latter stretch from Alberta east to the Maritimes.  It is too early to tell how well this voracious pest will do in jack pine stands but the Canadians are taking no chances.  For more on this one, please go here

Since I live in a city of myths and spend a little time each week dispelling them, I was delighted to see that our sister city, Vancouver, has suffered under the same libels and slanders and has decided to strike back by swinging that mighty velvet hammer, the truth.  Our thanks to Mary Frances Hill of the Vancouver Sun for this one. 


Had he not been assassinated 43 years ago last Monday, April 4, 1968, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. would be 82 now.  We pause on the anniversary of this tragedy to revere the man, his accomplishments and his legacy.  We offer this prayer that by his example, may we all continue to do what each of us can to make this world we share just a little better place than it was the day before.  That’s what he did and that’s what he wanted us to do.  For more on this exceptional human being, please go here.


Does switching from a fossil fuel powered vehicle to a hydrid or an all-electric really make a difference?  That often depends on what you drove before, where you live and several other variables.  For more on this one, please go here.

 Even though government monitoring sites have not been giving out much information about radiation crossing the Pacific Ocean from that leaking Japanese nuclear power plant, the West Coast’s university seismologists and students have been more than filling the gap and the good news is that the levels of radiation are thus far well below the threat level.  More to the point, here’s another great example of how our institutions of higher learning can really come through for us on an immediately practical level. 

Standing up to bad government is sometimes incredibly tough, even for people like Americans, who seem somehow genetically very particular about how their tax dollars are spent.  It can and does make a difference in the States.  It does elsewhere and has for awhile longer than the eagle’s been flying from ocean to ocean.  Around the world, people are standing up and making a difference.  I found this a truly inspirational read so for more, yep, please go here.

Felina: Samuel, is it my imagination or have we been reading and watching and seeing a great deal more than usual lately about ordinary human beings becoming exceptional members of that species when they help other human beings?

Sam:   Felina, first of all, it amazes me that you can get that out all in one breath.  Second, I’m going to take a shot at this and say it’s not just the ordinary tendency to circle the wagons around the time they need to pay their incomes tax that you’re talking about,

Felina: Quite so.  From that American national tribute to volunteerism to Yes magazine’s 10 Everyday Acts of Resistance That Changed the World, they certainly seem to be taking a more proactive role in their existence.

Sam:   Well, like Grandpa Seamus used to say, when the earth is shaking, any direction you run is better than standing still.

Felina: This is the same Grandpa Seamus, if memory serves, who stumbled onto a human alcohol still, thought it was a predator from beyond the solar system, attacked and killed it and then was out of his mind for three days and nights after drinking the extraterrestrial’s ‘blood’.

Sam:   Yes and from that day forth, while there were UFO sightings all over the rest of the world, there have been none here.

Felina: Because your Grandpa Seamus really knew it was a still but also was aware that a mother ship was watching him.  So the still was, one might say, destroyed in effigy to discourage tourism from beyond Saturn’s Seventh Ring.

Sam:   You do understand then.

Felina: Samuel, that, quite frankly, worries me.

Sam:   What, that Grandpa Seamus punked out a race from outer space?

Felina: No, that you actually expect me to believe one word of this absolutely and totally preposterous nonsense about your drunken cougar grandfather and creatures from beyond Gaia’s pale.

Sam:   It was worth a shot.  When humans get scared, they either kill each other for a seat in the last lifeboat or they start looking around in the water for stuff to make more lifeboats.  They also have a tendency to get tired of hearing about all the powerful and the dysfunctional among them and the first decade of this next 2,000 years of theirs has produced a big potful of real stinkers.

Felina: So these stories about human beings who are not selfish or stupid or egomaniacal are shared to remind them ~

Sam:   ~ and us ~

Felina: So these stories about human beings who are not selfish or stupid or egomaniacal are shared to remind them and us that their species is not devolving  to a life form that would slander swamp gas.

Sam:   Rather poignantly put, Felina, but I think that about covers it.

Felina: I confess, Samuel, I am so enjoying reading them.

Sam:   Understood, Lass.  You’ve always had a soft place in your heart for strays.  I’m not surprised that you should love so passionately an entire species of them.

Felina: Even strays need love, love of my life.

Sam:   And you’ve got enough re-colonize half of Newark, New Jersey, Sweetheart.  So on that note, then?

Felina: And on that note, gentle readers, until next time, may the Creator bless and keep you. 


If you’re interested in not only saving money but making a bit ~ and you drive  your car less than 500 miles a month ~ you might be interested in making that vehicle or your ‘second’ rig available to others in your community.  It’s an idea that is catching on all over Canada and the States so for more, please go here.


Despite even for Seattle what has been an unseasonably wet weather, places like Dick’s Drive-In continue to do a thriving business. Dick’s itself is one of Seattle’s lesser known landmarks but frequent visitors to the Soggy City, and particularly those with a taste for the kind of burgers and fries they served in the halcyon years of the Baby Boom generation, usually manage to find their way there. For more about Dick's go here Photo by MSM


We pride ourselves as a community on taking care of our own.  According to the United Way of King County (UWKC), “There are twelve neighborhood hunger projects that urgently need your help. A few people, including the UWKC, have agreed to match your contribution dollar for dollar.”  If you’re in the mood to make a difference, however large or small, there are people in all our neighborhoods, who could use a bit of that caring.  I know some of those people live where I do.  I suspect the same can be said of you.  For more information, please go here


  • Population:                     612.000
  • Greater Seattle Area   3,707,400
  • Area:                           84 sq mi/217 sq km
  • Density:                       7,286 people per sq mi/2,821 per sq km
  • Annual Rainfall:                       36.2 inches/92 cm
  • Compared to:
  • San Francisco             19.5 in —  50 cm
  • Chicago                                   34.5 in —  88 cm
  • Dallas                          37.1 in –  94 cm
  • Washington, DC                     39.0 in —  99 cm
  • New York City             40.3 in –102 cm
  •  More Seattle Facts & Figures
  • Upcoming Events


I do so love it when something Ellen DeGeneres and I both enjoy doing, albeit not together (sigh) turns out to be good for my health.  Hint:  We are not talking about interviewing celebrities, which I personally found mind-numbing when I did it.  Yep, it’s dancing.  In addition to the rather obvious cardio benefits, it can also fight off dementia, keep your weight down and prevent high blood pressure.  Yep, for more on this one, go here


Sometimes health news is not about some new diet alternative or a major breakthrough in life-threatening diseases.  If good news in general can elevate us, just as bad can bring us down, the fact that fewer American women are dying now of lung cancer should give us all a lift.  Maybe it’s just me, but it seems that this what this also says that not only have we been making some incredible medical strides, the efforts we’ve made to clean up the air where we live and work are also making a difference, as well..  Yep, for more on this one, please go here.



Celtic Woman is The Northstar Journal’s favourite musical performance group.  When it is inspiration in a song we seek, they invariably provide it and they look as good as they sound.  The production values of their performances, whether at the Helix in Dublin or on a television stage in Adelaide, are flawless.  Perhaps most endearing for me is that these Irish ladies are totally ingenuous, and totally free of pretense or posturing.  They have a global following and for a sampling of why, please go here. 

(The) Clearwater Marine Aquarium in Florida is the home of Winter, the rescued dolphin who was fitted with a prosthetic fluke and continues to amaze marine lovers the world over by her recovery.  The CMA is in the marine mammal rescue business for real, both as a public amusement site at which they also take care of a variety of species, and on the web as well.  Their videos and other information also make for a nice “educational” experience to share with others. 

Finding Rootedness is perhaps the most empowering blog we have yet come across for those of us who value positive and empowering alternatives.  This one is for the window pushers among us.  It offers not only solid alternatives to the chaos but news of where these options are being successfully implemented. 

Irish Newsletter is an outstanding pocket source of Irish life, politics and times.  Particularly well written are their news snaps (shorts) which ~ according to friends of mine in Erin ~ literally tell it like it is.  While the Republic of Ireland’s population is only about 4.5-million, there are an estimated 80 million people of Irish descent worldwide and email version of this reached 50,000 of them.  

Rusty Miller – Writer/Editor For Hire is my professional home page.  Contracts I receive through this site help finance The Northstar Journal. 

Sightline Daily is the best Pacific Northwest source of environmentally friendly news we’ve encountered yet.  They draw from newspapers and National Public Radio sources in Alaska, Alberta, British Columbia, California, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon and Washington State. 

The Northstar Gallery features photography of Seattle available as postcards, computer wallpaper and workspace art. 

The Northstar General Store is a truly unique online shopping experience and reflects what you, the readers, have said interests you the most.  Whether it’s a specialty food item for that proverbial someone who has everything else or just to browse with some discretionary capital to spend on a whim, you’ll find everything from quality camping gear to interesting CDs, DVDs and books to totally fun and otherwise useless toys, women and men’s apparel and a wide variety of other items and wares you simply will not find under a single roof anywhere else on the Net.  And by shopping here, you help us pay our bills.  To enter and check it out, please click the picture of the store above. 

Words Matter: How Media Can Build Civility or Destroy It is a “Should Read” for any of us involved in the communication of the written word.

Wrath of the Testament, an exciting seagoing saga of war and rebellion, is now available for $3.99 at 

Yes magazine is the online Life and Look of the Internet combined and their present series “What Happy Families Know is both insightful and inspirational. 


For many years, it was believed that warlike traits in a species were genetic and therefore, immutable.  Human beings topped the list, followed closely by baboons and chimpanzees.  New evidence, however, suggests that “war-like” might just be an attitude adopted for a variety of reasons, including environmental.  It also appears that savergy is something beyond which a species can evolve.  I found this article, Warrior Baboons Give Peace a Chance, totally absorbing. 

If you’re an All Creatures Great and Small person who sees universes beyond the rainbow, this first person account of how the spring arrival of hummingbirds helped a lady photojournalist heal from injuries she sustained during an overseas assignment.  To me, this is another example of the love that does not discriminate among species.  This story also supports my contention that human beings are not alone on the planet; only their need to feel superior has for too long made them think so. 

Recommended Related Links:


Well, thanks to 21st Century technology and some real dubiously applied formulas, it is now apparently possible to determine where in the United States the happiest people live.  My state, Washington, on a scale of 1 – 42, scored a 21.  To see how your state did, yep go here

Well, that’s it for this week.  If you enjoyed this edition and would like to contribute to the next, please go here.

 And if you’re in a shopping mood and into some interesting choices?  We have a “reader stocked” General Store that you might want to check out.  We’ve stocked a bit of everything from camping gear and cookware, specialty food items, books, music, films and fun/interesting/weird things that just somehow found their way onto the shelves at night when we were asleep.

If you would like to sell something with us or know someone who does, email us at and we’ll see what we can do.  See you next time.  Be well.



About minstrel312

MERRITT SCOTT MILLER Bio Wrath of the Testament Author and Northstar Journal editor Merritt Scott (Rusty) Miller is a former newspaper reporter who has published extensively in the Pacific Northwest and several times nationally. A U.S. Navy veteran of the Vietnam War, he began his career in the alternative media of the mid-Seventies. His own Sacramento-based monthly ~ Rapline ~ drew praise from Sacramento BEE metro columnist Herb Michelson in a column published that that newspaper; and from Berkeley Film Quarterly editor and author of the bestsellers Ecotopia and Ecotopia Emerging, Ernest Callenbach. A Northern California native with roots in British Columbia, Mr. Miller has written for several Northwest community newspapers, United Press International, the daily Portland Oregonian and for such Seattle publications as the Post-Intelligencer, The Seattle Press and the University Herald. As an investigative reporter for the McMinnville, Oregon News-Register ~ and in conjunction with CBS News in New York, Washington, DC and Flagstaff, Arizona ~ Mr. Miller localized a story of alleged Contra gun-running by an international air freight company headquartered in that Willamette Valley community. During the 1987 Angel Complex Fire in southern Oregon, Mr. Miller worked as the lead dispatcher for the U.S. Forest Service and covered the disaster for National Public Radio and as a special writer for the Portland, Oregonian. His 1988 series on child abuse for a rural weekly earned him praise from the Oregon Newspaper Publishers Association. In his career as a journalist, Mr. Miller has interviewed a Nobel peace laureate; an internationally renowned abstract artist; a popular folksinger and various Pacific Northwest elected officials, include a state treasurer and governor. An accomplished travel book writer, Mr. Miller has penned demographic and feature copy for the “Best Choices” series on Eastern Washington, British Columbia, Virginia, South Carolina and Atlanta. As either a contract or staff publicist, he has served a host of clients including the Olympia Music Festival, Umpqua Valley Community Hospital, the City of Canyonville, the Tiller Ranger District, The English School, the Yamhill County Board of Commissioners, Yamhill County Assessor Kim Worrell and Workers of Oregon Development. His freelance publications include: United Press International, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, the Portland Oregonian, Forest World, American Trucking, Trucks, Oregon Adventures, Oregon Education, Old Oregon, The Entertainer, the Seattle Press, the San Juan Island Sounder, Northwest Passage, Northwest Connection, Seattle Source, Seattle Forum, the University of Colorado’s Writers Forum, Clouds, The long Beach Literary Journal and the Pacific Media Group. He has worked since the age of 13 and has been a hop harvester, professional musician, civil servant, forester, convenience market clerk, lumber mill worker, temporary word processor, technical writer and editor. He has also led a social services research and development team and has six years of radio and telephone communications experience. His interests include astronomy, aviation, camping, Canada, communications, conversation, cooking, dancing, economic development, education, environmentalism, exploration, film/DVDs, fine dining, government, green technology, health. History, human rights, International community, Internet media, law, literature, marine engineering & design, medicine, music, nature, networking, outdoors, pets, photography, romance, science, sexuality, technology, travel, water, wildlife His honors and awards include: Letter of Appreciation - Amnesty International; US Senator Patti Murray Letter of Appreciation for The Northstar Journal Blog; Editors Choice, International Library of Poetry; Congressman Edward Murray Letter of Appreciation; Congressman Frank Chopp Letter of Appreciation; Hersch Best Read on the Net Award for The Northstar Journal; President Bill Clinton Letter of Appreciation; Workers Of Oregon Development Certificate of Appreciation; City of Canyonville Police Department Certificate of Appreciation; City of Canyonville Mayor’s Office Certificate of Appreciation; California Supreme Court Justice Rose Bird Letter of Appreciation; Northwest Magazine Editorial Board Letter of Appreciation for Rain; Editorial Award, Society of Professional Journalists; Sacramento Bee Metro Column; Honor Roll: California State University Long Beach; Deans List: Long Beach City; Mr. Miller currently resides in Seattle, Washington, where he continues to edit and publish The Northstar Journal. He is working on two novels concurrently and a sequel to Wrath of the Testament.
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