Solar Industry Boosts Jobs Numbers; Holes in Imported Meat Inspection

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Discovered: A solar lining for the U.S. economy; USDA not keeping pace with imported meat; horses get a Hendra vaccine; maybe don't dry your clothes indoors.

The solar industry added 13,872 jobs last year. The jobs numbers came in a bit higher than expected today. There's a good chance the solar power industry can account for a sizable slice of those new jobs, according to figures just released by The Solar Foundation. In fact, they say that 1 out of every 230 jobs created last year happened in solar. In the last 12 months, they estimate that the industry created about 13,872 new jobs, bringing the number of Americans employed in the solar power sector up to 119,016. The new figures peg the growth of the solar industry at 13.2 percent, much higher than growth in the economy at large, which hovered around 2.3 percent according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. [The Solar Foundation]

Let's hope imported meat isn't tainted! Because the USDA USDA appears to be taking a more hands-off approach to imported meat safety, according to an investigation from Food Safety News. Reporter Helena Bottemiller found a 60 percent reduction in USDA audits on foreign countries' meat inspection operations since 2008. The Food Safety and Inspection Service has also become much less transparent, Bottemiller argues, considering their failure to publicly disclose audit reports. Former Under Secretary for Food Safety Richard Raymond has also taken issue with the USDA's verification of food safety in imported meat in recent memory. The report is worrying, considering that 17 percent of America's food supply is imported, and that last month's E. coli outbreak—which seized 2.5 million pounds of beef shipped to America—originated in Canada. [Food Safety News]

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Horses won't have to worry about Hendra anymore. When the Hendra virus first cropped up in Australian horses—and their human stablehands—scientists didn't know what to make of it. Understanding new zoonoses takes time, and only now, 18 years after the virus' emergence, have researchers been able to create a vaccine for the disease. But the inoculation developed by  Deborah Middleton and her colleagues at the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) in Geelong, Australia, only works on horses. That will still benefit humans, though, since horses act as an amplifier host for the Hendra, providing the crucial stepping stone from bats—who carry the Hendra virus as a reservoir host—to humans. Outbreaks have been detected in Australia in 1994, 1999, 2004, and 2011. Middleton says, "We don't know if these waves of spillover are just part of the life cycle of the virus, but the worry was there was a trend." Trend or not, this vaccine should help stamp out the disease's spread. [NewScientist]

A warning about drying clothes indoors. Forgoing the drying machine in favor of air-drying your clothes is one great way to go green. But if you choose to dry your clothes au naturel, hang them outdoors if possible, because researchers from the Scotland's Mackintosh School of Architecture have found that drying clothes indoors contributes to asthma, hay fever, and allergy problems. Up to a third of the Glasgow homes they studied had elevated moisture levels, with a third of this excessive moisture attributable to clothes-drying. They recommend that architects concerned with designing green buildings should include plans for dedicated outdoor drying areas. Researcher Rosalie Menon says, "These spaces should be independently heated and ventilated. It's very much going back to the airing cupboards we saw in more historical types of housing." [BBC News]

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