Friday, September 25, 2015

Feel Good: Volunteer With AARP Foundation Tax-Aide for 2016

Feb. 2015

Help people and give your mind a workout, too.

AARP Foundation Tax-Aide is the nation's largest volunteer-run tax preparation and assistance service. And we want you to join us.

We started in 1968 with just four volunteers at one site preparing 100 tax returns. AARP Foundation Tax-Aide now involves more than 35,000 volunteers and serves 2.6 million taxpayers annually at more than 5,000 sites nationwide. In fact, we're one of the most effective volunteer programs in America.

But even though we've grown a lot, we're still all about the grassroots. You'll be helping people in your own community with a much-needed service that's free, individualized and has no strings attached.

Almost four out of five people who turn to AARP Foundation Tax-Aide are 60 or older. Household incomes aren't high. For many of them, a tax refund could mean they won't have to choose between paying for groceries and keeping the lights on.

Who volunteers?

People like you. And there's a role for everyone.

Good with numbers? Be a tax volunteer.

You'll work with taxpayers directly; filling out tax returns and helping them seek a refund. Experience isn't necessary — we'll train you on the latest tax preparation forms and software.

Skilled in all things digital? Be a technology coordinator.

You'll manage computer equipment, ensure taxpayer data security and provide technical assistance to volunteers at multiple sites.

Love working with people? Be a greeter.

You'll welcome taxpayers, help organize their paperwork and manage the overall flow of service.

Want to help us get the word out? Be a communications coordinator.

You'll promote AARP Foundation Tax-Aide and recruit volunteers in your community.

Have a knack for running things? Be a leadership or administrative volunteer.

Manage volunteers, make sure program operations run smoothly, track volunteer assignments and site activities, and maintain quality control.

Speak a second language? You're urgently needed!

We have a big demand for bilingual speakers. Dedicated translators who can assist our volunteers are also welcome.

Get the joy and satisfaction of helping others by applying to join the AARP Foundation Tax-Aide volunteer team today! Your expertise will be appreciated more than you can imagine.

AARP Foundation Tax-Aide is offered in conjunction with the IRS.

Sign up to be an AARP Foundation Tax-Aide Volunteer. Go

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Expansion of relief for inaccurate 1095 Marketplace documents


Today, the Department of the Treasury is expanding the relief it announced previously on February 24, which will mitigate any harm to tax filers. If you enrolled in Marketplace coverage, received an incorrect Form 1095-A, and filed your return based on that form, you do not need to file an amended tax return. The IRS will not pursue the collection of any additional taxes from you based on updated information in the corrected forms. This relief applies to tax filers who enrolled through the Federally-facilitated marketplace or a state-based marketplace.

As before, you still may choose to file an amended return. Treasury intends to provide additional information to help tax filers determine whether they would benefit from filing amended returns. You also may want to consult with you tax preparers to determine if you would benefit from amending. For more information on the Treasury announcement, see Treasury’s statement and consumer FAQs.

While Treasury expects that in the vast majority of cases the impact on a consumer’s tax refund or bill, if any, will be very small, we know that we have a responsibility to identify these issues quickly, understand the impact and reach out to you with the information you need. Issues that negatively impact your experience are not acceptable and we are focused on providing a smoother consumer experience. If you have not received your original or corrected form or have any questions about the information on your form, reach out to the Marketplace call center or your state Marketplace.


Obamacare Tax Extension - between March 15 and April 30

There's another Obamacare break — the administration is offering a special enrollment period for Americans who didn't realize they would have to pay a tax if they don't have health insurance.

"This special enrollment period will allow those individuals and families who were unaware or didn't understand the implications of this new requirement to enroll in 2015 health insurance coverage through the federally facilitated marketplace," the Health and Human Services Department said in a statement. People will be able to sign up for private health insurance on the Obamacare exchanges between March 15 and April 30.

"If consumers do not purchase coverage for 2015 during this special enrollment period, they may have to pay a fee when they file their 2015 income taxes," HHS said.

Also Friday, government officials acknowledged they goofed when they sent tax forms to about 800,000 Americans who got federal subsidies last year through Obamacare. Those people will receive corrected forms to use in filing their 2014 taxes.


Saturday, April 25, 2015

Mortality risks of cigar smoking similar to that of cigarette smoking

Public Release: 23-Apr-2015
BioMed Central

Cigar smoking is associated with many of the same fatal conditions as cigarette smoking, according to research published in open access journal BMC Public Health. This underscores the fact that cigar smoking is not a safe alternative to cigarette smoking.


The authors also report that those who exclusively smoked cigars and had never smoked other tobacco products also had an increased risk of all-cause mortality. The risk of death from oral, esophageal and lung cancers was found to increase with inhalation of cigar smoke. Even in those who reported not inhaling cigar smoke, there was an increased risk of death caused by oral, laryngeal and esophageal cancer.

Those who smoked cigars and had previously smoked cigarettes had a much higher risk of lung cancer and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease compared to cigar smokers who had not previously smoked cigarettes. The researchers believe this could be due in part to the inhalation patterns of these different types of cigar smokers.


Blacks may not receive same health benefits from moderate alcohol drinking as whites

Public Release: 23-Apr-2015
Harvard School of Public Health

Although moderate alcohol consumption appears to lower mortality risk among whites, it may not have the same protective effect among blacks, and its potential benefits also may vary by gender, according to a nationally representative study of the U.S. population by researchers at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.


Previous research has found an association between moderate drinking and lowered risk of type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and premature mortality, but those studies were conducted among mostly white populations, and some studies have suggested that blacks may not experience similar risk reduction.


Consistent with prior literature, the results showed that 13% of white men and 24% of black men said they never drank. Among women, 23% of white women and 42% of black women reported never drinking.

When the researchers looked at the relationship between drinking alcohol and mortality, they found that it varied by both race and gender. For men, the lowest risk of mortality was among white men who consumed 1-2 drinks 3-7 days per week and among black men who didn't drink at all. For women, the lowest risk of mortality was among white women consuming 1 drink per day 3-7 days per week, and among black women who consumed 1 drink on 2 or fewer days per week.


Long-term exposure to air pollution may pose risk to brain structure, cognitive functions

So air pollution might reduce our ability to recognize the problem, and make us more susceptible to being fooled by those who profit from it and try to derail regulations that might reduce their profits.

Public Release: 23-Apr-2015
Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center

Air pollution, even at moderate levels, has long been recognized as a factor in raising the risk of stroke. A new study led by scientists from Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and Boston University School of Medicine suggests that long-term exposure can cause damage to brain structures and impair cognitive function in middle-aged and older adults.

Writing in the May 2015 issue of Stroke, researchers who studied more than 900 participants of the Framingham Heart Study found evidence of smaller brain structure and of covert brain infarcts, a type of "silent" ischemic stroke resulting from a blockage in the blood vessels supplying the brain.

The study evaluated how far participants lived from major roadways and used satellite imagery to assess prolonged exposure to ambient fine particulate matter, particles with a diameter of 2.5 millionth of a meter, referred to as PM2.5.

These particles come from a variety of sources, including power plants, factories, trucks and automobiles and the burning of wood. They can travel deeply into the lungs and have been associated in other studies with increased numbers of hospital admissions for cardiovascular events such as heart attacks and strokes.


Thawing permafrost feeds climate change

Public Release: 23-Apr-2015
Florida State University

Carbon, held in frozen permafrost soils for tens of thousands of years, is being released as Arctic regions of the Earth warm and is further fueling global climate change, according to a Florida State University researcher.

Assistant Professor of Oceanography Robert Spencer writes in Geophysical Research Letters that single-cell organisms called microbes are rapidly devouring the ancient carbon being released from thawing permafrost soil and ultimately releasing it back into the atmosphere as carbon dioxide. Increased carbon dioxide levels, of course, cause the Earth to warm and accelerate thawing.


Reducing school bus pollution improves children's health

Public Release: 23-Apr-2015
University of Michigan

Use of clean fuels and updated pollution control measures in the school buses 25 million children ride every day could result in 14 million fewer absences from school a year, based on a study by the University of Michigan and the University of Washington.

In research believed to be the first to measure the individual impact on children of the federal mandate to reduce diesel emissions, researchers found improved health and less absenteeism, especially among asthmatic children.

A change to ultra low sulfur diesel fuel reduced a marker for inflammation in the lungs by 16 percent over the whole group, and 20-31 percent among children with asthma, depending on the severity of their disease.

"The national switch to cleaner diesel fuel and the adoption of clean air technologies on school buses lowered concentrations of airborne particles on buses by as much as 50 percent," said Sara Adar, the study's lead author and the John Searle Assistant Professor of Public Health at the U-M School of Public Health. "Importantly, our study now shows measurable health improvements from these interventions, too.

Although the study focused only on school children, Adar said it is easy to imagine similar benefits for other groups of people such as commuters, occupational drivers and people living in communities impacted by heavy diesel traffic.


Dolphins use extra energy to communicate in noisy waters

Public Release: 23-Apr-2015
NOAA Fisheries West Coast Region

Dolphins that raise their voices to be heard in noisy environments expend extra energy in doing so, according to new research that for the first time measures the biological costs to marine mammals of trying to communicate over the sounds of ship traffic or other sources.

While dolphins expend only slightly more energy on louder whistles or other vocalizations, the metabolic cost may add up over time when the animals must compensate for chronic background noise, according to the research by scientists at NOAA Fisheries' Northwest Fisheries Science Center and the University of California Santa Cruz.

"If they're repeatedly exposed to a lot of noise, the repeated effort to call louder or longer or more often -- that's where the impacts could become more significant," said Marla Holt, a research biologist at the Northwest Fisheries Science Center in Seattle and lead author of the paper published this week in the Journal of Experimental Biology.

The impacts could be pronounced for young, growing animals or nursing females already struggling to eat enough to maintain their energy balance, the researchers concluded. Some animals also react to nearby vessels and associated noise by slapping their tails on the water or breaching - jumping clear out of the water. That could add to the extra effort required by louder calls to further drain their energy.


The report also noted that ship noise can interfere with the echolocation the whales use to locate and hunt for food. The new findings suggest that consistently noisy surroundings could take a toll on marine mammals that rely on calls for basic life functions such as communication and foraging.

"If they are going to have to compensate for long periods, day after day, then that cumulative impact could be a concern," Noren said. "How much more fish will they need to eat to compensate for that? That is a concern for these whales because we know their food sources may be limited."


Significant increase in major depression reported during recent recession

Public Release: 23-Apr-2015
Loyola University Health System

The recent Great Recession was accompanied by a significant and sustained increase in major depression in U.S. adults, according to a Loyola study published in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry.

Prevalence of major depression increased from 2.33 percent during the years 2005-2006 to 3.49 percent in 2009-2010 to 3.79 percent in 2011-2012, according to the study by Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine researchers.

Prevalence of less-severe depression increased from 4.1 percent in 2005-2006 to 4.79 percent in 2009-2010, but then declined to 3.68 percent in 2011-2012.


Prevalence of both major and less severe depression was highest among adults who were living in poverty or had less than a high school education.


The Great Recession officially began in December, 2007, and lasted for 18 months. But the effects of the recession, including high unemployment and home foreclosures and reduced consumer confidence, remained high even after the recession officially ended in June, 2009. During the past decade, more than 8 million jobs were lost and about 3 million homes were foreclosed.


Thursday, April 23, 2015

Study links adverse childhood experiences to pediatric asthma

Surely physical, emotional, or sexual abuse are adverse childhood experiences.

Public Release: 22-Apr-2015

Hasbro Children's Hospital study finds link between adverse childhood experiences and pediatric asthma Children who experience violence, substance abuse at home report significantly higher rates of asthma

Robyn Wing, M.D., an emergency medicine physician at Hasbro Children's Hospital, recently led a study that found children who were exposed to an adverse childhood experience (ACE) were 28 percent more likely to develop asthma. The rate of asthma occurrence further increased in children with each additional ACE exposure. The study, recently published in the Annals of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology, suggests that psychosocial factors may contribute to pediatric asthma.

"Asthma is one of the most common chronic childhood conditions, currently affecting 7 million, or 9.5 percent, of children in the U.S.," said Wing. "The biological risk factors for asthma onset and severity, such as genetics, allergens, tobacco smoke, air pollution and respiratory infections, have been well established by previous studies. But, psychosocial factors, such as stress, which we know can be physically harmful, are now being examined as a risk factor for asthma in children."

Wing's team analyzed data from nearly 100,000 children and teens in the 2011-2012 National Survey of Children's Health and compared parent or guardian reports of a child having asthma to whether a child had experienced an ACE at home. An ACE is classified as whether a child has ever:

Lived with a parent or guardian who got divorced or separated while child was present.
Lived with a parent or guardian who died.
Lived with a parent or guardian who served time in jail or prison while child was present.
Lived with anyone who was mentally ill or suicidal, or severely depressed for more than a couple of weeks.
Lived with anyone who had a problem with alcohol or drugs.
Saw or heard parents, guardians or any other adults in the home slap, hit, kick, punch or beat each other up.

Children exposed to one ACE had a 28 percent increase in reported asthma compared to those with no ACEs. These rates increase with each additional ACE, with children exposed to four ACEs having a 73 percent increase in reported asthma.


Quit smoking at age 60: Lower risk for heart attack and stroke within the first five years

Public Release: 22-Apr-2015
German Cancer Research Center (Deutsches Krebsforschungszentrum, DKFZ)

In the most comprehensive study ever on the impact of smoking on cardiovascular disease in older people, epidemiologist Dr. Ute Mons from the German Cancer Research Center (Deutsches Krebsforschungszentrum, DKFZ) analyzed 25 individual studies, compiling data from over half a million individuals age 60 and older.

Twice as many smokers die from cardiovascular disease than life-long non-smokers do. The increase in risk depends on the number of cigarettes that a person has smoked in his or her lifetime. After one quits smoking, this risk continues to decrease. On average, the risk for former smokers is only 1.3 times that of people who have never smoked in their lives.

Within the first five years after smoking one's last cigarette, the risk already decreases measurably. Even those who quit smoking past age 60 still benefit from the decreased risk of developing cardiovascular disease. However, the more time that has passed since one has quit, the more considerable the decrease in a former smoker's risk of dying from heart attack or stroke.

Since people often find it difficult to determine the relevance of relative risks, Mons and her colleagues also used an alternative method to assess the results of their meta-analysis: They calculated the number of years by which smoking accelerates death from heart disease. They found that the age of smokers who die from cardiovascular disease is, on average, five and a half years younger than people who have never smoked in their lives. By contrast, the age for former smokers drops to just over two years younger than life-long non-smokers.


Humans' Use Of Pain-Relief Creams Proves Fatal To Felines

Veterinarians have long warned that pain medications like ibuprofen are toxic to pets. And it now looks like merely using a pain relief cream can put cats at risk.

That's what happened in two households, according to a report issued Friday by the Food and Drug Administration. Two cats in one household developed kidney failure and recovered with attention from a veterinarian. But in a second household, three cats died.

When the veterinarians performed necropsies on the three dead cats, they found physical damage in the cats' intestines and kidneys, evidence of the toxic effects of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, or NSAIDs. NSAIDs include ibuprofen, like Advil and Motrin, and naproxen, which is in Aleve.


these cats died by flurbiprofen, another NSAID. In the case of its most recent victims, the cat owner applied a lotion or cream containing flurbiprofen to treat muscle or arthritis pain. And it's highly unusual for a cat to show up at the vet's office; usually it's the dogs that get into trouble from exposure to NSAIDs.

"I can't even remember the last cat I've seen that got into ibuprofen or an NSAID," Erica Reineke, an assistant professor at the University of Pennsylvania's School of Veterinary Medicine, tells Shots. "We've seen more cats that get into antidepressants."

Reineke says that she probably treats a pet for some sort of ingestion problem every day, but usually it's chocolate or chewing gum, or the owner's medication. As little as 50 milligrams of ibuprofen for every kilogram a cat weighs can cause problems; for dogs, it's 100 milligrams for every kilogram.


And keep an eye on those pets – if they show signs of lethargy, vomiting or lack of appetite, go see a vet immediately.

Mindfulness-based therapy rather than antidepressants to prevent depression relapse?

Public Release: 22-Apr-2015
University of Plymouth

Researchers from Plymouth University Peninsula Schools of Medicine and Dentistry are part of a team led by the University of Oxford, who have carried out new research that suggests mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT) could provide an alternative non-drug treatment for people who do not wish to continue long-term antidepressant treatment.


Flame retardants could contribute to hyperthyroidism in older cats

Public Release: 22-Apr-2015
American Chemical Society

For years, health advocates have been pushing to ban some flame retardants for their potentially harmful effects, especially on young children and infants. Now scientists report these compounds could play a role in a common health problem for one of our most beloved pets: cats. In the ACS journal Environmental Science & Technology, a new study found that cats with hyperthyroidism had high levels of certain flame retardants, hinting at a possible link.

Jessica Norrgran and colleagues explain that more than 10 percent of older cats develop hyperthyroidism, a hormonal disorder that can cause weight loss, hyperactivity, aggression, vomiting and other symptoms. In humans, the condition has been linked to Graves' disease and iodine deficiency. No one knows for sure what causes hyperthyroidism in cats. Some studies have suggested a connection between the feline condition and flame retardants. These substances leach from plastics and furniture, and accumulate in dust that can end up on cats' fur. The animals' meticulous grooming methods make them particularly susceptible to exposure to these compounds. Norrgran's team wanted to investigate this potential link further.

The researchers tested blood samples from pet felines in Sweden -- 37 hyperthyroid cats and 23 cats with normal thyroid function. They found that those with hyperthyroidism had elevated levels of flame retardants known as polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs). Although the results don't prove that the compounds cause the disorder, the study suggests they could be linked.

High mountains warming faster than expected

Public Release: 22-Apr-2015
University of Massachusetts at Amherst

High elevation environments around the world may be warming much faster than previously thought, according to members of an international research team including Raymond Bradley, director of the Climate System Research Center at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. They call for more aggressive monitoring of temperature changes in mountain regions and more attention to the potential consequences of warming.


High mountains are the major water source for large numbers of people living at lower elevations, so the social and economic consequences of enhanced warming in mountain regions could be large, the researchers add. "This alone requires that close attention be paid to the issue. In addition, mountains provide habitat for many of the world's rare and endangered species, and the presence of many different ecosystems in close proximity enhances the ecological sensitivity of mountains to environmental change."

Lead author Nick Pepin of the University of Portsmouth, U.K., says, "There is growing evidence that high mountain regions are warming faster than lower elevations and such warming can accelerate many other environmental changes such as glacial melt and vegetation change, but scientists urgently need more and better data to confirm this. If we are right and mountains are warming more rapidly than other environments, the social and economic consequences could be serious, and we could see more dramatic changes much sooner than previously thought."


Big Insurance Companies Are Warning The U.S. To Prepare For Climate Change

by Emily Atkin Posted on April 21, 2015

A coalition of big insurance companies, consumer groups, and environmental advocates are urging the United States to overhaul its disaster policies in the face of increasingly extreme weather due to human-caused climate change.

According to a report released Tuesday by the SmarterSafer coalition, the U.S. needs to increase how much it spends on pre-disaster mitigation efforts and infrastructure protection. That way, it asserts, the U.S. can stop wasting so much money on cleaning up after a disaster happens.

“Our current natural disaster policy framework focuses heavily on responding to disasters, rather than putting protective measures in place to reduce our vulnerability and limit a disaster’s impact,” the report reads. “This needlessly exposes Americans to greater risks to life and property and results in much higher costs to the federal government.”

The SmarterSafer coalition is made up of more than 30 different groups, including some of the biggest insurance companies in the world: Allianz, Liberty Mutual, SwissRe, and USAA, to name a few. Adequately dealing with the risks of climate change is inherently important to the insurance industry, as failure to prepare can lead to increased costs for insurance companies when storms wipe out basements and take out walls.

Making sure the government is prepared is important for private insurers too. Because if governments don’t fortify their infrastructure, the damage can fall onto the companies. A good example is Farmers Insurance Co., which sued local governments in the Chicago area last year for failing to prepare for climate change (the lawsuits have since been dropped). That lack of preparedness, the lawsuits said, caused sewers to burst into people’s homes and property values to decline — damage that Farmers had to pay for.


There’s little question that disaster costs have increased in the last several decades. Since the Stafford Act was passed in 1988, the report notes that disaster declaration have steadily escalated — from 16 declarations in 1988 to 242 declarations in 2011.

The reasons for those increased disaster costs are two-fold, the report says. For one, the economy has grown since 1980, and there’s been more development — meaning there are bigger and more expensive structures to be damaged when extreme events hit. The other reason, it asserts, is climate change, which is increasing the risks that bad storms will occur across the country.

One of the biggest climate risks is sea level rise, which has increased both the frequency and length of minor coastal flooding — also called “nuisance flooding.” Whereas nuisance flooding along the Atlantic, Gulf, and West Coasts only occurred less than once per year at any given location in the 1950s, it now occurs on average about once every three months, the report says.

In addition, periods of very heavy precipitation have increased in every region of the country except Hawaii since 1958, according to the National Climate Assessment. That’s been particularly bad in the Northeast and Midwest, which have seen 71 percent and 37 percent increases in very heavy precipitation, respectively.

While those projections may not be alarming to some, they are certainly red flags for the insurance industry — a business which is based almost solely on credible estimation of risk. And the risks are growing, the report notes — if global action on climate change is not taken, sea level rise is projected to increase anywhere from 8.4 inches to 6.6 feet above 1992 levels, according to the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration. Risks of heavy precipitation, wildfires, and heat waves are also projected to increase.


Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Impoverished Indian farmer hangs self at protest

April 22, 2015

NEW DELHI -- An impoverished Indian farmer died Wednesday after hanging himself in front of hundreds of other farmers who had gathered for a protest in the capital.

It was the latest in a wave of suicides that has left at least 40 farmers dead in recent weeks - and some 300,000 dead since 1995.


According to a note he left behind and which police recovered, Gajendra Singh said he killed himself after his father, left with nothing after rainstorms destroyed their crops, forced him from the family home.

"I have three children. I don't have the money to feed my children. Hence, I want to commit suicide," said the handwritten note.

Police said the dead man was from outside the town of Dausa in western Rajasthan state. Rajasthan officials say heavy rains there have destroyed 30 percent of crops, though farmers say the amount is much higher.

The man's uncle, Gopal Singh, said the family owned 9 acres of land where they grew wheat, but that the rains had almost completely destroyed the crops.

"No one in the village has received any compensation from the government," said Singh, who was driving into New Delhi to retrieve his nephew's body.

State officials across north India have promised financial help to farmers who lost their crops - and who are often indebted to local loan sharks who advanced them money for seeds and fertilizers - but those payments have been slowed by bureaucracy and corruption, activists say.


March 2015 Easily Set The Record For Hottest March Ever Recorded

by Joe Romm Posted on April 20, 2015

This was easily the hottest March — and hottest January-to-March — on record, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. NOAA’s latest monthly report makes clear Mother Nature is just getting warmed up:

March 2015 was not only the hottest March in their 135-year of keeping records, it beat “the previous record of 2010 by 0.09°F (0.05°C).”
January-to-March was not only the hottest start to any year on record, it also beat “the previous record of 2002 by 0.09°F.”
March was so warm that only two other months ever had a higher “departure from average” (i.e. temperature above the norm), February 1998 and January 2007, and they only beat March by “just 0.01°C (0.02°F).”
Arctic sea ice hit its smallest March extent since records began in 1979.


U.S. Warming Fast Since 1st Earth Day

April 22, 2015

[See the link above for the map.]

It’s been 45 years since the first Earth Day was celebrated in 1970, and since that time, average temperatures have been rising across the U.S. This Climate Central interactive graphic shows a state-by-state analysis of those temperature trends.

Average temperatures across most of the continental U.S. have been rising gradually for more than a century, at a rate of about 0.13°F per decade between 1910-2014. That trend parallels an overall increase in average global temperatures, which is largely the result of human greenhouse gas emissions. While global warming isn’t uniform, and some regions are warming faster than others, since the 1970s, warming across the U.S. has accelerated, previously shown in our report The Heat is On. Since then, every state’s annual average temperature has risen accordingly. On average, temperatures in the contiguous 48 states have been warming at a rate of 0.45°F per decade since 1970.

New Mexico is the fastest-warming state since 1970, warming at a rate of 0.63°F per decade. Vermont, Arizona, Delaware, and New Jersey are warming nearly as fast, and all are warming about twice as fast as the global average. The slowest-warming states, Iowa, Alabama, Missouri, and Georgia – warming just under 0.3°F per decade since 1970 — are on pace with average global temperatures.


Babies feel pain 'like adults'

Public Release: 21-Apr-2015
University of Oxford

The brains of babies 'light up' in a very similar way to adults when exposed to the same painful stimulus, a pioneering Oxford University brain scanning study has discovered. It suggests that babies experience pain much like adults.


The researchers found that 18 of the 20 brain regions active in adults experiencing pain were active in babies. Scans also showed that babies' brains had the same response to a weak 'poke' (of force 128mN) as adults did to a stimulus four times as strong (512mN). The findings suggest that not only do babies experience pain much like adults but that they also have a much lower pain threshold.


No association found between MMR vaccine and autism, even among children at higher risk

Public Release: 21-Apr-2015
The JAMA Network Journals

In a study that included approximately 95,000 children with older siblings, receipt of the measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine was not associated with an increased risk of autism spectrum disorders (ASD), regardless of whether older siblings had ASD, findings that indicate no harmful association between receipt of MMR vaccine and ASD even among children already at higher risk for ASD, according to a study in the April 21 issue of JAMA, a theme issue on child health.


Protest by low-paid workers for Senate

Deborah Montesano
April 22, 2015

An eloquent plea went out from a cook for the U.S. Senate as he prepared to participate in a strike on Wednesday. The day-long walkout by low-wage workers in Washington’s federal buildings was organized by Good Jobs Nation. It includes janitors and food handlers.

Bertrand Olotara, the cook in question, wrote a powerful editorial for The Guardian, illustrating why the walkout is necessary. He wrote:

“I am walking off my job because I want the presidential hopefuls to know that I live in poverty.”

He’s a single father who makes $12 an hour. Even though he has a second job and works 70 hours a week, he struggles to make ends meet. Paying the rent, buying school supplies, feeding his children — all are difficult in spite of working many times more hours than the senators he serves. Even clocking in for 70 hours, he has to rely on assistance to feed his children.

“I hate to admit it, but I have to use food stamps so that my kids don’t go to bed hungry.

“I’ve done everything that politicians say you need to do to get ahead and stay ahead: I work hard and play by the rules; I even graduated from college and worked as a substitute teacher for five years. But I got laid-off and now I’m stuck trying to make ends meet with dead-end service jobs.”

Olotara laments that senators neither notice nor seem to care about the poverty of the workers that surround them. Actually, the situation is even worse than a case of apathy. The GOP is actively hostile toward these workers.


Good Jobs Nation isn’t bothering to address the hopeless, GOP-dominated Congress. Their rally on the front lawn of the U.S. Capitol has a very specific goal. They want to convince President Obama and the array of presidential hopefuls that the executive branch must intervene to stop federal contractors from exploiting workers with low wages and the absence of benefits.

The demands of the protestors are straightforward. They want two executive orders. One would award contracts to employers who paid at least $15 an hour, with benefits. The other would support workers’ collective bargaining rights.


It is even more telling that it’s the foreign press that is reporting the story. Anyone checking the links in what I’ve written here will see that they come from The Guardian in the UK and Al Jazeera America. Good luck finding it in the mainstream press. I know because I tried. American media may come late to the story, after the rally is long gone, but they fail at providing these low-wage workers with visibility.
[Same thing happened with Occupy Wall Street.]


Cannabis consumers show greater susceptibility to false memories

Public Release: 21-Apr-2015
Universitat Autonoma de Barcelona

The study conducted at Sant Pau and Bellvitge hospitals, published in the American journal Molecular Psychiatry and conducted with the use of neuroimaging techniques, demonstrates for the first time that cannabis consumers have a less active hippocampus, a key structure related to the storage of memories.

Consumers of cannabis show distortions in their memories and can even come to imagine situations which differ from reality.

The study compared the memories of consumers to that of non-consumers to find differences in the retention of situations and experiences.

The chronic use of cannabis can accentuate age-related memory problems.


One of the known consequences of consuming this drug is the memory problems it can cause. Chronic consumers show more difficulties than the general population in retaining new information and recovering memories. The new study also reveals that the chronic use of cannabis causes distortions in memory, making it easier for imaginary or false memories to appear.

On occasions, the brain can remember things that never happened. Our memory consists of a malleable process which is created progressively and therefore is subject to distortions or even false memories. These memory "mistakes" are seen more frequently in several neurological and psychiatric disorders, but can also be observed in the healthy population, and become more common as we age. One of the most common false memories we have are of situations from our childhood which we believe to remember because the people around us have explained them to us over and over again.


The study found memory deficiencies despite the fact that participants had stopped consuming cannabis one month before participating in the study. Although they had not consumed the drug in a month, the more the patient had used cannabis throughout their life, the lower the level of activity in the hippocampus, key to storing memories.


Texas Popeyes manager fired for not paying back $400 robber stole at gunpoint

BY Meg Wagner
Wednesday, April 22, 2015

A pregnant Texas Popeyes manager says she was fired because she couldn’t pay back money stolen from her at gunpoint during her shift at the cash register.

An armed robber took about $400 from the Channelview chicken outpost last month. Shift manager Marissa Holcomb was working behind the counter when he stormed in, grabbed her by her shirt and demanded the cash.

Less than two days after the harrowing ordeal, Holcomb’s mangers demanded she pay back the stolen money. When she refused to replenish the lost cash, she was fired, she said.


The Popeyes franchise owner, Z&H Foods Inc., said Holcomb was keeping too much cash in the register — a violation of store policy — when the gunman robbed the store on March 31. She should have moved some of the money to the shop’s safe, the company said.

It was not the first time she broke the restaurant’s rules, mangers told the TV station.

But Holcomb said she didn’t intend to leave that much cash in the register. The restaurant was running a $1.19 two-piece chicken special that day, and the Popeyes was swamped with diners. She moved cash to the safe when she could, but with so many hungry customers, it was hard to find the time, she said.

The gunman — who jumped over the counter, shoved Holcomb and pointed a gun at her before dashing off with the cash — is still on the lam.

[If she had left her post while customers were waiting, to put the cash in the safe, they would have criticized her for that.]\


Electronic cigarettes are not a 'safe alternative' for young people

Public Release: 21-Apr-2015
Mary Ann Liebert, Inc./Genetic Engineering News

Although heavily promoted as a safer cigarette and an aid to quit smoking, electronic cigarettes and the nicotine they deliver pose particular risks to the developing brains and organs of children. Use of electronic cigarettes by school-age children has surpassed traditional cigarette smoking, and it is critical to recognize and understand the risks related to nicotine exposure, addiction, and the poor regulation of these products,


Failing to provide for kids leads to aggression and delinquency, according to new study

Public Release: 21-Apr-2015
University at Buffalo

A new study by two researchers in the University at Buffalo School of Social Work has shown that parents who chronically neglect their children contribute to the likelihood that they will develop aggressive and delinquent tendencies later in adolescence, and the one factor that links neglect with those behaviors appears to be poor social skills.


"When you have a neglected child whose basic needs are not being met, they're not getting the socialization that enables them to grow to be a happy adolescent and adult," says Patricia Logan-Greene, whose study with Annette Semanchin Jones will appear in a forthcoming issue of Child Abuse & Neglect.

Logan-Greene says failing to provide for children may result in poor hygiene or a tendency toward illness, making some of them unappealing to their peers.

"These children are often rejected and lack the kind of social stimulation that would lead them to have positive, strong, social ties," she says.


The researchers also found that boys are more likely to respond to chronic neglect with aggressive or delinquent behavior than girls. Although the research did not address what's responsible for that difference, historically boys have been more prone to engage in aggressive behavior than girls, but over the past 20 years that margin of difference has been decreasing. Women are the fastest growing population in both the juvenile and adult criminal justice systems, according to Logan-Greene.

Parkinson's patient experiences symptom relief with new medication

Public Release: 21-Apr-2015
University of Kentucky

To date, a cure for Parkinson's disease remains elusive for the more than 50,000 Americans diagnosed yearly, despite decades of intensive study. But a newly approved treatment that might help ease the symptoms of Parkinson's has shown remarkable promise.

John Slevin, MD, MBA, Professor of Neurology and Vice Chair of Research at UK's Kentucky Neuroscience Institute, worked with a team of international investigators to explore the efficacy of continuous levodopa dosing using a specially developed gel called CLES (Duopa®) that is delivered directly into the small intestine by a portable infusion pump.

"We were extremely pleased with the results," Dr. Slevin said. "Patients with advanced PD treated via this new method demonstrated marked improvement in symptom fluctuations with reduced dyskinesia."

According to Dr. Slevin, CLES's effectiveness is due in part to the fact that it results in more stable plasma concentrations of levodopa by delivering it directly to the small intestine, which bypasses issues of erratic gastric emptying and absorption caused by reduced muscular function inherent to PD.


The FDA approved CLES in January 2015. Because the safety and efficacy of levodopa is already established, this treatment has the potential to be fast-tracked for widespread use within the next 4-6 months.

The causes of musicians’ deaths, by genre

By Ana Swanson April 15, 2015

Dianna Theadora Kenny, a professor of psychology and music at the University of Sydney, is conducting a statistical study of premature death among musicians. She found that musicians from older genres – including blues, jazz, country and gospel – have similar lifespans to American people their own age. The life expectancy for R&B musicians is slightly lower, while the life expectancy for newer genres like rock, techno, punk, metal, rap and hip hop is significantly shorter.

Within each genre, the cause of an early death varies significantly. Kenny found that the music genre was more closely associated with the causes of mortality than gender or age – suggesting that the genre has a very strong influence on how a musician lives his or her life. The chart below shows those correlations.

[See the link above for the chart]

Perhaps unsurprisingly, Kenny finds that accidents – including car crashes and drug overdoses – are a huge cause of premature death for musicians, accounting for almost 20 percent of all deaths across genres. But accidents are much more likely to kill rock, metal and punk musicians. Punk and metal musicians also appear susceptible to suicide, while gospel musicians had the lowest suicide rate of all genres. Homicide accounted for 6 percent of deaths, but was the cause of death for an incredible half of rap and hip hop musicians in Kenny’s sample.


Portishead reveals exactly how much money it makes from streaming services

Portishead’s Geoff Barrow recently took to Twitter to share exactly how much money the band actually earned from its 34 million streams last year. His estimate: After taxes he was left with £1,700, or around $2,511


Tuesday, April 21, 2015

CEOs to world leaders: Get off your asses and fix climate change

By Suzanne Jacobs on 17 Apr 2015


today, 43 CEOs of major international corporations might be off the hook. In an open letter to world leaders, these bigwigs, whose companies collectively raked in $1.2 trillion last year, politely asked for some actual shit to get done at the Paris climate talks this December.

They want solid emissions-reduction targets from each country, a price on carbon, an increase in renewable energy research, and an end to deforestation (among other things). In return, they pledge to reduce their companies’ carbon footprints, consider climate change when making big decisions in their big boardrooms, and act as “ambassadors for climate action” who will raise awareness about climate change and shift the public dialogue toward solutions, rather than debate.


The list of companies they represent includes Volvo, Unilever, Dow Chemical, IKEA, Toshiba, and Royal Philips.

This letter follows a similar call to action in February from another group of CEOs, called the B Team, which includes the leaders of Unilever, Virgin, and Tata International.


Monday, April 20, 2015

Excess dietary supplements shown to increase cancer risk

Maybe the excess is used for nourishment by the cancer cells?

Public Release: 20-Apr-2015
University of Colorado Denver

While dietary supplements may be advertised to promote health, a forum at the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) Annual Meeting 2015 by University of Colorado Cancer Center investigator Tim Byers, MD, MPH, describes research showing that over-the-counter supplements may actually increase cancer risk if taken in excess of the recommended daily amount.


"When we first tested dietary supplements in animal models we found that the results were promising," says Byers. "Eventually we were able to move on to the human populations. We studied thousands of patients for ten years who were taking dietary supplements and placebos."

The results were not what they expected.

"We found that the supplements were actually not beneficial for their health. In fact, some people actually got more cancer while on the vitamins," explains Byers.

One trial exploring the effects of beta-keratin supplements showed that taking more than the recommended dosage increased the risk for developing both lung cancer and heart disease by 20 percent. Folic acid, which was thought to help reduce the number of polyps in a colon, actually increased the number in another trial.


"At the end of the day we have discovered that taking extra vitamins and minerals do more harm than good," says Byers.

Decreasing biodiversity affects productivity of remaining plants

Public Release: 20-Apr-2015
University of Alaska Fairbanks

When plant biodiversity declines, the remaining plants face diminishing productivity, say scientists in study published April 20 in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.


Vitamin D deficiency common in patients with lung disease

Public Release: 20-Apr-2015

A new study from Korea has uncovered a high prevalence of vitamin D deficiency in individuals with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), as well as a significant relationship between vitamin D deficiency and airflow limitations. Exercise capacity also tended to be decreased in participants with vitamin D deficiency.

"About 80% of the 193 patients with COPD in the study had vitamin D deficiency compared with 40% to 60% of Koreans in the general population," said Dr. Sang-Do Lee, senior author of the Respirology study.

Key to better sex ed: Focus on gender & power

Public Release: 17-Apr-2015
Population Council

A new analysis by Population Council researcher Nicole Haberland provides powerful evidence that sexuality and HIV education programs addressing gender and power in intimate relationships are far more likely to be effective than programs that do not. The research appears in the March 2015 issue of International Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health, published by the Guttmacher Institute.


According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, young people in the United States aged 15-24 account for half of all new sexually transmitted infections. Globally, young people in this age range account for 40 percent of all new HIV infections, according to UNAIDS.


Studies have shown that when people hold biased beliefs about appropriate roles and behavior for males and females, or when they report unequal power in their intimate relationships, they are more likely to experience poor reproductive health outcomes. For example, women who report low power in their sexual relationships tend to have higher rates of STIs and HIV infection than women who report more equitable relationships. Thus, some programs and researchers theorized that sexuality education should help young people reflect critically about issues of gender and power in relationships.


Haberland found that the impact of including gender or power content was dramatic. "The programs that addressed gender or power were five times more likely to be effective than those that did not," said Haberland. "Fully 80 percent of them were associated with a significantly lower rate of STIs or unintended pregnancy. In contrast, among the programs that did not address gender or power, only 17 percent had such an association. It is striking that the two sets of programs--sexuality education programs that address gender and power and programs that do not--have nearly opposite outcomes."


Kids with ADHD must squirm to learn, study says

Public Release: 17-Apr-2015
University of Central Florida

For decades, frustrated parents and teachers have barked at fidgety children with ADHD to "Sit still and concentrate!"

But new research shows that if you want ADHD kids to learn, you have to let them squirm. The foot-tapping, leg-swinging and chair-scooting movements of children with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder are actually vital to how they remember information and work out complex cognitive tasks, according to a study published in an early online release of the Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology.

The findings show the longtime prevailing methods for helping children with ADHD may be misguided.

"The typical interventions target reducing hyperactivity. It's exactly the opposite of what we should be doing for a majority of children with ADHD," said one of the study's authors, Mark Rapport, head of the Children's Learning Clinic at the University of Central Florida. "The message isn't 'Let them run around the room,' but you need to be able to facilitate their movement so they can maintain the level of alertness necessary for cognitive activities."


Epilepsy drug may preserve eyesight for people with MS

Public Release: 16-Apr-2015
American Academy of Neurology

A drug commonly taken to prevent seizures in epilepsy may surprisingly protect the eyesight of people with multiple sclerosis (MS), according to a study released today that will be presented at the American Academy of Neurology's 67th Annual Meeting in Washington, DC, April 18 to 25, 2015.

"About half of people with MS experience at some point in their life a condition called acute optic neuritis, in which the nerve carrying vision from the eye to the brain gets inflamed," said study author Raj Kapoor, MD, with the National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery in London, England. "The condition can cause sudden total or partial blindness, foggy or blackened vision and pain. Even though eyesight can recover eventually, each attack still damages the nerve and the eye."

For the study, the researchers randomly selected 86 people with acute optic neuritis within two weeks of having symptoms to receive either the epilepsy drug phenytoin or a placebo for three months. The researchers then used medical imaging to measure the thickness of the retina, the light sensitive nerve layer at the back of the eye at the beginning of the study and then six months later. Each patient's eyesight (including sharpness and color perception) was also tested.

The study found on average that the group who took phenytoin had 30 per cent less damage to the nerve fiber layer compared to those who received the placebo. The volume of the macula, the most light-sensitive part of the retina, was actually 34 percent higher in those who took phenytoin than those who received the placebo. As expected after a single attack, patients' vision successfully recovered, and there weren't any significant differences in visual outcomes over the long-term between the two treatment groups.


Adverse childhood events appear to increase the risk of being a hypertensive adult

Public Release: 16-Apr-2015
Medical College of Georgia at Georgia Regents University

Children who experience multiple traumatic events, from emotional and sexual abuse to neglect, have higher blood pressures as young adults than their peers, researchers report.

The difference of 10 points in the systolic pressure - the top number denoting pressure while the heart is contracting - by early adulthood puts these young people at higher risk for hypertension and coronary artery disease by middle and/or old age, said Dr. Shaoyong Su, genetic epidemiologist at the Medical College of Georgia at Georgia Regents University.


"That is a big difference," said Su, corresponding author of the study in the American Heart Association journal Circulation. "You can predict that five years later, these young people may be hypertensive." He noted that an exponential increase in pressure correlated with an increasing number of bad events.

ACEs include emotional, physical, and sexual abuse; emotional and physical neglect; and household dysfunction, such as substance abuse or domestic violence. MCG researchers found the blood pressure increase resulting from experiencing multiple ACEs wasn't fully explained by known concurrent risk factors such as being male, black, a low socioeconomic status, inactivity, obesity, and smoking.


About 70 percent of the children from the Richmond County public school system reported at least one ACE; 18 percent reported more than three. About 30 percent of that 18 percent came from well-educated families with good incomes. In fact, in conflict with associations between ACEs and a lower socioeconomic status, the researchers found that 50 percent of their participants with a history of childhood abuse and 40 percent who reported neglect came from medium or high income families. While the blood pressure of black males tended to run higher generally and blacks had slightly more exposure to ACEs, there was not a significant difference in the impact of ACEs on blood pressure between blacks and whites, the researchers found.


The Adverse Childhood Experience Study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in collaboration with Kaiser Permanente's Health Appraisal Clinic in San Diego looked at more than 17,000 adults who also provided information about ACEs. While there have been more than 50 papers published on the findings, overall findings suggest that the experiences are risk factors for many of the leading causes of illness and death as well as poor life quality. About 12.5 percent of participants had experienced four or more ACEs.


Su notes that percentages of children experiencing ACEs are similar whether looking across Georgia, the nation, or the world. His study participants were not asked how often or how long their bad experiences occurred, just whether they had one or more from the different categories.

UCLA demographer produces best estimate yet of Cambodia's death toll under Pol Pot

Public Release: 16-Apr-2015
University of California - Los Angeles

The death toll in Cambodia under Khmer Rouge leader Pol Pot was most likely between 1.2 million and 2.8 million -- or between 13 percent and 30 percent of the country's population at the time -- according to a forthcoming article by a UCLA demographer.

April 17 is the 40th anniversary of the Khmer Rouge's capture of the capital of Cambodia -- beginning a four-year period that many consider to be a genocide. For decades, researchers have sought to pinpoint the death toll from political executions, disease, starvation and forced labor inflicted under the Khmer Rouge.


The simulations also revealed that a range of 1.5 million to 2.25 million has nearly a 70 percent chance of containing the actual death toll, he found. The probability that the figure was less than 1.5 million is about 15 percent, and the probability that it was more than 2.25 million is also about 15 percent, he found.