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

Saturday, July 04, 2015

Pseudo-Patriots - 7/9/2014 added link to video

The sheet music is available free at

Video at following link.

The instrumental created from the program that created the sheet music is available at

copyright Patricia M. Shannon 1996

They say that they are patriots because they love to wave the flag,
but they throw their trash along the road, and pour used oil down the drain.
They say that they are patriots because the pledge they love to say,
but they never bother to turn out the lights when they go home for the day.

How can we be patriots and not do all we can
to protect the earth upon which all our lives depend?
How can we be patriots and not help our fellow men?
What else is a country, but its people and its land?

They say that they are patriots because, they will always choose
to vote to build more prisons, while cutting funding for our schools.
They say that they are patriots, Star Spangled Banner they do sing,
but to their big gas-guzzlers they selfishly do cling.

How can we be patriots and not do all we can
to prevent the earth from turning into barren sands?
How can we be patriots and not lend a helping hand?
What else is a country, but its people and its land?

They say that they are patriots, because it fills them with such glee
to send our young folks overseas to be killed by enemies.
They say that they are patriots, but they would never think
to tutor some poor kids to help them stay out of the clink.

A country's not a piece of cloth, or words we say by rote;
a country's not a song we sing before we watch a sport.
And love's not just a feeling, it's something that we do,
every day, in every way, in everything we choose.

Friday, July 03, 2015

Justice Kagan’s Blistering Response To The Supreme Court’s Ruling On Mercury Pollution

by Natasha Geiling Posted on June 29, 2015

In a 5-4 ruling Monday, the Supreme Court found fault with the EPA’s regulation of toxic heavy metal pollution from coal and oil-fired plants, claiming that the agency failed to prove the regulations “appropriate and necessary” because they did not initially take costs into consideration.

To Justice Elena Kagan, who wrote the Court’s dissent, that reasoning failed to acknowledge all the other times the EPA took cost into consideration throughout the regulatory process.

As Kagan wrote:

That is a peculiarly blinkered way for a court to assess the lawfulness of an agency’s rulemaking. I agree with the majority — let there be no doubt about this — that EPA’s power plant regulation would be unreasonable if ‘[t]he Agency gave cost no thought at all.’ … But that is just not what happened here. Over more than a decade, EPA took costs into account at multiple stages and through multiple means as it set emissions limits for power plants. And when making its initial ‘appropriate and necessary’ finding, EPA knew it would do exactly that — knew it would thoroughly consider the cost-effectiveness of emissions standards later on. That context matters.


Thomson Reuters Posted: Jul 03, 2015

As Germany and Spain sweated and London sweltered through its hottest July day on record this week, scientists said it is "virtually certain" that climate change is increasing the likelihood of such heat waves in Europe.

In real-time data analysis released on Friday, a team of international climate scientists from universities, meteorological services and research organizations said the kind of heat waves hitting Europe this week - defined as three-day periods of excessive heat - are becoming much more frequent in the region.

In De Bilt in the Netherlands, for example, a heat wave like the one forecast for the next few days would have been a roughly one-in-30-years event in the 1900s, according to the scientists. It is now likely to happen every three-and-a-half years, they said.

In Mannheim, Germany, a heat wave like that of the last few days would have been a once-in-a-century event in the 1900s, but is now likely to happen about every 15 years, they said.

London also saw its hottest recorded July day on Wednesday, with temperatures at Heathrow Airport hitting 36.7 C (98.1F), the scientists noted.


The Netherlands Central Bureau of Statistics has predicted that on average 200 more people will die in that country each week during a heat wave, a 10 per cent rise in deaths.

Deaths among the isolated elderly are a particular problem, and accounted for a big share of the estimated 70,000 additional people who died in France and other European nations during a 2003 heat wave.

At that time, "people were really caught unawares by the combination of rising risk and changing structure of society", van Aalst said.

Traditionally, extended families have looked after the elderly in places like France, he said. But social changes now mean many more older people live alone in cities, with no one to ensure they do basic things like drink enough water in the heat.


Restaurant meals can be as bad for your waistline as fast food is

I cook most of my food from scratch, w/o added fat, usually w/o salt.

Public Release: 1-Jul-2015
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

When Americans go out to eat, either at a fast-food outlet or a full-service restaurant, they consume, on average, about 200 more calories a day than when they stay home for meals, a new study reports. They also take in more fat, saturated fat, cholesterol and sodium than those who prepare and eat their meals at home.


His analysis, reported in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, revealed that eating at a restaurant is comparable to - or in some cases less healthy than - eating at a fast-food outlet. While people who eat at restaurants tend to take in more healthy nutrients - including certain vitamins, potassium and omega-3 fatty acids - than those who eat at home or at a fast-food outlet, the restaurant diners also consume substantially more sodium and cholesterol - two nutrients that Americans generally eat in excess, even at home. (See graphic.)

"People who ate at full-service restaurants consumed significantly more cholesterol per day than people who ate at home," An said. "This extra intake of cholesterol, about 58 milligrams per day, accounts for 20 percent of the recommended upper bound of total cholesterol intake of 300 milligrams per day."

Those who ate at fast-food outlets also took in extra cholesterol, but only about 10 milligrams more than those who ate at home.

Fast-food and restaurant diners consumed about 10 grams more total fat, and 3.49 grams and 2.46 grams, respectively, more saturated fat than those who dined at home.


Eating at a fast-food outlet adds about 300 milligrams of sodium to one's daily intake, and restaurant dining boosts sodium intake by 412 milligrams per day, on average, An said. Recommendations for sodium intake vary between 1,500 and 2,300 milligrams per day, but Americans already consume more than 3,100 milligrams of sodium at home, he found.

"The additional sodium is even more worrisome because the average daily sodium intake among Americans is already so far above the recommended upper limit, posing a significant public health concern, such as hypertension and heart disease," he said.

An also found striking differences in the effects of dining out on different groups.

"African-Americans who ate at fast-food and full-service restaurants took in more total fat, saturated fat, sodium and sugar than their Caucasian and Hispanic counterparts who dined out," An said. "The effect of fast-food restaurant consumption on daily total energy intake appeared larger among people with lower educational attainment," An said. "And people in the middle-income range had the highest daily intake of total energy, total fat, saturated fat and sodium when they dined at full-service restaurants."

The obese also consumed more calories at fast-food restaurants, and took in more total energy, total fat, saturated fat, cholesterol and sodium when eating at full-service restaurants than their normal-weight and overweight (but not obese) peers, An found.

"These findings reveal that eating at a full-service restaurant is not necessarily healthier than eating at a fast-food outlet," An said. "In fact, you may be at higher risk of overeating in a full-service restaurant than when eating fast-food. My advice to those hoping to consume a healthy diet and not overeat is that it is healthier to prepare your own foods, and to avoid eating outside the home whenever possible."

Turkish glaciers shrink by half

By Laura Rocchio,
Landsat Communications Team
July 2, 2015

Researchers and citizens have known for some time that Turkey’s glaciers are shrinking. Now scientists have calculated the losses and found that more than half of the ice cover in this mountainous country has vanished since the 1970s. A team of researchers from Ege University (Turkey) and NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center analyzed four decades of Landsat satellite data to document this steady decline. The team, led by Dogukan Dogu Yavasli (Ege), published their results in June 2015 in the journal Remote Sensing of Environment.

The map above shows the proportional percent change of the 14 main Turkish glaciers that existed in the 1970s. Over 40 years, the total glacial area fell from 25 square kilometers (10 square miles) in the 1970s to 10.85 km2(4.19 mi2) in 2012-2013. Five of the glaciers have completely disappeared.


What veto-proof majority?

From a Facebook friend:

Every time a conservative brings up that worn-out old lie that Democrats had a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate for the first two years of the Obama administration and there was was no excuse for them getting anything done that they wanted, I always remind them of this.....

Al Franken of MN wasn’t seated until July of 2009 because of the vote recount and legal quagmire that ensued from his senatorial race with Norm Coleman. That gave the Dems a 60 vote filibuster-proof majority for 7 weeks until Ted Kennedy’s death on Aug 25th. It wasn’t until a month later on Sept 25th that Paul Kirk was sworn in to temporarily fill Kennedy’s seat, once again giving the Dems their 60 votes until the special election that was held 3 months later and won by Republican Scott Brown.

So for that 2-year period where the righties claim that the Dems were in COMPLETE control with a filibuster-proof Senate, it actually was a total period of only FIVE MONTHS. During that short period, conservative Senate Dems Blanche Lincoln (D-AR) and Ben Nelson (D-NE) always sided with the Republicans on the filibusters, making it impossible to pass any legislation that was sent up to them from the Democratically controlled House. It was the abuse of the filibuster by the conservatives in the Senate that brought the legislative wheels of Congress to a halt…… and then the Republicans pointed to Obama and whined and bitched about him not doing anything to address the problems of the country, considering he had two FULL years of TOTAL control of Congress to do so.... another complete bullshit lie from the GOP.

How St. John's Wort can make you sick

Public Release: 1-Jul-2015
University of Adelaide

St John's Wort can produce the same adverse reactions as antidepressants, and serious side effects can occur when the two are taken together, according to new University of Adelaide research.

In a study published this month in the journal, Clinical and Experimental Pharmacology and Physiology, researchers compared the pattern of spontaneous reported adverse drug reactions to St John's Wort, a herbal treatment for depression, and fluoxetine, a commonly prescribed antidepressant. They found the adverse reactions were the same for people who took St John's Wort as it was for those who took fluoxetine.

University of Adelaide pharmacology PhD student Claire Hoban says St John's Wort, like all herbal medicines, is a drug. Importantly, it is a drug that can cause serious side effects such as dangerous increases in body temperature and blood pressure.

"There is a common belief that because something is natural and can be purchased from a health food shop without a prescription, it's safe. However, people need to start thinking of St John's Wort, and other herbal medicines, as a drug and seek advice from a qualified healthcare practitioner to be sure they use it safely," says Mrs Hoban. "It's concerning to see such severe adverse reactions in our population, when people believe they are doing something proactive for their health with little risk.

"During 2000-2013, we found 84 reports of adverse reactions to St John's Wort and 447 to fluoxetine. While there were fewer confirmed cases of side effects for St John's Wort, we know that less people use St John's Wort and adverse reactions for herbal medicines largely go unreported because they are not considered drugs.

"Furthermore, we found that the reported reactions for St John's Wort were very similar to fluoxetine, which included anxiety, panic attacks, dizziness, vomiting, amnesia and aggression," she says.

Dr Ian Musgrave says the real danger is that people can access St John's Wort without a prescription so there is no control over the dosage or what drugs people are using it with.

"Most people taking St John's Wort will not have any adverse reactions; however, those who do take it should tell their doctor and pharmacist," says Dr Musgrave.

"It's important that doctors and pharmacists know about all the drugs their patients take, not just prescription drugs, because herbal medicines like St John's Wort can have serious reactions with some pharmacy medicines, like antidepressants, the contraceptive pill and some blood thinners.

"Based on this research, I'd also like to see bottles of St John's Wort containing improved warnings of the potential adverse reactions," he says.

Doing good deeds helps socially anxious people relax

Public Release: 1-Jul-2015

Being busy with acts of kindness can help people who suffer from social anxiety to mingle more easily. This is the opinion of Canadian researchers Jennifer Trew of Simon Fraser University and Lynn Alden of the University of British Columbia, in a study published in Springer's journal Motivation and Emotion.

Sufferers from social anxiety are more than just a little shy. Dealings with others might make them feel so threatened or anxious that they often actively avoid socializing. Although this protects them from angst and possible embarrassment, they lose out on the support and intimacy gained from having relationships with others. They have fewer friends, feel insecure when interacting with others, and often do not experience emotional intimacy even in close relationships.

Performing acts of kindness to the benefit of others is known to increase happiness and may lead to positive interactions and perceptions of the world at large.


Undergraduate students who experience high levels of social anxiety were enrolled in the study. The 115 participants were randomly assigned into three groups for the four-week intervention period. One group performed acts of kindness, such as doing a roommate's dishes, mowing a neighbour's lawn, or donating to a charity. The second group was only exposed to social interactions and was not asked to engage in such deeds, while the third group participated in no specific intervention and simply recorded what happened each day.

A greater overall reduction in patients' desire to avoid social situations was found among the group who actively lent a helping hand. This effect was most notable in the initial phase of the intervention. The findings therefore support the value of acts of kindness as an avoidance reduction strategy. It helps to counter feelings of possible rejection and temporary levels of anxiety and distress. It also does so faster than was the case for the participants who were merely exposed to social interactions without engaging in good deeds.

According to Trew and Alden, interventions involving acts of kindness may over time help socially anxious people lead more satisfying and engaging lives, and see changes in their disposition.

"Acts of kindness may help to counter negative social expectations by promoting more positive perceptions and expectations of a person's social environment," explains Trew. "It helps to reduce their levels of social anxiety and, in turn, makes them less likely to want to avoid social situations."


Producing fuel from Canada oil sands emits more carbon than from US crude

Public Release: 1-Jul-2015
American Chemical Society

The production of petroleum from Canada's oil sands is on the rise with much of it destined for U.S. refineries. As the U.S. takes stock of its greenhouse gas emissions, scientists report in the ACS journal Environmental Science & Technology that the current oil sands production of fuels from "well-to-wheels" releases about 20 percent more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere than making gasoline and diesel from conventional crudes.


Extreme heat and precipitation are increasing Salmonella infections, UMD study shows

Public Release: 1-Jul-2015
University of Maryland

Extreme heat and precipitation events, which are expected to increase in frequency and intensity due to climate change, are associated with increased risk of Salmonella infections, according to a study led by researchers from the University of Maryland School of Public Health. The study is the first to provide empirical evidence that Salmonella infections related to extreme weather events are disproportionately impacting those living in the coastal areas of Maryland.

"We found that extremely hot days and periods of extreme rainfall are contributing to Salmonella infections in Maryland, with the most dramatic impacts being seen in the coastal communities," said Dr. Amir Sapkota, associate professor in the Maryland Institute for Applied Environmental Health. "As we prepare for the future, we need to take this differential burden into account."

Salmonella, a group of food- and waterborne bacteria, is commonly found in raw poultry, eggs, beef, and unwashed produce. Salmonella causes an estimated 1.2 million cases of acute gastroenteritis (aka "stomach flu," with symptoms including diarrhea, fever, vomiting and abdominal cramps) in the United States each year. In Maryland, more than 9,500 cases of Salmonella infections (confirmed by cultures) were reported to the health department between 2002 and 2012. Past studies have suggested a connection between weather (temperature and rainfall) and Salmonella infections, also known as salmonellosis.

This new study identified extreme heat and precipitation events during 2002-2012 and linked them with the Salmonella infections data from the health department. The extreme events were identified using ~30 years of weather data (from 1960-1989) as the baseline. The research team, which included environmental epidemiologists, microbiologists, earth system scientists and officials from the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DHMH), observed that a one-unit increase in extreme heat and precipitation was associated with 4.1 percent and 5.6 percent increases in the risk of salmonellosis, respectively. The observed risk was considerably higher in coastal areas compared to non-coastal areas of Maryland: 5.1 percent versus 1.5 percent for extreme heat events, and 7.1 percent versus 3.6 percent for extreme precipitation events.


Bow ties and cuttlefish: Researchers gain new insight into a visual super sense

Public Release: 30-Jun-2015
University of Bristol

An experiment originally designed to test the visual abilities of octopuses and cuttlefish has given University of Bristol researchers an unprecedented insight into the human ability to perceive polarized light - the super sense that most of us don't even know we have.

We are all familiar with colour and brightness, but there is a third property of light, the 'polarization', which tells us the orientation in which the light waves are oscillating.


Animals, like bees and ants, use polarization patterns in the sky as a navigation aid. But few, even in the scientific community, are aware that humans can perceive the polarization of light with the naked eye too. We do so using 'Haidinger's brushes', a subtle visual effect, which appears like a yellow bow tie at right angles to the polarization angle.


Dr Temple explains: "You can see Haidinger's brushes if you look at a blank white portion of an LCD screen on a computer, tablet or phone. Tilt your head from side to side and faint yellow brushes should become visible. With practice, you can then see them in the blue parts of the sky at 90 degrees from the sun."


Innovative imaging study shows that the spinal cord learns on its own

Public Release: 30-Jun-2015

The spinal cord engages in its own learning of motor tasks independent of the brain, according to an innovative imaging study publishing on June 30th in Open Access journal PLOS Biology. The results of the study, conducted by Shahabeddin Vahdat, Ovidui Lungu, and principal investigator Julien Doyon, of the University of Montreal, Quebec, Canada, may offer new opportunities for rehabilitation after spinal cord injury.


Offering healthier options at carryout stores improves bottom line

Public Release: 30-Jun-2015
Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health

A pilot program designed to encourage mom and pop carryout shops in Baltimore to promote and sell healthier menu items not only improved eating habits, but also increased the stores' gross revenue by an average 25 percent, new Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health research found.

A key finding, published in the July/August issue of the American Journal of Health Promotion, is that not only were healthier options expanded in low-income, African-American neighborhoods, but that storeowners actually made money selling these foods -- which the researchers say should make it easier to convince more carryouts to alter their menus.


Vitamin A supplementation may cause the immune system to 'forget' past infections

Public Release: 30-Jun-2015
Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology

Although vitamin A supplementation can have profound health benefits when someone is deficient, new evidence is emerging to show that vitamin A supplementation above and beyond normal levels may have negative health consequences. A new research report published in the July 2015 issue of the Journal of Leukocyte Biology may help to explain why too much vitamin A can be harmful. Too much vitamin A shuts down the body's trained immunity, opening the door to infections to which we would otherwise be immune. This study adds to the arguments that vitamin A supplementation should only be done with clear biological and clinical arguments. Furthermore, it also suggests that low vitamin A concentrations in certain situations may even be "normal."

"This study helps to explain the mechanisms of anti-inflammatory effects of vitamin A
[Inflammation is part of the body's immune response.]


Too much citrus fruit consumption may be associated with increased melanoma risk

Public Release: 30-Jun-2015
American Society of Clinical Oncology

ASCO Perspective: Gary Schwartz, MD, ASCO Expert "This study adds to the growing discussion around food and cancer risk. While the findings are intriguing, it's far too soon to recommend any broad changes to grapefruit or orange consumption. Until conclusive data are available, we should continue to be cautious about protecting our skin from sun exposure."

A new analysis of dietary patterns among more than 100,000 Americans suggests that frequent consumption of citrus -- namely whole grapefruit and orange juice -- may be associated with an increased risk of melanoma. Melanoma risk was 36% higher in people who consumed citrus fruit or juice at least 1.6 times daily compared to those who consumed them less than twice per week.

Consumption of grapefruit and oranges was not associated with an increased risk for any other non-skin cancers. This analysis, along with an accompanying editorial, "Dietary Advice for Melanoma: Not Ready for Prime Time," was published online today in the Journal of Clinical Oncology.

The study researchers argue that the apparent link between melanoma and citrus fruit consumption may be due to high levels of substances called furocoumarins found in citrus fruits. Prior research showed that furocoumarins make the skin more sensitive to sunlight, including to melanoma-causing ultraviolet (UV) rays.

"While our findings suggest that people who consume large amounts of whole grapefruit or orange juice may be at increased risk for melanoma, we need much more research before any concrete recommendations can be made," said lead study author Shaowei Wu, PhD, a postdoctoral research fellow at the Department of Dermatology, the Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island. "At this time, we don't advise that people cut back on citrus -- but those who consume a lot of grapefruit and/or orange juice should be particularly careful to avoid prolonged sun exposure."


Research shows our skin color is the evolutionary gateway to vitamin D

April 20, 2015
By Mark Roth / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

All over the world, millions of people see skin color as a symbol of superiority or inferiority, whether they are conscious of it or not.

Others see humanity’s array of skin tones, from white to ocher to black, as a positive mark of our remarkable diversity.

But Nina Jablonski sees skin color, first and foremost, as an evolutionary gateway to vitamin D.

Ms. Jablonski, the Evan Pugh professor of anthropology at Penn State University, has made a name for herself with her research on how human skin color evolved from the earliest humans to today’s multiple hues. The short version: Our skin color is primarily designed to regulate how much sunlight we let into our bodies to produce vitamin D, which is important for bone health, safe pregnancies and a strong immune system. In a related way, it also keeps too much ultraviolet radiation from destroying folate in women’s bodies, which can lead to certain birth defects.

In general, she has found, the skin color of ancient people matched up well with the amount of sunlight that bathed the regions in which they settled. Those in the tropics had darker skin; those in temperate zones had lighter skin. That worked fine for the thousands of years when people spent most of their time living and working outdoors, she said.

But then two things happened. First, modern technology allowed people to settle all over the world, creating mismatches between skin color and sunlight.

“You’ve got people from England moving to Australia; people from West Africa moving to Finland. You have this dramatic movement of people to environments to which they are poorly adapted from a solar perspective.”

Another modern development, urbanization, means people are spending more and more time indoors.

From a health perspective, these trends have had a bigger effect on darker-skinned people, she said. Lighter-skinned people can adapt to sunny climates by using sunscreen to prevent skin cancer and folate problems and yet still get enough of the ultraviolet B radiation that triggers vitamin D production.

“If you’re a darkly pigmented person living in a far northern place or living in a city and not getting much sun exposure, though, then we are not addressing the problem of likely vitamin D deficiency,” Ms. Jablonski said.

Lisa Bodnar, a researcher at the University of Pittsburgh’s Graduate School of Public Health, has found this trend in her studies of pregnant women.

Ms. Bodnar, who has a doctorate in nutrition, has found that women who have vitamin D deficiencies are more likely to deliver babies early or get the dangerous condition of preeclampsia, which causes a woman’s blood pressure to spike and often leads to premature delivery of her child.

Even using the most conservative guidelines of how much vitamin D women should have, Ms. Bodnar said, nearly half of African-American mothers have vitamin D deficiencies, compared with just 10 percent of Caucasian mothers.

Adding to this picture is a study Ms. Jablonski and colleagues in South Africa have been conducting among residents of Cape Town.

Among darker-skinned South Africans, she said, the more time they spend indoors, the lower their vitamin D levels, and the weaker their immune systems.

The good news, she said, is that vitamin D supplements can reverse these trends.


In some cases, Ms. Jablonski said, an ethnic group’s skin color has changed more than once as it migrated.

An example are the forebears of Native Americans, who would have started out with lighter skin in northern Asia but became darker after moving to North and Central America. “In the last 15,000 years,” she said, “they moved into high ultraviolet conditions, and we see increasing tanning abilities — different genes being turned on to deal with increased solar intensity.”

That is why the whole idea of racial categories makes no sense to her.

“If a particular skin color has evolved two, three or five times independently, that classification you’ve just created is a bunch of nonsense. That skin color doesn’t appear exclusively in a certain group, so it is terribly misleading to use skin color to partition people into groups.”


In doing research for her 2012 book, “Living Color: The Biological and Social Meaning of Skin Color,” she learned that the preference for lighter skin evolved for two different reasons over history.

In early agricultural societies, where most people were darker skinned, “if you were of higher status, you could afford to spend time indoors and your relatively lighter skin would be an indication of your higher socioeconomic status.”

Later, when European nations became more powerful, their explorers went to Africa and other tropical areas looking for cheap labor, “and they were astonished by the darkness of the people.” Using allusions in the Bible to light as a symbol of good and darkness as a symbol of evil, she said, “that became part of their justification for treating darker people with a less than human status … and this was the beginning of heinous racial prejudice and the justification for slavery.”

Marcus Rediker, a Pitt historian who has written extensively about the slave trade, said that in some ways, slavery actually created the idea of white and black races.

When the African slave trade accelerated in the 1700s, the slave ship crews often were a motley collection of Europeans, Africans, Americans and others, and yet “when they got to the shores of Africa, all of those sailors were known as the ‘white people,’ even the ones of African descent.” In a similar way, Africans from many different tribes were thrown together onto slave ships, “and when they were unloaded on the other side of the Atlantic, they were members of the ‘Negro race.’ ”

That illustrates, he said, “how race is fundamentally connected to issues of social and economic power. I think what’s happening now is people are challenging that coupling.”

Ms. Jablonski is saddened by the way these racial classifications have persisted.

“I don’t use mid-18th-century directional implements in my car; I have a GPS. Why are we following guidelines created by 18th-century thinkers who had their own personal, emotional biases? It is illogical and just plain stupid for us to persist in these categories.”


Jeb Bush, Like Clinton, Cashed In Big Time After Leaving Office

By Rob Garver, The Fiscal Times
July 2, 2015


As has been extensively documented in the case of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and was revealed Tuesday in the release of three decades of tax returns filed by former Florida governor Jeb Bush, both candidates engaged in the activity that seems to occupy many people who leave public office: amassing a vast personal fortune.


According to the tax returns Bush made public, he pulled in approximately $29 million between leaving office in 2007 and the end of tax year 2013. Much of that income came from consulting contracts with unspecified clients, as well as a relationship with the investment bank Lehman Brothers, which hired Bush not long after he left the governor’s mansion.


Romney was also hammered for paying an average tax rate of below 15 percent on his considerable income, mainly because it was all taxed as capital gains rather than as wage or salary. Bush, in his release, was eager to point out that his average federal tax rate during those 33 years was 36 percent.

The number is a little puzzling, because during the bulk of Bush’s biggest earning years, even the top marginal tax rate was only 35 percent. Hopefully in a Bush White House, whoever did his taxes will be kept far away from the Office of Management & Budget.

(Financial planner Michael Kitces digs into the details of Bush’s alleged 36 percent effective tax rate here. Verdict: He’s stretching the truth. Quite a bit.)

About that 36% effective tax rate for Jeb Bush

By Michael Kitces
July 1, 2015 10:21 AM

This is a guest contributor article written by Michael Kitces. Mr. Kitces is a Partner and the Director of Research for Pinnacle Advisory Group, co-founder of the XY Planning Network, and publisher of the blog Nerd’s Eye View.

Yesterday presidential hopeful Jeb Bush released 33 years worth of tax returns in the spirit of campaign transparency with a headline that he had paid an effective tax rate of 36%.

A deeper look reveals that Jeb Bush has only had one year in the past 33 that he faced an effective tax rate higher than 36%, the most recent year of 2013. That was the year the 39.6% tax bracket returned under the American Taxpayer Relief Act. In other words Bush stated his effective tax rate was 36% for the past 33 years, when in reality it was lower than that in 32 of the last 33 years and was only slightly above that level in the very last year.


In fact as shown above from Bush’s own tax return data in many years his income and taxes were zero. However zero income years also effectively received a zero weighting in his self-reported results, while high income years with higher tax brackets receive a higher weighting. And the most recent year with the highest income – the one year Bush’s effective tax rate actually was over 36% - received the greatest weighting of all. Thus Bush’s reported effective tax rate of 36%, even though the reality is that the average of his effective tax rates across each of the years would have been only 21.3%.

Notably Jeb Bush’s total tax liabilities are also inflated by the fact that for many years when he was self-employed, he paid self-employment (SECA) taxes. While this is certainly part of one’s total tax liability, it is somewhat confusing to include it in a normal effective income tax rate calculation as these taxes appear on the personal tax return simply because Bush was self-employed. Had he earned wage income instead – which he actually did for many years – those taxes are recorded as payroll taxes, paid by the employer, and while they are a tax cost, they’re not typically included when doing a proper calculation of an effective tax rate.

When these amounts are excluded – along with a modest amount of household employment taxes that Bush paid on behalf of his housekeeper (which is a tax for his role as an employer, not on his personal income), Bush’s effective tax rate even by his own methodology is only 34%. And when all the years of his earnings are evenly weighted his effective tax rate averages out to only 20.6%.

Ultimately this isn’t meant to diminish the significance of the taxes that Jeb Bush has paid over the years, especially in his most recent and biggest income years. Nonetheless the fact remains that over the span of 33 working years his self-proclaimed effective tax rate of 36% has in reality only been his experience in just one of those years.


5 Things We Learned from Clinton’s Latest Email Dump

By Eric Pianin, The Fiscal Times
July 1, 2015


while taking the helm of the Obama administration’s foreign policy, Clinton still fretted about retiring her $23 million campaign debt from her unsuccessful bid for the presidency. Clinton’s chief of protocol, Capricia Marshall, wrote to Paul Begala, a long-time Clinton family friend and Democratic strategist, to thank him for helping in raising $500,000 from an “email contest.” She said in April 2009 email, “You are all amazing,” adding that “You put a serious hole in HRC debt!”, according to The New York Times. - See more at:


Source Claims Spotify & Google Fund “Independent” Music Managers Forum and Featured Artist Coalition

June 30, 2015

Music Managers Forum and its sister organization The Featured Artist Coalition are two UK based organizations that purport to advocate for managers and artists. These two organizations have in the past done some excellent work for artists. But over the last few years they seem to have become the PR mouthpiece for Spotify and to a lesser extent YouTube.


We were particularly concerned when they posted this piece which at times matches word for word press releases and comments from Spotify flacks. It also carefully creates the false impression that Taylor Swift withheld her album from Spotify, but irrationally DID NOT withhold her album from YouTube. (Swift DID withhold her album from YouTube and other free streaming platforms, she did not single out Spotify.) But mostly it was shocking to see an organization like MMF/FAC come out against an individual’s right to choose where their work appears and under what conditions. Instead MMF/FAC came out in favor of a streaming corporation’s “right” to have everyones music. I guess this is the UK version of “corporations are people.” Very odd.

Well, now we know why.

We have a high level source that is willing to confirm our long held suspicion that Spotify and Google are funding the Music Manager Forum and its dependency the UK’s Featured Artist Coalition. According to our source Spotify’s contribution is significant, ongoing “and quite a lot of money at that.”

This is very important because neither MMF nor FAC have sufficiently disclosed the financial support, yet have presented and continued to present events on Spotify and streaming AS IF THEY ARE NEUTRAL OBSERVERS. Last year MMF and FAC sponsored a round of public forums on Spotify in the US. They did another round this last month. On the flyer for last years events (see above) there is no mention that MMF and FAC are taking money from Spotify and Google.

While this non-disclosure and fake partiality is a problem, what really concerns us is that Spotify and YouTube appear to be setting the agenda now.


Has MMF/FAC become just another in a long line of fake artist advocacy groups secretly funded by technology companies?

Thursday, July 02, 2015

GENE SIMMONS: Fans Killed The Music-Industry Infrastructure That Is Needed To Support New Artists

June 19, 2015

Planet Rock's Wyatt conducted an interview with KISS bassist/vocalist Gene Simmons prior to the band's performance at the 2015 edition of the U.K.'s Download festival, which was held last weekend in Donington Park. You can listen to the chat using the widget below.

Asked if he thinks today's artists give up too easily and they "don't wanna be rock stars anymore," Simmons responded: "No, it's really not that. I blame… This is gonna break your hearts… It certainly breaks mine. I blame the fans. Because the fans have decided en masse — in other words, the masses have decided — that they should get free music, download, fileshare… And you're not hurting KISS; we've been around a long time and we make a good living. You're killing the next Elvis and THE BEATLES and the next KISS and the next whoever, because you have to give your music away for free. And who did that? Big corporate entities? No, they didn't do that. Actually, big corporate entities — record companies — gave bands money that they never had to pay back — ever! If the band failed and the records were a complete disaster, the advance money was all [the band's]. What other business would give you that? If you go to a bank and they give you a million dollars, and your business goes under, they don't care it failed; they want their money back."

He continued: "Record companies were a gift from heaven. Yeah, they're greedy, they're this… but they wanna make money just like you do. But they gave you money — millions! And if it wasn't for record companies, there'd be no SEX PISTOLS, there'd be no punk, there'd be no nothing. There would be punk, but it would be in a small club. It would never become huge."

Asked if the music industry today disillusions and disappoints him, Simmons said: "It's not the industry; it's the fans… It's disappointing, because they would prefer not to support a new band. Remember, it doesn't affect [KISS]. It affects the next great band, who won't have a chance. Why? Because the talent isn't out there? It sure is. The fans killed it. They killed the infrastructure. Imagine England existing without the value of the pound, if things were free. You would have chaos."

Simmons previously said that illegal music downloading was largely to blame for the music industry's decline and accused the music industry of not reacting fast enough to curb the problem of illegal file sharing.


While speaking at the MIPCOM convention in Cannes, France in October 2010, Simmons said that harsher punishments must be given to those caught downloading music illegally.

"Make sure your brand is protected," Simmons insisted. "Make sure there are no incursions. Be litigious. Sue everybody. Take their homes, their cars. Don't let anybody cross that line."

The rocker continued by saying that lawsuits against illegal file-sharers should have happened sooner.

"The music industry was asleep at the wheel," he said. "And [they] didn't have the balls to sue every fresh-faced, freckle-faced college kid who downloaded material. And so now we're left with hundreds of thousands of people without jobs. There's no industry."

Streaming Music Services

David Lowery
June 25, 2015

David Lowery is a singer songwriter and guitarist for the bands Camper Van Beethoven and Cracker.
I'm paid about 1/7 less when listeners stream my songs for free

The debate about how streaming music services are affecting the music industry is often framed as “artists against streaming services.” But the issue is more nuanced than that.


Apple Music wasn’t going to pay artists at all for the free trial. But even when services do pay, there’s a huge discrepancy between the free tier and the subscription tier. Rates are split between artists, labels and other players. By my calculation on my albums on Spotify, the free tier pays me about one-seventh what the subscription tier pays, and there’s a similar difference on other services that offer a free and a paid option. If I were paid only when free users stream my songs, it would not be sustainable for me as an artist.

Streaming music is clearly the future. Consumers want it. It’s convenient. But it often feels as if, as artists and songwriters, we’re being asked to subsidize these new services. I didn’t see Pandora or Spotify employees offering to forgo their paychecks while the services got off the ground. If services offer a free tier, they should bear the burden, not artists.


Cuba named first country to end mother-to-child HIV and syphilis transmission

Reporting by Jaime Hamre; Editing by Daniel Trotta and Lisa Von Ahn
July 1, 2015

The World Health Organization on Tuesday declared Cuba the first country in the world to eliminate the transmission of HIV and syphilis from mother to child.

The WHO said in a statement that an international delegation that it and the Pan American Health Organization sent to Cuba in March determined the country met the criteria for the designation. In 2013, only two children in Cuba were born with HIV and five with syphilis, the statement said.

"Cuba's success demonstrates that universal access and universal health coverage are feasible and indeed are the key to success, even against challenges as daunting as HIV," PAHO Director Carissa Etienne said in the statement.

Cuba's Communist government considers its free healthcare a major achievement of the 1959 revolution, although ordinary Cubans complain of a decline in standards since the fall of the Soviet Union, the country's former benefactor, in 1991.

The PAHO and WHO credited Cuba with offering women early access to prenatal care, HIV and syphilis testing, and treatment for mothers who test positive. The two organizations began an effort to end congenital transmission of HIV and syphilis in Cuba and other countries in the Americas in 2010.







Jeb Bush below average in giving to charities

By Lesley Clark and Amy Sherman
July 1, 2015

Jeb Bush says he’s proud of what he and his wife, Columba, have contributed to charity. But his tax records show they’ve given less than the national average and less than others with similar wealth.

The former Florida governor’s boast that he and his wife had donated $739,000 to charity since he left the governor’s office in 2007 is only one view of his record.

In 2013, the most recent tax year for which his records were available, the Bushes’ charitable contributions of $110,616 amounted to 1.5 percent of an adjusted gross income of $7.3 million. In 2012, their $104,169 in contributions amounted to 1.8 percent of their adjusted gross income.

Bush said he will report contributing $307,944 to charity in his 2014 tax return, but he has filed for a six-month filing extension and his adjusted gross income for that year was not made available.

That’s below the 3 percent national average for charitable giving and the 3.38 percent average in Florida, according to the Chronicle of Philanthropy.

And it’s well below some of Bush’s political peers, who have far outpaced that level of giving, particularly as they made more money or began considering a run for election.


SEC Proposes Executive Bonus ‘Clawback’ Rule

July 1, 2015

The Securities and Exchange Commission voted 3-2 today to propose a rule that would require exchanges to establish standards for revoking executive bonuses when companies restate earnings. The rule is the SEC’s last executive compensation rule to be proposed under the Dodd-Frank Act.

Under the rule, publicly listed companies would be required to establish and enforce policies to claw back executive bonuses when the firms make accounting errors leading to restatements of earnings, regardless of the executive’s fault. The clawback would apply to incentive-based compensation that is tied to accounting-related measures, stock prices or total shareholder return.

The clawback window would extend for three years after the bonus is given. All listed companies — regardless of size and excepting certain mutual funds, would be required to adopt such policies.


US probing possible airline collusion that kept fares high

Jul 1, 8:50 PM (ET)

The U.S. government is investigating possible collusion among major airlines to limit available seats, which keeps airfares high, according to a document obtained by The Associated Press.

The civil antitrust investigation by the Justice Department appears to focus on whether airlines illegally signaled to each other how quickly they would add new flights, routes and extra seats.


American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, Southwest Airlines and United Airlines all said they received a letter and are complying. Several smaller carriers, including JetBlue Airways and Frontier Airlines, said they had not been contacted by the government.

The airlines publicly discussed capacity early last month in Miami at the International Air Transport Association's annual meeting. After hearing about that meeting, U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., requested a Justice Department investigation.


Thanks to a series of mergers starting in 2008, America, Delta, Southwest and United now control more than 80 percent of the seats in the domestic travel market. They've eliminated unprofitable flights, filled more seats on planes and made a very public effort to slow growth to command higher airfares.

It worked. The average domestic airfare rose an inflation-adjusted 13 percent from 2009 to 2014, according to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics. And that doesn't include the billions of dollars airlines collect from new fees. During the past 12 months, the airlines took in $3.6 billion in bag fees and $3 billion in reservation-change fees.

That has led to record profits. In the past two years, U.S. airlines earned a combined $19.7 billion.

This year could bring even higher profits thanks to a massive drop in the price of jet fuel, airlines' single highest expense. In April, U.S. airlines paid $1.94 a gallon, down 34 percent from the year before.

That worries Wall Street analysts and investors. Cheap fuel has led airlines to make money-losing decisions in the past, rapidly expanding, launching new routes and setting unrealistically low fares to lure passengers. Airlines already flying those routes would match the fare, and all carriers would lose money.

Such price wars are long gone, but today's low fuel costs along with recent comments from airline executives have given the market jitters.


On June 1, Southwest CEO Gary Kelly said his airline would cap its 2015 growth at 7 percent. That sparked a rally in airline stocks, as investors were more assured that capacity growth would be limited.

Keay said Wednesday that he had not been contacted by the government and doesn't think the airlines have been acting inappropriately.

"The analyst community is bringing up the subject. You certainly can't fault an airline executive for responding to the question," Keay said. "The capacity continues to grow at the airports people want to fly to and air travel remains a particular good value for the consumer, especially for the utility that it provides."

Wednesday, July 01, 2015

Boy chained up with dead chicken around neck tells his story

Jul 1, 5:37 PM (ET)

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Handcuffed and shackled to a block of steel, the young boy would brace himself when he heard footsteps outside his bedroom door. He knew that once the grown-ups entered, the abuse would begin.

For years, he was whipped with belts, his face was burned with electrical wires and his fingers were broken with pliers — all to "teach him a lesson." The abusers, who have since pleaded guilty, were his legal guardian — a supervisor with the Department of Social Services in Union County, North Carolina — and her longtime boyfriend, an emergency room nurse.

The abuse ended in November 2013 after police discovered the boy in handcuffs, chained to the front porch of the house with a dead chicken hung around his neck.

When police entered the roach-infested house "covered with urine and animal feces," they found something else: four other children, ages 7 to 14, who had been adopted by the couple over the years. They were removed and placed in protective custody.

All were abused, but authorities say the boy bore the brunt of the couple's rage.

"I was scared to death," the boy, now 13, told The Associated Press on Tuesday. "I thought I wouldn't survive."

The AP is not naming the boy because of the nature of the abuse.

Three months after Wanda Sue Larson and her boyfriend Dorian Harper were sentenced, the boy is telling his story. Larson was released from prison in April, just nine days after pleading guilty to child abuse charges. Now, the boy wants everyone to know she didn't serve enough time.

"I want her to be in jail longer," he says.

His mother agrees.

"It's ridiculous," his mother said. The AP isn't identifying the mother, to avoid indirectly identifying her son.

Jeff Gerber is founder of the Justice for All Coalition, which organized protests against the plea deal that led to Larson's release. He said there is widespread outrage over Larson's lenient sentence.

Harper, 58, was sentenced to up to 10 ½bd} years in prison after pleading guilty March 17 to maiming, intentional child abuse inflicting serious injury and assault with a deadly weapon.

Two weeks later, Larson, 58, was sentenced to nearly 17 months in jail after pleading guilty to four counts of child abuse. But she was given credit for time served in jail after her arrest and was released April 9. She lives in the same county where the boy now lives.

Telephone messages left for District Attorney Trey Robison were not returned Wednesday. Robison has said he agreed to the plea deals mainly to spare the child-victims from having to testify.

Messages left for Larson's attorney, Robert Leas, were not returned Wednesday.

At her sentencing, Larson expressed remorse for failing to protect the boy and the four others. She blamed most of the abuse on her boyfriend.

The boy, however, says Larson not only knew about the abuse, but encouraged it. As he tries to recover, he worries that he might run into her at a neighborhood store, a mall. What would happen then?

"That's why I want to tell my story," he said, softly.


Eventually, Larson and Harper pulled the children out of a Union County school, saying they'd school them at their secluded home where they also kept farm animals.

The boy says he was handcuffed and chained to a steel anvil in his locked room where he slept on the floor. At times, they'd starve him and he'd have to beg for scraps. Sometime, the other children would sneak food to him and he'd hide the wrappers in a hole in the wall. Many nights, he wasn't allowed to use the bathroom.

The boy says he was even shackled when he went outside. The only time they removed the chains was when he cleaned the house, or picked up animal feces.

One time, he says Harper cut his left arm and poured salt in the wound. The scar is still visible. It reached a point that every time they entered his room, he'd pray: "I hope I don't get hurt."

Then he'd think about his mother, that maybe they'd be reunited. He kept dreaming of escaping, and that kept him going.

A few days before the boy was rescued, Harper blamed him for the death of a chicken and made him wear it around his neck — even at night.

The police were responding to a call about a loose animal when they stumbled on him, chained up on the front porch.

The boy is still recovering. His mother says it will be a long road. Her son goes to therapy twice a week. He's in summer camp and public school. Still, there are times he can't escape. He had a nightmare that Larson came to his house and took him away. He couldn't find his mother.

"I woke up and I thought it was real," he said. "It was just a dream, but I couldn't go back to sleep."

tags: child abuse

As SC Fire Investigated, Stats Show Church Fires Not Unusual

I'm certainly not saying not claiming that none of the church burnings were due to hateful arson. I don't know. That's my point. Many people are making claims that the burned churches reported by the media are due to arson by haters, making a knee-jerk robotic response, egged on by a media that lusts after audience, and works for those who are helped by sowing racial dissension to keep us from working together for mutual benefit.

By BRUCE SMITH and RAY HENRY Associated Press
July 1, 2015

The Rev. John Taylor feared the worst when he learned his church was on fire, only days after a mass shooting at a black church in Charleston prompted Southern leaders to call for removing Confederate flags.

The Mount Zion African Methodist Episcopal Church was burned to the ground by the Ku Klux Klan in 1995, one of many arsons at black churches that prompted President Bill Clinton to create a federal task force that led to hundreds of arrests.

"Of course we thought about it. We wouldn't be human if we didn't," he said, standing in the hot sun outside the church's charred shell on Wednesday. But Taylor also recalled the fierce lightning storm that blew through town about the time the fire began Tuesday night. "I really thought it probably was a lightning strike is what I thought."

Preliminary indications suggest the Mount Zion fire was not the result of arson, according to a federal official who spoke with The Associated Press Wednesday on condition of anonymity, for lack of authority to discuss the case publicly.

More than a half-dozen fires at black churches have burned in the days since a white gunman was charged with murder in the shootings of nine black churchgoers in Charleston. Investigators have determined that several were intentionally set, but have yet to announce any evidence of racial motives.

According to the best available national statistics, if these have been the only church fires happening recently, this would be a relatively safe time.

An average of 31 houses of worship burned every week from 2007 through 2011, according to a 2013 estimate by the National Fire Protection Association, which analyzed government data and survey results.

Among these, arson was relatively rare: Just 16 percent of the estimated blazes at religious structures were intentionally set during the five-year period ending in 2011. That means arsonists set fire to roughly five each week. The figures include a small number of funeral homes and do not distinguish between predominantly white and black congregations.


No one keeps an up-to-date tally of every church fire in the United States, making exact comparisons impossible. But 84 percent of these fires happen for reasons other than arson. Kitchen equipment and faulty heating and electrical systems are the most likely causes.



It may simply be that people are paying more attention to church fires now, given this month's tumultuous events, suggested NFPA analyst Marty Ahrens.

"Perception matters," Ahrens said. "We don't know all the causes of all the fires that have gone on this week. But if the church arsons had not happened so soon after the tragedy in Charleston, that horrible incident, would it have gotten the same level of attention?"

Some intentional fires set in black churches defy simple racial motives. The Clinton task force found whites represented 63 percent of the people arrested for bombing or burning black churches in the late 1990s, but 37 percent were black.

Motives also varied widely: Some were vandals or pyromaniacs. Others tried to cover up burglaries or financial theft, or simply held grudges.


Even fraud-savvy investors often look for the wrong red flags

Public Release: 29-Jun-2015
North Carolina State University

New research identifies the types of investors who are vigilant about corporate fraud, but finds that most of those investors are tracking the wrong red flags - meaning the warning signs they look for are clear only after it's too late to protect their investment. The work was performed by researchers at North Carolina State University, George Mason University, the University of Virginia and the University of Cincinnati.

"Individual investors get hurt if they own stock in fraudulent companies that cook the books, such as Enron," says Dr. Joe Brazel, a professor of accounting at NC State and lead author of a paper on the work. "But we wanted to know how investors think about fraud and whether they try to protect themselves."

The researchers surveyed 194 experienced, nonprofessional investors from 38 states about fraud and their investment activity. Among other things, the researchers asked investors if they looked for specific red flags that can be indicative of fraudulent activity, such as abnormally high revenue growth, a change in the company's auditor, or the launch of an investigation by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).

The researchers found two factors that are common to investors who are concerned about fraud. First, if investors think corporate fraud is a common practice, they are more likely to place importance on assessing fraud risk when making investment decisions. Second, investors are more likely to assess fraud risk if they rely primarily on financial statements to make investment decisions, rather than other sources like news reports or advice from professionals.


PTSD raises odds of heart attack and stroke in women

Public Release: 29-Jun-2015
Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health

Women with elevated symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder consistent with the clinical threshold for the disorder had 60 percent higher rates of having a heart attack or stroke compared with women who never experienced trauma, according to scientists at Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. Results appear in Circulation, the journal of the American Heart Association.


Sugary drinks linked to high death tolls worldwide

Public Release: 29-Jun-2015
Tufts University, Health Sciences Campus

Consumption of sugary drinks may lead to an estimated 184,000 adult deaths each year worldwide, according to research published today in the journal Circulation and previously presented as an abstract at the American Heart Association Council on Epidemiology and Prevention in 2013.

"Many countries in the world have a significant number of deaths occurring from a single dietary factor, sugar-sweetened beverages. It should be a global priority to substantially reduce or eliminate sugar-sweetened beverages from the diet," said Dariush Mozaffarian, M.D., Dr.P.H., senior author of the study and dean of the Friedman School of Nutrition Science & Policy at Tufts University in Boston.


In 2010, the researchers estimate that sugar-sweetened beverages consumption may have been responsible for approximately:

133,000 deaths from diabetes

45,000 deaths from cardiovascular disease

6,450 deaths from cancer

"Some population dietary changes, such as increasing fruits and vegetables, can be challenging due to agriculture, costs, storage, and other complexities. This is not complicated. There are no health benefits from sugar-sweetened beverages, and the potential impact of reducing consumption is saving tens of thousands of deaths each year," Mozaffarian said.

The impact of sugar-sweetened beverages varied greatly between populations. At the extremes, the estimated percentage of deaths was less than 1 percent in Japanese over 65 years old, but 30 percent in Mexican adults younger than 45.

Of the 20 most populous countries, Mexico had the highest death rate attributable to sugar-sweetened beverages with an estimated 405 deaths per million adults (24,000 total deaths) and the U.S. ranked second with an estimated 125 deaths per million adults (25,000 total deaths).

About 76 percent of the estimated sugar-sweetened beverage-related deaths occurred in low- or middle-income countries.

In nations of the Caribbean and Latin America, such as Mexico, homemade sugary drinks (e.g. frescas) are popular and consumed in addition to commercially prepared sugar-sweetened beverages. "Among the 20 countries with the highest estimated sugar-sweetened beverage-related deaths, at least 8 were in Latin America and the Caribbean, reflecting the high intakes in that region of the world," said Gitanjali Singh, Ph.D., lead author of the study and a research assistant professor at the Friedman School.

Overall, in younger adults, the percent of chronic disease attributed to sugar-sweetened beverages was higher than the percent in older adults.

"The health impact of sugar-sweetened beverage intake on the young is important because younger adults form a large sector of the workforce in many countries, so the economic impact of sugar-sweetened beverage-related deaths and disability in this age group can be significant. It also raises concerns about the future. If these young people continue to consume high levels as they age, the effects of high consumption will be compounded by the effects of aging, leading to even higher death and disability rates from heart disease and diabetes than we are seeing now," Singh said.

Nicholas Winton Is Dead at 106; Saved Children from the Holocaust


Nicholas Winton, a Briton who said nothing for a half-century about his role in organizing the escape of 669 mostly Jewish children from Czechoslovakia on the eve of World War II, a righteous deed like those of Oskar Schindler and Raoul Wallenberg, died on Wednesday in Maidenhead, England. He was 106.


It was only after Mr. Winton’s wife found a scrapbook in the attic of their home at Maidenhead, in 1988 — a dusty record of names, pictures and documents detailing a story of redemption from the Holocaust — that he spoke of his all-but-forgotten work in the deliverance of children who, like the parents who gave them up to save their lives, were destined for Nazi concentration camps and extermination.

For all his ensuing honors and accolades in books and films, Mr. Winton was a reluctant hero, often compared to Schindler, the ethnic German who saved 1,200 Jews by employing them in his enamelware and munitions factories in Poland and Czechoslovakia, and to Wallenberg, the Swedish businessman and diplomat who used illegal passports and legation hideaways to save tens of thousands of Jews in Nazi-occupied Hungary.


Nearly all the saved children were orphans by war’s end, their parents killed at Auschwitz, Bergen-Belsen or Theresienstadt. After the war, many remained in Britain, but others returned to Czechoslovakia or emigrated to Israel, Australia or the United States. The survivors, many now in their 70s and 80s, still call themselves “Winton’s Children.”


The rescues were explored in three films by the Slovak director Matej Minác: the fictionalized “All My Loved Ones” (1999); a documentary, “The Power of Good: Nicholas Winton” (2002), and “Nicky’s Family” (2011), and in Mr. Minác’s book, “Nicholas Winton’s Lottery of Life” (2007).


Sleeping on the job? Actually, that's a good thing

Public Release: 29-Jun-2015
University of Michigan

Employees seeking to boost their productivity at work should take a nap--yes, sleeping on the job can be a good thing.

A new University of Michigan study finds that taking a nap may be an effective strategy to counteract impulsive behavior and to boost tolerance for frustration.

Napping, the researchers say, can be a cost-efficient and easy strategy to increase workplace safety. In other words, employers may find their employees more productive when the workplace has nap pods in the workplace or extended break times are offered.

It's becoming increasingly common for people, especially adults, to not sleep an entire night. This can negatively impair a person's attention and memory, as well as contribute to fatigue.

U-M researchers examined how a brief nap affected adults' emotional control. The study's 40 participants, ages 18-50, maintained a consistent sleep schedule for three nights prior to the test.

In a laboratory, participants completed tasks on computers and answered questions about sleepiness, mood and impulsivity. They were randomly assigned to a 60-minute nap opportunity or no-nap period that involved watching a nature video. Research assistants monitored the participants, who later completed those questionnaires and tasks again.

Those who napped spent more time trying to solve a task than the non-nappers who were less willing to endure frustration in order to complete it. In addition, nappers reported feeling less impulsive.

Combined with previous research demonstrating the negative effects of sleep deprivation, results from this latest study indicate that staying awake for an extended period of time hinders people from controlling negative emotional responses, said Jennifer Goldschmied, the study's lead author.

"Our results suggest that napping may be a beneficial intervention for individuals who may be required to remain awake for long periods of time by enhancing the ability to persevere through difficult or frustrating tasks," said Goldschmied, a doctoral student in the Department of Psychology.

Unprecedented June Heat on Four Continents; Wimbledon Roasts in Record Heat

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 3:52 PM GMT on July 01, 2015

Unprecedented June heat scorched portions of four continents during the past week, and many all-time heat records are likely to fall across multiple continents this July as the peak heat of summer arrives for what has been the hottest year in recorded human history. Already on July 1, in Wimbledon, England--site of the classic Wimbledon tennis tournament--players are enduring the city's hottest day in tournament history. The mercury hit 96.3°F (35.7°C) at Kew Gardens, the nearest recording site, topping the previous record of 94.3°F (34.6°C) on June 26, 1976. London's Heathrow Airport has risen to 98.1°F (36.7°C) so far on July 1. This is not only a new all-time July record at that location, but also a July heat record for the UK, topping the previous record of 97.7°F (36.5°C) in Wisley on July 19, 2006.

We've already seen two of the planet's top ten deadliest heat waves in history over the past two months; the Pakistani government announced on Wednesday that the death toll from the brutal June heat wave in Pakistan's largest city, Karachi, had hit 1,250. According to statistics from EM-DAT, the International Disaster Database, this makes the 2015 heat wave in Pakistan the 8th deadliest in world history. The heat wave that hit India in May, claiming approximately 2,500 lives, ranks as the 5th deadliest:

Portions of four continents--Asia, Europe, North America, and South America--broke all-time June heat records during the past week, with some locations surpassing their all-time heat records for any date:

Asia: In addition to the record deadly heat wave that hit Pakistan over the past few weeks, other portions of Asia also saw extreme June heat. According to weather records researcher Maximiliano Herrera, Ashkabad, the capital of Turkmenistan, set a new all-time record (for any month) with 117°F (47.2°C) on June 30, 2015, smashing the old record of 46.7°C from June 30, 1995. The national all-time heat record of June for Kazakhstan of 45.0°C came within 0.5°C of being matched, as well.

An extreme jet stream configuration is in place over Western Europe, where a strong ridge of high pressure has brought the warmest June temperatures ever recorded to the Spanish cities of Madrid (39.1° on June 28) and Toledo (40.8° on June 30).

The heat will continue over much of Western Europe the remainder of the week, when the hottest temperatures since 2006 are expected. So far on Wednesday, the high temperature in Paris, France has been 102°F (38.9°C), not far from Paris' all-time record of 104.7°F (40.4°C).

North America: A searing heat wave unprecedented for June scorched the Northwest U.S. and Western Canada last weekend, sending temperatures soaring to their highest June levels in recorded history for portions of Washington, Idaho, Montana, and British Columbia. Both Idaho and Washington set all-time high temperature records for the month of June on Sunday. According to wunderground's weather historian, Christopher C. Burt, the 113°F measured in Walla Walla, Washington beat that state's previous June record of 112°F, set at John Day Dam on June 18, 1961. In addition, the 111°F reading at Lewiston, Idaho was that state's hottest June temperature on record.


South America:
Prior to 2015, the hottest Colombia had ever been in June was 40.8°C (105.4F) in June 1973 at Guaymaral. That mark was tied on June 20, 2015, at Agustin Codazzi. That mark was smashed on June 25, when both Valledupar and Urumitia hit 41.6°C (106.9F). On June 27, Urumitia, Colombia beat the new June national record, with a 42.0°C (107.6F) reading. One major city, Cartagena, set its all-time heat record with 40.4°C (104.7F) on June 25. Previous record: 39.0°C (102.2F) in October 1969. Thanks go to weather records researcher Maximiliano Herrera for these stats.

Record June heat was also observed in Venezuela earlier in the month, with Coro beating the June national record with 42°C (107.6F) on June 4.

Western Heat Wave Enters Second Chapter

By Jon Erdman and Nick Wiltgen
Published Jul 1 2015

While it may not be quite as hot as this past weekend in some areas, there appears to be no end in sight to this torrid heat wave in the West.

June and even a few all-time record highs have already been shattered in parts of the interior Northwest, northern Rockies and Great Basin. The extreme heat is likely to last into next week and may end up breaking records for longevity as well.


The perils of Florida’s refusal to expand Medicaid

By Billy Manes
April 8, 2014

Charlene Dill didn’t have to die.


They were the working poor, and they existed in the shadows of the economic recovery that has yet to reach many average people.


Dill, who was estranged from her husband and raising three children aged 3, 7 and 9 by herself, had picked up yet another odd job. She was selling vacuums on a commission basis for Rainbow Vacuums. On that day, in order to make enough money to survive, she made two last-minute appointments. At one of those appointments, in Kissimmee, she collapsed and died on a stranger’s floor.

Dill’s death was not unpredictable, nor was it unpreventable. She had a documented heart condition for which she took medication. But she also happened to be one of the people who fall within the gap created by the 2012 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that allowed states to opt out of Medicaid expansion, which was a key part of the Affordable Care Act’s intention to make health care available to everyone. In the ensuing two years, 23 states have refused to expand Medicaid, including Florida, which rejected $51 billion from the federal government over the period of a decade to overhaul its Medicaid program to include people like Dill and Woolrich – people who work, but do not make enough money to qualify for the Affordable Care Act’s subsidies. They, like many, are victims of a political war – one that puts the lives and health of up to 17,000 U.S. residents and 2,000 Floridians annually in jeopardy, all in the name of rebelling against President Barack Obama’s health care plan.

Woolrich has spent the better part of 2014 canvassing for the Service Employees International Union and for Planned Parenthood in an effort to educate people about Medicaid expansion and to enroll residents of poor neighborhoods into the Affordable Care Act’s medical-care exchanges. During the course of her work, she saw women with tumors that had yet to be treated, many chronic conditions affecting people living in the gap, and sometimes she found herself having to be the bearer of bad news. March 21 was her day off. She was looking forward to getting away from the politics. “I was off. Spring break was going to start for me and her kids,” she says.

Woolrich was aware that Dill was trying to get refills on her medication but not that she had become ill. Dill had been bumped off Medicaid because she was making too much money – an estimated $9,000 a year – and had yet to be able to afford a divorce, which might have bettered her chances. A message to Woolrich from a distant relative confirmed that Dill would not be showing up that Friday because she had passed away, but even that might not have happened if Dill’s cell phone hadn’t lit up while she lay prostrate on that Kissimmee floor. The people to whom Dill was peddling vacuums noticed the phone and called her relatives, says Woolrich, telling them, “There’s a girl lying on our floor. We don’t know who she is.”

These are the people in the coverage gap – the unknowns, the single mothers, the not-quite-retired – the unnamed 750,000 Floridians who are suffering while legislators in Tallahassee refuse to address the issue in this year’s legislative session, which ends on May 2. The working poor – who used to be the middle class – are on a crash course with disaster for no logical reason. Charlene Dill, at the age of 32, didn’t have to die.


“She worked really hard to provide for her kids,” Woolrich said from the lectern, surrounded by supporters holding up Dill’s picture. “She did baby-sitting, cleaned houses, collected cans for recycling and took them to recycling centers and got money for it, and sold vacuum cleaners. Whatever it took. But Charlene had health problems. She had pulmonary stenosis, sepsis from tooth decay, fibromyalgia and a lot of other health issues from these conditions. When she separated from her husband in 2009, that was last time she had reliable health insurance.”

Woolrich actually walked Dill through the process of the ACA online calculator and they found that she was in the gap. As recently as last October, Woolrich used online crowd-funding sources to help Dill get the medication she needed. Her heart condition had complicated all three of her pregnancies, and sometimes the hustle to survive wasn’t enough to make life bearable.

“People like Charlene are dying,” Russo says. “The thing is, the resources are there to pay for it. That’s what’s so mind-boggling about this situation. The money is there; it’s on the table.”


According to the DCF website, parents are only eligible if their income is less than or equal to 19 percent of the Federal Poverty Level. The Federal Poverty Level for a household of four in 2014 is $23,850. Charlene Dill would have missed that mark if she made more than $4,531.50. Medicaid expansion would have raised that percentage of FPL to 138 percent, or $32,913, and would also have included non-parents in a household of just one that made less than $16,104.

Coincidentally, Kathleen Voss Woolrich found out she lost her Medicaid benefits on April 2 after driving all the way from Conway to Kissimmee to see a doctor that would accept Medicaid – again, on a day off from canvassing for the ACA. She was bumped into the “Share of Cost” program via DCF.

The program operates with a deductible of sorts – you are given a monthly share-of-cost dollar figure that’s tabulated based on your income. If your medical needs for the month meet or exceed that figure, Medicaid then kicks in and pays the bill. If not, you pay your own bills. From the website: “Your share of cost is $800. You go to the hospital on May 10 and send us the bill for $1,000. You have met the share of cost and are Medicaid eligible from May 10 through May 31. Medicaid will pay the $1,000 medical bill. This is only an example.”

D’Aiuto gives a similar example and says that there is no reimbursement should you accidentally pay your bill. And in order for Medicaid benefits to kick in, you have to spend a lot of money (or at least owe a lot of money) before you have any coverage at all. Woolrich says her doctor – who charged her for her visit and gave her the required prescriptions for the autoimmune disorder for which she is often hospitalized; prescriptions she couldn’t afford to fill until she met her $491 share of cost – asked, “Why don’t you just go to the emergency room?”


Land surface temperatures in the Snake River Plain reaches 150ºF based on satellite measurements

This was the temperature of the ground surface, on June 28, 2015. Not the air temperature.

From US National Weather Service Boise Idaho Facebook

More CO2 means bigger, more agressive poison ivy

I found poison ivy in my yard for the first time last year.

June 24, 2015

More than 100 plant species can cause skin irritation, but among the most well known is poison ivy. With our greenhouse gas emissions climbing and the atmospheric concentration of CO2 building, we expect poison ivy to thrive. A 2007 study by Lewis Ziska, a plant physiologist at the U.S. Department of Agriculture, supports this concept. His study exposed poison ivy plants to four different concentrations of CO2 (300, 400, 500, and 600 ppm). The lowest two levels correspond to observations from the 1950s and the present. The highest two levels mirror projections for the years 2050 and 2090 from the 2007 AR4 IPCC report. In this analysis, we updated those projection dates based on the 2013 AR5 IPCC report, which are reflected in the graphic and animation.

The experiment found that as CO2 concentration increased, there were dramatic surges in the size of the poison ivy leaves and the amount of urushiol they produced. Urushiol is the toxic, oily compound that causes skin rashes and blisters after exposure, and it is present in each part of the plant.

Based on the experiments, there has already been a substantial increase in poison ivy development since the 1950s. When CO2 increased in the lab from 300 to 400 ppm, the leaf area increased a remarkable 120 percent. In the experiment at 600 ppm, the leaf size increased an additional 37 percent from the 400 ppm level.

The jump in the urushiol was more dramatic, increasing 173 percent from the 1950s to the present. But while the growth in leaf size began to slow as CO2 concentration increased beyond current levels, the amount of urushiol nearly doubled between the current concentration of 400 ppm and the projected concentration of 600 ppm. According to the 2013 IPCC report, at current emission rates, that concentration will be reached between 2060 and 2070.

So, it would appear the makers of calamine lotion will be in business for a long time.

Soaring Temps in Pacific Northwest Shattered Records

By Andrea Thompson
July 1, 2015

Scorching temperatures above 110°F are more often associated with the stark landscapes of places like Death Valley than the cooler reaches of the Pacific Northwest. But a suped-up heat wave has left parts of Washington feeling much more like the desert Southwest and has shattered longstanding high temperature records in many spots.

The searing heat even broke the all-time state temperature record for the month of June, with two locations — Chief Joseph Dam and Walla Walla — both hitting 113°F on Sunday, when the event peaked, according to the National Weather Service office in Spokane.

While the skyrocketing temperatures are a marker of a particularly strong area of high pressure, such record-breaking temperatures are more likely to happen in a warming world. Summer temperatures have already increased across the U.S. in recent decades; in the Pacific Northwest they have risen by almost 0.5°F per decade since 1970.
[High pressure areas happen occasionally. They might cause higher than usual temperatures, but the fact that these are record highs is what is notable. We are not seeing nearly as many record low temperatures, which would be expected if this were just due to normal variation.]


Though these searing temperatures were the result of a weather event that can naturally happen, summer temperatures in the Pacific Northwest have followed the same upward trend as most of the rest of the U.S. and the world as a whole over recent decades. These rising temperatures are fueled by the buildup of heat-trapping greenhouse gases in the atmosphere that has intensified over this same period.

In the U.S., the biggest increases in summer temperatures have been in the Southwest, where they have risen by more than 3.5°F since 1970. The Pacific Northwest has also seen substantial increases in average summer temperatures, which have gone up as much as 2.6°F over that same time.


Warming temperatures in the region are a major concern for water resources, as eastern Washington depends on its winter snowpack to supply reservoirs and streams come the warmer summer months. Exceptionally warm temperatures this past winter led to dismally low snowfall which has led to a widespread drought and amped up concerns over the wildfire season.


Why Your 401(k) Is Such an Attractive Target for Hackers

By Ellen Chang, MainStreet
June 24, 2015

Many Americans assume their money is relatively safe regardless of where the account is located. As hackers have moved from retailers to banks, the likelihood of retirement accounts being the next target is increasing.

While having access to financial accounts, including banking and retirement portfolios, has increased accessibility to consumes, it has also increased the risk of fraud “significantly,” said Paul Martini, CEO of iboss Network Security, a San Diego network security provider.


“Retirement accounts are squarely in their crosshairs,” he added.

IRA and 401(k) accounts are even more attractive targets for hackers, because most people do not track them the way they do their credit cards or checking accounts. The thefts could wind up being undetected for months.

Even cyber criminals who are “semi-skilled” can access a victim’s 401(k) or IRA account easily using stolen personal information and social engineering tactics, Johnson said.

“Once they have access to the account, it can be emptied in a matter of minutes, but the victim may not realize it until they do their annual review of their retirement accounts months later,” he said.

Although retirement accounts are insured by the FDIC for up to $250,000,FDIC insurance only “comes into play if a bank fails,” said David Barr, a FDIC spokesperson. “Banks carry separate insurance to cover losses or other liabilities.”


Any data posted on the Internet is vulnerable to attacks, including that related to your 401(k) and IRA accounts.

“Your money can disappear,” said Sergio Galindo, a general manager for GFI Software, an IT services provider based in Durham, N.C. If it happened to JP Morgan Chase and other financial companies that invest in millions of dollars to prevent and detect “rogue access,” then it can happen to any account, he said. Finding the hackers is becoming more of a challenge and can take weeks, if not longer.

Cyber criminals are not giving up, especially since many consumers make hacking fairly easy for them. Industry experts estimate that half of people are using the same ID and password combination on multiple accounts.


Too few consumers are checking their accounts on a regular basis. Galindo recommends checking your account for charges or other changes at least once a month.

“Little charges sometimes indicate bigger issues," he said. "If you don’t recognize it, ask and stop the charge.”

Consumers can safeguard their accounts better by following these five tips:

Don’t make it easy for the hackers. If your browser gives you the option to remember your password, always say no. “Typing in your password also assures that you are physically the one interacting with the system,” Martini said.

When you are shopping online, make sure the website is one you can trust such as PayPal or Amazon, which are more likely to have “security policies in place over a small run-of-the-mill website,” he said.

Always opt to use your bank card as a credit card instead of a debit card, because “recovering fraudulent activity from a credit card is much easier as it doesn’t lock up your bank account funds while that’s in process,” Martini said.

Use strong passwords that are not related to your personal information. Avoid your birthday, a pet’s names or other information someone can find via social media, said Shawn Marck, an executive vice president at Nexusguard, a San Francisco-based security provider.

Take advantage of two -factor authentication when it is available. Some retirement account providers such as Vanguard will text a code to your smartphone before you can log-in.