Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Muslim group condemns Ottawa attack

Oct. 23, 2014

Canadian Muslim group Ahmadiyya Muslim Jama says Canadian Muslims categorically and unequivocally condemn Ottawa attack

Sleep duration affects risk for ulcerative colitis


Contact: Rachel Steigerwald
American Gastroenterological Association
Sleep duration affects risk for ulcerative colitis

Bethesda, MD (Oct. 21, 2014) — If you are not getting the recommended seven-to-eight hours of sleep each night, you may be at increased risk of developing ulcerative colitis, according to a new study1 in Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology, the official clinical practice journal of the American Gastroenterological Association.

"Both short and long durations of sleep have important health implications and are associated with increased overall mortality, cardiovascular disease and cancer," said lead study author Ashwin N. Ananthakrishnan, MD, MPH, Massachusetts General Hospital. "Our findings indicate that ulcerative colitis may potentially be added to this list. We found that less than six hours of sleep per day and more than nine hours of sleep per day are each associated with an increased risk of ulcerative colitis."


In a previous study2, also published in Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology last year, Ananthakrishnan and colleagues had reported that poor sleep quality, even while in remission, resulted in a two fold increase in risk of Crohn's disease flares at six months. "All these data together support a growing recognition of the impact of sleep disruption on the immune system, and the need for providers to frequently inquire about sleep duration and quality as an important parameter of health in patients with inflammatory bowel diseases," said Dr. Ananthakrishnan.


'Shrinking goats' another indicator that climate change affects animal size


Contact: Leighton Kitson
Durham University

'Shrinking goats' another indicator that climate change affects animal size

Alpine goats appear to be shrinking in size as they react to changes in climate, according to new research from Durham University.

The researchers studied the impacts of changes in temperature on the body size of Alpine Chamois, a species of mountain goat, over the past 30 years.

To their surprise, they discovered that young Chamois now weigh about 25 per cent less than animals of the same age in the 1980s.

In recent years, decreases in body size have been identified in a variety of animal species, and have frequently been linked to the changing climate.

However, the researchers say the decline in size of Chamois observed in this study is striking in its speed and magnitude.


They discovered that the declines were strongly linked to the warming climate in the study region, which became 3-4oC warmer during the 30 years of the study.

To date, most studies have found that animals are getting smaller because the changing climate is reducing the availability or nutritional content of their food.

However, this study found no evidence that the productivity of Alpine meadows grazed by Chamois had been affected by the warming climate. Instead, the team believes that higher temperatures are affecting how chamois behave.

Co-author Dr Stephen Willis, in the School of Biological and Biomedical Sciences, at Durham University, said: "We know that Chamois cope with hot periods by resting more and spending less time searching for food, and this may be restricting their size more than the quality of the vegetation they eat.

"If climate change results in similar behavioural and body mass changes in domestic livestock, this could have impacts on agricultural productivity in coming decades."


Perceived hatred intensifies conflicts between Democrats and Republicans, Israelis and Palestinians

October 20, 2014


The researchers executed a set of three experiments to determine how adversarial groups describe their own motivations (ingroup motives) and the motivations of their opponents (outgroup motives). Among both American Democrats and Republicans, and Israelis and Palestinians, the researchers consistently observed “motive attribution asymmetry” – that is, one group’s belief that their rivals are motivated by emotions opposite to their own.

Study One asked 285 American Democrats and Republicans to asses their motives and their opponents’ motives for conflict. Democrats reported that they were driven primarily by love of other Democrats rather than hatred of Republicans, but that they believed Republicans were driven more by hatred of Democrats than love for the GOP. Republicans mirrored these beliefs: they reported they were driven by love but Democrats were driven by hatred.

Studies Two and Three found similar attribution asymmetries among a group of 297 Israelis and 1,266 Gaza and West Bank Palestinians: ingroups consistently reported that they were driven by love, while they opponents were driven by hatred.

The researchers then undertook two additional studies to explore how attribution asymmetry affected conflict resolution, and how this effect might be reduced. In Study Four, a survey of 498 Israelis, researchers found a direct correlation between Israelis’ belief that Palestinians were motivated by hatred with a belief that Palestinians were unwilling to negotiate and that a win-win agreement was impossible. The study thus suggests that attribution asymmetry impedes conflict resolution.

The researchers’ final study sought to explore how motive attribution asymmetry, and thus impediments to resolution, might be reduced. Study Five offered Democrats and Republicans financial incentives for accurately assessing the motivations of their rivals. Once accuracy was incentivized, not only were individuals more likely to attribute love as a primary outgroup motivation, but they were more optimistic about the chances for a win-win resolution to long-running conflicts.

The study was supported by Northwester University, Boston College, the Dispute Resolution Research Center at Kellogg School of Management, the National Science Foundation, and the Office of Naval Research.



Resetting the circadian clock: Shift workers might want to skip high-iron foods


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Contact: Phil Sahm
University of Utah Health Sciences
Resetting the circadian clock: Shift workers might want to skip high-iron foods
Researchers identify role of iron in liver's regulation of blood glucose levels

(SALT LAKE CITY)—Workers punching in for the graveyard shift may be better off not eating high-iron foods at night so they don't disrupt the circadian clock in their livers.

Disrupted circadian clocks, researchers believe, are the reason that shift workers experience higher incidences of type 2 diabetes, obesity and cancer. The body's primary circadian clock, which regulates sleep and eating, is in the brain. But other body tissues also have circadian clocks, including the liver, which regulates blood glucose levels.

In a new study in Diabetes online, University of Utah researchers show that dietary iron plays an important role in the circadian clock of the liver. Judith A. Simcox, Ph.D., a University of Utah postdoctoral fellow in biochemistry, is the study's lead author.

"Iron is like the dial that sets the timing of the clock," Simcox says. "Discovering a factor, such as iron, that sets the circadian rhythm of the liver may have broad implications for people who do shift work."

Each of the body's circadian clocks operates on its own schedule to perform its necessary functions. The circadian clock in the brain, for example, is set by light, telling people to wake up in the morning and sleep when it's dark. Ideally all the body's clocks would work on their correct schedules. But, as anyone who has ever been on a graveyard or swing shift knows, working off-hours can cause one's circadian clocks to get out of synch and disrupt sleeping and eating patterns.

Numerous studies have found that shift workers experience higher incidences of obesity, diabetes and other metabolic disorders. The risk for cardiovascular disease, stroke and cancer also is higher among those workers. In 2007, a World Health Organization subcommittee declared that shift work is probably carcinogenic.

The liver's circadian clock is set by food intake. As people sleep this clock helps maintain a constant blood glucose level, but then causes it to spike just before they wake up. When the clock in the liver gets out of synch with the one in the brain, it may contribute to metabolic diseases, according to Donald A. McClain, M.D., Ph.D., University of Utah professor of medicine (endocrinology) and biochemistry and senior author on the study.

Study Shows How Troubled Marriage, Depression History Promote Obesity

By: Emily Caldwell
Published on October 20, 2014

The double-whammy of marital hostility and a history of depression can increase the risk for obesity in adults by altering how the body processes high-fat foods, according to new research.

In the study, men and women with a history of depression whose arguments with spouses were especially heated showed several potential metabolic problems after eating a high-fat meal. They burned fewer calories and had higher levels of insulin and spikes of triglycerides – a form of fat in the blood – after eating a heavy meal when compared to participants without these risk factors.

The reduced calorie-burning in the seven hours after a single meal – 118 fewer calories, on average, by previously depressed people with marital discord – translates to weight gain of up to 12 pounds in a year. And the multiple problems add up to the potential for metabolic syndrome – the presence of at least three of five factors that increase the risk for heart disease and diabetes.


“Our results probably underestimate the health risks because the effects of only one meal were analyzed. Most people eat every four to five hours, and often dine with their spouses,” said Kiecolt-Glaser, also a professor of psychiatry and psychology. “Meals provide prime opportunities for ongoing disagreements in a troubled marriage, so there could be a longstanding pattern of metabolic damage stemming from hostility and depression.”


Partial solar eclipse this Thursday Oct. 23

See the link below for times, and for how to view the eclipse safely.

A partial solar eclipse is expected to darken the skies of North America this Thursday, Oct. 23, as the moon crosses between the Earth and the sun.

The eclipse will begin near the Kamchatka Peninsula in eastern Siberia, and then move east, according to NASA. Skywatchers will be able to see the event everywhere in North America except for northern New England and Canada's Maritime provinces, as long as the weather is clear.

Since the eclipse is partial, the sun will not be completely covered by the moon's disk, but it should still be a dramatic experience as the Earth is cast into shadow.


For additional cities and times, NASA has posted a list online.


you can watch the eclipse online courtesy of the Slooh Community Observatory beginning at 5 p.m. Eastern time.


Thermal receipt paper may be a potentially significant source of BPA


Contact: Kayla Graham

Thermal receipt paper may be a potentially significant source of BPA
BPA dermal absorption may be significant

Thermal paper, sometimes used in cash register receipts, may be a potential source of exposure to the hormone disruptor bisphenol-A (BPA), according to a study published October 22, 2014 in the open-access journal PLOS ONE by Annette Hormann from University of Missouri and colleagues.

Results showed that when men and women handled a thermal receipt after using a hand sanitizer, there was a very large amount of BPA transferred from the receipt to the hand, resulting in a rapid increase in blood levels of BPA.

Bisphenol A (BPA) is used in a wide variety of products, and is found in almost everyone's urine, suggesting widespread exposure from multiple sources. In the study, researchers tested people who cleaned their hands with hand sanitizer and then held thermal paper receipts, and then ate French fries with their hands. BPA was then absorbed rapidly, and more BPA was absorbed by women than by men.

The outer layer of thermal receipt paper is covered with BPA or another estrogen-mimicking chemical called bisphenol S (BPS) as a print developer. Thermal paper is typically used for cash register receipts in restaurants, making BPA contamination of food from fingers and hands likely, and may have cashiers exposed to BPA at continual, high levels.

"The BPA blood levels caused by touching thermal paper are related to many diseases (for example obesity and diabetes) that are increasing in frequency as the use of BPA is increasing," said co-author Frederick S. vom Saal. "The use of BPA or other similar chemicals in thermal paper thus poses a threat to human health."

15-year-old ISIS fighter describes atrocities

ByHolly Williams CBS News October 21, 2014


But 15-year-old Kareem Mufleh freely admits that he fought with ISIS.


"They captured my village and gave me a choice," he said. "Either join ISIS, or be beheaded."

ISIS has embarked on a reign of fear. Mufleh told us he was a witness to massacres when ISIS seized villages in Syria.

"I even saw them kill a woman because her wedding dress showed her neck and bare arms," Mufleh said.

He claims that ISIS gave him the anti-anxiety drug Zolam before he went in to battle.

"That drug makes you lose your mind," he said. "If they give you a suicide belt and tell you to blow yourself up, you'll do it."


Association between air toxics and childhood autism


Contact: Allison Hydzik
University of Pittsburgh Schools of the Health Sciences
Association between air toxics and childhood autism

PITTSBURGH, Oct. 22, 2014 – Children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) were more likely to have been exposed to higher levels of certain air toxics during their mothers' pregnancies and the first two years of life compared to children without the condition, according to the preliminary findings of a University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health investigation of children in southwestern Pennsylvania.

This research, funded by The Heinz Endowments, will be presented today at the American Association for Aerosol Research annual meeting in Orlando, Fla.


Dr. Talbott and her colleagues performed a population-based study of families with and without ASD living in six southwestern Pennsylvania counties. The researchers found links between increased levels of chromium and styrene and childhood autism spectrum disorder, a condition that affects one in 68 children.


Based on the child's exposure to concentrations of air toxics during the mother's pregnancy and the first two years of life, the researchers noted that children who fell into higher exposure groups to styrene and chromium were at a 1.4- to two-fold greater risk of ASD, after accounting for the age of the mother, maternal cigarette smoking, race and education. Other NATA compounds associated with increased risk included cyanide, methylene chloride, methanol and arsenic. As these compounds often are found in combination with each other, further study is needed.

Styrene is used in the production of plastics and paints, but also is one of the products of combustion when burning gasoline in vehicles. Chromium is a heavy metal, and air pollution containing it typically is the result of industrial processes and the hardening of steel, but it also can come from power plants. Cyanide, methylene chloride, methanol and arsenic are all used in a number of industries or can be found in vehicle exhaust.

"Our results add to the growing body of evidence linking environmental exposures, such as air pollution, to ASD," said Dr. Talbott.


Another death knell for the middle class

ByAimee Picchi MoneyWatch October 22, 2014,

While many American families enjoyed rising prosperity in the decades following World War II, those wealth gains have eroded, leaving the middle-class poorer than anytime since the 1940s, according to new research from economists Emmanuel Saez of University of California, Berkeley and Gabriel Zucman of the London School of Economics.

At the same time, the richest Americans have become richer, putting their share of wealth at the dizzying heights only seen during the era of "The Great Gatsby" and the Gilded Age of the robber barons, the researchers note.


Following the Great Depression, the country saw a "substantial democratization of wealth," they note. The decades following World War II are often viewed as a golden time for the American middle-class, when families were buoyed by a growing economy and workforce opportunities.

Starting in the 1980s, that trend inverted, leaving the middle class progressively poorer and the richest even richer, the study found. By 2012, the top 0.1 percent of American households owned 22 percent of the country's wealth, compared with only 7 percent in the late 1970s. The top 0.1 percent of American households consist of 160,000 families whose total net assets amounted to more than $20 million in 2012.

Interestingly, it's only the richest of the rich who have benefited from the trend. For those households in the next 0.9 percent of the top 1 percent of the richest U.S. families, total share of wealth actually decreased slightly during the past 40 years, the study found.

"In other words, family fortunes of $20 million or more grew much faster than those of only a few millions," the economists note.

But what about that backbone of the American economy, the middle-class household? That's been a story of wealth erosion since the mid-1980s, when the bottom 90 percent of U.S. families saw their share of wealth peak at 36 percent. Since then, that share of wealth has declined to 23 percent, or on equal footing to the asset share held by the American middle-class in 1940.


Their findings mirror the research into the growing income inequality between the richest Americans and the rest of the country. The top 1 percent of Americans now take home 20 percent of all pre-tax income in the country, or double their share in 1980, according to a study earlier this year from the Paris-based Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.


Early intervention could boost education levels


Contact: Catherine Chittleborough
University of Adelaide
Early intervention could boost education levels

Taking steps from an early age to improve childhood education skills could raise overall population levels of academic achievement by as much as 5%, and reduce socioeconomic inequality in education by 15%, according to international research led by the University of Adelaide.

In a study now published in the journal Child Development, researchers from the University of Adelaide's School of Population Health and colleagues at the University of Bristol in the UK have modelled the likely outcomes of interventions to improve academic skills in children up to school age. They considered what effect these interventions would have on education by age 16.

Lead author Dr Catherine Chittleborough from the University of Adelaide says socioeconomic disadvantage is a known risk factor for education and related outcomes.

"Childhood socioeconomic disadvantage is associated with reduced ability to benefit from schooling, poorer educational outcomes, a lower likelihood of continuing to tertiary education, and less job success. A poor education is associated with increased welfare dependence and lower skilled jobs with lower pay, helping to continue the cycle of disadvantage," Dr Chittleborough says.

"We've known for some time that intervening before the age of five can improve skills necessary for educational success, but the effect of these interventions on socioeconomic inequalities has remained unknown," she says.

Using data of almost 12,000 children from the UK, the researchers found that progressive educational interventions – and more intense interventions for those with greater need – could improve school entry academic skills and later educational outcomes.

"Based on our models, population levels of educational achievement could rise by 5%, and absolute socioeconomic inequality in poor educational achievement could be reduced by 15%," Dr Chittleborough says.

More scrutiny for Japanese maker of defective air bags

See the link for a list of the vehicles being recalled. Note that it is not only Japanese cars that use this air bag.

By Jeff Glor CBS News October 22, 2014

Today the government urged still more owners of vehicles with potentially deadly airbags to bring them in immediately for repair. 3 million more vehicles were added to the list, bringing the total to 7.8 million.

Also today, The Wall Street Journal reported that the Japanese maker of the defective airbags, Takata, is being targeted by federal prosecutors.

It seemed to be a minor accident in Florida involving a 2006 Dodge Charger. But when the airbag went off, it exploded, sending shrapnel into the driver's leg.

This car had a Takata airbag, but the vehicle is not on a recall list.

"The only difference between this piece of shrapnel shooting him in the leg and in the heart were inches. It was just a small difference, and luck," said Jason Turchin, who represented the victim.

Flying metal from Takata airbags has been linked to at least four deaths and 30 injuries.

The airbags contain a canister filled with a chemical propellant. In an accident, the propellant explodes with excessive force, rupturing the metal canister, sending shrapnel out.

So far, the recalls have mostly been in southern states -- because Takata believes humidity increases the force of the propellant.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration was first alerted to this problem in 2008.

Now a growing chorus of legislators is asking why more isn't being done.

"I have no patience for federal regulators not being entirely up front forward leaning and aggressive to stop these defective products," said Florida Sen. Bill Nelson.



vehicles being recalled include some models of:

General Motors

Risk factors of youth charged with murder

Oct. 22, 2014
Iowa State University

News of a school shooting or a homicide involving a teenage suspect always leads to the question of why? It is human nature to want an explanation or someone to blame, and policymakers try to pinpoint a cause in an effort to prevent it from happening again. But too often, the speculation or rush to judgment clouds reality, said Matt DeLisi, a professor of sociology and criminal justice at Iowa State University.

“Anytime you have violence, such as a school shooting, people gravitate to single-item explanations that cite mental illness, guns, bullying or peer pressure,” DeLisi said. “All of these factors likely have an influence, but there’s really no silver bullet.”

Instead, DeLisi and his colleagues at the University of Texas at Dallas found a handful of risk factors that are predictors, or distinguish homicide youth offenders from other serious offenders. Age was a factor, but those charged with murder also had a significantly lower IQ, higher exposure to violence, perceived that they lived in a violent or chaotic neighborhood, and were more likely to carry a gun. The study is published in the journal Youth Violence and Juvenile Justice.


Of the five risk factors identified in the study, exposure to violence had the most significant difference between the two groups, DeLisi said. It is important to note that researchers looked at direct observational exposure to violence, not media violence or vicarious exposure. Offenders were asked whether they had ever witnessed a rape, shooting or an assault, and if they had ever been chased and thought they would be seriously hurt.

“The homicide offenders came from much more impoverished areas, with more violence day in and day out that they seem to be disengaged. When you observe that much violence it becomes very normal to you,” DeLisi said. “It’s really the worst of all worlds. They live in bad neighborhoods; have a lot of family dysfunction and family members who are involved in crime or who are victims of homicide.”

DeLisi also pointed out that offenders with low IQ levels generally lack the verbal skills to effectively communicate or diffuse a situation. As a result, they may resort to violence. If you couple that with the fact that they are also more likely to carry a gun, it is easy to see how a situation can escalate to deadly violence, DeLisi said.


Christie wants GOP control over ‘voting mechanisms’

Because of Republicans winning governorships in 2010, they were able to gerrymander voting districts, so that in 2012, a majority of voters voted for Democrats for the U.S. House, but a comfortable majority of Republicans won election. So now they hope to do the same for the next presidential election.

By Steve Benen
Oct. 22, 2014

The Bergen Record reported this morning:

Governor Christie pushed further into the contentious debate over voting rights than ever before, saying Tuesday that Republicans need to win gubernatorial races this year so that they’re the ones controlling “voting mechanisms” going into the next presidential election.

Christie stressed the need to keep Republicans in charge of states – and overseeing state-level voting regulations – ahead of the next presidential election.

In remarks to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the New Jersey governor said, “Would you rather have Rick Scott in Florida overseeing the voting mechanism, or Charlie Crist? Would you rather have Scott Walker in Wisconsin overseeing the voting mechanism, or would you rather have Mary Burke? Who would you rather have in Ohio, John Kasich or Ed FitzGerald?”

I’m not sure which is worse: the prospect of Christie making these remarks without thinking them through or Christie making these remarks because he’s already thought this through.

In theory, in a functioning democracy, control over “voting mechanisms” shouldn’t dictate election outcomes. Citizens consider the candidates, they cast their ballots, the ballots are counted, and the winner takes office. It’s supposed to be non-partisan – indeed, the oversight of the elections process must be professional and detached from politics in order to maintain the integrity of the system itself.

So what exactly is Chris Christie suggesting here?

One possible interpretation is that Republican victories will lead to control over elections, which in turn will lead to more Republican victories. If this is what the governor meant, Christie almost seemed to be endorsing corruption.

A more charitable interpretation is that the governor thinks Democrats will try to cheat, so electing Republicans will ensure the proper “voting mechanisms.”

Still, political scientist Norm Ornstein paraphrased Christie’s comments this way: “How can we cheat on vote counts if we don’t control the governorships?”

Hottest 12 Months On Record

by Joe Romm Posted on October 21, 2014

Not only did NOAA report Monday that last month was the hottest September on record, but they also pointed out, “The past 12 months—October 2013–September 2014—was the warmest 12-month period among all months since records began in 1880.”

NOAA climatologist Jessica Blunden says “It’s pretty likely” that 2014 will break the record for hottest year.” The AP reports:

Some people, mostly non-scientists, have been claiming that the world has not warmed in 18 years, but “no one’s told the globe that,” Blunden said. She said NOAA records show no pause in warming.


What’s especially amazing is that 2014 is poised to break the global temperature record despite the fact that it isn’t an El Niño year. It is usually the combination of the underlying long-term warming trend and the regional El Niño warming pattern that leads to new global temperature records, as NASA has explained.

But the underlying trend of human-caused warming is simply too strong to be denied, as it were. If we want to slow it down and ultimately stop it before it destroys a livable climate, we need to slash carbon pollution ASAP.


Republicans Lie More Than Democrats, Study Finds

If I have time, I'll try to find more recent figures
However, I have to say I have found the same thing to be true in conversations with conservatives. They will make up "facts" to support their argument. And studies of values of liberal and conservative religious adherents find that conservatives rank truth low, while liberals rank it as one of their top values. Again, this fits my own observations of how people react if they learn that politicians on their own side have not told the truth.

May 29, 2013

According to a new study from the nonpartisan Center for Media and Public Affairs at George Mason University, Republicans are significantly more likely to lie than Democrats — and the gap is widening as President Barack Obama spends more time in office.

The study examined how Pulitzer Prize-winning fact-check site rated 100 statements involving factual claims from the first four months of President Obama’s second term — 46 of the claims were made by Democrats, and 54 were made by Republicans.

CMPA found that PolitiFact rated 32 percent of the Republican claims as “false” or “pants on fire,” compared to just 11 percent of the Democratic claims. Along the same lines, PolitiFact rated just 11 percent of the Republican statements as “entirely true,” compared to 22 percent of the Democratic statements.

Just 18 percent of the Republican claims were rated as “mostly” or entirely true, compared to 54 percent of the Democratic claims. Conversely, 52 percent of the Republican statements were rated as mostly or entirely false, while just 24 percent of Democratic statements received the same designation.

In other words, as CMPA President Dr. Robert Lichter put it: “While Republicans see a credibility gap in the Obama administration, PolitiFact rates Republicans as the less credible party.”

Notably, the credibility gap seems to be growing with time. In May, as Republicans have obsessively tried to tie the president to a series of scandals, their percentage of false claims has risen to 60 percent.


When Iggy Pop can’t live off his art, what chance do the rest have? | The Globe and Mail

Oct. 20, 2014

But a new reality has tripped him up and it’s the same one shafting artists all across the world: Namely, that everyone wants to listen, and no one wants to pay. This week, Iggy gave a lecture for the British Broadcasting Corp. called Free Music in a Capitalist Society. Artists have always been ripped off by corporations, he said; now the public is in on the free ride, too: “The cat is out of the bag and the new electronic devices, which estrange people from their morals, also make it easier to steal music than to pay for it.”

To keep skinny body and maverick soul together, Iggy’s become a DJ, a car-insurance pitchman and a fashion model. If he had to live off royalties, he said, he’d have to “tend bars between sets.” As I listened to his enthusiastic stoner Midwestern drawl, I thought: If Iggy Pop can’t make it, what message does that send to all the baby Iggys out there? In a society where worth is judged by price, for better or worse, what are you saying to someone when you won’t pay for the thing he’s crafted?



A few days before Iggy’s lecture, Australian novelist Richard Flanagan won the Booker Prize, the most prestigious in the literary world, for his Second World War story The Narrow Road to the Deep North. Just in time, it sounds like: Mr. Flanagan told reporters that he was making so little from his writing that he was thinking about packing it in and becoming a miner. (He comes from a small mining town in Tasmania.) The prize money of about $90,000 and the following sales bump will allow him to continue, but most of his colleagues aren’t so lucky: “Writing is a very hard life for so many writers,” he said.

This is borne out not only in the quiet sobbing you hear in corners at poetry readings, but in the numbers. This summer, the Guardian newspaper reported that professional writers’ salaries in Britain are collapsing, falling almost 30 per cent over eight years to $20,000.

Here, the Writers’ Union of Canada estimates that authors make an average of $12,000 a year from their words. That will buy approximately two wheels of a car or a door knob on a house in Toronto or Calgary (a broken knob, if the house is in Vancouver).


Every time we go to a library or shop, we want it to be full of new books, and when we search various channels (legal and illegal) for new music and movies, we expect to find them. Someone has to produce this content – this art – and sadly, the shoemakers’ elves are all busy stitching elsewhere. And after it’s been produced, someone has to buy it. Or not buy it, as is more likely the case.


Do we value artists’ effort? The boring years spent in the studio or rehearsal hall, the torched drafts – Mr. Flanagan burned five early versions of his novel before he got it right – the slow, fungal growth of something that lives in the dark and may never be ready for the light?


Georgia once again has nation's highest jobless rate under Republican rule

October 21st 2014

Numbers released by the United States Department of Labor Tuesday morning show that Georgia once again has the highest unemployment rate in the country.

Even though the jobless rate dropped two-tenths of a point in September to 7.9-percent, that slight decrease was not enough to push Georgia ahead of any other states when ranking joblessness. (See link below for a complete ranking list.)


If Republicans win the Senate

From Robert Reich's Facebook post
Oct. 21, 2014

More on why it matters if Republicans take over the Senate: Mitch McConnell, in a speech to donors that was leaked, has set out how he would use a Senate Republican majority: “We own the budget. No money can be spent to do this or that. We’re going to go after them on health care, on financial services, on the Environmental Protection Agency, across the board.”

The Affordable Care Act itself was partly passed via “reconciliation”— a procedure needing just 51 votes -- and in 2012 the team planning a Romney presidency researched how much of it could be repealed the same way. Its answer: Quite a lot. The President would still wield a veto, but McConnell has also threatened to close the government down again if he does.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Earth Just Had Its Hottest September On Record

by Katie Valentine Posted on October 20, 2014

Last month was the warmest September the globe has experienced since record-keeping began in 1880, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Researchers from NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center found that the Earth’s average global land and ocean surface temperature temperature in September was 60.30°F, which is 1.30°F warmer than the 20th century average.

In September, NOAA states, “warmer-than-average temperatures were evident over most of the global land surface, except for central Russia, some areas in eastern and northern Canada, and a small region in Namibia. Record warmth was notable in much of northwestern Africa, coastal regions of southeastern South America, southwestern Australia, parts of the Middle East, and regions of southeastern Asia.” Southern California experienced a heat wave in September that forced schools to shorten the school day and saw temperatures that about 15 degrees higher than average for the region.

NOAA also found that September’s record-breaking average temperature continues a trend set this year: average temperatures for the January through September 2014 period tied with 1998 and 2010 as the warmest January-September on record. In addition, NOAA states, almost every month in 2014 has been among its respective four warmest on record — May and June were also the warmest on record, as well as February, and this September follows a record-breaking August. It also continues a trend for warm Septembers: the last below-average September, NOAA notes, was in 1976.

According to NOAA, this year’s record-breaking warming trend could continue, making 2014 the warmest year since record keeping began.

“If 2014 maintains this temperature departure from average for the remainder of the year, it will be the warmest calendar year on record,” NOAA states. Already, the last 12-month period (October 2013 – September 2014) was the warmest on record, according to the agency, averaging in at 1.24°F warmer than the 20th century average.

Arctic sea ice also hit its annual minimum in September, falling to the sixth-lowest extent recorded since 1978, according to NASA. NOAA notes that the minimum extent, which hit 1.94 million square miles on September 17, was
463,000 square miles smaller than the 1981-2010 average.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Poor kids who do everything right don’t do better than rich kids who do everything wrong

By Matt O'Brien October 18, 2014

inequality starts in the crib. Rich parents can afford to spend more time and money on their kids, and that gap has only grown the past few decades. Indeed, economists Greg Duncan and Richard Murnane calculate that, between 1972 and 2006, high-income parents increased their spending on "enrichment activities" for their children by 151 percent in inflation-adjusted terms, compared to 57 percent for low-income parents.


But, of course, it's not just a matter of dollars and cents. It's also a matter of letters and words. Affluent parents talk to their kids three more hours a week on average than poor parents, which is critical during a child's formative early years. That's why, as Stanford professor Sean Reardon explains, "rich students are increasingly entering kindergarten much better prepared to succeed in school than middle-class students," and they're staying that way.


Even poor kids who do everything right don't do much better than rich kids who do everything wrong. Advantages and disadvantages, in other words, tend to perpetuate themselves. You can see that in the above chart, based on a new paper from Richard Reeves and Isabel Sawhill, presented at the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston's annual conference, which is underway.

Specifically, rich high school dropouts remain in the top about as much as poor college grads stay stuck in the bottom — 14 versus 16 percent, respectively. Not only that, but these low-income strivers are just as likely to end up in the bottom as these wealthy ne'er-do-wells.


What's going on? Well, it's all about glass floors and glass ceilings. Rich kids who can go work for the family business — and, in Canada at least, 70 percent of the sons of the top 1 percent do just that — or inherit the family estate don't need a high school diploma to get ahead. It's an extreme example of what economists call "opportunity hoarding." That includes everything from legacy college admissions to unpaid internships that let affluent parents rig the game a little more in their children's favor.

But even if they didn't, low-income kids would still have a hard time getting ahead. That's, in part, because they're targets for diploma mills that load them up with debt, but not a lot of prospects. And even if they do get a good degree, at least when it comes to black families, they're more likely to still live in impoverished neighborhoods that keep them disconnected from opportunities.

It's not quite a heads-I-win, tails-you-lose game where rich kids get better educations, yet still get ahead even if they don't—but it's close enough. And if it keeps up, the American Dream will be just that.

Leonardo DiCaprio Donates $2 Million To Ocean Conservation Efforts

by Katie Valentine Posted on October 17, 2014

For an actor who catapulted to international fame for a movie set largely in the ocean, giving back to the marine environment just makes sense.

Leonardo DiCaprio announced Thursday that his foundation, which is focused on conservation and climate change, is donating $2 million to marine conservation group Oceans 5.

“The sad truth is that less than two percent of our oceans are fully protected,” DiCaprio said in a statement. “We need to change that now. My Foundation supports Oceans 5 projects that are directly improving ocean health by stopping overfishing and creating marine reserves.”

Oceans 5 was created in 2011 and has worked on multiple marine conservation projects, including curbing illegal fishing and protecting key marine regions. DiCaprio’s contribution will help the group in its work to create protected areas in the Arctic and the Pacific Islands, and will also go toward enforcing fishing laws in the U.S. and abroad.

DiCaprio’s contribution to Oceans 5 marks the third time this year that he’s pledged donations to ocean-related groups. In June, he announced at a State Department conference that his foundation would be contributing $7 million to marine life and environment conservation efforts over the next two years, and in February, DiCaprio’s foundation donated $3 million to Oceana for initiatives aimed at protecting sharks and other keystone ocean species.

DiCaprio has been outspoken in recent years about the need to take action on climate change and on other major environmental problems, such as overfishing and the shark fin trade. DiCaprio supported bills to ban the sale of shark fins in New York and California, and his foundation donated $3 million last year to help the Wold Wildlife Fund in its quest to double Nepal’s population of wild tigers by 2022. DiCaprio also participated in September’s People’s Climate March in New York City, and spoke at the U.N.’s climate summit about the urgency of acting on climate change.

“I am not a scientist, but I don’t need to be,” he said at the summit. “Because the world’s scientific community has spoken, and they have given us our prognosis. If we do not act together, we will surely perish. Now is our moment for action.”


Children’s Genes Affect their Mothers’ Risk of Rheumatoid Arthritis

October 19, 2014
The American Society of Human Genetics

A child’s genetic makeup may contribute to his or her mother's risk of rheumatoid arthritis, possibly explaining why women are at higher risk of developing the disease than men. This research will be presented Tuesday, October 21, at the American Society of Human Genetics (ASHG) 2014 Annual Meeting in San Diego.

Rheumatoid arthritis, a painful inflammatory condition that primarily affects the joints, has been tied to a variety of genetic and environmental factors, including lifestyle factors and previous infections. Women are three times more likely to develop rheumatoid arthritis than men, with peak rates among women in their 40s and 50s. Certain versions of the immune system gene HLA-DRB1, known collectively as the shared epitope alleles, are associated with the condition. HLA genes are best known for their involvement in the immune system’s response to infection and in transplant medicine for differentiating between one’s own cells and those that are foreign.

The female predilection of rheumatoid arthritis strongly suggests that factors involved in pregnancy are involved, said Giovanna Cruz, MS, graduate student at the University of California, Berkeley, and first author on the new study.

“During pregnancy, you’ll find a small number of fetal cells circulating around the mother’s body, and it seems that in some women, they persist as long as several decades. Women with rheumatoid arthritis are more likely to have this persistence of fetal cells, known as fetal microchimerism, than women without the condition, suggesting that it is a potential risk factor for the development of rheumatoid arthritis,” Ms. Cruz said. “Why it happens, we don’t know, but we suspect HLA genes and their activity may be involved,” she explained.

The researchers analyzed the genes of women with and without the shared epitope or other forms of HLA genes associated with risk of rheumatoid arthritis, and their children. They found that having children with these high-risk alleles – inherited from the children’s father – increased the women’s risk of rheumatoid arthritis, even after accounting for differences among the mothers’ genes. These results showed that beyond a woman’s own genetic risk of rheumatoid arthritis, there is additional risk conferred by carrying and bearing children with certain high-risk alleles.


Can drinking soda make you age faster?

By Mark AlbertCBS NewsOctober 18, 2014


Epel's team discovered that in people who drank more sugar-sweetened beverages, the ends of their chromosomes, known as telomeres, were shorter. The shorter the telomere, the less a cell can regenerate, aging the body and raising the risk of disease and early death.
"This finding is alarming because it suggests that soda may be aging us, in ways we are not even aware of," said Epel.

Researchers found no link in cell aging, however, when drinking diet sodas and fruit juices.


Thirty-nine states and the District of Columbia currently tax sodas sold in vending machines.

But helped by ad campaigns from various groups, soda companies are on a four-year winning streak at the statehouse: 30 bills to levy or raise taxes on sugary drinks have all failed.


Saturday, October 18, 2014

Reminding people of their religious belief system reduces hostility

TORONTO, Oct 15, 2014 – Few topics can prove more divisive than religion, with some insisting it promotes compassion, selflessness and generosity, and others arguing that it leads to intolerance, isolation and even violence.

New research conducted at York University, published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, may shed some light on religion’s actual influence on believers – and the news is positive.


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Reminding people of their religious belief system reduces hostility: York U research

TORONTO, Oct 15, 2014 – Few topics can prove more divisive than religion, with some insisting it promotes compassion, selflessness and generosity, and others arguing that it leads to intolerance, isolation and even violence.

New research conducted at York University, published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, may shed some light on religion’s actual influence on believers – and the news is positive.

“Based on our premise that most people’s religious beliefs are non-hostile and magnanimous, we hypothesized that being reminded of religious beliefs would normally promote less hostile reactions to the kinds of threats in everyday life that usually heighten hostility,” says researcher Karina Schumann, the article’s lead author, now a postdoctoral fellow at Stanford University.


Jet lag can cause obesity by disrupting the daily rhythms of gut microbes


Contact: Mary Beth O'Leary
Cell Press
Jet lag can cause obesity by disrupting the daily rhythms of gut microbes

Organisms ranging from bacteria to humans have circadian clocks to help them synchronize their biological activities to the time of day. A study published by Cell Press October 16th in Cell now reveals that gut microbes in mice and humans have circadian rhythms that are controlled by the biological clock of the host in which they reside. Disruption of the circadian clock in the host alters the rhythms and composition of the microbial community, leading to obesity and metabolic problems.

"These findings provide an explanation for a long-standing and mysterious observation, namely that people with chronically disturbed day-night cycles due to repetitive jet lag or shift work have a tendency to develop obesity and other metabolic complications," says senior study author Eran Elinav of the Weizmann Institute of Science. "These surprising findings may enable us to devise preventive treatments for these people to lower their risk for these complications."


I have to walk how many miles to burn off this soda?


Contact: Susan Murrow
Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health
I have to walk how many miles to burn off this soda?
Easy-to-understand signs linking exercise to sugar-sweetened beverage consumption helps teens make healthier choices, researchers say

Adolescents who saw printed signs explaining the number of miles they would need to walk to burn off the calories in a sugary drink were more likely to leave the store with a lower calorie beverage, a healthier beverage or a smaller size beverage, according to new Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health research.

And those healthier choices persisted weeks after the signs came down.

A report on the findings, published online Oct. 16 in the American Journal of Public Health, adds to the growing evidence suggesting that simply showing calorie counts on products and menus isn't enough to break Americans from their bad eating habits. With calorie counts expected on menus in chain restaurants with more than 20 outlets by early next year the Affordable Care Act, the researchers say policymakers may need to rethink how that information is communicated.


For six-week stretches between August 2012 and June 2013, Bleich and her colleagues installed signs in six corner stores in low-income, predominantly black Baltimore neighborhoods. The signs, four in all, presented a key fact about the number of calories in a 20 oz. bottle of soda, sports drink or fruit juice: that each bottle contained 250 calories, had 16 teaspoons of sugar, would take 50 minutes of running to work off those calories or would take five miles to walk the calories off.


The researchers posted the brightly colored, 8.5-by-11-inch signs with the calorie information, displaying one sign at a time, on beverage cases in full view of customers. Before the signs were put up, researchers found that 98 percent of drink purchases in the stores were sugary beverages. After, regardless of the type of sign the adolescent saw, the number dropped to 89 percent. When compared with purchasing behaviors during times when there was no signage, the most effective sign, Bleich says, was the one which told shoppers they would have to walk five miles to burn off the drink calories.


America's Richest Families

Duncan Greenberg and Marie Thibault

For Sam Walton, low prices meant vast riches. By 1985, Walton was America’s richest man. At the time of his death in 1992 he and his family were worth at least $23 billion, proceeds of a life spent selling everything he could fit under the roofs of his Wal-Mart stores–from tires to tortellini–at prices neighborhood stores could not match.

Today Walton’s heirs–two sons, a daughter, a daughter-in-law and two nieces–are worth at least $90 billion, making them the richest family in America.

The Waltons are so rich that they have more than double the dollars of the second richest family in the U.S., the Koch clan, who command a fortune of at least $40 billion.


The four Koch brothers are the sons of Fred C. Koch, who invented a method of converting heavy oil into gasoline. Each son inherited a stake in Koch Industries when Fred died in 1967.


Today Koch Industries is America’s second-largest private company by sales, with products ranging from fabrics to fertilizer. Charles and David each own 42% of Koch Industries and are vastly richer than their brothers.

William runs energy conglomerate Oxbow Corporation, which last year brought in $3.7 billion in sales. Frederick is said to be living in Europe.

Ranking third: the Mars family, represented by siblings John, Jacqueline and Forrest Jr. Their great-grandmother, Alva Mars, amused her Polio-stricken son Frank (d. 1934) with lessons in chocolate making during the 1880s.

In 1911, Frank launched what would become Mars Inc.–today the world’s largest confectionery company with $30 billion in sales–out of his kitchen in Tacoma, Wash. Frank’s son, Forrest, introduced M&Ms in 1941, and popularized malt-flavored nougat, the chewy-sweet staple that is the foundation of candy classics Milky Way, Snickers and 3 Musketeers.

The three siblings inherited the company when Forrest Sr. died in 1999.

In compiling the list of America’s Richest Families, Forbes scoured biographies, financial filings and our extensive database of well-heeled individuals past and present. The list represents an eclectic mix of families who play an active role in the companies their relatives built, living entrepreneurs who have showered their families with the spoils of their success and old-money families who live off of trusts created decades ago.


How Companies Kill Their Employees' Job Searches

James Bessen Oct 17 2014

The days of working for only one company for a whole career are over. As a worker moves from one job to the next, their value to their next employer stems, at least in part, from the skills and knowledge he or she gained at work. It may seem like an odd idea, but who owns the skills and knowledge a worker gains on the job? Apparently, the companies you work for do. Even Jimmy John's has a noncompete agreement for sandwich-making.

Take Jerry Smith for example (not his real name, because he fears it would affect his future job prospects): He's an expert on speech recognition, but he can't use his deep knowledge of this technology at work anymore because he had signed a noncompete agreement with his former employer, promising not to work in the industry for two years after leaving the firm.

“I’ve been in this industry for 20 years and have a Ph.D. I walked in the door [of my former employer] with all this experience, and while I was there for 18 months they added, what, 2 percent to that?" he says. "Now they don’t want me to work in speech at all?”

He's not alone. Employers are increasingly taking legal action to prevent former employees from taking their knowledge and skills to new jobs, using trade-secret laws and contracts that cover post-employment activity. The number of lawsuits over noncompete agreements and trade secrets has nearly tripled since 2000. Now Congress is about to go further, giving employers new powers to sue employees under federal law. But many economists and legal scholars are against it, armed with ample evidence showing that such a law would reduce innovation and an employee's incentive to learn.

Currently, laws vary significantly from state to state: Some states allow the enforcement of agreements that former employees will not work for a rival company for a period of time, while other states view such agreements as illegal. But even in those states in the latter case, judges have used trade-secret laws to limit what economists call employee mobility—the ability of workers to move from one job to the next.


If you think that such a broad legal interpretation might create obstacles for many employees seeking to change jobs—you’d be right.

Some states have significantly broadened the range of employee knowledge that employers can seek to protect under trade-secret law. In the past, trade secret law mainly protected only concrete knowledge: the formula for Coca-Cola, or the code of a software program. Now, in many states, the law also extends to cover less well-defined knowledge, such as employee know-how, customer relations, and knowledge that is not used commercially. It gives firms control over employee knowledge that goes far beyond true trade secrets, reaching into basic knowledge that employees need to do their jobs. While most employers don’t push the limits of these powers, an increasing number have done so.


Another scientist took an “unpaid sabbatical” at a university; yet another worked in the industry secretly, hoping to avoid notice by his former employer; another, with years of experience, was forced out of the industry after being fired over a disagreement with the company founder. Many felt that noncompete enforcement was particularly unfair because their employers had only mentioned the agreements after they had accepted the job and begun work. Others, such as Jerry, felt it was unfair because it restricted the use of knowledge they had acquired before taking the job. Fair or not, noncompete agreements are taking an economic toll. For example, to avoid legal problems, one scientist took a job that did not use her specialized skills. “I intentionally looked for general-purpose programming, and I took a substantial pay cut to go there.”


But what about employers? It's true that trade secrets can really affect a company. Firms would be reluctant to pour millions of dollars into developing software if a rival could freely access the program code.


In short, noncompete agreements limit the job opportunities of highly skilled workers. When their choices are so limited, employees have less incentive to develop new skills and new knowledge. Statistical analysis supports this: Comparing states that allow firms to enforce noncompete agreements to those that do not, Mark Garmaise of UCLA found that managers earn less and they receive incentive compensation less often in states with noncompete enforcement, all else equal. Other researchers have found a similar effect in states that provide employers stronger controls via trade-secret law.


when employers control not only true trade secrets but also general employee knowledge and skills, the net effect is it reduces investment and innovation. Garmaise found that states that allow employers to enforce noncompete agreements actually invest less per employee. And economists Sampsa Samila and Olav Sorenson found that in these states, venture capital investments generate fewer patents, fewer new firms, and less job growth.


evidence shows that states that enforce noncompete agreements experience something of a “brain drain.” Matt Marx, along with co-authors Lee Fleming and Jasjit Singh, found that inventors tend to migrate to states that do not allow employers to enforce noncompete agreements.

The importance of employee mobility for innovation is illustrated by the phenomenal success of Silicon Valley. California prevents firms from enforcing noncompete agreements and researchers found that this explains the high level of job-hopping in Silicon Valley’s computer industry. Legal scholars Ron Gilson and Alan Hyde connect Silicon Valley’s greater employee mobility with its innovative successes relative to tech clusters in other states, such as the Route 128 cluster in Massachusetts.


Republican = ?

I was behind a car earlier today, in a residential area, that had "Democrats = socialists" painted on their back window. They were going noticeably faster than the speed limit, and tail-gating the car in front of them, so if they could, they would almost certainly have been going even faster.

Some rice-based foods for people with celiac disease contain relevant amounts of arsenic


Contact: SINC
FECYT - Spanish Foundation for Science and Technology

Some rice-based foods for people with celiac disease contain relevant amounts of arsenic

Rice is one of the few cereal grains consumed by people with celiac disease, as it does not contain gluten. However, it can have high concentrations of a toxic substance – arsenic – as revealed by the analyses of flour, cakes, bread, pasta and other foods made with rice, conducted by researchers from the Miguel Hernández University of Elche, Spain. The European Union is working to establish the maximum quantities of arsenic in these products.

Celiac disease affects almost 1% of the population of the western world, a group which cannot tolerate gluten and is thus obliged to consume products without it, such as rice. But this grain, depending on its origin, can also contain worrying levels of arsenic, a toxic and carcinogenic substance.

For the majority of consumers this does not pose any problem because they do not eat much rice every day, but this is not the case for celiac disease sufferers. Researchers from the Miguel Hernández University of Elche (UMH) have analysed the presence of arsenic in flour, bread, sweets, pastas, beers and milk made with rice and intended for this particular group of the population.

The results of the analyses, presented in the journal Food Additives & Contaminants, warn that some of these products contain "important contents" of total arsenic (As-t, up to 120 µg/kg) and inorganic arsenic (As-i, up to 85.8 µg/kg). Total arsenic is the sum of the organic arsenic, which is combined with carbon, and inorganic arsenic, which reacts with other elements such as oxygen, chlorine and sulphur, and is more harmful.


A panel of experts from the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) of the EU established in 2009 that there is evidence to suggest that an intake range of 0.3 - 8.0 µg/kg of body weight per day entails a risk of developing lung, skin or bladder cancer. The estimated intakes in the two studies therefore vary within this range.


Arsenic is naturally present in the Earth's crust, but in some regions its abundance is greater than in others, and its concentration also increases with the use of pesticides. The substance then spreads through water to rice, one of the few plants that is cultivated when flooded.

One of the 'cleanest' types of rice is from the Doñana National Park, as the use of pesticides has not been permitted here and arsenic is not naturally present in large quantities. On the other hand, in countries like India and Bangladesh, where waters are contaminated with inorganic arsenic and rice constitutes a staple food for the population, the result is currently one of the largest mass poisonings in history.

Smoking during pregnancy alters newborn stress hormones and DNA


Contact: Elena Falcone-Relvas

Miriam Hospital study finds smoking during pregnancy alters newborn stress hormones and DNA

PROVIDENCE, R.I. – Researchers from The Miriam Hospital have studied the effects of smoking during pregnancy and its impact on the stress response in newborn babies. Their research indicates that newborns of mothers who smoke cigarettes during pregnancy show lower levels of stress hormones, lowered stress response, and alterations in DNA for a gene that regulates passage of stress hormones from mother to fetus. The study and its findings have been published in the journal Psychoneuroendocrinology.

"Our results suggest that these newborns may not be mounting adequate hormonal response to daily stressors. Their stress systems may not be prepared for the stressors of daily life," says lead researcher Laura Stroud, Ph.D., of the Centers for Behavioral and Preventive Medicine at The Miriam Hospital. "This may be particularly detrimental in babies born to mothers who lack resources and parenting skills and whose babies may encounter more daily stressors."

National health statistics show that despite the warnings and known health risks, approximately one in 10 expectant moms in the United States continue to smoke during pregnancy, with higher rates among young, poor, and underserved moms. Babies born to smoking mothers are born smaller, are more likely to be premature, and are at greater risk for medical complications. Smoking during pregnancy is also associated with long-term behavioral and health problems in child and adult offspring, including asthma, behavior and attention problems, and nicotine addiction. However, biological mechanisms underlying short and long-term effects of smoking during pregnancy on offspring are not well understood.

"One possibility is alterations in stress hormones and epigenetic changes (chemical modifications) in DNA" Stroud says. "We were interested in stress hormones because alterations in stress hormones have been linked to both smoking and behavior problems and because maternal stress hormones during pregnancy exert potent long-term effects on offspring. In particular, we sought to investigate effects of smoking during pregnancy on the newborn stress hormone cortisol." Cortisol is part of the hypothalamic pituitary adrenocortical system that works synergistically with the "fight flight" stress system.


Climate change alters cast of winter birds


Contact: Benjamin Zuckerberg
University of Wisconsin-Madison
Climate change alters cast of winter birds

MADISON — Over the past two decades, the resident communities of birds that attend eastern North America's backyard bird feeders in winter have quietly been remade, most likely as a result of a warming climate.

Writing this week in the journal Global Change Biology, University of Wisconsin-Madison wildlife biologists Benjamin Zuckerberg and Karine Princé document that once rare wintering bird species are now commonplace in the American Northeast.

Using more than two decades of data on 38 species of birds gathered by thousands of "citizen scientists" through the Cornell University Laboratory of Ornithology's Project FeederWatch, the Wisconsin researchers show that birds typically found in more southerly regions are gradually pushing north, restructuring the communities of birds that spend their winters in northern latitudes.

To the causal observer of backyard birds, the list of species becoming more common includes the readily familiar: cardinals, chipping sparrows and Carolina wrens. These birds and other warm-adapted species, according to Princé and Zuckerberg, have greatly expanded their wintering range in a warmer world, a change that may have untold consequences for North American ecosystems.

"Fifty years ago, cardinals were rare in the northeastern United States. Carolina wrens even more so," explains Zuckerberg, a UW-Madison assistant professor of forest and wildlife ecology.


Vitamin D deficiency increases poor brain function after cardiac arrest by sevenfold


Contact: Jacqueline Partarrieu
European Society of Cardiology
Vitamin D deficiency increases poor brain function after cardiac arrest by sevenfold
Lack of vitamin D also increases mortality

Geneva, Switzerland – 18 October 2014: Vitamin D deficiency increases the risk of poor brain function after sudden cardiac arrest by seven-fold, according to research presented at Acute Cardiovascular Care 2014 by Dr Jin Wi from Korea. Vitamin D deficiency also led to a higher chance of dying after sudden cardiac arrest.


Friday, October 17, 2014

A top health official says cuts slowed Ebola vaccine research

The Washington Post 7:59 a.m. EDT October 16, 2014

Federal budget austerity slowed the development of vaccines and therapies for the deadly Ebola virus that has ravaged West Africa, killed one man in Dallas and infected a health-care worker in Texas, according to the top National Institutes of Health official.

NIH Director Francis Collins, a Staunton native, told the Huffington Post on Friday that the agency has been working on Ebola vaccines for more than a decade. But the NIH budget has shrunk by about $5 billion over the same period, after adjusting for inflation.

"Frankly, if we had not gone through our 10-year slide in research support, we probably would have had a vaccine in time for this that would've gone through clinical trials and would have been ready," Collins said.

The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, an NIH division that deals with viruses, has taken a hit with the recent belt tightening. The budget for that subcomponent dropped by about $50 million between 2004 and 2013.

Collins said Congress should approve emergency funding to help with the agency's work on Ebola, but he added that "nobody seems enthusiastic about that."

Two Democrats, Reps. Rosa DeLauro (Conn.) and Brian Higgins (N.Y.) proposed legislation last month that would raise the agency's current budget cap, which was imposed under the so-called sequester.


The Highest-Paid CEOs Are The Worst Performers

Susan Adams

Across the board, the more CEOs get paid, the worse their companies do over the next three years, according to extensive new research. This is true whether they’re CEOs at the highest end of the pay spectrum or the lowest. “The more CEOs are paid, the worse the firm does over the next three years, as far as stock performance and even accounting performance,” says one of the authors of the study, Michael Cooper of the University of Utah’s David Eccles School of Business.


The empirical evidence before fell on both sides of that question, but those studies used small sample sizes. Now Cooper and two professors, one at Purdue and the other at the University of Cambridge, have studied a large data set of the 1,500 companies with the biggest market caps, supplied by a firm called Execucomp. They also looked at pay and company performance in three-year periods over a relatively long time span, from 1994-2013, and compared what are known as firms’ “abnormal” performance, meaning a company’s revenues and profits as compared with like companies in their fields. They were startled to find that the more CEOs got paid, the worse their companies did.

Another counter-intuitive conclusion: The negative effect was most pronounced in the 150 firms with the highest-paid CEOs.


How could this be? In a word, overconfidence. CEOs who get paid huge amounts tend to think less critically about their decisions. “They ignore dis-confirming information and just think that they’re right,” says Cooper. That tends to result in over-investing—investing too much and investing in bad projects that don’t yield positive returns for investors.” The researchers found that 13% of the 150 CEOs at the bottom of the list had done mergers over the past year and the average return from the mergers was negative .51%. Among the top-paid CEOs, 19% did mergers and those deals resulted in a negative performance of 1.38% over the following three years. “The returns are almost three times lower for the high-paying firms than the low-paying firms,” says Cooper. “This wasteful spending destroys shareholder value.”

The paper also found that the longer CEOs were at the helm, the more pronounced was their firms’ poor performance. Cooper says this is because those CEOs are able to appoint more allies to their boards, and those board members are likely to go along with the bosses’ bad decisions. “For the high-pay CEOs, with high overconfidence and high tenure, the effects are just crazy,” he says. They return 22% worse in shareholder value over three years as compared to their peers.


Thursday, October 16, 2014

New Study Details Alarming Acceleration In Sea Level Rise

by Ari Phillips Posted on October 15, 2014

Melting polar and glacial ice and thermally expanding ocean water have accelerated sea level rise to the highest rate in at least 6,000 years according to a new study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Using data from ancient sediment samples from around Asia and Australia, researchers looked back at 35,000 years of sea level history, finding that over the last 6,000 years little changed — until 150 years ago.

Using indicators of the era’s sea level, like location of ancient tree roots and mollusks, the scientists’ reconstruction found no evidence that sea levels fluctuated by more than about eight inches during the relatively stable period that lasted between 6,000 and about 150 years ago. Then, since the onset of the industrial revolution, sea levels have already risen by about that same amount. The scientists attribute climate change and rising temperatures that cause polar and glacial ice to melt and thermal expansion of the oceans as the primary cause for the rapid and extremely unusual increase in sea level. Water expands as it warms, and there is enough warming water in the ocean to cause a significant impact on sea levels.


We know from the last interglacial period that when temperatures were several degrees warmer than today there was a lot more water in the oceans, with levels around four to five meters higher than today,” lead author Kurt Lambeck, a professor at Australian National University, told the Guardian. “The question is how fast that change occurs when you increase temperatures.”

Lambeck said that the sea level increase of the past 100 years is “beyond dispute” and that “what we’ve seen is unusual, certainly unprecedented for these interglacial periods.” He also said this is a process that can’t just be turned off and that “sea levels will continue to rise for some centuries to come even if we keep carbon emissions at present day levels.”


We know from the last interglacial period that when temperatures were several degrees warmer than today there was a lot more water in the oceans, with levels around four to five meters higher than today,” lead author Kurt Lambeck, a professor at Australian National University, told the Guardian. “The question is how fast that change occurs when you increase temperatures.”

Lambeck said that the sea level increase of the past 100 years is “beyond dispute” and that “what we’ve seen is unusual, certainly unprecedented for these interglacial periods.” He also said this is a process that can’t just be turned off and that “sea levels will continue to rise for some centuries to come even if we keep carbon emissions at present day levels.”

Kmart and Dairy Queen Report Data Breach

Target found the problem and let people know about it earlier, and what was their reward? Lost sales and closed stores.

By Nicole Perlroth
October 10, 2014

In the latest cyberattack on American retailers and restaurants, both Kmart and Dairy Queen said their computer systems were compromised in security intrusions involving customers’ credit and debit card information.

Kmart, a subsidiary of Sears Holdings, said on Friday that it had been breached and that it was working with law enforcement as well as a forensics team. The company said that it appeared to have been attacked in early September and that malware was present on some of its in-store payment systems. The malware, like the type found at Home Depot recently, was meant to evade antivirus systems.

Dairy Queen also said on Thursday that its in-store payment systems contained malware. The company said it was working with its franchisees to determine if and when each location was breached and posted a full list, with time frames, on its website. That information suggests hackers made their way into Dairy Queen payment systems in August.

Based on early forensics reports, Sears and Dairy Queen said there was no no evidence that personal information, debit card PINs, email addresses or Social Security numbers were obtained in the attack. Only account numbers and expiration dates were taken.

Sears and Dairy Queen join nearly a dozen retailers — including Target, Sally Beauty, Neiman Marcus, the United Parcel Service, Michaels, Albertsons, SuperValu, P.F. Chang’s and Home Depot — that have had their in-store payment systems compromised with malware over the last year.

The Secret Service estimated this summer that 1,000 American merchants were affected by this kind of attack, and that many of them may not even know that they were breached. There have been no arrests to date.


Calif. atheist re-jailed for refusing faith-based rehab

Arturo Garcia
14 Oct 2014

A Northern California man was awarded almost $2 million in a settlement after prison officials sent him back to jail for refusing to take part in a faith-based treatment program for drug offenders because he is an atheist.

According to the Redding Record Searchlight, Barry Hazle Jr. will receive $1 million from state officials and $925,000 from Westcare California, the contractor in charge of the program, which called for attendees to submit themselves to a “higher power” and pray.

“I’m thrilled to finally have this case settled,” Hazle said on Tuesday. “It sends a clear message to people in a position of authority, like my parole agent, for example, that they not mandate religious programming for their parolees, and for anyone else, for that matter.”

The dispute between Hazle and the state began in 2007, when he was ordered to take part in the Westcare program as part of his probation in connection with possession of methamphetamine. The Huffington Post reported in August 2013 that Hazle asked for a non-religious alternative, but was denied.


He served nearly 100 days there on top of his already-completed sentence and sued, saying his imprisonment violated his First Amendment rights. But a district court refused to award him compensatory damages, while upholding his argument.

However, a federal appeals court ruled last year that Hazle’s damages were mandatory in cases such as his, setting the stage for the settlement.

Having More Than One Set of DNA Carries Legacy of Risk

Mosaics don't only occur from mutations. They can be a result of two embryos that start out as fraternal twins, where some cells of the other twin get combined with the other, or even a total merging of the two twins into one embryo. Of course, the same thing could happen with identical twins, but would not create a mosaic because the celss are genetically the same.

JULY 31, 2014
Carl Zimmer

When Meriel M. McEntagart, a geneticist at St. George’s University of London, met the family in May 2012, she suspected that three of the children had a rare genetic disorder called Smith-Magenis syndrome. They had many of the symptoms of the disease, such as trouble sleeping through the night. Dr. McEntagart confirmed that diagnosis with a genetic test. The children were all missing an identical chunk of a gene known as RAI1.

One of the children had a different father from the other two, and so the mother could be the only source of their altered gene. But when Dr. McEntagart ran a standard blood test on the mother, the results were not nearly so straightforward: The woman had a normal version of RAI1.

Dr. McEntagart and her colleagues suspected that the answer to this puzzle was that the mother was a genetic mosaic.

We tend to think of ourselves as having just one set of genetic material, which exists in identical form in every one of our cells. But sometimes, people have two or more significantly different genomes. As our cells divide, some may go through a major mutation. So some individuals end up with groups of cells that have very different DNA from the rest of them.


Dr. McEntagart got wind that researchers at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston were developing new methods for pinpointing mosaics, and they confirmed that the mother was indeed a mosaic. Some of her cells carried the Smith-Magenis syndrome mutation.


In a study released Thursday in the American Journal of Human Genetics, the Baylor team and its colleagues describe the biggest search for cases in which mosaic parents passed down disease-causing mutations to their children. It turns out to be far from a fluke.

“This happens a surprising amount of the time,” said Chad A. Shaw, a co-author of the new study.


The majority of the mother’s blood cells had intact copies of the RAI1 gene, the scientists found. But 25 percent of the cells lacked the same piece that was missing from the children’s genes.

The scientists argue that there’s only way to explain these strange results: The mother became a mosaic when she was a tiny clump of embryonic cells.


the line of cells with the defective RAI1 gene gave rise to some of the mother’s eggs, some of her blood and perhaps some of her other tissues as well.


Ebola Nurses Are As Brave As Soldiers

Michael Daly
Oct. 16, 2014

By comparing the work schedules of the two Texas nurses who have been diagnosed with Ebola, medical detectives have narrowed down when they were most likely infected.

Nina Pham and Amber Joy Vinson were both treating Thomas Duncan during the days between his Sept. 28 admission to the Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital and the subsequent confirmation that he did indeed have Ebola.

And, according to an anonymous statement apparently issued by some of their co-workers, this was the same period of time before the hospital instituted adequate precautions.


But that is still only supposition. What is uncontestable is that 26-year-old Pham and 29-year-old Vinson and all the other nurses who treated Duncan were uncommonly brave.

As an Ebola patient slips from bad to worse to dire, he can expel as many as two and a half gallons of effluvia a day. A single drop of his blood can hold nearly a half billion viral particles, some 50,000 times more than with untreated HIV—math that makes Ebola at this stage so much more contagious.

Yet the nurses kept giving their all to save Duncan, fighting to keep their patient hydrated as he geysered it back out as hyper-hazardous waste.

They did so knowing that each time they inserted a needle or cleaned him or simply adjusted him in the bed they risked sharing his fate. His very skin would have had high levels of Ebola.


And none of the nurses was more meticulous or caring than 26-year-old Pham. She once told a friend that she asks herself a question when treating a patient.

“What would I do if this was my mom, dad, or grandparent?”


“They’re all tired. They’re stressed because they all think ‘Maybe I’m the next one,’” Dr. Pierre Rollin of the CDC told a Dallas TV station. “But they’re all willing to work. They’re all volunteers. They’re not forced to come to help; they want to do it.”


Struggling Ga. taxpayers subsidize jetsetters’ lifestyle

Jay Bookman
Oct. 16, 2014


The real top-of-the-line model at Gulfstream is the highly coveted G650, with a sales price of $64.5 million and a waiting list of almost four years for delivery. It has a maximum range of more than 8,000 miles, reaching air speeds twice that of commercial airliners, and boasts luxury touches that make it a must-have status item among billionaires.

And when you’ve got billionaires lining up, willing to wait years to get their hands on your product, business is very good. Stock of Gulfstream’s parent company, General Dynamics, is up 33.7 percent in the past year, even after the recent selloff on Wall Street, and second-quarter profits were $646 million, with Gulfstream generating a huge part of that number.

In many ways, that’s a great success story. However, I think it’s worth noting that the people of Georgia are making their own contribution to the General Dynamics bottom line, in addition to what they contribute in terms of their own labor and education. Earlier this year, the Georgia Legislature approved a bill that gives Gulfstream a permanent special-interest tax break worth an estimated $29 million to $40 million a year.

Under House Bill 933, signed into law by Gov. Nathan Deal in April**, Gulfstream gets a permanent sales tax exemption on all parts used to maintain and repair the high-end corporate jets that it sells. Your local auto mechanic pays a sales tax on items used to repair your car; which means that he in turn charges it to you. But Gulfstream and its deep-pocketed customers are exempt.

t’s a remarkable situation. Corporate after-tax profits are at or near record highs, which is why Gulfstream’s business is so good. The wealthiest 1 percent have collected almost all of the income gain generated since the Great Recession. CEO compensation last year was up 21.7 percent since 2010. It is up 937 percent since 1978.

Meanwhile, median household incomes in Georgia continue to drop. More than 17 percent of Georgians live in poverty, as do 27 percent of our children — that’s more than one in four. In fiscal 2013, we had 42,000 more students in Georgia public schools than we did in 2009, being taught by 9,000 fewer teachers. We aren’t allowing our working poor to get access to Medicaid coverage that is available in other states because we’re told that Georgia can’t afford it.

Yet even with all that, Georgia’s struggling taxpayers are being forced to subsidize a extremely profitable manufacturer of high-end corporate jets and its billionaire customers to the tune of up to $40 million a year.


Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Easing stress can lower your risk of diabetes

AARP Bulletin Oct. 2014
Peter Jaret


Stress at home or work may add to the risk of developing diabetes. In a 2014 study led by University of Colorado psychologist Mark Whisman, researchers found that men in rocky marriages had a higher prevalence of the disease than men in happier unions. Another study published last year found that chronic stress adds to the harmful effects of a high fat/high sugar diet, and may cause people to carry more abdominal fat and increase their risk of insulin resistance. “Stress hormones like cortisol and norepinephrine can bind to receptors on cells, including muscle and fat cells, and change the way they respond,” says Kirstin Aschbacher, an assistant professor of psychiatry at the University of California, San Francisco, who led the study. “If you’re at risk of type 2 diabetes, it’s advisable to take some steps to manage stress.” Physical activity, which has many benefits, may help, as can meditation, yoga and breathing exercises.

How to get rich - cheat your employees

A friend of mine recently got a job at Denny's. Her salary was the minimum for tipped employees $2.13. By law, if salary + tips is less than regular minimum wage, the employer is supposed to make up the difference. This employer said to report tips, if the wage + tips was less than the minimum wage, he would make up the difference. And then he would fire her, because if she didn't make sufficient tips it would show that she was not a good server. My friend was on a shift with few customers, and a couple other servers and couldn't make the minimum, but didn't report it for fear of losing the job. She finally quit.

Jimmy John's Non-Compete Agreements Are Utterly Psychotic

C.A. Pinkham

More evidence that Jimmy Johns is the quite possibly the worst company to work for in America: they force their employees — even those at the bottom rungs of the ladder like sandwich makers and delivery drivers — to sign non-competes that would seem overbearing to a governmental espionage agency.

Huffington Post obtained a copy of a Jimmy John's non-compete agreement that all employees are required to sign, no matter where they sit on the corporate food chain. The agreement states that after leaving Jimmy John's for any reason, the employee cannot work for two years at any Jimmy John's competitor. That would be crazy enough, but it gets even more Banana Town when you consider what Jimmy John's apparently considers a "competitor": any business that makes at least 10% of its revenues from sandwiches within three miles of ANY Jimmy John's.

Basically, any former Jimmy John's employee can't work at ANY restaurant that serves sandwiches or even any business that provides sandwiches as a side service (10% of their revenue, remember) within three miles of any existing Jimmy John's.

As HuffPo points out, ordinarily non-competes at companies like Jimmy John's exist for executives who could potentially reveal company secrets to their chief competitors. Unless "company secrets" has been broadened to include "that guy at 1321 Pine Boulevard is a non-tipping asshole," it's hard to see how that case could be made here. Luckily, the non-compete is now part of the same proposed class action that alleges systematic wage theft at the company.

Obviously, this has nothing to do with the divestment of company secrets and everything to do with putting workers in as desperate a situation as possible where they're terrified to lose or leave their jobs. Jimmy John's seeks to control its employees lives, treat them as crappily as they feel like, and prevent them from seeking out any better situation. To say it's an actively, heinously evil practice would be a profound understatement.