Monday, October 12, 2015

Disaster Relief organizations

Here is a list of charities that are turning to you for support as they send teams in to help victims:

American Red Cross
Doctors Without Borders
International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies
OXFAM America
Handicap International
Save the Children
World Vision
Samaritan's Purse
International Medical Corps

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

Feb. 2015

Help people and give your mind a workout, too.

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

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

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

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

Who volunteers?

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

Good with numbers? Be a tax volunteer.

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

Skilled in all things digital? Be a technology coordinator.

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

Love working with people? Be a greeter.

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

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

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

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

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

Speak a second language? You're urgently needed!

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

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

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

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

Thursday, October 08, 2015

Nuclear black market seeks IS extremists

AP INVESTIGATION: Nuclear black market seeks IS extremists
Oct 7, 3:45 PM (ET)

Over the pulsating beat at an exclusive nightclub, the arms smuggler made his pitch to a client: 2.5 million euros for enough radioactive cesium to contaminate several city blocks.

It was earlier this year, and the two men were plotting their deal at an unlikely spot: the terrace of Cocos Prive, a dance club and sushi bar in Chisinau, the capital of Moldova.

"You can make a dirty bomb, which would be perfect for the Islamic State," the smuggler said. "If you have a connection with them, the business will go smoothly."

But the smuggler, Valentin Grossu, wasn't sure the client was for real — and he was right to worry. The client was an informant, and it took some 20 meetings to persuade Grossu that he was an authentic Islamic State representative. Eventually, the two men exchanged cash for a sample in a sting operation that landed Grossu in jail.

The previously unpublicized case is one of at least four attempts in five years in which criminal networks with suspected Russian ties sought to sell radioactive material to extremists through Moldova, an investigation by The Associated Press has found. One investigation uncovered an attempt to sell bomb-grade uranium to a real buyer from the Middle East, the first known case of its kind.

In that operation, wiretaps and interviews with investigators show, a middleman for the gang repeatedly ranted with hatred for America as he focused on smuggling the essential material for an atomic bomb and blueprints for a dirty bomb to a Middle Eastern buyer.

In wiretaps, videotaped arrests, photographs of bomb-grade material, documents and interviews, AP found that smugglers are explicitly targeting buyers who are enemies of the West. The developments represent the fulfillment of a long-feared scenario in which organized crime gangs are trying to link up with groups such as the Islamic State and al-Qaida — both of which have made clear their ambition to use weapons of mass destruction.


But their successes (arrests of the people trying to sell nuclear material to terrorists) were undercut by striking shortcomings: Kingpins got away, and those arrested evaded long prison sentences, sometimes quickly returning to nuclear smuggling, AP found.


Moldovan police and judicial authorities shared investigative case files with the AP in an effort to spotlight how dangerous the black market has become. They say a breakdown in cooperation between Russia and the West means that it is much harder to know whether smugglers are finding ways to move parts of Russia's vast store of radioactive materials.

"We can expect more of these cases," said Constantin Malic, one of the Moldovan investigators. "As long as the smugglers think they can make big money without getting caught, they will keep doing it."


Wiretapped conversations exposed plots that targeted the United States, the Moldovan officials said. In one case, a middleman said it was essential the smuggled bomb-grade uranium go to Arabs, said Malic, an investigator in all four sting operations.

"He said: 'I really want an Islamic buyer because they will bomb the Americans.'"


Tests of the uranium seized confirmed that it was high-grade material that could be used in a nuclear bomb. The tests also linked it to two earlier seizures of highly enriched uranium that investigators believed the colonel was also behind.

A search of Chetrus' house showed just how dangerous the smugglers were. After police made their arrests in Chisinau, Malic combed through documents in the farmhouse.

He found the plans for the dirty bomb. Worse, there was evidence that Chetrus was making a separate deal to sell nuclear material to a real buyer.

Investigators found contracts made out to a Sudanese doctor named Yosif Faisal Ibrahim for attack helicopters and armored personnel carriers, government documents show.


At one point, the unwitting smuggler said in text messages obtained by the AP that his gang had access to an outdated Russian missile system capable of carrying a nuclear warhead. The man said he could obtain two R29 submarine-based missiles and provide technical background on how to use them.

Following the same script as in 2011, the team wrapped up the investigation after a sample of 200 grams of unenriched uranium was exchanged for $15,000 on Dec. 3, 2014. Six people were arrested, five got away.


Exploding tick numbers threaten

By Darryl Fears October 7 at 9:00 AM

Right now, in the woods of Maine and New Hampshire, tens of millions of winter ticks are pouring out of eggs and climbing up stalks until they reach an ideal peak — about the height of a moose. If a moose happens by — male, female, calf … winter ticks don’t care — they climb aboard.

Other types of ticks, such as wood ticks and deer ticks, grab a bite and drop off. Winter ticks are much greedier. They hang on for the entire winter, fattening up on blood until their bloated hides resemble a watermelon. Some moose, especially small calves, develop anemia and eventually starve. In a vain attempt to dislodge ticks, adult moose scratch until the brown layer of their fur gives way to a thin grey layer underneath. They’re called Ghost Moose, because that’s how they look.

As the climate in the two states warmed over the 20th century, and the duration of summer weather increased by up to two weeks, and the snow that kills winter ticks fell less or melted faster, their populations grew, scientists say. When conditions in the states are cold, females that leap off moose in April to lay eggs fall on heavy snow pack that kill both. But more of the eggs are now surviving to hatch in fall. A single female lays 3,000 eggs the size of salt crystals.


Catching cancers when they are small still makes a difference to survival

Public Release: 6-Oct-2015
Catching cancers when they are small still makes a difference to survival
Classic prognostic factors, such as tumour size, still matter, say experts

Catching cancers when they are small still makes a difference to survival, even in the current era of more effective therapies, suggests a study of breast cancer patients in The BMJ this week.

The research team, based in the Netherlands, say that traditional factors such as tumour size and number of positive lymph nodes "still have a significant and major influence on overall mortality independent of age and tumour biology."


The results show that both tumour stage and lymph node status had a significant influence on overall survival in both cohorts.

The researchers stress that this is an observational study so no definitive conclusions can be drawn about cause and effect. Nevertheless, they say that tumour size and nodal status "still have a significant and major influence on overall mortality independent of age and tumour biology in the current era of more conservative surgery and newer systemic therapies.

Early stage at detection is vital; surgery is crucial, and more conservative surgery is more favourable," they conclude.


Heavy Internet use may put teens at risk for high blood pressure

Public Release: 6-Oct-2015
Heavy Internet use may put teens at risk for high blood pressure
Henry Ford Health System

Teens who spend hours on the Internet may be at risk for high blood pressure, say researchers at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit.

In a study published in the Journal of School Nursing, researchers found that teens who spent at least 14 hours a week on the Internet had elevated blood pressure. Of 134 teens described by researchers as heavy Internet users, 26 had elevated blood pressure.

This is believed to be the first study to show a link between time spent on the Internet and high blood pressure. The findings add to growing research that has shown an association between heavy Internet use and other health risks like addiction, anxiety, depression, obesity and social isolation.


Wednesday, October 07, 2015

2015: Still No Let Up in Ocean Warming

Rob Painting
Oct. 7, 2015

Ocean warming has made up 93% of global warming in the last 5 decades (IPCC AR5 Chapter 3) and the first six months of ocean heat data for 2015 are now available from the National Centers for Environmental Information (NCEI). Armed with the knowledge that increasing industrial greenhouse gas emissions trap ever more heat in the atmosphere and ocean, it will come as no surprise whatsoever to learn that the strong ocean heating of recent years has continued into 2015.

In contrast to the Northern Hemisphere, the surface area of the Southern Hemisphere is dominated by the ocean and it's therefore the end of Southern Hemisphere summer, when that hemisphere is closest to the sun, that ocean heat uptake is strongest. Loeb et al (2012), however, demonstrated that outgoing longwave radiation (heat loss) from the Earth increases during El Niño, so it will be interesting to see how things pan out over the next 6-8 months given that we have a powerful El Niño still developing in the Pacific Ocean. We may see a temporary reduction in the rate of ocean warming as the El Niño discharges a greater-than-normal amount of tropical ocean heat to the atmosphere. Inevitably, much of this surplus heat will be radiated out to space.

Also of interest, and directly connected with increasing ocean heat content due to the expansion of seawater as it warms, is global sea level rise

The large year-to-year fluctuations shown in the graph are caused by short-lived water mass exchanges between the land and ocean. With La Niña anomalous precipitation falls over land, therefore lowering global sea level, and with El Niño this precipitation is concentrated over the oceans, raising sea level as the continental basins dry out and water drains back into the sea.


The predator survives -- but the ecosystem crashes

Public Release: 6-Oct-2015
The predator survives -- but the ecosystem crashes
Overexploitation of resources may lead to extinction cascade, theoretical study shows
Linköping University

What do killer whales, polar bears and humans have in common? They are adaptable predators with the ability to select new prey when their favourite food is in low supply. But this change can disrupt entire ecosystems.

"If the predator is efficient at killing its prey, such a change can lead to negative effects in the long term, for the entire food web, even if in the short term it benefits the predator's survival," says David Gilljam, doctoral student in theoretical biology, who joined with Professor Bo Ebenman and PhD Alva Curtsdotter to publish a new model-based study in Nature Communications.

By working with both natural and computer-generated food webs, the researchers can show how the overexploitation of resources caused by predators changing their prey can, in the worst case, lead to an extinction cascade, where species after species is wiped out in a domino effect.

A dramatic example of this is the killer whale, whose main prey was newborn whale calves. When whale populations fell dramatically due to intensive hunting, they began to hunt seal instead. Then when the seal population was quickly eradicated, the killer whales moved on to sea otters. This reduced the pressure on sea urchins, the preferred diet of the sea otters. As a result, the sea urchins grazed down the kelp beds that have served as nurseries for many different fish species and small marine animals.

"Think of a rope that's made of a number of twisted fibres. When force is applied to the rope, the force is spread across all the fibres. If one fibre breaks, the remaining fibres take all the force, with more force on each individual fibre. If more break, eventually the whole rope will fail," says Prof Ebenman.

A few examples from the real world:

As the ice in the Arctic melts, it gets more and more difficult for the polar bears to hunt seal - their natural prey. Instead they have started to venture onto the land, to feed on the eggs and young of ground-nesting birds, which are already the prey of other predators such as arctic foxes. The risk is that the predatory pressure on these birds will be too great.

West-African fishermen are abandoning their fishing grounds in times of poor supply - which is caused by industrial-scale fishing. Instead they are hunting on nature reserves, which leads to drastic reductions to the populations of prey animals there. Humans are an extremely flexible, efficient predator, who have massive impact on ecosystems.


Hospitals may sicken many by withholding food and sleep

Public Release: 6-Oct-2015
Commentary: Hospitals may sicken many by withholding food and sleep
Johns Hopkins experts say malnutrition and sleep deprivation should become part of the standard safety checklist across hospitals
Johns Hopkins Medicine

A Johns Hopkins surgeon and prominent patient safety researcher is calling on hospitals to reform emergency room, surgical and other medical protocols that sicken up to half of already seriously ill patients -- in some cases severely -- with preventable and potentially dangerous bouts of food and sleep deprivation.

In a commentary published ahead of print Sept. 8 in BMJ Quality & Safety, Martin Makary, M.D., M.P.H., and his co-authors urge the wide adoption of protocols to end the practice of imposing needlessly long fasts on patients preparing for operations and to improve sleep quality in those recovering from such procedures.

"Surgery takes a huge physiologic toll on the body, and forcing sick people, especially the elderly, who are already in a frail state, to fast for eight to 12 hours, or even days, before surgery, only amplifies that stress on the body," Makary says.

In their commentary, the authors describe what they say is a typical case of a 65-year-old woman who develops pneumonia at home and feels too sick to eat or drink much for several days. She then goes to the emergency room, where food is withheld by medical personnel in case she needs certain invasive tests or actual surgery. If needed, surgery might add more days without food and little sleep, owing to continuous monitoring and noise in and outside her hospital room.

The authors point out that when subjected to the same level of sleep deprivation and lack of nutrition, healthy people can develop weakened immune systems, dangerous fatigue and impaired judgment within 24 hours.

"Subject sick or elderly individuals to those same conditions and each next medical intervention becomes more dangerous as their illness takes a turn for the worse," Makary says.

Healing may be delayed, he says, and often such individuals are readmitted after discharged home -- a scenario so common it has been dubbed post-hospital syndrome.


Makary and his co-authors note, such limitations are woefully out of date, and they cite research showing that food needs to be curtailed only six to eight hours before surgery and drinks just two hours before. Under a protocol dubbed the Enhanced Recovery After Surgery (ERAS) and already used at The Johns Hopkins Hospital for many, but not all, patients scheduled for surgery are prescribed a carbohydrate-rich sports drink, two hours before the procedure, to mitigate the stress of fasting. The approach also includes limiting the use of intravenous feeding and a faster return to normal feeding.

A recent study led by Johns Hopkins surgeon Elizabeth Wick, M.D., a co-author on the commentary, demonstrated that the ERAS approach can reduce the average length of stay by two days among colorectal patients, among other complications. The average cost of treatment also decreased from nearly $11,000 to $9,000 per patient.

Reducing sleep deprivation, however, may require more dramatic changes in hospital routine, the authors say. Currently, hospitals are noisy, stressful environments, with loud conversations outside the room, phones ringing, repeat overhead pages and shared rooms, the authors write.

While the World Health Organization recommends keeping hospital noise levels below 35 decibels at night and 40 decibels during the day, most hospitals exceed those levels, occasionally by several orders of magnitude, according to a 2012 study described in Intensive and Critical Care Nursing. Adding to sleep problems, many lights remain on, particularly in the emergency department, and lab draws of blood occur at all times of day and night.

Johns Hopkins changed practices so that lab draws now occur only during the day. The hospital has also eliminated overhead paging on clinical units to reduce sleep disturbance, and most patients stay in private rooms.


The hospital bombing

The accidental bombing of the hospital by U.S. forces is deplorable. It should be investigated. It is possible some people should be disciplined. Certainly reparations & apologies should be made, and procedures put in place to avoid this happening again.
But what grounds are there for trying labeling this a "war crime"?
Has anybody saying it was not a mistake never done an action that turned out badly, that they didn't plan on? I doubt it.

If a doctor at the hospital made a mistake and the patient died, is the doctor a murdering terrorist?

This spring, 2015, I was stopped at a red light. A pedestrian crossed in front of me from right to left, in the pedestrian lane, with the pedestrian light on. A car came from the opposite direction whooshed around the corner w/o stopping. Luckily, the pedestrian saw it in time, and was young and agile enough to jump to the curb, at least three feet away. If he hadn't, that car would have hit him full on.
When I say the drive would have been guilty of murder if he had killed the pedestrian, people disagree. Why would he have been less culpable?

Tuesday, October 06, 2015

Artificial scents have no place in hospitals

Public Release: 5-Oct-2015
Artificial scents have no place in hospitals
Canadian Medical Association Journal

Artificial scents such as perfumes and after-shave have no place in our hospitals because they can aggravate asthma and other allergies, argues an editorial in CMAJ (Canadian Medical Association Journal)

About 30% of people report some sensitivity to artificial scents worn by others, and about 27% of those with asthma say that their condition is aggravated by exposure to such scents.

"This is particularly concerning in hospitals, where vulnerable patients with asthma or other upper airway or skin sensitivities are concentrated," write Drs. Ken Flegel, Senior Editor, CMAJ, and Dr. James Martin, Department of Medicine, McGill University, Montréal, Quebec. "These patients may be involuntarily exposed to artificial scents from staff, other patients and visitors, resulting in worsening of their clinical condition."

Many public places promote scent-free environments, including some hospitals. The authors argue for a uniform ban on artificial personal scents in Canadian hospitals.


When care turns costly, patients leave private Medicare

Public Release: 5-Oct-2015
When care turns costly, patients leave private Medicare
Brown University

People are free to switch between traditional, public Medicare and private Medicare Advantage plans every year. Under normal circumstances that traffic is equal in either direction -- that is, a new Brown University study shows, until more costly services, such as hospital, at-home or nursing home care, become necessary. Then, despite federal policy to prevent this, the migration becomes decidedly away from the private plans toward the public one.


Study examines antibullying policies and bullying in 25 states

JAMA : Journal of the American Medical Association

Public Release: 5-Oct-2015
Study examines antibullying policies and bullying in 25 states
The JAMA Network Journals

Students who lived in states with an antibullying law that includes at least one U.S. Department of Education-recommended legislative component had lower odds of reporting bullying and cyberbullying compared with students in states whose laws had no such provisions, according to an article published online by JAMA Pediatrics.


Three individual components of antibullying legislation were consistently associated with decreased odds of being bullied and cyberbullied: statement of scope, description of prohibited behaviors, and requirements for districts to develop and implement local policies, the study reports.

The authors caution they can only infer about associations between antibullying policies and rates of being bullied because the data were cross-sectional and they cannot test causal associations.

"Bullying is a multifaceted phenomenon that requires a multipronged approach. Although antibullying policies by themselves cannot completely eradicate bullying, these data suggest that such policies represent an important part of a comprehensive strategy for preventing bullying among youth," the study concludes.

Illegal trade contributes to placing cacti among world's most threatened species

Public Release: 5-Oct-2015
Illegal trade contributes to placing cacti among world's most threatened species
Thirty-one percent of cactus species are threatened with extinction
University of Exeter

Thirty-one percent of cactus species are threatened with extinction, according to the first comprehensive, global assessment of the species group by IUCN and partners, published today in the journal Nature Plants. This places cacti among the most threatened taxonomic groups assessed on The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species™ - more threatened than mammals and birds.

According to the report, cacti are under increasing pressure from human activity, with more than half of the world's 1,480 cactus species used by people. The illegal trade of live plants and seeds for the horticultural industry and private collections, as well as their unsustainable harvesting are the main threats to cacti, affecting 47% of threatened species.


Patients with flu-associated pneumonia less likely to have received flu vaccine

Public Release: 5-Oct-2015
Patients with flu-associated pneumonia less likely to have received flu vaccine
The JAMA Network Journals

Among children and adults hospitalized with community-acquired pneumonia, those with influenza-associated pneumonia, compared with those with pneumonia not associated with influenza, had lower odds of having received an influenza vaccination


The estimated vaccine effectiveness was 57 percent, meaning that the odds of influenza vaccination among cases hospitalized with influenza-associated pneumonia was 57 percent lower than among noninfluenza pneumonia controls.


Training by repetition actually prevents learning for those with autism

Public Release: 5-Oct-2015
Training by repetition actually prevents learning for those with autism
Carnegie Mellon University

Individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) sometimes acquire a new behavior or skill only in a specific context, but they have difficulty transferring that learned skill or information to a new context.

For example, children with autism can be taught what a dog is by showing them a picture of a dog and repeating the word "dog" over and over. But, when they are then taught what a cat is or even shown another type of dog, the previous knowledge does not transfer, and they have to learn this information from scratch.

A new study published in Nature Neuroscience shows that training individuals with ASD to acquire new information by repeating the information actually harms their ability to apply that learned knowledge to other situations. This finding, by an international research team, challenges the popular educational approaches designed for ASD individuals that focus on repetition and drills.


Unconscious bias among physicians results in low quality care for LGBT, disabled patients

Public Release: 5-Oct-2015
Unconscious bias among physicians results in low quality care for LGBT, disabled patients
Invisible barrier may be responsible for poorer overall health among special patient populations
American Osteopathic Association

Physicians' unconscious attitudes toward special patient populations like disabled and LGBT patients may be partially responsible for poorer overall health observed in these communities, according to a Rowan University professor of family medicine.

Physicians' reluctance to discuss disabilities, sex, work and independence with disabled patients, who comprise nearly 20 percent of Americans, deprives patients of high quality care by leaving important health concerns unaddressed, said Joshua Coren, DO. Primary care providers frequently fail to discuss contraception, sexually transmitted diseases, emotional health and basic wellness concerns like diet, exercise, smoking and alcohol use with patients who have disabilities, Dr. Coren added.


Adult rashes with fever call for emergency treatment, can signal life-threatening illness

Public Release: 5-Oct-2015
Adult rashes with fever call for emergency treatment, can signal life-threatening illness
Survival rates improve with aggressive, early treatment for these difficult to diagnose conditions
American Osteopathic Association

Adults with skin rashes accompanied by a fever of 100.5 or higher warrant a trip to the emergency room because the combination of symptoms can be associated with several life-threatening conditions, according to the American College of Osteopathic Emergency Physicians.

Taken individually, rashes and fevers may seem benign, but the combination can be indicative of serious or life-threatening illness in adults. Survival rates increase dramatically for patients who receive quick, aggressive treatment for the underlying cause of the rash, said Christine Giesa, DO, FACOEP-d, director of osteopathic medical education for Crozer-Keystone Health System in Pennsylvania.


Some of the most serious rash-related illnesses are:

Toxic Shock Syndrome, caused by a bacterial infection
Toxic Epidermal Necrolysis, often caused by medication
Staph Scalded Skin Syndrome, caused by a bacterial infection
Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, caused by ticks
Meningococcemia, an airborne bacteria
Purpura Fulminans, a thrombotic disorder
Strep Toxic Shock Syndrome, caused by a bacterial infection

These conditions are relatively rare and notoriously difficult to diagnosis, Dr. Giesa explained, making it important for patients and physicians to understand the need to seek quick medical attention.

"Children often contract mild viral illnesses that cause rashes accompanied by a fever. In an adult population, the combination demands further investigation to identify the underlying illness at its earliest, most treatable stage," she explained.

After S.C. floods, Lindsey Graham reverses course on disaster aid

By Steve Benen
Oct. 6, 2015

When Congress considered federal disaster assistance in the wake of Hurricane Sandy, Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) voted against it. The right-wing lawmaker said at the time he didn’t “think Arkansas needs to bail out the Northeast.” Two years later, when it was his state that was hammered by flooding, Cotton reversed course, requesting and receiving emergency aid.

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) also voted against the Sandy-relief bill, though three years later, the Republican senator fought for federal funding for Texas in the wake of flooding.

Today, they have some company.

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) “is asking for federal aid for his home state of South Carolina as it battles raging floods, but he voted to oppose similar help for New Jersey in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy in 2013,” CNN reports.

Said Graham: “Let’s just get through this thing, and whatever it costs, it costs.”


Indeed, a total of 36 Senate Republicans – including each of the GOP senators running for president (Graham, Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz, and Rand Paul) – all voted against the disaster-relief package.


Benzodiazepines ineffective in treating anxiety disorders and may increase dementia risk

Public Release: 5-Oct-2015
Benzodiazepines ineffective in treating anxiety disorders and may increase dementia risk
Osteopathic psychiatrists encourage patients to review treatment options to improve outcomes and reduce risks
American Osteopathic Association

Patients taking benzodiazepines to treat psychiatric conditions should consider transitioning to other therapies because of heightened risks for dementia and death, according to clinicians from the American College of Osteopathic Neurologists and Psychiatrists.

Benzodiazepines include branded prescription drugs like Valium, Ativan, Klonopin and Xanax. This class of drug received FDA approval in the 1960s and was believed to be a safer alternative to barbiturates.

Despite new psychiatric protocols, some physicians continue to prescribe benzodiazepines as a primary treatment for insomnia, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder and other ailments. A growing body of research indicates this practice could greatly increase patients' risk of dementia and Alzheimer's disease, according to Helene Alphonso, DO, Director of Osteopathic Medical Education at North Texas University Health Science Center.


"Current research is extremely clear and physicians need to partner with their patients to move them into therapies, like anti-depressants, that are proven to be safer and more effective," said Dr. Alphonso, a board-certified psychiatrist practicing in Fort Worth. "Due to a shortage of mental health professionals in rural and underserved areas, we see primary care physicians using this class of drugs to give relief to their patients with psychiatric symptoms. While compassionate, it's important to understand that a better long-term strategy is needed."


A Canadian review of 9,000 patients found those who had taken a benzodiazepine for three months or less had about the same dementia risk as those who had never taken one. Taking the drug for three to six months raised the risk of developing Alzheimer's by 32 percent, and taking it for more than six months boosted the risk by 84 percent. Similar results were found by French researchers studying more than 1,000 elderly patients.

The case for limiting the use of benzodiazepines is particularly strong for patients 65 and older, who are more susceptible to falls, injuries, accidental overdose and death when taking the drugs. The American Geriatric Society in 2012 labeled the drugs "inappropriate" for treating insomnia, agitation or delirium because of those risks.

"It's imperative to transition older patients because we're seeing a very strong correlation between use of benzodiazepines and development of Alzheimer's disease and other dementias. While correlation certainly isn't causation, there's ample reason to avoid this class of drugs as a first-line therapy," Dr. Alphonso said.

Sexual activity causes immune system changes that increase chances of conception

Public Release: 5-Oct-2015
Indiana University study: Sexual activity causes immune system changes that increase chances of conception
Indiana University

Research from Indiana University has found that sexual activity triggers physiological changes in the body that increase a woman's chances of getting pregnant, even outside the window of ovulation. [I think this wording is misleading. It appears from my reading that it should be : sexual activity, even outside the window of ovulation, triggers physiological changes in the body that increase a woman's chances of getting pregnant.]

The results could eventually influence recommendations regarding how often to engage in sexual intercourse for couples trying to get pregnant. It could also potentially impact treatment for people with autoimmune disorders.


"It's a common recommendation that partners trying to have a baby should engage in regular intercourse to increase the woman's changes of getting pregnant -- even during so-called 'non-fertile' periods -- although it's unclear how this works," Lorenz said. "This research is the first to show that the sexual activity may cause the body to promote types of immunity that support conception.

"It's a new answer to an old riddle: How does sex that doesn't happen during the fertile window still improve fertility?"

A few earlier studies show changes in immune function during pregnancy and after childbirth and changes in immunity across the menstrual cycle. But the IU research is the first to show that sexual activity plays a role in these changes with clear differences found in immune system regulation in women who are sexually active versus women who are sexually abstinent.


What's in store 5 decades following childhood-onset epilepsy?

Public Release: 5-Oct-2015
What's in store 5 decades following childhood-onset epilepsy?

A 45-year study of 179 individuals with childhood-onset epilepsy indicates that patients' long-term health is excellent, with most attaining 10-year remission off medications, which is the definition of resolved epilepsy.

Despite having excellent seizure outcomes, individuals often have abnormal neurologic signs including markers of cerebrovascular disease that may be a risk factor for future stroke and cognitive impairment.


Problems caused by the Y2K bug

It irks me that people still claim the Y2K bug did not cause problems. The reason it didn't cause the economy to crash is that many thousands of us worked very hard to fix it in time.

And after we saved the economy, they threw us on the trash heap. Some job openings would actually stated that people who had worked on Y2K conversions should not apply.

And in 2000, when so many of us were out of work, President Bill Clinton signed into law a bill passed by Congress, including many Democrats in addition to the expected Republicans, to greatly increase the number of H1-B visas because business lied and said they couldn't get qualified U.S. IT workers. What they really wanted was cheap labor.

The Y2K bug did actually cause many problems in the United States and around the world. These problems weren't as widespread as many people expected them to be, but there were enough of them to make us realize that the Y2K bug was a real problem. The most common problems which arose immediately in the United States were very inconsequential for all but a small portion of the population. The majority of the problems related to the Y2K bug didn't occur as the clock struck midnight on December 31, 1999, but in the following days. Below is a list of some of the bugs which were reported. A nation by nation list compiled by the International Y2K Cooperation Center is available at can be reached by clicking this link: IY2CC List of Bugs

Of course, these are just the ones reported to the IY2KCC. At one company where I did Y2K conversions, they overlooked a program that calculated pension payments, and it stopped working on Jan. 1, 2000. I'm sure this was not reported to anybody outside the company.


The Federal Housing Administration reported minor Y2K related problems in three "mission-critical" systems. ... The third system which experienced problems was the Single Family Insurance System (SFIS). This error prevented users from terminating FDHA mortgages.


Financial Sector

The Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago experienced Y2K related problems in transferring $700,000 in tax payments. The bug was fixed and the payments were made the next day.

Bank credit card companies experienced a problem with credit card transaction verification software issues by CyberCash, Inc. This problem created duplicate transactions for merchants that did not update their systems to the newer, Y2K compliant versions of the software.

One Chicago area bank had to interrupt electronic Medicare payments to some hospitals. Insurance companies that process and pay Medicare claims had to send diskettes containing the processed claims to the bank via Federal Express or courier to keep payments on schedule.

500 members of the Golden 1 Credit Union found that, once year 2000 arrived, their ATM cards would not work at grocery stores and other locations which accept ATM cards as payments. The cards were programmed to expire on December 31, 1999. The cards were not supposed to have an expiration date, and the reason that such a small number of cards had the error is not known.

Online banking software used by thousands of Dutch bank customers had a millennium related bug which did not allow people to postdate their electronic payments. The software was produced by Apple.


Local Government

The Department of Motor Vehicles on St. Croix in the Virgin Islands had to be shut down temporarily because of a computer glitch which prevented correct registration of automobiles.

The State of Indiana's system for renewing driver's licenses gave some individuals licenses that did not expire for 5 years. Indiana state law only allows renewals for four years.



In Malaysia there were reports of medical equipment failure. Among the equipment that failed were defribillators and heart monitors


Power and Utilities

Seven commercial nuclear reactors across the United States experienced minor glitches. None of these posed a threat to safety. The problems were with computer systems that are used to support physical plant access control and monitoring of operational data.. Details of this problem were not released. Similar problems were experienced in nuclear power plants in Spain.

A nuclear weapons plant in Tennessee experienced a bug in a computer which tracks the weight and type of nuclear material within the plant. The bug at this plant was the only problem which did affect mission critical systems at Energy Department facilities across the nation.


A large number of networked slot machines at racetracks were not operational for several hours. This error was caused by an application which looks three days into the future.


A customer at a New York State video rental store had a bill for $91,250, the cost of renting the movie 'The General's Daughter' for 100 years.


A software glitch resulting from an attempted last second fix done in haste causes massive delays in air transportation all over the east coast of the United States.


In-person contact is critical to seniors' mental well-being

Public Release: 5-Oct-2015
In-person contact is critical to seniors' mental well-being

In a study of adults aged 50 years and older, the probability of experiencing depressive symptoms steadily increased as the frequency of in-person--but not phone or written/email contact--decreased.

Individuals without in-person social contact with children, other family, and friends at least every few months had a significantly higher probability of clinically significant depressive symptoms two years later (11.5%) compared with those having in-person contact once or twice a month (8.1%) or once or twice a week (7.3%).


Monday, October 05, 2015

Disney’s Wild IT Ride

The Timeline

In a nutshell, here’s the timeline of what happened:

October 2014: 250 employees in the IT department at Disney Parks and Resorts in Orlando, FL were told that their jobs were being transferred to workers from India brought in by an outsourcing firm using H-1B visas. As a condition for receiving severance pay and a measly four months of unemployment insurance, they had to train their replacements. That meant sitting with them every day, teaching their jobs to people who were far less qualified and experienced than the Disney employees.

January 30, 2015: The New York Times runs an article, “Pink Slips at Disney, but First Training Replacements” by Julia Preston that “outs” Disney’s callous and miserly action to millions of Disney theme parks customers. A furor ensues.

April 29, 2015: Computerworld publishes Senior Editor Patrick Thibodeau’s article, “A restructuring and H-iB use affect the Magic Kingdom’s IT operations,” on the Parks and Resorts layoff. Negative publicity and social media follows.

Late May, 2015: Disney lays off 35 technology employees at their ABC Television Group in New York City and Burbank, CA. These people were also forced to train their replacements, immigrants brought in by an outsourcing company using H-1B visas. Their last day was scheduled to be July 31.

June 11, 2015: Disney/ABC Television Group cancels plans to lay off the New York and Burbank employees.

June 19, 2015: Mr. Thibodeau (@DCgov) reports in @Computerworld that Disney/ABC Television Group has reversed its decision and rescinded the layoffs, granting a “reprieve” to the 35 affected employees.

July 2015: The U.S. Department of Labor begins investigating Disney—and the labor contractor HCL America—in response to complaints filed by several of the Orlando workers who had lost their jobs in the January layoff.

There’s nothing like shining a light on abuse and the negative publicity for @DisneyParks in all of this has been significant. It has not been enough, however for Disney to cancel the layoffs in Orlando and rehire the employees it discarded there in favor of cheaper immigrant labor. To find out what that felt like, you can read a first-hand account from a Displaced Disney Cast member on Breitbart B.


Robert Iger, Disney’s CEO is a co-chair (along with Michael Bloomberg and Rupert Murdoch) of the Partnership For a New American Economy, a group that supports immigration reform. (BTW: Mr. Iger makes $46,000,000 a year.)

The organization promotes tripling the current 85,000 available H-1B visas under a program called “I-Squared” that was introduced by Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) and Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT). With this kind of reform, we won’t get a new economy. We’ll get a lot more pink slips for Americans in STEM jobs.


US companies are using temporary visas to ship jobs abroad

Matthew Speiser
Sept. 29,2015

Some US companies are using temporary visas to train foreign workers in the US and then ship them back overseas, according to a new investigation by The New York Times.

According to The Times, the companies — which include Toys R Us and New York Life Insurance — bring foreign workers into the US to train them on jobs held by those at home offices in the US.

Then, once the worker has learned how to do the American employee's job, the American employee is laid off and the foreign worker returns to his or her home country and starts working from there.


Most of these foreign workers were in the US on a visa program known as H-1B, which allows American employers to hire foreign professionals with "highly specialized knowledge" to meet their needs. According to federal guidelines, employers "must sign a declaration that the foreign workers 'will not adversely affect the working conditions' of Americans or lower their wages," The Times reports.

The American workers being laid off at Toys R Us and New York Life say the foreign workers did not have highly specialized knowledge. In addition, the Americans were instructed to teach the foreign workers how to do their jobs. If they refused, they were asked to resign.


"At the very least, those are violations of the spirit of the law," Christine Brigagliano, a lawyer who advises companies on obtaining visas, told The Times. "Those contractors are signing on the bottom line, saying we will not undercut the wages and working conditions of Americans. But, in fact, they are."


Check out the full report here»

[I am copying below some additional info manually from my copy of the Sept. 30, 2015 print edition of the New York Times, which I bought, so any typing errors are mine.]

Companies specifically named in the article:

Toys "R" Us
Walt Disney
Southern California Edison
New York Life Insurance Company
Cengage Learning, an educational publisher

Temporary H1-B visas are limited to 85,000 each year.

Those companies also use another temporary visa, the L1-B, which has no annual cap and allows businesses to internally transfer their employees who have "advanced knowledge" from branches in other countries to offices in the United States.

Those companies also use another

Asthma medications taken during infancy linked to stunted growth

Public Release: 2-Oct-2015
Asthma medications taken during infancy linked to stunted growth
BioScientifica Limited

Infants given asthma medications during their first 2 years of age are likely to be stunted in later life, according to research presented today at the 54th Annual European Society for Paediatric Endocrinology Meeting. The findings highlight the importance of using these medicines in infants appropriately.

Inhaled corticosteroids (ICS) - medications used to treat conditions such as asthma - are frequently used in infants with recurrent wheezing. However, these medications may have harmful effects, for instance a reduced growth rate in development and a shorter height in adulthood.


Many factors that alter development in children, such as chronic illnesses and long-term use of oral corticosteroids, may cause a shorter than normal height in adulthood. "Previously, the impact of corticosteroids on growth was looked at in older children and was thought to alter growth only temporarily," said lead researcher Dr Antti Saari. "However, studies on inhaled corticosteroid use in infants are practically lacking and thus this has been questioned in the recent study. Our research shows a link between long-term treatment of ICS during infancy and stunted growth at or after the age of 2 in otherwise healthy children."


Reducing aeromedical transport for traumas saved money and lives

Public Release: 2-Oct-2015
Reducing aeromedical transport for traumas saved money and lives
American College of Emergency Physicians

Changes to the trauma triage protocol in Maryland resulted in decreased use of helicopter transport for trauma patients and improved patient outcomes, saving lives and money. The results of a 11-year study of the impact of statewide field triage changes to Maryland's helicopter emergency medical services (HEMS) were published online Wednesday in Annals of Emergency Medicine ("Maryland's Helicopter Emergency Medicine Services Experience from 2001-2011: System Improvements and Patients' Outcomes").

"Purported benefits of HEMS are derived from enhanced crew expertise and decreased time to deliver seriously injured patients to trauma centers," said lead study author Jon Mark Hirshon, MD, FACEP, of the University of Maryland School of Medicine in Baltimore, Md. "However, by shifting to a new protocol that increased ground transports and decreased air transport for less critical patients, we improved patient outcomes while saving the state considerable money. Those are wins all around."

Over the study period, overall EMS transport of trauma patients increased by 21 percent. However, helicopter transport of trauma patients decreased by 49 percent and ground transport of trauma patients increased by 33 percent. During the study period, HEMS patient acuity increased though expected mortality did not.


"Aeromedical transport costs five to 15 times what ground transportation costs and can also be very dangerous," said Dr. Hirshon. "After nine fatal helicopter EMS crashes killed 35 people in 2008, the NTSB took action and the state of Maryland did, too. New field triage protocols were associated with fewer flights but better expected outcomes, despite having more seriously injured patients. Future research is required to confirm our findings and determine when helicopter EMS can offer the most benefit."

Researchers discover evidence that lead exposure in mothers can affect future generations

Public Release: 2-Oct-2015
Researchers discover evidence that lead exposure in mothers can affect future generation
Wayne State University - Office of the Vice President for Research

A team of researchers at Wayne State University have discovered that mothers with high levels of lead in their blood not only affect the fetal cells of their unborn children, but also their grandchildren. Their study, Multigenerational epigenetic inheritance in humans: DNA methylation changes associated with maternal exposure to lead can be transmitted to the grandchildren, was published online this week in Scientific Reports.

It's a known fact that babies in the womb can be affected by low levels of lead exposure. If a pregnant woman is exposed to lead, the lead passes through the placenta into the baby's developing bones and other organs. Pregnant women with a past exposure to lead can also affect the unborn child's brain, causing developmental problems later in life. Previous research studies have suggested that exposure to heavy metal toxicants can influence a person's global DNA methylation profile.


In the recent Wayne State study led by Douglas Ruden, Ph.D., professor in the Department of Obstetrics & Gynecology and the Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, director of epigenomics, and program leader in the Center for Urban Responses to Environmental Stressors, he and his research team revealed that lead exposure can cause specific changes in DNA methylation, which can be detected in dried blood spots beyond one generation.


"Our pilot study provides indirect evidence that lead exposure in women during childbirth can affect the locus-specific DNA methylation status of grandchildren," said Ruden. "However, the altered DNA methylation profiles of the grandchildren's blood are apparently normalized during postnatal development. Also, fetal germline exposure to lead apparently has different epigenetic consequences than acute childhood exposure."
[Which suggests that the grandchildren might show the effects of their grandmothers lead exposure, since the prenatal period affects the rest of our lives.]

What did McGraw-Hill textbook really say about slavery? - 10/5/2015 added comments

They didn't say what people on Facebook are claiming. A lot of people have really poor reading comprehension skills, including Mrs. Dean-Burren.

Do you really have to have an M.A. in math to infer that people brought here in the "slave trade" would be slaves?

See the end for more comments.

Book publishing giant McGraw-Hill is saying it will rewrite a textbook after a Pearland mother voiced concerns on YouTube about the portrayal of slaves as immigrant "workers" in her son's school book.

In the video, Texas mom Roni Dean-Burren calls out the textbook, "World Geography."

Dean-Burren pointed viewers to a section called "Patterns of Immigration." Reading from the book, she notes the inclusion of slaves as immigrants.

"'Immigrants,' yeah, that word matters," Dean-Burren said, "(Reading from the text) 'The Atlantic slave trade between the 1500s and the 1800s brought millions of workers from Africa to the southern United States to work on agricultural plantations. So (slavery) is now considered 'immigration'."

She adds, in an adjacent section on European immigrants, that many came as "indentured servants to work for little or no pay."

Dean-Burren continues, "So they say that about English and European people, but there is no mention of Africans working as slaves or being slaves. It just says we were workers."

Dean-Burren also pointed out in her video that several professional consultants and the Texas Advisory Board are listed in the front of the book, and supposedly signed off on the book's text.

McGraw-Hill responded to Dean-Burren on its Facebook page, saying they would fix the section in the next print run and on their digital version of the book.


My comments.

Maybe the way we test students, with multiple-choice with one single correct answer is partly to blame for the fact that people don't seem to be able to conceive that people can be in more than one group at a time.

Of course, part of this uproar is because of people like my parents who are constantly looking for something to criticize and be angry about.

This case diminishes the case for rampant racism today, if people get outraged about this. I know there is still racism. But this case reinforces the attitudes of those who claim that there is no racism now.

It is my experience and observation that many arguments are due to the fact that different people use the same word for different meanings. Like my relative who thought "secular" means "religious", when it means "non-religious". Like a secular government is one based on man-made laws, not a religious book.

tags: influence

Studies report early childhood trauma takes visible toll on brain

Public Release: 16-Oct-2012
Studies report early childhood trauma takes visible toll on brain
Changes found in regions controlling heart and behavior
Society for Neuroscience

Trauma in infancy and childhood shapes the brain, learning, and behavior, and fuels changes that can last a lifetime, according to new human and animal research released today. The studies delve into the effects of early physical abuse, socioeconomic status (SES), and maternal treatment. Documenting the impact of early trauma on brain circuitry and volume, the activation of genes, and working memory, researchers suggest it increases the risk of mental disorders, as well as heart disease and stress-related conditions in adulthood.

The findings were presented at Neuroscience 2012, the annual meeting of the Society for Neuroscience and the world's largest source of emerging news about brain science and health.

Today's findings show:

Physical abuse in early childhood may realign communication between key "body-control" brain areas, possibly predisposing adults to cardiovascular disease and mental health problems (Layla Banihashemi, PhD, abstract 691.12, see attached summary).

Rodent studies provide insight into brain changes that allow tolerance of pain within mother-pup attachment (Regina Sullivan, PhD, abstract 399.19, see attached summary).

Childhood poverty is associated with changes in working memory and attention years later in adults; yet training in childhood is associated with improved cognitive functions (Eric Pakulak, PhD, abstract 908.04, see attached summary).

Chronic stress experienced by infant primates leads to fearful and aggressive behaviors; these are associated with changes in stress hormone production and in the development of the amygdala (Mar Sanchez, PhD, abstract 691.10, see attached summary).


Sunday, October 04, 2015

Is beauty really in the 'eye of the beholder'? Yes, and here's why

Public Release: 1-Oct-2015
Is beauty really in the 'eye of the beholder'? Yes, and here's why
Cell Press

Many of us have had the experience of disagreeing with friends or family about which celebrity is more attractive. Now, researchers reporting in the Cell Press journal Current Biology on October 1 show in a study of twins that those differences of opinion are mostly the result of personal experiences that are unique to each individual. In other words, even identical twins don't agree.

Of course, some aspects of attractiveness are pretty universal and may even be coded into our genes, the researchers say. For example, people tend to prefer faces that are symmetric. Beyond such limited shared preferences, however, people really do have different "types."

"We estimate that an individual's aesthetic preferences for faces agree about 50 percent, and disagree about 50 percent, with others," write joint leaders of this project, Laura Germine of Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard University and Jeremy Wilmer of Wellesley College. "This fits with the common intuition that on the one hand, fashion models can make a fortune with their good looks, while on the other hand, friends can endlessly debate about who is attractive and who is not."


Comparisons between identical and non-identical twins allowed the researchers to estimate the relative contribution of genes and environments to face preferences. Prior studies of twins and families have shown that virtually every human trait--from personality to ability to interests--is to some large degree genetically passed down from one generation to the next. Indeed, the researchers even found this in an earlier study for another aspect of face processing: the ability to recognize faces.

In contrast, they now show that the origin of the "eye of the beholder" --the uniqueness of an individual's face preferences--is mostly based on experiences, not genes. Those experiences, moreover, are highly specific to each individual.

"The types of environments that are important are not those that are shared by those who grow up in the same family, but are much more subtle and individual, potentially including things such as one's unique, highly personal experiences with friends or peers, as well as social and popular media," Germine says.


Tallness linked to increased risk of premature death for patients on dialysis

Public Release: 1-Oct-2015
Tallness linked to increased risk of premature death for patients on dialysis
Findings are opposite to those seen in the general population
American Society of Nephrology


In contrast to studies in the general population, tallness was associated with higher premature mortality risk and shorter life spans in patients on dialysis.
The association was observed in white, Asian, and American Indian/Alaskan native patients, but not in black patients.
The overall paradoxical relationship between height and premature death was not explained by concurrent illness, socioeconomic status, or differences in care.
Approximately 2 million patients in the world receive dialysis treatments.


Volcanic activity may have contributed to Cretaceous extinction

Public Release: 1-Oct-2015
Volcanic activity may have contributed to Cretaceous extinction
American Association for the Advancement of Science

While there is general consensus that a massive asteroid colliding with Earth 66 million years ago contributed to the ensuing mass extinction, including that of dinosaurs, new evidence suggests that this impact triggered more intense volcanic activity, further compounding the extermination. The new measurements of volcanic activity, which may be the most precise to date, indicate a dramatic increase in the rate of eruption of the Deccan volcanos within 50,000 years of the impact.


Following the collision, the team notes that the mean eruption frequency of a particular subsection decreased dramatically, but the lava volume (per single eruptive event) increased, causing the mean magma eruption rate to roughly double. The transition from high-frequency, low-volume eruptions to low-frequency, high-volume eruptions suggests a fundamental change in the magma plumbing system, the authors say. This large volume of magma continued for approximately 500,000 years after the mass extinction, which is similar to the timescale between extinction and the initial recovery of marine ecosystems. Therefore the authors suggest that the Cretaceous extinction may have resulted from the combined effects of both the asteroid collision and increased volcanic activity.

Public Release: 1-Oct-2015
Asteroid impact, volcanism were one-two punch for dinosaurs
New dates for Deccan Traps eruptions puts them within 50,000 years of impact
University of California - Berkeley


Both the impact and the volcanism would have blanketed the planet with dust and noxious fumes, drastically changing the climate and sending many species to an early grave.


Link between height and cancer

Public Release: 1-Oct-2015
Link between height and cancer
Large-scale Swedish study discovers link between height and cancer
BioScientifica Limited

Cancer risk has been found to increase with height in both Swedish men and women, according to research presented today at the 54th Annual European Society for Paediatric Endocrinology Meeting. This long-term study is the largest carried out on the association between height and cancer in both genders.

Researchers from the Karolinska Institutet and University of Stockholm examined 5.5 million men and women in Sweden, born between 1938 and 1991 and with adult heights ranging between 100 cm and 225 cm. They followed the group of individuals from 1958 or from the age of 20 until the end of 2011, and found that for every 10 cm (4 inches) of height, the risk of developing cancer increased by 18% in women and 11% in men. Additionally, taller women had a 20% greater risk of developing breast cancer, whilst the risk of developing melanoma increased by approximately 30% per 10 cm of height in both men and women.

Previous studies have also shown the same association between height and cancer. That is to say, taller individuals have a higher risk of developing different types of cancer, including breast cancer and melanoma. However, this association has never been studied in men and women on such a large scale before. "To our knowledge, this is the largest study performed on linkage between height and cancer including both women and men," said Dr Emelie Benyi, a PhD student at Karolinska Institutet who led the study.


New formula for life-satisfaction

Public Release: 1-Oct-2015
New formula for life-satisfaction
University of Bonn: Lasting increases in income improve well-being -- extra work makes people more dissatisfied
University of Bonn

In a new study, mathematical economist Prof. Dr. Christian Bayer, from the Hausdorff Center for Mathematics at the University of Bonn, has demonstrated a connection between long-term income increases and personal satisfaction. Overtime also affects personal levels of happiness - but in a negative way. His findings will be presented in the latest issue of the "American Economic Journal".


Their findings were clear: more money does make people happier - but only if there is a long-term increase in income. A temporary increase does not have any noticeable effect on an employee's level of happiness, even if it is a large increase. By contrast, a permanent increase in income results in a significant rise in well-being, even if the raise is small.


The researchers identified a second important way in which professional life influences personal happiness: the number of hours that employees work. "Those who consistently have to work more become less happy," says Prof. Bayer, an instructor and researcher at the Institute for Macroeconomics and Econometrics at the University of Bonn. "This finding contradicts many other studies that conclude people are more satisfied when they have any job than none at all." The new study suggests that the unemployed suffer from the lack of income not the lack of employment per se.


New study removes cancer concern for multiple sclerosis drug

Public Release: 1-Oct-2015
New study removes cancer doubt for multiple sclerosis drug
Queen Mary, University of London

Researchers from Queen Mary University of London (QMUL) are calling on the medical community to reconsider developing a known drug to treat people with relapsing Multiple sclerosis (MS) after new evidence shows it does not increase the risk of cancer as previously thought.

The drug called Cladribine is already licensed and in use for people with leukemia, a blood disease. Previous studies, ran with patients at Barts Health NHS Trust in London, showed Cladribine to be highly effective in treating relapsing MS. One trial showed the drug reduced relapses by over 50 per cent, and nearly 50 percent of people showed no signs of disease activity at all over two years. However, Cladribine was refused market authorisation on the suspicion it may cause cancer based on the interpretation of previous data.

A new study published in the journal Neurology: Neuroimmunology & Neuroinflammation* compared the incidence of cancer where patients had been treated with Cladribine to other studies where they had been treated with other similar drugs that are currently licensed for MS.

The team from the Blizard Institute at QMUL compared data from the 11 pivotal trials that were used to support the licensing of seven different drugs to examine the cancer risk. They found there was no evidence for an increased risk of cancer in people with MS taking Cladribine.

Cladribine appears to be more effective, safer, easier to use and could potentially be cheaper than other current drugs used to treat MS.


Global Warming denialists doubling down

I knew it would happen. Since the research that found that you can persuade people to an opinion by exposing them to a lot of statements supporting that opinion, there has been an avalanche of global warming denialist in comments on popular web sites. It would be interesting to know how many are from the same person under different names, being paid by fossil fuel companies.

I had already seen an increase in denialist comments as the effects of global warming are becoming more apparent, with business leaders (even some in the fossil fuel industry) saying it is a problem that needs to be dealt with, and more people are understanding that it is a problem.

tags: influence

The media love men... bad news for women

Public Release: 1-Oct-2015
The media love men... bad news for women
Why men continue to dominate media coverage
McGill University

Five out of every six names that appear in the media today are those of men, a McGill-led research team has discovered. Indeed, the more mentions a person receives in the media, the higher the chances are that this person is a man. That's because 82 per cent of the names mentioned in the media are men's. Go ahead and try it!

The researchers combed through data from more than 2,000 U.S. newspapers, magazines, and online news sources covering the period from 1983-2009 for the first time to arrive at this conclusion. Despite significant social and economic advances in many fields, there remains a persistent and telling under representation of women in media coverage, something that they refer to as a 'paper ceiling'.

"The persistent gap in media coverage is due to a combination of the media's preoccupation with leaders at the expense of everyone else and the well-known 'glass ceiling' that continues to block off working women's access to leadership positions," said Eran Shor, an associate professor in the Department of Sociology at McGill University and the lead author of the study, which was just published in the prestigious American Sociological Review.

"The media focuses nearly exclusively on individuals at the top of occupational and social hierarchies, who are mostly men: CEOs, politicians, movie directors, and the like," Shor said. "And because these famous individuals account for most of those named in the news, there continues to be a big gap between the mentions of men and women in the overall media coverage."

Shor and his co-authors were surprised to discover that women's presence was no greater in news produced by liberal American media organizations than in that produced by conservative ones. Nor did they find that women's presence in the media increased in organizations where women were editors-in-chief or managing editors or where there were more women on the editorial boards.

In effect, what Shor and his co-authors document is a two-tier system when it comes to media mentions, with near parity in terms of male and female mentions in media for 'obscure individuals', people who make the news only once or twice, and a huge gulf between the mentions of men and women, when it comes to the names of the famous individuals which tend to dominate the news.


The State of Research on the Effects of Physical Punishment

Ministry of Social Development
Social Policy Journal Of New Zealand
Issue 27 March 2006


Long considered an effective, and even necessary, means of socialising children, physical punishment has been revealed to be a predictor of a wide range of negative developmental outcomes. The extent of agreement in the research literature on this issue is unusual in the social sciences. Physical punishment is associated with increased child aggression, antisocial behaviour, lower intellectual achievement, poorer quality of parent–child relationships, mental health problems (such as depression), and diminished moral internalisation. The evidence about whether physical punishment results in short-term compliance is mixed, with some studies showing effectiveness in achieving this and others not. Short-term compliance can, however, be achieved as effectively without using physical punishment. Physical punishment has negative effects on child outcomes, especially if it is harsh, regardless of culture. When punishment use is normative in a culture, the effects are slightly less negative. Research findings support ongoing efforts to help parents use more positive methods of parenting, and the removal of a defence in law for the use of physical punishment against children.


Spanking and crime rates

A saw a study some years ago, before the internet, which found that the more frequent the rates of corporal punishment in a country, and in a U.S. state, the higher the rate of violence was in that region.

Jul 15th 2013

CERTAIN kinds of property crimes are up sharply in Germany, as I explain in this week’s print issue. But in many ways the more interesting trend is the ongoing decline in violent crime in Germany, Europe and much of the developed world. Criminologists have for years been puzzled by this phenomenon, with theories ranging from decreasing numbers of lead poisoning to better policing. But one of the most intriguing theories, and one with vast implications for America in particular, comes from Christian Pfeiffer, the director of the Criminological Research Institute of Lower Saxony in Hanover.

Mr Pfeiffer has found a correlation between declining rates of children being spanked (or otherwise punished physically) and subsequent decreases in violent crime. In Germany, for example, it used to be common until well into the last century to discipline kids in this way. Not doing so almost amounted to being negligent. But then parents and teachers gradually stopped beating children.

When Mr Pfeiffer’s team polled adult Germans in 1992, 26% answered that they had been raised without any physical punishment at all. In the latest poll, soon to be released, that ratio has gone up to two thirds.

People who as children experienced the “powerlessness” of frequent spankings report a disproportionately greater interest later in life to own guns, Mr Pfeiffer says. They also demand more draconian prison sentences, including the death penalty, for convicted criminals. And they seem more prone to violence themselves. In a study of 45,000 ninth-graders Mr Pfeiffer conducted in 2007-08, those kids who had been beaten by their parents were five times as likely to commit repeated crimes or to use cannabis, and missed school four times more frequently for ten days a year or more.


By contrast, spanking is still common in large parts of America, especially in the Evangelical milieus of Southern states. This is also where crime remains relatively high, gun ownership common, and incarceration excessive. (America’s incarceration rate is between eight to ten times that of northern European countries.)


In America in 2006-07, according to Human Rights Watch, more than 200,000 children were beaten by their teachers with a stick as a punishment. They overwhelmingly lived in the southern states and in Evangelical families. Two studies in 2010 showed that only 15% of American children are raised by their parents without any physical violence at all. To Mr Pfeiffer, this is one (of admittedly several and complex) factors, that explain why Americans own more guns, commit more crime and punish more severely than western Europeans. The conclusion, suggests Mr Pfeiffer, is that everybody, including Americans, should try raising kids with what he calls “Liebe statt Hiebe” (love instead of beatings).

tags: child abuse, spanking

French floods: 19 feared dead after storms sweep French Riviera

Global warming is causing an increased frequency and severity of flood because it has caused an increase of water in the air.

Jessica Elgot and agencies
Oct. 4, 2015

Violent storms and flooding send water cascading through Antibes, Cannes and Nice, inundating a retirement home and killing three people inside

Nineteen people are feared dead after violent storms and severe flooding swept the French Riviera, including three people who drowned in a retirement home after a river broke its banks.

Heavy flooding along the Côte d’Azur on Saturday saw the river Brague burst its banks close to the city of Antibes, flooding a home for elderly people.


More than 17cm (6.7in) of rain fell on the Cannes region in two hours, radio France Bleu Azur reported.


Kovandzich said the walk home was daunting because the flooding had removed manhole covers. “You couldn’t immediately see where the holes might be because of the flowing water.”


French weather forecasters said the worst storms had now passed over the French mainland and were heading for the Italian coast.


Judging others

Juries & judges who consider themselves Christian have no problem issuing the death penalty. It is warped to consider this less problematical than gay marriage.

Late bedtimes could lead to weight gain

Public Release: 1-Oct-2015
Late bedtimes could lead to weight gain
Teen night owls may want to hit the hay earlier, study suggests
University of California - Berkeley

Teenagers and adults who go to bed late on weeknights are more likely to gain weight than their peers who hit the hay earlier, according to a new study from the University of California, Berkeley, that has found a correlation between sleep and body mass index.

Berkeley researchers analyzed longitudinal data from a nationally representative cohort of more than 3,300 youths and adults, and found that for every hour of sleep they lost, they gained 2.1 points on the BMI index. This gain occurred roughly over a five-year period.

Moreover, exercise, screen time, and the number of hours they slept did not mitigate this BMI increase, according to the study published in the October issue of the journal, Sleep.


Surveys show that many teenagers do not get the recommended nine hours sleep a night, and report having trouble staying awake at school. The human circadian rhythm, which regulates physiological and metabolic functions, typically shifts to a later sleep cycle at the onset of puberty.

The results of the study thus suggest that adolescents who go to bed earlier will "set their weight on a healthier course as they emerge into adulthood," Asarnow said.

Four Dead, Hundreds In Need of Rescue, Several Interstates Closed in Catastrophic South Carolina Flooding

Expect more bad news before it's over. Since I first posted it, there has been another death reported.

Being psychic (joke), I can predict that the Republicans in Congress from the affected areas who voted against federal aid for the northern states that were devastated by Sandy, will now call for federal aid for their own areas.

Global warming has caused an increase in the amount of water in the atmosphere, which is resulting in increased frequency and amounts of extreme rainfall events.

In 22 states, all Republican representatives voted against Sandy aid, including Georgia, South Carolina, & North Carolina.

By Sean Breslin
Published Oct 4 2015

Hundreds of people are in need of rescue, several interstates are closed and four people are dead in some of the worst flooding South Carolina has ever seen, officials said Sunday.


Officials are worried life-threatening impacts will only worsen as the 1-in-1,000-year rain event continues Sunday. Authorities said hundreds of people were in need of rescue Sunday morning as the floodwaters kept rising all over the Palmetto State.


Four people have been killed by the flash floods in South Carolina, and officials worry that number will rise. Swift-water rescue teams have been dispatched all over the state to help pluck stranded residents out of flooding. Authorities have asked citizens to only call 911 if there's a life-threatening emergency.


Multiple dam breaches were reported Sunday morning in Columbia, according to the city's fire department. On its Twitter page, the department said Arcadia Lake, Forest Lake and Lake Dogwood have been affected by the breaches, and if residents are in a dry place, they should remain there.

Emergency vehicles were having trouble navigating the flooded roadways, and in many instances, they were only able to reach victims by boat. In Berkeley County, the U.S. Coast Guard was assisting in water rescues, according to WCSC-TV, as more than one family needed to be removed from their homes. Authorities also requested helicopters to aid in rescues because the number of people needing help outnumbered the vehicles that could reach them.


Charleston has received more than 14 inches of rainfall since the historic event began Friday. One area northeast of Charleston has reported more than two feet of rain.

“The City of Georgetown is predominantly under water,” Georgetown Fire Chief Joey Tanner said in a news release.

Charleston International Airport reported 11.5 inches of rain fell Saturday, the wettest single day on record for that location. In downtown Charleston, 14.25 inches of rain have fallen, breaking the previous record for the wettest October on record for the city, set in 1959 (11.74 inches).


In Dorchester County, emergency managers reported at least 100 people had to be rescued at about 3 a.m. EDT Sunday morning from one area. Dorchester Emergency Manager Mario Formisano told The Weather Channel hundreds more likely will need to be rescued, and water rescues could top 1,000 people in the county before the flooding ends.

More than 29,000 customers were without power Sunday afternoon due to the flooding, according to the South Carolina Emergency Management Division (SCEMD).

The seawall at Edisto Beach has been breached, resulting in heavy flooding, SCEMD reported Saturday evening, and a state of emergency has been declared for the town.


Around midday Sunday, flooding was also reported in the Myrtle Beach area. According to local reports, vehicles were getting stranded on flood-covered, impassable roads, and some neighborhood roads were also flooded.

Governor Nikki Haley declared a state of emergency Thursday evening in advance of any potential impacts from flooding. President Barack Obama also declared a state of emergency and ordered federal aid to help the recovery in South Carolina.


Charleston store owner Lauren Tuorto told she closed her consignment shop until Tuesday because of the flooding.

“It is impossible to navigate the peninsula right now without a kayak or a monster truck,” she said. “Having weathered plenty of hurricanes in the Out Islands of the Bahamas where my family lives and living in Charleston for 10 years, I have never seen rainfall like this."

A Spartanburg car dealership saw damage to dozens of vehicles after Thursday morning's flooding, reports KXAN-TV. Floodwaters lifted the vehicles and left them in multiple piles, washing two of them underneath a bridge. They were found upside down on the other side of a road. Darrin Shelton, general manager of the dealership, estimates water damage between 50 to 60 of the vehicles, which have to be removed from the lot.


Using about a century of precipitation records, NOAA has constructed a Precipitation Frequency Data Server, which estimates how often we might expect to see extreme rainfall events recur. According to NOAA's Precipitation Frequency Data Server, these could be 1-in-1000 year rains for some locations. (Hydrologists would refer to a 1-in-1000-year rain as having a typical "recurrence interval" of 1000 years. The idea is that such events are not always separated by 1000 years; the same amount of rain could conceivably occur the very next year, or might not occur until thousands of years later.) The three-day 1-in-1000 year rainfall amounts for Charleston and Columbia are 17.1" and 14.2", respectively. The 24-hour 1-in-1000 year rainfall amounts for Charleston and Columbia are 14.8" and 12.5", respectively.


Alabama Closes Driver’s License Offices After Implementing Voter ID Law

So outrageous that enough people questioned it to cause Snopes to investigate it, and verify it.

By John Archibald
The Huntsville Times
Sept. 30, 2015


Because Alabama just took a giant step backward.

Take a look at the 10 Alabama counties with the highest percentage of non-white registered voters. That's Macon, Greene, Sumter, Lowndes, Bullock, Perry, Wilcox, Dallas, Hale, and Montgomery, according to the Alabama Secretary of State's office. Alabama, thanks to its budgetary insanity and inanity, just opted to close driver license bureaus in eight of them. All but Dallas and Montgomery will be closed.

Closed. In a state in which driver licenses or special photo IDs are a requirement for voting.


Every single county in which blacks make up more than 75 percent of registered voters will see their driver license office closed. Every one.


Look at the five counties that voted most solidly Democratic? Macon, Greene, Sumter, Lowndes and Bullock counties all had their driver license offices closed.

Look at the 10 that voted most solidly for Obama? Of those, eight – again all but Dallas and the state capital of Montgomery – had their offices closed.


Because the same Alabama Legislature that could not raise enough money to properly run the state in three sessions this year decided in 2011 that all voters must have a photo ID. It was such a great idea that Gov. Robert Bentley signed that bill into law despite complaints that such a move would disproportionately disenfranchise black voters.

It went into effect last year. And now this.

This. And true enough, department heads have to make terribly difficult decisions.

So Alabama closes 31 driver license offices. And while the cuts come across Alabama, they are deepest in the Black Belt. The harm is inflicted disproportionately on voters who happen to be black, and poor, in sparsely populated areas.


Shell CEO Ben van Beurden says carbon price needed to tackle climate change

By business reporter Michael Janda and staff
Updated October 02, 2015

Shell's global chief executive says an effective carbon price is needed to tackle climate change, whether through a trading or tax system.

Speaking exclusively to ABC TV's The Business, Ben van Beurden said a price on carbon was necessary to discourage pollution.

"Putting, in one form or another, a real, clear price on carbon that compels people to act with rational economic actions, I think is something that we need," he told presenter Ticky Fullerton.

When pressed over the Government's current Direct Action plan, which provides funding for programs to cut emissions rather than charging heavy emitters, Mr van Beurden said the design of the system was a matter for politicians in each country.

"Ultimately it doesn't matter too much if you have a trading system, a tax system or another system, as long as it is effective at what it does," he said.


tags: ethical businesses