Friday, October 24, 2014

Rupert Murdoch role unfilled because actors are too scared to play him

Rupert Murdoch owns Faux Noise aka Fox "News"

Posted by Roy Greenslade
Thursday 23 October 2014

Who will dare to play Rupert Murdoch on the West End stage? Evidently, actors are not lining up for the part because they fear his power.

The failure to hire a big name for the Murdoch role is putting the project in jeopardy, according to the playwright, David Williamson. He told the BBC:

"All commercial productions rely on getting a cast that will attract an audience and we've found that some actors are actually scared of playing Rupert on stage.

The man has so much power and quite understandably, people - and that includes actors - don't want to offend him. He owns Fox Studios, for heaven's sake."

Williamson's play, Rupert, enjoyed a successful debut in Melbourne in 2013 and was staged in Washington DC in March this year.

Now the 74-year-old American actor James Cromwell will take on the Murdoch mantle in a Sydney production next month. He isn't worried about it affecting his future career.

"I like taking on the dragon, and Murdoch is definitely the dragon," he told Australia's Sydney Morning Herald.

"Let's put it this way – I'm not at the beginning of my career. I don't give a fuck what he does to me. If this is going to be my last shot, I think it's a good one."

If you’re over 60, light alcohol associated with better memory

The original title is really stupid.

October 22, 2014

Researchers from the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston, University of Kentucky, and University of Maryland found that for people 60 and older who do not have dementia, light alcohol consumption during late life is associated with higher episodic memory — the ability to recall memories of events.


The researchers found that light and moderate alcohol consumption in older people is associated with higher episodic memory and is linked with larger hippocampal brain volume. Amount of alcohol consumption had no impact on executive function or overall mental ability.

Findings from animal studies suggest that moderate alcohol consumption may contribute to preserved hippocampal volume by promoting generation of new nerve cells in the hippocampus. In addition, exposing the brain to moderate amounts of alcohol may increase the release of brain chemicals involved with cognitive, or information processing, functions.

“There were no significant differences in cognitive functioning and regional brain volumes during late life according to reported midlife alcohol consumption status,” said lead author Brian Downer, UTMB Sealy Center on Aging postdoctoral fellow. “This may be due to the fact that adults who are able to continue consuming alcohol into old age are healthier, and therefore have higher cognition and larger regional brain volumes, than people who had to decrease their alcohol consumption due to unfavorable health outcomes.”

Although the potential benefits of light to moderate alcohol consumption to cognitive learning and memory later in life have been consistently reported, extended periods of abusing alcohol, often defined as having five or more alcoholic beverages during a single drinking occasion is known to be harmful to the brain.

Other members of this research team include Yang Jiang and David Fardo from the University of Kentucky and Faika Zanjani from the University of Maryland.

Gene that once aided survival in the Arctic found to have negative impact on health today


Contact: Mary Beth O'Leary
Cell Press
Gene that once aided survival in the Arctic found to have negative impact on health today

In individuals living in the Arctic, researchers have discovered a genetic variant that arose thousands of years ago and most likely provided an evolutionary advantage for processing high-fat diets or for surviving in a cold environment; however, the variant also seems to increase the risk of hypoglycemia, or low blood sugar, and infant mortality in today's northern populations. The findings, published online October 23 in Cell Press's American Journal of Human Genetics, provide an example of how an initially beneficial genetic change could be detrimental to future generations.

"Our work describes a case where the same variant has likely been selectively advantageous in the past [but] disadvantageous under current environmental conditions," says senior author Dr. Toomas Kivisild, of the University of Cambridge, in the UK.


When the investigators looked at the global distribution of the CPT1A variant, they found that it was present in 68% of individuals in the Northern Siberian population yet absent in other publicly available genomes. The variant has previously been linked to high infant mortality and hypoglycemia in Canadian Inuits, and its high frequency in these populations has been described as a paradox.


Greece Flooding, Caused By Slow-Moving Remnants of Hurricane Gonzalo, Covers Athens Streets

Gonzalo came west across the Atlantic from Africa, came close to the U.S., then ended up going back across the ocean to hit Europe. Not the first time this has happened. I have wondered about some of those other hurricanes that turned away after approaching the U.S., which is what has mostly been happening the last few years, when several days later there were flooding storms in Europe.

By Sean Breslin
Published: October 24, 2014

The storm that just won't quit is hammering Greece, and it won't be going anywhere for at least a couple of days.

Heavy rain dumped on Greece Friday, flooding some roadways and creating travel problems in Athens, according to local reports. Word of significant flash flooding began in the Greek capital Friday afternoon, and meteorologists say the rainfall can be tied to the remnants of Hurricane Gonzalo.

"This cutoff low, so-called because it has become detached from the steering influence of the jet stream, contains some of the energy from what was once Hurricane Gonzalo," said senior meteorologist Jonathan Erdman. "While not necessarily indicative of a continuing, large-scale heavy rain threat, this stubborn upper-level low is forecast to remain swirling over the Aegean Sea and eastern Mediterranean Sea into much of next week."

The tropical system previously known as Gonzalo has tracked across thousands of miles, hitting the Caribbean before making landfall on Bermuda last Friday. Then, it traveled across the Atlantic and hit the United Kingdom, Belgium, the Netherlands and Scandinavia with bouts of rain and high winds. Now, it has sunk southeast and is expected to linger over the Balkan peninsula for several days.

The system also dumped feet of snow in the Swiss and Austrian Alps.


How did the turtle cross the road? With your help

See the link below for how to hold and transport them.

By: Anna Norris
Thu, Apr 17, 2014

Just like any other critter, turtles are just trying to get from point A to point B. Sometimes that means crossing a road — which can be dangerous, affecting turtle populations across the nation. These critters can't hear cars approaching or even horns, so if ever see one attempting to cross the street, the best thing you can do is try to (safely!) help it along.

Regardless of the strategy you choose, it's important to be sure that you are moving the turtle in the direction in which it was already headed; otherwise your help will have been for naught. Unless you stick to their path, stubborn reptiles will likely return to their starting point in another attempt to cross the road. You also shouldn't try to take the turtle to a different destination altogether (including your home), even if it's trying to cross to another place where there isn't a water source. During nesting season, turtles will often venture away from ponds. So, the best thing to do is send it on its merry way down the path of its own choice.



From a Facebook comment:

I've always read that it's best not to drag a snapping turtle across the road since it can do damage to the underside of it's shell or scratch it's legs/tail. Many people encourage it into a box or onto a piece of clothing, cardboard or car mat and drag that instead.

Music therapy reduces depression in children and adolescents


Contact: Claire O'Callaghan
Queen's University Belfast
Music therapy reduces depression in children and adolescents

Researchers at Queen's University Belfast have discovered that music therapy reduces depression in children and adolescents with behavioural and emotional problems.

In the largest ever study of its kind, the researchers in partnership with the Northern Ireland Music Therapy Trust, found that children who received music therapy had significantly improved self-esteem and significantly reduced depression compared with those who received treatment without music therapy.

The study, which was funded by the Big Lottery fund, also found that those who received music therapy had improved communicative and interactive skills, compared to those who received usual care options alone.


The Doctors And Nurses Risking Their Lives To Provide Desperately Needed Treatment In Africa

These are true heroes.
I suggest reading the whole article at the link below:

by Tara Culp-Ressler Posted on October 24, 2014

Dr. Craig Spencer, the doctor in New York City who tested positive for Ebola after returning from treating patients in West Africa, is one of hundreds of health care workers who have caught the deadly virus while on the front lines of the outbreak.

The current Ebola crisis, which is the worst outbreak the world has ever seen, is taking a particularly large toll on doctors and nurses. At the end of August, the World Health Organization (WHO) started warning that an “unprecedented number of medical staff” was suffering from the virus. As of October 8th, more than 400 health care workers had been infected with Ebola in West Africa, and 233 of them had died.

The second biggest Ebola outbreak that’s ever occurred, which took place in the Congo in 1976, resulted in just 11 deaths among health care professionals.

One of the reasons that the current epidemic is so deadly for doctors, according to the WHO, is because there’s a serious shortage of staff available to help. The virus is ravaging countries that already had too few health professionals to begin with; while the United States has about 245 doctors for every 100,000 people, for example, Liberia has just 1.4. Plus, top doctors in Sierra Leone and Liberia succumbed to the disease this summer, undermining the countries’ medical expertise as well as depriving them of several national heroes.


Doctors Without Borders — one of the most respected humanitarian organizations in the world and a recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize — has been on the ground in Western Africa for months, trying to warn the international community to take the epidemic more seriously. “Governments with the necessary medical and logistical resources must go beyond funding pledges and immediately dispatch infectious disease experts and disaster relief assets to the region,” the organization’s president said at the end of the summer.

Exposure to traffic pollution during pregnancy can damage future child's lungs


Contact: Emma Dickinson
BMJ-British Medical Journal
Exposure to traffic pollution during pregnancy can damage future child's lungs
Policies to cut exposure to traffic air pollution could prevent damage to future children's lungs, say researchers

Exposure to pollution during the second trimester of pregnancy in particular raises the risk of harm to a child's lungs, underlining the multiple public health benefits of policies to reduce exposure to air pollution, say researchers.


Children whose mothers lived in a high traffic air pollution area for benzene during the second trimester of pregnancy had a 22% higher risk of impaired lung function than those living in less polluted areas.

The risk for children of mothers living in a high traffic air pollution area for NO2 during their second trimester was 30% higher than those from less polluted areas.

Stronger associations between higher levels of pollution around pregnant women and poorer lung function in their subsequent children appeared among allergic children and those of lower social class.

However, there was no significant evidence of an association between early postnatal life (during the first year of life), recent and current exposures to outdoor air pollutants with lung function at preschool age.


Colorado Dems: We Caught James O'Keefe and His Friends Trying to Bait Us Into Approving Voter Fraud

By Andy Kroll | Mon Oct. 20, 2014

James O'Keefe, the conservative provocateur, has been on the prowl in Colorado, the setting of a close Senate race between Democratic incumbent Mark Udall and GOP Rep. Cory Gardner, as well as a nip-and-tuck governor's contest. Last week, O'Keefe and two of his collaborators tried to bait Democratic field staffers into approving voter fraud involving Colorado's universal vote-by-mail program, according to three Democratic staffers who interacted with O'Keefe or his colleagues.

Democratic staffers in Colorado recently came to believe they were the subject of an O'Keefe operation after campaign workers became suspicious about would-be volunteers who had asked about filling out and submitting mail-in ballots for others.


O'Keefe and two male colleagues also targeted a progressive nonprofit named New Era Colorado, according to New Era executive director Steve Fenberg. On Saturday, Fenberg says, O'Keefe and his friends contacted New Era's Fort Collins office to set up an in-person meeting and identified themselves as activists affiliated with Rocky Mountain Vote Pride. The three men arrived carrying Udall campaign literature, Fenberg notes, but a New Era organizer met them outside the office's front door and refused to let them enter with the Udall materials. Outside groups such as New Era cannot coordinate with political campaigns, and Fenberg says he believes O'Keefe and his collaborators "were trying to establish evidence we were working together."


Mortgage Giant Accused Of Faking Documents To Justify Foreclosures

by Alan Pyke Posted on October 23, 2014

New York state’s top financial regulator says one of the biggest mortgage servicing companies in America has continued to backdate paperwork in order to justify illegitimate foreclosures, more than two years after the widespread falsification of key foreclosure documents by financial companies was revealed and quickly resolved through a settlement with the federal government.

New York Department of Financial Services Superintendent Ben Lawsky says that Atlanta-based Ocwen Financial Corporation has been sending letters to homeowners long after deadlines for renegotiating their mortgages had passed. The dates on the letters say that they were sent well ahead of the deadlines, but Lawsky’s investigators say Ocwen’s own systems indicate the documents were created after the fact with incorrect dates printed on them. Worse, Ocwen was alerted to the improperly backdated documents by an employee nearly a year ago, according to the Wall Street Journal, but “ignored them for months and still hasn’t corrected them, nearly a year after they were initially found.”

By failing to provide struggling homeowners with timely information about their options, Lawsky’s investigation has found, Ocwen deprived thousands of people the opportunity to renegotiate their mortgages and improve their chances of keeping their homes. The new allegations are “the sixth time in the past two years that Mr. Lawsky’s office had raised questions about Ocwen’s business practices,” the Journal notes. The company’s stock price has fallen by more than half since the start of the year.

The newest alleged violations at Ocwen, which is the fourth-largest mortgage servicing company nationwide, share DNA with the widespread document falsification scandal that was dubbed “robo-signing” when it broke into headlines in 2010. The term refers to an illegitimate business practice whereby financial companies hired people to sign documents without actually verifying any of the information they contained.


Two and a half years after the federal settlement was announced, state regulators are still uncovering systematic falsification of documents by companies that made money foreclosing on borrowers who had their legal rights violated. Lawsky’s letter to Ocwen says that the newly-discovered backdating affected “potentially hundreds of thousands of letters to borrowers” and that the company’s shoddy internal systems mean that “it may be impossible to determine the scope of Ocwen’s non-compliance” with foreclosure laws. It also says that Ocwen’s inappropriate documentary practices have continued into 2014.


Four Chain Stores Will Close On Thanksgiving Day To Let Workers Spend Time With Family

by Bryce Covert Posted on October 23, 2014

Four major chain stores — Dillard’s, Burlington, REI, American Girl — confirmed to ThinkProgress on Thursday that they will stay closed on Thanksgiving Day as other stores begin to announce they’ll begin Black Friday a day early.

In explaining its decision, a spokesperson for Dillard’s told ThinkProgress, “We choose to remain closed on Thanksgiving in longstanding tradition of honoring of our customers’ and associates’ time with family.” The other three didn’t elaborate on the reasons for staying closed.

By contrast, last week Macy’s was the first retailer to announce that it would be open on Thanksgiving Day, starting at 6 p.m. That’s the second year in a row it has opened on the federal holiday itself, rather than at midnight as it had in 2012. Walmart also told ThinkProgress that nearly 1 million workers will have to report to work on Thanksgiving as it will be open all day long. More are likely to make the same announcement, as last year Kmart, Target, Toys R Us, Gap, Best Buy, and a handful of others decided to follow Macy’s lead and begin Black Friday on Thursday.

While the stores that open say employees are happy to volunteer and get extra holiday pay, that may not be the whole story for everyone. The United States is the only developed country that doesn’t guarantee that workers can take paid holidays. That ends up meaning nearly a quarter of private sector employees don’t get them, including 45 percent of service sector workers. On top of that, many retail workers struggle with erratic scheduling practices that leave them without enough hours to live off of, so they may be desperate to get the extra shifts. There were also reports last year of Kmart workers who were denied their requests to take the day off.

The stores that decide to stay closed and give their employees the holiday may find they end up rewarded. Last year, half of consumers said they disapproved of the early hours and the vast majority didn’t plan to shop on Thanksgiving anyway.

Children in high-quality early childhood education are buffered from changes in family income


Contact: Hannah Klein
Society for Research in Child Development
Children in high-quality early childhood education are buffered from changes in family income

While losses in family income predict increases in behavior problems for many children, attending high-quality early childhood education and care centers offers some protection against families' economic declines, according to a new study out of Norway. In Norway, publicly subsidized high-quality early childhood education and care is available to all children, from low-income to affluent, starting at age 1. The study found that children who don't take part in such programs have more early behavior problems when their families' income drops.


Low Turnout Might Damage the Dems Says New Poll

By Rob Garver, The Fiscal Times
October 15, 2014

Every election has its idiosyncrasies and complicating outside factors, but sometimes the results come down to the same factors cycle after cycle. Right now, it looks more likely than not that Democrats will lose control of the Senate in November. The biggest reason is that, as a party, the Democrats don’t get voters to the polls for the midterms as well as the GOP does.

A new poll from The Wall Street Journal and NBC News shows that a plurality of voters, by a margin of 46 percent to 42 percent, would prefer to see Democrats in control of Congress. But when the sample is limited to those considered “likely voters,” the numbers flip – with Republicans preferred by a plurality of 46 percent to 42 percent.


Yet there are factors that make it less clear just how sure the GOP’s path to victory is. When voters were given only a choice between the Republicans and Democrats for control of Congress, Democrats won among registered voters but lost among likely voters. However, when voters were asked what party they prefer in their own congressional district, including the Libertarian Party and the Green Party, Democrats topped Republicans not only among registered voters (43-36) but among likely voters as well (41-39).


Thursday, October 23, 2014

Exercise Counteracts Genetic Risk for Alzheimer's

Oct 16, 2014 |By Emilie Reas


People with a gene known as APOE e4 have a higher risk of cognitive impairment and dementia in old age. Even before behavioral symptoms appear, their brains show reduced metabolism, altered activity and more deterioration than those without the high-risk gene. Yet accumulating research is showing that carrying this gene is not necessarily a sentence for memory loss and confusion—if you know how to work it to your advantage with exercise.

Scientists have long known that exercise can help stave off cognitive decline. Over the past decade evidence has mounted suggesting that this benefit is even greater for those at higher genetic risk for Alzheimer's. For example, two studies by a team in Finland and Sweden found that exercising at least twice a week in midlife lowers one's chance of getting dementia more than 20 years later, and this protective effect is stronger in people with the APOE e4 gene. Several others reported that frequent exercise—at least three times a week in some studies; up to more than an hour a day in others—can slow cognitive decline only in those carrying the high-risk gene. Furthermore, for those who carry the gene, being sedentary is associated with increased brain accumulation of the toxic protein beta-amyloid, a hallmark of Alzheimer's.

More recent studies, including a 2012 paper published in Alzheimer's & Dementia and a 2011 paper in NeuroImage, found that high-risk individuals who exercise have greater brain activity and glucose uptake during a memory task compared with their less active counterparts or with those at low genetic risk.

This link to metabolism may help explain why exercise protects APOE e4 carriers. According to a theory proposed in May by anthropologist David Raichlen and psychologist Gene Alexander, both at the University of Arizona, the answer lies in our evolutionary past. Two million years ago, when our ancestors were much more physically active—for example, perhaps running long distances to hunt prey—only the high-risk gene variant existed, they argue. The gene allowed for better metabolism during intense activity, and its downside, faster cognitive decline, was counteracted by our ancestors' active way of life. As humans adopted more sedentary habits, other variants of the gene appeared, and in modern times we are now seeing the negative effect of the high-risk gene more often than its benefit.


Oceans Could Lose $1 Trillion in Value Due to Acidification

Oct. 21, 2014

Biological Diversity released a report updating the impacts of ocean acidification on marine life. This time, it put estimated costs on the predicted damage, hoping to make governments aware of the potential size of the various threats.

While many of the effects of growing acidification remain invisible, by the end of this century, things will have changed drastically, the report found. One estimate looking only at lost ecosystem protections, such as that provided by tropical reefs, cited an economic value of $1 trillion annually.

Over the last 200 years, the world's oceans have absorbed more than a quarter of the carbon dioxide released by humans, becoming 26 percent more acidic. Though technically waters have not yet become acidic, according to the pH scale, the report found this could occur by 2100 if emissions continue to rise.


Ocean acidification, first discussed in the 1990s, didn't become a well-documented trend until 2004. But since then, the number of researchers entering the field has grown substantially. From 2004 to 2013, the report found, studies published on the topic grew twentyfold.

"This alone warranted an update to the report," said Roberts.

But it wasn't the only factor; the whole scope of the 2009 study needed to be altered to reflect reality, he explained.

"In 2009, we didn't take into consideration societal implications, loss of ecosystem services or policy at all," said Roberts. "But by just looking at an example such as tropical reefs, it's clear destruction of these reefs can lead to decreased food security, income loss, shoreline damage and much more."


Of the 400 million people cited to live within 62 miles of tropical reefs, many rely on these fish habitats for their livelihoods and a vast majority of their protein intake. So negative impacts on reefs represent a direct threat to human populations, explained Roberts.


Additional factors beyond the ability to function under decreased pH, like habitat loss and behavioral changes, he said, may present even more immediate threats to marine species. At lower pH levels, many fish loose their ability to understand chemical cues that help them learn their environment and avoid predators.

Fish that lose their sense of predators "also expose themselves to further risk exhibiting bold behavior in the search for more food to meet their new energetic demands," he explained. "These kind of findings could have never been anticipated; we found them by virtue of asking seemingly unrelated questions."


The last time the Earth's oceans experienced these kinds of carbon dioxide changes, the report found, was 56 million years ago, during the Paleo-Eocene Thermal Maximum, or PETM, when 2,000 to 3,000 petagrams of CO2 was released over 10,000 years.

The results killed a vast abundance of marine life, primarily calcifiers. Then it took the oceans roughly 100,000 years to rebalance. By comparison, today's changes are occurring at 10 times this rate, with projections of PETM levels by 2600 if emission levels remain the same.

The Cause Of Riots And The Price of Food

August 15, 2011
MIT Technology Review

What causes riots? That’s not a question you would expect to have a simple answer.

But today, Marco Lagi and buddies at the New England Complex Systems Institute in Cambridge, say they’ve found a single factor that seems to trigger riots around the world.

This single factor is the price of food. Lagi and co say that when it rises above a certain threshold, social unrest sweeps the planet.

The evidence comes from two sources. The first is data gathered by the United Nations that plots the price of food against time, the so-called food price index of the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the UN. The second is the date of riots around the world, whatever their cause. Both these sources are plotted on the same graph above.

This clearly seems to show that when the food price index rises above a certain threshold, the result is trouble around the world.

This isn’t rocket science. It stands to reason that people become desperate when food is unobtainable. It’s often said that any society is three square meals from anarchy.

But what’s interesting about this analysis is that Lagi and co say that high food prices don’t necessarily trigger riots themselves, they simply create the conditions in which social unrest can flourish. “These observations are consistent with a hypothesis that high global food prices are a precipitating condition for social unrest,” say Lagi and co.

In other words, high food prices lead to a kind of tipping point when almost anything can trigger a riot, like a lighted match in a dry forest.

On 13 December last year, the group wrote to the US government pointing out that global food prices were about to cross the threshold they had identified. Four days later, Mohamed Bouazizi set himself on fire in Tunisia in protest at government policies, an event that triggered a wave of social unrest that continues to spread throughout the middle east today.

That leads to an obvious thought. If high food prices condition the world for social unrest, then reducing the prices should stabilise the planet.


Climate Change And Rising Violence Are Linked, According To 55 Scientific Studies

by Jeff Spross Posted on October 23, 2014

According to a new review of 55 separate studies, there is a meaningful connection between climate change and human violence.

The working paper, put out by researchers with the National Bureau of Economic Research, is what’s called a meta-analysis: a study of studies, in effect. After going through numerous analyses of the relationship between climate change and violence in various settings, the researchers settled on 55 of the most rigorous pieces of work. They then evaluated the picture painted by those studies, and worked to amalgamate their findings into a single statistical result.

They looked at conflicts between individuals — “domestic violence, road rage, assault, murder, and rape” — as well as conflicts between larger human groups — “riots, ethnic violence, land invasions, gang violence, civil war and other forms of political instability, such as coups.” The end result? The researchers determined that changes in drought and rainfall patterns, but especially increases in temperature, all have a meaningful link to increases in both forms of violence. “We find that deviations from moderate temperatures and precipitation patterns systematically increase the risk of conflict, often substantially, with average effects that are highly statistically significant,” the researchers wrote.


The effects are different for different parts of the globe. Stanford researcher Marshall Burke, one of the study’s three co-authors, told Chris Mooney at the Washington Post that “for a degree Celsius of temperature increase (1.8 degrees Fahrenheit) … there could be a 20 percent increase in civil conflict in Africa.” In the United States, meanwhile, every one degree Celsius increase in warming should bring “a one percent increase in interpersonal conflicts.”

It’s important to note that what rising temperatures and climate change are doing here is increasing the odds of violence rather than causing it in a direct, if-this-then-that relationship. Steroids in baseball are a good analogy: they don’t cause any particular home run, but instead increase the likelihood that a batter will hit a long bomb. It works the same way with extreme weather, where global warming increases the chances and severity of events rather than directly causing any particular storm or drought.

The latest work by the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change also suggests climate change drives up inter-group conflicts by placing added stresses on societies: food shortages, water shortages, extreme heat, flooding, and the like. In turn, societies that suffer from more violent conflict are also more vulnerable to the damage climate change can do, and are less able to adapt.

Countries like Nigeria and Syria have been pointed to by experts as examples of violent conflict helped along by climate change. A 2011 report on Nigeria by the U.S. Institute for Peace explained how additional heat, reduced rainfall, and the resulting desertification damaged the Nigerian economy and placed added social and psychological stress on Nigerians themselves: “Evidence in and outside Nigeria suggests that alienated young people who lack resources and economic opportunity are more likely to join rebellions,” the report went on. “In the dusty streets of Borno’s state capital, for instance, the violent anti-establishment Islamic group Boko Haram attracts rafts of jobless young men, as do the Delta’s many militias and groups.”


Mooney also talked to Richard Larrick, a professor at Duke’s Fuqua School of Business, who was the lead author on a study looking into the effect of unusually hot days on how often Major League Baseball pitchers throw retaliatory beanballs at the other team’s batters. “Researchers in social psychology have studied the relationship between temperature and aggression for many decades,” Larrick said. Laboratory research in “tightly controlled” settings shows that Larrick “changes in temperature directly lead to more aggression.”

“Heat changes the way people feel and think, increasing anger and making thoughts of aggression increase,” Larrick continued.

Teens whose parents exert more psychological control have trouble with closeness, independence


Contact: Hannah Klein
Society for Research in Child Development
Teens whose parents exert more psychological control have trouble with closeness, independence

For teenagers, learning to establish a healthy degree of autonomy and closeness in relationships (rather than easily giving in to peer pressure) is an important task. A new longitudinal study has found one reason adolescents struggle with balancing autonomy and closeness in relationships: parents' psychological control. Teens whose parents exerted more psychological control over them when they were 13 had more problems establishing friendships and romantic relationships that balanced closeness and independence, both in adolescence and into early adulthood.

The researchers looked at whether parents' greater use of psychological control in early adolescence can hinder teens' development of autonomy in relationships with peers. Parents' psychological control involved such tactics as using guilt, withdrawing love, fostering anxiety, or other psychologically manipulative tactics aimed at controlling youths' motivations and behaviors.

"These tactics might pressure teens to make decisions in line with their parents' needs and motivations rather than their own," explains Barbara A. Oudekerk, a statistician with the U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, Bureau of Justice Statistics, who led the study while a research associate at the University of Virginia. "Without opportunities to practice self-directed, independent decision making, teens might give in to their friends' and partners' decisions."

Oudekerk and her colleagues found that parents' use of psychological control at age 13 placed teens at risk for having problems establishing autonomy and closeness in relationships with friends and romantic partners that persisted eight years later, into early adulthood. Previous studies have shown that adolescents who fail to develop the capacity to establish autonomy and closeness are at risk for using methods that are hostile or that undermine autonomy in their own relationships, as well as for experiencing depression and loneliness in close relationships in adulthood.


Throughout adolescence, teens became increasingly less skilled at establishing autonomy and closeness in friendships and romantic relationships the more psychological control they experienced from their parents. In addition, teens' abilities (or lack thereof) to express autonomy and maintain close relationships with friends and partners at age 18 predicted the degree of autonomy and closeness in future relationships at age 21. Despite romantic relationships being relatively new in adolescence, the better teens were at establishing autonomy and relatedness with partners at age 18, the better they were at establishing autonomy and relatedness with both friends and partners at age 21.

"Parents often fear the harmful consequences of peer pressure in adolescence," says Oudekerk. "Our study suggests that parents can promote or undermine teens' ability to assert their own views and needs to close friends and romantic partners. In addition, teens who learn—or fail to learn—how to express independence and closeness with friends and partners during adolescence carry these skills forward into adult relationships."

The study illustrates the importance of intervening early and encouraging healthy relationships between parents and their adolescents. It also documents that adolescent relationships with peers and partners offer opportunities for learning and practicing healthy relationship skills that can shape the quality of adult relationships.


Non-smokers exposed to 3 times above safe levels of particles when living with smokers


Contact: Emma Dickinson
BMJ-British Medical Journal
Non-smokers exposed to 3 times above safe levels of particles when living with smokers
Living in a smoking home equivalent to living in big cities like London or Beijing

Living with smokers is the same as living in smoke-free homes in heavily polluted cities such as Beijing or London, found researchers who have said moving to a smoke-free home could have major health benefits for non-smokers.

There is already strong evidence to suggest that exposure to second hand smoke is linked to a wide range of adverse health events such as respiratory and heart illness.




Parents Benefit From Head Start Program

October 16, 2014 | by Julie Deardorff

Head Start programs may help low-income parents improve their educational status, according to a new study by Northwestern University researchers.

The study is one of the first to examine whether a child’s participation in the federal program benefits mothers and fathers – in particular parents’ educational attainment and employment.


“In our study, we asked whether there could be a separate story for parents,” said Sabol, an expert in research, practice and policy in early childhood education. “Head Start may provide the ideal place to promote parents’ education via a network of parents and staff, in addition to information and referrals to postsecondary educational opportunities.”

Head Start also may help parents manage their work-school-family balance by providing an affordable, safe place to send their children while they go to work or school.


The study found that parents of 3-year-olds in Head Start had steeper increases in educational attainment, but not their employment by the time their children turned 6 years old, compared to the parents in the control group, whose children were not assigned to Head Start. The pattern was especially strong for parents who were African American and for parents who had at least some college experience but no degree.

“Parents who had some college but no degree were particularly likely to increase their own education due to their children’s participation in Head Start. This suggests that Head Start is particularly helping families who have the motivation to improve their education but need extra support,” said Sabol.

The researchers did not find effects among parents whose children entered at age 4. This may be due to the fact that the 3-year-olds had the opportunity to stay in the program for two years, rather than one. It’s also possible that the parents who enrolled 3-year-olds were different from those who enrolled them at age 4. The children who started at age 3 had parents with higher levels of education at baseline.


Sexual preference for masculine men and feminine women is an urban habit


Contact: Keith Coles
runel University

Sexual preference for masculine men and feminine women is an urban habit

In a world of matinee idols and cover girls it's easy to assume that humans want their men to be manly and their women womanly.

But a groundbreaking new study suggests that, rather than being a preference passed down through a long process of social and sexual selection, it's a relatively new habit that has only emerged in modern, urbanised societies.

A team of psychologists, anthropologists and biologists, led by Brunel University London, surveyed 12 populations around the world, from the primitive to the highly developed.

Surprisingly, only in the most industrialised and urbanised environments did people hold the well-worn opinion that highly feminine women and highly masculine men are attractive.

Lecturer in psychology at Brunel University London, Andrew Clark, said: "We digitally morphed masculine and feminine faces from photographs of people to find out what choices people from small-scale societies made.

"We found that they didn't place the same emphasis on 'sex typicality', that is, on highly feminine women and highly masculine men. In fact, they often favoured the neutral face, and sometimes the least "sex-typical" one."

The team also found that the perception that masculine males appear aggressive increased with urbanisation.


"Preferences for sex typical faces are a novel phenomenon of modern environments. It's probably not a consistent thread in human history."

The team suggest that highly developed environments with large, dense populations may have exposed individuals to a greater range of unfamiliar faces, providing the opportunity - and perhaps motive - to discover subtle relationships between facial traits and behaviour.


John Lennon commemorated by naming a new tarantula species from South America after him


Contact: Fernando Pérez-Miles
Pensoft Publishers
John Lennon commemorated by naming a new tarantula species from South America after him

A newly described tarantula species from Western Brazilian Amazonia was named Bumba lennoni in honor of John Lennon, a founder member of the legendary band the Beatles. The new species is part of the tarantula family Theraphosidae which comprises the largest spider species in the world. The study was published in the open access journal ZooKeys.

The name of the new species came across when the authors of the study Fernando Pérez-Miles, from the University of the Republic, Uruguay, and Alexandre Bonaldo and Laura Miglio, both from the Museu Paraense Emilio Goeldi, Brazil, found out that they are all great fans of the Beatles music.

The genus, Bumba, which is proposed as replacement of the old one Maraca, already taken and used for Orthoptera, also has a story behind the choice of name. The new name is taken from Brazilian theatrical folk tradition of the popular festival called Boi-bumbá (hit my bull), which takes place annually in North and Northeastern Brazil.


Fish just wanna have fun


Contact: Whitney Heins
University of Tennessee at Knoxville
University of Tennessee study finds fish just wanna have fun
Fish just want to have fun, according to a University of Tennessee, Knoxville, study that finds even fish 'play.'

Fish just want to have fun, according to a University of Tennessee, Knoxville, study that finds even fish "play."

The research is published in the academic journal Ethology and can be viewed at

Gordon Burghardt, a professor in the departments of Psychology and Ecology are Evolutionary Biology, is known for defining "play" in a way that allows us to identify it in species not previously thought capable of play, such as wasps, reptiles and invertebrates.

"Play is repeated behavior that is incompletely functional in the context or at the age in which it is performed and is initiated voluntarily when the animal or person is in a relaxed or low-stress setting," said Burghardt.

He and his colleagues Vladimir Dinets, a psychology research assistant professor, and James Murphy of the Smithsonian National Zoological Park in Washington, D.C., are the first to document play with objects in a cichlid fish species. There are hundreds of species of cichlid, including tilapia, but the behavior of the species they studied appears unique.

The team studied and filmed three male fish individually over the course of two years. They observed the fish repeatedly striking a bottom-weighted thermometer. The presence or absence of food, or other fish within the aquarium or visible in an adjacent aquarium, had no effect on their behavior. The thermometer-attacking behavior satisfies Burghardt's criteria for play.

"The quick righting response seemed the primary stimulus factor that maintained the behavior," said Burghardt. "We have observed octopus doing this with balls by pulling them underwater and watching them pop back up again. This reactive feature is common in toys used for children and companion animals."

According to Burghardt, by more accurately characterizing play and observing it throughout the entire animal kingdom, humans may better understand themselves. His research illustrates how play is embedded in species' biology, including in the brain. Play, like much of animals' psychology including emotions, motivations, perceptions and intellect, is part of their evolutionary history and not just random, meaningless behavior.

"Play is an integral part of life and may make a life worth living," said Burghardt.

Siblings of children with autism can show signs at 18 months


Contact: Karen N. Peart
Yale University
Siblings of children with autism can show signs at 18 months

About 20% of younger siblings of children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) will develop the condition by age 3. A new study by Yale School of Medicine researchers has found that 57% of these younger siblings who later develop the condition already showed symptoms at age 18 months.

Published in the October Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, this is the first large-scale, multi-site study aimed at identifying specific social-communicative behaviors that distinguish infants with ASD from their typically and atypically developing high-risk peers as early as 18 months of age.

"While the majority of siblings of children with ASD will not develop the condition themselves, for those who do, one of the key priorities is finding more effective ways of identifying and treating them as early as possible," said lead author Katarzyna Chawarska, associate professor in the Yale Child Study Center and the Department of Pediatrics at Yale School of Medicine. "Our study reinforces the need for repeated diagnostic screening in the first three years of life to identify individual cases of ASD as soon as behavioral symptoms are apparent."


"Our research suggests that approximately half of the siblings who are later diagnosed with ASD display signs suggestive of ASD at 18 months, and in those who appeared asymptomatic at 18 months, symptoms appeared between 18 and 36 months," said Chawarska.

Chawarska said what was most interesting to the research team was that different patterns of behaviors at 18 months may be predictive of ASD later on. In about 50% of siblings, a combination of poor eye contact and lack of communicative gestures or imaginative play is most strongly associated with later ASD diagnosis. In a small percentage of those later diagnosed with ASD, eye contact may be relatively normal, but they begin to display early signs of repetitive behaviors and have limited non-verbal communication skills.


Study suggests altering gut bacteria might mitigate lupus


Contact: Garth Hogan
American Society for Microbiology
Study suggests altering gut bacteria might mitigate lupus

WASHINGTON, DC – October 20, 2014 -- Lactobacillus species, commonly seen in yogurt cultures, correlate, in the guts of mouse models, with mitigation of lupus symptoms, while Lachnospiraceae, a type of Clostridia, correlate with worsening, according to research published ahead of print in Applied and Environmental Microbiology. "Our results suggest that the same investigation shold be performed in human subjects with lupus," says principal investigator Xin Luo of Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, VA.

In the study, the investigators first showed that mouse models of lupus had higher levels of Lachnospiraceae (a type of Clostridia), and lower Lactobacillus than control mice. They also compared male and female mice, and found that the differences were present only in females. These results suggest that the gut bacteria may contribute to lupus, a disease which is nine times as prevalent in women as in men, says first author Husen Zhang.

They also monitored the gut microbiota over time in both lupus and control mice, and found that in the former, Clostridia increased in both early and late stages of the disease.

In further experiments, the investigators treated the symptoms in the lupus mice with either retinoic acid alone or vitamin A plus retinoic acid. The latter worsened the symptoms—surprisingly, Luo says, because it had been expected to reduce them—and in those mice, Clostridia increased, while Lactobacillus declined. Retinoic acid alone improved the symptoms, with opposite population changes in the gut bacteria.

The research suggests, but does not prove that altering the gut microbiota could mitigate lupus. Nonetheless, Luo suggests that people with lupus should eat Lactobacillus-containing probiotics, such as live culture yogurts, to reduce lupus flares. More generally, "The use of probiotics, prebiotics, and antibiotics has the potential to alter microbiota dysbiosis, which in turn could improve lupus symptoms," says co-principal investigator Husen Zhang. Ultimately, says Luo, fecal transplant might prove valuable as a treatment for lupus.

"We were inspired in part to perform this research by a study on type 1 diabetes, which found that that disease is dependent on gut microbiota," says Zhang. "Like type 1 diabetes, lupus is an autoimmune disease that is even more prevalent [than type 1 diabetes] in women."

Mental Rest and Reflection Boost Learning

Oct. 20, 2014

A new study, which may have implications for approaches to education, finds that brain mechanisms engaged when people allow their minds to rest and reflect on things they've learned before may boost later learning.

Scientists have already established that resting the mind, as in daydreaming, helps strengthen memories of events and retention of information. In a new twist, researchers at The University of Texas at Austin have shown that the right kind of mental rest, which strengthens and consolidates memories from recent learning tasks, helps boost future learning.


Between the tasks, participants rested and could think about anything they chose, but brain scans found that the ones who used that time to reflect on what they had learned earlier in the day fared better on tests pertaining to what they learned later, especially where small threads of information between the two tasks overlapped. Participants seemed to be making connections that helped them absorb information later on, even if it was only loosely related to something they learned before.

"We've shown for the first time that how the brain processes information during rest can improve future learning," says Preston. "We think replaying memories during rest makes those earlier memories stronger, not just impacting the original content, but impacting the memories to come.

Until now, many scientists assumed that prior memories are more likely to interfere with new learning. This new study shows that at least in some situations, the opposite is true.

"Nothing happens in isolation," says Preston. "When you are learning something new, you bring to mind all of the things you know that are related to that new information. In doing so, you embed the new information into your existing knowledge."


Compensation shrinks for all income groups – except the very highest

October 23, 2014
by David Cay Johnston

American paychecks shrank last year, just-released data show, further eroding the public’s purchasing power, which is so vital to economic growth.

Average pay for 2013 was $43,041 — down $79 from the previous year when measured in 2013 dollars. Worse, average pay fell $508 below the 2007 level, my analysis of the new Social Security Administration data shows.

Flat or declining average pay is a major reason so many Americans feel that the Great Recession never ended for them. A severe job shortage compounds that misery not just for workers but also for businesses trying to profit from selling goods and services.

Average pay declined in 59 of the 60 levels of worker pay the government reports each October. The Social Security Administration slices wages into tight categories, starting at $1 to $5,000 and topping out at $50 million plus.

Which group of lucky duckies didn’t see their pay fall? Workers making more than $50 million, who saw their average pay rise by $12.8 million, to $111.7 million.


One encouraging sign in the new data was the increased number of people with work. Last year nearly 155.8 million Americans had at least some paid work, up 2.1 million from 2012.

The number of added workers almost equaled the 2.4 million increase in population, a significant improvement from the trend line since 2000. From 2000 through 2013, the number of people with work increased by 5.7 percent, less than half the 12 percent increase in population. The increased competition for jobs puts downward pressure on wages and discourages many people from even looking for employment.

A good way to grasp the loss of American purchasing power is to compare earnings from jobs to population and the size of the economy. My analysis shows that the slice of the economic pie going to worker pay is thinning while the slice for profits is fattening.

In 2013 the average wage per capita was $21,209, down $379 from 2000. That 1.8 percent decline means that in 2012, Americans earned about 51 weeks of pay for 52 weeks of labor at 2000 pay rates.


The overall decline in purchasing power per American is a major factor in the recent drop-off in corporate profits, which had been soaring since the recession officially ended on June 30, 2009. At Walmart, McDonald’s and other companies that sell to workers in the bottom half or even the bottom 90 percent, corporate financial reports show eroding conditions, with profits falling and debt rising. This is the inevitable and unavoidable result of pay and jobs not growing in tandem with the economy, especially the increases in productivity that in the postwar era used to be shared by investors and workers.

Better pay and more jobs would help remedy this, but congressional gridlock is holding back economic reforms as a minority of lawmakers blocks government investments that fuel economic growth — especially investments in basic research, education and infrastructure.

The decline of unions is also tamping down worker pay. While the United States’ major economic competitors Europe, Japan and Canada are heavily unionized, only about 1 in 15 American private sector workers is a member of a union.

Employers are in such a powerful position at this point that it may be misleading to speak of a job market in the traditional sense of an open, competitive marketplace for labor. Instead we have created a one-sided market with take-it-or-leave-it pay for the vast majority of workers who lack unique talents.

Over time, holding down wages and benefits becomes a vicious cycle. Less buying power for consumers puts pressure on companies to cut pay, weakening corporate balance sheets and ultimately producing smaller profits. The path to prosperity is paved with better wages and more jobs that make greater purchasing power and more profits possible.


We can do better than this. We can elect leaders who favor broad prosperity through time-tested principles that encourage investment in economically productive activities rather than in financial speculation and unproductive assets such as mansions and yachts, that favor domestic jobs rather than offshoring, that restore bargaining power to workers and that recommend major new public investments that will make the economy more efficient and expand the knowledge base from which wealth creation springs.

America will remain in the economic doldrums until our political leaders recognize these trends and use their power to change them or until we fire them at the ballot box.

Global Warming Might Spur Earthquakes and Volcanoes

I thought about this when the volcano in Iceland erupted, since I have posted on this subject in the past, but didn't have time to post about it at the time of the eruption. I have wondered if others have noticed the possible link between the melting of the Iceland ice sheets and the eruption of the volcano, and I see that they have.

Global Warming Might Spur Earthquakes and Volcanoes
Andrea Thompson | August 30, 2007

Earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, tsunamis and landslides are some of the additional catastrophes that climate change and its rising sea levels and melting glaciers could bring, a geologist says.

The impact of human-induced global warming on Earth's ice and oceans is already noticeable: Greenland's glaciers are melting at an increasing rate, and sea level rose by a little more than half a foot (0.17 meters) globally in the 20th century, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

With these trends in ice cover and sea level only expected to continue and likely worsen if atmospheric carbon dioxide levels continue to rise, they could alter the stresses and forces fighting for balance in the ground under our feet—changes that are well-documented in studies of past climate change, but which are just beginning to be studied as possible consequences of the current state of global warming.


One particular feature that can change the balance of forces in Earth's crust is ice, in the form of glaciers and ice sheets that cover much of the area around Earth's poles plus mountains at all latitudes. The weight of ice depresses the crust on which it sits.

As the ice melts, the crust below no longer has anything sitting on top of it, and so can rebound fairly rapidly (by geological standards). (This rebounding is actually occurring now as a result of the end of the last Ice Age: The retreat of massive ice sheets from the northern United States and Canada has allowed the crust in these areas to bounce back.)

Areas of rebounding crust could change the stresses acting on earthquake faults and volcanoes in the crust.

"In places like Iceland, for example, where you have the Eyjafjallajökull ice sheet, which wouldn't survive [global warming], and you've got lots of volcanoes under that, the unloading effect can trigger eruptions," McGuire said.

With the changing dynamics in the crust, faults could also be destabilized, which could bring a whole host of other problems.

"It's not just the volcanoes. Obviously if you load and unload active faults, then you're liable to trigger earthquakes," McGuire told LiveScience, noting that there is ample evidence for this association in past climate change events.

"At the end of the last Ice Age, there was a great increase in seismicity along the margins of the ice sheets in Scandinavia and places like this, and that triggered these huge submarine landsides which generated tsunamis," McGuire said. "So you've got the whole range of geological hazards there that can result from if we see this big catastrophic melting."



Fred Pearce
May 7, 2014


British geologist Bill McGuire, in a troubling new book, Waking The Giant: How a Changing Climate Triggers Earthquakes, Tsunamis and Volcanoes.


The most solid evidence for climatic influence on geology comes from the end of the last ice age, around 12,000 years ago, says McGuire, who is a volcanologist and professor of geophysical and climate hazards at University College London. Analysis of volcanic deposits, published in the past decade by several authors, has found that this period of rapid climate change, when ice sheets retreated from much of the planet, coincided with a sudden outburst of geological activity. The incidence of volcanic eruptions in Iceland increased around 50-fold for about 1,500 years, before settling back to previous levels.

What happened? McGuire makes the case that during the long preceding glaciation, the weight of ice some two kilometers thick over Iceland maintained high pressures underground that kept magma at the root of volcanoes solid and suppressed eruptions. But as the ice melted, the huge

weight was released and the land surface lifted, sometimes by hundreds of meters. This reduced the pressure below. He cites Freysteinn Sigmundsson at the Nordic Volcanological Center at the University of Iceland in Reykjavik, who says: “Reduction of pressure enabled mantle rocks to melt, creating a zone of magma upwelling underneath Iceland.” Magma production increased 30-fold – that magma, the argument goes, burst out in a spectacular epidemic of volcanic eruptions.

Similar, though less pronounced, surges in volcanic activity occurred at that time across much of the planet, wherever large ice sheets or small tropical glaciers melted, says Hugh Tuffen, a volcanologist at the University of Lancaster in England. From the Eifel mountains of Germany to the Chilean Andes, and from California to Kamchatka, volcanoes were awakened, says McGuire, who chaired a conference on climate change and geology at the Royal Society in London in 2009.

While the planet’s volcanoes have been relatively peaceful during the long stable climate since then, McGuire warns that we need to watch out as the world starts to warm once more. “Volcanoes can be incredibly sensitive to tiny changes to their external environment, constantly teetering on the edge of stability,” he says.

Defrosting the planet’s cold regions has for some years been implicated in a range of “natural” disasters. The rapid melting of glaciers creates dangerous lakes of meltwater, perched high in the valleys of the Himalayas and Andes.

Thawed soil unleashes landslides. Christian Huggel, a geographer at the University of Zurich, Switzerland, found in a study of mountain slope failures in Alaska, New Zealand and the European Alps that “all the failures were preceded by unusually warm periods,” lasting days or weeks. There are also concerns that warming will release the potent greenhouse gas methane from permafrost and continental shelves, creating a dangerous feedback to global warming itself.

But McGuire is talking about changes deep in the Earth’s crust, caused by the lifting or imposing of the weight of ice and ocean water at the surface. And the concern relates to earthquakes as well as volcanoes. For earthquakes, the evidence points to changes in sea levels, as well as the melting of ice.

Many geological fault lines are on a knife-edge, awaiting any nudge to send their seismic mayhem to the surface, says McGuire. His University College London colleague Serge Guillas has found that, over the past 40 years, El Nino cycles in the tropical Pacific Ocean have triggered a regular seismic response as the pressure of water has changed with short-term sea level fluctuations. There are more earthquakes in the eastern Pacific in the months after the cycle lowers sea levels in the area by a few centimeters, which flexes the plates beneath.

A 2009 study co-authored by Selwyn Sacks, a geophysicist at the Carnegie Institution in Washington D.C., concluded that something as seemingly insignificant as low atmospheric pressure in the heart of typhoons was sufficient to trigger slow earthquakes in strata east of Taiwan.

The evidence from volcanoes of short-term influences is even more startling. According to Oxford University geologists Ben Mason and David Pyle the planet has volcanic seasons. In the Northern Hemisphere, eruptions happen most frequently between November and April. The reason, they say, is shifts in water round the globe. This movement of water slightly squashes or releasing the land beneath, at times pushing magma to the surface rather like toothpaste in a tube.


McGuire is keen to underline that his message “is not intended as a speculative rant.” He is simply reviewing the voluminous literature already in the public and peer-reviewed domains. He makes a point of dismissing talk that climate change might have caused the Sumatra earthquake that triggered devastating Indian Ocean tsunami in 2004 as “clearly nonsense.” But he insists that “people who find the idea [of climate change triggering geological events] flaky don't appreciate that the link between abrupt climate change and a response from the solid Earth is supported by huge amounts of research.”


One place we might expect trouble is Iceland, the scene of the eruption of Eyjafjallajökull two years ago. Its smoke billowing across flight paths grounded transatlantic flights for a week. Nobody is blaming that eruption on climate change, but the island’s ice cap has been thinning for more than a century now. In response, the land surface is rising, often by more than 20 millimeters a year. This is still an order of magnitude less than the rates at the end of the last ice age, but Sigmundsson says it nonetheless creates “highly significant” pressure release — and new magma ready for ejection.

There are other dormant volcanoes and quiescent fault-lines lurking beneath the thick ice caps over Greenland and Antarctica. Andrea Hampel, a geologist at Leibniz University in Hanover, Germany, warns that the subdued geology in both places today is likely caused by the presence of large ice sheets. “Shrinkage [of the ice] owing to global warming may ultimately lead to an increase in earthquake frequency in these regions,” she predicted in a paper published two years ago. “This effect may be important even on timescales of 10 to 100 years.”

Tuffen, of the University of Lancaster, agrees. He points out that the West Antarctic Ice Sheet is set to thin by 150 meters by 2100, potentially waking dormant volcanoes. Other volcanoes in the firing line, he says, could include Nevado del Ruiz in Colombia and Cotopaxi near Quito, the capital of Ecuador.

We could already be seeing a resurgence of earthquakes. McGuire admits there is no certainty about any link, but he points out that there has been “an unprecedented cluster of massive earthquakes” in recent years. Since 1900, the world has been struck by seven “super-quakes,” with a magnitude exceeding 8.8. While only one of them occurred in the first half of the 20th century, three more came in the second half, and there have been three more in the past seven years, bringing death and destruction to Sumatra, Chile, and Japan.


McGuire concludes that climate scientists at the IPCC have blind spots, both about geology and about learning the history of what happened during past eras of climate change. The science of geological responses at the end of the last glaciation, he says, “is extremely well established.” Nonetheless, the implications for the future remain largely ignored even among the most strident campaigners for action on climate change.

Nobody should want climate scientists to rush around the world warning of geological Armageddon. Too much remains unknown. Caution certainly is justified. But the danger is that a topic of potentially huge importance ends up being ignored. And the research needed to substantiate — or to repudiate — these concerns is never done. That would be unwise.

A Global Surge of Great Earthquakes from 2004-2014. Does global warming play a part?

Interesting. An increase in earthquakes was predicted because of the melting of ice caps and glaciers releasing pressure. Maybe in the ocean they would decrease because of the additional water pressure? Don't know if that would be concentrated enough? I'll post some info on this.

The Geological Society of America
GSA Release No. 14-76
Oct. 20, 2014

The last ten years have been a remarkable time for great earthquakes. Since December 2004 there have been no less than 18 quakes of Mw8.0 or greater – a rate of more than twice that seen from 1900 to mid-2004. Hundreds of thousands of lives have been lost and massive damage has resulted from these great earthquakes. But as devastating as such events can be, these recent great quakes have come with a silver lining: They coincide with unprecedented advances in technological and scientific capacity for learning from them.

“We previously had very limited information about how ruptures grow into great earthquakes and interact with regions around them,” said seismologist Thorne Lay of the University of California at Santa Cruz. “So we are using the recorded data for these recent events to guide our understanding of future earthquakes. We've gained a new level of appreciation for how one earthquake can influence events in other zones.”


Smoking interferes with neurocognitive recovery during abstinence from alcohol


Contact: Timothy C. Durazzo, Ph.D.
San Francisco Veterans Administration Medical Center
David A. Kareken, Ph.D.
Indiana University School of Medicine

Smoking interferes with neurocognitive recovery during abstinence from alcohol


Durazzo and his colleagues examined a total of 133 ALC participants – 30 had never smoked, 28 were former smokers, and 75 were active smokers – as well as 39 never-smoking "control" participants. Approximately 89 percent of the participants were male. All of the participants were given standardized measures of auditory-verbal and visuospatial learning and memory, processing speed, and working memory. Assessments after one week, four weeks, and eight months of abstinence for the ALC group allowed a comparison of the rates of neurocognitive changes from one to four weeks versus one to eight months of abstinence. The controls completed a baseline assessment and a follow-up approximately nine months later.

"We found that, overall, the ALC as a group showed the greatest rate of recovery on most abilities during the first month of abstinence," said Durazzo. "Over eight months of sustained abstinence from alcohol, active-smoking ALC showed poorer recovery than never-smoking ALC on measures of learning, and both former-smoking ALC and active-smoking ALC recovered less than never-smoking ALC on processing speed measures. In addition, after eight months of abstinence, active-smoking ALC performed worse than both controls and never-smoking ALC on most measures, former-smoking ALC performed worse than never-smoking ALC on several tests, but never-smoking ALC were not different from controls on any measure. Overall, the findings indicated never-smoking ALC showed full recovery on all measures after 8 months of sustained abstinence from alcohol."


Applying Compost To Soil Can Help Cut Carbon Pollution

The article is mostly about farmland, but it should also apply to our yards and parks.

by Katie Valentine Posted on October 22, 2014

Applying compost to farmland, even once, increases the soil’s ability to store carbon, according to experiments conducted at a ranch in California.

As the San Francisco Chronicle reports, initial research conducted by UC Berkeley bio-geochemist Whendee Silver on a ranch in Marin County has found that, if compost were applied to 5 percent of California’s land used for livestock grazing, it could result in a year’s worth of emissions from farm and forestry industries being captured. Silver told the Chronicle that theoretically, if compost were applied to quarter of California’s grazing land, it would result in soil absorbtion of three-quarters of California’s annual emissions.

“We need to reduce our fossil fuel emissions — there’s just no way around that problem,” Silver told the Chronicle. “But this is one of the things that we can do that certainly can make a difference. It’s inexpensive, it’s low technology, it’s good land use, it solves multiple problems.”

The research looked at the effect of adding compost made from “green waste” — things like vegetable scraps, grass cuttings, and cow manure — to to the soil of the ranch. John Wick, who owns the ranch where the experiment was conducted, said adding compost has other benefits as well. Since the application, Wick has seen more native birds and plant life, and he says his grass is more resistant to drought. Adding compost to soil, and thus increasing the soil’s ability to store carbon, can help restore soils that have been degraded by years of grazing and poor soil management. This can help increase the soil’s productivity, making it more effective at growing crops.

There are multiple other benefits of adding compost to soil, too. Previous research has found that applying compost to crops results in plants that need 30 to 70 percent less irrigation to grow. Compost also helps provide plants the nutrients they need to grow, thus reducing the need for chemical fertilizers: applying compost on vegetable crops can reduce the need for fertilizers by 33 to 66 percent.


The act of composting — not just the final product’s application to grazed soils — has been tied to emissions reductions in the past. When vegetable scraps and other green waste is sent to a landfill — an anaerobic, or oxygen-free environment — it produces methane, a potent greenhouse gas. When it’s composted, it’s exposed to oxygen, and produces very little methane, making composting organic material a more climate-friendly choice.

Still, as the San Francisco Chronicle points out, applying compost to a substantial percentage of California’s grazing lands may not be practical, because compost isn’t produced on a large enough scale yet. Some cities, however, have started municipal composting programs: Seattle imposes fines for residents who throw away organic waste, rather than composting it, and San Francisco also requires residents to compost.



Study finds high percentage of recalled dietary supplements still have banned ingredients

It takes money to have enough employees and equipment to test for dangerous substances and to take action to enforce the law.


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Contact: David Cecere
The JAMA Network Journals
Study finds high percentage of recalled dietary supplements still have banned ingredients

About two-thirds of FDA recalled dietary supplements analyzed still contained banned drugs at least 6 months after being recalled, according to a study in the October 22/29 issue of JAMA.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) initiates class I drug recalls when products have the reasonable possibility of causing serious adverse health consequences or death. Recently, the FDA has used class I drug recalls in an effort to remove dietary supplements adulterated with pharmaceutical ingredients from U.S. markets. Prior research has found that even after FDA recalls, dietary supplements remain available on store shelves. However, it has not been known if the supplements on sale after FDA recalls are free of the adulterants, according to background information in the article.


Banned substances identified in recalled supplements included sibutramine, sibutramine analogs, sildenafil, fluoxetine, phenolphthalein, aromatase inhibitor, and various anabolic steroids.

"To our knowledge, this is the first study to determine if adulterants remain in supplements sold after FDA recalls," the authors write.

"Action by the FDA has not been completely effective in eliminating all potentially dangerous adulterated supplements from the U.S. marketplace. More aggressive enforcement of the law, changes to the law to increase the FDA's enforcement powers, or both will be required if sales of these products are to be prevented in the future."


Impressions shaped by facial appearance foster biased decisions

On Facebook, remarks judging people, such as politicians or people accused of crimes, on the bases of their facial expressions are common, despite the fact that most of us do not have flattering driver's license pictures.


Contact: Mary Beth O'Leary
Cell Press
Impressions shaped by facial appearance foster biased decisions

Research in recent years has shown that people associate specific facial traits with an individual's personality. For instance, people consistently rate faces that appear more feminine or that naturally appear happy as looking more trustworthy. In addition to trustworthiness, people also consistently associate competence, dominance, and friendliness with specific facial traits. According to an article published by Cell Press on October 21st in Trends in Cognitive Sciences, people rely on these subtle and arbitrary facial traits to make important decisions, from voting for a political candidate to convicting a suspect for a crime. Referring to this systemic bias as "face-ism," the authors present its real-world consequences and discuss potential ways of overcoming it.

"Although we would like to think our judgments and choices are rational, impartial, consistent, and solely based on relevant information, the truth is that they are often biased by superficial and irrelevant factors," says Christopher Olivola of Carnegie Mellon University's Tepper School of Business, lead author of the review article, which he co-authored with Princeton University researchers Friederike Funk and Alexander Todorov. "This is a troubling human tendency that needs to be corrected, or at least mitigated, because faces are not valid predictors of a person's traits."


Although face-ism is widespread, research suggests that it could be reduced by arming people with more relevant and valid types of information. For instance, knowing more about a political candidate and his or her positions or past behavior makes voters less likely to be influenced by facial traits. "We need to guard against letting our choices be biased by superficial cues," Olivola says. "In some contexts, educating people might be sufficient to reduce facial stereotyping. In other contexts, however, more research will be needed to identify the best way to mitigate the biasing influence of facial appearance."


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.