Friday, September 25, 2015

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

http://www.aarp.org/money/taxes/info-2006/volunteer_aarp_tax_aide.html

Feb. 2015

Help people and give your mind a workout, too.

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

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

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

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

Who volunteers?

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

Good with numbers? Be a tax volunteer.

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

Skilled in all things digital? Be a technology coordinator.

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

Love working with people? Be a greeter.

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

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

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

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

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

Speak a second language? You're urgently needed!

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

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

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

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

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Another Obamacare Tax Extension

http://www.nbcnews.com/storyline/obamacare-deadline/feds-grant-obamacare-tax-extension-n309601

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

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

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

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

•••••

Thursday, March 05, 2015

Suicides by girls and young women continue to climb

Maybe not a coincidence the recession/depression started in 2007.

http://apnews.myway.com/article/20150305/us-med--youth_suicides-7b4e076ac4.html

Mar 5, 10`5
By MIKE STOBBE


NEW YORK (AP) — The suicide rate for girls and young women in the U.S. continues to rise, at a pace far faster than for young males, health officials said Thursday.

The rate for boys and young men increased since 2007, too. And it remains three times higher than the female rate for ages 10 to 24.

But the female increase has been steadier. Why is not clear; one expert said it may be because more girls and young women are hanging themselves or using other forms of suffocation.

That way is more lethal than drug overdose — the method used the most by younger females.

From 2007-2013, the rate for young females went from 2.2 to 3.4 per 100,000. That's the highest since the 3.1 rate recorded in 1981, when such tracking began.

The rate for young males went from 10.7 to 11.9 per 100,000, although the rate seems to have leveled off in the last few years.

•••••

Since 2007, suicide rates have increased for older age groups, too. Some experts believe the trend was ignited by the economic recession from December 2007 until June 2009. [And from which we have not made full recovery.]

Can coffee reduce your risk of MS?

If I got that much caffeine, I would be really stressed out. I wonder if people who tolerate caffeine well have a brain metabolism that is more resistant to MS, etc?

http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2015-02/aaon-ccr021215.php


Public Release: 26-Feb-2015
American Academy of Neurology

Drinking coffee may be associated with a lower risk of developing multiple sclerosis (MS), according to a study released today that will be presented at the American Academy of Neurology's 67th Annual Meeting in Washington, DC, April 18 to 25, 2015.

"Caffeine intake has been associated with a reduced risk of Parkinson's and Alzheimer's diseases, and our study shows that coffee intake may also protect against MS, supporting the idea that the drug may have protective effects for the brain," said study author Ellen Mowry, MD, MCR, with Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore and a member of the American Academy of Neurology.

•••••

The Swedish study found that compared to people who drank at least six cups of coffee per day during the year before symptoms appeared, those who did not drink coffee had about a one and a half times increased risk of developing MS. Drinking large amounts of coffee five or 10 years before symptoms started was similarly protective.

In the US study, people who didn't drink coffee were also about one and a half times more likely to develop the disease than those who drank four or more cups of coffee per day in the year before symptoms started to develop the disease.

•••••

Bumblebees make false memories too

http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2015-02/cp-bmf_1021915.php


Public Release: 26-Feb-2015
Cell Press

It's well known that our human memory can fail us. People can be forgetful, and they can sometimes also "remember" things incorrectly, with devastating consequences in the classroom, courtroom, and other areas of life. Now, researchers show for the first time in the Cell Press journal Current Biology on February 26 that bumblebees can be unreliable witnesses too.

The new study is the first to explore false memories in any non-human animals, the researchers say. They now suspect that the phenomenon may be widespread in the animal kingdom.

"We discovered that the memory traces for two stimuli can merge, such that features acquired in distinct bouts of training are combined in the animal's mind," says Lars Chittka of Queen Mary University of London. As a result, "stimuli that have actually never been viewed before, but are a combination of the features presented in training, are chosen during memory recall."

•••••

Ferguson police

http://www.theguardian.com/us-news/live/2015/mar/04/ferguson-police-justice-department-reports

Attorney general Eric Holder said a “searing” justice department report on racial discrimination by Ferguson police contained “deeply alarming” documentation of “abusive and dangerous” behaviour.

Holder defended a justice department decision not to bring charges against Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson in the killing last August of Michael Brown. “I urge you to read this report in full,” he said, addressing skeptics.

•••••

Ferguson has fired one officer and put two others on leave, pending an internal investigation, mayor James Knowles said. Knowles said a new civilian task force would now take part in overseeing the police department, that the city had commissioned a consulting firm, and that the municipal courts have been ordered to reform.

A justice department report exposed a pattern of racist and abusive behaviour on the part of Ferguson police and city employees.

Ferguson police systematically harassed, over-ticketed, insulted, wrongfully arrested, the report found and physically abused African-American residents, with sometimes shattering implications for the lives of the abuse victims.

The report said police dogs were only used against black people and Tasers were over-used. It published racist emails passed among city employees.

Holder called the Ferguson police department a “collection agency” for the city instead of a law enforcement agency.

•••••

http://www.theguardian.com/us-news/ng-interactive/2015/mar/04/justice-department-reports-ferguson-michael-brown-full-text

•••••

[Ferguson's police and municipal court policies are shaped by focus on revenue rather than public safety needs.]

•••••

Wednesday, March 04, 2015

Human-Caused Warming Helped Trigger Current Syrian Conflict And Rise Of ISIS

http://thinkprogress.org/climate/2015/03/03/3628899/warming-syrian-conflict-isis/

by Joe Romm Posted on March 3, 2015

A new study finds that human-caused climate change was a major trigger of Syria’s brutal civil war. The war that helped drive the rise of the terrorist Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS) was itself spawned in large part by what one expert called perhaps “the worst long-term drought and most severe set of crop failures since agricultural civilizations began in the Fertile Crescent,” from 2006 to 2010.

That drought destroyed the livelihood of 800,000 people according to the U.N. and sent vastly more into poverty. The poor and displaced fled to cities, “where poverty, government mismanagement and other factors created unrest that exploded in spring 2011,” as the study’s news release explains.

The study, “Climate change in the Fertile Crescent and implications of the recent Syrian drought,” found that global warming made Syria’s 2006 to 2010 drought two to three times more likely. “While we’re not saying the drought caused the war,” lead author Dr. Colin Kelley explained. “We are saying that it certainly contributed to other factors — agricultural collapse and mass migration among them — that caused the uprising.”

The study identifies “a pretty convincing climate fingerprint” for the Syrian drought, Retired Navy Rear Admiral David Titley told Slate. Titley, also a meteorologist, said, “you can draw a very credible climate connection to this disaster we call ISIS right now.”

In particular, the study finds that climate change is already drying the region out in two ways: “First, weakening wind patterns that bring rain-laden air from the Mediterranean reduced precipitation during the usual November-to-April wet season. In addition, higher temperatures increased moisture evaporation from soils during the usually hot summers.”

•••••

Climate models had long predicted that the countries surrounding the Mediterranean would start drying out. In general, climate science says dry areas will get dryer and wet areas wetter.

In 2011, a major NOAA study concluded that “human-caused climate change [is now] a major factor in more frequent Mediterranean droughts.”

•••••

“The magnitude and frequency of the drying that has occurred is too great to be explained by natural variability alone,” explained Dr. Martin Hoerling of NOAA’s Earth System Research Laboratory, the lead author of the 2011 study.

•••••

Perhaps the central takeaway from this area of research is that the greatest danger to humanity this century from human-caused climate change is Dust-Bowlification and the threat to our food supplies and hence global security.

That’s because large parts of the most inhabited and arable parts of the planet — including the U.S. breadbasket — face the exact same heating and drying that have already affected the Mediterranean. The 2014 study, “Global warming and 21st century drying,” projected this bleak future:

•••••

The bottom line: Homo sapiens is currently on track to make drought and extreme drying the normal condition for the Southwest, Central Plains, the Amazon, southern Europe, the entire region around the Mediterranean, and many other key areas in the second half of the century.

As Femia bluntly told an interviewer in 2013, the time to act is now: “if you let this problem get out of hand you’re going to have a number of situations in the future, whether they’re major disasters or conflicts, that our security forces may have to respond to. It will cost us a lot more in the long term if we do nothing now.”

Boston babies buzzing on coffee

http://www.cbsnews.com/news/boston-babies-buzzing-on-coffee/

Researchers have found something surprising in Boston baby bottles.

According to a new study by Boston Medical Center, about 15 percent of 2-year-olds drink as much as four ounces of coffee a day, CBS Boston reports.

At the age of one year, between two and three percent of the infants studied were drinking coffee. At two years, that number grew to 15 percent -- consuming on average a little more than an ounce of coffee a day.

"Our results show that many infants and toddlers in Boston - and perhaps in the U.S. - are being given coffee and that this could be associated with cultural practices," said Dr. Anne Merewood, director of the Breastfeeding Center at BMC and associate professor of pediatrics at Boston University School of Medicine.

There are no official guidelines for children's coffee consumption, but there are some alarming potential health effects. The hospital said previous studies have shown that coffee and caffeine have been associated with depression, type 1 diabetes, sleep disturbances, substance abuse and obesity in children and adolescents.

Another study found that 2-year-olds who drank coffee or tea had triple the risk of being obese in kindergarten, according to the hospital.

The study looked at 315 pairs of mothers and infants, and researchers said they were "surprised" to find that many mothers reported giving their babies coffee. Children of Hispanic mothers and mothers of baby girls were more likely to report the coffee consumption, the study found.

It's not that uncommon for mothers in other countries to give children coffee, the hospital noted.

•••••

The study did not address how common coffee drinking may be in children that young nationwide, but another study published in Pediatrics in 2014 found nearly 63 percent of American children ages 2 to 5 consume at least some caffeine, mostly from drinking sodas.

Widely used food additive promotes colitis, obesity and metabolic syndrome, research shows

http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2015-02/gsu-wuf022315.php

Public Release: 25-Feb-2015
Georgia State University

Emulsifiers, which are added to most processed foods to aid texture and extend shelf life, can alter the gut microbiota composition and localization to induce intestinal inflammation that promotes the development of inflammatory bowel disease and metabolic syndrome, new research shows.

•••••

Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), which includes Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis, afflicts millions of people and is often severe and debilitating. Metabolic syndrome is a group of very common obesity-related disorders that can lead to type-2 diabetes, cardiovascular and/or liver diseases. Incidence of IBD and metabolic syndrome has been markedly increasing since the mid-20th century.

The term "gut microbiota" refers to the diverse population of 100 trillion bacteria that inhabit the intestinal tract. Gut microbiota are disturbed in IBD and metabolic syndrome. Chassaing and Gewirtz's findings suggest emulsifiers might be partially responsible for this disturbance and the increased incidence of these diseases.

"A key feature of these modern plagues is alteration of the gut microbiota in a manner that promotes inflammation," says Gewirtz.

•••••

"We do not disagree with the commonly held assumption that over-eating is a central cause of obesity and metabolic syndrome," Gewirtz says. "Rather, our findings reinforce the concept suggested by earlier work that low-grade inflammation resulting from an altered microbiota can be an underlying cause of excess eating."

The team notes that the results of their study suggest that current means of testing and approving food additives may not be adequate to prevent use of chemicals that promote diseases driven by low-grade inflammation and/or which will cause disease primarily in susceptible hosts.

Improving inmate health can lead to better community health and safety

http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2015-02/smh-iih022315.php

Public Release: 25-Feb-2015
St. Michael's Hospital

If prisoners received better health care while behind bars and after release, both their health and the community's health would improve, new research has found.

Offering treatment to prisoners or by linking them to community-based family physicians and psychiatrists after they are released leads to less substance abuse, mental health problems, chronic diseases and health service utilization, as well as a reduced spread of infectious diseases, according to a systematic review published today in the American Journal of Public Health.

"Improving health in people in jails and prisons can also improve the health of the general population, improve the safety of our communities and decrease health care costs," said Dr. Fiona Kouyoumdjian, a post-doctoral fellow with the Centre for Research on Inner City Health of St. Michael's Hospital. "For example, treating infectious diseases can prevent ongoing transmission, treating people with mental illness can decrease crime, and providing access to primary care can cut down on expensive Emergency Department use."

•••••

Warning on use of drug for children's sleep

http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2015-02/uoa-wou022515.php

Public Release: 25-Feb-2015
University of Adelaide

Sleep researchers at the University of Adelaide are warning doctors and parents not to provide the drug melatonin to children to help control their sleep problems.

•••••

"The use of melatonin as a drug for the treatment of sleep disorders for children is increasing and this is rather alarming," Professor Kennaway says.

Professor Kennaway says the United States is the only country where melatonin is completely unregulated. "It's considered to be a 'dietary supplement', not a regulated drug, and is therefore readily available," he says.

"In Australia, melatonin is registered as a treatment for primary insomnia only for people aged 55 years and over, but it's easily prescribed as an 'off label' treatment for sleep disorders for children."

Professor Kennaway says there is extensive evidence from laboratory studies that melatonin causes changes in multiple physiological systems, including cardiovascular, immune and metabolic systems, as well as reproduction in animals.

•••••

"There is also the potential for melatonin to interact with other drugs commonly prescribed for children, but it's difficult to know without clinical trials assessing its safety."

Professor Kennaway, who has been researching melatonin for the past 40 years, says these concerns have largely been ignored throughout the world.

•••••

More than 2 hours of TV a day increases high blood pressure risk in children by 30 percent

http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2015-02/f-sf-mtt022515.php

Public Release: 25-Feb-2015
FECYT - Spanish Foundation for Science and Technology

A study on European children concludes that spending more than two hours a day in front of a screen increases the probability of high blood pressure by 30%. The article also points out that doing no daily physical activity or doing less than an hour a day increases this risk by 50%.

For years now scientific literature has associated watching the television with a sedentary lifestyle and obesity in young people. Now research led by the Universities of Zaragoza (Unizar) and São Paulo (Brazil) reveal the relationship between this habit and a greater risk of developing high blood pressure.

•••••

Study shows troubling rise in use of animals in experiments

http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2015-02/pfte-sst022515.php

Public Release: 25-Feb-2015
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals

Despite industry claims of reduced animal use as well as federal laws and policies aimed at reducing the use of animals, the number of animals used in leading U.S. laboratories increased a staggering 73 percent from 1997 to 2012, according to a new study by PETA to be published Feb. 25 11:30 p.m. UK time in the peer-reviewed Journal of Medical Ethics, the world's leading bioethics journal.

For the analysis, PETA researchers used the Freedom of Information Act to obtain little-known, unpublished data on the use of all vertebrate animals from 1997 to 2012 in laboratories at the top 25 institutional recipients of grants from the National Institutes of Health (NIH)--including Harvard University, Yale University, Columbia University, the University of California-San Francisco, the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and Johns Hopkins University--which, together, account for 27 percent of all NIH grants disbursed.

PETA found that while the use of cats, dogs, primates, and other large mammals stayed the same or decreased slightly over the 15-year period, a dramatic rise in the use of mice--likely because of animal-intensive genetic modification experiments--accounted for a 72.7 percent increase in overall animal use across these facilities.

The study is the first ever to document figures on the use of mice, rats, birds, fish, reptiles, and amphibians in U.S. laboratories, because these species are not protected under the federal law governing the treatment of animals used in experiments--the Animal Welfare Act--and therefore are excluded from the law's reporting requirements. PETA's new study found that these unregulated species comprise 98.8 percent of animals in laboratories.

•••••

Study maps extroversion types in the brain's anatomy

http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2015-02/bu-sme022515.php

Public Release: 25-Feb-2015
Brown University

Everyday experience and psychological studies alike tell us that there are two different types of extroverts: The gregarious "people-persons" who find reward in sharing affection and affiliation with others, and the ambitious "go-getters" who flash those bright-white smiles in their pursuit of achievement and leadership agendas. A new study shows that these overlapping yet distinct personalities have commensurately overlapping yet distinct signatures in the anatomy of the brain.

•••••

Competition among physicians and retail clinics drive up antibiotic prescribing rate

http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2015-02/jhm-cap022515.php

Public Release: 25-Feb-2015
Johns Hopkins Medicine

Competition among doctors' offices, urgent care centers and retail medical clinics in wealthy areas of the U.S. often leads to an increase in the number of antibiotic prescriptions written per person, a team led by Johns Hopkins researchers has found.

"We found that both the number of physicians per capita and the number of clinics are significant drivers of antibiotic prescription rate," the researchers say in a report on the findings published online ahead of print in the Journal of Antimicrobial Chemotherapy.

"The increase in the number of antibiotic prescriptions written in wealthy areas appears to be driven primarily by increased competition among doctors' offices, retail medical clinics and other health care providers as they seek to keep patients satisfied with medical care and customer service," says lead study author Eili Klein, Ph.D., an assistant professor of emergency medicine in the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and a member of the Johns Hopkins Center for Advanced Modeling in the Social, Behavioral and Health Sciences.

•••••

Research suggests anesthetics could have long-term impact on children's brains

http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2015-02/uot-rsa022515.php

Public Release: 25-Feb-2015
University of Toronto

A group of anesthesiologists and toxicologists today issued a caution to parents and health care professionals about the use of general anesthetics in children.

Each year millions of infants, toddlers and preschool children require anesthesia or sedation for various procedures. The University of Toronto's Professor Beverley Orser and a team of anesthesiology investigators and toxicologists have analyzed existing animal and human studies for the impact of anesthetics on the developing brain. Animal studies provided evidence of brain injury and long-term behavioral deficits. Previous observational studies of children suggested a correlation between children who had received anesthetics and long-term cognitive impairments such as learning disabilities. Children between the ages of one and three appeared to be at a higher risk of adverse effects.

•••••

A Consensus Statement developed by the experts recommends avoiding anesthetics for children three years and under unless they are needed for surgeries that will lead to better outcomes.

•••••

Tuesday, March 03, 2015

Feds Raid California 'Maternity Hotels' for Birth Tourists

http://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/feds-raid-california-maternity-hotels-birth-tourists-n315996

By Andrew Blankstein, Anna Schecter and Tracy Connor
Mar. 3, 2015

Southern California apartment complexes that doubled as "maternity hotels" for Chinese women who want made-in-America babies were raided early Tuesday, capping an unprecedented federal sting operation, officials said.

NBC News was on the scene as Homeland Security agents swept into The Carlyle, a luxury property in Irvine, California, which housed pregnant women and new moms who allegedly forked over $40,000 to $80,000 to give birth in the United States.

"I am doing this for the education of the next generation," one of the women told NBC News.

•••••

"It's not necessarily illegal to come here to have the baby, but if you lie about your reasons for coming here, that's visa fraud," said Claude Arnold, special agent in charge of Homeland Security Investigations for Los Angeles.

•••••

The organizers who allegedly ran the Carlyle site, Chao Chen and Dong Li, used a website to drum up business, touting the benefits of a child with U.S. citizenship: 13 years of free education, low-cost college financial aid, less pollution, and a path for the entire family to emigrate when the child becomes an adult.

Clients were counseled on what lies to tell to obtain a tourist visa; how to fly through Hawaii, Las Vegas or Korea to avoid suspicious immigration officers at Los Angeles International Airport; and how to disguise their pregnancy in transit, according to search warrant affidavit unsealed Tuesday.

•••••

They were funneled to several Orange County hospitals to deliver, but they didn't pay full price — approximately $25,000 — for medical services, officials said. Instead, they got reduced rates for the indigent, ranging from nothing to $4,000, the court papers say.

That translated into big losses for the hospitals. More than 400 babies linked to the scheme were born at just one facility in a two-year period, investigators said.

The investigators discovered that the parents of one baby born in April 2014 who paid the hospital just $4,000 were spending money at the Wynn Las Vegas Hotel, Rolex and Louis Vuitton, using an account with almost a quarter of a million dollars in it.

The fraud, authorities say, went beyond the visas.

Li didn't file a U.S. tax return and Chen didn't declare hundreds of thousands of dollars in proceeds, the affidavit says. In addition, Chen and his wife, Jie Zhu committed marriage fraud, pretending to be divorced so they could get "green-card" marriages in the U.S., the feds charged.

•••••

The phenomenon of foreigners coming to the U.S. to have babies is not new but appears to be growing. One study found that 40,000 children a year are born to women here on a travel visa, the affidavit notes.

•••••

Heavily armed drug cops raid retiree’s garden, seize okra plants

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/wonkblog/wp/2014/10/06/heavily-armed-drug-cops-raid-retirees-garden-seize-okra-plants/

By Christopher Ingraham October 6, 2014

Georgia police raided a retired Atlanta man's garden last Wednesday after a helicopter crew with the Governor's Task Force for Drug Suppression spotted suspicious-looking plants on the man's property. A heavily-armed K9 unit arrived and discovered that the plants were, in fact, okra bushes.

The officers eventually apologized and left, but they took some of the suspicious okra leaves with them for analysis. Georgia state patrol told WSB-TV in Atlanta that "we've not been able to identify it as of yet. But it did have quite a number of characteristics that were similar to a cannabis plant."

Indeed! Like cannabis, okra is green and it has leaves.

•••••

Marijuana eradication programs, like the one that sent the helicopter up above the Georgia man's house, are typically funded partly via the Drug Enforcement Agency's Cannabis Eradication Program. Many of these funds come from the controversial asset forfeiture programs, which allow law enforcement officials to seize property from citizens never even charged - much less convicted - of a crime.

The Cannabis Eradication programs have historically inflated the size of their hauls by including non-psychoactive "ditchweed" in their totals of plants seized. In past years, ditchweed accounted for up to 98 percent of seized outdoor plant totals. According to the ONDCP, ditchweed still makes up an unspecified percent of outdoor plants seized.

It is also unclear how many of the seized plants are actually okra.

Media's Double Standard On Transparency For Hillary Clinton

http://mediamatters.org/research/2015/03/03/medias-double-standard-on-transparency-for-hill/202727

EMILY ARROWOOD
March 3, 2015

Media outlets are holding former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to a higher standard by scandalizing her use of personal email while at the State Department, claiming the practice raises questions about her "transparency." In reality, other public officials -- including former Florida Governor Jeb Bush (R), who is attacking Clinton over the emails, and former Secretary of State Colin Powell -- have exclusively used personal email.

•••••

he New York Times' Michael Schmidt, who wrote the Times' report on Clinton's use of personal email, appeared on the March 3 edition of MSNBC's Morning Joe and stated that according to the State Department, "John Kerry is the first Secretary of State in the history of the United States to have a government email account." [MSNBC, Morning Joe, 3/3/15]

•••••

Indications that New York Times was deliberately misleading in Hillary e-mail article

http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2015/03/03/hillary-email-scandal-not-so-fast.html

Michael Tomasky
Mar. 3, 2015

A NYT report says Clinton may have violated federal regulations by using private email for government business. But those rules weren’t in place when she’s alleged to have broken them.

•••••

But let’s hold on a second. A close reading of the Times piece reveals one potential big hole in the case. I’m not saying the Times is wrong here. It’s still a foggy situation. I am, however, saying this: You have to know how to read these things, and if you do know how to read them, there’s a big question here that could—potentially—exonerate Clinton to some or maybe even a considerable extent.

The article says that there were “new” regulations that Clinton was supposed to abide by. It notes that one past secretary of state, Colin Powell, who served from 2001 to 2005, sometimes used his personal email account “before the new regulations went into effect.”

So, a key question would seem to be this: When did the new regulations go into effect? If 2007 or 2008, then Clinton would appear to be in direct violation of them, depending on what precisely they said. If later, it gets a little murkier.

Oddly, the Times article doesn’t say. It doesn’t pin the new regs down to a specific date or even year.

Now, I know enough about reporting to know how this works. If you’ve got an airtight case, then you lay it all out there. You include the date. Indeed you emphasize the date, you put it high up in your story. The fact that it’s not in there is a little fishy.

Well, this might be the explanation: The new regs apparently weren’t fully implemented by State until a year and half after Clinton left State.

•••••

So if these new regulations went into effect after she left State, then what rule did she violate, exactly? And, if this is true, why did the Times not share this rather crucial piece of information with its readers? No one could possibly argue that this fact isn’t germane to the story. It’s absolutely central to it. Why would the Times leave it out?

Here are a few other specifics surrounding this matter that the Times article doesn’t make clear. These facts are already making the rounds on the Internet:

1. Clinton was not the first Secretary to use a private email account. In fact, John Kerry is the first Secretary to use “a standard government email address,” according to The Washington Post.

2. Clinton turned over her emails to the State Department. It’s not clear whether her predecessors did the same.

3. The Times article says the “existence of Mrs. Clinton’s personal email account was discovered by a House committee investigating the attack on the American Consulate in Benghazi.” This is incorrect. Gawker reported this first, in March 2013.

4. At the time Clinton was Secretary, the Federal Records Act didn’t require federal employees to use government accounts, only to preserve records of their communications. This, Clinton seems to have done.

So what, exactly, did she do wrong here?

•••••

The New York Times' Deceptive Suggestion That Hillary Clinton May Have Violated Federal Records Law

When NPR reported on this today, I didn't hear them say anything about the fact that the law did not even exist until after Hillary Clinton left office.

http://mediamatters.org/research/2015/03/03/the-new-york-times-deceptive-suggestion-that-hi/202726

ALEXANDREA BOGUHN
Mar. 3, 2015

The New York Times accused Hillary Clinton of potentially violating federal law pertaining to the preservation of e-mail records while acting as Secretary of State, but requirements to maintain such records did not exist during her tenure.

•••••

Criticizing the Times article's insinuation that Clinton violated the law, Daily Banter contributor Bob Cesca pointed out: "The article doesn't say which federal regulation, though. Why? Perhaps because the federal regulations went into effect in late November, 2014 when President Obama signed H.R. 1233, modernizing the Federal Records Act of 1950 to include electronic communications. It was signed two years after Clinton stepped down." [The Daily Banter, 3/3/15]

Rep. Cummings: Even The 2014 Bill "Would Continue To Allow Employees To Use Their Personal Email Account For Official Business." Contrary to claims that Hillary Clinton violated the law by using personal email account while serving as Secretary of State, even a 2014 law that strengthened oversight of the use of personal email by government officials -- passed after Hillary Clinton had left the State Department -- still permitted government officials to use personal email. During a House speech discussing the bill, Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD) said:

•••••

[The article also includes a list of other media that made the same misleading criticism.]

•••••

Business Insider reported that it has been known since 2013 that Clinton used a non-government email, undercutting the campaign to scandalize the fact:

•••••

What do doctors say to 'alternative therapists' when a patient dies? Nothing. We never talk

http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/mar/03/what-do-doctors-say-to-alternative-therapists-when-a-patient-dies-nothing-we-never-talk

Ranjana Srivastava
March 2, 2015

•••••

Research shows that nearly 70% of cancer patients and a staggering 90% of patients enrolled in an early phase clinical trial use alternative therapies. We now know that many of these therapies are not only unhelpful but are downright dangerous. Herbs and supplements can interact with chemotherapy and reduce its efficacy, a real drawback when therapy is given with curative intent.

Canadian researchers found that of the 44 bottles of herbs they tested, a full third were outright substitutions – the plant advertised on the bottle was simply not there. Genetic fingerprinting reveals that many popular supplements are filled with powdered rice and weeds.

•••••

In 10 years of being an oncologist I have witnessed some devastating consequences when practitioners recommend “alternative” therapies.

The emaciated breast cancer patient who was told to present to emergency because there was nothing else her alternative provider could do to help her walk. Neither could we. She died of spinal cord compression after vigorous manipulation of her back.

The man whose finances and prostate cancer had both spiralled out of control by the time he forked out $50,000 dollars on vitamin infusions. He regretted forgoing the proven benefit of chemotherapy.

There was the man whose wife discovered the extent of his natural therapy debt only after he died and was forced to sell the house.

There were the children who quit studying to help pay for their father’s imported exotic herbs sourced from the wild.

These stories are not unique – every oncologist tells a tale of financial and psychological ruin, experienced by the family long after the patient dies.

•••••

Jessica Ainscough, Australia's 'wellness warrior', dies of cancer aged 30

I have a couple of friends who tried to cure their cancer with "natural" means, but the cancer kept spreading. By the time they turned to medicine, it was too late.

http://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2015/mar/01/jessica-ainscough-australia-wellness-warrior-dies-cancer-aged-30

Melissa Davey
Feb. 28, 2015

The former online editor of the teen publication Dolly, who attracted thousands of followers on social media after she shunned conventional medical treatment for a rare cancer, has died aged 30.

Jessica Ainscough was diagnosed with epithelioid sarcoma seven years ago, a rare soft-tissue cancer which affects young adults and most often first develops in the hand or arm.

Doctors suggested Ainscough’s best chance of survival would be to have her arm amputated at the shoulder, a traumatic procedure that significantly increases a patient’s chance of 10-year survival.

She tried chemotherapy for a time, but when it stopped working, amputation was again recommended.

It was then Ainscough tried to cure her cancer by following an unproven treatment known as “Gerson therapy”, which involves daily coffee enemas, a heavy regime of dietary supplements, and following a strict organic, vegetarian diet.

•••••

Her mother, Sharyn, followed her daughter in advocating Gerson therapy after being diagnosed with breast cancer, and died in 2013.

•••••

Manners maketh the male alley cat - they let females eat first

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-497222/Manners-maketh-male-alley-cat--let-females-eat-first.html

By DAVID DERBYSHIRE
Last updated at 01:15 29 November 2007

A study has found that when feral cats gather round a dustbin in search of food, the toms let the females and kittens go first.

The display of old-fashioned chivalry has astonished experts because the largest and fiercest males usually get first choice of any tasty treats on offer.

The findings come from a study of wild cats in Rome, which has around 350,000 in 2,000 colonies roaming its streets.

Dr Roberto Bonanni, of Parma University, found the creatures - which are descended from escaped or abandoned domesticated pets - had a clear feline pecking order, decided by displays of spitting, back arching and caterwauling.

Like most mammals, the largest, most aggressive cats came top while the smaller and less fierce females were near the bottom.

However, these roles were reversed when it came to meal times.

When near a food source, the females became dominant, with the toms giving up their place at the front of the queue, New Scientist magazine reports.

Kittens were also often allowed first choice of the scraps on offer.

The findings go against other studies into big cats, such as lions, which show the males usually take the juiciest cuts of kill for themselves before allowing the females and cubs to eat any leftovers.

But Dr Bonanni said the findings make evolutionary sense because female feral cats are almost always pregnant or feeding their young and so need more food.

He believes toms defer to females and let kittens eat first to improve their chance of survival.

And if the toms forget to let the females go first, there is a sharp and pointed reminder.

"Female cats precisely hit males on the head with a paw and take over the food dish," he said.

Monday, March 02, 2015

Short hospital stay linked to increased risk of death following hip fracture

http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2015-02/b-shs022015.php

Public Release: 24-Feb-2015
BMJ

Older patients are more likely to die following a short hospital stay for a hip fracture, finds research published in The BMJ today.

•••••

Results showed that the average length of stay in hospital decreased from 14.2 days in 2006 to 11.6 days in 2012. Patients had an average age of 82.2 years.

Patients who stayed in hospital for up to 5 days had twice the risk of death compared with patients staying 15 days or more.

"Our results suggest that the continuous efforts to decrease length of stay after major surgery is associated with higher mortality after hospital discharge," write the authors.

Groups at higher risk of death included men, and patients with pre-existing lung, kidney, and heart disease.

Age was found to be the strongest predictor of risk of death within one year of hospital admission.

•••••

This is an observational study so no definitive conclusions can be drawn about cause and effect.

But a shorter hospital stay may reduce opportunities for rehabilitation to get patients back on their feet, for example, and may limit access to medical staff, further assessment and appropriate care, explain the authors.

In a linked editorial, experts from the University of Toronto explain that "healthcare systems around the world are constantly urged to do more with less" and rapid discharge should be carefully considered for each patient.

Some patients may benefit from early discharge while others may not - it will depend on each patient's condition, they argue.

Otherwise, cutting hospital stays too short may not result in the desired benefits for hospitals or clinicians because of the risk of certain patients developing complications, which may increase readmissions, and as this study shows, death, they add.

As many as 2 in 3 smokers will die from their habit

http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2015-02/si-tna022315.php

Public Release: 24-Feb-2015
Sax Institute

A large Australian study of more than 200,000 people has provided independent confirmation that up to two in every three smokers will die from their habit if they continue to smoke.

The research, published today in the international journal BMC Medicine, is the first evidence from a broad cross-section of the population to show the smoking-related death toll is as high as two thirds.

•••••

"Even with the very low rates of smoking that we have in Australia we found that smokers have around three-fold the risk of premature death of those who have never smoked. We also found smokers will die an estimated 10 years earlier than non-smokers."

•••••

"Higher tobacco prices have been shown to be the most effective intervention available to governments to reduce demand for tobacco. With smoking being a major cause of cardiovascular disease, including heart attack, stroke and peripheral vascular disease the more deterrents people have between them and smoking, the better," Ms Doyle said.

Scott Walsberger, Tobacco Control Manager at Cancer Council NSW, said the research results highlighted an important message for smokers: "It's never too late to quit ? no matter what your age, or how much you smoke."

•••••

Evidence supports use of 'retainer' contact lenses for nearsightedness in children

If this is true, it is great news, esp. if it can be supplied to all children who need it.

http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2015-02/wkh-esu022415.php

Public Release: 24-Feb-2015
Wolters Kluwer Health

A technique called orthokeratology ("Ortho-K")--using custom-made contact lenses to shape the growing eye--has a significant effect in slowing the progression of myopia (nearsightedness) in children, according to a research review in the March issue of Optometry and Vision Science, official journal of the American Academy of Optometry. The journal is published by Wolters Kluwer.

Led by Xing-Rong Wang, MD, of the Affiliated Eye Hospital of Shangdong University of Traditional Chinese Medicine in Jinan, China, the researchers analyzed pooled data from previous studies of Ortho-K. "They conclude, with even greater confidence, that orthokeratology does certainly slow myopia progression and retard the axial length growth of the eye," comments Anthony Adams, OD, PhD, Editor-in-Chief of Optometry and Vision Science.

•••••

As expected, with or without orthokeratology, axial length increased as the children grew. However, after two years, the increase in axial length was significantly slower in children treated with Ortho-K. The average (weighted mean) difference between groups was about one-fourth of a millimeter.

That small but significant change was consistent with the reported effects of Ortho-K in slowing myopia progression. An alternative measure of eye growth (vitreous chamber depth) showed a similar difference between groups.

For reasons that are not yet entirely clear, childhood myopia has increased to epidemic proportions in recent years, especially in Asia. Myopia persists into adulthood and, in the more severe cases, is a risk factor for eye diseases such as cataracts, glaucoma, and retinal detachments. [and macular degeneration]

•••••

"Most critically for myopia progression is the impact in retarding the growth of the eye, not just reshaping the cornea" says Dr Adams.

That's an important piece of information, because questions remain as to the mechanism by which Ortho-K works to control myopic eye growth. Dr Wang and coauthors emphasize the need for additional studies to address this issue, as well as large-scale randomized trials to assess its long-term benefits.

•••••

Median CEO Pay Tops $10 Million For The First Time

The median is the point at which half make less, half make more.
$10 Million = $10,000,000 = $27,397 per day, including weekends, holidays, etc.



Median compensation for the chief executive of a Standard & Poor's 500 company was $10.8 million last year, according to a study by The Associated Press.

That represents an 8.8 percent increase over 2012 and marks the first time that median compensation crossed the eight-figure mark.

Much of the increase was due to performance cash bonuses, stock awards and options. The S&P 500 index rose 30 percent last year, while earnings per share increased by more than 5 percent, lifting CEO compensation, which is generally tied to such indicators.

Bankers got the biggest raises, with total compensation on Wall Street rising 22 percent — matching the 22 percent they'd received a year earlier. Media industry CEOs also did nicely, with the top officials of CBS, Viacom, Walt Disney and Time Warner each pulling in more than $30 million. [Why media is so slanted towards the power elite.]

All told, more than two-thirds of CEOs got a raise, according to the study, which AP and the executive pay research firm Equilar conducted using federal filing statements.

•••••

A chief executive now makes about 257 times the average worker's salary

•••••

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Coloring in cola linked to potentially higher risk for cancer

http://www.cbsnews.com/news/coloring-in-cola-linked-to-higher-risk-for-cancer/

ByJessica Firger February 27, 2015

It's well established that regularly consuming soft drinks -- even low-calorie ones -- is a proven fast track to weight gain, diabetes and obesity. Some people call soda the new smoking and it may be for good reason.

Research has found that 4-methylimidazole (4-Mel), the chemical that gives cola its appealing caramel color is a potential carcinogen. There aren't any federal regulations that restrict use of 4-Mel, but according to the report, more than half of Americans between age 6 to 64 drink enough soda on a regular basis to elevate their cancer risk.

•••••

All of the samples, except for the clear beverages, contained 3.4 to 352.5 micrograms of 4-Mel per 12-ounce bottle or can.

•••••

In recent years, research on 4-Mel has prompted soda drink manufacturers to make some changes to their formulas to reduce the levels of the chemical in their beverages. In 2012, Coca Cola announced it would be switching to a low-4-Mel formula, while still maintaining the product has always been safe.

But cracking down on the soft drink industry won't completely eliminate the chemical from the American diet. Unfortunately, dark-colored carbonated beverages are not the only source of 4-Mel. The chemical is also used in soy and barbecue sauce, pancake syrup and some soups.

Many experts believe the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's approval guidelines for food additives, especially those used to change or improve color of foods and beverages, are too lenient compared with the regulations set up in other countries. Many chemicals commonly used in food in the U.S. are banned elsewhere because of their potential health risk. Recent research links many different food dyes approved for use in the U.S. to increased risk for ADHD, allergies and cancer.

Baby formula poses higher arsenic risk to newborns than breast milk

http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2015-02/dc-bfp021815.php

Public Release: 23-Feb-2015
Dartmouth College

In the first U.S. study of urinary arsenic in babies, Dartmouth College researchers found that formula-fed infants had higher arsenic levels than breast-fed infants, and that breast milk itself contained very low arsenic concentrations.

•••••

The researchers measured arsenic in home tap water, urine from 72 six-week-old infants and breast milk from nine women in New Hampshire. Urinary arsenic was 7.5 times lower for breast-fed than formula-fed infants. The highest tap water arsenic concentrations far exceeded the arsenic concentrations in powdered formulas, but for the majority of the study's participants, both the powder and water contributed to exposure.

•••••

Arsenic occurs naturally in bedrock and is a common global contaminant of well water. It causes cancers and other diseases, and early-life exposure has been associated with increased fetal mortality, decreased birth weight and diminished cognitive function. The Environmental Protection Agency has set a maximum contaminant level for public drinking water, but private well water is not subject to regulation and is the primary water source in many rural parts of the United States.

"We advise families with private wells to have their tap water tested for arsenic," says senior author Professor Margaret Karagas, principal investigator at Dartmouth's Children's Environmental Health and Disease Prevention Research Center. Added study co-lead author Courtney Carignan: "We predict that population-wide arsenic exposure will increase during the second part of the first year of life as the prevalence of formula-feeding increases."

Vitamin D deficiency linked more closely to diabetes than obesity

http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2015-02/tes-vdd021815.php

Public Release: 23-Feb-2015
The Endocrine Society

People who have low levels of vitamin D are more likely to have diabetes, regardless of how much they weigh, according to a new study published in the Endocrine Society's Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism.

The results help clarify the connection between vitamin D, obesity and diabetes. According to the Society's Scientific Statement on the Non-skeletal Effects of Vitamin D, studies have found that people who have low levels of vitamin D are more likely to be obese. They also are more likely to have Type 2 diabetes, prediabetes and metabolic syndrome than people with normal vitamin D levels.

Vitamin D helps the body absorb calcium and maintain bone and muscle health. The skin naturally produces this vitamin after exposure to sunlight. People also absorb smaller amounts of the vitamin through foods, such as milk fortified with vitamin D. More than 1 billion people worldwide are estimated to have deficient levels of vitamin D due to limited sunshine exposure.

•••••

The analysis found that obese subjects who did not have glucose metabolism disorders had higher levels of vitamin D than diabetic subjects. Likewise, lean subjects with diabetes or another glucose metabolism disorder were more likely to have low levels of vitamin D. Vitamin D levels were directly correlated with glucose levels, but not with BMI.

"Our findings indicate that vitamin D is associated more closely with glucose metabolism than obesity," said one of the study's authors, Manuel Macías-González, PhD, of Complejo Hospitalario de Málaga (Virgen de la Victoria) and the University of Málaga. "The study suggests that vitamin D deficiency and obesity interact synergistically to heighten the risk of diabetes and other metabolic disorders. The average person may be able to reduce their risk by maintaining a healthy diet and getting enough outdoor activity."

Water fluoridation above a certain level linked to higher rates of underactive thyroid

http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2015-02/b-wfi022015.php

Public Release: 23-Feb-2015
BMJ

Water fluoridation above a certain level is linked to 30 per cent higher than expected rates of underactive thyroid (hypothyroidism) in England, suggests research published online in the Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health.

The findings prompt the researchers to call for a rethink of public health policy to fluoridate the water supply in a bid to protect the nation's tooth health.

In England, around 10 per cent of the population (6 million) live in areas with a naturally or artificially fluoridated water supply of 1 mg fluoride per litre of drinking water.

•••••

In areas with fluoride levels above 0.7 mg/l, they found higher than expected rates of hypothyroidism than in areas with levels below this dilution.

•••••

"Consideration needs to be given to reducing fluoride exposure, and public dental health interventions should stop [those] reliant on ingested fluoride and switch to topical fluoride-based and non-fluoride-based interventions," they conclude.

Study finds peanut consumption in infancy prevents peanut allergy

http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2015-02/nioa-sfp022015.php

Public Release: 23-Feb-2015
NIH/National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases

Introduction of peanut products into the diets of infants at high risk of developing peanut allergy was safe and led to an 81 percent reduction in the subsequent development of the allergy, a clinical trial has found. The study was supported by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), part of the National Institutes of Health, and was conducted by the NIAID-funded Immune Tolerance Network (ITN). The results appear in the current online issue of the New England Journal of Medicine and were presented today at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology.

Researchers led by Gideon Lack, M.D., of King's College London, designed a study called Learning Early About Peanut Allergy (LEAP), based on observations that Israeli children have lower rates of peanut allergy compared to Jewish children of similar ancestry residing in the United Kingdom. Unlike children in the UK, Israeli children begin consuming peanut-containing foods early in life. The study tested the hypothesis that the very low rates of peanut allergy in Israeli children were a result of high levels of peanut consumption beginning in infancy.

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Keep calm, anger and anxiety can trigger a heart attack!

http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2015-02/uos-kca022215.php

Public Release: 23-Feb-2015
University of Sydney

University of Sydney research reveals that the risk of a heart attack is 8.5 times higher in the two hours following a burst of intense anger.

Published today in European Heart Journal: Acute Cardiovascular Care, this is the first Australian study to investigate the link between acute emotional triggers and high risk of severe cardiac episodes.

"Our findings confirm what has been suggested in prior studies and anecdotal evidence, even in films - that episodes of intense anger can act as a trigger for a heart attack," said lead author Dr Thomas Buckley, Sydney Nursing School, University of Sydney, and researcher at Royal North Shore Hospital.

"The data shows that the higher risk of a heart attack isn't necessarily just while you're angry - it lasts for two hours after the outburst.

•••••

"The triggers for these burst of intense anger were associated with arguments with family members (29 per cent), argument with others (42 per cent), work anger (14 per cent) and driving anger (14 per cent)," said Dr Buckley.

"The data also revealed that episodes of anxiety can also make you more likely to have heart attack.

"High levels of anxiety were associated with a 9.5 fold increased risk of triggering a heart attack in the two hours after the anxiety episode.

"Increased risk following intense anger or anxiety is most likely due to increased heart rate, blood pressure, tightening of blood vessels and increased clotting, all associated with triggering heart attacks," he said.

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Long-term nitrogen fertilizer use disrupts plant-microbe mutualisms

http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2015-02/uoia-lnf022315.php

Public Release: 23-Feb-2015
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

When exposed to nitrogen fertilizer over a period of years, nitrogen-fixing bacteria called rhizobia evolve to become less beneficial to legumes - the plants they normally serve, researchers report in a new study.

These findings, reported in the journal Evolution, may be of little interest to farmers, who generally grow only one type of plant and can always add more fertilizer to boost plant growth. But in natural areas adjacent to farmland, where fertilizer runoff occurs, or in areas where nitrogen oxides from the burning of fossil fuels settle, a change in the quality of soil rhizobia could have "far-reaching ecological and environmental consequences," the researchers wrote.

"The nitrogen that we apply to agricultural fields doesn't stay on those fields, and atmospheric nitrogen deposition doesn't stay by the power plant that generates it," said University of Illinois plant biology professor Katy Heath , who led the study with Jennifer Lau , of Michigan State University. "So this work is not just about a fertilized soybean field. Worldwide, the nitrogen cycle is off. We've changed it fundamentally."

Not that long ago, before the advent of industrial fertilizers and the widespread use of fossil fuels, soil nitrogen was a scarce commodity. Some plants, the legumes, found a way to procure the precious nitrogen they needed - from rhizobia.

"The rhizobia fix nitrogen - from atmospheric nitrogen that we're breathing in and out all the time - to plant-available forms," Heath said. "Plants can't just take it up from the atmosphere; they have to get it in the form of nitrate or ammonium."

In return, legumes shelter the rhizobia in their roots and supply them with carbon. This partnership benefits the bacteria and gives legumes an advantage in nitrogen-poor soils. Previous studies have shown that nitrogen fertilizers can affect the diversity of species that grow in natural areas, Heath said. In areas polluted with fertilizer runoff, for example, legumes decline while other plants become more common.

•••••

A genetic analysis of the microbes revealed that the composition of the bacterial populations was similar between fertilized and unfertilized plots: The same families of rhizobia were present in each. But rhizobia from the fertilized plots had evolved in a way that made them less useful to the legumes, Heath said.

•••••

Tests reveal under-reported exposure to tobacco smoke among preemies with lung disease

http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2015-02/jhm-tru022315.php

Public Release: 23-Feb-2015
Johns Hopkins Medicine

Public health experts have long known that tobacco smoke exposure (TSE) can be harmful for children with bronchopulmonary dysplasia, a lung disease that often accompanies premature birth.

Now a small study led by Johns Hopkins Children's Center investigators using hair samples to measure nicotine levels not only affirms that TSE is common in this population, but also reveals significant exposure among children whose caregivers claim not to smoke at home. The findings are published online Feb. 2 in the journal Pediatrics.

"We found that more than one-fifth of children whose caregivers report nonsmoking households have significant exposure," says investigator Sharon McGrath-Morrow, M.D., M.B.A., professor of pediatrics and a lung specialist at Johns Hopkins Children's Center. "The hope is that our study will lead to better ways to protect this vulnerable population of children."

•••••

However, the study reports, 22 percent of children whose caregivers said lived in nonsmoking households showed significant TSE that was similar to children who did live in smoking households, suggesting that either parents weren't correctly reporting smoking habits or that children were getting TSE elsewhere.

The investigators say some of the children may have been getting exposure in multiunit housing, where about one-half of the study participants lived. The researchers cautioned, however, that this finding was not statistically significant and may have been due to chance. But they said they observed a trend toward higher nicotine levels in patients of nonsmoking families who lived in multiunit buildings that allowed smoking when compared to those living in buildings that didn't.

Nicotine exposure had a measurable effect on the most vulnerable of these children -- the ones who required supplemental oxygen or mechanical ventilation at home. The researchers saw a six to seven-fold uptick in the risk for inpatient hospitalization and activity limitations within this group as the nicotine levels in their hair increased.

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Star Buzzed Our Solar System during Human Prehistory

If humans are still here when comets displaced by this get here, there are likely to be some people claiming they are a sign by God of his displeasure of their current society.

http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/star-buzzed-our-solar-system-during-human-prehistory/?WT.mc_id=SA_BS_20150227

February 21, 2015 |By Ron Cowen and Nature magazine

A recently discovered stellar neighbour of the Sun penetrated the extreme fringes of the Solar System—the closest encounter ever documented—at around the time that modern humans began spreading from Africa into Eurasia.

•••••

The red dwarf star, which has a mass about 8% that of the Sun and is orbited by a 'brown dwarf' companion—a body with too little heft to sustain the thermonuclear reactions that enable stars to shine—was discovered in 2013 in images recorded by NASA’s Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) mission. It is relatively nearby, at about 6 parsecs (19.6 light years) away.

•••••

Tracing the trajectory of the star and its brown dwarf companion back in time, Mamajek’s team found with 98% confidence that Scholz’s star passed within the Solar System's Oort cloud, a reservoir of comets, about 70,000 years ago.

The star sped through the outer Solar System at 83 kilometres per second, and came within 0.25 parsecs of the Sun (or 52,000 times the Earth–Sun distance), the team reports in the February 10 issue of Astrophysical Journal Letters. By comparison, the closest star to the Solar System known today, Proxima Centauri, lies 1.3 parsecs from the Sun. The encounter is the closest-known passage of a star that has a well-documented velocity and distance, the team says.

•••••

Because Scholz’s star is puny and sped by quickly, it would have had a negligible impact on the Oort cloud, Mamajek notes. And any comets that the star might have sent hurtling towards the inner Solar System will not arrive for another few hundred thousand years, says Tremaine. However, more-massive stars penetrating the Oort cloud in the distant past might have triggered major comet showers that pummelled the planets and led to some of the mass extinction events on Earth, says Mamajek.

10 Simple Things That Will Make You Happier, Backed By Science

http://higherperspective.com/2015/01/happy.html?utm_source=cleo&ts_pid=2

1. Exercise more – 7 minutes might be enough •••
Exercise has such a profound effect on our happiness and well-being that it’s actually been proven to be an effective strategy for overcoming depression.

2. Sleep more – you’ll be less sensitive to negative emotions •••

3. Move closer to work – a short commute is worth more than a big house •••

4. Spend time with friends and family – don’t regret it on your deathbed •••

5. Go outside – happiness is maximized at 13.9°c (157.02 f) •••

6. Help others – 100 hours a year is the magical number •••

7. Practice smiling – it can alleviate pain •••

A new study led by a michigan state university business scholar suggests customer-service workers who fake smile throughout the day worsen their mood and withdraw from work, affecting productivity. But workers who smile as a result of cultivating positive thoughts – such as a tropical vacation or a child’s recital – improve their mood and withdraw less. •••

8. Plan a trip – but don’t take one ••• •••

9. Meditate – rewire your brain for happiness •••

10. Practice gratitude – increase both happiness and life satisfaction •••