Wednesday, September 17, 2014

The People's Climate Mobilisation, Sept. 20-21

Upwards of 100,000 people are expected to join the People’s Climate March this Sunday, September 21 in what will be the largest demonstration for climate action in history. The People’s Climate March has been endorsed by over 1,200 organizations, including the nation’s largest environmental groups, labor unions, faith-based groups, and social justice groups including environmental and climate justice groups in New York City.

There are many events planned, some already going on.


There are several different bodies that are convening to collaborate on the People’s Climate March, including local New York-area community groups, international NGO’s, grassroots networks, churches and faith organizations, and many more. You can see a list of participating organizations here.

Because this is a “movement of movements” moment, the People’s Climate March is being organized in a participatory, open-source model. This means that there isn’t a central “decision-making” body or single coalition. Rather, groups and individuals are collaborating with some basic shared agreements around respect, collaboration, trust, and many are using the Jemez Principles of Environmental Justice.


The following link has info on groups that are organizing buses, trains, and ride shares to go to this event, and on housing.


Some other useful links:

on Facebook:

Ban Ki-moon to join climate change march

Fiona Harvey
Sept. 17, 2014

The secretary general of the United Nations, Ban Ki-moon, is to join a public march calling for action on climate change this weekend.

“I will link arms with those marching for climate action,” Ban told a press conference. “We stand with them on the right side of this key issue for our common future.”

His unusual step – high-ranking officials do not normally attend mass public protests – is a measure of how high the stakes are at a summit next week of world leaders, called by the secretary-general, to discuss climate change. Barack Obama, David Cameron and scores of other heads of state and government from around the world are expected to talk about ways to cut greenhouse gas emissions, in preparation for a crunch meeting in Paris next year at which world governments are supposed to sign a new global agreement on the climate.

Ban said: “Action on climate change is urgent. The more we delay, the more we will pay in lives and in money. The climate summit that I am convening one week from today has two goals: to mobilise political will for a universal and meaningful climate agreement next year in Paris; and second to generate ambitious steps to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and strengthen resilience. We are anticipating an impressive turnout of leaders from government, business, finance and civil society. Most important, we are expecting significant commitments and progress.”


Speak out for climate change

I'm not going to be able to go, but I expect to work this weekend as I've been working almost every weekend for weeks, registering people to vote and going door-to-door to make sure people know about the election in November, to try to get people elected who will care about this issue.

Rebecca Solnit
Wednesday 17 September 2014


You could call the scientists and the climate activists of our present moment our Hortons. They heard the cry a long time ago, and they’ve been trying to get the rest of the world to listen. They’ve had to endure attacks, mockery, and lip service ... but mostly just obliviousness to what they’re saying and what it demands of us.

Recent polling data suggests most of us do want to see things change. “Two in three Americans (66%) support the Congress and president passing laws to increase energy efficiency and the use of renewable energy as a way to reduce America’s dependence on fossil fuels,” reports the US Climate Action Network. But I hear firsthand from people who aren’t particularly informed and still tell me that they are avoiding thinking about climate because it’s too late.

It is nearly too late, because we’ve know about climate change for 25 years, but the most informed scientists think that we do have a chance and some choices, if we make them now.

To listen to such scientists is an amazing and sometimes terrifying thing: they fully comprehend what systemic collapse means and where we are in that process. They – and others who pay attention to the data – see how terrible the possibilities are, but they also see the possibilities for averting the worst.


the biggest climate march in history takes place on Sunday in New York City – starting on the southern edge one of the nation’s largest urban green spaces, Central Park, running around Times Square and then moving west to the Hudson River – to demand that the UN get serious with this attempt to hammer out a climate change treaty at its summit next week.

A whole lot more people are going to come together to demand that our political leaders do something about climate than have done so before. In a symbolic action, at 12:58pm local time, they will observe a collective couple of minutes of silence dedicated to the past. Wherever you are on Sunday, you can join us in observing that silence and remembering the millions displaced last year by the kinds of floods and storms that climate change augments, or the residents of island nations whose homes are simply disappearing under the waves; the small shellfish whose shells are dissolving or the species that have died out altogether; the elderly and inform who have died in our longer, hotter heatwaves or the people who died in New York’s Hurricane Sandy not quite two years ago.

At 1pm local time, we will face the future, and demand that our leaders face the music. The marchers will make two minutes of noise, and every pot-banger, church-bell-ringer, hornblower and drummer on earth is invited to join in. Churches are invited to ring their bells; synagogues to blow their shofars; mosques to use their loudspeakers; secular humanists to get their brass bands on. Get your own pots and pans, or your trumpets and whistles.


This is our planet: our little blue sphere in the Orion Spur of the Milky Way Galaxy, with the beautifully elaborate systems of birds and insects and weather and flowering plants all working together – or that used to work together, and which are now falling apart. And it’s your voice that’s needed, so raise it on Sunday. Join the roar, so that everyone who wasn’t listening finally has to hear.

Muslims around the world protest against Islamic State/I.S.I.S./I.S.I.L., extremism, updated 9/17/2014

These are some recent protests against ISIL by Muslims, that I found quickly.


Sept. 17, 2014

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, in an exclusive interview with NBC News' Ann Curry, denounced ISIS for its savagery but also branded the U.S.-led coalition against the terror group as "ridiculous." Speaking from the presidential palace in Tehran ahead of his visit to the United Nations, Rouhani questioned President Obama's decision to go after ISIS with airstrikes.


Asked about the extremists' beheading of American James Foley and Steven Sotloff and Briton David Haines, Rouhani said ISIS' actions are at odds with Islamic tenets.

"They want to kill humanity," he said. "And from the viewpoint of the Islamic tenets and culture, killing an innocent people equals the killing of the whole humanity. And therefore, the killing and beheading of innocent people in fact is a matter of shame for them and it's the matter of concern and sorrow for all the human and all the mankind."



Danish Muslims protest against Islamic State

13 September 2014

Danish Muslims and sympathizers demonstrate against the brutal Jihadist group Islamic State, IS (Formerly known as ISIS). The protesters marched peacefully, condemning the IS’s extreme violent behavior and the killing of innocent people.



German Muslim community announces protest against extremism

Sept. 19, 2014

Speaking to at a news conference in Berlin on Tuesday, Muslim leaders from around Germany announced a nationwide demonstration on the misrepresentation of Islam.


The central council of Muslims has also condemned recent fundamentalist activities, accusing them of "perverting the name of [Islam]."




Calgarians of all faiths gather at City Hall in protest of Islamic extremism

[Calgay, Canada]
By Reid Southwick and Erika Stark, Calgary Herald September 14, 2014

A small group of demonstrators gathered outside City Hall Saturday afternoon in protest of Islamic radicals — including several from Calgary — fighting with terrorist groups in the Middle East.

Muslim organizers of the rally say militants fighting with the Islamic State, Al Nusrah and other groups do not belong to the mainstream Islamic faith, but are members of a cult.

The organizers say they are united with other faiths in condemning violence perpetrated by these militants, who control a spreading swath of Middle Eastern territory.

“We just want to make the people aware of these events and that they don’t represent Islam,” said Riayaz Khawaja, who helped organize the rally, which drew about 75 people to City Hall. “The youth of Canada should be aware of such brainwashing by elements inside the country who brainwash the youth and drive them to the IS ideology.”



'Islamic State' is a slur on our faith, say leading Muslims
Daniel Boffey, policy editor
The Observer, Saturday 13 September 2014

The prime minister and media should stop legitimising the terror group rampaging through Syria and Iraq by describing it as Islamic State, according to a coalition of imams and organisations representing British Muslims. Use of the jihadis' preferred title, they argue, gives credibility to the Sunni militants and slurs the Islamic faith.

Signatories to a letter to David Cameron, including Sughra Ahmed, president of the Islamic Society of Britain, admit that UK Muslims need to do more to dissuade their young men from being misled into taking part in the group's "hatred and poison". "We shall take every opportunity to continue to say clearly and loudly 'not in our name' and 'not for our faith,' " they write.


Signatories including Mohammed Abbasi, from the Association of British Muslims, and Amjad Malik QC, president of the Association of Muslim Lawyers, write: "We do not believe the terror group responsible should be given the credence and standing they seek by styling themselves Islamic State. It is neither Islamic, nor is it a state.

"The group has no standing with faithful Muslims, nor among the international community of nations. It clearly will never accept the obligations that any legitimate state has, including the responsibility to protect citizens and uphold human rights.

"So we believe the media, civic society and governments should refuse to legitimise these ludicrous caliphate fantasies by accepting or propagating this name. We propose that 'UnIslamic State' (UIS) could be an accurate and fair alternative name to describe this group and its agenda – and we will begin to call it that."

The intervention marks an intensification of a campaign by prominent British Muslims to deter young men from seeking adventure with the militants. It follows a recent decision by Muslim leaders to issue a fatwa condemning British jihadis.

Six senior Islamic scholars endorsed the fatwa last month, describing Britons allied to Islamic State (Isis) cells as "heretics" and prohibiting would-be jihadis from joining the "oppressive and tyrannical" group in Iraq and Syria.


[United States, Michigan]

Muslims Denounce ISIS As ‘The Enemies Of Humanity’ at Public Protest in Michigan

By Kevin Boyd
Aug. 27, 2014

On Monday, a protest was held in Dearborn, Michigan, home to one of the nation’s largest Muslim populations. The object of protest wasn’t the U.S. government, but instead the Islamic State (or ISIS/ISIL.)

The rally was actually put on by local Muslim imams, and they had harsh words for ISIS. The Detroit Free Press has more:

Muslim leaders gathered Monday on the steps of Dearborn City Hall to strongly condemn ISIS, saying the militant group in Iraq and Syria doesn’t represent Islam or Muslims.

ISIS members are “crazy criminals who are abusing our religion,” said Imam Mohammed Elahi of the Islamic House of Wisdom in Dearborn Heights. “You’re a bunch of gangsters … you’re not Islamic.”

[...]About 50 attended Monday’s rally, which included remarks by local imams, Osama Siblani, publisher of Arab American News in Dearborn, Dawud Walid, director of the Michigan chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, and Steve Spreitzer, president and CEO of the Michigan Roundtable for Diversity and Inclusion.

“They are the enemies of humanity,” Siblani said of ISIS.


NASA Ranks This August as Warmest on Record

And these statistics, which compare against the 20th century average,understate the situation, because global warming was happening due to human activity before the 20th century.

By Andrea Thompson
Sept. 15, 2014

While this summer may have felt like fall across much of the eastern half of the U.S., worldwide the overall picture was a warm one. This August was the warmest August on record globally, according to newly released NASA temperature data, while the summer tied for the fourth warmest.

Central Europe, northern Africa, parts of South America, and the western portions of North America (including Alaska) were just some of the spots on the globe that saw much higher than normal temperatures for the month. Large parts of the oceans were also running unusually warm.

“For the past few months we've been seeing impressive warmth in large parts of the Pacific … and Indian Oceans in particular,” said Jessica Blunden, a climate scientist with ERT, Inc., at the National Climatic Data Center in an email.


By the NCDC’s measure, this will have been the 38th consecutive August and 354th consecutive month with a global average temperature above the 20th century average, a mark of how ever-rising greenhouse gas levels in the atmosphere are warming the planet.

Whether or not the El Niño struggling to form in the tropical Pacific — which is characterized by warmer-than-average surface waters — has played a part in the summer warmth is hard to tease out from the broader ocean warmth at play, Blunden said. That El Niño, originally expected to form this summer, but now given a late fall potential start date, could still impact and raise 2014 temperatures, though would likely have more of an effect on 2015.

The record-setting August capped off what NASA data shows was the fourth warmest summer on record globally, coming in 1.12°F above average. That puts it in a tie the summer of 2005, but behind 2011, 2009 and 1998 by NASA’s rankings.

NASA, however, had a lower ranking for July than the NCDC did. NASA put it as the 11th warmest July on record, while the NCDC ranked it fourth. The two agencies use different methods of dealing with their data, and NASA includes the poles, while the NCDC does not.

“I think this is a measure of how one shouldn't spend so much time trying to derive larger scale meaning from individual months,” said Gavin Schmidt, director of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York, which puts out the temperature data. “There is quite a large amount of variability at the month-to-month scale, and small differences in data input, interpolation, (and) analysis can make a difference.”

Both Schmidt and Blunden said that this can mean that monthly rankings that seem to be quite far apart can actually be separated by only small temperature differences.

“Just because the spread in ranks seems big does not mean there is a big difference between the anomalies,” Blunden said.

The monthly temperatures do feed into the larger decades-long warming trend, which Schmidt says is the more important trend to watch. The ocean conditions that have fueled this warm summer could change next year, but “the more the run of warm months continues,” including this August, the larger the long-term trends will be, he said.


Southern California Heat Wave Forces Schools To Cancel Outdoor Activities

by Amelia Rosch Posted on September 16, 2014


Brett Albright, a National Weather Service meteorologist, said that the current temperatures in Los Angeles are about 15 degrees higher than average. He said that autumn heat waves are not unheard of in the region; temperatures in October and November have reached 100 degrees in the past. While heat waves are common in Los Angeles, temperatures throughout the state have been climbing.

Earlier this week, climate scientists announced that January-August 2014 were California’s warmest first eight months of a year since data collection began in 1895. The average temperature for the 8 month period, 62.6 degrees, was four degrees warmer than the 20th century average for the same span of time. California’s increased temperatures, and the drought that has been accompanying them, have been linked to global warming. Climate scientist Jonathan Overpeck said that higher temperatures could cause more and longer droughts, including possibly a decade-long “megadrought.”


Natural Disasters Displaced 22 Million People Last Year, 3 Times More Than War

by Ari Phillips Posted on September 17, 2014
In 2013 natural disasters displaced some 22 million people, with more than four-fifths of those being in Asia, according to a new report. Using four decades of data, the study by the Norwegian Refugee Council found that floods, hurricanes, tornadoes, droughts, and other hazards now cause twice as many people to lose their homes as in the 1970s. Over the last decade an average of 27 million people have lost their homes to disaster each year, and in 2010 that number rose to 42 million. In an especially bad year of violent conflict, 2013 saw three times more people lose their homes to natural disaster than war; this ratio has been as high as ten times in the past.

“Basically, the combination of mega natural disasters and hundreds of smaller natural disasters massively displaces people in many more countries than the countries that have war and conflict,” Jan Egeland, the secretary of the Norwegian refugee council, told The Guardian.

In a statement released with the report, Egeland said that this trend will continue as more people live and work in hazard-prone areas, and that “it is expected to be aggravated in the future by the impacts of climate change.”


While climate change is understood to worsen many weather-driven natural disasters, much of the increase in disaster displacement comes from the rapid urbanization of rural populations across the world, especially in Asia and soon to be in Africa where the population is expected to double by 2050. According to the report the global population has grown by 96 percent since 1970 and the urban growth rate in developing countries has been more than three times that figure. This means more people are concentrated in countries that are especially vulnerable to natural disasters. Asia’s mega-cities are the most disaster-prone on the planet.

“These vast urban areas become traps when a natural disaster hits,” Egeland said. “People are crammed together and there is no escape. They live in river deltas, they live on hurricane beaches, they live along river beds that are easily flooded, they live where there are mud slides, and so on.”


According to Kristalina Georgieva, European Commissioner for humanitarian aid and crisis response, costs related to natural disasters have increased from $50 billion a year in the 1980s to $200 billion in the last decade. Earlier this year she said only four percent of spending for natural disasters goes to prevention and preparedness, with the rest spent on response. She also said that “evidence shows every dollar spent on prevention brings at least $4 in savings on damage.”


Are your cosmetics safe?

Go to the web site to search the database.

The California Safe Cosmetics Act (the Act) requires companies that manufacture cosmetics to report any cosmetics products that contain ingredients known or suspected to cause cancer, birth defects, or other reproductive harm. The California Safe Cosmetics Program (CSCP) collects this data and makes it available to the public through this website.

Are you curious to see what ingredients have been reported for your shampoo? Want to compare the ingredients of different sunscreens? You can search the database for a type of product; a specific product name; or a brand or company name.

You can also read more about chemical ingredients, learn about how chemical exposure can affect your health, or learn more about the California Safe Cosmetics Program by clicking on links to the right.

More information on the California Safe Cosmetics Act, cosmetics in the news, and links to other government agencies overseeing cosmetics are also available through the California Safe Cosmetics Program Opens in new browser window website.


Coral growth rate plummets in 30-year comparison


Contact: Ken Caldeira
Carnegie Institution

Coral growth rate plummets in 30-year comparison

A team of researchers working on a Carnegie expedition in Australia's Great Barrier Reef has documented that coral growth rates have plummeted 40% since the mid-1970s. The scientists suggest that ocean acidification may be playing an important role in this perilous slowdown.


Coral reefs are havens for biodiversity and crucial for the economies of many coastal communities. But they are very sensitive to changes in ocean chemistry resulting from human activity. Since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution about one-third of the carbon dioxide, CO2, which has been released into the atmosphere from fossil fuel combustion and land use change has been absorbed by the oceans, where it damages coral reefs.

Coral reefs use a mineral called aragonite to make their skeletons, a process called calcification. It is a naturally occurring form of calcium carbonate, CaCO3. When carbon dioxide from the atmosphere is absorbed by the ocean, it forms carbonic acid, H2CO3, which makes the ocean more acidic and decreases its pH. This makes it more difficult for many marine organisms to grow their shells and skeletons, and threatens coral around the globe.


If the reef in Australia is as sensitive to ocean acidification as was estimated by lead author Jack Silverman of Israel Oceanographic & Limnological Research Ltd in his previous work in Israel, then the increase in ocean acidification would be sufficient to explain the 40 percent decline.

Previous work by the group projected that all of the reefs in the world may be dissolving in a few decades if current carbon dioxide emission trends continue.

"Coral reefs are getting hammered," said Caldeira. "Ocean acidification, global warming, coastal pollution, and overfishing are all damaging coral reefs. Coral reefs have been around for millions of years, but are likely to become a thing of the past unless we start running our economy as if the sea and sky matters to us very soon."


Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Puttin profits from peanut butter before health of customers

By Moni Basu, CNN
updated 8:11 AM EDT, Sat August 30, 2014


Shirley Mae Almer, 72, survived lung cancer and a brain tumor. But not peanut butter.

One of America's favorite foods -- tainted with salmonella -- killed her, just four days before Christmas in 2008.

Her grief-stricken son opened the presents she'd left for him under the tree: a shirt and a GPS device. He's thankful now that he can't quite remember which shirt it was. He doesn't want to be reminded.

His mother's death spurred Almer to become a public face for the fight for tougher food safety regulations. Now, he awaits justice.

The salmonella-laced product Shirley Almer consumed was traced back to peanuts produced at Peanut Corp. of America, a plant in the "Peanut Proud" town of Blakely, Georgia.

Stewart Parnell, the man who owned and ran Peanut Corp., is facing prosecution in an unprecedented criminal trial in Albany, about an hour's drive from the now boarded-up plant.


The Peanut Corp. salmonella outbreak has already led to new federal food safety regulations. It's a big reason why Americans should feel safer about tainted food being pulled off grocery shelves more quickly, like the salmonella contaminated nut butters that were recalled this week.


Parnell and his younger brother Michael Parnell


Stewart Parnell also faces obstruction of justice charges, as does former plant quality assurance manager Mary Wilkerson, who sat with her attorney next to Michael Parnell.

The government says the Parnell brothers and Wilkerson put profit before safety. They knew about the salmonella in their products, prosecutors say, and covered up lab results that tested positive for the bacteria.

In all, nine people died nationwide; another 714 people in 46 states were sickened, some critically. It was the deadliest outbreak of its kind in recent years.

The prosecution's blistering opening statement contained three now-infamous words Parnell penned in a March 2007 email to a plant manager about contaminated products: "Just ship it."


Salmonella is America's most common cause of food-borne illness and sickens up to 1.4 million people each year. The key to destroying it is to wash raw foods thoroughly or cook other foods at high enough temperatures to kill the bacteria. In the case of raw peanuts, salmonella is destroyed by roasting at 350 degrees.

Once ingested, salmonella can take many days to manifest in a person's body. Most people are able to fight it off, but it can turn into a killer, especially in those who are vulnerable: the very young, the old and the frail. That was the case with Shirley Almer.


Longtime employees told reporters they wilted under the pressure to produce for Stewart Parnell. The Lynchburg, Virginia, man, they said, bought the plant in 2001 in order to profit from an iconic industry; Georgia is the nation's top peanut producer.

Employees described a filthy facility where Parnell increased production manifold and enticed food giants like Kellogg Co. and Sara Lee to buy from Peanut Corp.

Annual sales jumped 66%, from $15 million in 2005 to $25 million in 2008, the last full year Peanut Corp. was in production, according to business researchers Dun & Bradstreet.

Federal inspectors found roaches, rats, mold, dirt, bird droppings and accumulated grease in the plant when they raided it in January 2009. They also found a leaky roof.

Salmonella thrives in the intestines of birds. And the presence of water in what is supposed to be a dry processing facility for peanuts is like adding gasoline to fire for salmonella, say food safety experts. Inspectors also found that the peanut roasting temperatures were not always hot enough to kill salmonella.

Health officials discovered similarly poor conditions at Peanut Corp.'s other plant in Plainview, Texas, and both facilities were shuttered. The company later filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy.


The Food and Drug Administration estimates that every year, 48 million people -- one out of six -- suffer from food-borne illnesses. More than 100,000 people are hospitalized and about 3,000 die from infections the federal government says are largely preventable.

Yet food companies are still not required to test their products for safety.


Recalls of tainted products used to be voluntary, like the one this week announced by nSpired Natural Foods Inc.


But in early 2011, as a result of the campaign launched in the aftermath of the Peanut Corp. tragedy, President Barack Obama signed the Food Safety Modernization Act, which the FDA calls the most sweeping reform in food safety laws in 70 years.

For the first time, the law took aim at preventing food-borne illnesses rather than just responding to contamination that had already occurred. The new law gave the FDA the power to suspend a facility's ability to sell food in American markets and detain food that may be contaminated.

The problem, say food safety advocates, is there is not yet adequate funding for the FDA to fully enforce the law. The FDA declined to comment.




Bank of America miscalculated it's capital for years

So why did it take the CEO so long to find it? After all, the reason CEO's make so much money is that they do such a good job and do all the hard work. [sarcasm]

By Hugh Son 2014-04-28


Bank of America Corp. fell the most since November 2012 after suspending plans for a dividend increase and $4 billion of share repurchases because of an error in its stress-test submission to the Federal Reserve.

The lender will resubmit its proposal after finding botched accounting on structured notes issued by Merrill Lynch, the Charlotte, North Carolina-based company said today in a statement. The stock tumbled 6.3 percent to $14.95 in New York, erasing a gain for 2014.

Chief Executive Officer Brian T. Moynihan had been set to quintuple the quarterly payout to 5 cents a share, five years after the second-biggest U.S. bank cut the dividend to a token amount during the financial crisis. Bank of America said its revised proposal probably will mean lower payouts than requested in its existing plan, which was already modified once to win Fed approval.

“Bank of America is by far not the first big bank to make a mistake in its CCAR submission,” David Hilder, an analyst at Drexel Hamilton LLC in New York, said in a phone interview, referring to the Fed’s Comprehensive Capital Analysis and Review. He said that while Bank of America noticed the error and probably has sufficient capital to cover the payout, the setback is “embarrassing” for the company.


Bank of America discovered the mistake last week as it prepared its 10-Q quarterly regulatory filing and immediately notified the Fed, said a person with direct knowledge of the process. The error had gone undetected since the firm’s acquisition of Merrill Lynch in 2009, said the person, who requested anonymity because the information hasn’t been made public.


Bank of America, led by Moynihan since 2010, has been working for years to resolve headaches inherited with the purchases under his predecessor of Merrill Lynch and mortgage-lender Countrywide Financial Corp. during the financial crisis. The company reported a $276 million deficit for the three months ended March 31, its fourth quarterly loss under Moynihan.


By Hugh Son 2014-02-20


Bank of America Corp. awarded Chief Executive Officer Brian T. Moynihan $14 million for last year, boosting his pay 17 percent after profit more than doubled.

Moynihan received $12.5 million in stock grants for 2013, the firm said yesterday in a filing to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. He got no cash bonus for last year, and his $1.5 million salary will remain unchanged in 2014, said a person with direct knowledge of the matter who asked not to be named because the company hasn’t yet disclosed the CEO’s full package.

Moynihan, 54, has spent his four years atop the nation’s second-largest bank resolving disputes tied to shoddy home loans and foreclosures, most of them rooted in his predecessor’s 2008 takeover of Countrywide Financial Corp.


Last year, the bank raised Moynihan’s salary to $1.5 million, effective that February, compared with $950,000 the three previous years.


The board’s compensation committee is led by Monica C. Lozano, the CEO of Impremedia LLC, the Spanish-language news and information firm based in Brooklyn, New York.

[CEO's choosing each other's level of pay.]


Tests of pilots killed in crashes show increase in drug use

Last Updated Sep 10, 2014

Tests of pilots killed in plane crashes over more than two decades show an increasing use of both legal and illegal drugs, including some that could impair flying, according to a study released Tuesday by the National Transportation Safety Board.

The study examined toxicology reports for almost 6,700 pilots killed in crashes from 1990 to 2012. Not only did the share of pilots testing positive for a drug increase over that period, but the share of pilots who tested positive for multiple drugs increased as well. Pilots testing positive for at least one drug increased from 9.6 percent to 39 percent, while positive tests for two drugs rose from 2 percent to 20 percent and three drugs from zero to 8.3 percent.

Over the same period, new drugs were coming into use and the U.S. population was aging, creating greater demand for drugs. The toxicology tests "reflect tends in the general population and likely indicate a significant increase in drug use" by pilots as well, the study said.

However, the share of accidents the board has investigated in which impairment from a drug was found to be a factor hasn't increased appreciably, the report said. Since 1990, the NTSB has cited pilot impairment due to drugs as a cause or a contributing factor in about 3 percent of fatal civil aviation accidents.


The board also voted to issue a safety alert to pilots, warning of the risk of impairment from many over-the-counter drugs.


The most common drug found in the tests was an antihistamine that causes drowsiness and is a key ingredient in many over-the-counter medications for allergies, colds and sleep. Sedating antihistamines in general were found in 9.9 percent of pilots tested during the last five years studied, up from 2.1 percent of the cases during the early years examined.

The share of pilots testing positive for illegal drugs was small, but increased from 2.3 percent to 3.8 percent. The study attributed the increase mostly to greater marijuana use in the last 10 years.


Wastewater injection is culprit for most quakes in southern Colorado and northern New Mexico


Contact: Nan Broadbent
Seismological Society of America
Wastewater injection is culprit for most quakes in southern Colorado and northern New Mexico

SAN FRANCISCO – The deep injection of wastewater underground is responsible for the dramatic rise in the number of earthquakes in Colorado and New Mexico since 2001, according to a study to be published in the Bulletin of the Seismological Society of America (BSSA).

The Raton Basin, which stretches from southern Colorado into northern New Mexico, was seismically quiet until shortly after major fluid injection began in 1999. Since 2001, there have been 16 magnitude > 3.8 earthquakes (including M 5.0 and 5.3), compared to only one (M 4.0) the previous 30 years. The increase in earthquakes is limited to the area of industrial activity and within 5 kilometers (3.1 miles) of wastewater injection wells.

In 1994, energy companies began producing coal-bed methane in Colorado and expanded production to New Mexico in 1999. Along with the production of methane, there is the production of wastewater, which is injected underground in disposal wells and can raise the pore pressure in the surrounding area, inducing earthquakes. Several lines of evidence suggest the earthquakes in the area are directly related to the disposal of wastewater, a by-product of extracting methane, and not to hydraulic fracturing occurring in the area.

Beginning in 2001, the production of methane expanded, with the number of high-volume wastewater disposal wells increasing (21 presently in Colorado and 7 in New Mexico) along with the injection rate. Since mid-2000, the total injection rate across the basin has ranged from 1.5 to 3.6 million barrels per month.


To curb violent tendencies, start young


Contact: Alison Jones
Duke University

To curb violent tendencies, start young
Working with aggressive children prevents some from becoming violent, criminal adults

DURHAM, N.C. -- Aggressive children are less likely to become violent criminals or psychiatrically troubled adults if they receive early intervention, says a new study based on more than two decades of research.

These findings from researchers at Duke, Pennsylvania State and Vanderbilt universities and the University of Washington are based on the Fast Track Project, a multi-faceted program that is one of the largest violence-prevention trials ever funded by the federal government.

Beginning in 1991, the researchers screened nearly 10,000 5-year-old children in Durham, Nashville, Seattle and rural Pennsylvania for aggressive behavior problems, identifying those who were at highest risk of growing up to become violent, antisocial adults. Nearly 900 children were deemed at high risk, and of those, half were randomly assigned to receive the Fast Track intervention, while the other half were assigned to a control group. Participating children and their families received an array of interventions at school and at home.

Nineteen years later, the authors found that Fast Track participants at age 25 had fewer convictions for violent and drug-related crimes, lower rates of serious substance abuse, lower rates of risky sexual behavior and fewer psychiatric problems than the control group.

"We can prevent serious violence and psychopathology among the group of children who are highest-risk," said Duke's Kenneth Dodge. "That's the essential finding from this study. It provides the strongest evidence yet that, far from being doomed from an early age, at-risk children can be helped to live productive lives."


From first through 10th grade, the Fast Track children received reading tutoring and specialized intervention aimed at improving self-control and social-cognitive skills. Parents learned problem-solving skills through home visits and parent training groups.

When program participants turned 25, researchers reviewed court records and conducted interviews with participants and control group members, as well as individuals who knew the participants well.

Along with fewer criminal convictions, Fast Track participants had lower rates of antisocial personality disorder and avoidant personality disorder, lower rates of risky sexual behavior and lower rates of harsh parenting. The latter finding suggests that the intervention may interrupt the inter-generational cycle of problem behavior.

Fast Track is among very few studies to test the long-term effect of environment on children's development through a clinical trial. It provides strong evidence for the critical role environment plays in shaping a child's development.



Vitamin E intake critical during 'the first 1,000 days'


Contact: Maret Traber
Oregon State University
Vitamin E intake critical during 'the first 1,000 days'


CORVALLIS, Ore. – Amid conflicting reports about the need for vitamin E and how much is enough, a new analysis published today suggests that adequate levels of this essential micronutrient are especially critical for the very young, the elderly, and women who are or may become pregnant.

A lifelong proper intake of vitamin E is also important, researchers said, but often complicated by the fact that this nutrient is one of the most difficult to obtain through diet alone. It has been estimated that only a tiny fraction of Americans consume enough dietary vitamin E to meet the estimated average requirement.

Meanwhile, some critics have raised unnecessary alarms about excessive vitamin E intake while in fact the diet of most people is insufficient, said Maret Traber, a professor in the College of Public Health and Human Sciences at Oregon State University, principal investigator with the Linus Pauling Institute and national expert on vitamin E.

"Many people believe that vitamin E deficiency never happens," Traber said. "That isn't true. It happens with an alarming frequency both in the United States and around the world. But some of the results of inadequate intake are less obvious, such as its impact on things like nervous system and brain development, or general resistance to infection."

Some of the best dietary sources of vitamin E – nuts, seeds, spinach, wheat germ and sunflower oil - don't generally make the highlight list of an average American diet. One study found that people who are highly motivated to eat a proper diet consume almost enough vitamin E, but broader surveys show that 90 percent of men and 96 percent of women don't consume the amount currently recommended, 15 milligrams per day for adults.

In a review of multiple studies, published in Advances in Nutrition, Traber outlined some of the recent findings about vitamin E. Among the most important are the significance of vitamin E during fetal development and in the first years of life; the correlation between adequate intake and dementia later in life; and the difficulty of evaluating vitamin E adequacy through measurement of blood levels alone.

Findings include:

Inadequate vitamin E is associated with increased infection, anemia, stunting of growth and poor outcomes during pregnancy for both the infant and mother.

Overt deficiency, especially in children, can cause neurological disorders, muscle deterioration, and even cardiomyopathy.

Studies with experimental animals indicate that vitamin E is critically important to the early development of the nervous system in embryos, in part because it protects the function of omega-3 fatty acids, especially DHA, which is important for brain health. The most sensitive organs include the head, eye and brain.

One study showed that higher vitamin E concentrations at birth were associated with improved cognitive function in two-year-old children.

Findings about diseases that are increasing in the developed world, such as non-alcoholic fatty liver disease and diabetes, suggest that obesity does not necessarily reflect adequate micronutrient intake.

Measures of circulating vitamin E levels in the blood often rise with age as lipid levels also increase, but do not prove an adequate delivery of vitamin E to tissues and organs.

Vitamin E supplements do not seem to prevent Alzheimer's disease occurrence, but have shown benefit in slowing its progression.

A report in elderly humans showed that a lifelong dietary pattern that resulted in higher levels of vitamins B,C, D and E were associated with a larger brain size and higher cognitive function.

Vitamin E protects critical fatty acids such as DHA throughout life, and one study showed that people in the top quartile of DHA concentrations had a 47 percent reduction in the risk of developing all-cause dementia.

"It's important all of your life, but the most compelling evidence about vitamin E is about a 1000-day window that begins at conception," Traber said. "Vitamin E is critical to neurologic and brain development that can only happen during that period. It's not something you can make up for later."

Traber said she recommends a supplement for all people with at least the estimated average requirement of vitamin E, but that it's particularly important for all children through about age two; for women who are pregnant, nursing or may become pregnant; and for the elderly.


This research was supported in part by the National Institutes of Health.

Working Long Hours May Increase Risk of Coronary Heart Disease

September 15, 2014
Working Long Hours May Increase Risk of Coronary Heart Disease

Working more than a 40-hour week has been linked to stress, dissatisfaction, and compromised health, and now new research on 8,350 Korean adults finds that it may also increase one’s risk of developing coronary heart disease, or narrowing of the blood vessels that supply blood and oxygen to the heart.

“The longer hours employees worked, the higher their chances of developing coronary heart disease within 10 years, with those working 61 to 70 hours having a 42% increased likelihood of developing the disease, those working 71 to 80 hours having a 63% increased likelihood, and those working more than 80 hours having a 94% increased likelihood,” said Dr. Yun-Chul Hong, senior author of the American Journal of Industrial Medicine study.


Tornadoes occurring earlier in “Tornado Alley”

Sept. 16, 2014

Peak tornado activity in the central and southern Great Plains of the United States is occurring up to two weeks earlier than it did half a century ago, according to a new study whose findings could help states in “Tornado Alley” better prepare for these violent storms.


The new research does not attribute the shift in tornado activity in the region to any single cause. However, the earlier tornado activity seen in the study is in-line with what could be expected in a warmer climate, the study’s authors said.


Home Depot hack could lead to $3 billion in fake charges

Maybe Home Depot should reduce their executive salaries and hire some IT security experts.

These CEO's like to say they did everything themselves, but they sure don't do any IT work to prevent hackers.

ByMitch Lipka September 16, 2014

A recent hacker attack on Home Depot (HD) could result in up to $3 billion ($3,000,000,000) in fraudulent charges, according to credit protection firm BillGuard.

BillGuard said losses will be at least $2 billion ($2,000,000,000), based on an analysis of what is known about the breach and what has happened following 16 such data leaks in the past year. Initial estimates after the Home Depot breach was first reported in early September suggested the hackers, who are thought to have sold customer payment data on the black market, had made $50 million ($50,000,000). Home Depot confirmed the breach last week.


Based on prior thefts of customer information, BillGuard predicted that an average of $332 in fraudulent charges will be made using the stolen Home Depot accounts. And such transactions are already beginning to show up.

Charges are for as little as $5, but some customers have reported thousands of dollars being put on their cards, BillGuard said. Small charges are commonly found on cards that were accessed in a breach.

"Cardholders should be on the lookout for micro-charges, typically below $10, that they don't recognize," Samid said. "These could be card validation tests that hackers use to ensure a stolen card is still active before they sell it online. Validated cards fetch a premium on the black market. If you don't recognize it, call the number on the back of the card and let your bank know."



Gene Simmons: 'Rock Is Finally Dead'

By Nick Simmons on September 4, 2014

I spoke with my father about his legacy, the legacy of his contemporaries, and the state of the music industry today. Invariably, it seemed, we began to talk about file-sharing.

But this is not that old story of an out-of-touch one-percenter crying victim. As so many pointed out during the now-infamous Napster public relations war, the rich/famous/established musicians are not the victims of the digital revolution. My father instead laments the loss of opportunity for my generation, those who have begun to sense that it may no longer simply be a matter of dusting our hands, learning a skill, and putting in the time. There is a system that is broken for those of us who love songwriting, instruments, and all the soul of the analog, and it is now working against us — unless we conform. Unless we decide to stick, safely, to pop, and let gray men in a boardroom write our songs for us, dress us, and sell us from somewhere in the shadows.


GENE SIMMONS: Don't quit your day job is a good piece of advice. When I was coming up, it was not an insurmountable mountain. Once you had a record company on your side, they would fund you, and that also meant when you toured they would give you tour support. There was an entire industry to help the next Beatles, Stones, Prince, Hendrix, to prop them up and support them every step of the way. There are still record companies, and it does apply to pop, rap, and country to an extent. But for performers who are also songwriters — the creators — for rock music, for soul, for the blues — it's finally dead.

Rock is finally dead.


Rock did not die of old age. It was murdered. And the real culprit is that kid's 15-year-old next-door neighbor, probably a friend of his. Maybe even one of the bandmates he's jamming with. The tragedy is that they seem to have no idea that they just killed their own opportunity — they killed the artists they would have loved. Some brilliance, somewhere, was going to be expressed, and now it won't, because it's that much harder to earn a living playing and writing songs. No one will pay you to do it.

The masses do not recognize file-sharing and downloading as stealing because there's a copy left behind for you — it's not that copy that's the problem, it's the other one that someone received but didn't pay for. The problem is that nobody will pay you for the 10,000 hours you put in to create what you created. I can only imagine the frustration of all that work, and having no one value it enough to pay you for it.


GS: Nirvana. That's about it. They are the notable exception. Keep thinking. It's harder, isn't it, to name artists with as much confidence? The pickings are so slim, and it's not an arbitrary difference. There was a 10- to 15-year period in the '60s and '70s that gave birth to almost every artist we now call "iconic," or "classic." If you know anything about what makes longevity, about what makes something an everlasting icon, it's hard to find after that. The craft is gone, and that is what technology, in part, has brought us. What is the next Dark Side of the Moon? Now that the record industry barely exists, they wouldn't have a chance to make something like that. There is a reason that, along with the usual top-40 juggernauts, some of the biggest touring bands are half old people, like me.


GS: My perspective is decidedly different than perhaps the perspective of somebody who was born here. If you're a native-born American, my contention is that you take a lot of things for granted. All the freedoms and opportunities you have here are expected, and you feel entitled. I think this has taken over the American psyche. I find that many of the more patriotic people are immigrants, and they're the ones who stand still when the flag goes up, out of gratitude. My sense is that file-sharing started in predominantly white, middle- and upper-middle-class young people who were native-born, who felt they were entitled to have something for free, because that's what they were used to. If you believe in capitalism — and I'm a firm believer in free-market capitalism — then that other model is chaos. It destroys the structure. You'll never understand unless you're the one that wrote the song, and you were the one that had the band, whose music people took without paying you for. Once you're the one who's been robbed, there's a moment of clarity.


Monday, September 15, 2014

No rain for decades: Stand by for the ‘megadroughts’, scientists warn

Tom Bawden
Sunday 14 September 2014

Climate change is set to unleash a series of decades-long “megadroughts” this century, according to research to be published this week.

Experts warn the droughts could be even more severe than the prolonged water shortage currently afflicting California, where residents have resorted to stealing from fire hydrants amid mass crop failures and regular wildfires.

Megadroughts – which are generally defined as lasting 35 years or more – will become considerably more frequent as global warming increases temperatures and reduces rainfall in regions already susceptible, warns Cornell University’s Dr Toby Ault, the author of the new report.

Megadroughts are also likely to be hotter and last longer than in the past, he claimed. His peer-reviewed research – to be published in the American Meterological Society’s Journal of Climate – is the first to scientifically establish that climate change exacerbates the threat.


Without climate change there would be a 5 to 15 per cent risk of a megadrought in the south-west of the US this century. With it, the probability jumps to between 20 per cent and 50 per cent, with the southernmost part of the country particularly at risk,” Dr Ault told The Independent.

The threat megadroughts pose is so great they could decimate the world’s economy and food supply, inflicting a humanitarian crisis, experts warned.

“Global warming will make droughts evermore severe and devastating in the future. The south-west of the US, southern Europe, much of Africa, India, Australia and much of Central and South America could all have a drought that lasts decades,” said Jonathan T Overpeck, an environmental scientist at the University of Arizona.


“Many of the already drought-prone parts of the planet will see megadroughts during this century that are far worse than anything those regions have seen in the past several thousand years at least.”


While the UK is unlikely to suffer its own megadrought, Dr Overpeck warned that Britain could be hit by a megadrought elsewhere, especially in regions it relies on for food, or in zones prone to conflict.

India’s nuclear nightmare: The village of birth defects

By: Raveena Aulakh Environment, Published on Mon Sep 15 2014


Children with birth deformities like Alowati and Duniya live on almost every street in Jadugora, a leafy town surrounded by hills and rivers in eastern India, as well as in neighbouring villages. There are young women who have had multiple miscarriages, and men and women who have died of cancer.

No one knows why.

Now, an Indian court wants to unravel the mystery of what is happening in Jadugora, the hub of India’s uranium mining industry since the late 1960s.


When mining started in Jadugora, workers went into the bowels of the earth and came up with uranium ore. They dug with shovels, hauled the ore back to the surface in pails. Despite new technologies, hundreds of workers still do that.

Until a decade ago, miners took their uniforms home to be washed by their wives or daughters, says Xavier Dias, a political activist who has worked for decades with the indigenous people who made up the majority of the mine’s workforce.

“They never wore masks then ... or boots. Or even gloves.”

The workers were free to take building materials from the mine and even waste material, which they used to build their homes, he says.

When people began to notice that young women were having miscarriages, witches and spirits were blamed. Prayers were said to ward off the “evil eye.” But people had lesions, children were born with deformities, hair loss was common. Cows couldn’t give birth, hens laid fewer eggs, fish had skin diseases.

“If you ask the tribals (as the indigenous people are known) who have lived there for decades, long before uranium was discovered, they will tell you that they lived healthy lives, drank from the rivers, ate fruits and vegetables ... and they never saw the inside of a hospital,” says Dias.

“The difficulty is that you can’t get uranium without bringing up two dozen other radioactive materials, which are far more dangerous than uranium itself,” says Gordon Edwards. He is a professor of mathematics at Vanier College in Montreal, president of the Canadian Coalition for Nuclear Responsibility and one of the best-known opponents of uranium mining.

When the ore is crushed and the uranium is extracted with acid, the waste — and 85 per cent of the radioactivity that was in the ore — ends up in tailing ponds, says Edwards.

Each particle of radioactive tailing “remains toxic for hundreds or thousands of years.”

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency says that high intakes of uranium “can lead to increased cancer risk, liver damage, or both. Long-term chronic intakes of uranium isotopes in food, water, or air can lead to internal irradiation and/or chemical toxicity.”

Pregnant women and their fetuses are at particularly high risk from consuming contaminated food and water, says Edwards. Long-term exposure can cause genetic damage so that “even future grandchildren or great-grandchildren can suffer the effects.”


A 2007 report by the Indian Doctors for Peace and Development, a non-profit, found a far greater incidence of congenital deformity, sterility and cancer among those living within 2.5 kilometres of the mines than those living 35 kilometres away.

Young women in villages close to the mine sites


Friday, September 12, 2014

Woman found to be missing cerebellum

Sept. 12, 2014

A woman who recently paid a visit to her local emergency room for common symptoms of vertigo and nausea ended up receiving a surprising diagnosis: She's missing part a part of her brain, know as the cerebellum.

According to a report by the New Scientist, the 24-year-old woman was admitted to the Chinese PLA General Hospital of Jinan Military Area Command in Shandong Province, and after reporting her symptoms, the woman also informed doctors that she'd had gait problem throughout her life. Additionally, the woman told doctors that she didn't begin to walk until age 7 and she was also unable to speak properly until age 6.

A CAT scan of her brain immediately identified the problem. The was no brain tissue at the spot where the spine meets the brain. Instead of a cerebellum the area was filled up with cerebrospinal fluid.

The cerebellum is responsible for controlling a person's motor skills and balance. Abnormalities of this area of the brain can result in a number of issues, including speech and motor problems and epilepsy.


People with these unusual brains offer scientists the opportunity to study neuroplasticity, a phenomenon in which the brain creates new neural pathways to compensate for deficiencies, which can allow the person to still function at optimal or near-optimal levels. This process, called "axonal sprouting," often occurs in victims of stroke and traumatic brain injury, who lose function of a brain region or entire hemisphere. In the 24-year-old woman's case, it has been speculated that this process took more than the first five years of her life until her brain cortex filled in for her missing cerebellum.


Air Pollution Harmful to Young Brains

The last several times I've been to a health food store, there was someone waiting in the car for the shopper, with the engine on. Too lazy to a few yards into the store. Poisoning our air. Really stupid.

Sept. 9, 2014

Pollution in many cities threatens the brain development in children.

Findings by University of Montana Professor Dr. Lilian Calderón-Garcidueñas, MA, MD, Ph.D., and her team of researchers reveal that children living in megacities are at increased risk for brain inflammation and neurodegenerative changes, including Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s disease.


The study found when air particulate matter and their components such as metals are inhaled or swallowed, they pass through damaged barriers, including respiratory, gastrointestinal and the blood-brain barriers and can result in long-lasting harmful effects.

Calderón-Garcidueñas and her team compared 58 serum and cerebrospinal fluid samples from a control group living in a low-pollution city and matched them by age, gender, socioeconomic status, education and education levels achieved by their parents to 81 children living in Mexico City.

The results found that the children living in Mexico City had significantly higher serum and cerebrospinal fluid levels of autoantibodies against key tight-junction and neural proteins, as well as combustion-related metals.

“We asked why a clinically healthy kid is making autoantibodies against their own brain components,” Calderón-Garcidueñas said. “That is indicative of damage to barriers that keep antigens and neurotoxins away from the brain. Brain autoantibodies are one of the features in the brains of people who have neuroinflammatory diseases like multiple sclerosis.”

The issue is important and relevant for one reason, she explained. The breakdown of the blood-brain barrier and the presence of autoantibodies to important brain proteins will contribute to the neuroinflammation observed in urban children and raises the question of what role air pollution plays in a 400 percent increase of MS cases in Mexico City, making it one of the main diagnoses for neurology referrals.


The results of constant exposure to air pollution and the constant damage to all barriers eventually result in significant consequences later in life. She explains that the autoimmune responses are potentially contributing to the neuroinflammatory and Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s pathology they are observing in young urban children.

While the study focused on children living in Mexico City, others living in cities where there are alarming levels of air pollution such as Los Angeles, Philadelphia-Wilmington, New York City, Salt Lake City, Chicago, Tokyo, Mumbai, New Delhi or Shanghai, among others, also face major health risks. In the U.S. alone, 200 million people live in areas where pollutants such as ozone and fine particulate matter exceed the standards.


Small weight gain can raise blood pressure in healthy adults

A few pounds can make a large increase in my own blood pressure. I'm short, and short people usually have small blood vessels, thus more easily clogged up.

Gaining just five pounds can increase your blood pressure, according to a study presented at the American Heart Association’s High Blood Pressure Research Scientific Sessions 2014.

Many people understand the health dangers of large amounts of extra body weight, but reasearchers in this study wanted to see the impact of a small weight gain of about five to 11 pounds.

“To our knowledge, for the first time, we showed that the blood pressure increase was specifically related to increases in abdominal visceral fat, which is the fat inside the abdomen,” said Naima Covassin, Ph.D., the study’s lead author and a research fellow at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn. “Our research suggests that healthy people who are more likely to gain weight in the stomach area are also more likely to have their blood pressure increased.”


High-income parents' separation found to boost children's behavior problems


Contact: Hannah Klein
Society for Research in Child Development
Parents' separation found to boost children's behavior problems, but only in high-income families

Before they reach young adulthood, most children in the United States will experience their parents separating, divorcing, finding another partner, or getting remarried.

Research tells us that children have more behavior problems (such as aggression and defiance) when families change structure. Now a new study has found that behavior problems in children increased in families in which parents separated only in higher-income families, and that children's age also played a part in their likelihood of having behavior problems.

The study, by researchers at Georgetown University and the University of Chicago, appears in the journal Child Development.

The study also found that moving from a single-parent family into a stepparent family improved children's behavior in higher-income families but not in lower-income families.

"Our findings suggest that family changes affect children's behavior in higher-income families more than children's behavior in lower-income families—for better and for worse," notes Rebecca M. Ryan, assistant professor of psychology at Georgetown University, who led the study.


The study also compared the effects of parents' separation and remarriage or repartnering on children's behavior problems when children were 5 years old or younger versus when they were 6 to 12 years old.

While changes in family structure affected the behavior of children from high-income families, they didn't affect the behavior of children in low-income families. This may be because families with few economic resources at the outset may not experience as dramatic a change in economic circumstance when parents separate as those with greater initial resources, the researchers suggest.

Moreover, single-parent and blended families occur more often among lower-income families; in this context, single-parent and repartnered families may be perceived differently.

For children from high-income families, the researchers found that the effects of family change varied by age. Parents' separation increased the likelihood that children would have behavior problems only if the separation took place when the children were 5 or younger. However, moving into a stepparent family benefited children's behavior only when it occurred after age 6.


Mothers' responses to babies' crying: Benefiting from and getting over childhood experiences


Contact: Hannah Klein
Society for Research in Child Development
Mothers' responses to babies' crying: Benefiting from and getting over childhood experiences

Research has told us that infants whose mothers respond quickly, consistently, and warmly when they cry have healthier emotional development than infants whose mothers are less sensitive to their cries. A new study has found that mothers whose childhood experiences with caregivers was positive and those who have come to terms with negative experiences are more infant-oriented when they see videos of babies crying and respond more sensitively to their own babies' cries.


"Responding sensitively to infant crying is a difficult yet important task," notes Esther M. Leerkes, professor of human development and family studies at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, who led the study. "Some mothers may need help controlling their own distress and interpreting babies' crying as an attempt to communicate need or discomfort. Home visiting programs or parenting classes that help parents become more aware of stress and teach ways to reduce it, as well as individualized parent education efforts, may help build these skills."

Mothers who experienced depression or had difficulty controlling their emotions responded to videos of babies crying by focusing on themselves rather than seeing the needs of the distressed babies as the priority. Mothers whose physical stress was poorly controlled (measured, for example, by skin conductance—how much sweat was on their skin in response to the stress—and rapid heart rate) in response to the videos were also more likely to focus on themselves and responded more negatively to the videos (they perceived crying as a nuisance or manipulation). In addition, mothers who responded more negatively and focused more on themselves prenatally were less sensitive to their own infants when the babies were 6 months old.


tags: child abuse


Binge drinking in pregnancy can affect child's mental health and school results


Contact: Dara O'Hare
University of Bristol
Binge drinking in pregnancy can affect child's mental health and school results

Binge drinking during pregnancy can increase the risk of mental health problems (particularly hyperactivity and inattention) in children aged 11 and can have a negative effect on their school examination results, according to new research on more than 4,000 participants in the Children of the 90s study at the University of Bristol by a team of researchers from the universities of Nottingham, Bristol, Leicester, Oxford, Queensland (Australia) and Sheffield. The research is published today in the journal European Child & Adolescent Psychiatry.

This was the case even after a number of other lifestyle and social factors were taken into account, including the mother's own mental health, whether she smoked tobacco, used cannabis or other drugs during the pregnancy, her age, her education, and how many other children she had.

This builds on earlier research on the same children that found a link between binge drinking in pregnancy and their mental health when aged four and seven, suggesting that problems can persist as a child gets older. Other effects, such as on academic performance, may only become apparent later in a child's life.

In this research, binge drinking was defined as drinking four or more units of alcohol in a day on at least one occasion during the pregnancy.




A Piece of Paradise

(When I wrote this, I thought it might be bull frogs who made the sounds like a giant rubber band being plucked . Recently, thanks to the Internet, I found that they are green frogs. But "some bull frogs" sounds better and is easier to sing than "some green frogs", so I'm not changing it.)

A Piece of Paradise
copyright 2001 Patricia M. Shannon

Walking my dog in the evening,
I hear the crickets call.
How peaceful is the quiet
after the sun falls.

I feel I've found a piece of paradise
to spend delightful days,
listening to the sounds of nature
and watching the squirrels play.

After spending too much time
cooped up in a cube,
I feel full of freedom
when I come out to the woods.

Breathing in the clear, clean air,
I feel so energized;
I need the comfort of the woods
more than I realize.


Stopping by a waterfall,
much to my delight,
I see a mini-rainbow
shining in the bright moonlight.

A hooty owl says "Who are you?"
A loon sings a jazz song.
The stars put on a light show.
while some bull frogs thrum along.



Exposure to violence has a different effect on people with aggressive traits


Contact: Sasha Walek
The Mount Sinai Hospital / Mount Sinai School of Medicine
New study examines impact of violent media on the brain
Exposure to violence has a different effect on people with aggressive traits

(NEW YORK – September 10, 2014) With the longstanding debate over whether violent movies cause real world violence as a backstop, a study published today in PLOS One found that each person's reaction to violent images depends on that individual's brain circuitry, and on how aggressive they were to begin with.

The study, which was led by researchers at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai and the NIH Intramural Program, featured brain scans which revealed that both watching and not watching violent images caused different brain activity in people with different aggression levels. The findings may have implications for intervention programs that seek to reduce aggressive behavior starting in childhood.


Investigators discovered that during mind wandering, when no movies were presented, the participants with aggressive traits had unusually high brain activity in a network of regions that are known to be active when not doing anything in particular. This suggests that participants with aggressive traits have a different brain function map than non-aggressive participants, researchers said.

Interestingly, while watching scenes from violent movies, the aggressive group had less brain activity than the non-aggressive group in the orbitofrontal cortex, a brain region associated by past studies with emotion-related decision making and self-control. The aggressive subjects described feeling more inspired and determined and less upset or nervous than non-aggressive participants when watching violent (day 1) versus just emotional (day 2) media. In line with these responses, while watching the violent media, aggressive participants' blood pressure went down progressively with time while the non-aggressive participants experienced a rise in blood pressure.

"How an individual responds to their environment depends on the brain of the beholder," said Dr. Alia-Klein. "Aggression is a trait that develops together with the nervous system over time starting from childhood; patterns of behavior become solidified and the nervous system prepares to continue the behavior patterns into adulthood when they become increasingly coached in personality. This could be at the root of the differences in people who are aggressive and not aggressive, and how media motivates them to do certain things. Hopefully these results will give educators an opportunity to identify children with aggressive traits and teach them to be more aware of how aggressive material activates them specifically."


'Fat shaming' doesn't encourage weight loss


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Contact: Harry Dayantis
University College London
'Fat shaming' doesn't encourage weight loss

Discrimination against overweight and obese people does not help them to lose weight, finds new UCL research

In a study of 2,944 UK adults over four years, those who reported experiencing weight discrimination gained more weight than those who did not. On average, after accounting for baseline differences, people who reported weight discrimination gained 0.95kg whereas those who did not lost 0.71kg, a difference of 1.66kg.


"There is no justification for discriminating against people because of their weight," says lead author Dr Sarah Jackson (UCL Epidemiology & Public Health). "Our results show that weight discrimination does not encourage weight loss, and suggest that it may even exacerbate weight gain.

"Previous studies have found that people who experience discrimination report comfort eating. Stress responses to discrimination can increase appetite, particularly for unhealthy, energy-dense food. Weight discrimination has also been shown to make people feel less confident about taking part in physical activity, so they tend to avoid it."


Even small stressors may be harmful to men’s health

Sept. 10, 2014

Older men who lead high-stress lives, either from chronic everyday hassles or because of a series of significant life events, are likely to die earlier than the average for their peers, new research from Oregon State University shows.

“We’re looking at long-term patterns of stress – if your stress level is chronically high, it could impact your mortality, or if you have a series of stressful life events, that could affect your mortality,” said Carolyn Aldwin, director of the Center for Healthy Aging Research in the College of Public Health and Human Sciences at OSU.
Her study looked at two types of stress: the everyday hassles of such things as commuting, job stress or arguments with family and friends; and significant life events, such as job loss or the death of a spouse.

Both types appear to be harmful to men’s health, but each type of stress appears to have an independent effect on mortality. Someone experiencing several stressful life events does not necessarily have high levels of stress from everyday hassles, Aldwin said. That is determined more by how a person reacts to the stress.

“It’s not the number of hassles that does you in, it’s the perception of them being a big deal that causes problems,” Aldwin said. “Taking things in stride may protect you.”


Correlation between dietary fats and academic success

By Andrea Estrada
Tuesday, September 9, 2014

You are what you eat, the saying goes, and now a study conducted by researchers at UC Santa Barbara and the University of Pittsburgh suggests that the oft-repeated adage applies not just to physical health but to brain power as well.

In a paper published in the early online edition of the journal Prostaglandins, Leukotrienes and Essential Fatty Acids, the researchers compared the fatty acid profiles of breast milk from women in over two dozen countries with how well children from those same countries performed on academic tests.

Their findings show that the amount of omega-3 docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) in a mother’s milk — fats found primarily in certain fish, nuts and seeds — is the strongest predictor of test performance. It outweighs national income and the number of dollars spent per pupil in schools.

DHA alone accounted for about 20 percent of the differences in test scores among countries, the researchers found.

On the other hand, the amount of omega-6 fat in mother’s milk — fats that come from vegetable oils such as corn and soybean — predict lower test scores. When the amount of DHA and linoleic acid (LA) — the most common omega-6 fat — were considered together, they explained nearly half of the differences in test scores. In countries where mother’s diets contain more omega-6, the beneficial effects of DHA seem to be reduced.


The profiles are a useful measure for two reasons, according to Gaulin. First, because various kinds of fats interfere with one another in the body, breast milk DHA shows how much of this brain-essential fat survives competition with omega-6. Second, children receive their brain-building fats from their mothers. Breast milk profiles indicate the amount of DHA children in each region receive in the womb, through breastfeeding, and from the local diet available to their mothers and to them after they are weaned.


Gaulin and Lassek considered two economic factors as well: per capita gross domestic product (a measure of average wealth in each nation) and per student expenditures on education. “Each of these factors helps explain some of the differences between nations in test scores, but the fatty acid profile of the average mother’s milk in a given country is a better predictor of the average cognitive performance in that country than is either of the conventional socioeconomic measures people use,” said Gaulin.

From their analysis, the researchers conclude that both economic wellbeing and diet make a difference in cognitive test performance, and children are best off when they have both factors in their favor. “But if you had to choose one, you should choose the better diet rather than the better economy,” Gaulin said.


Their results are particularly interesting in 21st-century North America, Gaulin noted, because our current agribusiness-based diets provide very low levels of DHA — among the lowest in the world. Thanks to two heavily government-subsidized crops — corn and soybeans — the average U.S. diet is heavy in the bad omega-6 fatty acids and far too light on the good omega-3s, Gaulin said.

“Back in the 1960s, in the middle of the cardiovascular disease epidemic, people got the idea that saturated fats were bad and polyunsaturated fats were good,” he explained. “That’s one reason margarine became so popular. But the polyunsaturated fats that were increased were the ones with omega-6, not omega-3. So our message is that not only is it advisable to increase omega 3 intake, it’s highly advisable to decrease omega-6 — the very fats that in the 1960s and ’70s we were told we should be eating more of.”

Gaulin added that mayonnaise is, in general, the most omega-6-laden food in the average person’s refrigerator. “If you have too much of one — omega-6 — and too little of the other — omega 3 — you’re going to end up paying a price cognitively,” he said.

The issue is a huge concern for women, Gaulin noted, because “that’s where kids’ brains come from. But it’s important for men as well because they have to take care of the brains their moms gave them.

“Just like a racecar burns up some of its motor oil with every lap, your brain burns up omega-3 and you need to replenish it every day,” he said.

Northern Lights May Ignite in Northeast, Central US Skies: Where to See Rare Show

September 12, 2014; 10:17 AM

Stargazers could be in for a rare display Friday night as an Earth-directed solar flare ignites the northern lights, also known as the aurora borealis, in the United States. As a result of the flare's direction and strength, the dazzling light display could reach as far south as Maryland in the East and down over Nebraska farther west.

According to Astronomer Hunter Outten, the flare is ranked as an X-class, or the highest class for a solar flare. Along with the brilliant light display that may be visible to some in the northern part of the country, a flare of this magnitude could also have adverse effects on GPS, radio frequencies and cell phone and satellite reception as well.

A coronal mass ejection (CME), or a cloud of charged particles released from solar activity, is expected to induce a geomagnetic storm in Earth's atmosphere, around midday Friday. Outten said that this CME will be the second of a "two-hit punch," as another had hit the Earth on Thursday. The geomagnetic storm will cause the northern lights show.


As the best viewing for the northern lights will occur Friday night, the northern lights will be seen in the Northeast first and then become visible farther west.

There will be some hurdles present for some hopeful viewers, however. Outten pointed out that we're just getting out of the Supermoon, so the light will dull some of the views. There will also be some cloud coverage that will hinder views as well. Clouds will be especially problematic in the Upper Ohio Valley into the Northeast.

Some clouds reaching the northern Plains may also hinder viewing conditions.

Outten said that DSLR cameras will pick up the lights better than the human eye may.


Republicans vote that corporations are people

Anyone who still doubts there’s a difference between congressional Republicans and Democrats should note that yesterday the Senate voted down a constitutional amendment that would have overturned several Supreme Court decisions by declaring that money isn't speech and corporations aren't people, and limits on campaign donations and spending therefore are permissible. Democrats voted for the proposed amendment, but every Senate Republican voted against (it needed 60 votes).


High levels of physical activity linked to better academic performance in boys


Contact: Eero A. Haapala
University of Eastern Finland

High levels of physical activity linked to better academic performance in boys

A recent Finnish study shows that higher levels of physical activity are related to better academic achievement during the first three school years particularly in boys. The study published in PLOS ONE was conducted in collaboration with the Physical Activity and Nutrition in Children (PANIC) Study conducted at the University of Eastern Finland and the First Steps Study at the University of Jyväskylä.

The study investigated the relationships of different types of physical activity and sedentary behavior assessed in the first grade to reading and arithmetic skills in grades 1�� among 186 Finnish children. Higher levels of physical activity at recess were related to better reading skills and participation in organized sports was linked to higher arithmetic test scores in grades 1��. Particularly boys with higher levels of physical activity, and especially walking and bicycling to and from school, had better reading skills than less active boys. Furthermore, boys who spent more time doing activities involving reading and writing on their leisure time had better reading skills compared to boys who spent less time doing those activities. Moreover, boys with more computer and video game time achieved higher arithmetic test scores than boys with less computer and video game time.

In girls, there were only few associations of physical activity and sedentary behavior with academic achievement when various confounding factors were controlled for.

The findings of the present study highlight the potential of physical activity during recess and participation in organized sports in the improvement of academic achievement in children. Particularly boys´ school success may benefit from higher levels of physical activity and active school transportation, reading and writing as well as moderate computer and video game use.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Increased Access to Nature Trails, Forest Lands Could Decrease Youth Obesity Rates

Sept. 11, 2014
Story Contact(s): Nathan Hurst

As youth obesity levels in America remain at record high levels, health professionals and policymakers continue to search for solutions to this national health issue. Now, researchers at the University of Missouri and the University of Minnesota have found that local governments can help reduce youth obesity levels by increasing the amount and type of public lands available for recreation. Sonja Wilhelm Stanis, an associate professor of parks, recreation and tourism in the MU College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources, found that counties with more non-motorized nature trails and forest lands have higher levels of youth activity and lower youth obesity


“More non-motorized nature trails available for use by youth in a particular county lead to an increase in the physical activity rates as well as lower youth obesity rates,” Wilhelm Stanis said.


Not enough vitamin B1 can cause brain damage


Contact: Jim Ritter
Loyola University Health System
Not enough vitamin B1 can cause brain damage
Toxins and other metabolic disorders also can cause encephalopathy

MAYWOOD, Ill – (Sept. 11, 2014) A deficiency of a single vitamin, B1 (thiamine), can cause a potentially fatal brain disorder called Wernicke encephalopathy.

Symptoms can include confusion, hallucinations, coma, loss of muscle coordination and vision problems such as double vision and involuntary eye movements. Untreated, the condition can lead to irreversible brain damage and death, according to neurologists at Loyola University Medical Center.

In the developed world, Wernicke encephalopathy typically occurs in people who have disorders such as alcoholism and anorexia that lead to malnourishment.

Wernicke encephalopathy is an example of the wide range of brain diseases, called encephalopathies, that are caused by metabolic disorders and toxic substances, according to a report by Loyola neurologists Matthew McCoyd, MD, Sean Ruland, DO and Jose Biller, MD in the journal Scientific American Medicine.


Toxic encephalopathy can be caused by illegal drugs, environmental toxins and reactions to prescription drugs.

Thiamine deficiency is among the nutritional deficiencies that can cause brain diseases such as Wernicke encephalopathy. The condition likely is underdiagnosed. Although clinical studies find a rate of 0.13 percent or less, autopsy studies show a prevalence as high as 2.8 percent.

"Particularly in those who suffer from alcoholism or AIDS, the diagnosis is missed on clinical examination in 75 to 80 percent of cases," the Loyola neurologists write.

Untreated, Wernicke encephalopathy can lead to Korsakoff syndrome (KS), characterized by profound memory loss and inability to form memories – patients often can't remember events within the past 30 minutes. Other KS symptoms can include apathy, anxiety and confabulation (fabricating imaginary experiences to compensate for memory loss).

About 80 percent of Wernicke encephalopathy patients develop KS, and once this occurs, only about 20 percent of patients recover.

Wernicke encephalopathy is a medical emergency that requires immediate thiamine treatment, either by injection or IV. "In the absence of treatment, deficiency can lead to irreversible brain damage and death with an estimated mortality of 20 percent," the Loyola neurologists write.


Here’s How Global Warming Is Already Worsening Extreme Deluges In The U.S.

by Joe Romm Posted on September 9, 2014

One of the most robust scientific findings is the direct connection between global warming and more extreme deluges. Scientists have observed a sharp jump in monster one- and two-day rainstorms in this country.

The 2014 National Climate Assessment (NCA), which is the definitive statement of current and future U.S. climate impacts, notes, “The mechanism driving these changes is well understood.” The congressionally-mandated report by 300 leading climate scientists and experts, which was reviewed by the National Academy of Sciences, explains:

Warmer air can contain more water vapor than cooler air. Global analyses show that the amount of water vapor in the atmosphere has in fact increased due to human-caused warming…. This extra moisture is available to storm systems, resulting in heavier rainfalls. Climate change also alters characteristics of the atmosphere that affect weather patterns and storms.

That final point from our leading scientists is very important. The worst deluges have jumped not merely because warmer air holds more moisture that in turn gets sucked into major storm systems. Increasingly, scientists have explained that climate change is altering the jet stream and weather patterns in ways that can cause storm systems to slow down or get stuck, thereby giving them more time to dump heavy precipitation.


Dr. Kevin Trenberth, former head of the Climate Analysis Section at the National Center for Atmospheric Research and one of the world’s leading experts on extreme weather, wrote a must-read article in 2012 on how to “relate climate extremes to climate change” (PDF here, HTML here). As Trenberth explains:

The answer to the oft-asked question of whether an event is caused by climate change is that it is the wrong question. All weather events are affected by climate change because the environment in which they occur is warmer and moister than it used to be….

The air is on average warmer and moister than it was prior to about 1970 and in turn has likely led to a 5–10% effect on precipitation and storms that is greatly amplified in extremes. The warm moist air is readily advected onto land and caught up in weather systems as part of the hydrological cycle, where it contributes to more intense precipitation events that are widely observed to be occurring.

Because global warming tends to make wet areas wetter and dry areas drier, this effect does not manifest itself the same way in every part of the country.


Those of you in the Northeast who thought you’d noticed deluges becoming more intense were right. Thanks to climate change, when it rains, it pours, literally. As the NCA explained, “The heaviest rainfall events have become heavier and more frequent, and the amount of rain falling on the heaviest rain days has also increased.” Some 70 percent more precipitation falls in the heaviest rain events now than it did in 1958.

Ironically, what this means is that even for the regions that are expected to see a drop in total annual precipitation — such as the Southwest — more of the precipitation they do get will be in the form of deluges so intense they can create terrible flash floods. Sound familiar?

The bottom line is that scientists predicted that climate change would increase the intensity and frequency of the worst deluges — and we’ve observed that happening. Now scientists are telling us that things are going to get a lot worse. After all, the Earth has only warmed one degree Fahrenheit in the past half-century, while we are on track to warm as much as ten times that this century if we continue ignoring the warnings. Perhaps it’s time to listen and act…