Friday, September 25, 2015

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

Feb. 2015

Help people and give your mind a workout, too.

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

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

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

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

Who volunteers?

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

Good with numbers? Be a tax volunteer.

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

Skilled in all things digital? Be a technology coordinator.

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

Love working with people? Be a greeter.

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

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

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

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

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

Speak a second language? You're urgently needed!

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

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

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

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

Friday, May 29, 2015

Alaska sets new record for earliest day with temperatures in the 90s

May 28, 2015

It’s been a warm, dry spring for much of interior Alaska. On the afternoon of May 23, a new statewide record was set for the earliest day in the year with a temperature in the 90s. A daytime high of 91°F was noted by a cooperative observer in Eagle, where temperatures have been recorded (with some breaks) since the 1890s.


The 91° temperature at Eagle smashed that location’s all-time record for May. It was 30.1° hotter than the average daily high temperature in May (59.5°F), and 18.1° warmer than the average high temperature in July, Eagle’s warmest month of the year. So far this month, Eagle has set or tied ten daily high temperature records.


One Man's Millions Turn a Community in Florida Around

by Randy Hammer
May 27, 2015

A couple of decades ago nearly half of the students dropped out of school in Tangelo Park, a community just outside Orlando.

Today, nearly all of Tangelo’s seniors graduate.

An article ran in The New York Times on Monday that profiled how a wealthy Orlando businessman pumped $11 million into the troubled community and created a turnaround that the reporter described as a “striking success story.”

Harris Rosen made his fortune in the hotel businesses and decided 21 years ago to see if he could make a difference Tangelo Park.

Some the key takeaways from the article:

— Nearly all seniors graduate from high school and most go on to college on full scholarships Rosen has financed.
— Young children head to kindergarten ready to learn, and many are reading already because of free day-care centers and a prekindergarten program Rosen also finances.
— Property values have risen in community.
— Crime has plummeted.

Rosen said the program he created in Tangelo Park is rooted in something that’s missing in many U.S. neighborhoods: Hope.

Here’s Rosen’s quote that stood out to me:

“If you don’t have any hope, then what’s the point?”

This reminded me of something Malcolm Thomas said during a CEO roundtable that the Studer Community Institute held in April.

“I used to talk about it’s poverty, poverty,” said Thomas, Escambia County School District superintendent. “I’ve really changed my tune in the last couple of years. Now I’m talking about a culture of low expectations. There are pockets of people in our community who don’t expect to do any better than what they’re currently doing. That is the problem.”


Tangelo Park, however, is a community of just 3,000 people. And as Alvarez points out, “While heartwarming, can it be replicated?’

The piece that’s particularly relevant for Pensacola is Tangelo Park’s focus on early childhood education, which Thomas and others in Escambia say is critical issue here.

You can read the story here:

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Wide use of antibiotics allows bacteria to flourish

By Jane E. Brody / New York Times News Service
Published May 28, 2015


C. diff. is a spore-forming, toxin-producing bacterium that can colonize the large intestine and wreak havoc there, causing frequent watery stools and severe dehydration. The spores are resistant to heat, acid and antibiotics; they can be washed away with soap and water but not the alcohol-based hand sanitizers widely used in health facilities. Thus, poor bathroom hygiene can spread the organism.

Dr. Dale Gerding, an infectious diseases specialist at Loyola University Chicago, said in an interview: “C. diff. is found in soil and water, even chlorinated water, and is a low-level contaminant in food. Most of us ingest C. diff. every day.”

In most people, the microorganisms that normally reside in the gut protect against C. diff. infection, he explained. That is, until antibiotics disrupt the healthy balance of microorganisms. Freed of competition, C. diff spores can germinate and reproduce unchecked, and not only in people with compromised immune systems.


Since the early 2000s, hospitals have reported drastic increases in severe C. diff. infections, Dr. Daniel Leffler and Dr. J. Thomas Lamont of Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston reported in the journal. The predominant virulent strain, NAP1, has a mortality rate three times as high as that associated with the less virulent forms most prevalent in decades past.

“The most important risk factor for C. difficile infection remains antibiotic use,” the doctors wrote. “Ampicillin, amoxicillin, cephalosporins, clindamycin and fluoroquinolones are the antibiotics that are most frequently associated with the disease, but almost all antibiotics have been associated with infection.”

Gerding said most antibiotics “are being used inappropriately, for things like upper respiratory infections that are caused by viruses.” Eating yogurt or taking commercially available probiotics while on an antibiotic have not proved protective, he said. But in England, where a program of more judicious use of antibiotics was put into effect, C. diff. infections have declined.


Baltimore gets bloodier as arrests drop post-Freddie Gray

Something like this usually doesn't have a simple, single cause. I think something that is not talked about is that young people in this area have been given the message that they shouldn't be expected to behave in a law-abiding way, that they are just helpless victims. For sure, they have the deck stacked against them, but the the way they behave affects their future. It doesn't help that they live in a culture that worships material success, with media that glorifies anti-social behaviour.

May 28, 2:33 PM (ET)

A 31-year-old woman and a young boy were shot in the head Thursday, becoming Baltimore's 37th and 38th homicide victims so far this month, the city's deadliest in 15 years.

Meanwhile, arrests have plunged: Police are booking fewer than half the number of people they pulled off the streets last year.

Arrests were already declining before Freddie Gray died on April 19 of injuries he suffered in police custody, but they dropped sharply thereafter, as his death unleashed protests, riots, the criminal indictment of six officers and a full-on civil rights investigation by the U.S. Justice Department that has officers working under close scrutiny.

"I'm afraid to go outside," said Antoinette Perrine, whose brother was shot down three weeks ago on a basketball court near her home in the Harlem Park neighborhood of West Baltimore. Ever since, she has barricaded her door and added metal slabs inside her windows to deflect gunfire.

"It's so bad, people are afraid to let their kids outside," Perrine said. "People wake up with shots through their windows. Police used to sit on every corner, on the top of the block. These days? They're nowhere."

West Baltimore residents worry they've been abandoned by the officers they once accused of harassing them, leaving some neighborhoods like the Wild West without a lawman around.

"Before it was over-policing. Now there's no police," said Donnail "Dreads" Lee, 34, who lives in the Gilmor Homes, the public housing complex where Gray, 25, was chased down. "People feel as though they can do things and get away with it. I see people walking with guns almost every single day, because they know the police aren't pulling them up like they used to."

Police Commissioner Anthony Batts said his officers "are not holding back," despite encountering dangerous hostility in the Western District.

"Our officers tell me that when officers pull up, they have 30 to 50 people surrounding them at any time," Batts said.

Batts provided more details at a City Council meeting Wednesday night, saying officers now fear getting arrested for making mistakes.

"What is happening, there is a lot of levels of confusion in the police organization. There are people who have pain, there are people who are hurt, there are people who are frustrated, there are people who are angry," Batts said. "There are people, and they've said this to me, 'If I get out of my car and make a stop for a reasonable suspicion that leads to probable cause but I make a mistake on it, will I be arrested?' They pull up to a scene and another officer has done something that they don't know, it may be illegal, will they be arrested for it? Those are things they are asking."


Baltimore was seeing a slight rise in homicides this year even before Gray's death April 19. But the 38 homicides so far in May is a major spike, after 22 in April, 15 in March, 13 in February and 23 in January.

With one weekend still to go, May 2015 is already the deadliest month in 15 years, surpassing the November 1999 total of 36.

Ten of May's homicides happened in the Western District, which has had as many homicides in the first five months of this year as it did all of last year.

Non-fatal shootings are spiking as well — 91 so far in May, 58 of them in the Western District.


Veronica Edmonds, a 26-year-old mother of seven in the Gilmor Homes, said she wishes the police would return, and focus on violent crime rather than minor drug offenses.


High levels of cynicism associated with lower income levels later in life

Public Release: 28-May-2015
American Psychological Association

Holding cynical beliefs about others may have a negative effect on your income according to research published by the American Psychological Association.

"While previous research has associated cynicism with detrimental outcomes across a wide range of spheres of life, including physical health, psychological well-being and marital adjustment, the present research has established an association between cynicism and individual economic success," says Olga Stavrova, PhD, a research associate at the Institute of Sociology and Social Psychology, University of Cologne, Germany, and lead author on the study which appears in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.


In both studies, a high level of cynicism was associated with lower income.

Another study, focusing on a nationally representative sample of approximately 16,000 people in Germany, found that after nine years people with low levels of cynicism earned on average $300 per month more than their more cynical counterparts.

The final study examined the potential universality of these findings, looking at survey data from 41 countries to see if societal factors could play a role. The negative association between cynicism and lower income was strongest in countries with higher levels of altruistic behavior, lower homicide rates and lower levels of overall societal cynicism.

"There are actually some countries where cynical individuals do not necessarily earn less than their less cynical compatriots," said Stavrova. "These countries are those with pervasively high societal cynicism scores, rare pro-social behavior (e.g., charity donations) and widespread antisocial behavior (as indicated by high homicide rates) - in other words, countries where cynicism might be justified or even somewhat functional."

One reason for these findings could be that cynical individuals are less likely to trust others and therefore forgo cooperation opportunities, said Stavrova. They are more likely to suspect mean motives behind other people's behavior, might be less likely to join collaborative efforts and may avoid asking for help in case of need, which may eventually undermine their economic success.

"For example, employees who believe others to be exploitative and dishonest are likely to avoid collaborative projects and to forgo the related opportunities," said Stavrova. Similarly, cynical individuals might be likely to overinvest resources on protecting themselves from potential deceit, "covering their backs" at costs of focusing on their jobs.


Sleep quality influences the cognitive performance of autistic and non-autistic children

Public Release: 28-May-2015
University of Montreal

One night of poor sleep significantly decreases performance on intelligence tests in children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and also in neurotypical children (without ASD). This is the conclusion made by researchers at the Hôpital Rivière-des-Prairies, affiliated with the Institut universitaire en santé mentale de Montréal and Université de Montréal.


Component in green tea may help reduce prostate cancer in men at high risk

This does not mean the pills will have the desired effect. There are other cases where foods containing chemicals, such as certain vitamins, reduce the incidence of cancer, but extracts of the active ingredients actually increase the risk.

Public Release: 28-May-2015
H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center & Research Institute

Prostate cancer is the second most common type of cancer in men and is predicted to result in an estimated 220,00 cases in the United States in 2015. In recent years, an emphasis has been placed on chemoprevention - the use of agents to prevent the development or progression of prostate cancer. A team of researchers led by Nagi B. Kumar, Ph.D., R.D., F.A.D.A. at Moffitt Cancer Center recently published results of a randomized trial that assessed the safety and effectiveness of the active components in green tea to prevent prostate cancer development in men who have premalignant lesions. The results will be presented at the 2015 American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) Annual Meeting in Chicago.

Twenty percent of green tea is consumed in Asian countries where prostate cancer death rates are among the lowest in the world and the risk of prostate cancer appears to be increased among Asian men who abandon their original dietary habits upon migrating to the U.S.

Laboratory studies have shown that substances in green tea called, "catechins" inhibit cancer cell growth, motility and invasion, and stimulate cancer cell death. Green tea catechins also prevent and reduce tumor growth in animal models. Epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG) is the most abundant and potent catechin found in green tea responsible for these cancer prevention effects.


The Moffitt researchers observed a significant increase in the levels of EGCG in the blood plasma of men on Polyphenon E, and the capsules at this dose were tolerated in this group of men.


Your Instagram photos aren’t really yours

If you think it's ok to steal music, don't boo-hoo about this.

By Jessica Contrera
May 25, 2015

The Internet is the place where nothing goes to die.

Those embarrassing photos of your high school dance you marked “private” on Facebook? The drunk Instagram posts? The NSFW snapchats? If you use social media, you’ve probably heard a warning akin to “don’t post anything you wouldn’t want your employer (or future employer) to see.”

We agree, and are adding this caveat: Don’t post anything you wouldn’t want hanging in an art gallery.

This month, painter and photographer Richard Prince reminded us that what you post is public, and given the flexibility of copyright laws, can be shared — and sold — for anyone to see. As a part of the Frieze Art Fair in New York, Prince displayed giant screenshots of other people’s Instagram photos without warning or permission.

The collection, “New Portraits,” is primarily made up of pictures of women, many in sexually charged poses. They are not paintings, but screenshots that have been enlarged to 6-foot-tall inkjet prints. According to Vulture, nearly every piece sold for $90,000 each.


In other words, Prince could make slight adjustments to the photos and call them his own.

This is what he did with the Instagram photos. Although he did not alter the usernames or the photos themselves, he removed captions. He then added odd comments on each photo, such as “DVD workshops. Button down. I fit in one leg now. Will it work? Leap of faith” from the account “richardprince1234.” The account currently has 10,200 followers but not a single picture — perhaps so you can’t steal his images in return?


Are antidepressants more effective than usually assumed?

I am not endorsing or opposing this. This article doesn't name any of the symptoms the researchers think should not be considered when judging the effectiveness of the drugs.

Public Release: 27-May-2015
University of Gothenburg

Many have recently questioned the efficacy of the most common antidepressant medications, the selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). The conclusion that these drugs are ineffective is however partly based on a misinterpretation of the outcome of the clinical trials once conducted to demonstrate their efficacy. This was the finding of a study conducted by researchers at the Sahlgrenska Academy.

In order to shed further light on this controversial issue, researchers at the Sahlgrenska Academy have now analyzed the data from all major company-sponsored placebo-controlled studies addressing the effect of any of three SSRIs - citalopram, sertraline and paroxetine - for major depression in adults.

"In order to measure the antidepressant effect, the pharmaceutical companies have unwisely assessed the reduction in the sum score for a large number of symptoms listed on a rating scale. However, the sensitivity of this instrument is markedly marred by the fact that many of these symptoms occur also in subjects without depression, while others are absent also in many depressed patients. For this and other reasons, the usefulness of this rating scale, which was constructed already during the 1950s, has since long been questioned."

"We investigated what happens if one instead analyzes the effect of the treatment on the key item of the scale - depressed mood."

According to Elias Eriksson, the results are noteworthy:

With the conventional measure of efficacy, only 44 percent of the 32 comparisons reveal a significant superiority of the SSRIs over placebo.

When the Gothenburg researchers instead examined the efficacy on depressed mood, 29 of the 32 comparisons (91 percent) showed a significant difference favoring the active drug.

"Our conclusion is that the questioning of the antidepressant efficacy of SSRIs is to a large extent based on an unfortunate misinterpretation of the available data. The truth is that the scientific support for these drugs exerting an antidepressant impact is very robust across studies", comments Elias Eriksson.

Homely men who misbehave can't win for losing

Public Release: 27-May-2015

Women tolerate an unattractive man up to a point, but beware if he misbehaves. Then they'll easily shun him. So says Jeremy Gibson and Jonathan Gore of the Eastern Kentucky University in the U.S., after finding that a woman's view of a man is influenced by how handsome and law-abiding he is.

Discovering how someone can make a positive first impression is an important field of study, because of its role in forming relationships. It is often based on physical appearance and whether someone sticks to social norms or not. Such impressions are made in a flash, but are not always correct. In what is called the 'halo effect,' people warm up to others with positive characteristics, such as handsomeness. The 'devil effect' or 'negative halo effect' comes into play when people assume that others possess so-called 'bad' characteristics, such as unattractiveness.


The researchers found that whether a man transgressed a social norm was a much greater put-off than whether he was unattractive. Normally women do not feel differently towards a homely man who toes the line. If that same ugly duckling, however, transgresses the boundaries of right or wrong, a magnified or 'double' devil effect comes into play. He is then viewed in an extremely negative light, much more so than would have been the case if he were handsome.

'The unattractive male is tolerated up to a point; his unattractiveness is OK until he misbehaves,' says Gibson.


In the judicial system, unattractive defendants are also known to receive more severe penalties than more attractive ones, even if they committed the same crime.

'A man who stands trial has already shown himself to have violated social norms in one way or another. If he is also unattractive, the magnified devil effect may result in a larger fine or sentence, as it could influence how negatively jurors view him and, as a result, the degree to which they believe him guilty of the crime,' explains Gore.

Pinpointing natural cancer drug's true origins brings sustainable production a step closer

Public Release: 27-May-2015
University of Michigan

or decades, scientists have known that ET-743, a compound extracted from a marine invertebrate called a mangrove tunicate, can kill cancer cells. The drug has been approved for use in patients in Europe and is in clinical trials in the U.S.

Scientists suspected the mangrove tunicate, which is a type of a sea squirt, doesn't actually make ET-743. But the precise origins of the drug, which is also known as trabectedin, were a mystery.

By analyzing the genome of the tunicate along with the microbes that live inside it using advanced sequencing techniques, researchers at the University of Michigan were able to isolate the genetic blueprint of the ET-743's producer--which turns out to be a type of bacteria called Candidatus Endoecteinascidia frumentensis.


"These symbiotic microbes have long been thought to be the true sources of many of the natural products that have been isolated from invertebrates in the ocean and on the land. But very little is known about them because we're not able to get most of them to grow in a laboratory setting," said study senior author David Sherman, the Hans W. Vahlteich Professor of Medicinal Chemistry in the College of Pharmacy and a faculty member of the U-M Life Sciences Institute, where his lab is located.


Notre Dame paper examines how students understand mathematics

Public Release: 27-May-2015
University of Notre Dame

t's both the bane of many parents and what has been called a major national vulnerability: the inability of many children to understand mathematics. Understanding that problem and developing strategies to overcome it is the research focus of Nicole McNeil, Alliance for Catholic Education (ACE) Associate Professor of Psychology at the University of Notre Dame, and the researchers in her lab.

A new paper by McNeil and Emily Fyfe, a former Notre Dame undergraduate who's now a doctoral student at Vanderbilt University, examines if the labels educators use to identify patterns affects preschoolers' understanding of patterns.

"Patterns are things, such as words or numbers that repeat in a logical way," McNeil said. "For example, the stripes on an American flag are laid out in a repeating pattern of red, white, red, white, etc. Children's ability to identify and create patterns is an important early math skill that supports their social and cognitive development. In fact, research has shown that teaching children about patterns improves their achievement in reading and mathematics."

Members of the CLAD (Cognition, Learning and Development) Lab that McNeil directs at Notre Dame recently collaborated with Fyfe and other colleagues at Vanderbilt University to examine if the labels educators use to identify patterns affects preschoolers' understanding of patterns. They compared concrete labels, which refer to the changing physical features of the pattern (e.g., "red, white, red, white"), to abstract labels, which describe the pattern using an arbitrary system that mimics the pattern (e.g., "A, B, A, B"). Children in the study solved a set of patterning problems in which they watched an experimenter explain a model pattern using either concrete labels or abstract labels and then tried to recreate the same pattern using a different set of materials.

"Children who were randomly assigned to the abstract labels condition solved more problems correctly than those assigned to the concrete labels condition," McNeil said. "Thus, even though concrete labels seem better because they are more familiar and accessible to children, abstract labels may help focus attention on the deeper structure of patterns. These findings suggest that something as minor as the types of labels used during instruction can affect children's understanding of fundamental early math concepts."

This research result converges with several other findings from McNeil's lab in recent years that have shown that relatively minor differences in the structure of children's input can play a role in shaping and constraining children's understanding of fundamental math concepts.


Roadside air can be more charged than under a high-voltage power line

Actually, I think most people who are concerned about living under high-voltage power lines are concerned about direct effects from the radio waves themselves. And why would we assume, w/o research, that ions themselves are safe? They would be expected to be chemically active.

Public Release: 27-May-2015
Queensland University of Technology

Despite community concerns about living under high-voltage power lines, a world-first QUT study reveals that there are far more charged particles beside busy roads.

The study, published in the international journal Science of the Total Environment was conducted by Dr Rohan Jayaratne, Dr Xuan Ling and Professor Lidia Morawska from QUT's International Laboratory for Air Quality and Health who found that within 10 metres of a freeway, charged particles were up to 15 times more concentrated than beneath high-voltage power lines.

"Although the effects of ions and charged particles generated by high-voltage power lines on human health is still open to conjecture, there has been a lot of attention on increased exposure due to expanding power networks in urban residential areas," said Dr Jayaratne.

"However what people do not realise is that a large number of charged particles in urban environments come from motor vehicle emissions.

"We found that the concentration of charged particles found near the Gateway and South East Freeway near Brisbane was far greater than those under corona ion-emitting overhead power lines. The difference was more than twice even up to a distance of 40 metres.

"This was especially the case when the traffic included heavy-duty diesel trucks and I think it is something to consider when new housing estates are planned."

Dr Jayaratne said that while there was no evidence that breathing in air ions was a health risk, approximately one-half of the fine particles that we inhale during normal breathing are deposited in our lungs. Therefore, it is not surprising that several studies have demonstrated a link between particulate pollution from exhaust fumes and adverse health effects.

"This link is stronger in urban environments where the majority of particulate matter comes from motor vehicles which are known to be harmful. Diesel emissions contain a range of toxic chemicals and have recently been classified as 'probably carcinogenic to humans'," Dr Jayaratne said.

"I feel these findings may have potentially important implications for the atmosphere, climate, urban planning and particularly for human health".

"We do not believe that ions are dangerous - the danger comes from the pollutants. The ions merely assist the particles to stick to the lungs. If there are no dangerous particles in the air to attach to the ions, there is no risk of ill health."

Nation's research funding squeeze imperils patient care, say top medical school deans

Public Release: 27-May-2015
University of Utah Health Sciences

Constraints in federal funding, compounded by declining clinical revenue, jeopardize more than the nation's research enterprise.

These twin pressures have created a "hostile working environment" that erodes time to conduct research, "discourages innovative high-risk science" and threatens to drive established and early-career scientists out of the field. And this, in turn, undermines patient care, proclaimed deans of leading academic medical centers from across the U.S. The group commentary was published in Science Translational Medicine on Wednesday.

"For university medical centers to continue to make the enormous strides in advancing research and helping people prevent and combat disease, the nation needs to invest in research," said co-author, Vivian S. Lee, M.D., Ph.D., MBA, dean of the University of Utah's School of Medicine and senior vice president of health sciences. "As it stands already, university medical centers subsidize federally funded research. Moreover, universities have increasing administrative and bureaucratic burdens, and our clinical reimbursements, which have been used to help support research and teaching, are diminishing."


On average, universities contribute 53 cents for every dollar they receive in research support, and their share of the costs has grown faster than any other funding source (state governments, technology transfer, and philanthropy). Much of that money comes from clinical margins, which are shrinking under efforts to control health spending.

Proliferating federal regulations have added to the cost of research. Seventy member institutions of the Association of American Academic Medical Colleges spent $22.6 million just to comply with rules governing potential financial conflicts of interest.
[How much do financial conflicts of interest cost us? Eg., it could result in hiding the bad side effects of medicines, in order to protect the profits of the institution, or drug companies.]

"The frightening truth is that America will soon forfeit its preeminence in biomedical science. As a country, we have already fallen to tenth in the world in our investment in research and development, and we are slipping further behind.


Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Eating a Mediterranean diet could cut womb cancer risk

Public Release: 27-May-2015
Cancer Research UK

Women who eat a Mediterranean diet could cut their risk of womb cancer by more than half (57 per cent), according to a study published today (Wednesday) in the British Journal of Cancer*.

The Italian researchers looked at the diets of over 5,000 Italian women to see how closely they stuck to a Mediterranean diet and whether they went on to develop womb cancer**.

The team broke the Mediterranean diet down into nine different components and measured how closely women stuck to them. The diet includes eating lots of vegetables, fruits and nuts, pulses, cereals and potatoes, fish, monounsaturated fats but little meat, milk and other dairy products and moderate alcohol intake.

Researchers found that women who adhered to the Mediterranean diet most closely by eating between seven and nine of the beneficial food groups lowered their risk of womb cancer by more than half (57 per cent).

Those who stuck to six elements of the diet's components reduced their risk of womb cancer by 46 per cent and those who stuck to five reduced their risk by a third (34 per cent).

But those women whose diet included fewer than five of the components did not lower their risk of womb cancer significantly.


Challenging students benefit from limit setting

Public Release: 27-May-2015
Academy of Finland

The teacher's interaction style can either foster or slow down the development of math skills among children with challenging temperaments. This was shown in the results of the study "Parents, teachers and children's learning" carried out at the University of Jyväskylä, Finland.

Ph.D. Jaana Viljaranta, along with her colleagues, studied the role of teachers' interaction styles in academic skill development among children with different temperamental characteristics.

A child's challenging temperament may show up in the classroom, for example, as low task-orientation and lack of concentration, or as a tendency to intense negative emotional expressions. Viljaranta et al. found that a child's challenging temperament evokes two kinds of response styles among teachers. On the one hand, teachers try to regulate the child's behavior via clear limit setting and instructions, and on the other hand they try to impact the child's behavior via guilt-inducing techniques and by appealing to his/her emotions. In the study by Viljaranta et al., limit setting was found to be beneficial for children's math skill development, whereas guilt-inducing techniques led to slower math skill development especially with girls.

Iowa researchers find ending Medicaid dental benefit costly

And this does't count costs from other health effects. Eg., tooth & gun problems can cause heart problems, even brain infection.

Public Release: 27-May-2015
University of Iowa

A new study suggests that states may not save as much money as anticipated by eliminating adult dental coverage under Medicaid.

The study from University of Iowa researchers looked at California, which decided to end adult dental coverage under Medicaid in mid-2009. Some 3.5 million low-income adults in the Golden State lost dental benefits.

The researchers found those adults made more than 1,800 additional visits annually to hospital emergency departments for dental care after losing the benefit. In all, California spent $2.9 million each year in Medicaid costs for dental care in emergency departments, up from $1.6 million before the state eliminated the adult dental care benefit. That's a 68 percent increase in costs, when factoring inflation.

Since 2010, five states -- Arizona, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, and South Dakota -- have either curtailed or eliminated adult dental benefits under Medicaid. Other states, notably Illinois and Missouri, are considering some limits to coverage.

"I think the important point here is although the Medicaid dental benefit for adults is optional, savings derived from dropping the benefit are somewhat eaten up by the increased costs from adults seeking dental care in hospital emergency departments," said Astha Singhal, a postdoctoral researcher in the UI College of Dentistry and corresponding author on the paper, published this month in the journal Health Affairs.

Fifteen states, including Iowa, currently offer comprehensive dental benefits for low-income adults.

The states' deliberations come as the federal government, under the Affordable Care Act, will pick up upwards of 90 percent of the Medicaid bill to states that offer dental benefits to adults through 2020. After that, the costs will shift gradually to states.


Other states have shown similar increases, according to other analyses.

Oregon saw a doubling of emergency department visits for unmet adult dental needs after eliminating the Medicaid benefit in 2003. It has since restored the benefit. Meanwhile, Maryland experienced a 12 percent increase in the rate of emergency department visits by adults for dental care after dropping the Medicaid benefit in 1993.

"Providing dental coverage facilitates access to dental care, whereas when cutting dental benefits, patients have no option but to go to hospital emergency departments, which are not equipped to treat them appropriately," said Singhal, who has a research appointment in the UI's Public Policy Center.

'Do' is better than 'don't' when it comes to eating better

Public Release: 27-May-2015
Cornell Food & Brand Lab

Tell your child or spouse what they can eat and not what they can't. Telling your child to eat an apple so they stay healthy will work better than telling them not to eat the cookie because it will make them fat. A new Cornell discovery shows that "Don't" messages don't work for most of us.

These new findings cast a dim light on the many public health campaigns that have used a fear approach to convince us to eat better, such as telling us: don't eat candy or drink chocolate milk, or eat red meat because of harmful consequences. The Cornell study findings show that focusing on Do is better than on Don't. That is, stressing the benefits of eating healthy foods is more effective than warning against the harms of eating unhealthy foods.


Lives lost for the same preventable reason

I have always worn a seatbelt, but when I first started driving, cars did not yet have shoulder harnesses. I have been saved by serious injury by my seatbelt, and a shoulder harness helps significantly more.

By David Rutter
May 26, 2015

Reeve Mathew was 10. John Forbes Nash Jr. was 86.

One was a bright child from Gurnee. The other was a famed Nobel Prize winning mathematician.

They shared nothing obvious in life except for the manner in which their lives ended Saturday.

They were killed in car crashes in which the drivers of vehicles in which they were passengers lost control and crashed into medians on turnpikes. Mathew died on I-94. Nash died in New Jersey.

Then they were ejected from their cars. The impact of their bodies hurtling from the vehicle, and crashing into a protective barrier near the roadside killed them.

One was a child on his way to church. Another was the Princeton mathematician whose strange, odd, but fulfilling life was profiled in the movie "A Beautiful Mind." Russell Crowe played Nash in the movie.

What Reeve and Nash also shared was the way in which they could have survived the crash had they exercised the option.

They could have worn their seat belts, but police investigators said they did not.
State police: Boy, 10, dies, another badly hurt in Gurnee wreck

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State police: Boy, 10, dies, another badly hurt in Gurnee wreck

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Nash's wife, Alicia, also perished Saturday for the same lack. She, too, was ejected from the backseat of a taxi as it sped down the New Jersey Turnpike on Saturday before careening out of control and striking a median.


Americans involved in motor vehicle crashes who didn't wear safety belts are an astounding 47 times more likely to die than those who did, a Federal Highway and Safety Administration study found.

The death rate for those wearing a seat belt in crashes was less than 1 in 2,000. But for those not secured, the rate was almost 22 in 1,000 — 46.9 times higher than those buckled up. Those not wearing belts were also 10 times more likely to suffer an incapacitating injury.


Of course, the lack of seat belts also causes $50 billion in medical costs for those who survive.


India Heat Wave Death Toll May Be Vastly Underestimated

In addition, the heat may cause a medical condition that doesn't cause immediate death, but results in the person dying sooner than they would have. Eg., a heart attack or kidney failure.

by Tia Ghose, Staff Writer | May 27, 2015

A heat wave scorching India this week has already killed at least 1,000 people, according to Indian authorities, but that number may be a huge underestimate, one researcher says.

It's possible that thousands more have died as a result of the blistering conditions but that their deaths might not have been attributed to the heat wave, said Dr. Gulrez Shah Azhar, a community health researcher and policy analyst at Rand Corp. in Santa Monica, California.

Heat waves can be especially harsh on people with pre-existing health conditions, such as heart disease and dehydration. That's because heat waves can overtax the body, making it difficult for people with these conditions to deal with the illness and they often are more likely to die as a result, Azhar said.

And this heat wave could be a harbinger, as climate models suggest heat waves may become more frequent and intense in the coming decades, researchers say.

Right now, the central-southern states of Telangana and Andhra Pradesh in India are scorching hot, with temperatures reaching a peak of 118 degrees Fahrenheit (48 degrees Celsius) in the state of Telangana last week, the BBC reported.


But as shocking as the death toll seems, it may be a huge underestimate, Azhar said. That's because people who die as a result of heat don't necessarily die of heatstroke or heat rash. Instead, they die of heart attacks, kidney failure, dehydration or other medical conditions that were exacerbated by the heat, Azhar said.

For instance, in the western Indian city of Ahmedabad in 2010, authorities reported 50 deaths attributed to a weeklong heat wave. But in a 2010 study detailed in the journal PLOS ONE, Azhar and his colleagues found that 1,344 more people died during the hottest week than is typical for the region during cooler periods. (Two-thirds of these excess deaths were of women, though Azhar doesn't know why that is.)

What's more, India may be more prone to undercounting because authorities rely on death certificates to ascertain the cause of death. The homeless and those with no property to dispense are often not issued death certificates, Azhar said.


"Our lifestyle is making us more vulnerable to heat," Azhar said.

People in India used to stay indoors or in the shade during the hottest part of the day, drinking cold yogurt; if they had to venture outdoors, they would cover their heads with white cloth. Historically, houses in desert regions were built with high roofs, insulation and windows that kept out most of the sun's punishing rays. Nowadays, however, people have lost their knowledge of what to do during heat waves, he noted. Many also live in tin shacks in overcrowded megacities that, as urban heat islands, are several degrees warmer than nearby locales.


India Heat Wave Death Toll May Be Vastly Underestimated
by Tia Ghose, Staff Writer | May 27, 2015 10:57am ET
man in heat wave in kolkata
A local man in Kolkata, India covers his face to avoid the extreme heat on May 23, 2015. A heat wave in India has claimed at least 1,118 lives so far this year.
Credit: Saikat Paul/
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A heat wave scorching India this week has already killed at least 1,000 people, according to Indian authorities, but that number may be a huge underestimate, one researcher says.

It's possible that thousands more have died as a result of the blistering conditions but that their deaths might not have been attributed to the heat wave, said Dr. Gulrez Shah Azhar, a community health researcher and policy analyst at Rand Corp. in Santa Monica, California.

Heat waves can be especially harsh on people with pre-existing health conditions, such as heart disease and dehydration. That's because heat waves can overtax the body, making it difficult for people with these conditions to deal with the illness and they often are more likely to die as a result, Azhar said.

And this heat wave could be a harbinger, as climate models suggest heat waves may become more frequent and intense in the coming decades, researchers say. [The 8 Hottest Places on Earth]

Heat wave

Right now, the central-southern states of Telangana and Andhra Pradesh in India are scorching hot, with temperatures reaching a peak of 118 degrees Fahrenheit (48 degrees Celsius) in the state of Telangana last week, the BBC reported. So far, at least 1,118 people have died in India as a result of the heat, according to authorities in India.

The furnacelike conditions are a result of weird wind circulation. By April, the atmospheric circulation above India usually reverses course, and air hovering over Somalia blows across the Arabian Sea, picks up moisture and then dumps that water over the subcontinent in the form of monsoon rains, said Raghu Murtugudde, an atmospheric and oceanic scientist at the University of Maryland in College Park.

But that hasn't happened yet.

"If you look at surface winds and wind anomalies, they're coming straight from the northwestern deserts of India into this region, so it's just bringing dry, hot air instead of the moist air that should be coming off the Arabian Sea and bringing some showers," Murtugudde told Live Science.

As in other heat waves, many of the victims were working outdoors during the hottest part of the day, or were homeless. The elderly and the very young are also more susceptible to heatstroke.

Vast undercount

But as shocking as the death toll seems, it may be a huge underestimate, Azhar said. That's because people who die as a result of heat don't necessarily die of heatstroke or heat rash. Instead, they die of heart attacks, kidney failure, dehydration or other medical conditions that were exacerbated by the heat, Azhar said.

For instance, in the western Indian city of Ahmedabad in 2010, authorities reported 50 deaths attributed to a weeklong heat wave. But in a 2010 study detailed in the journal PLOS ONE, Azhar and his colleagues found that 1,344 more people died during the hottest week than is typical for the region during cooler periods. (Two-thirds of these excess deaths were of women, though Azhar doesn't know why that is.)

What's more, India may be more prone to undercounting because authorities rely on death certificates to ascertain the cause of death. The homeless and those with no property to dispense are often not issued death certificates, Azhar said.

Adapting to the heat

India has always been hot, yet people didn't routinely die of heatstroke, where the body can't keep its body temperature low enough to maintain functioning. And some of the hottest places on Earth, where the mercury routinely reaches temperatures similar to those seen in India, don't see such dramatic heat-related death tolls. So why are so many people dying as a result of the heat in India?

"Our lifestyle is making us more vulnerable to heat," Azhar said.

People in India used to stay indoors or in the shade during the hottest part of the day, drinking cold yogurt; if they had to venture outdoors, they would cover their heads with white cloth. Historically, houses in desert regions were built with high roofs, insulation and windows that kept out most of the sun's punishing rays. Nowadays, however, people have lost their knowledge of what to do during heat waves, he noted. Many also live in tin shacks in overcrowded megacities that, as urban heat islands, are several degrees warmer than nearby locales. [What 11 Billion People Mean for the Planet]

However, there's some progress being made. After the deadly summer of 2010, when hundreds of people in India died a result of the blazing heat, Azhar and his colleagues worked with city officials in Ahmedabad to develop simple ways to prevent heat-related deaths.

In unpublished work, they found that simple interventions, such as sending people text messages alerting them of high temperatures, or keeping parks and homeless shelters open on the hottest days, could reduce the number of deaths during heat waves, Azhar said. Authorities could also limit the problem by avoiding scheduled blackouts or water cuts on the hottest days, Azhar added.

India should figure out how deal with the heat waves, as the high temperatures are not going away anytime soon, said Subimal Ghosh, a civil engineer at the Indian Institute of Technology Bombay, in what is now Mumbai. In a study published in April in the journal Regional Environmental Change, Ghosh and his colleagues found that heat waves may come earlier in the year, and may affect regions normally not plagued by extreme temperatures.

"With the increase of global warming, the occurrence of heat waves will increase," Ghosh told Live Science.

Intense heatwave in India continues, death toll rises to 1412

May 27, 2015

The death toll due to intense heat wave sweeping across many parts of the country continued to mount and reached 1412 on Wednesday, with only Andhra Pradesh and Telangana accounting for 1360 deaths.


The plains of Uttar Pradesh continued to reel under scorching heat with mercury in Agra on Wednesday crossing the 46 degrees (117F) mark, making it the hottest place in the state.


Opossums: The Unsung Heroes Against Lyme Disease And Other Tick-Borne Diseases

Several states in the U.S. are reporting record populations of ticks and increasing tick-borne disease transmission, like Lyme disease, but clearing your yard of these blood suckers might be only one opossum away. Yes, that giant rat-looking animal that plays dead when threatened and hisses like the devil’s spawn when scared is actually extremely beneficial to humans and other mammals. Opossums’ diets include snakes, snails, slugs, mice, rats, and carrion. Perhaps the most intriguing item on an opossum’s daily menu is an even more dreaded human foe: the tick. Opossums’ voracious appetite for ticks can nearly obliterate a tick population.

Scientist Rick Ostfeld points out that few ticks survive a run in with an opossum. These animals, often called filthy, are actually remarkable groomers and spend almost all of their free time grooming themselves. Ticks are attracted to these mammals, but most of them never survive on an opossum’s body long enough to taste a single drop of blood.

“So these opossums are walking around the forest floor, hoovering up ticks right and left,” Ostfeld explained, “killing over 90% of these things, and so they are really protecting our health.”

Michigan State University entomologist Howard Russell told the Detroit Free Press that the tick population is increasing. Russell says that both male and female ticks feed on blood and these thirsty bloodsuckers can transmit diseases like Lyme and Rocky Mountain spotted fever.


Many people use the rabies excuse for ridding their properties of opossums, but that justification is a false one. According to Wildlife Rescue and Rehabilitation, opossums are “rarely found to be rabid and appear to be resistant to many viral diseases such as distemper, parvovirus, and feline hepatitis” and this resistance to diseases is also seen with Lyme. The Poughkeepsie Journal reports that opossums don’t seem to be very good transmitters of Lyme disease even if they didn’t eat almost all of the ticks they encounter.

Ticks do transmit Lyme disease, and Lyme affects around 300,000 Americans a year. An opossum, normally viewed as nothing more than a filthy nuisance – stealing garbage, garden surplus and chicken eggs – kills over 5000 ticks on any given week. This super exterminator also kills venomous snakes and small rodents and cleans up carrion from our yards and fields. Perhaps allowing opossums to also steal some chicken eggs and garden veggies is a fair trade for decreasing tick-borne diseases like Lyme and all of the other benefits they offer.

Fact or Fiction?: A "Base Tan" Can Protect against Sunburn

An SPF of 2 means it takes twice as long to burn. So if it takes you a half hour w/o a tan, a tan of SPF 2 should mean it takes an hour. Which is not inconsiderable.

By Dina Fine Maron | May 22, 2015


Scientists came to this conclusion after studying the tanned buttocks of dozens of volunteers. In study after study they have found that a base tan affords almost no protection against future ultraviolet exposure. In fact, it actually puts otherwise pale people at risk of developing skin cancers. A base tan only provides an SPF, or sun protection factor, of 3 or less, according to the U.S. surgeon general. For beachgoers, that means if a person would normally turn pink after 10 minutes in the sun, an SPF 2 base tan would theoretically buy her another 10 minutes—or 20 minutes in total—before she burns. That, says David Leffell, the chief of dermatologic surgery and cutaneous oncology at Yale University School of Medicine, is “completely meaningless” in terms of providing protection.


Getting a base tan from a tanning bed appears to be an even worse idea than preemptively exposing yourself to the sun. One study published this year looked at tanning from UVA light (the main staple of tanning beds) and found that the protection from future burn would not even meet an SPF 1.5 threshold. What’s worse, the body does not protect itself very effectively against the UVA rays that predominate in most tanning beds so indoor tanning can cause serious damage to your skin. Recent estimates suggest indoor tanning causes about 419,000 cases of skin cancer in the U.S. every year, which is almost double the number of cases of lung cancer linked to smoking. Still, UVA is often chosen for tanning beds because its longer wavelength penetrates deeper into the skin and is less likely to cause sunburn. The body will readily redistribute its existing melanin in response to UVA exposure—which results in immediate skin darkening—but UVB rays are better at triggering several more long-term protective mechanisms in response to cellular damage. Those include the production of more melanin, skin thickening and signaling DNA repair systems that try to correct for mutations before they are carried forward, says Heather Rogers, professor of dermatology at the University of Washington School of Medicine.


Number of extremely hot temperatures are increasing

James Hansen, Makiko Sato (National Aeronautics and Space Administration Goddard Institute for Space Studies and Columbia University Earth Institute, New York, NY 10025)
Reto Ruedy (Trinnovim Limited Liability Company, New York, NY 10025)

March 29, 2012


“Climate dice,” describing the chance of unusually warm or cool seasons, have become more and more “loaded” in the past 30 y, coincident with rapid global warming. The distribution of seasonal mean temperature anomalies has shifted toward higher temperatures and the range of anomalies has increased. An important change is the emergence of a category of summertime extremely hot outliers, more than three standard deviations (3σ) warmer than the climatology of the 1951–1980 base period. This hot extreme, which covered much less than 1% of Earth’s surface during the base period, now typically covers about 10% of the land area. It follows that we can state, with a high degree of confidence, that extreme anomalies such as those in Texas and Oklahoma in 2011 and Moscow in 2010 were a consequence of global warming because their likelihood in the absence of global warming was exceedingly small. We discuss practical implications of this substantial, growing, climate change.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Free-Market Dogma has Jacked Up our Electricity Bills

May 26, 2015
David Cay Johnston

Free-market dogma has jacked up our electricity bills: A new analysis shows that people pay 35 percent more for electricity in states that abandoned traditional regulation of monopoly utilities in the 1990s compared with states that stuck with it. ....

You might think that the higher prices in the 15 states with markets would encourage investment, creating an abundance of new power plants. That, at any rate, is what right-wing Chicago School economic theories on which the electricity markets were created say should happen. The validity of these theories, and flaws in how they were implemented, matter right now because Congress is considering a raft of energy supply bills that include some expansion of the market pricing of wholesale electricity. ...

Yet just 2.4 percent of new electric generating capacity in 2013 “was built for sale into a market,” electricity-market analyst Elise Caplan showed in a study last fall... The rest were built in states with traditional regulation or under long-term supply contracts that essentially guaranteed repayment of loans to build the plants.

Here’s another measure of failure: Areas covered by electricity markets have 60 percent of America's generating capacity, but enjoyed just 6 percent of new generation built in 2013.

If unregulated markets are invariably better, as the Chicago School holds, why was 94 percent of new generating capacity built in traditionally regulated jurisdictions? ...

SEC charges Atlanta investment firm, two executives accused of defrauding city's police, firefighter pension funds

These are not the only public employee pension funds that have suffered from such behaiour by private consultants.

Phil W. Hudson
May 21, 2015

The Securities and Exchange Commission charged an Atlanta-based investment advisory firm and two executives with fraud.

According to the SEC, Gray Financial Group, its founder and president Laurence O. Gray, and its co-CEO Robert C. Hubbard IV are accused of selling unsuitable investments to pension funds for the city’s police and firefighters, transit workers and other employees.

The SEC’s Enforcement Division alleges the company and its two executives breached their fiduciary duty by steering these public pension fund clients to invest in an alternative investment fund offered by the firm despite knowing the investments did not comply with state law. Georgia law allows most public pension funds in the state to purchase alternative investment funds, but the investments are subject to certain restrictions that Gray Financial Group’s fund allegedly failed to meet.

The SEC’s Enforcement Division alleges that Gray Financial Group has collected more than $1.7 million in fees from the pension fund clients as a result of the improper investments.


Babies can think before they can speak

Public Release: 26-May-2015
Babies can think before they can speak

Humans are able to learn abstract relations even before the first year of life

Northwestern University

Two pennies can be considered the same -- both are pennies, just as two elephants can be considered the same, as both are elephants. Despite the vast difference between pennies and elephants, we easily notice the common relation of sameness that holds for both pairs.

Analogical ability -- the ability to see common relations between objects, events or ideas -- is a key skill that underlies human intelligence and differentiates humans from other apes.

While there is considerable evidence that preschoolers can learn abstract relations, it remains an open question whether infants can as well. In a new Northwestern University study, researchers found that infants are capable of learning the abstract relations of same and different after only a few examples.


Dedre Gentner, a co-author of the study and professor of psychology at Weinberg, said, "The infants in our study were able to form an abstract same or different relation after seeing only 6-9 examples. It appears that relational learning is something that humans, even very young humans, are much better at than other primates."

For example, she noted that in a recent study using baboons, those animals that succeeded in matching same and different relations required over 15,000 trials.


Cannabis use can be prevented, reduced or delayed

Public Release: 26-May-2015
University of Montreal

Responding to rapidly shifting legal and cultural environments, researchers at the University of Montreal and CHU Sainte-Justine Children's Hospital have found a way to prevent, reduce or delay cannabis use amongst some at-risk youth. Cannabis users are at risk of neurocognitive deficits, reduced educational and occupational attainment, motor vehicle accidents, exacerbation of psychiatric symptoms, and precipitation of psychosis. Adolescents are particularly at risk due to the developing nature of their brain. Youth who have used marijuana have been shown to have less ability to sustain their attention and control their impulse control and have impaired cognitive processes. "Marijuana use is highly prevalent among teenagers in North America and Europe," explained Dr. Patricia Conrod, who led the study. "As attitudes and laws towards marijuana are changing, it is important to find ways to prevent and reduce its use amongst at-risk youth. Our study reveals that targeted, brief interventions by trained teachers can achieve that goal."


People who are sensitive to anxiety or negative thinking, or who are impulsive or sensation-seeking are known to be at greater risk of substance abuse.


What is the most humane way to kill a cane toad?

Public Release: 26-May-2015
University of Sydney

Like many pests, cane toads are killed in their thousands in Australia every year, especially by community-based 'toad-busting' groups. New research has now revealed the most humane way to do it.

"We need to offer a humane death to the toads - it's not their fault they were brought to Australia 80 years ago - but until now nobody has been sure how to do it," said Professor Rick Shine, from the University of Sydney's School of Biological Sciences.

He is lead author on research showing that a once-popular method, currently outlawed nationally and internationally by animal ethics committees as inhumane, is actually a simple and ethical way to kill a toad. The research by the University of Sydney, Monash University and the University of Wollongong is published today in the journal Biology Open (paper attached).

The researchers implanted small data-loggers in the brains of cane toads to measure any pain responses. They then put the toads into a refrigerator for a few hours, before transferring them to a household freezer. The toads quietly slipped into unconsciousness as they froze, and their brains did not register any evidence of pain during the process.

Professor Shine said: "This procedure was a widespread method for humanely killing amphibians and reptiles for many years until about 20 years ago, but animal ethics committees decided it was inhumane because the animals' toes might freeze while their brains were still warm enough to detect pain. However, our work shows that in cane toads at least, the toad just drifts off into torpor as it cools down, and its brain is no longer functioning by the time its body begins to freeze."


At least 800 have died in a heat wave that has melted roads in India

Vivek Nemana
May 26, 2015

At least 800 people have died in a major heatwave that has swept across India, melting roads in New Delhi as temperatures neared 50 degrees Celsius (122 Fahrenheit).


Large parts of India, including the capital New Delhi, have endured days of sweltering heat, prompting fears of power cuts as energy-guzzling air conditioners work overtime.

The Hindustan Times daily said the maximum temperature in the capital hit a two-year high of 45.5 degrees Celsius (113.9F) on Monday -- five degrees higher than the seasonal average. [that's 9 degrees Fahrenheit higher.]


The paper carried a front-page photo of a main road in the city melting in the heat, its zebra pedestrian crossing stripes curling and spreading into the asphalt.


Honesty can keep companies' stock prices up during hard times

So now we might start seeing fake honesty, where company executives say the take responsibility, while really blaming others, which means they won't take steps to improve their own practices.

Public Release: 26-May-2015
University of Missouri-Columbia

Honesty is the best policy, and a new study from the University of Missouri finds that companies can benefit when they publicly accept the blame for poor performance. Researchers found companies that performed poorly yet blamed other parties -- such as the government, competitors, labor unions or the economy -- experienced a significant blow to their stock and had difficulty recovering. Companies that accepted blame and had a plan to address their problems stopped the decline in their share prices after their announcement, but those companies that blamed others continued to experience falling share prices for the entire year following their public explanation.

"Honesty is appreciated, especially when it's a difficult message from leaders," said Stephen Ferris, professor and senior associate dean at the MU Trulaske College of Business. "Investors will accept a forthright recognition of an honest mistake, expecting that corrective actions are likely to follow. When firms explain a negative event as due to an external cause, company leaders can appear powerless or dishonest to shareholders."


Ferris said that just taking responsibility was not the entire solution. When companies accepted the blame, they also had to explain how they were going to fix the problem.


"Typically, we found firms that blamed themselves also wanted investors to know that they had identified the problem and that they were expecting to improve their performance in the future," Ferris said. "Following these announcements, we noticed a striking separation between companies that accepted responsibility for their performance problems and those that blamed others. Those companies accepting responsibility saw their share price stabilize over the next several months, while those that blamed others continued to experience falling share prices."

Ferris said several factors could be the cause of trying to lay blame on external forces. Those factors include arrogance, pride, fear of litigation, and the inability of company leaders to see their own shortcomings. Of those companies that blamed external factors, 44 percent replaced their CEOs in the following year compared to only 32 percent of companies who accepted responsibility.

Tall Trees Sucked Dry by Global Warming

By Elizabeth Harball and ClimateWire | May 26, 2015

A well-known scientific principle describing how water moves through plants can help explain why trees may struggle to survive as the planet warms, scientists say in a new study.

Using an equation called Darcy’s law, the research also helps explain why iconic giant trees like the California redwood could be especially vulnerable to rising temperatures. The concept was outlined in a paper published this month in the journal Nature Climate Change.

Plants’ vascular systems can be likened to bunches of straws, explained lead author Nathan McDowell, a researcher at Los Alamos National Laboratory’s Earth and Environmental Sciences Division, meaning water moves from the roots to the branches through tension.

The atmosphere pulls water through plants’ systems, and “the warmer and drier the air is—which is what climate change is doing—it’s increasing the evaporative demand,” said McDowell. “The warmer the air is, the more water it can hold, so it sucks harder on those straws.”

To keep from dehydrating, plants start to close their stomata—the openings in leaves through which they take in CO2.

But as stomata close during a drought, they can’t photosynthesize as effectively, McDowell said, preventing trees from taking advantage of more CO2 in the atmosphere.

“It’s like going to a buffet with duct tape over your mouth,” said McDowell.

Bigger trees, of course, have longer “straws” moving water through their systems than shorter trees, meaning they have to close their stomata even more, resulting in greater stress to the plant, McDowell explained.

For this reason, the study states, Darcy’s law shows that “shrubby, low-statured plants are most likely to survive, whereas tall, old-growth forests are particularly vulnerable to warming climate.”


But McDowell said it’s important to note that his paper has consequences that apply to more places than just today’s current drought hot spots.

“The big punch line of the paper is that globally, everywhere, temperatures are going up,” he said.

Because Darcy’s law applies to all plants, tall tree species around the world could be vulnerable to climate change. That includes many beyond the U.S. Southwest and other regions where scientists are already fairly certain forest ecosystems are likely to suffer.


Glancing at greenery on a city rooftop can markedly boost concentration levels

Public Release: 25-May-2015
University of Melbourne

A University of Melbourne study shows that glancing at a grassy green roof for only 40 seconds markedly boosts concentration.

The study, published in the Journal of Environmental Psychology, gave 150 students a boring, attention-sapping task. The students were asked to press a key as a series of numbers repeatedly flashed on a computer screen, unless that number was three.

They were given a 40-second break midway through the task to view a city rooftop scene. Half the group viewed a flowering meadow green roof, the other half looked out onto a bare concrete roof.

After the break, students who glanced at the greener vista made significantly less errors and demonstrated superior concentration on the second half of the task, compared to those who viewed the concrete roof.

The green roof provided a restorative experience that boosted those mental resources that control attention, researchers concluded.


"It's really important to have micro-breaks. It's something that a lot of us do naturally when we're stressed or mentally fatigued," Dr Lee added. "There's a reason you look out the window and seek nature, it can help you concentrate on your work and to maintain performance across the workday.

"Certainly this study has implications for workplace well-being and adds extra impetus to continue greening our cities. City planners around the world are switching on to these benefits of green roofs and we hope the future of our cities will be a very green one."


Governor says deadly flooding is worst ever seen in Texas area

Global warming is causing more extreme rainfalls and snowfalls. Warmer water evaporates faster. Warmer air hold more moisuture. The atmosphere has more moisture than it used to. When conditions change, this results in heavier precipitation, rain or snow.

By voting for climate denialists, by not changing our own habits, we have chosen this.

Jim Forsyth
May 25, 2015

Texas Governor Greg Abbott on Monday likened the ferocity of flash flooding that killed at least three people to a tsunami, and authorities said a dam had given way in a state park.

Abbott declared states of disaster in 24 counties and flew over the area south of Austin to assess the damage caused by tornadoes, heavy rainfall, thunderstorms and flooding that forced evacuations and rooftop rescues and left thousands of residents without electricity.

"This is the biggest flood this area of Texas has ever seen," Abbott said.

"It is absolutely massive - the relentless tsunami-type power of this wave of water," he said.

He described homes that were "completely wiped off the map" by the dangerous weather system that struck Texas and Oklahoma.


The National Weather Service reported 4.5 inches (11.5 cm) of rain fell in 90 minutes at Marquette, in central Kansas, washing out roads.

The bodies of a 14-year-old boy and his dog were found in a storm drain in the Dallas suburb of DeSoto on Monday, police said. Two other people killed in the storm were described as an unidentified man found dead in San Marcos, Texas, and a firefighter who was swept into a storm drain in Oklahoma.

The New York Times said a Tulsa, Oklahoma, woman also died on Saturday after her automobile hydroplaned on a highway.

Twelve people were listed as missing in Texas, including eight from an extended family from Corpus Christi who were vacationing in a home in Wimberley. The building was washed into the raging Blanco River, according to officials and the family's church.


Parts of the area have received more than 1-1/2 feet (46 cm)of rain since May 1, six times what it typically receives in all of May, said.


tags: extreme weather,

Global warming is causing more extreme storms

John Abraham
Feb. 9, 2015

Scientists have known for decades (more than a century actually) that increases in greenhouse gases will cause the Earth to warm. What is less clear is how this warming will impact the weather we experience on a daily, monthly, or yearly basis. Recent research shows that we are already feeling the changes.

So, how might a warm planet be different from the planet we inherited? Increased temperatures can cause more heat waves, more droughts, more intense rainfall, higher water-vapor levels, sea-level rise, changes to ocean acidity, more intense winds, etc. Of course, some of these are not “weather” (ocean acidification and sea-level rise), but I include them because they are well-known and significant ways in which climate change expresses itself.

It is not correct to think these are future changes that will impact our children or their children. Rather, these changes can be detected now. And, as the years progress, we are detecting more significant changes.

This new paper provides up-to-date understanding of how extreme weather is changing in the USA. The paper looks at the USA, partly because there are excellent records there. We show that increases in intense precipitation have occurred in all regions of the continental USA and “further changes are expected in the coming decades”. It is a second of two papers that were published to the community of civil engineers so that future infrastructure can be designed with changing weather patterns in mind.

The physical mechanism that influences changes to precipitation is largely the moisture-carrying ability of the atmosphere. (For those of us who are sticklers for exactness, the atmosphere doesn’t “carry” moisture but this is the common phrase which represents the saturation pressure changes with temperature). Basically, when it gets warmer, the air “has” more water (humidity). But that water doesn’t stay in the atmosphere forever, it rains [or snows] out quickly.

So, more moisture equals more rain. Not only that but when you increase moisture in the atmosphere, you tend to get heavier downpours. So, when it rains, it really rains. There are other aspects to changes in precipitation that are noted, for instance, changes to large-scale atmospheric wind patterns push wet and dry regions to different parts of the planet. So, this is complicated, a lot of things are happening at the same time.

Every part of the continental United States has experienced increased very intense precipitation events. The further northwest you go, the larger the increase. As you travel to the Southwest, the increases become much smaller.

But haven’t scientists also told us that the drier areas will become drier and the wetter areas will become wetter? How does this adage conform to the recent paper? Well, it turns out that if you get an increase in intense precipitation, it doesn’t mean that your location will be wetter. It may just mean that the rain you get falls in heavier downpours. Also, the “wetness” and “dryness” of an area doesn’t just depend on how much precipitation occurs. It also depends on temperature, areas that heat up will see their water evaporate more.


tags: extreme weather

EU dropped pesticide laws due to US pressure over TTIP, documents reveal

The ultra-rich who do these things can afford to buy organic food. They can afford to buy and run air purifiers in their homes. And they don't work in or by the fields where these poisons are applied.

Arthur Neslen Brussels
Friday 22 May 2015

EU moves to regulate hormone-damaging chemicals linked to cancer and male infertility were shelved following pressure from US trade officials over the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) free trade deal, newly released documents show.

Draft EU criteria could have banned 31 pesticides containing endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs). But these were dumped amid fears of a trade backlash stoked by an aggressive US lobby push, access to information documents obtained by Pesticides Action Network (PAN) Europe show.


The result was that legislation planned for 2014 was kicked back until at least 2016, despite estimated health costs of €150bn per year in Europe from endocrine-related illnesses such as IQ loss, obesity and cryptorchidism – a condition affecting the genitals of baby boys.


Earlier this year, 64 MEP’s submitted questions to the commission about the delay to EDC classifications, following revelations by the Guardian about the scale of industry lobbying in the run up to their abandonment. Sweden, the European Parliament and European Council have brought court proceedings against the commission for the legislative logjam.

Just weeks before the regulations were dropped there had been a barrage of lobbying from big European firms such as Dupont, Bayer and BASF over EDCs. The chemical industry association Cefic warned that the endocrines issue “could become an issue that impairs the forthcoming EU-US trade negotiations”.


A common theme in the lobby missives was the need to set thresholds for safe exposure to endocrines, even though a growing body of scientific results suggests that linear threshold models – in which higher doses create greater effects – do not apply to endocrine disruptors.

“The human endocrine system is regulated by hormones and the hormone receptors are sensitive to low doses,” said Hans Muilerman, PAN Europe’s chemicals coordinator. “In animal toxicity studies, effects are seen from low doses [of endocrines] that disappear with higher ones. But in the regulatory arena, lower doses are not tested for.”


Monday, May 25, 2015

Anticipating temptation may reduce unethical behavior, research finds

Public Release: 22-May-2015
Society for Personality and Social Psychology

Why do good people do bad things? It's a question that has been pondered for centuries, and new research published by the Society for Personality and Social Psychology may offer some insights about when people succumb to versus resist ethical temptations.

"People often think that bad people do bad things and good people do good things, and that unethical behavior just comes down to character," says lead research author Oliver Sheldon, PhD. "But most people behave dishonestly sometimes, and frequently, this may have more to do with the situation and how people view their own unethical behavior than character, per se."

In a series of experiments, participants who anticipated a temptation to act unethically were less likely to then behave unethically, relative to those who did not. These participants also were less likely to endorse unethical behavior that offered short-term benefits, such as stealing office supplies or illegally downloading copyrighted material. The study was published online in the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin on May 22, 2015.

"Self-control, or a lack thereof, may be one factor which explains why good people occasionally do bad things," says Sheldon, an assistant professor of organizational behavior at Rutgers University.


Birds 'weigh' peanuts and choose heavier ones

Public Release: 22-May-2015
Laboratory of Behavioral Ecology and Evolution at Seoul National University

Many animals feed on seeds, acorns or nuts. The common feature of these are that they have shells and there is no direct way to know what's inside. How do the animals know how much and what quality of food is hidden inside? A simple solution would be to break the shells, which often takes time and effort -- it would be a big disappointment to know that it's rotten or bad after the hard effort of opening the nuts!

Can animals evaluate the food hidden inside the nuts? This is especially important for some animals who cache the food items for later use without opening and checking each item. We can detect which one is heavier by moving the items up and down several times and focusing on the "feeling of heaviness" we perceive. Humans can also detect the quality of a water melon by knocking on it.

A new study published in Journal of Ornithology suggests that some birds can also use similar tricks in choosing the peanuts from the feeder.


Drs. Sang-im Lee, Piotr Jablonski, Maciej and Elzbieta Fuszara, the leading researchers in this study, together with their students and helpers, spent many hours delicately opening shells of hundreds of peanuts, changing the contents and then presenting them to the jays in order to see if the birds can figure out the differences in the content of identically looking peanut pods (peanuts in shell).

"When we presented the jays with ten empty and ten full identically looking pods (pods without or with three nuts inside), we noticed that after picking them up the birds rejected the empty ones and accepted the full peanuts, without opening them." says Dr. Sang-im Lee of Seoul National University


A series of similar experiments with identically looking normal nuts and nuts that were 1g heavier (pods with some clay added) confirmed that jays always were able to distinguish and preferred the heavier nuts. How did they know which were empty without opening them? The researchers used slow motion videos to see what happens when the bird is deciding whether to drop or take away the peanut pod. "We found out that birds shake the nuts in their beaks. We think that these movements may provide them with the information generally similar to our feeling of "heaviness" when we handle an object in our hands", says Dr. Jablonski.

In another experiment the researchers prepared one type of peanut pods by opening the shell, removing two out of the three nuts and closing the shell again. The second type of pod was prepared by opening a small pod, which normally contains only one nut, and closing it. Thus, the jays were to choose between nuts of similar content and mass but of different size. "The jays figured out that the larger pods did not weigh as much as they should and the birds preferred the smaller pods, which weighed as expected for their size", comments Dr. Fuszara. They behaved as if they knew that "something is wrong" with the larger nuts.


Breastfeeding protects against environmental pollution

Public Release: 22-May-2015
University of the Basque Country


The aim is to assess how exposure to environmental pollution during pregnancy affects health and also to examine the role of diet in physical and neurobehavioural development in infancy. Lertxundi's study focusses on the repercussions on motor and mental development during the first years of life caused by exposure to the PM2.5 and NO2 atmospheric pollutants.

Never before has such a recent, significant evaluation been made of the effect of pollution particle matter (PM2.5) on the development of motor capacity and that of nitrogen dioxide (NO2) on mental development between the prenatal phase and until the baby is 15 months old. What is more, it has been sustained over time since it was started in 2006. "In the foetal phase the central nervous system is being formed and lacks sufficient detoxification mechanisms to eliminate the toxins that build up," pointed out Aitana Lertxundi.


One result of the study is that the existence of an inverse relationship has been detected between exposure to pollution particle matter and the motor development of babies. [Ie., the higher the exposure to pollution, the less the motor development of babies.]


The analysis of the data also shows that neither the PM2.5 particle matter nor the NO2 exert a harmful effect on babies breastfed on mother's milk for at least four months.


Pseudo-Patriots - 7/9/2014 added link to video

The sheet music is available free at

Video at following link.

The instrumental created from the program that created the sheet music is available at

copyright Patricia M. Shannon 1996

They say that they are patriots because they love to wave the flag,
but they throw their trash along the road, and pour used oil down the drain.
They say that they are patriots because the pledge they love to say,
but they never bother to turn out the lights when they go home for the day.

How can we be patriots and not do all we can
to protect the earth upon which all our lives depend?
How can we be patriots and not help our fellow men?
What else is a country, but its people and its land?

They say that they are patriots because, they will always choose
to vote to build more prisons, while cutting funding for our schools.
They say that they are patriots, Star Spangled Banner they do sing,
but to their big gas-guzzlers they selfishly do cling.

How can we be patriots and not do all we can
to prevent the earth from turning into barren sands?
How can we be patriots and not lend a helping hand?
What else is a country, but its people and its land?

They say that they are patriots, because it fills them with such glee
to send our young folks overseas to be killed by enemies.
They say that they are patriots, but they would never think
to tutor some poor kids to help them stay out of the clink.

A country's not a piece of cloth, or words we say by rote;
a country's not a song we sing before we watch a sport.
And love's not just a feeling, it's something that we do,
every day, in every way, in everything we choose.

China's CO2 emissions have been plummeting lately

The U.S. has much higher CO2 emissions per person than China.

Updated by Brad Plumer on May 22, 2015

Arguably the most important climate story in the world right now is the question of what's happening in China. A recent analysis by Greenpeace International found that China's carbon dioxide emissions have plunged nearly 5 percent, year over year, in the first four months of 2015:

That's ... unexpected. Ever since 2000, China's CO2 emissions have been rising at a relentless pace, as the country rocketed itself out of poverty by burning billions of tons of coal for electricity, heat, and industry. China is now the world's biggest CO2 emitter, getting two-thirds of its energy from coal, and officials have long assumed emissions would keep rising until 2030 or so. It's a big reason global warming forecasts look so dire.

But suddenly, China's emissions are falling, spurred by a sharp decline in coal use. As Greenpeace's Lauri Myllyvirta explains, China's coal consumption dropped in 2014 for the first time this century. Then, in the first four months of 2015, coal use fell another 8 percent, year on year — which translates to a roughly 5 percent decline in CO2 emissions.


1) Be very, very wary of China's energy statistics

This caveat deserves to go up high. Glen Peters, a researcher at the University of Oslo, pointed out that China's coal consumption numbers are notoriously unreliable, and often get revised significantly years later.


2) The 2014 coal drop was likely due to a surge of hydropower and dip in industrial activity


3) China is trying to shift away from heavy industry — but it's not yet clear what that means for coal


4) China's coal trajectory can have a big impact on climate change