Wednesday, April 23, 2014

World’s Top Serial Bird Killers Put Infamous Windmills to Shame

Golly, who would have a stake in propagating false information on alternatives to fossil fuels?

By Tom Randall Apr 21, 2014

Pity the birds.

As if cats weren’t bad enough, humans have invented all sorts of torture devices for our winged friends. We’ve paved over their nesting sites to make room for Olive Gardens and have broken up their skyscapes with glass buildings and radio towers.


Windmills aren’t the biggest serial killer, but are instead the smallest threat to birds worthy of mention, on par with airplanes. Turbines are responsible for as little as one percent of the deaths caused by the next smallest killer, communications towers.


No matter whose estimates you use, deaths by turbine don’t compare to cats, cars, power lines or buildings. It’s almost as if there’s been a concerted effort to make people think wind turbines are more menacing than they actually are.


It’s nice for wind-farm planners to take migration patterns and endangered habitats into account. But even if wind turbines were to double in size and provide 100 percent of our energy needs (both of which defy the laws of physics as we currently understand them), they still wouldn’t compare to the modern scourges of high-tension power lines or buildings with glass windows. Not even close.

The alternative to renewable energy sources like wind and solar is to burn ever more fossil fuels. Animals are threatened by those, too, including North America’s most common hairless mammal: the human. Roughly 20,000 of these moderately-intelligent animals die prematurely each year from air pollution from coal and oil, according to a study ordered by Congress.

After Some Counties In Texas Released Air Pollution Data, A State Agency Cut Their Funding

By Jeff Sprosson April 23, 2014

Earlier this month, a coalition of county governments in Texas posted a study that air pollution would increase significantly by 2018 thanks to a local drilling boom. One week later, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality slashed the coalition’s budget for air quality planning.

The study in question was an inventory of emissions from the Eagle Ford shale, which, with the advent of hydraulic fracturing, has seen a boom in natural gas and oil drilling over the past few years. The analysis was put together at the behest of the Alamo Area Council of Governments (AACOG), a coalition that oversees thirteen counties in and around San Antonio. An initial draft of the study came out in November of last year, and the final version was completed on April 4.

About a week later, the Center for Public Integrity reports, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ), slashed AACOG’s air-quality planning budget by 25 percent.


Since 2012, San Antonio’s monitors have already recorded air pollution levels as high as 87 parts per billion — while the federal standard is 75 parts per billion.

Earlier this year, an eight-month investigation by InsideClimate News and the Center for Public Integrity found that Texas officials were failing to adequately monitor air pollution from the Eagle Ford shale, or to engage in any serious regulatory enforcement.

"Bionic eye" restores sight to blind man

April 23, 2014


Diagnosed with retinitis pigmentosa as a teenager, Pontz has been almost completely blind for years. Now, thanks to a high-tech procedure that involved the surgical implantation of a "bionic eye," he's regained enough of his eyesight to catch small glimpses of his wife, grandson and cat.

"It's awesome. It's exciting - seeing something new every day," Pontz said during a recent appointment at the University of Michigan Kellogg Eye Center. The 55-year-old former competitive weightlifter and factory worker is one of four people in the U.S. to receive an artificial retina since the Food and Drug Administration signed off on its use last year.

The facility in Ann Arbor has been the site of all four such surgeries since FDA approval. A fifth is scheduled for next month.


Not all of the 100,000 or so people in the U.S. with retinitis pigmentosa can benefit from the bionic eye. An estimated 10,000 have vision low enough, said Dr. Brian Mech, an executive with Second Sight Medical Products Inc., the Sylmar, Calif.-based company that makes the device. Of those, about 7,500 are eligible for the surgery.


The artificial retina procedure has been performed several-dozen times over the past few years in Europe, and the expectation is that it will find similar success in the U.S., where the University of Michigan is one of 12 centers accepting consultations for patients.

Candidates for the retinal prosthesis must be 25 or older with end-stage retinitis pigmentosa that has progressed to the point of having "bare light" or no light perception in both eyes.


Silicon Valley workers accuse tech giants of collusion

April 22, 2014

With its lavish perks and sprawling campuses, Silicon Valley has at times been the envy of many in corporate America, but nearly 65,000 software engineers claim they were unable to jump companies for higher pay because of a series of deals allegedly made by their bosses -- bosses like Sergey Brin and Eric Schmidt of Google and Apple's Steve Jobs.

"These were non-solicitation agreements whereby all of these companies agreed secretly not to poach or cold-call each other's workers," said Mark Ames, senior editor of PandoDaily.

A probe by the U.S. Justice Department in 2010 revealed that several companies agreed to keep do-not-call lists and shared confidential salary information to prevent bidding wars, reports CBS News' Carter Evans. They settled the anti-trust complaint, but now Apple, Google, Adobe and Intel are the target of a civil lawsuit by employees seeking $3 billion in damages.


"Undoubtedly the biggest villain is Steve Jobs," Ames said. "Without Steve Jobs' force and bullying, I doubt this would have gone off the ground. I mean it becomes clear with just about everybody involved, every CEO who agrees with this arrangement. They understand it's illegal and they're generally scared of Steve Jobs, and he's not scared of anyone or anything."

However, Jobs failed to get Facebook to bite the apple. Executive Sheryl Sandberg repeatedly refused to join the non-poaching agreements.


Why the U.S. middle class is falling behind Canada’s

By/Aimee Picchi/MoneyWatch/April 23, 2014

The economic backbone of the U.S. -- its middle class -- has lost ground over the past decade, thanks to wage stagnation and a greater distribution of wealth going to top earners.

An analysis of data by The New York Times finds that after-tax middle-class incomes in Canada have pulled ahead of American middle-class earners. On top of that, the poor in some European countries actually earn more than the poor in America.

While the report confirms what many Americans feel every day when they check their bank accounts -- that they're barely treading water -- the eye-opener is how far the U.S. consumer has fallen when compared with other countries. Median per capital income in the U.S. has barely budged since 2000, while Canadians have seen their median income jump 20 percent


So how did Canada surpass the U.S. middle class? For one, younger Americans are losing ground in educational attainment when compared with their peers in Canada and other countries, the study found.

But America's growing income inequality is also posing a problem for the middle class. While it's difficult to find recent comparisons across countries for CEO-to-worker pay ratios, the ratio in America is at least double that of other countries, Mishel notes. The disparity between the average U.S. worker's income and CEO pay has also been growing wider, with CEOs pulling in a 331-to-1 ratio in 2013, up from a 46-to-1 ratio in 1983.


America's poor are also dragging behind other the poor of other countries. People at the 20th percentile in Netherlands and Canada earned 15 percent more income than someone in the same percentile in the U.S., The New York Times found.


Impact of childhood bullying still evident after 40 years


Contact: Seil Collins
King's College London

Impact of childhood bullying still evident after 40 years

Negative impact of bullying was found to be persistent and pervasive, with health, social and economic consequences lasting well into adulthood

The negative social, physical and mental health effects of childhood bullying are still evident nearly 40 years later, according to new research by King's College London. The study is the first to look at the effects of bullying beyond early adulthood, and is published in the American Journal of Psychiatry.


Dr Ryu Takizawa, lead author of the paper from the Institute of Psychiatry at King's College London, says: "Our study shows that the effects of bullying are still visible nearly four decades later. The impact of bullying is persistent and pervasive, with health, social and economic consequences lasting well into adulthood."

Just over a quarter of children in the study (28%) had been bullied occasionally, and 15% bullied frequently – similar to rates in the UK today.

Individuals who were bullied in childhood were more likely to have poorer physical and psychological health and cognitive functioning at age 50. Individuals who were frequently bullied in childhood were at an increased risk of depression, anxiety disorders, and suicidal thoughts.

Individuals who were bullied in childhood were also more likely to have lower educational levels, with men who were bullied more likely to be unemployed and earn less. Social relationships and well-being were also affected. Individuals who had been bullied were less likely to be in a relationship, to have good social support, and were more likely to report lower quality of life and life satisfaction.

Professor Louise Arseneault, senior author, also from the Institute of Psychiatry at King's adds: "We need to move away from any perception that bullying is just an inevitable part of growing-up. Teachers, parents and policy-makers should be aware that what happens in the school playground can have long-term repercussions for children. Programmes to stop bullying are extremely important, but we also need to focus our efforts on early intervention to prevent potential problems persisting into adolescence and adulthood."

Bullying is characterized by repeated hurtful actions by children of a similar age, where the victim finds it difficult to defend themselves. The harmful effect of bullying remained even when other factors including childhood IQ, emotional and behavioural problems, parents' socioeconomic status and low parental involvement, were taken into account.


New evidence of suicide epidemic among India’s ‘marginalised’ farmers

17 Apr 2014

A new study has found that India’s shocking rates of suicide are highest in areas with the most debt-ridden farmers who are clinging to tiny smallholdings – less than one hectare – and trying to grow ‘cash crops’, such as cotton and coffee, that are highly susceptible to global price fluctuations.

The research supports a range of previous case studies that point to a crisis in key areas of India’s agriculture sector following the ‘liberalisation’ of the nation’s economy during the 1990s. Researchers say that policy intervention to stabilise the price of cash crops and relieve indebted farmers may help stem the tide of suicide that has swept the Indian countryside.

This latest work follows on from a recent Lancet study by researchers from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM), which showed Indian suicide rates to be among the highest in the world – with suicide the second leading cause of death among young adults in India.

In 2010, 187,000 Indians killed themselves – one fifth of all global suicides.


The shame and stress of no longer being able to provide for their families has resulted in hundreds of thousands of male farmers, and in many cases their wives too, taking their own lives by drinking the modern pesticides designed to provide them with bountiful harvests – a truly horrific end as the chemicals cause swift muscle and breathing paralysis.

Added Kennedy: “The liberalisation of the Indian economy is most often associated with near-double digit growth, the rise of India as an economic powerhouse, and the emergence of wealthy urban middle classes. But it is often forgotten that over 833 million people – almost 70% of the Indian population – still live in rural areas.

“A large proportion of these rural inhabitants have not benefited from the economic growth of the past twenty years. In fact, liberalisation has brought about a crisis in the agricultural sector that has pushed many small-scale cash crops farmers into debt and in some cases to suicide.”

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Food shortages could be most critical world issue by mid-century


Contact: Kathleen Phillips
Texas A&M AgriLife Communications

Food shortages could be most critical world issue by mid-century

The world is less than 40 years away from a food shortage that will have serious implications for people and governments, according to a top scientist at the U.S. Agency for International Development.

"For the first time in human history, food production will be limited on a global scale by the availability of land, water and energy," said Dr. Fred Davies, senior science advisor for the agency's bureau of food security. "Food issues could become as politically destabilizing by 2050 as energy issues are today."


He said the world population will increase 30 percent to 9 billion people by mid-century. That would call for a 70 percent increase in food to meet demand.

"But resource limitations will constrain global food systems," Davies added. "The increases currently projected for crop production from biotechnology, genetics, agronomics and horticulture will not be sufficient to meet food demand." Davies said the ability to discover ways to keep pace with food demand have been curtailed by cutbacks in spending on research.

"The U.S. agricultural productivity has averaged less than 1.2 percent per year between 1990 and 2007," he said.


One in eight people worldwide, he added, already suffers from chronic undernourishment, and 75 percent of the world's chronically poor are in the mid-income nations such as China, India, Brazil and the Philippines.


Internet Use May Cut Retirees’ Depression

April 17, 2014
Gerontological Society of America

Spending time online has the potential to ward off depression among retirees, particularly among those who live alone, according to research published online in The Journals of Gerontology, Series B: Psychological Sciences and Social Sciences. In the article “Internet Use and Depression Among Retired Older Adults in the United States: A Longitudinal Analysis,” the authors report that Internet use reduced the probability of a depressed state by 33 percent among their study sample.


Fish consumption advisories fail to cover all types of contaminants§id=1

Mar 31, 2014 | Don Campbell
University of Toronto, Scarborough

A new study suggests that fish consumption advisories for expecting mothers are ineffective in reducing infant exposure to long-lived contaminants like persistent organic pollutants (POPs).


Their model estimates that women who stop eating fish shortly before or during their pregnancy may only lower their child’s exposure to POPs by 10 to 15 per cent.

“We have to be careful in saying fish advisories don’t work at all because they can work very well for reducing exposure to quickly eliminated contaminants, such as mercury,” says Binnington. “But for POPs we found that they are not very effective.”

POPs are compounds that take a long time to break down and as a result can persist in the environment and begin to accumulate in humans by way of the food chain. While many POPs such as DDT and PCBs have long been banned from production, they still exist in the environment. Fish advisories have been developed for these chemicals because they are easily passed from mothers to their children during pregnancy and nursing, potentially impacting healthy infant neurodevelopment.

Binnington says consumption advisories for many POPs are ineffective because they can remain in the body for years or even decades due to properties that make it difficult for the human body to eliminate them. The same is not true for mercury-based advisories, as the time it remains in the body is much shorter compared to POPs.

“Something like mercury stays in the body for only a few months and by temporarily adjusting your diet you can reduce exposure,” says Binnington.

The limitation with consumption advisories is that while they inform people what not to eat, they do not offer much in the way of healthy alternatives, says Wania. In fact, substituting fish with meat such as beef may even end up doing more harm.

“Substituting fish with beef may actually result in higher exposure to other contaminants,” he says, adding there is also a loss of nutritional benefits by not eating fish.


More, bigger wildfires burning western U.S., study shows

17 April 2014
American Geophysical Union

Wildfires across the western United States have been getting bigger and more frequent over the last 30 years – a trend that could continue as climate change causes temperatures to rise and drought to become more severe in the coming decades, according to new research.

The number of wildfires over 1,000 acres in size in the region stretching from Nebraska to California increased by a rate of seven fires a year from 1984 to 2011, according to a new study accepted for publication in Geophysical Research Letters, a journal published by the American Geophysical Union.

The total area these fires burned increased at a rate of nearly 90,000 acres a year – an area the size of Las Vegas, according to the study. Individually, the largest wildfires grew at a rate of 350 acres a year, the new research says.

“We looked at the probability that increases of this magnitude could be random, and in each case it was less than one percent,” said Philip Dennison, an associate professor of geography at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City and lead author of the paper.


The ilk of human kindness

Older women more compassionate than "other older adults". Tactful way to put it.


Contact: Scott Lafee
University of California - San Diego

The ilk of human kindness

Older women with gumption score high on compassion

Researchers at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine report that older women, plucky individuals and those who have suffered a recent major loss are more likely to be compassionate toward strangers than other older adults.


"We are interested in anything that can help older people age more successfully," said Lisa Eyler, PhD, a professor of psychiatry and co-author. "We know that social connections are important to health and well-being, and we know that people who want to be kind to others garner greater social support. If we can foster compassion in people, we can improve their health and well-being, and maybe even longevity."


Women, independent of their age, income, education, race, marital status or mental health status, scored higher on the compassion test, on average, than men. Higher levels of compassion were also observed among both men and women who had "walked a mile in another person's shoes" and experienced a personal loss, such as a death in the family or illness, in the last year.

Those who reported higher confidence in their ability to bounce back from hard times also reported more empathy toward strangers and joy from helping those in need.


Vitamin B3 Might Have Been Made in Space, Delivered to Earth by Meteorites

April 17, 2014

Ancient Earth might have had an extraterrestrial supply of vitamin B3 delivered by carbon-rich meteorites, according to a new analysis by NASA-funded researchers. The result supports a theory that the origin of life may have been assisted by a supply of key molecules created in space and brought to Earth by comet and meteor impacts.

"It is always difficult to put a value on the connection between meteorites and the origin of life; for example, earlier work has shown that vitamin B3 could have been produced non-biologically on ancient Earth, but it's possible that an added source of vitamin B3 could have been helpful," said Karen Smith of Pennsylvania State University in University Park, Pa. "Vitamin B3, also called nicotinic acid or niacin, is a precursor to NAD (nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide), which is essential to metabolism and likely very ancient in origin." Smith is lead author of a paper on this research, along with co-authors from NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., now available online in the journal Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta.


The team doubts the vitamin B3 and other molecules found in their meteorites came from terrestrial life for two reasons. First, the vitamin B3 was found along with its structural isomers – related molecules that have the same chemical formula but whose atoms are attached in a different order. These other molecules aren't used by life. Non-biological chemistry tends to produce a wide variety of molecules -- basically everything permitted by the materials and conditions present -- but life makes only the molecules it needs. If contamination from terrestrial life was the source of the vitamin B3 in the meteorites, then only the vitamin should have been found, not the other, related molecules.


Counterfeit contraceptives found in South America


Contact: Brett Israel
Georgia Institute of Technology

Counterfeit contraceptives found in South America

More than a quarter of emergency contraceptives were falsified or substandard

A survey of emergency contraceptive pills in Peru found that 28 percent of the batches studied were either of substandard quality or falsified. Many pills released the active ingredient too slowly. Others had the wrong active ingredient. One batch had no active ingredient at all.


Drugs are considered fake or falsified when someone makes a pirate copy of copies a patented drug, with criminal intent. Recent research has found that falsified drugs are a major problem in developing countries. Falsified emergency contraceptives have been reported in Nigeria, Ghana, Kenya, Angola, South America and even the United States. Fake drug manufacturers will copy everything from the pill to the package.

Just as concerning as counterfeit medications are other poor quality medications, such as degraded or substandard drugs. Degraded drugs were once good quality, but lost their efficacy over time, for example after prolonged exposure to the sun in an open air market. Substandard drugs are made by an approved factory, but they don't contain the right active ingredient, contain less active ingredient than they should, or might not dissolve properly. These pills either result from factory error or negligence.

Falsified drugs are the most worrisome, because they may not contain the expected active ingredient, or they may contain the wrong ingredients, including toxic compounds.

In the survey of emergency contraceptives from Peru, the researchers found that seven of the 25 batches analyzed had inadequate release of the active ingredient (levonorgestrel). One batch had no detectable level of the active ingredient.


"Many fakes are very sophisticated. They have the right active ingredient and they may even have the right amount, but the excipients or coatings may not be the right ones," Fernandez said.


Study Shows Financial Incentives Help Economically-Disadvantaged Pregnant Smokers Quit

By Jennifer Nachbur
The University of Vermont

Smoking during pregnancy – particularly among economically-disadvantaged women – leads to a host of poor pregnancy outcomes, including miscarriage, preterm birth, SIDS, and additional adverse effects later in life. Without a formal treatment intervention, women in this population continue to smoke, and their babies suffer. Vermont Center on Behavior and Health Director Stephen Higgins, Ph.D., and colleagues, have developed an effective behavioral economic approach that offers women financial incentives for quitting.

The groups’ most recent findings, published online this month in Preventive Medicine, demonstrated that providing incentives more than doubled smoking abstinence rates during pregnancy and increased fetal growth. They also examined whether altering the way the incentives were offered might get still more women to quit, without increasing costs, but that strategy was not successful.


“More than 40 percent of women with a high school GED report regular smoking versus eight percent of college graduates and six percent of those with graduate degrees,” Higgins says. While about 20 percent of smokers quit without formal treatment soon after learning of a pregnancy, the vast majority of the largest segment of this group smoke through the pregnancy if there is no formal intervention.


Study of gut microbes, antibiotics: Clues to improving immunity in premature infants


Contact: Alison Fraser
Children's Hospital of Philadelphia

Study of gut microbes, antibiotics: Clues to improving immunity in premature infants

CHOP researchers' animal study suggests that improving newborns' bacterial environment could fend off infections

Mothers give a newborn baby a gift of germs—germs that help to kick-start the infant's immune system. But antibiotics, used to fend off infection, may paradoxically interrupt a newborn's own immune responses, leaving already-vulnerable premature babies more susceptible to dangerous pathogens.


New approach may help manage the most troubling symptoms of dementia, lessen use of drugs


Contact: Kara Gavin
University of Michigan Health System

New approach may help manage the most troubling symptoms of dementia, lessen use of drugs

Technique called DICE empowers caregivers, patients and health providers to work together to reduce behavioral problems

ANN ARBOR, Mich. — A new approach to handling agitation, aggression and other unwanted behaviors by people with dementia may help reduce the use of antipsychotics and other psychiatric drugs in this population, and make life easier for them and their caregivers, a team of experts says.

Publishing their recommendations under the easy-to-remember acronym of "DICE", the panel of specialists in senior mental health hope to spark better teamwork among those who care for dementia patients at home, in residential facilities and in hospitals and clinics.


Most people with Alzheimer's disease and other memory-affecting conditions also get aggressive, agitated, depressed, anxious, or delusional from time to time, says senior author Helen C. Kales, M.D., head of the U-M Program for Positive Aging and Geriatric Psychiatry at the University of Michigan Health System and investigator at the VA Center for Clinical Management Research. Or, they might have delusions, hallucinations, or lose inhibitions.

"Often more than memory loss, behavioral symptoms of dementia are among the most difficult aspects of caring for people with dementia. These symptoms are experienced almost universally, across dementia stages and causes," she says. "Sadly, these symptoms are often associated with poor outcomes including early nursing home placement, hospital stays, caregiver stress and depression, and reduced caregiver employment."

Doctors often prescribe these patients medications often used in patients with mental health disorders, despite little hard evidence that they work well and despite the risks they can pose -- including hastening death. Meanwhile, studies have shown promise from non-medication approaches to changing dementia patients' behavior and reducing triggers for behavioral issues in their environment and daily life. But too few health teams are trained in their use.


Dubbed "DICE" for Describe, Investigate, Evaluate, and Create, it details key patient, caregiver and environmental considerations with each step of the approach and describes the "go-to" behavioral and environmental interventions that should be considered.

Briefly described, the components are:

•D: Describe - Asking the caregiver, and the patient if possible, to describe the "who, what, when and where" of situations where problem behaviors occur and the physical and social context for them. Caregivers could take notes about the situations that led to behavior issues, to share with health professionals during visits.

•I: Investigate – Having the health provider look into all the aspects of the patient's health, dementia symptoms, current medications and sleep habits, that might be combining with physical, social and caregiver-related factors to produce the behavior.

•C: Create – Working together, the patient's caregiver and health providers develop a plan to prevent and respond to behavioral issues in the patient, including everything from changing the patient's activities and environment, to educating and supporting the caregiver.

•E: Evaluate – Giving the provider responsibility for assessing how well the plan is being followed and how it's working, or what might need to be changed.

The authors say that doctors should prescribe psychotropic drugs only after they and the patient and caregiver have made significant efforts to change dementia patients' behavior through environmental modifications and other interventions, with three exceptions related to severe depression, psychosis or aggression that present risk to the patient or others.


People Selectively Remember the Details of Atrocities That Absolve In-Group Members

No surprise. People selectively remember everything.

April 21, 2014

Conversations about wartime atrocities often omit certain details. According to research published in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science, these omissions can lead people to have different memories for the event depending on social group membership.


The results showed that participants were more likely to forget justifications for the atrocities committed by Afghan soldiers that had been recounted in the videos compared to justifications for the atrocities that hadn’t been recounted. The results indicate that hearing the stories repeated without the original justifications led participants to forget those justifications, just as the researchers expected.

But participants showed no memory impairment for unrepeated justifications when the perpetrator was American. That is, in-group membership made participants more likely to remember the reasons why the soldier committed the act, even though they had not been reminded of those reasons in the video.

“What we learn from this research is that moral disengagement strategies are fundamentally altering our memories,” explains Coman. “More specifically, these strategies affect the degree to which our memories are influenced by the conversations we have with one another.”

These findings are important, the researchers argue, because the ways in which people recall justifications could “influence attitudes and beliefs, the willingness to pay reparations, and the level of aggression toward out-groups.”

Teachers' scare tactics may lead to lower exam scores


Contact: APA Public Affairs
American Psychological Association

Teachers' scare tactics may lead to lower exam scores

Students not threatened by bad consequences of failing perform better on tests

WASHINGTON -- As the school year winds down and final exams loom, teachers may want to avoid reminding students of the bad consequences of failing a test because doing so could lead to lower scores, according to new research published by APA.

"Teachers are desperately keen to motivate their students in the best possible way but may not be aware of how messages they communicate to students around the importance of performing well in exams can be interpreted in different ways," said lead author David Putwain, PhD, of Edge Hill University in Lancashire, England.


Students who said they felt threatened by their teachers' messages that frequently focused on failure reported feeling less motivated and scored worse on the exam than students who said their teacher used fewer fear tactics that they considered less threatening, the study found.

A message such as, "If you fail the exam, you will never be able to get a good job or go to college. You need to work hard in order to avoid failure," was an example of attempting to motivate by fear. Messages focusing on success might include, "The exam is really important as most jobs that pay well require that you pass and if you want to go to college you will also need to pass the exam," according to the study.

"Both messages highlight to students the importance of effort and provide a reason for striving," said Putwain. "Where these messages differ is some focus on the possibility of success while others stress the need to avoid failure."


Almost one-third of Canadian adults have experienced child abuse


Contact: Kim Barnhardt
Canadian Medical Association Journal

Almost one-third of Canadian adults have experienced child abuse

Increased link to mental disorders, suicidal thoughts and suicide attempts

Almost one-third of adults in Canada have experienced child abuse — physical abuse, sexual abuse or exposure to intimate partner (parents, step-parents or guardians) violence in their home. As well, child abuse is linked to mental disorders and suicidal ideation (thoughts) or suicide attempts, found an article published in CMAJ (Canadian Medical Association Journal).


People between 35 and 64 years of age were more likely than those aged 18 to 34 years to report having been abused as a child.

"All 3 types of child abuse were associated with all types of interview-diagnosed mental disorders, self-reported mental conditions, suicide ideation [thoughts of suicide] and suicide attempts in models adjusting for sociodemographic variables," write the authors.

Drug abuse or dependence, suicidal thoughts and suicide attempts remained associated with all types of child abuse even in the most adjusted models. The least severe type of physical abuse (being slapped on the face, head or ears or hit or spanked with something hard) showed a strong association with all mental conditions in models adjusting for sociodemographic variables. Exposure to more than one type of abuse increased the odds of having a mental condition.


Lower birth weight, less breastfeeding linked to adult inflammation and disease


Contact: Hilary Hurd Anyaso
Northwestern University

Lower birth weight, less breastfeeding linked to adult inflammation and disease

Public awareness, interventions could help erode intractable disparities in health

EVANSTON, Ill. --- Individuals born at lower birth weights as well as those breastfed less than three months or not at all are more likely as young adults to have higher levels of chronic inflammation that contributes to cardiovascular disease, according to a new Northwestern University study.


Child's autism risk rises with increasing age of parents

April 22, 2014
Drexel University School of Public Health

Older parents are more likely to have a child who develops an autism spectrum disorder (ASD) than are younger parents. A recent study from researchers from the Drexel University School of Public Health in Philadelphia and Karolinska Institute in Sweden provides more insight into how the risk associated with parental age varies between mothers’ and fathers’ ages, and found that the risk of having a child with both ASD and intellectual disability is larger for older parents. - See more at:


The risk of having a child with ASD had a more complicated relationship to age in women than in men – whose risk of fathering a child with ASD increased linearly with age across their lifespan. Among women giving birth before the age of 30, the risk of ASD in the child showed no association with age -- it was simply very low. But for babies born to mothers aged 30 and older, the chance of developing ASD rose rapidly with the mother's age. - See more at:


Multiple mechanisms could be in play to account for the different patterns of risk, including environmental risk factors occurring in women after age 30. Factors such as complications in pregnancy could also underlie the effect of mothers’ ages on a child’s ASD risk but not a paternal age effect. The linear, steady increase in risk associated with fathers’ ages is consistent with the hypothesis of increased genomic alterations over the father’s lifespan that can increase risk of ASD, Lee said. - See more at:


Speed-Reading Apps May Impair Reading Comprehension by Limiting Ability to Backtrack

April 22, 2012

To address the fact that many of us are on the go and pressed for time, app developers have devised speed-reading software that eliminates the time we supposedly waste by moving our eyes as we read. But don’t throw away your books, papers, and e-readers just yet — research suggests that the eye movements we make during reading actually play a critical role in our ability to understand what we’ve just read.

Life Stressors Trigger Neurological Disorders, Researchers Find

When mothers are exposed to trauma, illness, alcohol or other drug abuse, these stressors may activate a single molecular trigger in brain cells that can go awry and activate conditions such as schizophrenia, post-traumatic stress disorder and some forms of autism.

Until now, it has been unclear how much these stressors have impacted the cells of a developing brain. Past studies have shown that when an expectant mother exposes herself to alcohol or drug abuse or she experiences some trauma or illness, her baby may later develop a psychiatric disorder, including some forms of autism or post-traumatic stress disorder, later in life.


Newly-Approved Brain Stimulator Offers Hope for Individuals With Uncontrolled Epilepsy

April 21, 2014

Rush University Medical Center is the first in the country to use the device along with a unique electrode placement planning system

A recently FDA-approved device has been shown to reduce seizures in patients with medication-resistant epilepsy by as much as 50 percent. When coupled with an innovative electrode placement planning system developed by physicians at Rush, the device facilitated the complete elimination of seizures in nearly half of the implanted Rush patients enrolled in the decade-long clinical trials.

That’s good news for a large portion of the nearly 400,000 people in the U.S. living with epilepsy whose seizures can’t be controlled with medications and who are not candidates for brain surgery.


According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in 2010, epilepsy affected approximately 2.3 million adults in the U.S. and 467,711 children under the age of 17.

Happy Earth Day!

See the link below for photos of our lovely home:

By: Dr. Jeff Masters, 11:50 AM GMT on April 22, 2014

Today is Earth Day, a day to celebrate the beauty of the atmosphere, oceans, and biosphere of the planet that sustains us. As is my tradition on Earth Day, I present my favorite wunderphotos uploaded to our web site over the past year.

March 2014 was 4th Warmest March Globally

And we are still at points in several weather cycles that normally bring cooler than average temps. One of these might change in the next few month, as an El Nino may be developing, so we might have record high temps this year or next.

Looking at the maps at the following link, which show the departure from average for areas around the world, the Eastern half of the U.S. is an obvious exception.

By: Christopher C. Burt , 6:59 PM GMT on April 22, 2014

NOAA released its global March 2014 summary today (April 22nd) which stated that it was the 4th warmest March on record over global land and ocean surfaces since 1880. The global average temperature for the month was 12.3°C (54.1°F) which was 0.71°C (1.28°F) above the 20th century average.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Kentucky Inmate Starves to Death

April 21, 2014

A prison doctor has been fired and two other staffers are in the midst of being dismissed after an inmate at the Kentucky State Penitentiary starved himself to death, a case that has exposed lapses in medical treatment and in how hunger strikes are handled at the facility. Prison officials have asked prosecutors to investigate after The Associated Press began asking questions about the inmate's death.

James Kenneth Embry, 57 and with just three years left on a nine-year sentence for drug offenses, began to spiral out of control in the spring of 2013 after he stopped taking anti-anxiety medication. Seven months later, in December, after weeks of erratic behavior — from telling prison staff he felt anxious and paranoid to banging his head on his cell door — Embry eventually refused most of his meals. By the time of his death in January of this year, he had shed more than 30 pounds on his 6-foot frame and died weighing just 138 pounds, according to documents reviewed by The Associated Press.

An internal investigation determined that medical personnel failed to provide him anti-anxiety medication that may have kept his suicidal thoughts at bay and didn't take steps to check on him as his condition worsened. The internal review of Embry's death also exposed broader problems involving the treatment of inmates — including a failure to regularly check inmates on medical rounds and communication lapses among medical staff.

The AP, tipped off to Embry's death, obtained scores of documents under Kentucky's Open Records Act, including a report detailing the investigation into Embry's death, an autopsy report and personnel files. Along with interviews with corrections officials and correspondence with inmates, the documents describe Embry's increasingly paranoid behavior until his death and the numerous opportunities for various prison staff to have intervened.

"It's just very, very, very disturbing," said Greg Belzley, a Louisville, Ky.-based attorney who specializes in inmate rights litigation and reviewed some of the documents obtained by the AP. "How do you just watch a man starve to death?"


A nurse checked on Embry on Jan. 4, finding him weak and shaky, and advised him to resume eating. Embry responded that it had been too long for him to start taking food again. Nine days later, on the very day he died, an advanced practice registered nurse named Bob Wilkinson refused a request from other medical staffers to move him to the infirmary at 11:51 a.m. and said the inmate should be taken off a hunger strike watch, according to the internal investigative report. Guards found Embry unresponsive in his cell hours later, his head slumped to the side. He was pronounced dead at 5:29 p.m.

Lyon County Coroner Ronnie Patton classified Embry's death as a suicide and listed dehydration as the primary cause of death, with starvation and several other medical ailments as secondary


The internal investigation found that Hiland and Wilkinson didn't check on inmates as they should have during routine visits. The report also documented multiple communication problems among medical staff and allegations that other nurses were intimidated by Wilkinson, a contract staffer who works for Nashville, Tenn.-based Correct Care Solutions.


Top court declines Exxon's appeal in water pollution case

An example of how the media can distort the news while reporting it. The Reuters article points out that this poisonous additive was not required by the law, and that Exxon Mobile knew it was poisonous before they decided to use it. The business-oriented Bloomberg News leaves out this information, and makes it sound like Exxon Mobile was just obeying the law.

For the current supreme court, with a majority of justices having been chosen by Republican presidents, and being partial to big business & the very rich, to uphold this judgement seems especially significant to me, how indefensible Exxon Mobile's decision to use this chemical was.

Neither the Bloomberg nor the Reuters article about the supreme court decision talked about why Exxon Mobile chose to use this chemical instead of safer ones. Anybody who's followed such things for a few years would expect it was the cheapest alternative. And I found that this was indeed at least part of the reason.

By Lawrence Hurley
Apr 21, 2014

The Supreme Court on Monday declined to review a ruling against Exxon Mobil Corp that ordered the company to pay $105 million in damages for polluting New York City's groundwater with a toxic gasoline additive.


In 2009, a jury concluded that Exxon contaminated water supply wells when the additive, methyl tertiary butyl ether (MTBE), leaked from its underground storage tanks in the borough of Queens.

The appeals court rejected Exxon's arguments that it was required to use the additive under the federal Clean Air Act. An oxygen-containing substance that is added to gasoline to promote more complete combustion and reduce air pollution, MTBE was one of several additives recommended by regulators to reduce emissions.

It has now largely been phased out of the U.S. fuel supply because of its danger to groundwater.

New York City claimed Exxon went ahead and used the chemical in the 1980s through the first half of the 2000s despite warnings from its own scientists and engineers that it could be harmful in areas that relied on groundwater for drinking.

MTBE has been identified as an animal carcinogen and a possible human carcinogen and causes water to smell foul and taste bad.



Posted: July 29, 2013
Chris Knight

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit has upheld a $105 million jury verdict that found Exxon Mobil Corp. responsible for contaminating New York City groundwater with the gasoline oxygenate methyl tertiary butyl ether (MTBE), rejecting Exxon's claim that Clean Air Act mandates to use MTBE are a defense against the suit.


The Clean Air Act amendments of 1990 required the use of oxygenated gasoline in areas with unhealthy levels of air pollution, but did not specifically require MTBE, according to EPA's website. "Most refiners have chosen to use MTBE over other oxygenates primarily for its blending characteristics and for economic reasons," EPA adds.


Even if MTBE was the only safe, feasible oxygenate, the opinion says that of the four claims for which the jury awarded damages, "mere use of MTBE" would not have caused groundwater contamination, but also required additional conduct, such as failure to use reasonable care when storing gasoline with MTBE.


If you refer to the article on this from the business-oriented Bloomberg news, it does not mention that there are other methods to comply with the law that are not so toxic.

By Greg Stohr Apr 21, 2014

The U.S. Supreme Court rejected Exxon Mobil Corp. (XOM)’s appeal of a $105 million jury verdict it was ordered to pay for contaminating underground water in New York City with a gasoline additive.

The Irving, Texas-based oil and gas company argued unsuccessfully that any award was premature because the city isn’t planning to use the disputed wells in southeastern Queens for another 15 to 20 years.

Exxon used the additive, methyl tertiary butyl ether, to comply with a 1990 federal law that required an increase in the oxygen content of gasoline in the smoggiest parts of the country. New York later banned MTBE, as the additive is known, because of contamination concerns.New York sued Exxon Mobil and other oil companies in 2003, alleging that they knew MTBE would pollute groundwater. A New York-based federal appeals court last year upheld the 2009 jury verdict against the company.



Exxon Mobil must pay $236M in NH pollution case

Tuesday, Apr 9, 2013
Lynne Tuohy, Associated Press

CONCORD, N.H. (AP) — A jury in New Hampshire has ordered Exxon Mobil to pay $236 million in damages after finding the oil giant liable in a long-running lawsuit over groundwater contamination by the gasoline additive MTBE.



NH’s $236M suit against Exxon Mobil to go to jury

Monday, Apr 8, 2013
Lynne Tuohy, Associated Press


Attorney Jessica Grant for the state said Exxon Mobil should pay $236 million to offset the state’s cost to monitor and treat wells contaminated with MTBE. She said the oil giant ignored its own internal memos dating back to 1984 that raised ethical and environmental concerns about MTBE’s ability to contaminate faster and further than non-treated gasoline.


Grant said Exxon Mobil put MTBE in gasoline five years before the government mandate in 1990 that the company use one of seven oxygenators available, including ethanol. She argued Exxon’s decision to keep using MTBE — even in the face of growing evidence of environmental liabilities — was motivated by profit.


Sunday, April 20, 2014

In West Bank, teen offenders face different fates

Apr 20, 12:29 PM

BEIT UMAR, West Bank (AP) - The boys were both 15, with the crackly voices and awkward peach fuzz of adolescence. They lived just a few minutes away from one another in the West Bank. And both were accused of throwing stones at vehicles, one day after the other.

But there was a crucial difference that helped to shape each boy's fate: One was Israeli, and the other Palestinian.

The tale of the two teens provides a stark example of the vast disparities of Israel's justice system in the West Bank, a contested area at the heart of the elusive search for a lasting peace.

While Israeli settlers in the West Bank fall mostly under civilian rule, Palestinians are subject to Israeli military law. Israeli and Palestinian youths face inequities at every stage in the path of justice, from arrests to convictions and sentencing, according to police statistics obtained by The Associated Press through multiple requests under Israel's freedom of information law.


Only 53 Israeli settler youths were arrested for stone-throwing over the past six years, the data shows, and 89 percent were released without charge. Six were indicted. Four of those were found "guilty without conviction," a common sentence for Israeli juveniles that aims not to stain their record. One was cleared. The sixth case was still in court as of October, the most recent information available.

By contrast, 1,142 Palestinian youths were arrested by police over the same period for throwing stones, and 528 were indicted. All were convicted. Lawyers say the penalty is typically three to eight months in military prison.


On Feb. 20, 2012, the Israeli boy joined a group of youths pelting a bus with rocks at the entrance to Bat Ayin, according to police reports. The settlement, located in the southern West Bank between Jerusalem and the biblical city of Hebron, is known for its hardline population.

Police said they targeted the bus because the driver was Arab. The rocks damaged the bus but did not harm the driver.

The boy, whose name cannot be published under local law because he is a minor, was brought to the Hebron region police station at 9 p.m., with his father by his side. In his interrogation, the boy invoked his right to remain silent. He spent a night in the station and four days under house arrest. Then he was freed without charge.

The following day, according to police reports, the Palestinian boy lobbed rocks at Israeli cars zipping past his hometown of Beit Umar, a farming town of 14,000 people perched near an Israeli military tower. Police said he and others wanted to show solidarity with a high-profile Palestinian prisoner on hunger strike in an Israeli jail.

The rocks shattered the front windshield of a white Mazda and damaged three other vehicles on a busy highway. There were no injuries. The incident was caught on tape and broadcast on Israeli evening news.

Two weeks later, at 3:30 a.m., Israeli soldiers kicked down the door to the Palestinian boy's bedroom, carried him to a jeep, blindfolded him and tied his hands behind his back with plastic handcuffs, he said. He was slapped by soldiers, kept awake all night and placed in a military jail cell with 10 other Palestinian youths, he said.

It would be more than nine months before he could go free.


Saturday, April 19, 2014

What It’s Like to Spend 20 Years Listening to Psychopaths for Science

By Greg Miller

Kiehl [Kiehl] is a neuroscientist at the Mind Research Network and the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque, and he’s devoted his career to studying what’s different about the brains of psychopaths — people whose lack of compassion, empathy, and remorse has a tendency to get them into trouble with the law.


Kiehl recounts the story in a new book about his research, The Psychopath Whisperer. He has been interviewing psychopaths for more than 20 years, and the book is filled with stories of these colorful (and occasionally off-color) encounters.


WIRED: How do real life psychopaths differ from ones we see on TV or in movies?

Kent Kiehl: One of the biggest differences is that psychopaths are way more common than people believe. About one in 150 people will meet the stringent clinical criteria for the disorder. That means hundreds of thousands of them are out and about in the population. The majority of them don’t commit violent crimes, but they lead this sort of disorganized, nomadic life, and they tend to eventually end up in some sort of trouble. Hollywood hasn’t done a good job of portraying the average psychopath. For the most part, they’ve taken the extreme view, with the Hannibal Lecters and more sensationalized people like that. It’s actually far more common and banal.

WIRED: People also tend to confuse psychopathy and psychosis — what’s the difference?

Kiehl: Right. With psychopathy the main features are lack of empathy, guilt, and remorse — and impulsivity. Psychosis is a fragmentation of the mind where you have hallucinations and delusions. It’s a very different disorder. You almost never find someone who has psychotic delusions and even moderate levels of psychopathic traits.


WIRED: What is known at this point about what’s different about their brains?

Kiehl: We’ve found that psychopaths have 5 to 10 percent reduced gray matter density in and around the limbic regions [a network deep in the brain that's important for emotional processing]. We’ve also found — and a group in Germany has published a similar finding — that the tissue that connects the limbic system to the frontal lobes is disrupted. There have also been lots of studies published showing reduced responsivity in those circuits during emotional processing and moral decision making.


WIRED: Can psychopaths change?

Kiehl: I’m so encouraged by the pioneering work that’s occurring at places like the Mendota Juvenile Treatment Center in Wisconsin, where people are taking high risk youths [who show signs of developing psychopathic traits] and treating them with various intensive programs to try to reduce the odds that they’ll reoffend.

The treatments that seem to be making a big difference emphasize positive reinforcement rather than punishment. Yes, they’re incarcerated at the time and that’s their punishment for the crimes they’ve done, but the facilities instead of only punishing them when they do something bad actually reward them when they do something good. If they interact positively with staff they’re given a small reward, like maybe a video game in their cell for the weekend. Similarly, with this segment of the population, if you use positive reinforcement they’re much more likely to do what you want them to do.


WIRED: Does it really make sense to devote the resources for intensive therapy to such a small minority?

Kiehl: If you look at just the published literature on the Mendota Juvenile Treatment Center, for every $10,000 the state of Wisconsin has invested on that program, it returned over $70,000 in reduced incarceration and criminal justice costs in the next four years. Boys that go through the treatment stop accumulating infractions that lengthen their sentence. When they get out, they stay out longer and they commit less violent crime, which is the most expensive kind of crime from a societal perspective.

WIRED: If we already have interventions that work, why do we need all the brain research?

Kiehl: The current programs aren’t perfect. They reduce violent recidivism by 50 percent. But 10 to 15 percent of kids still reoffended violently, despite the best psychological treatment. What the brain science might do is help inform the cognitive treatment process so maybe you could determine that the easy to treat kids might be ready for release after six months, but these other kids need a full year or more of treatment. You might be able to use the neuroscience to improve the decision making. That’s the sort of thing we’re hoping to do.


Friday, April 18, 2014

Study: Half of jailed NYC youths have brain injury

A neurologist who studied adult violent criminals found evidence that most of them had brain damage, usually due to child abuse from their parents.

Apr 18, 2014

About half of all 16- to 18-year-olds coming into New York City's jails say they had a traumatic brain injury before being incarcerated, most caused by assaults, according to a new study that's the latest in a growing body of research documenting head trauma among young offenders.

Experts say the findings, published this week in The Journal of Adolescent Health, could lead to better training for correction officers on how to deal with the possible symptoms of such trauma, which include problems with impulse control and decision-making.


The peer-reviewed study was based on medical brain injury questionnaires given to 300 boys and 84 girls inside the nation's second-largest jail system in 2012.

The study found nearly 50 percent of both boys and girls reported traumatic brain injuries that resulted in a loss of consciousness, amnesia or both. And they said 55 percent of those injuries were caused by assaults. [And there must be more injuries that are not remembered, or that did not cause such dramatic symptoms.]

Previous studies show the rate of traumatic brain injury among adolescents who aren't incarcerated is about 15 to 30 percent, said Dr. Homer Venters, an assistant health commissioner in New York City and one of the study's authors.

Brain injuries are often undiagnosed or misdiagnosed because people with them don't necessarily show obvious, immediate signs of injury. But research about them has increased in recent years, as combat veterans and children who play contact sports have displayed symptoms, experts said.

A growing body of research shows that inmates whose brains have been jolted by trauma are linked to higher rates of breaking jailhouse rules, substance abuse and greater difficulty re-entering society after detention, said John D. Corrigan, a professor in the Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation at Ohio State University and a national expert on head injuries.


"What's happening with many of these kids, these young adults in the criminal population, is they're having them early in life," and their consequences aren't noticed until later, he said.


An estimated 60 percent of adult prisoners have a brain injury, according to a study of prisoners in South Carolina. Not all correction departments screen inmates for the injury - a practice public health officials say should change.


And in the United Kingdom, a national campaign on the issue has resulted in a commission that found almost two-thirds of young inmates suffered from head trauma, which University of Exeter researchers found in 2010 is associated with earlier, repeated and more time spent in custody.


Pennsylvania Teen Convicted Of A Crime For Recording Bullies At School

By Carimah TownesApril 15, 2014

A 15-year old boy with ADHD, comprehension delay disorder, and an anxiety disorder recorded classmates bullying him in school. But instead of reprimanding the tormentors, school officials targeted the boy for wiretapping — and he was later convicted of disorderly conduct by a district judge.

Using an iPad, a student at South Fayette High School in Pennsylvania whose name is undisclosed, recorded a seven minute video of his peers trying to harass him. In the recording, two other students discuss pulling the victim’s pants down, according to the Pittsburgh Tribune Review. And a loud noise is heard further into the recording, after which a student said, “I was just trying to scare him.”

According to the victim, being bullied is a daily occurrence. Speaking to South Fayette District Judge Maureen McGraw-Desmet, he explained, “This wasn’t just a one-time thing. This always happens every day in that class.” He revealed that he used the iPad to expose what was happening to him. “Because I always felt like it wasn’t me being heard,” the boy told McGraw-Dismet.

The high school staff knew about the bullying prior to the iPad incident. Assistant Principal Aaron Skrbin testified that Shea Love, the victim’s mother, previously voiced concerns about the tormentors. Last October, she approached the school when a classmate targeted the victim with spitwads — but Skrbin did not “[classify] that as bullying.”

When school officials learned about the recording, Principal Scott Milburn contacted local police on February 12, for what he considered a “wiretapping incident.” After approaching the boy for questioning, South Fayette Lieutenant Robert Kurta told him to dispose of the recording, and charged him with disorderly conduct. In Pennsylvania, the low-level crime is known as a “summary offense,” and does not typically result in jail time for juveniles. Nonetheless, they can stay on a juvenile’s criminal record. McGraw-Desmet later upheld the charges, fining the student “a minimum of $25.” The 15-year old was also ordered to pay court costs. Love is currently trying to get the decision reversed.

Statistics show that millions of students are bullied every year, and that teachers only intervene in 4 percent of incidents.


Poor People’s Lives Are Getting Shorter

By Tara Culp-ResslerApril 18, 2014

Although life expectancy has been rising for Americans as a whole, the people who live in this country aren’t necessary sharing those gains equally. Wealthy people are enjoying longer lifespans than lower income Americans, according to a new analysis from Brookings Institute researchers, and the gap is threatening to get wider.

By the age of 55 years old, the average American man in the richest 10 percent of the county can expect to live another 35 years. But the average man in the poorest 10 percent only has about 24 years left. And the discrepancy is even starker among women, since low-income women’s life expectancy has actually been declining:

----- [See link above for graphs. Live expectancy has decreased for the bottom 40% of women!

It’s not entirely surprising that poverty is an indicator of a shorter life span. Economic insecurity has a long list of negative effects on physical and mental health. People living in poverty are less likely to have access to quality food and clean air, and they’re more likely to struggle to afford the medical care they need.

What’s most concerning is the fact that poverty is worsening, and extreme income inequality continues to widen the gulf between the richest and the poorest sectors of the country.


A recent study conducted by Harvard researchers estimated that as many as 17,000 people will die directly as a result of their states refusing to expand Medicaid.

Wealthiest Households Accounted for more than 80% of Postrecession Rise in Incomes

This continued the trends already established before the recession/depression.


A recent article by Labor Department senior economist Aaron Cobet highlights the sharp disparity between the wealthiest and poorest Americans in the aftermath of the 2007-2009 recession.

“While average income has returned to pre-recession levels, income gains have been distributed unevenly,” Mr. Cobet said.

The economist mined Labor Department data to show that the top 20% of earners accounted for more than 80% of the rise in household income from 2008-2012. Income fell for the bottom 20%.


The International Monetary Fund has warned that rising income inequality is weighing on global growth.


In American Politics, the Wealthy Get What They Want - See more at:

Not news, just comfirmation of the obvious.

Rob GarverThe Fiscal Times
April 17, 2014


Martin Gilens of Princeton and Benjamin I. Page of Northwestern conducted an extensive study of how major questions of public policy were decided over the course of the 20 years between 1981 and 2002. Their conclusions, scheduled for publication in the Fall issue of the journal Perspectives on Policy, were not happy ones for people who believe that the United States is a majoritarian democracy.

“When the preferences of economic elites and the stands of organized interest groups are controlled for, the preferences of the average American appear to have only a minuscule, near-zero, statistically non-significant impact upon public policy,” they write.

This is not to say that the average voter’s policy choices are never realized. The study found that in a large number of cases, the policy preferences of the median voter and the economic elite coincide. The most significant finding relates to the instances where the majority of voters disagree with the economic elite.

“In the United States, our findings indicate, the majority does not rule — at least not in the causal sense of actually determining policy outcomes,” the study finds. “When a majority of citizens disagrees with economic elites and/or with organized interests, they generally lose. Moreover, because of the strong status quo bias built into the U.S. political system, even when fairly large majorities of Americans favor policy change, they generally do not get it.”


the data suggests “the net alignments of the most influential, business oriented groups are negatively related to the average citizen’s wishes.”


Thursday, April 17, 2014

California Drought/Polar Vortex Jet Stream Pattern Linked to Global Warming

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 6:56 PM GMT on April 16, 2014

From November 2013 - January 2014, a remarkably extreme jet stream pattern set up over North America, bringing the infamous "Polar Vortex" of cold air to the Midwest and Eastern U.S., and a "Ridiculously Resilient Ridge" of high pressure over California, which brought the worst winter drought conditions ever recorded to that state. A new study published this week in Geophysical Research Letters, led by Utah State scientist S.-Y. Simon Wang, found that this jet stream pattern was the most extreme on record, and likely could not have grown so extreme without the influence of human-caused global warming. The study concluded, “there is a traceable anthropogenic warming footprint in the enormous intensity of the anomalous ridge during winter 2013-14, the associated drought and its intensity."


GM Risked Lives to Save 25 Cents Per Car

Adds up to a lot that can go to the CEO.

Eric PianinThe Fiscal Times
April 17, 2014

Until now, one of the most perplexing questions in the General Motors scandal is why the storied manufacturer waited more than a decade to recall 1.6 million compact cars with faulty ignition switches that contributed to more than a dozen deaths across the country.


Yet, on Wednesday, two prominent highway safety advocates charged that GM in 2001 intentionally chose an inferior design for an ignition switch that it installed in Chevrolet Cobalts, Saturn Ions and other compact cars that the company now concedes contributed to at least 31 crashes and 13 fatalities – many of them involving young people.

The failure of airbags to deploy in many of those accidents has been linked to a serious defect in the ignition switch.


The question of whether to address the faulty ignition switch came up again in 2005, the same year that a 16-year-old girl named Amber Marie Rose was killed in a crash in Maryland while driving a 2005 Cobalt when her air bag failed to deploy. GM decided not to change the faulty ignition switch because by then it would have added about a dollar to the cost of each car, according to an internal GM document provided to congressional investigators.


“It was cost over safety,” Ditlow said in an interview yesterday. “GM made a decision in 2001 to pick the cheaper part over the safer part at a cost savings of no more than 25 cents and that decision then cost the consumers’ untold numbers of lives over the years. Basically GM was saying that consumers’ lives weren’t worth 25 cents.”