Monday, April 18, 2016

Get your taxes done for free by Tax-Aide

See the following link for more info, including locations and documents you need to bring with you.

Since 1968, volunteer-based program has helped nearly 50 million low- to moderate-income taxpayers

AARP Foundation Tax-Aide has more than 5,000 locations in neighborhood libraries, malls, banks, community centers and senior centers. There’s no fee and no sales pitch for other services and AARP membership is not required.

We help taxpayers of all ages.

Friday, February 05, 2016

High drowsy driving crash risk on daytime commute after night work

Public Release: 21-Dec-2015
High drowsy driving crash risk on daytime commute after night work
New research from Brigham and Women's Hospital finds that nearly 40 percent of shift workers who participated in a test drive following a night shift were involved in a near-crash event
Brigham and Women's Hospital

Most drivers admit to driving while drowsy. Twenty-eight percent of drivers have reported falling asleep while driving within the past year. More than 9.5 million Americans, or 15 percent of the workforce, work overnight or rotating shifts. Those who commute home after working the night shift may be at high risk for drowsy driving crashes because of disruption to their sleep-wake cycles and insufficient sleep during the night.


Protecting a few students from negative stereotypes benefits entire classroom

Public Release: 21-Dec-2015
Protecting a few students from negative stereotypes benefits entire classroom
Association for Psychological Science

Interventions targeted at individual students can improve the classroom environment and trigger a second wave of benefits for all classmates, new research shows. The findings, published in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science, indicate that sharing a classroom with greater numbers of students who participate in a brief intervention can boost all students' grades over and above the initial benefits of the intervention.


Scientists find: Religion and politics led to social tension and conflict, then and now

Public Release: 21-Dec-2015
Scientists find: Religion and politics led to social tension and conflict, then and now
University of Central Florida

Humans haven't learned much in more than 2,000 years when it comes to religion and politics.

Religion has led to social tension and conflict, not just in today's society, but dating back to 700 B.C. according to a new study published today in Current Anthropology .

University of Colorado anthropology Professor Arthur A. Joyce and University of Central Florida Associate Professor Sarah Barber found evidence in several Mexican archeological sites that contradict the long-held belief that religion acted to unite early state societies. It often had the opposite effect, the study says.

"It doesn't matter if we today don't share particular religious beliefs, but when people in the past acted on their beliefs, those actions could have real, material consequences," Barber said about the team's findings. "It really behooves us to acknowledge religion when considering political processes."

Sounds like sage advice in today's world that has multiple examples of politics and religion intersecting and resulting in conflict.


Brain differences in premature babies who later develop autism

Public Release: 21-Dec-2015
Brain differences in premature babies who later develop autism
Karolinska Institutet

Extremely premature babies run a much higher risk of developing autism in later childhood, and even during the neonate period differences are seen in the brains of those who do. This according to a new study by researchers from Karolinska Institutet and Karolinska University Hospital in Sweden. The findings, which are published in the journal Cerebral Cortex, suggest that environmental factors can lead to autism

Extremely preterm neonates survive at increasingly early gestation periods thanks to the advances made in intensive care in the past decades. However, babies born more than 13 weeks prematurely run a serious risk of brain damage, autism, ADHD and learning difficulties. They are exposed to numerous stress factors during a period critical to brain development, and it is possible that this plays a key part in the development of autism spectrum disorder (ASD).


"We were surprised by how many - almost 30 per cent - of the extremely preterm-born children had developed ASD symptoms," says Ulrika Ådén, researcher at the Department of Women's and Children's Health at Karolinska Institutet and neonatologist at the Neonatology clinic at Karolinska University Hospital in Sweden. "Amongst children born after full term pregnancy, the corresponding figure is 1 per cent."

The researchers found that it was more common in the group of children who had developed ASD for there to have been complications during the neonate period, such as surgery, than it was amongst their prematurely born peers who had not developed ASD. Already in the neonatal period, long before the children had manifested signs of autism, differences could be observed between the extremely preterm babies who went on to develop ASD and those who did not, with diminished growth of the parts of the brain involved in social contact, empathy and language acquisition - functions that are impaired in autistic children.


Material purchases can bring happiness

Public Release: 21-Dec-2015
Living happily in a material world: Material purchases can bring happiness
A recent study from Social Psychological and Personality Science shows material purchases provide more frequent happiness
Society for Personality and Social Psychology

In a recent study from the journal Social Psychological and Personality Science, researchers have shown that material purchases, from sweaters to skateboards, provide more frequent happiness over time, whereas experiential purchases, like a trip to the zoo, provide more intense happiness on individual occasions.


Empathy with strangers can be learned

Public Release: 21-Dec-2015
Empathy with strangers can be learned
University of Zurich

We can learn to empathize with strangers. Surprisingly positive experiences with people from another group trigger a learning effect in the brain, which increases empathy. As researchers from the University of Zurich reveal, only a handful of positive learning experiences already suffice for a person to be-come more empathic.

Conflicts between people from different nationalities and cultures often stem from a lack of empathy or compassion for 'the stranger'. More empathy for members of other groups could thus encourage peaceful coexistence. A study conducted by the University of Zurich examined whether empathy with strangers can be learned and how positive experiences with others influence empathic brain responses.


Obesity more dangerous than lack of fitness, new study claims

Public Release: 20-Dec-2015
Obesity more dangerous than lack of fitness, new study claims
Oxford University Press

new study, published today in the International Journal of Epidemiology [1], has dismissed the concept of 'fat but fit'. In contrast, the results from the new study suggest that the protective effects of high fitness against early death are reduced in obese people.

Although the detrimental effects of low aerobic fitness have been well documented, this research has largely been performed in older populations. Few studies have investigated the direct link between aerobic fitness and health in younger populations


Men in the highest fifth of aerobic fitness had a 48 per cent lower risk of death from any cause compared with those in the lowest fifth. Stronger associations were observed for deaths related to suicide and abuse of alcohol and narcotics. Unexpectedly, the authors noted a strong association between low aerobic fitness and also deaths related to trauma. Co-author Peter Nordström has no explanation for this finding: "We could only speculate, but genetic factors could have influenced these associations given that aerobic fitness is under strong genetic control."

The study also evaluated the concept that 'fat but fit is ok'. Men of a normal weight, regardless of their fitness level, were at lower risk of death compared to obese individuals in the highest quarter of aerobic fitness. Nevertheless, the relative benefits of high fitness may still be greater in obese people. However, in this study the beneficial effect of high aerobic fitness was actually reduced with increased obesity, and in those with extreme obesity there was no significant effect at all.


Americans Are Living Longer, Thanks to the Clean Air Act

By Melissa C. Lott on January 31, 2016

When the Clean Air Act was passed in 1970, Los Angeles was known as the “smog capital of the world” and Steubenville, Ohio was about as polluted as Beijing, according to University of Chicago’s Michael Greenstone. But, Greenstone says, the air is a lot cleaner today. In turn, increases to life expectancies have been realised across the nation.

This is not to say that the Clean Air Act’s work is done. In truth, air pollution is still a significant challenge in the United States. For example, air pollution from combustion processes – primarily from transportation and power generation – results in an estimated 200,000 early deaths across the country each year. But, the nation's air is certainly getting cleaner.

This trend can be seen by looking at particulate matter concentration data from 1970 to 2012 from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Greenstone's team was able to calculate changes in life expectancy for metropolitan areas across the nation. For example, according to their results, the following life expectancy increases were seen in these metro areas:
1.Weirton, West Virginia (+5.2 years)
2.Wichita, Kansas (+4.3 years)
3.Phoenix, Arizona (+3.9 years)
4.New Castle, Pennsylvania (+3.9 years)
5.Mobile, Alabama (+3.9 years)
6.Youngstown, Ohio (+3.4 years)
7.Chattanooga, Tennessee (+3.0 years)
8.Pueblo, Colorado (+2.9 years)
9.Kingsport, Tennessee (+2.9 years)
10.Birmingham, Alabama (+2.8 years)
11.Los Angeles, California (+1.7 years)
12.Houston, Texas (+0.9 years)


Thursday, February 04, 2016

Intelligence vs. wisdome

This thought came to me this morning around 3am when I couldn't sleep for awhile:

Intelligence is the ability to learn.

Wisdom is choosing to use that ability.

Childhood concussions impair brain function

Public Release: 18-Dec-2015
Study: Childhood concussions impair brain function
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

A new study finds that pre-adolescent children who have sustained sports-related concussions have impaired brain function two years following injury.

The results are published in the International Journal of Psychophysiology.


Exercise eases hot flushes during menopause

Public Release: 17-Dec-2015
Exercise eases hot flushes during menopause
The Physiological Society

Exercise can reduce the amount and intensity of hot flushes experienced during the menopause, according to a study published today in The Journal of Physiology.

Exercise that makes you hot, sweaty and fitter reduced the severity of hot flushes by minimising the symptoms that occur during a hot flush, such as the amount of sweating and elevations in skin, as well as blood flow in the brain. In contrast, the women who remained sedentary reported very little differences in hot flush severity.


Contraception Fell, Medicaid Births Rose When Texas Defunded Planned Parenthood

by Maggie Fox
Feb. 3, 2016

Women stopped using the most effective types of contraception and more babies were born on the government's tab after Texas cut off funding from Planned Parenthood clinics, a team of Texas researchers said Wednesday.

The number of claims for long-acting contraception plummeted by more than a third and births paid for by Medicaid rose 27 percent, the team at the University of Texas at Austin reported.

"This change is worrisome, since increased access to long-acting, reversible contraception methods is a priority of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, and one study has indicated substantial unmet demand for long-acting, reversible contraception methods in Texas," they wrote in their report, published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

This new research shows the devastating consequences for women when politicians block access to care at Planned Parenthood. Politicians have claimed time and again that our patients can simply go to other health care providers — and tragically that's not the case. Instead, women were left out in the cold," Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, said in a statement.


Sunday, January 31, 2016

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

It's not too late to volunteer for this season. There is still time to be certified as a greeter. We need more, and they are very useful and help us serve more people.

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

Noise caused disease

Vibroacoustic Disease, or VAD, is a chronic, progressive, cumulative, systemic disease. Exposure to high-intensity/low-frequency sound and infrasound can lead to Vibroacoustic Disease. Studies have shown that environments with high-intensity sound over 110 dB, coupled with low-frequency sounds below 100 Hz, place people at high risk for developing Vibroacoustic Disease. For example, Vibroacoustic Disease has been identified in disk jockeys, due to loud music exposure.
When exposed to high-intensity/low-frequency sound, which includes loud music, the body is subjected to powerful sound vibrations. This noise stressor leads to: homeostatic imbalance, disease, interference with behavior and performance, visual problems, epilepsy, stroke, neurological deficiencies, psychic disturbances, thromboembolism, central nervous system lesions, vascular lesions in most areas of the body, lung local fibrosis, mitral valve abnormalities, pericardial abnormalities, malignancy, gastrointestinal dysfunction, infections of the oropharynx, increased frequency of sister chromatid exchanges, immunological changes, cardiac infarcts, cancer, rage reactions, suicide, and altered coagulation parameters.


In addition, sources of low-frequency noise that place people at risk for developing Vibroacoustic Disease are rock concerts, dance clubs, "Powerful car audio equipment," water jet skies, and motorcycles. (Source: VIBROACOUSTIC DISEASE: THE NEED FOR A NEW ATTITUDE TOWARDS NOISE, by Mariana Alves-Pereira and Nuno Castelo Branco).

"Among the most serious on-the-job consequences of untreated VAD are rage-reactions, epilepsy, and suicide. VAD patients do not have the usual suicidal profile: after the event, if unsuccessful, they remember nothing, and are confused about the entire episode (Castelo Branco et al, 1999). Similarly, patients who suffer rage-reactions also appear confused and seem to remember nothing (Castelo Branco et al, 1999). These events can have dire consequences if they occur on the job. Not only can other individuals be injured, but also costly sophisticated equipment could become irreparably damaged." (Source - VIBROACOUSTIC DISEASE: THE NEED FOR A NEW ATTITUDE TOWARDS NOISE, by Mariana Alves-Pereira and Nuno Castelo Branco)


The SUN AND WEEKLY HERALD ( recently interviewed Dr. Robert Fifer, the Director of Audiology and Speech Language Pathology, at the Mailman Center for Child Development at the University of Miami. He discussed Vibroacoustic Disease and its relation to infrasound and boom cars. The article states, "But the physical vibration so prized by car audio fanatics, and despised by their victims, is largely produced by sounds pitched too low to hear, called subsonic or infrasonic sounds. Medical research over the past four decades shows that exposure to infrasound can have devastating effects on the human body and mind that go far beyond mere hearing loss."

The article goes on to discuss the fight-or-flight adrenaline response and how it is also triggered by LPALF (large pressure amplitude - low-frequency noise) or high-intensity/low-frequency sound. In other words, the fight-or-flight adrenaline response can be triggered by sounds you don't even hear!



The social and economic costs of VAD are staggering, and continuously aggravated by the fact that environmental noise assessments pay little attention to the noise that causes VAD - Low Frequency (LF) noise (* 500 Hz), focusing primarily on that which causes hearing impairment. An erroneous assumption justifies these incomplete noise assessment requirements: noise only affects the ear. Thus, all noise protection measures and evaluation procedures focus exclusively on the frequencies affecting the auditory system (* 500 Hz). The Solution. Physical protection against LF noise is not feasible, given the large wavelength of LF (in meters).


Vibroacoustic disease (VAD) is a noise-induced, whole-body pathology, of a systemic nature, caused by excessive and unmonitored exposure to LF noise. It has been identified in aeronautical technicians (GIMOGMA, 1984a ), military pilots (Carmo et al, 1992 and Canas et al, 1993), commercial pilots and cabin crewmembers (Alves-Pereira et al, 1999), and disc-jockeys (Castelo Branco, 1999 and Castelo Branco et al, 1999). VAD evolves over long-term noise exposure, in years, and can lead to severe medical conditions, such as cardiac infarcts (Castelo Branco, 1999 and Castelo Branco et al, 1999), stroke (Castelo Branco, 1999 and Castelo Branco et al, 1999), cancer (Silva et al, 1996 and Castelo Branco et al, 1999), epilepsy (Martinho Pimenta et al, 1999a), rage reactions (Castelo Branco et al, 1999), and suicide (Castelo Branco et al, 1999). When VAD was first identified in professional groups known to be exposed to noise, it was initially thought to be limited to the realm of occupational diseases. However, it has since been diagnosed in individuals exposed to noise in non-occupational settings, or in seemingly non-"noisy" environments (Castelo Branco et al, 1999). This rises the issue of LF noise-induced pathology to the domain ofPublic Health issues.


Among the most serious on-the-job consequences of untreated VAD are rage-reactions, epilepsy, and suicide. VAD patients do not have the usual suicidal profile: after the event, if unsuccessful, they remember nothing, and are confused about the entire episode (Castelo Branco et al, 1999). Similarly, patients who suffer rage-reactions also appear confused and seem to remember nothing (Castelo Branco et al, 1999). These events can have dire consequences if they occur on the job. Not only can other individuals be injured, but also costly sophisticated equipment could become irreparably damaged.


There seems to be no legislation for infrasound.

If this were a situation with light instead of sound, it would be like ignoring x-rays (merely a different frequency of visible light), simply because they can't be seen. Current LF noise protection is analogous to wearing dark glasses against these x-rays.


All the above information must be made public. It is no longer acceptable that individuals have their lives destroyed because of excessive LF noise exposure. Worse than undesirable, it is unethical to keep workers within "noisy" environments, and ignore the potentially devastating, whole-body, acoustic trauma.

LF noise environments abound in modern leisure activities; specifically, rock concerts, dance clubs and powerful car audio equipment, not to mention the ever so popular water jet skis and motorcycles. Just how widespread are the LF noise-induced disorders is unknown. The public must be informed immediately that excessive exposure to these "noisy" activities may limit their professional future.


Europe's recent summers were the 'warmest in 2,000 years'

I notice Google Chrome doesn't put a line break between copied paragraphs. I usually use FireFox, which does, but I'm going to be working on Tax-Aide certification, which doesn't work right on FireFox.

By Matt McGrath
Jan. 29, 2016

The past 30 years in Europe have likely been the warmest in more than two millennia, according to new research.
The study used tree ring records and historical documents to reconstruct yearly temperatures going back 2,100 years.
Scientists say that past natural variability in temperatures was greater than previously thought.
As a result, climate models may be underestimating the frequency and severity of heat waves in the future.
According to the study, Europe has seen an increase in summer warming of 1.3C [2.3F] between 1986 and 2015.
In this period there has also been an increase in severe heat waves, most notably in 2003, 2010 and 2015.
The 2003 event was linked to the extra deaths of thousands of elderly people due to heat stroke, dehydration and increased air pollution.


"We've got 2,000 years of reconstruction where we have values for every year and the big surprise was that there wasn't a single 30-year period that was as warm as the last 30 years; that was unexpected," said Prof Danny McCarroll from Swansea University, UK, who was part of the research group.


Even though the new reconstruction has a wider range of natural variability in summer temperatures than previous attempts, the temperature data recorded in the past 30 years still sits outside it, pointing towards the same inference as made by the IPCC - that the recent warming is mainly caused by humans.


Saturday, January 30, 2016

Using PrtScr

Many people don't understand the PrtScr (Print Screen) button on the computer. It used to print the screen contents. Now it usually copies the screen to the Clipboard, where other copied stuff goes. Alt-PrtScr only captures the active window.
Then you can paste it in documents where you can past a picture.

The Wikipedia link above has a fuller discussion, with additional options.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Rapid warming over the Indian Ocean reduces marine productivity

El Niños are caused by the release of accumulated heat in the Pacific Ocean. The current El Niño is so powerful because of the additional heat added by global warming.

Jan. 21, 2016

By Roxy Mathew Koll

Roxy Mathew Koll is a climate scientist at the Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology in Pune, India, and lead author of the new study, “A reduction in marine primary productivity driven by rapid warming over the tropical Indian Ocean” that was recently published online in Geophysical Research Letters.

Increasing water temperatures in the Indian Ocean are taking a toll on the marine ecosystem, according to our new study.

Almost 90 percent of the extra heat generated by increased greenhouse gases in the atmosphere has been absorbed by the oceans. Among tropical oceans, ocean warming is most prominent in the Indian Ocean. Now, a new study by me and my colleagues suggests rapid warming in the Indian Ocean reduced marine phytoplankton up to 20 percent during the past six decades.

Such a decline in the marine phytoplankton may cascade through the food chain, potentially turning this biologically productive region into an ecological desert. It may also impact food security in the Indian Ocean rim countries and also the global fisheries market.

Almost all life on Earth is directly or indirectly dependent on primary production, whereby organic compounds are produced through photosynthesis.

Marine phytoplankton – microscopic plants in the ocean — generate half of the primary production globally. These phytoplankton sustain the aquatic food web, drive the marine ecosystem, and constrain the global fisheries catch.


“The geopolitical and food security issues also could be important since some of the rim countries like Somalia have been experiencing political instability for some time and a collapse of fisheries in the region could only exacerbate the regional instabilities,” he added.

Major Study Finds The US Is An Oligarchy

No surprise.

Zachary Davies Boren, The Telegraph
April 18, 2014

The U.S. government does not represent the interests of the majority of the country's citizens, but is instead ruled by those of the rich and powerful, a new study from Princeton and Northwestern universities has concluded.

The report, "Testing Theories of American Politics: Elites, Interest Groups, and Average Citizens" (PDF), used extensive policy data collected between 1981 and 2002 to empirically determine the state of the U.S. political system.

After sifting through nearly 1,800 U.S. policies enacted in that period and comparing them to the expressed preferences of average Americans (50th percentile of income), affluent Americans (90th percentile), and large special interests groups, researchers concluded that the U.S. is dominated by its economic elite.

The peer-reviewed study,


Researchers concluded that U.S. government policies rarely align with the preferences of the majority of Americans, but do favour special interests and lobbying organizations: "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 US political system, even when fairly large majorities of Americans favour policy change, they generally do not get it."


Monday, January 25, 2016

Cybercriminals Making Computer Malware at a Record Rate

Cybercriminals Making Computer Malware at a Record Rate: Researchers

Jan. 25, 2016

Last year was a particularly bad year for hacks and computer intrusions, and it looks like 2016 will only get worse, Panda Security says.

The Spain-based Internet security company said its lab researchers detected and disabled more than 84 million new samples of malware in 2015 — 9 million more than the previous year. The figure means cybercriminals were churning out new malware samples at a rate of more than 230,000 a day throughout 2015.

In fact, more than a quarter (27 percent) of all malware samples ever recorded were produced in 2015, Panda Security said in a news release.

"We predict that the amount of malware created by cybercriminals will continue to grow," said Luis Corrons, technical director of PandaLabs. "We also can't forget that the creation of millions of Trojans and other threats corresponds to the cybercriminals' needs to infect as many users as possible in order to get more money."


Clickers Beware: 'CrashSafari' Links Will Kill Your iPhone

I don't call the people doing this "pranksters". I call them f*ing jerks.

Jan. 25, 2016

Pranksters on the social web are sending people to a website that causes smartphones to crash — so you might want to hold off on clicking or tapping random links today.

Don't worry, it isn't some critical bug that Apple or Google needs to patch — it's just ordinary webpage components used maliciously to overload just about any browser.

The website, (and — needless to say, don't visit either), adds numbers to the address bar as fast as it can —, then /01, then /012, /0123, and eventually /0123456789101112131415... and so on. Each time it adds a number, that page is saved to your history — and it adds up fast.

This history and URL overload leads mobile browsers to crash and desktop ones to hang (You should still be able to force-quit the application if it's stalling). "What were you expecting?" reads the only text on the page.

Clicking on the nefarious link could result to a major annoyance — unsaved data could be lost — but it's unlikely to cause any lasting damage to your device.

The bug is old, but the joke is new, so exercise caution in following links until the jokers in your online acquaintance tire of sending friends' phones into death spirals. Like any other joke link (a "Rickroll," for example), this one may be disguised with an URL shortener like or bitly.