Friday, September 25, 2015

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

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

Feb. 2015

Help people and give your mind a workout, too.

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

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

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

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

Who volunteers?

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

Good with numbers? Be a tax volunteer.

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

Skilled in all things digital? Be a technology coordinator.

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

Love working with people? Be a greeter.

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

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

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

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

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

Speak a second language? You're urgently needed!

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

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

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

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

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Expansion of relief for inaccurate 1095 Marketplace documents

http://blog.cms.gov/2015/03/20/an-update-for-consumers-about-corrected-1095-as/

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Today, the Department of the Treasury is expanding the relief it announced previously on February 24, which will mitigate any harm to tax filers. If you enrolled in Marketplace coverage, received an incorrect Form 1095-A, and filed your return based on that form, you do not need to file an amended tax return. The IRS will not pursue the collection of any additional taxes from you based on updated information in the corrected forms. This relief applies to tax filers who enrolled through the Federally-facilitated marketplace or a state-based marketplace.

As before, you still may choose to file an amended return. Treasury intends to provide additional information to help tax filers determine whether they would benefit from filing amended returns. You also may want to consult with you tax preparers to determine if you would benefit from amending. For more information on the Treasury announcement, see Treasury’s statement and consumer FAQs.

While Treasury expects that in the vast majority of cases the impact on a consumer’s tax refund or bill, if any, will be very small, we know that we have a responsibility to identify these issues quickly, understand the impact and reach out to you with the information you need. Issues that negatively impact your experience are not acceptable and we are focused on providing a smoother consumer experience. If you have not received your original or corrected form or have any questions about the information on your form, reach out to the Marketplace call center or your state Marketplace.

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Obamacare Tax Extension - between March 15 and April 30

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

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

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

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

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

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http://www.cms.gov/Newsroom/MediaReleaseDatabase/Press-releases/2015-Press-releases-items/2015-02-20.html

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/02/20/obamacare-deadline-extension_n_6720496.html

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Men donate competitively on women's fundraising webpages

http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2015-04/ucl-mdc041415.php

Public Release: 16-Apr-2015
University College London

Men give more money through fundraising websites after seeing that other men have donated large amounts and when the fundraiser is an attractive woman, according to new UCL and University of Bristol research.

The scientists say this response by men is unlikely to be conscious and could have an evolutionary function as theories predict that generous actions can honestly signal hidden qualities, such as wealth or desirable personality attributes, to potential partners.

Co-author Dr Nichola Raihani from UCL (Life Sciences), said: "We looked at why people behave generously in real-world situations, even when there is no obvious benefit to them in doing so. We found a remarkably strong response with men competing to advertise generosity to attractive women, but didn't see women reacting in a similar way, showing competitive helping is more a male than female trait."

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Playing a wind instrument could help lower the risk of sleep apnea


I wonder if singing would offer the same benefit?

http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2015-04/elf-paw041515.php

Public Release: 16-Apr-2015
European Lung Foundation

A new study has found that wind instrument players have a reduced risk of developing obstructive sleep apnoea.

The findings, presented today (17 April 2015) at the Sleep and Breathing Conference 2015, suggest that this could be considered beneficial to those individuals who are at high risk of developing sleep apnoea.

•••••

The relative risk of developing sleep apnoea based on the questionnaire was 0.18 in the wind instrument players, with a relative risk of less than one indicating a lower risk compared to controls. The researchers believe this is due to the increased muscle tone in the upper airways, which wind instrument players are likely to have.

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Teaching children in schools about sexual abuse may help them report abuse

http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2015-04/w-tci041515.php

Public Release: 16-Apr-2015
Wiley

Children who are taught about preventing sexual abuse at school are more likely than others to tell an adult if they had [in the past], or were actually [currently] experiencing sexual abuse. This is according to the results of a new Cochrane review published in the Cochrane Library today. However, the review's authors say that more research is needed to establish whether school-based programmes intended to prevent sexual abuse actually reduce the incidence of abuse.

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Faculty in doctoral programs more responsive to white male prospective students, research finds

http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2015-04/apa-fid041515.php

Public Release: 16-Apr-2015
American Psychological Association

Faced with requests to meet with potential doctoral students of easily identifiable gender, race or ethnicity, faculty in almost every academic discipline are significantly more responsive to white males than to women and minorities, according to research published by the American Psychological Association.

And faculty in higher-paid disciplines, such as business, engineering/computer science and the life sciences, and those at private universities, show more of this bias than their counterparts in lower-paying disciplines and public universities, the study found.

"Our findings offer evidence that white males have a leg up over other students seeking mentoring at a critical early career juncture in the fields of business, education, human services, engineering and computer science, life sciences, natural/physical sciences and math, social sciences and marginally in the humanities," said lead researcher Katherine L. Milkman, PhD, of the University of Pennsylvania. "Notably, the magnitude of the discrimination we found is quite large."

In business -- the most discriminatory discipline observed in the study -- women and minorities seeking guidance were collectively ignored at 2.2 times the rate of Caucasian males, Milkman said. "Even in the least discriminatory academic discipline -- the humanities (where discrimination did not reach statistical significance) -- women and minorities were still collectively ignored at 1.4 times the rate of Caucasian males when seeking guidance in the future."

Also, contrary to one of their hypotheses, Milkman and her colleagues Modupe Akinola, PhD, of Columbia University and Dolly Chugh, PhD, of New York University, found no evidence that as the representation of women and minorities in disciplines and universities increases, that discrimination against those groups decreases. Additionally, "there were no benefits to women of contacting female faculty, or to black or Hispanic students of contacting faculty of the same race or ethnicity," Akinola said. "Only Chinese students experienced significant benefits from contacting same-race faculty."

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The phthalate DEHP undermines female fertility in mice

http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2015-04/uoia-tpd041615.php

Public Release: 16-Apr-2015
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Two studies in mice add to the evidence that the phthalate DEHP, a plasticizing agent used in auto upholstery, baby toys, building materials and many other consumer products, can undermine female reproductive health, in part by disrupting the growth and function of the ovaries.

In the first study, reported in the journal Reproductive Toxicology, researchers found that exposing pregnant mice to DEHP increased the male-to-female sex ratio of their pups. Reproductive outcomes for the pups also were altered. About one in four of those exposed to DEHP in the womb took longer to become pregnant and/or lost some of their own pups.

The second study, reported in the journal Toxicology and Applied Pharmacology, revealed that DEHP disrupts the growth and function of follicles in the adult ovary. Exposure to DEHP increased the production of proteins that inhibit growth and promote degradation of the follicles, and decreased the production of steroid hormones, the researchers found.

"The follicles are the structures that contain the egg, and if you're killing those, you may have fertility issues," said University of Illinois comparative biosciences professor Jodi Flaws, who led both studies. "The bottom line is that DEHP may damage the follicles and impair the ability of the ovary to make sex steroids like estrogens and androgens, which are really important for reproduction."

Most of the research conducted so far on the reproductive effects of phthalates has focused on males, "because phthalates are thought to interfere with the androgen system," Flaws said.

•••••

It is important to evaluate lower phthalate doses because they reflect real-world exposures, and also because low doses of endocrine-disrupting chemicals like phthalates can have more serious consequences than high doses, Flaws said.

"Sometimes it's at the low doses that you have the most profound effects, and that's what we're seeing with the phthalates," she said.

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Housework keeps older adults more physically and emotionally fit


http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2015-04/cwru-hko041615.php

Public Release: 16-Apr-2015
Case Western Reserve University

Older adults who keep a clean and orderly home--because of the exercise it takes to get the job done--tend to feel emotionally and physically better after tackling house chores, according to new findings by a Case Western Reserve University school of nursing researcher.

"House cleaning kept them up and moving," said Kathy D. Wright, PhD, RN, CNS, a postdoctoral KL2 Scholar at the university's Frances Payne Bolton School of Nursing. "A clean environment is therapeutic."

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The study's 337 participants, from 65 to 94 years old, had to have at least one chronic illness, be enrolled in both Medicare and Medicaid, have physical restrictions that prevented them from doing at least one basic daily task, such as bathing and dressing, and be unable to manage such responsibilities as taking medicines, handling finances or accessing transportation. All lived in Ohio's Summit and Portage counties.

•••••

Wright said she was surprised to learn that housework and maintaining their property affected the participants' physical and mental well-being more than such factors as neighborhood or income.

•••••

The study provided evidence that Wright had observed in her visits: people living in a chaotic environment seemed less satisfied than those in a place that was neat and tidy.

Wright hopes the study shows how important it is for sedentary older adults with disabilities and chronic illnesses to continue physical activities, such as doing reaching exercises while sitting, arm curls and standing up and sitting down in a chair.

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Wednesday, April 15, 2015

This Was The Hottest 3-Month Start Of Any Year On Record

http://thinkprogress.org/climate/2015/04/15/3647177/nasa-hottest-start-year-record/

by Joe Romm Posted on April 15, 2015

NASA reported Tuesday that this was the hottest three-month start (January to March) of any year on record. This was the third warmest March on record in NASA’s dataset (and the first warmest in the dataset of the Japan Meteorological Agency).

The odds are increasing that this will be the hottest year on record. Last week NOAA predicted a 60 percent chance that the El Niño it declared in March will continue all year. El Niños generally lead to global temperature records, as the short-term El Niño warming adds to the underlying long-term global warming trend.

And in fact, with March, we have broken the record again for the hottest 12 months on record: April 2014 – March 2015. The previous record was March 2014 – February 2015 set the previous month. And the equally short-lived record before that was February 2014 – January 2015.

•••••

While March was slightly on the cool side for those living in northeastern U.S., the rest of the country and the globe is quite warm, with large parts of the West and Russia experiencing astonishing warmth. That’s clear in the NASA global map below for March temperatures, whose upper range extends to 7.5°C (13.5°F) above the 1951-1980 average!

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Cats chat with us using tails, whiskers and winks

http://www.cbsnews.com/news/cats-chat-with-us-using-tails-whiskers-and-winks/

When it comes to cats, those meows mean ... well, a lot of things.

With each purr, yowl or even blink, felines are saying, "Hello," "Let's snuggle" or "Beat it, Mom." For the increasing number of pet owners who want to connect with their often-aloof fur babies, experts say there's something to gain from those attempts at communication.

Cats are very independent, and so they are easily misunderstood, says Dr. Gary Weitzman, president and CEO of the San Diego Humane Society and SPCA and author of the new National Geographic book "How to Speak Cat."

•••••

Crafty kitties can make 16 different meow sounds and usually only unleash them when people are around, he said. Meows can be their way of saying feed me, pet me or let me out, and hardly ever get exchanged between cats.

That's because cats learn they can get something desirable from people if they meow, said Dr. Bonnie Beaver, executive director of the American College of Veterinary Behaviorists and a professor at Texas A&M University's College of Veterinary Medicine. She also wrote the 2003 textbook "Feline Behavior."

•••••

A slow blink from a feline, for example, is like a wink between friends, Weitzman said.

•••••

And extending their tails straight up equates to a human handshake, he said. A cat perks up that appendage as it approaches to show it's happy to see you.

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Detroit hit man says he, not teen, responsible for 4 deaths

http://www.freep.com/story/news/local/michigan/detroit/2015/04/15/hitman-claims-credit-murders/25815511/

By Jim Schaefer, Detroit Free Press 6:17 p.m. EDT April 15, 2015
An imprisoned hit man once again is trying to clear another man convicted in a 2007 quadruple murder in Detroit.

Vincent Smothers says it's simple: Davontae Sanford couldn't have shot and killed those people because Smothers did. Lawyers for Sanford filed a motion today in Wayne County Circuit Court that asks for a new trial.

Sanford, who was 14 at the time of the murders, pleaded guilty in the middle of his 2008 trial, following admissions to the police. But new lawyers for Sanford say he falsely confessed, and had shoddy legal representation when he accepted the deal to plead guilty to second-degree murder.

Sanford, now 22, is serving 37-90 years in the Ionia Correctional Facility.

Smothers gave a detailed affidavit last month claiming credit for the killings. In the sworn document, Smothers says he and another man shot and killed Mike Robinson, the man Smothers says he was hired to kill, and three bystanders in Robinson's drug house on the northeast side.

"I cannot emphasize strongly enough that Davontae Sanford was not involved in the September 17, 2007, murders at 19741 Runyon Street in any way," Smothers says in the affidavit, signed in prison where he is serving time for eight other admitted killings. "I had never met, spoken with, or even heard of Davontae Sanford or anyone connected to him. Davontae Sanford is being wrongly incarcerated for a crime that I know he did not commit."

This is not the first time Smothers has tried to clear Sanford. When he was arrested in 2008, Smothers confessed to a dozen killings, included those on Runyon. But Sanford had been convicted shortly before Smothers' arrest. Smothers was charged in every killing except the ones tied to Sanford. Smothers pleaded guilty to all charges and is serving 50 to 100 years in prison.

•••••

Moran said Sanford's statements to the police were inconsistent. Smothers, on the other hand, provided police with accurate details, and guns used in the Runyon Street killings were tied to him. In addition, Smothers implicated an accomplice, who later shot and wounded another man, Moran said.

Smothers' motivation to clear Sanford comes partly from a desire for redemption and partly from professional pride, Moran said.

•••••

That anyone would falsely confess to a heinous crime can be hard to believe. But cases around the country have proved this phenomenon happens, particularly with young people and those who are intellectually impaired.

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Paternal sperm may hold clues to autism

There is much evidence that autism is caused by a combination of environmental and genetic factors.

http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2015-04/jhm-psm041315.php

Public Release: 15-Apr-2015
Johns Hopkins Medicine

In a small study, Johns Hopkins researchers found that DNA from the sperm of men whose children had early signs of autism shows distinct patterns of regulatory tags that could contribute to the condition. A detailed report of their findings will be published online in the International Journal of Epidemiology on April 15.

Autism spectrum disorder (autism) affects one in 68 children in the U.S. Although studies have identified some culprit genes, most cases remain unexplained. But most experts agree that autism is usually inherited, since the condition tends to run in families. In this study, investigators looked for possible causes for the condition not in genes themselves, but in the "epigenetic tags" that help regulate genes' activity.

•••••

In addition to being easier to sample than egg cells from women, sperm are more susceptible to environmental influences that could alter the epigenetic tags on their DNA.

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Racial disparity in cancer mortality is narrowing

http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2015-04/f-rdi041415.php

Public Release: 15-Apr-2015
Frontiers

Cancer mortality remains significantly elevated among African Americans. Between 2000 and 2010, overall mortality from cancer decreased faster among African American women and men than among Caucasians. If current trends continue, racial disparities in cancer outcomes are expected to narrow further and might disappear over time.

•••••

O'Keefe and colleagues demonstrate that the disparity between African Americans and Caucasians in total cancer mortality decreased by 14.6% (from 16.4 to 14.0%) in women and 31.1% (from 40.2 to 27.7%) in men during this period. This is due to a faster decrease in cancer mortality among African Americans than among Caucasians. Should these trends continue, racial disparities in cancer outcomes would continue to narrow, and might potentially be eliminated over time.

•••••

The progress in cancer outcomes for African Americans seems to be partly driven by increased access to high-quality treatment and surgery, and partly by successful prevention strategies. The latter include helping people to quit smoking; more widespread screening and testing, which allows for earlier diagnosis and raises the probability that treatment will be successful; a decrease in the prescription of hormone replacement therapy (a risk factor for breast cancer) to women in the menopause; and an increase in the prescription of anti-inflammatory drugs that lower the risk of colorectal cancers.

Even if these trends are encouraging, O'Keefe and colleagues warn against over-optimism: "Despite significant gains in overall cancer mortality over this time period, persistent cancer disparities by race exist. (...) Policy solutions that address access to and quality of the health care system are certainly important toward narrowing disparities, but cannot fully redress broader societal inequities at the core of racial and ethnic health disparities."

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Study: Most partisans treat politics like sports rivalries, instead of focusing on issues


http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2015-04/uok-smp041415.php

Public Release: 15-Apr-2015
University of Kansas

Most partisans -- average Democratic and Republican voters -- act like fans in sports rivalries instead of making political choices based on issues, according to a new study with a University of Kansas researcher as the lead author.

"What is the consequence of today's polarized politics? What's motivating partisans to vote in this climate?" said Patrick Miller, a University of Kansas assistant professor of political science. "For too many of them, it's not high-minded, good-government, issue-based goals. It's, 'I hate the other party. I'm going to go out, and we're going to beat them.' That's troubling."

The researchers analyzed the attitudes of voters nationwide in survey data from the 2010 Cooperative Congressional Election Study. They found that many average voters with strong party commitments -- both Democrats and Republicans -- care more about their parties simply winning the election than they do either ideology or issues. Unlike previous research, the study found that loyalty to the party itself was the source of partisan rivalry and incivility, instead of a fundamental disagreement over issues.

The survey showed that 41 percent of partisans agreed that simply winning elections is more important to them than policy or ideological goals, while just 35 percent agreed that policy is a more important motivator for them to participate in politics. Only 24 percent valued both equally or expressed no opinion.

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The researchers found that these partisan dynamics are most intense when voters experience competitive elections. While most people believe closely contested elections bring healthy discussions about candidates and issues, the survey data showed the opposite, Miller said.

"Competitive elections are making you hate the other party more. They're having a 180-degree opposite effect from what we think they should," he said. "Instead of bringing us together to talk and deliberate, they're making us hateful people who are disengaged from our fellow citizens."

Miller said the study likely reflects change in the political process in the past 25 years. Other research has shown that individuals seem to insulate themselves more and more within their own party. For example, partisans increasingly consume only media content that reinforces either conservative or liberal ideas. With less knowledge of the other side's real position on issues, it helps foster hostility between the parties.

•••••

The danger stems in that the political climate -- with less-informed voters on issues who tend to blindly support their own party -- does not foster a culture that punishes ineffective incumbents on both sides who might have supported failed policies while in office or be tied to scandals.

•••••

"If you want politics to change, you need brave politicians of both parties to convince the average partisan that just because you may disagree with those other people, that doesn't mean the other side is evil and that you're not necessarily morally superior," Miller said. "You're no more or less American than they are. And maybe, you don't have to hate each other to disagree. But that's a very unpalatable argument to a lot of average people."


tags: competition,

BPA exposure affects fertility in next 3 generations of mice

http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2015-04/uoia-bea041515.php

Public Release: 15-Apr-2015
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

When scientists exposed pregnant mice to levels of bisphenol A equivalent to those considered safe in humans, three generations of female mouse offspring experienced significant reproductive problems, including declines in fertility, sexual maturity and pregnancy success, the scientists report in the journal Toxicology and Applied Pharmacology.

Bisphenol A, an industrial chemical, is found in polycarbonate plastics used in food and drink packaging, and in epoxy resins, which coat the insides of some food containers and plumbing pipes. Thermal paper receipts and dental sealants also may contain BPA.

A national study found detectable levels of BPA in 93 percent of 2,517 human urine samples tested in 2003-04, suggesting that most of the U.S. populace is regularly exposed to the chemical. BPA also has been detected in human ovarian follicular fluid, placental tissue and fetal plasma, said University of Illinois comparative biosciences professor Jodi Flaws, who led the new analysis. According to the National Institutes of Health, the primary route of human exposure to BPA is diet.

BPA is an endocrine disruptor, which means that it can interfere with the body's normal hormone signaling. Many studies in animals indicate that BPA exposure can undermine reproductive function, but no previous studies have looked for its effects in three generations of offspring.

•••••

Studies in humans suggest BPA also interferes with human fertility and reproductive function, Flaws said.

"There are a lot of studies out there, and when you look at BPA in women's reproductive health, there are a lot of consistencies with the animal studies," she said. "Many of the studies in women have been done by Dr. Russ Hauser at Harvard. He has shown that urinary concentrations of BPA were associated with reduced fertility and women's ability to get pregnant. So I personally think there is pretty good evidence that BPA is a reproductive toxicant in mice as well as in humans."

Oxycodone overdose deaths drop 25 percent after launch of program

http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2015-04/uof-ood041515.php

Public Release: 15-Apr-2015
University of Florida

Oxycodone-related deaths dropped 25 percent after Florida implemented its Prescription Drug Monitoring Program in late 2011 as part of its response to the state's prescription drug abuse epidemic, according to a team of UF Health researchers. The drop in fatalities could stem from the number of health care providers who used the program's database to monitor controlled substance prescriptions.

•••••

Oxycodone is a frequently abused pain reliever, and the rate of oxycodone-caused deaths in Florida increased 118.3 percent from 2007 to 2010. Death rates began to decline in 2010 due to a variety of factors, including the introduction of tamper-resistant oxycodone formulations, law enforcement crackdowns on pill mills, and Florida House Bill 7095, all of which led to the closure of hundreds of illegitimate pain clinics.

Nevertheless, the research team attributed an additional 25 percent decrease in oxycodone-related deaths directly to the Prescription Drug Monitoring Program, according to findings released in the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence in March. Signed into law in 2009, Florida's Prescription Drug Monitoring Program monitors individuals' controlled substance prescriptions and provides important and up-to-date data regarding prescribing trends in Florida.

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BPA can disrupt sexual function in turtles

http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2015-04/uom-bcd041515.php

Public Release: 15-Apr-2015
BPA can disrupt sexual function in turtles, could be a warning for environmental health
Understanding the effect on turtles could help researchers determine human implications
University of Missouri-Columbia

Bisphenol A (BPA) is a chemical that is used in a variety of consumer products, such as food storage products and resins that line plastic food and beverage containers. Often, aquatic environments such as rivers and streams become reservoirs for BPA, and fish and turtle habitats are affected. Now, a collaboration of researchers from the University of Missouri, Westminster College, the U.S. Geological Survey and the Saint Louis Zoo have determined that BPA--which mimics estrogen--can alter a turtle's reproductive system and disrupts sexual differentiation. Scientists are concerned findings could indicate harmful effects on environmental and human health.

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"The doses we tested are environmentally relevant," said Cheryl Rosenfeld, associate professor of biomedical sciences in the MU College of Veterinary Medicine, a researcher in the MU Bond Life Sciences Center and a co-author of the study. "If BPA has negative impacts on turtles, then it most likely has implications for human health as well."

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Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Cows Suck Up More Water Than Almonds

http://www.bloombergview.com/articles/2015-04-13/cows-suck-up-more-of-california-s-water-than-almonds

By Justin Fox
April 13, 2015

Almond growers have been catching a lot of flak lately for snarfing up so much of California's water. This isn't entirely unfair -- almonds have been the state's big agricultural growth story during the past couple of decades, and they are thirsty little drupes. Still, it isn't the whole story. Last week Philip Bump of the Washington Post and Alissa Walker of Gizmodo both offered defenses of the almond-industrial complex that I would recommend reading if you're interested in that kind of stuff (I clearly am). Meanwhile, I figured I'd try to offer a little context.

Here are the top 10 water users among California's crops, compiled using the most recent California Department of Water Resources data I could get my hands on. I averaged data from one year of below-average precipitation, 2009, and one-year of above-average precipitation, 2010.

[click on the graph to get the full picture of how much water alfafa, used for cattle feed, uses.]



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Meanwhile, stuff that cows eat ranks pretty high on the list. There's alfalfa and pasture, of course. But also destined for livestock forage, according to this presentation by University of California-Davis irrigation specialist Blaine Hanson, is most of the corn, some of the flax and hops category (officially it's "other field crops," and includes sorghum, millet and sunflowers), plus a lot of the grains (which rank 11th in water use). In California, the livestock are overwhelmingly bovine, so put it all together and growing things to feed cattle use more than 10 million acre-feet of water in California in an average year. All the people in California used 8.6 million acre-feet a year in the two years in question. So that's interesting.

Now, the cattle themselves don't consume much water -- direct water use by livestock farmers in California seems to be quite modest. Also, I've already written a whole column about how comparing agricultural water use with urban water use can be misleading. People eat things that take lots of water to grow. People also eat cattle, and drink their milk. Still, it does seem important to understand that raising cattle takes up more of California's water than any other activity.

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CEO Will Live on $70,000 Worker Wage, Thinks His Life Will Be Luxe Enough

http://abcnews.go.com/Business/ceo-live-70000-worker-wage-thinks-life-luxe/story?id=30316052

By SUSANNA KIM
April 14, 2015

he CEO of a credit-card payments company in Seattle said executive pay is "out of whack," so he's cutting his own pay and creating a minimum salary for his workers. Now, he will be earning $70,000 like many of them, and he's OK with it.

Dan Price, 30, announced this week that any employee at his company, Gravity Payments, making less than $70,000 annually will receive a $5,000-per-year raise or be paid a minimum of $50,000, whichever is greater. The aim: By December 2017, everyone will earn $70,000 or more.

To facilitate this change, Price said his salary will decrease to $70,000 from about $1 million until or unless the company's profits are greater than last year's approximately $2.2 million.

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CEO Will Live on $70,000 Worker Wage, Thinks His Life Will Be Luxe Enough
Apr 14, 2015, 6:17 PM ET
By SUSANNA KIM
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PHOTO: Dan Price, the CEO of Gravity Payments, is seen in this undated handout photo.
Dan Price, the CEO of Gravity Payments, is seen in this undated handout photo.
Jose Mandojana

The CEO of a credit-card payments company in Seattle said executive pay is "out of whack," so he's cutting his own pay and creating a minimum salary for his workers. Now, he will be earning $70,000 like many of them, and he's OK with it.

Dan Price, 30, announced this week that any employee at his company, Gravity Payments, making less than $70,000 annually will receive a $5,000-per-year raise or be paid a minimum of $50,000, whichever is greater. The aim: By December 2017, everyone will earn $70,000 or more.

To facilitate this change, Price said his salary will decrease to $70,000 from about $1 million until or unless the company's profits are greater than last year's approximately $2.2 million.

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"My salary wasn't $1 million because I need that much to live, but that's what it would cost to replace me as a CEO," Price told ABC News. "I think CEO pay is way out of whack. It ended up impacting me, because I want the company to be sustainable even if something happens to me. Temporarily, I’m going down to the minimum until the company gets back to where it was."

Price started the company in 2004 when he was only 19 years old, and when he said the cost of living in Seattle was much lower than it is today. When asked what life will be like for him at a lower pay, he said, "I haven’t even thought about that at all, too much. My life started pretty simple, in a lot of ways. I don’t have a lot of financial obligations or debts."

Price grew up in rural southwestern Idaho with four brothers and later studied music at the Christian Seattle Pacific University. When Gravity launched, the company paid $24,000 per year even for senior positions. Price said he was paid less than that for the first five years in business.

Today, the company, which pays an average salary of $48,000, has 120 employees -- and 70 of their paychecks will grow with this plan. Of those, 30 will double their salaries, Price said.

"I may have to scale back a little bit, but nothing I’m not willing to do. I’m single. I just have a dog," Price said.

He owns a three-bedroom home, where he likes to host guests and is admittedly "a nice place for sure," he said. He's been driving the same car for the last 12 years: an Audi that he bartered for at a local car dealership in return for credit card processing from his company --- "so, basically, for free," he said.

Price chose the $70,000 figure based on a 2010 Princeton University study that showed happiness is positively impacted up to $70,000 or $75,000 per year; but increases above that figure did not have a significant positive effect on happiness.

He said his friends include the super-rich, who invite him on their private planes and expensive yachts.

•••••


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CEO Will Live on $70,000 Worker Wage, Thinks His Life Will Be Luxe Enough
Apr 14, 2015, 6:17 PM ET
By SUSANNA KIM
Susanna Kim More from Susanna »
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PHOTO: Dan Price, the CEO of Gravity Payments, is seen in this undated handout photo.
Dan Price, the CEO of Gravity Payments, is seen in this undated handout photo.
Jose Mandojana

The CEO of a credit-card payments company in Seattle said executive pay is "out of whack," so he's cutting his own pay and creating a minimum salary for his workers. Now, he will be earning $70,000 like many of them, and he's OK with it.

Dan Price, 30, announced this week that any employee at his company, Gravity Payments, making less than $70,000 annually will receive a $5,000-per-year raise or be paid a minimum of $50,000, whichever is greater. The aim: By December 2017, everyone will earn $70,000 or more.

To facilitate this change, Price said his salary will decrease to $70,000 from about $1 million until or unless the company's profits are greater than last year's approximately $2.2 million.

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Billionaire Pete Peterson Says This Is the Biggest Challenge Facing the Next US President

"My salary wasn't $1 million because I need that much to live, but that's what it would cost to replace me as a CEO," Price told ABC News. "I think CEO pay is way out of whack. It ended up impacting me, because I want the company to be sustainable even if something happens to me. Temporarily, I’m going down to the minimum until the company gets back to where it was."

Price started the company in 2004 when he was only 19 years old, and when he said the cost of living in Seattle was much lower than it is today. When asked what life will be like for him at a lower pay, he said, "I haven’t even thought about that at all, too much. My life started pretty simple, in a lot of ways. I don’t have a lot of financial obligations or debts."

Price grew up in rural southwestern Idaho with four brothers and later studied music at the Christian Seattle Pacific University. When Gravity launched, the company paid $24,000 per year even for senior positions. Price said he was paid less than that for the first five years in business.

Today, the company, which pays an average salary of $48,000, has 120 employees -- and 70 of their paychecks will grow with this plan. Of those, 30 will double their salaries, Price said.

"I may have to scale back a little bit, but nothing I’m not willing to do. I’m single. I just have a dog," Price said.

He owns a three-bedroom home, where he likes to host guests and is admittedly "a nice place for sure," he said. He's been driving the same car for the last 12 years: an Audi that he bartered for at a local car dealership in return for credit card processing from his company --- "so, basically, for free," he said.

Price chose the $70,000 figure based on a 2010 Princeton University study that showed happiness is positively impacted up to $70,000 or $75,000 per year; but increases above that figure did not have a significant positive effect on happiness.

He said his friends include the super-rich, who invite him on their private planes and expensive yachts.

"I have an incredibly luxurious life, for some reason, but I don’t end up paying for a lot of it," he said.

He also has friends who earn $40,000 a year. Hearing of their struggles and those of others struggling to make ends meet inspired him to make a dent in the country's growing income inequality.

Plus, after all, he said, he'll live comfortably at $70,000.

"I’m a big believer in less: The more you have, sometimes the more complicated your life gets," he said.

Socially anxious youth in treatment can enhance recovery through simple service tasks

http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2015-04/ace-say040815.php

Public Release: 14-Apr-2015
Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research

This century's increase in addiction issues among U.S. youth may be related to their developmental need to fit in, particularly youth with social anxiety disorder (SAD), which could exacerbate the drink/trouble cycle. In addition, socially anxious youths may avoid participating in therapeutic activities during treatment for fear of negative peer appraisal. A study of the influence of SAD on clinical severity at intake, peer helping in Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) during treatment, and subsequent outcomes has found that almost half of the patients entering treatment had a persistent fear of social humiliation, however, helping others through service activities greatly aided their recovery.

•••••

"Socially anxious adolescents quickly figure out that alcohol and drugs can provide ease and comfort in social situations that are anxiety provoking," explained Maria E. Pagano, associate professor in the department of Psychiatry at Case Western Reserve University and corresponding author for the study. "Reaching for a substance to change how you feel can quickly become a knee-jerk reaction, develop into an addiction, and rob youth of learning how to tolerate interpersonal differences and uncomfortable feelings, develop emotional maturity, and cultivate self acceptance."

•••••

Furthermore, added Pagano, adolescents who fear being criticized by their peers will likely not speak up in group therapies during treatment, which can limit their benefit from treatment. "There is a lot of healing that comes from sharing your insides with others," she said. "Socially anxious patients may not get this healing, nor let others really get to know who they are and give input to their lives."

•••••

Pagano explained that service or higher peer helping during AA meetings refers to low-intensity tasks like putting away chairs, or making coffee. "It is less about needing peer assistance or expecting praise or recognition from giving service," she said. "It is more about adopting the attitude of 'how can I be helpful?'"

•••••

"There are many real-world applications for the findings from this study," said Pagano. "Adolescents could benefit from knowing that most people feel like they do not fit in and that it is a lifelong journey to become comfortable in your own skin. Parents, teachers, and other positive adults in the lives of adolescents can provide education about this and the role and long-term costs that alcohol and other drugs might have in the pursuit of short-term relief. While learning to tolerate feeling different and letting other people have their opinions about you takes practice, it gets easier."

"Although the impulse may be to protect socially anxious kids from situations in which they may experience social scrutiny," added Kelly, "when exposure is thoughtfully done, it may help young people with alcohol/drug problems to adapt successfully in the transition to young adulthood."

Simultaneous drinking and smoking marijuana increases odds of drunk driving and other

http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2015-04/ace-sda040815.php

Public Release: 14-Apr-2015
Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research

Cannabis is the most commonly used drug among adults who drink, besides tobacco, yet no study has directly compared those who use cannabis and alcohol simultaneously, or at the exact same time, versus those who use both separately and on a regular basis. A new study looks at the relationship between marijuana and alcohol use, finding that simultaneous u

•••••

Study finds gestational diabetes associated with greater risk of autism in children

http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2015-04/kp-sfg040915.php

Public Release: 14-Apr-2015
Kaiser Permanente

hildren whose mothers developed gestational diabetes by the 26th week of pregnancy were at increased risk of developing autism later in life, according to a new Kaiser Permanente study published today in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

•••••

After taking into account maternal age, education, race and ethnicity, household income and other factors, the increased risk of autism associated with gestational diabetes was 42 percent.

•••••

The study also found that children whose mothers developed gestational diabetes after 26 weeks of pregnancy had no more risk of autism spectrum disorder than children whose mothers did not have preexisting diabetes or gestational diabetes.

•••••

Gestational diabetes is a type of diabetes that develops or is first recognized during pregnancy. While the true prevalence of gestational diabetes is unknown and varies based on diagnostic criteria used, a recent study from the CDC indicated that rates could be as high as 9.2 percent.

•••••

Facebook use can worsen as well as improve mental health conditions

http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2015-04/bsa-fuc041415.php

Public Release: 14-Apr-2015
British Sociological Association

Facebook can help people recover from mental health problems but it needs to be used cautiously and strategically as it can also make symptoms worse, new research shows.

Dr Keelin Howard told the British Sociological Association's annual conference in Glasgow today [Wednesday 15 April] that users she interviewed found their paranoid, manic and depressive symptoms could worsen as well as improve.

•••••

Civic engagement may stave off brain atrophy, improve memory

http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2015-04/jhub-sce041415.php

Public Release: 14-Apr-2015
Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health

Instead of shrinking as expected, as part of the normal aging process, the memory center in the brains of seniors maintained their size and, in men, grew modestly after two years in a program that engaged them in meaningful and social activities, new Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health-led research suggests.

At the same time, those with larger increases in the brain's volume over two years also saw the greatest improvements on memory tests, showing a direct correlation between brain volume and the reversal of a type of cognitive decline linked to increased risk for Alzheimer's disease.

The research, published online in Alzheimer's & Dementia: The Journal of the Alzheimer's Association, studied participants in the Baltimore Experience Corps, a program that brings retired people into public schools to serve as mentors to young children, working with teachers to help them learn to read in understaffed school libraries.

"Someone once said to me that being in this program removed the cobwebs from her brain and this study shows that is exactly what is happening," says study leader Michelle Carlson, PhD, an associate professor in the Department of Mental Health at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. "By helping others, participants are helping themselves in ways beyond just feeding their souls. They are helping their brains. The brain shrinks as part of aging, but with this program we appear to have stopped that shrinkage and are reversing part of the aging process."

•••••

Carlson notes that many cognitive intervention studies last one year or less. One strength of this study, she says, is that the participants were followed for two years, which in this case was long enough to see changes that wouldn't have been detected after just one year.

•••••

Carlson says it's not entirely clear which elements of Experience Corps account for the improved memory function and increased brain volumes. She says the program increases involvement in so many different kinds of activities that retired people may not have engaged in otherwise. Participants need to get out of bed, walk to the bus, and walk up and down stairs inside the schools. They work in teams. They work with young people. They share their knowledge and know they are doing good in the world. They engage in problem solving and they socialize in ways they wouldn't have if they stayed at home.

"We're not training them on one skill, like doing crossword puzzles," she says. "We're embedding complexity and novelty into their daily lives, something that tends to disappear once people retire. The same things that benefit us at 5, 10, 25, 35 - contact with others, meaningful work - are certain to benefit us as we age."

Experience Corps is a national program, however it can be costly and isn't available everywhere. But Carlson says she believes finding purpose and civic engagement may forestall some of the damage of aging on the brain.

Gum disease treatment can prevent heart disease

http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2015-04/fi-fsd041415.php

Public Release: 14-Apr-2015
Forsyth Institute

A new study from the Forsyth Institute is helping to shed more light on the important connection between the mouth and heart. According to research recently published online by the American Heart Association, scientists at Forsyth and Boston University have demonstrated that using an oral topical remedy to reduce inflammation associated with periodontitis, more commonly known as gum disease, also results in the prevention of vascular inflammation and can lower the risk of heart attack.

•••••

Scientists find that nicotine use increases compulsive alcohol consumption

http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2015-04/sri-tsf041415.php

Public Release: 14-Apr-2015
Scripps Research Institute

Why do smokers have a five to ten times greater risk of developing alcohol dependence than nonsmokers? Do smokers have a greater tendency toward addiction in general or does nicotine somehow reinforce alcohol consumption?

Now, a study led by scientists at The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI) helps provide insight into these questions, showing that, in rat models, nicotine exposure actually promotes alcohol dependence.

"It's a vicious cycle," said TSRI biologist Oliver George, a senior author of the new study. "Nicotine makes individuals crave alcohol to 'reward' the brain and reduce stress."

•••••

Previous studies from George's lab had shown that nicotine activates certain "reward" neurons in the brain--giving positive reinforcement to keep smoking. At the same time, nicotine activates "stress" neurons in the brain, giving negative reinforcement. This stress can lead individuals to crave alcohol to both activate the reward system and calm the stress system.

The compulsive alcohol consumption and neurological pathways seen in the new study suggest that alcohol works with nicotine to further activate the brain's reward system and dampen the stress of nicotine exposure.

This interaction may explain why it is difficult for smokers to quit drinking, and vice versa. Interestingly, the combination of neurons activated by nicotine and alcohol together is different from the neurons activated by each substance on its own.

Texas lawmaker refuses to meet with constituents who don’t share her views, staff says it is ‘a waste of time’

A funny thing is that this came up on my Facebook news feed immediately after one of those "wise" sayings, that we should ignore negative people. Well, that is what this law maker is doing, but I have no doubt that most of the people who liked the first thing, did not approve of this law makers's actions.



Eric W. Dolan
Apr. 13, 2015

A Texas state representative is refusing to meet with the constituents who will be the most impacted by legislation she has proposed.

State Rep. Molly White (R-Belton) has proposed legislation that would allow businesses to refuse to serve customers on religious grounds. The first-year Republican lawmaker has also proposed legislation seeking to make the state’s ban on same-sex marriage immune from court rulings.

•••••

But White’s staff has said trying to discuss the issues with her “would be a waste of time.”

The Temple Daily Telegram reported last week that White’s staff had initially greeted Frank Carlson of Equality Texas, before turning him away upon learning who he represented.

Her staff told Carlson, who works on behalf of the largest LGBT rights organization in Texas, to “drop off your literature and leave.” White’s staff informed Carlson that the lawmaker “is against anything LGBT.”

“I conveyed that the representative has stances on some issues and that she isn’t likely to change her mind on them,” White’s chief of staff Hannah Bell told the Temple Daily Telegram. “We try to be a transparent office and I told them that they needed to meet with individuals that shared their viewpoint.”

Janet Adamski, a political science professor at the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor, noted that lawmakers are not required to meet with their constituents, but refusing to talk to a constituent because of their views runs contrary to the purpose of being of representative.

“When a person is governing they are governing for the entire community, not just those who voted for them,” Adamski told the Temple Daily Telegram.

White previously made national news by instructing her staff to make Muslims visiting her office declare their allegiance to the United States. “We will see how long they stay in my office,” White remarked on Facebook.

Woman Suffering Miscarriage Says Pharmacist Refused to Fill Her Prescription

http://now.snopes.com/2015/04/13/walmart-pharmacist-miscarriage-refusal/

Posted by Kim LaCapria /
April 13, 2015

A Facebook status update, shared by Georgia resident Brittany Cartrett about her experience at a WalMart pharmacy after she suffered a miscarriage, has drawn attention to the issue of “refusal clauses” exercised by pharmacists in some states.

On 9 April 2015, Cartrett published a detailed post to Facebook in which she tagged the WalMart location in Milledgeville. In that post, Cartrett explained that she learned she was pregnant in early March 2015 but opted not to disclose her pregnancy due in part to a previous history of miscarriage. However, Cartrett said, her experience at WalMart prompted her to reveal the details of what transpired in the hopes that others might be spared a similar experience:

I can’t keep quiet about this. Something happened to me today, and I want my story shared so that this doesn’t happen again … we decided to wait until after I hit that 12 week mark to make an announcement, like we did when I was pregnant with Damon. Unfortunately, we won’t make it to that 12 week mark. At the first ultrasound we knew immediately that baby#2 was not progressing like he/she should be, and after going to the doctor every week since then, we finally were able to confirm I miscarried, probably around 5-6 weeks.

Cartrett said that when she learned she had miscarried, her doctor allowed her to choose between a dilation and curettage (D&C) or a medication known as Misoprostol (which is also used for early abortions). Cartrett said she chose the latter in part because it presented an option that was less taxing on her body. (One of the two courses of treatment is generally required to ensure that a miscarriage is complete and the patient is protected from infection.)

Cartrett explained that after she chose Misoprostol, a WalMart pharmacist refused to fill her prescription for the medication. Cartrett said that while she was picking up a separate prescription, she questioned the pharmacist about why her preferred option had been denied to her:

So I go up to Walmart and I get my prescription and the #Walmart pharmacist comes to me for my consultation and asks If I have any questions. I tell her yes, but not about this one. I ask her why they refused to fill the other prescription I had. She looks at me, over her nose and says “Because I couldn’t think of a reason why you would need that prescription.” ….. Excuse me?! I tell her my reasons for needing it, and she says “Well, I don’t feel like there is a reason why you would need it, so we refused to fill it.”

I said “Well ma’am, it’s not your job to know what I need or don’t need. It’s your job to fill a prescription. The job of knowing what I need or don’t need is between my doctor and myself. I shouldn’t have to come up here and explain myself or why I need any kind of medication.” After a few more comments, I thanked her for my other prescription and walked away. Talked to the Store Manager and was told I would get a phone call back from a Neil, the “Pharmacy’s District Manager.” which I have yet to get……

•••••

Valdosta television station WGXA spoke to a Milledgeville WalMart pharmacy worker, who said the store was aware of the situation. Brian Nick of Walmart’s corporate offices commented on the controversy by saying:

Our pharmacists fill prescriptions on a case by case basis every day in our stores throughout the country, and we encourage them to exercise their professional judgment in doing so.

Georgia is one of six states (along with Arizona, Arkansas, Idaho, Mississippi, and South Dakota) in which pharmacists can legally refuse to dispense emergency contraceptives if doing so is “contrary to their religious or moral beliefs.”

U.S. Is 'World Leader' in Child Poverty

http://www.alternet.org/economy/numbers-are-staggering-us-world-leader-child-poverty

By Paul Buchheit / AlterNet
April 13, 2015

America's wealth grew by 60 percent in the past six years, by over $30 trillion. In approximately the same time, the number of homeless children has also grown by 60 percent.

Financier and CEO Peter Schiff said, "People don’t go hungry in a capitalist economy." The 16 million kids on food stamps know what it's like to go hungry. Perhaps, some in Congress would say, those children should be working. "There is no such thing as a free lunch," insisted Georgia Representative Jack Kingston, even for schoolkids, who should be required to "sweep the floor of the cafeteria" (as theyactually do at a charter school in Texas).

The callousness of U.S. political and business leaders is disturbing, shocking. Hunger is just one of the problems of our children. Teacher Sonya Romero-Smith told about the two little homeless girls she adopted: "Getting rid of bedbugs, that took us a while. Night terrors, that took a little while. Hoarding food.."

•••••

The U.S. ranks near the bottom of the developed worldin the percentage of 4-year-olds in early childhood education. Early education should be a primary goal for the future, as numerous studies have shown that pre-school helps all children to achieve more and earn more through adulthood, with the most disadvantaged benefiting the most. But we're going in the opposite direction. Head Start was recently hit with the worst cutbacks in its history.

•••••

Only two nations still refuse to ratify the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child: South Sudan and the United States.

Republicans vote to increase inequality

From economist Robert Reich's Facebook:

https://www.facebook.com/RBReich/posts/984428804903049

Every time I think House Republicans can’t possibly come up with a worse proposal, they exceed my expectations. Tomorrow...

Posted by Robert Reich on Tuesday, April 14, 2015

•••••

Every time I think House Republicans can’t possibly come up with a worse proposal, they exceed my expectations. Tomorrow they’re voting to repeal the federal estate tax. At a time when the richest 1 percent has 42 percent of the nation’s entire wealth, while the bottom 90 percent has just 23 percent – a greater concentration of wealth at the top than at any time since the Gilded Age of the1890s -- House Republicans are gearing up to abolish the tax on inheritance that reaches only the richest .2 percent, and applies only to dollars in excess of $10.9 million for married couples or $5.4 million for individuals. (Under current law, if a couple leaves $10.9 million to their heirs, they pay no estate tax. If they leave $10,900,001 to their heirs, they pay the estate tax on $1.The current estate tax rate is 40%, so that would be 40 cents.)

Yet according to House Republicans, current law demands too much from the wealthy. In reality, it's just the opposite. The estate tax should be raised.

Their proposal would accelerate the numbers of working poor and non-working rich in America. It would give each of the wealthiest .2 percent of American households an average tax cut of $3 million, and reduce tax revenues by $269 billion over ten years. The result would be either larger federal deficits or higher taxes on the rest of us to fill the gap. Meanwhile, Republicans are proposing even bigger cuts in food stamps, education, Medicare and Medicaid, job training, roads and bridges and other infrastructure.

Obama will veto, but Republicans will keep hammering. Abolishing the estate tax is one of the priorities of the Koch brothers and other billionaires who are financing the GOP.

How to protect your aging brain

http://www.cbsnews.com/news/how-to-protect-your-aging-brain/

By Jessica Firger CBS News April 14, 2015

•••••

The report highlights several specific actions and interventions scientifically proven to make a difference in keeping the brain healthy:

Stay physically active.

•••••

Take control of your cardiovascular health. Health risk factors such as diabetes, high blood pressure and smoking impact an aging brain.

•••••

Check your medications. There are a number of medications that can impact cognitive function, both in the long- and short-term. Some antidepressants and antipsychotic medications such as risperidone and thioridazine are known to impact cognition. So can some over-the-counter medications such as Benadryl, Dramamine, and Excedrin PM.

Stay socially and intellectually active.

•••••

Get adequate sleep. "It's very, very important to get that 7 to 8 hours we always recommend," Narula said. Plenty of research shows that getting enough sleep is a cornerstone of good health. Sleep apnea and other sleep disorders have been linked to higher risk for dementia. Research conducted by the Mayo Clinic in 2013 found patients with sleep disorders were five times more likely to have a form of dementia called Lewy Body dementia than those who did not.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Mighty Rio Grande Now a Trickle Under Siege

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/04/13/us/mighty-rio-grande-now-a-trickle-under-siege.html?partner=MYWAY&ei=5065

by MICHAEL WINES
APRIL 12, 2015

On maps, the mighty Rio Grande meanders 1,900 miles, from southern Colorado’s San Juan Mountains to the Gulf of Mexico. But on the ground, farms and cities drink all but a trickle before it reaches the canal that irrigates Bobby Skov’s farm outside El Paso, hundreds of miles from the gulf.

Now, shriveled by the historic drought that has consumed California and most of the Southwest, that trickle has become a moist breath.

“It’s been progressively worse” since the early 2000s, Mr. Skov said

•••••

Drought’s grip on California grabs all the headlines. But from Texas to Arizona to Colorado, the entire West is under siege by changing weather patterns that have shrunk snowpacks, raised temperatures, spurred evaporation and reduced reservoirs to record lows.

In a region that has replumbed entire river systems to build cities and farms where they would not otherwise flourish, the drought is a historic challenge, and perhaps an enduring one. Many scientists say this is the harbinger of the permanently drier and hotter West that global warming will deliver later this century.

•••••

But you can also see glimmers of hope. Albuquerque, the biggest New Mexico city along the Rio Grande, has cut its water consumption by a quarter in 20 years even as its population has grown by a third. Irrigation districts and farmers — which consume perhaps seven of every 10 gallons of river water — are turning to technology and ingenuity to make use of every drop of water given them.

•••••

California's New Era of Heat Destroys All Previous Records

http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2015-04-10/california-s-new-era-of-heat-destroys-all-previous-records?cmpid=BBD041015

Tom Randall

The California heat of the past 12 months is like nothing ever seen in records going back to 1895. The 12 months before that were similarly without precedent. And the 12 months before that? A freakishly hot year, too.

What's happening in California right now is shattering modern temperature measurements—as well as tree-ring records that stretch back more than 1,000 years. It's no longer just a record-hot month or a record-hot year that California faces. It's a stack of broken records leading to the worst drought that's ever beset the Golden State.

The chart below shows average temperatures for the 12 months through March 31, for each year going back to 1895. The orange line shows the trend rising roughly 0.2 degrees Fahrenheit per decade, just a bit faster than the warming trend observed worldwide.

[Click on the picture to see the right side, where current dates are.]



The last 12 months were a full 4.5 degrees Fahrenheit (2.5 Celsius) above the 20th century average. Doesn't sound like much? When measuring average temperatures, day and night, over extended periods of time, it's extraordinary. On a planetary scale, just 2.2 degrees Fahrenheit is what separates the hottest year ever recorded (2014) from the coldest (1911).

•••••

California has seen droughts before with less rainfall, but it's the heat that sets this one apart. Higher temperatures increase evaporation from the soil and help deplete reservoirs and groundwater. The reservoirs are already almost half empty this year, and gone is the snowpack that would normally replenish lakes and farmlands well into June.

•••••

That's part of what makes this drought so troubling. The 4.5 degree above-normal temps that California has seen are unprecedented, but not entirely unexpected. The International Panel on Climate Change, with more than 1,300 scientists, forecasts global temperatures to rise anywhere from 2.5 to 10 degrees Fahrenheit over the next century, depending largely on how quickly humans reduce dependence on fossil fuels.

That means the conditions that are wreaking so much havoc in California today fall well within the range of what may be considered "normal" in the not-too-distant future. The impact of such warming is expected to vary dramatically by region. The long-term forecast for the U.S. Southwest: increased heat and drought—and decreased water supplies and agricultural yields.

We aren't nearing the end of California's climate troubles. We're nearing the beginning.

Rescued Cats Transform Inmates' Lives With Love At Pendleton Correctional Facility

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/04/13/pendleton-correctional-facility-shelter-cats-inmates_n_7055384.html?ncid=fcbklnkushpmg00000063

By Hilary Hanson
April 13, 2015

Inmates and cats at an Indiana prison are changing each other’s lives for the better.

A program at Pendleton Correctional Facility has brought about a dozen shelter cats to live inside the prison’s refurbished office, where inmates take turns caring for the felines, ABC-57 reports.

This is a big improvement over the cats’ living conditions at the shelter, where they spent most of their time inside cages. At Pendleton, they roam freely inside the large space, socialize with people and other cats, and play on walkways, cat trees and scratching posts crafted by people at the prison.

“It’s kind of ironic that these cats had to come to prison to have some freedom,” inmate Barry Matlock told The Anderson Herald Bulletin.

Inmates say the cats have made a significant difference in their outlooks.

“I always look forward to coming here for those nine hours," Lamar Hal told WISH-TV. "It takes a lot of stress away. It keeps my mind on good things, positive things, rather than just sitting in a cell for the majority of the time . . . Love will change characteristics from anybody’s tortured past. That goes for animals and humans, really.”

Matlock told the station that the program "gives me a reason to strive to do better than I did yesterday."

•••••

“I’ve had offenders tell me when they got an animal, it was the first time they can remember they were allowing themselves to care about something, to love something. That’s a pretty powerful statement,” she said.

•••••

Your pain reliever may also be diminishing your joy

http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2015-04/osu-ypr041315.php

Public Release: 13-Apr-2015
Ohio State University

Researchers studying the commonly used pain reliever acetaminophen found it has a previously unknown side effect: It blunts positive emotions.

In the study, participants who took acetaminophen reported less strong emotions when they saw both very pleasant and very disturbing photos, when compared to those who took placebos.

Acetaminophen, the main ingredient in the over-the-counter pain reliever Tylenol, has been in use for more than 70 years in the United States, but this is the first time that this side effect has been documented.

Previous research had shown that acetaminophen works not only on physical pain, but also on psychological pain. This study takes those results one step further by showing that it also reduces how much users actually feel positive emotions, said Geoffrey Durso, lead author of the study and a doctoral student in social psychology at The Ohio State University.

"This means that using Tylenol or similar products might have broader consequences than previously thought," Durso said.

"Rather than just being a pain reliever, acetaminophen can be seen as an all-purpose emotion reliever."

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Way said people in the study who took the pain reliever didn't appear to know they were reacting differently. "Most people probably aren't aware of how their emotions may be impacted when they take acetaminophen," he said.

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At this point, the researchers don't know if other pain relievers such as ibuprofen and aspirin have the same effect, although they plan on studying that question, Durso said.

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But this study offers support to a relatively new theory that says that common factors may influence how sensitive we are to both the bad as well as the good things in life.

That means the person who is more devastated by a divorce may thrive more than others when they get a promotion at work or have some other extremely positive event happen.

In this study, acetaminophen may have tapped into the sensitivity that makes some people react differently to both positive and negative life events.

"There is accumulating evidence that some people are more sensitive to big life events of all kinds, rather than just vulnerable to bad events," Durso said.

Stroke from poor air quality

http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2015-04/dai-sfp041315.php

Public Release: 13-Apr-2015
Deutsches Aerzteblatt International

Air pollution and smog have health consequences for affected populations ranging from respiratory problems to death. Fine particulate matter especially has become the focus in recent years, because it increases the probability of dying from respiratory or cardiovascular disease. In addition, the risk of stroke is increased, as shown by Barbara Hoffmann and her coauthors in a recent study in Deutsches Ärzteblatt International (Dtsch Arztebl Int 2015; 112: 195-201).

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The results indicate that stroke is more likely to occur with increased air pollution. The results for coronary events are less clear, and exposure to noise pollution showed no clear effect. The authors point out, however, that the data indicates a tendency for increased risk of cardiovascular disease through particulate matter exposure.

Why Women Bosses Are Best for the Bottom Line

http://www.thefiscaltimes.com/2015/04/10/Why-Women-Bosses-Are-Best-Bottom-Line?utm_campaign=548f5168cb03a93709042da0&utm_source=boomtrain&utm_medium=email&bt_alias=eyJ1c2VySWQiOiIzNzhkNGE2Yy01MTI5LTRjMDEtYmEyNC04Y2EyYWM3YWI1N2YifQ%3D%3D

By Beth Braverman, The Fiscal Times
April 10, 2015

A new Gallup report finds that female managers are more likely than male managers to be engaged in their work. Their employees also tend to be more dedicated to their jobs.

All of this vastly affects productivity and profitability. The Gallup report found that 51 percent of managers who are not engaged, along with the 14 percent who are actively disengaged, cost the economy $319 billion to $398 billion per year.

The survey, “State of the American Manager: Analytics and Advice for Leaders,” finds that 41 percent of female managers are engaged in their day-to-day work, compared to just 35 percent of men (and 30 percent of all employees). Those who work for a female boss are six percentage points more engaged than those with a male boss.

Female workers with a female boss have the highest engagement score (35 percent) – while male employees working for male managers have the lowest (25 percent). Employees who report to a female manager have higher scores than those with male managers on 11 out of 12 engagement categories, including communicating expectations and encouraging development.

Managers make a major difference in the workplace: Half of all workers have left a job to get away from a supervisor.

Yet companies regularly promote the wrong people into management roles. Gallup reports that companies fail to choose the right talent for a management job 82 percent of the time.

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Sunday, April 12, 2015

Anti-vaxx mom abandons movement — after all seven her of her kids get whooping cough

The article includes the video interview. I haven't had time to watch it, but a Facebook friend who did said the parents had decided to get their children vaccinated right before they came down with whooping cough, but didn't have time to do so before they got sick.

http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2015/04/anti-vaxx-mom-abandons-movement-after-all-seven-her-of-her-kids-get-whooping-cough/

Tom Boggioni
10 Apr 2015

riting on The ScentificParent blog, a chagrined Canadian mom announced that she is leaving the anti-vaxx movement after all of her seven children — four of them completely unvaccinated — have come down with whooping cough.

Writing from quarantine, and surrounded by sick kids, Tara Hills wrote she is “emotionally, a bit raw. Mentally a bit taxed. Physically I’m fine,” before admitting that not only are her own kids sick, but they may have exposed her five-month-old niece who is too young to be fully vaccinated.

What began with a cold brought into her home by her brother-in-law, turned into coughing by her kids leading to full-blown whooping cough in all seven children.

“My youngest three children were coughing so hard they would gag or vomit. I’d never seen anything like this before,” she wrote. ”

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Hills explained that she had a hard time overcoming her biases and mistrust of “Big Pharma,” asking herself, “Could all the in-house, independent, peer-reviewed clinical trials, research papers and studies across the globe ALL be flawed, corrupt and untrustworthy?”

Now Hills says that years spent “frozen” out of fear of vaccinating her kids has the whole family frozen: confined to their home by a quarantine.

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“Right now my family is living the consequences of misinformation and fear. I understand that families in our community may be mad at us for putting their kids at risk. I want them to know that we tried our best to protect our kids when we were afraid of vaccination and we are doing our best now, for everyone’s sake, by getting them up to date. We can’t take it back … but we can learn from this and help others the same way we have been helped.”


Dodo bird verdict given new life by psychosis therapy study

http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2015-04/uom-dbv041015.php

Public Release: 10-Apr-2015
University of Manchester

A study by researchers at The University of Manchester and the University of Liverpool has examined the psychological treatment of more than 300 people suffering from psychosis, showing that, whatever the therapy, it is the relationship between the patient and therapist which either improves or damages wellbeing.

The research relates to one of the more controversial ideas in psychotherapy research - the Dodo bird conjecture. Named after a bird in Alice's Adventures in Wonderland which sent several characters on a race and then declared them all winners, this conjecture states that all types of psychotherapy, even though often appearing to be very different from each other, are equally beneficial to patients.

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By using already established rating systems of these relationships and taking data from the earlier study of 308 patients, the researchers found that a good level of therapeutic alliance had a beneficial impact on wellbeing, but where the relationship was poor, the treatment could actually be damaging.

"The implications are that trying to keep patients in therapy when the relationship is poor is not appropriate," Lucy said. "More effort should be made to build strong, trusting and respectful relationships, but if this isn't working, then the therapy can be detrimental to the patient and should be discontinued.

"The study clearly shows that the two types of therapy are equally beneficial to the patient - as long as the trust, shared goals and mutual respect between client and psychologist are in place."