Monday, July 28, 2014

When it hurts to think we were made for each other.

http://www.rotman.utoronto.ca/Connect/MediaCentre/NewsReleases/20140722.aspx

Aristotle said, “Love is composed of a single soul inhabiting two bodies.” Poetic as it is, thinking that you and your partner were made in heaven for each other can hurt your relationship, says a new study.

Psychologists observe that people talk and think about love in apparently limitless ways but underlying such diversity are some common themes that frame how we think about relationships. For example, one popular frame considers love as perfect unity (“made for each other,” “she’s my other half”); in another frame, love is a journey (“look how far we’ve come,” “we’ve been through all these things together”). These two ways of thinking about relationships are particularly interesting because, according to study authors social psychologists Spike W. S. Lee of the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management and Norbert Schwarz of the University of Southern California, they have the power to highlight or downplay the damaging effect of conflicts on relationship evaluation. Here’s why. If two people were really made in heaven for each other, why should they have any conflicts?

“Our findings corroborate prior research showing that people who implicitly think of relationships as perfect unity between soulmates have worse relationships than people who implicitly think of relationships as a journey of growing and working things out,” says Prof. Lee. “Apparently, different ways of talking and thinking about love relationship lead to different ways of evaluating it.”

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Next time you and your partner have a conflict, as Profs. Lee and Schwarz would advise, think what you said at the altar, “I, ____, take you, ____, to be my husband/wife, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness or in health, to love and to cherish; from this day forward ‘till death do us part.” It’s a journey. You’ll feel better now, and you’ll do better down the road.

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Background TV can be bad for kids

http://now.uiowa.edu/2014/06/background-tv-can-be-bad-kids

By: Heather Spangler
July 21, 2014

Parents, turn off the television when your children are with you. And when you do let them watch, make sure the programs stimulate their interest in learning.

That's the advice arising from University of Iowa researchers who examined the impact of television and parenting on children’s social and emotional development. The researchers found that background television—when the TV is on in a room where a child is doing something other than watching—can divert a child’s attention from play and learning. It also found that noneducational programs can negatively affect children’s cognitive development.

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Losing Your Job Could Kill You, But Recessions Could Be Good For Your Health

http://www.drexel.edu/now/news-media/releases/archive/2014/July/Unemployment-Study/

July 24, 2014

Being unemployed increases your risk of death, but recessions decrease it. Sound paradoxical? Researchers thought so too.

While previous studies of individuals have shown that employees who lose their jobs have a higher mortality rate, more comprehensive studies have shown, unexpectedly, that population mortality actually declines as unemployment rates increase. The research community has often rejected one of these effects because it conflicted with the other, so researchers from Drexel University and the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor set out to better understand these seemingly contradictory findings.
- See more at: http://www.drexel.edu/now/news-media/releases/archive/2014/July/Unemployment-Study/#sthash.O3aagRjP.dpuf

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The findings reveal that job loss is associated with a 73 percent increase in the probability of death – the equivalent of adding 10 years to a person’s age. However, this increased risk affects only the minority of people who are unemployed and is outweighed by health-promoting effects of an economic slowdown that affect the entire population, such as a drop in traffic fatalities and reduced atmospheric pollution. The researchers found that each percentage-point increase in the individual’s state unemployment rate reduces the hazard of death by approximately 9 percent, which is about the equivalent of making a person one year younger.

“Most people believe that being unemployed is a bad thing,” said lead author José Tapia, PhD, an economist and population health researcher in Drexel University’s College of Arts and Sciences. “But what many people don’t realize is that economic expansions – which usually reduce joblessness – also have effects that are harmful for society at large.”

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"The increase in the risk of death associated with being unemployed is very strong," said Tapia, "but it is restricted to unemployed persons, who generally are a small fraction of the population, even in a severe recession. Compared with the increase in the risk of death among the unemployed, the decrease of the mortality risk associated with a weakening economy is small, but the benefit spreads across the entire adult population. The compound result of both effects is that total mortality rises in expansions and falls in recessions."

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“Other potential causes for the decrease of mortality risk during recessions could be changes in levels of stress and risk of injury in the working environment,” said Tapia. “During economic expansions, work is done at a faster pace, more employees are commuting, workers have less average sleep, and so on – all of which can be linked to higher risk of heart attacks, vehicle crashes, industrial injuries and enhanced circulation of germs. All of this reverses in recessions.” - See more at: http://www.drexel.edu/now/news-media/releases/archive/2014/July/Unemployment-Study/#sthash.O3aagRjP.dpuf

'Experiential products' provide same happiness boost as experiences

http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2014-07/sfsu-pp072414.php

PUBLIC RELEASE DATE: 24-Jul-2014

Contact: Jonathan Morales
San Francisco State University
'Experiential products' provide same happiness boost as experiences, study finds
SF State research shows purchasing items such as books, video games fulfills need for competence

SAN FRANCISCO, July 24, 2014 -- Material items designed to create or enhance an experience, also known as "experiential products," can make shoppers just as happy as life experiences, according to new research from San Francisco State University.

Researchers found such products satisfy a different, but equally powerful, psychological need than experiential purchases. While life experiences help consumers feel closer to others, experiential products such as books, sporting goods, video games or musical instruments allow them to utilize and develop new skills and knowledge, resulting in similar levels of happiness.

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Years of research consistently have shown that purchasing life experiences, such as tickets to a play or a vacation, will make shoppers happier than material products such as clothes, jewelry or accessories. But by focusing on those two extremes, Howell said, psychologists have ignored the middle of the buying spectrum, leaving out a large number of items that are tangible but are nevertheless designed to engage users in some way.

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He and lead author Darwin Guevarra, then a student at SF State, asked consumers about a recent purchase and how happy that purchase made them. Expecting that material items would provide the smallest happiness boost and life experiences the largest, with experiential products falling in the middle, they were surprised to find that experiential products actually provided the same level of happiness as experiences.

To learn why, they next looked at whether the purchases satisfied any of three key psychological needs: identity expression (the purchase reflects the consumer's true values); competence (the purchase allows the consumer to utilize skills and knowledge); and relatedness (the purchase brings the consumer closer to others). The results showed that, while experiential products and life experiences offered similar levels of identity expression, the former were best at providing competence and the latter best at providing relatedness.

"They are essentially two different routes to the same well-being," Howell said. "If you're not feeling very competent, the best way to alleviate that deprivation would be through the use of experiential products. On the other hand, if you're feeling lonely, you should buy life experiences and do things with others." The ideal products for happiness, he added, may be those that simultaneously satisfy both needs, such as a board game you play with others or going to the museum with friends.

Because increased happiness is linked to a variety of individual and societal benefits, including better health and longer life, Howell hopes to develop intervention methods that can help researchers steer individuals who have materialistic buying tendencies toward instead purchasing life experiences or experiential products. He also invites people to learn more about how their spending habits are affecting their happiness and contribute to further research by visiting his website, BeyondThePurchase.org.

New study draws links between wildlife loss and social conflicts

http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2014-07/wcs-nsd072414.php

PUBLIC RELEASE DATE: 24-Jul-2014

Contact: Scott Smith
Wildlife Conservation Society
New study draws links between wildlife loss and social conflicts
Authors say wildlife loss leads to exploitative labor practices, violence, and organized crime

Citing many sobering examples of how wildlife loss leads to conflict among people around the world, a new article co-authored by Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) Health & Ecosystems: Analysis of Linkages (HEAL) Program Director Dr. Christopher Golden, calls for an interdisciplinary approach to tackle global biodiversity decline.

The harvest of wild animals directly supports about 15% of the world's people and provides protein for more than a billion of the world's poor. It should come as no surprise that today's unprecedented loss of wildlife, is bringing with it severe repercussions in terms of conflict and human tragedy around the world.

The article, led by Justin Brashares of UC Berkeley and involving a team of sociologists and ecologists, offers three examples in which declines can be linked to conflict;

1) Altered economic structure leading to exploitative labor practices. Wildlife declines can bring about a need for more labor to collect scarcer resources. The authors discuss examples of trafficking of children and adults to undertake forced labor under abusive, and sometimes deadly, circumstances.

2) The rise of profiteering groups that use violence to control wildlife resources. Guerilla groups and militarized crime syndicates are drawn to huge profits gained through the trafficking of illicit wildlife items. Terrorist groups such as the Lord's Resistance Army and Janjaweed are poaching ivory tusks from elephants and rhino horn to fund their activities.

3) Vigilante resource management that escalates into conflict. In circumstances where government lacks the will or capacity to protect declining wildlife resources, vigilante movements may arise. Such was the case when Somalis set out to defend their exclusive fishing rights. Ultimately, these movements evolved into more violent forms and gave way to today's pirate activity.

"Unsustainable human exploitation of wildlife populations does not have singular effects on ecological integritry, but rather has far-reaching consequences that lead to the instability of our health, livelihoods and national security," said Chris Golden.

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Parched West is using up underground water

http://news.uci.edu/press-releases/parched-west-is-using-up-underground-water-uci-nasa-find/

Irvine, Calif., July 24, 2014 — A new study by University of California, Irvine and NASA scientists finds more than 75 percent of the water loss in the drought-stricken Colorado River Basin since late 2004 came from underground resources. The extent of groundwater loss may pose a greater threat to the water supply of the western United States than previously thought.

This study is the first to quantify the amount that groundwater contributes to the water needs of western states. According to the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, the federal water management agency, the basin has been suffering from prolonged, severe drought since 2000 and has experienced the driest 14-year period in the last hundred years.

The research team used data from NASA’s Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE) satellite mission to track changes in the mass of the Colorado River Basin, which are related to changes in water amount on and below the surface. Monthly measurements in the change in water mass from December 2004 to November 2013 revealed the basin lost nearly 53 million acre feet (65 cubic kilometers) of freshwater, almost double the volume of the nation’s largest reservoir, Nevada’s Lake Mead. More than three-quarters of the total – about 41 million acre feet (50 cubic kilometers) – was from groundwater.

“We don’t know exactly how much groundwater we have left, so we don’t know when we’re going to run out,” said Stephanie Castle, a water resources specialist at UC Irvine and the study’s lead author. “This is a lot of water to lose. We thought that the picture could be pretty bad, but this was shocking.”

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The Colorado River is the only major river in the southwest part of the United States. Its basin supplies water to about 40 million people in seven states, as well as irrigating roughly four million acres of farmland.

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Famiglietti noted that the rapid depletion rate will compound the problem of short supply by leading to further declines in streamflow in the Colorado River.

“Combined with declining snowpack and population growth, this will likely threaten the long-term ability of the basin to meet its water allocation commitments to the seven basin states and to Mexico,” Famiglietti said.

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Experiences at every stage of life contribute to cognitive abilities in old age

http://www.ucdmc.ucdavis.edu/publish/news/newsroom/9136

July 24, 2014

Early life experiences, such as childhood socioeconomic status and literacy, may have greater influence on the risk of cognitive impairment late in life than such demographic characteristics as race and ethnicity, a large study by researchers with the UC Davis Alzheimer’s Disease Center and the University of Victoria, Canada, has found.

“Declining cognitive function in older adults is a major personal and public health concern,” said Bruce Reed professor of neurology and associate director of the UC Davis Alzheimer’s Disease Center.

“But not all people lose cognitive function, and understanding the remarkable variability in cognitive trajectories as people age is of critical importance for prevention, treatment and planning to promote successful cognitive aging and minimize problems associated with cognitive decline.”

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Consistent with previous research, the study found that non-Latino Caucasians scored 20 to 25 percent higher on tests of semantic memory (general knowledge) and 13 to 15 percent higher on tests of executive functioning compared to the other ethnic groups. However, ethnic differences in executive functioning disappeared and differences in semantic memory were reduced by 20 to 30 percent when group differences in childhood socioeconomic status, adult literacy and extent of physical activity during adulthood were considered.

“This study is unusual in that it examines how many different life experiences affect cognitive decline in late life,” said Dan Mungas, professor of neurology and associate director of the UC Davis Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center.

“It shows that variables like ethnicity and years of education that influence cognitive test scores in a single evaluation are not associated with rate of cognitive decline, but that specific life experiences like level of reading attainment and intellectually stimulating activities are predictive of the rate of late-life cognitive decline. This suggests that intellectual stimulation throughout the life span can reduce cognitive decline in old age.

Regardless of ethnicity, advanced age and apolipoprotein-E (APOE genotype) were associated with increased cognitive decline over an average of four years that participants were followed. APOE is the largest known genetic risk factor for late-onset Alzheimer's. Less decline was experienced by persons who reported more engagement in recreational activities in late life and who maintained their levels of activity engagement from middle age to old age. Single-word reading — the ability to decode a word on sight, which often is considered an indication of quality of educational experience — was also associated with less cognitive decline, a finding that was true for both English and Spanish readers, irrespective of their race or ethnicity. These findings suggest that early life experiences affect late-life cognition indirectly, through literacy and late-life recreational pursuits, the authors said.

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Total darkness at night is key to success of breast cancer therapy -- Tulane study

http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2014-07/tu-tda072214.php

PUBLIC RELEASE DATE: 25-Jul-2014

Contact: Arthur Nead
Tulane University
Total darkness at night is key to success of breast cancer therapy -- Tulane study

Exposure to light at night, which shuts off nighttime production of the hormone melatonin, renders breast cancer completely resistant to tamoxifen, a widely used breast cancer drug, says a new study by Tulane University School of Medicine cancer researchers. The study, "Circadian and Melatonin Disruption by Exposure to Light at Night Drives Intrinsic Resistance to Tamoxifen Therapy in Breast Cancer," published in the journal Cancer Research, is the first to show that melatonin is vital to the success of tamoxifen in treating breast cancer.

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"In the first phase of the study, we kept animals in a daily light/dark cycle of 12 hours of light followed by 12 hours of total darkness (melatonin is elevated during the dark phase) for several weeks," says Hill. "In the second study, we exposed them to the same daily light/dark cycle; however, during the 12 hour dark phase, animals were exposed to extremely dim light at night (melatonin levels are suppressed), roughly equivalent to faint light coming under a door."

Melatonin by itself delayed the formation of tumors and significantly slowed their growth but tamoxifen caused a dramatic regression of tumors in animals with either high nighttime levels of melatonin during complete darkness or those receiving melatonin supplementation during dim light at night exposure.

These findings have potentially enormous implications for women being treated with tamoxifen and also regularly exposed to light at night due to sleep problems, working night shifts or exposed to light from computer and TV screens.

"High melatonin levels at night put breast cancer cells to 'sleep' by turning off key growth mechanisms. These cells are vulnerable to tamoxifen. But when the lights are on and melatonin is suppressed, breast cancer cells 'wake up' and ignore tamoxifen," Blask says.

The study could make light at night a new and serious risk factor for developing resistance to tamoxifen and other anticancer drugs and make the use of melatonin in combination with tamoxifen, administered at the optimal time of day or night, standard treatment for breast cancer patients.

First national study finds trees saving lives, reducing respiratory problems

http://www.nrs.fs.fed.us/news/release/trees-save-lives-reduce-air-pollution

July 25, 2014 - In the first broad-scale estimate of air pollution removal by trees nationwide, U.S. Forest Service scientists and collaborators calculated that trees are saving more than 850 human lives a year and preventing 670,000 incidences of acute respiratory symptoms.

While trees’ pollution removal equated to an average air quality improvement of less than 1 percent, the impacts of that improvement are substantial. Researchers valued the human health effects of the reduced air pollution at nearly $7 billion every year in a study published recently in the journal Environmental Pollution. “Tree and Forest Effects on Air Quality and Human Health in the United States,” is available online at: http://www.nrs.fs.fed.us/pubs/46102

The study by Dave Nowak and Eric Greenfield of the U.S. Forest Service’s Northern Research Station and Satoshi Hirabayashi and Allison Bodine of the Davey Institute is unique in that it directly links the removal of air pollution with improved human health effects and associated health values. The scientists found that pollution removal is substantially higher in rural areas than urban areas, however the effects on human health are substantially greater in urban areas than rural areas.

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Study: Climate change and air pollution will combine to curb food supplies

http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2014-07/miot-scc072414.php

PUBLIC RELEASE DATE: 27-Jul-2014

Contact: Kimberly Allen
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Study: Climate change and air pollution will combine to curb food supplies
Ozone and higher temperatures can combine to reduce crop yields, but effects will vary by region

Many studies have shown the potential for global climate change to cut food supplies. But these studies have, for the most part, ignored the interactions between increasing temperature and air pollution — specifically ozone pollution, which is known to damage crops.

A new study involving researchers at MIT shows that these interactions can be quite significant, suggesting that policymakers need to take both warming and air pollution into account in addressing food security.

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While heat and ozone can each damage plants independently, the factors also interact. For example, warmer temperatures significantly increase production of ozone from the reactions, in sunlight, of volatile organic compounds and nitrogen oxides. Because of these interactions, the team found that 46 percent of damage to soybean crops that had previously been attributed to heat is actually caused by increased ozone.

Under some scenarios, the researchers found that pollution-control measures could make a major dent in the expected crop reductions following climate change. For example, while global food production was projected to fall by 15 percent under one scenario, larger emissions decreases projected in an alternate scenario reduce that drop to 9 percent.

Air pollution is even more decisive in shaping undernourishment in the developing world, the researchers found: Under the more pessimistic air-quality scenario, rates of malnourishment might increase from 18 to 27 percent by 2050 — about a 50 percent jump; under the more optimistic scenario, the rate would still increase, but that increase would almost be cut in half, they found.

Study shows new link between obesity in the young and the lowering of age of puberty

http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2014-07/uop-ssn072714.php

PUBLIC RELEASE DATE: 27-Jul-2014
Contact: Andrew Gould
University of Plymouth
Study shows new link between obesity in the young and the lowering of age of puberty

A new link has been identified between obesity in childhood and the lowering of the age of puberty.

The research which discovered the link, carried out at Plymouth University Peninsula Schools of Medicine and Dentistry, is published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism.

The study focuses on a protein called sex hormone-binding globulin (SHBG), the regulation and role of which in children are poorly defined. SHBG binds to the sex hormones androgen and oestrogen. SHGB levels are initially high in childhood but decline significantly before puberty, in essence 'allowing' puberty to happen.

The research team analysed data from the EarlyBird longitudinal measurement of 347 schoolchildren in Plymouth, UK, aged five to 15 years.

The findings of this study showed that a child who is heavier at age five tends to have lower levels of SHBG throughout childhood and reaches puberty sooner. The tendency was more striking in girls than in boys.

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Gender inequalities in health: A matter of policies

http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2014-07/sp-gii072814.php

PUBLIC RELEASE DATE: 28-Jul-2014
Contact: Esther Marin
SOPHIE project
Gender inequalities in health: A matter of policies

A new study of the European project SOPHIE has evaluated the relationship between the type of family policies and gender inequalities in health in Europe. The results show that countries with traditional family policies (central and southern Europe) and countries with contradictory policies (Eastern Europe), present higher inequalities in self-perceived health, i.e. women reported poorer health than men. Health inequalities are especially remarkable in Southern Europe countries, where women present a 27% higher risk of having poor health compared to men.

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The results obtained show that there exist gender inequalities in health in countries with Traditional and Contradictory family policies, less oriented to gender equality and assuming that women are mostly responsible of domestic work and family care. Women have a 27% higher probability of having poor health in Traditional Southern countries, 13% in Traditional Central countries and 8% in Contradictory countries. On the opposite situation we can find the Dual-earner and the Market-oriented countries, where the difference in "poor health" drops off to a non-significant 5 and 4%, respectively.

According to the lead author of the study, Laia Palència: "The Southern European countries have developed a family solidarity model where women have a main role as family caregivers and a secondary role in the labour market, while services provision and financial governmental support are limited." At the opposite end are the Nordic countries, "where- Palència said -there is a higher State involvement in the care of children, the elderly and dependents through public services, which means that women have less family burden and a higher work engagement."

"The implementation of policies that promote equality between women and men, including family care policies, the promotion of access to the labour market or political representation by women, may have an effect in reducing gender inequalities in health," the research team noted.

Previous studies have shown that health depends mainly on the living and working conditions. It has also been widely reported that women tend to have poorer self-perceived health, despite having a longer life expectancy.

Motivation May Explain Disconnect Between Cognitive Testing and Real-Life Functioning for Older Adults

Based on my own experience, I would say that part of this is due to experience. When we have experience on a job and in life, we can learn what tends to work, and what to prioritize.

http://news.ncsu.edu/releases/hess-engagement-2014/

Matt Shipman
Dr. Tom Hess
Release Date: 07.28.14

A psychology researcher at North Carolina State University is proposing a new theory to explain why older adults show declining cognitive ability with age, but don’t necessarily show declines in the workplace or daily life. One key appears to be how motivated older adults are to maintain focus on cognitive tasks.

“My research team and I wanted to explain the difference we see in cognitive performance in different settings,” says Dr. Tom Hess, a professor of psychology at NC State and author of a paper describing the theory. “For example, laboratory tests almost universally show that cognitive ability declines with age, so you would expect older adults to perform worse in situations that rely on such abilities, such as job performance – but you don’t. Why is that? That’s what this theoretical framework attempts to address.”

Hess has been developing this framework, called “selective engagement,” over the past 10 years, based on years of work on the psychology of aging.

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“There’s a body of work in psychology research indicating that performing complex mental tasks is more taxing for older adults,” Hess says. “This means older adults have to work harder to perform these tasks. In addition, it takes older adults longer to recover from this sort of exertion. As a result, I argue that older adults have to make decisions about how to prioritize their efforts.”

This is where selective engagement comes in. The idea behind the theory is that older adults are more likely to fully commit their mental resources to a task if they can identify with the task or consider it personally meaningful. This would explain the disparity between cognitive performance in experimental settings and cognitive functioning in the real world.

“This first occurred to me when my research team saw that cognitive performance seemed to be influenced by how we framed the tasks in our experiments,” Hess says. “Tasks that people found personally relevant garnered higher levels of cognitive performance than more abstract tasks.”

Hess next hopes to explore the extent to which selective engagement is reflected in the daily life of older adults and the types of activities they choose to engage in.

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Preschoolers With Special Needs Benefit From Peers’ Strong Language Skills

http://www.psychologicalscience.org/index.php/news/releases/preschoolers-with-special-needs-benefit-from-peers-strong-language-skills.html?utm_source=pressrelease&utm_medium=eureka&utm_campaign=peereffectslanguage

July 28, 2014

The guiding philosophy for educating children with disabilities has been to integrate them as much as possible into a normal classroom environment, with the hope that peers’ skills will help bring them up to speed. A new study provides empirical evidence that peers really can have an impact on a child’s language abilities, for better or worse.

While peers with strong language skills can help boost their classmates’ abilities, being surrounded by peers with weak skills may hinder kids’ language development.

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The researchers found that preschoolers with special needs were more influenced by their peers’ language skills than were children without disabilities. Children with disabilities whose classmates had weak language skills showed the strongest effects – by spring, their language skills lagged far behind those of typically developing children.

•••••

The researchers believe that when kids play together and interact in the classroom, they naturally imitate each other’s behaviors, which in turn helps them to develop language skills such as “taking turns in conversation, communicating their needs and wants, and producing narratives.”

“If peer effects operate as our work suggests they do, it is very important to consider how to organize children in classrooms so that their opportunities to learn from one another is maximized – and so that young children with disabilities are not segregated into classroom serving only those with special needs,” says Justice.

Justice and colleagues conclude that regardless of disability, classrooms in which most children have poor language skills are not ideal. They suggest that since typically developing kids continue to improve their language skills even when they have some less-skilled classmates, administrators should aim for a diversity of skill level in the classroom.

Co-authors on the study include Jessica A. R. Logan and Tzu-Jung Lin of The Ohio State University and Joan N. Kaderavek of the University of Toledo.

Green spaces found to increase birth weight

More green space means less pollution from traffic, and pollution from traffic has been shown to be harmful to health.

http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2014-07/aabu-gsf072814.php

PUBLIC RELEASE DATE: 28-Jul-2014
Contact: Andrew Lavin
American Associates, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev
Green spaces found to increase birth weight -- Ben-Gurion U. researcher

BEER-SHEVA, ISRAEL, July 28, 2014...Mothers who live near green spaces deliver babies with significantly higher birth weights, according to a new study, "Green Spaces and Adverse Pregnancy Outcomes" published in the journal, Occupational and Environmental Medicine.

A team of researchers from Israel and Spain, including Ben-Gurion University of the Negev (BGU), evaluated nearly 40,000 single live births from a registry birth cohort in Tel Aviv, Israel to determine the impact of green surroundings during pregnancy and birth outcomes.

"We found that that overall, an increase of surrounding greenery near the home was associated with a significant increase of birth weight and decreased risk for low birth weight," says Prof. Michael Friger, of BGU's Department of Public Health. "This was the first study outside of the United States and Europe demonstrating associations between greenery and birth weight, as well as the first to report the association with low birth weight."

An analysis of neighborhood socioeconomics also revealed that the lowest birth weight occurred in the most economically deprived areas with lack of access to green spaces. Green spaces -- parks, community gardens or even cemeteries -- were defined as land that is partly or completely covered with grass, trees, shrubs, or other vegetation.

"The application of remote sensing data on surrounding green areas enabled our study to take small-scale green spaces (eg, street trees and green verges) into account, while the OpenStreetMap data determined the major green spaces," Friger explains.

Five myths about the gender pay gap

http://economistsview.typepad.com/economistsview/2014/07/five-myths-about-the-gender-pay-gap.html



Here are the myths described by Vivien Labaton:

1. The pay gap is closing rapidly. ...

2. Women earn less because they work in industries that pay less. ...

3. Women earn less because they don’t negotiate well. ...

4. Women earn less because mothers choose to work less. ...

5. To close the pay gap, we should focus on deterring discrimination. ...

Details here.


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Are the Rich Coldhearted?

http://economistsview.typepad.com/economistsview/2014/07/are-the-rich-coldhearted.html



Why are so many of the rich and powerful so callous and indifferent to the struggles of those who aren't so fortunate?:

Are the Rich Coldhearted?, by Michael Inzlicht and Sukhvinder Obhi, NY Times: ... Can people in high positions of power — presidents, bosses, celebrities, even dominant spouses — easily empathize with those beneath them?

Psychological research suggests the answer is no. ...

Why does power leave people seemingly coldhearted? Some, like the Princeton psychologist Susan Fiske, have suggested that powerful people don’t attend well to others around them because they don’t need them in order to access important resources; as powerful people, they already have plentiful access to those.

We suggest a different, albeit complementary, reason from cognitive neuroscience. On the basis of a study we recently published with the researcher Jeremy Hogeveen, in the Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, we contend that when people experience power, their brains fundamentally change how sensitive they are to the actions of others. ...

Does this mean that the powerful are heartless beings incapable of empathy? Hardly..., the bad news is that the powerful are, by default and at a neurological level, simply not motivated to care. But the good news is that they are, in theory, redeemable.

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‘Nuisance flooding’ an increasing problem as coastal sea levels rise

They refer to "all three U.S. coasts", so I guess they consider coasts bordering the Gulf of Mexico separately from the Atlantic Ocean.

http://www.noaanews.noaa.gov/stories2014/20140728_nuisanceflooding.html

July 28, 2014

Eight of the top 10 U.S. cities that have seen an increase in so-called “nuisance flooding”--which causes such public inconveniences as frequent road closures, overwhelmed storm drains and compromised infrastructure--are on the East Coast, according to a new NOAA technical report.

This nuisance flooding, caused by rising sea levels, has increased on all three U.S. coasts, between 300 and 925 percent since the 1960s.

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“As relative sea level increases, it no longer takes a strong storm or a hurricane to cause flooding,” said William Sweet, Ph.D., oceanographer at NOAA’s Center for Operational Oceanographic Products and Services (CO-OPS) and the report’s lead author. “Flooding now occurs with high tides in many locations due to climate-related sea level rise, land subsidence and the loss of natural barriers. The effects of rising sea levels along most of the continental U.S. coastline are only going to become more noticeable and much more severe in the coming decades, probably more so than any other climate-change related factor.”

The study was conducted by scientists at CO-OPS, who looked at data from 45 NOAA water level gauges with long data records around the country and compared that to reports of number of days of nuisance floods.

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People Who Feel They Have A Purpose In Life Live Longer

http://www.npr.org/blogs/health/2014/07/28/334447274/people-who-feel-they-have-a-purpose-in-life-live-longer?utm_source=facebook.com&utm_medium=social&utm_campaign=npr&utm_term=nprnews&utm_content=20140728

by Patti Neighmond
July 28, 2014

We know that happiness and social connection can have positive benefits on health. Now research suggests that having a sense of purpose or direction in life may also be beneficial.

•••••

They found that 14 years after those questions were asked, people who had reported a greater sense of purpose and direction in life were more likely to .

In fact, people with a sense of purpose had a 15 percent lower risk of death,compared with those who said they were more or less aimless. And it didn't seem to matter when people found their direction. It could be in their 20s, 50s or 70s.

Hill's analysis controlled for other factors known to affect longevity, things like age, gender and emotional well-being. A sense of purpose trumped all that.

•••••

Of course, purpose means different things to different people. Hill says it could be as simple as making sure one's family is happy. It could be bigger, like contributing to social change. It could be more self-focused, like doing well on the job. Or it could be about creativity.

•••••

It's not exactly clear how purpose might benefit health. Purposeful individuals may simply lead healthier lives, says Hill, but it also could be that a sense of purpose protects against the harmful effects of stress.

•••••

More research is needed, but Burrow says his findings suggest that having "a sense of purpose may protect people against stress," with all of its harmful effects, including greater risk of heart disease. And that may explain why people with a sense of purpose live longer.

Ignoring Climate Change Could Sink the U.S. Economy

http://economistsview.typepad.com/economistsview/2014/07/ignoring-climate-change-could-sink-the-us-economy.html

How ignoring climate change could sink the U.S. economy, by Robert E. Rubin: ...When it comes to the economy, much of the debate about climate change ... is framed as a trade-off between environmental protection and economic prosperity. Many people argue that moving away from fossil fuels and reducing carbon emissions will impede economic growth, hurt business and hamper job creation.

But from an economic perspective, that’s precisely the wrong way to look at it. The real question should be: What is the cost of inaction? In my view — and in the view of a growing group of business people, economists, and other financial and market experts — the cost of inaction over the long term is far greater than the cost of action.

I recently participated in a bipartisan effort to measure the economic risks of unchecked climate change in the United States. We commissioned an independent analysis, led by a highly respected group of economists and climate scientists, and our inaugural report, “Risky Business,” was released in June. The report’s conclusions demonstrated the ... U.S. economy faces enormous risks from unmitigated climate change. ...

We do not face a choice between protecting our environment or protecting our economy. We face a choice between protecting our economy by protecting our environment — or allowing environmental havoc to create economic havoc. ...

•••••

What works in government

http://economistsview.typepad.com/economistsview/2014/07/paul-krugman-left-coast-rising.html

Left Coast Rising, by Paul Krugman, Commentary, NY Times:

The states, Justice Brandeis famously pointed out, are the laboratories of democracy. And it’s still true. For example, one reason we knew or should have known that Obamacare was workable was the post-2006 success of Romneycare in Massachusetts. More recently, Kansas went all-in on supply-side economics, slashing taxes on the affluent in the belief that this would spark a huge boom; the boom didn’t happen, but the budget deficit exploded, offering an object lesson to those willing to learn from experience.

And there’s an even bigger if less drastic experiment under way in the opposite direction. California has long suffered from political paralysis, with budget rules that allowed an increasingly extreme Republican minority to hamstring a Democratic majority; when the state’s housing bubble burst, it plunged into fiscal crisis. In 2012, however, Democratic dominance finally became strong enough to overcome the paralysis, and Gov. Jerry Brown was able to push through a modestly liberal agenda of higher taxes, spending increases and a rise in the minimum wage. California also moved enthusiastically to implement Obamacare.

•••••

Needless to say, conservatives predicted doom.

•••••

What has actually happened? There is ... no sign of the promised catastrophe. If tax increases are causing a major flight of jobs from California, you can’t see it in the job numbers. Employment is up 3.6 percent in the past 18 months, compared with a national average of 2.8 percent...
And, yes, the budget is back in surplus.
Has there been any soul-searching among the prophets of California doom, asking why they were so wrong? Not that I’m aware of. ...

•••••

Eleven Die As Temperatures Reach 101 Degrees In Parts Of Japan

http://thinkprogress.org/climate/2014/07/28/3464638/11-die-japan-heatwave/

BY KATIE VALENTINE POSTED ON JULY 28, 2014

Eleven people have died and more than a thousand taken by ambulance to hospitals during a major heatwave in Japan this weekend.

Almost 1,900 people were hospitalized in Japan on Saturday, the county’s hottest day so far this year. Fifteen of those people remained seriously ill on Sunday.

Fourteen cities broke heat records in Japan, with the city of Higashiomi reaching a record-breaking 38.8° C (101.8° F) and more than a quarter of observation points across the nation recorded temperatures of 95° or higher. The high temperatures prompted Japan’s weather service to issue heatwave advisories for 41 of the country’s 47 prefectures, or government districts.

Japan’s current heatwave comes almost a year after another historic heatwave killed 17 and sent more than 9,800 people to the hospital. During the week of August 5-11, 2013, record-breaking heat engulfed Japan, with one weather station reaching a national high of 105.8ºF.

And Japan isn’t the only region to experience record-breaking heat last week. On Thursday, Phoenix, Arizona set a record of 116°F. In other parts of the state, temperatures were even higher — Yuma reached 117 °F, tying a record high for the date, and Tacna reached 120°.

“We have not dropped below the 90 degree mark since Tuesday morning, if you can believe that,” Matt Pace of Phoenix’s NBC 12 News said Thursday.

Heat like that can be deadly, especially for the young and elderly and those without air conditioning, as the deaths in Japan show. In Arizona, the extreme heat prompted warnings that even healthy people were at risk of heat stroke, with the Phoenix Fire Department asking residents to stay inside during daytime hours during the heatwave.

Scientists have long warned that climate change will likely bring more frequent and more intense heat waves to parts of the world.

“Global warming is bringing more frequent and severe heat waves, and the result will be serious for vulnerable populations,” Amanda Staudt, National Wildlife Federation climate scientist said. “That means air pollution in urban areas could get worse, bringing increased risk of heart attacks, strokes and asthma attacks.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Some bacteria can use electricity directly as a power source

The original title is obviously misleading. It can't transform electricity into cell walls, etc. It is able to use electricity directly as an energy source to do such things as build cell walls.

http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/next/nature/bacteria-can-survive-electricity-alone/

Posted by Allison Eck on Mon, 21 Jul 2014

This Bacterium Can Survive on Electricity Alone

Scientists are hoping that a large battery in a South Dakotan gold mine could lure curious forms of bacteria that may help us understand what powers life as we know it.

That’s because scientists have begun to discover bacteria that live and thrive on electricity alone. Rather than mediating electrons through third-party materials (such as sugar or oxygen) like most organisms do, these bacteria transmit them unaccompanied by anything else.

Here’s Catherine Brahic, writing for New Scientist:

Unlike any other living thing on Earth, electric bacteria use energy in its purest form—naked electricity in the shape of electrons harvested from rocks and metals. We already knew about two types, Shewanella and Geobacter. Now, biologists are showing that they can entice many more out of rocks and marine mud by tempting them with a bit of electrical juice. Experiments growing bacteria on battery electrodes demonstrate that these novel, mind-boggling forms of life are essentially eating and excreting electricity.

And scientists have found more than just a few new examples. Annette Rowe, a doctoral student at the University of Southern California, Los Angeles, has identified up to eight specimens demonstrating this behavior. That suggests to her advisor, Kenneth Nealson, that there could be a whole slew of organisms involved in direct extraction of electrons.

•••••

Arkansas Senate Nominee Touts Emergency Funds He Voted Against

http://thinkprogress.org/election/2014/07/25/3464146/tom-cotton-emergency-aid/

BY JOSH ISRAEL POSTED ON JULY 25, 2014

Rep. Tom Cotton (R-AR) has repeatedly voted against emergency funding for disaster relief, but attempted to take credit on Wednesday for the Obama administration’s approval of aid for 23 counties in Arkansas.

Cotton, who is the Republican nominee challenging Sen. Mark Pryor (D) for his Senate seat this November, joined with the state’s Congressional delegation in a press release to “announce” that U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack approved a disaster declaration request by Gov. Mike Beebe (D) to provide assistance to farmers and ranchers whose crops and pastures were devastated by June flash floods. “I appreciate Secretary Vilsack’s quick approval of Governor Beebe’s disaster declaration request for the 23 impacted counties,” Cotton said in the release, adding, “I have heard from many farmers about the impact of the recent flooding, and I look forward to working with our friends in Arkansas to make sure farmers are able to access the emergency funds they need.”

But, as the Huffington Post noted, the emergency funds come from the federal Farm Bill — legislation Cotton voted against in 2013 and 2014. Cotton told the Arkansas Farm Bureau in April that he’d opposed the 2014 bill because it didn’t do enough to cut the food stamp program, repeating the previously debunked claim that the program might provide free meals to millionaires.

But despite his stated view that the Farm Bill was a “bad bill for farmers, it was a bad bill for taxpayers, it was a bad bill for Arkansas,” Cotton joined with the delegation earlier this month to request “swift consideration and approval” of those funds, including loans the request called “vital to farmers and ranchers who may have no other source of revenue over the next year.”

A Pryor campaign spokesman told the Arkansas Times, “It takes a special kind of arrogance for Congressman Cotton to take credit for disaster relief funds that he consistently and recklessly opposed.” The Cotton campaign had not provided a response as of the paper’s press time.

While Cotton’s opposition to these particular emergency funds were part of a larger farm bill, he has also voted against stand-alone emergency funding when other states were in need. Last year, he was one of just a few dozen members of Congress to oppose both the $50.7 billion emergency aid package for Superstorm Sandy victims and the smaller $9 billion emergency Sandy relief bill.

Cotton’s apparent hypocrisy is not unique to him. Dozens of other Congressional Republicans voted against the Sandy aid measures despite their own history of supporting aid for their own districts. Last September, Colorado Rep. Cory Gardner (R) and three other Colorado Republican Congressmen pushed a bill to lift the cap on flood aid for their state, despite their unanimous opposition to the Sandy funding.

How do you use your brain capacity?

It is a myth that we only use 10% of our brain capacity. We are always using our whole brains.
But that doesn't mean we can't do better. We use a lot of our brain capacity for unproductive and harmful things. We use our brains to rationalize hate. We use our brains to put ourselves down for not being perfect. We use our brains to rationalize irrational beliefs and behaviour.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

If the Internet is working for Musicians, Why aren’t more Musicians Working Professionally?

http://thetrichordist.com/2012/05/22/why-arent-more-musicians-working-professionally/

May 22, 2014
David Lowery

We keep hearing from web/tech gurus about how empowered artists are in the internet age, but yet, the numbers just don’t add up. It’s also ironic that tech bloggers like to promote the idea of “touring and t-shirts” as a solution to the difficulties musicians are having online. But it really sounds to us, more like an admission that there is no money for artists online in the Exploitation Economy to develop new and sustainable professional creative careers.

This is why, an ethical internet for all citizens is so important. Sometimes, the facts are just so simple…

•••••

According to my friend, Tommy Silverman/Tommy Boy Records and the co-founder of the New Music Seminar recently told me that he did the math and only 228 artists broke 10,000 units for the first time last year out of 105,000 albums.

That’s 2.17% but only 15 of those did it without the help of a real label.

That’s not very encouraging to the other ninety-eight percent. While tens of thousand of artists are self-releasing their music, their ability to get noticed in a meaningful way is stifled by the sheer volume of music that is arriving daily at iTunes, Amazon, Spotify, MySpace Music, Yahoo, Rhapsody, Pandora, iHeart and others. Ten years ago, there were roughly twenty-five thousand album releases a year.

In 2009, it is estimated that there will be over one hundred thousand albums put into digital distribution. That’s roughly a million new tracks a year, four million minutes of music, or almost three thousand days-worth of song. But, maybe, if I listen really, really fast, I could….nope!”

The numbers below are equally sobering. Not only did the volume of sales drop from 2009 to 2010, but also the number of new releases also dropped. Many promoting the exploitation of artists are also proposing that the new lower barriers for access to distribution will increase creative output, but that also appears to be false.

•••••

Salon recently reported stats from the Bureau of Labor Statistics that number of working professionals in the music industry are suffering a catastrophic decline. If these numbers were reported by any other industry it would make national headlines:

“Musical groups and artists” plummeted by 45.3 percent between August 2002 and August of 2011.”

•••••

Friday, July 25, 2014

Female Heart Attacks

From Facebook post.
July 25, 2014



FEMALE HEART ATTACKS
I was aware that female heart attacks are different, but this is the best description I've ever read.

Women rarely have the same dramatic symptoms that men have ... You know, the sudden stabbing pain in the chest, the cold sweat, grabbing the chest & dropping to the floor that we see in movies. Here is the story of one woman's experience with a heart attack.

I had a heart attack at about 10:30 PM with NO prior exertion, NO prior emotional trauma that one would suspect might have brought it on. I was sitting all snugly & warm on a cold evening, with my purring cat in my lap, reading an interesting story my friend had sent me, and actually thinking, 'A-A-h, this is the life, all cozy and warm in my soft, cushy Lazy Boy with my feet propped up.

A moment later, I felt that awful sensation of indigestion, when you've been in a hurry and grabbed a bite of sandwich and washed it down with a dash of water, and that hurried bite seems to feel like you've swallowed a golf ball going down the esophagus in slow motion and it is most uncomfortable. You realize you shouldn't have gulped it down so fast and needed to chew it more thoroughly and this time drink a glass of water to hasten its progress down to the stomach. This was my initial sensation--the only trouble was that I hadn't taken a bite of anything since about 5:00 p.m.

After it seemed to subside, the next sensation was like little squeezing motions that seemed to be racing up my SPINE (hind-sight, it was probably my aorta spasms), gaining speed as they continued racing up and under my sternum (breast bone, where one presses rhythmically when administering CPR).

This fascinating process continued on into my throat and branched out into both jaws. 'AHA!! NOW I stopped puzzling about what was happening -- we all have read and/or heard about pain in the jaws being one of the signals of an MI happening, haven't we? I said aloud to myself and the cat, Dear God, I think I'm having a heart attack!

I lowered the foot rest dumping the cat from my lap, started to take a step and fell on the floor instead. I thought to myself, If this is a heart attack, I shouldn't be walking into the next room where the phone is or anywhere else... But, on the other hand, if I don't, nobody will know that I need help, and if I wait any longer I may not be able to get up in a moment.

I pulled myself up with the arms of the chair, walked slowly into the next room and dialed the Paramedics... I told her I thought I was having a heart attack due to the pressure building under the sternum and radiating into my jaws. I didn't feel hysterical or afraid, just stating the facts. She said she was sending the Paramedics over immediately, asked if the front door was near to me, and if so, to un-bolt the door and then lie down on the floor where they could see me when they came in.

I unlocked the door and then laid down on the floor as instructed and lost consciousness, as I don't remember the medics coming in, their examination, lifting me onto a gurney or getting me into their ambulance, or hearing the call they made to St. Jude ER on the way, but I did briefly awaken when we arrived and saw that the radiologist was already there in his surgical blues and cap, helping the medics pull my stretcher out of the ambulance. He was bending over me asking questions (probably something like 'Have you taken any medications?') but I couldn't make my mind interpret what he was saying, or form an answer, and nodded off again, not waking up until the Cardiologist and partner had already threaded the teeny angiogram balloon up my femoral artery into the aorta and into my heart where they installed 2 side by side stints to hold open my right coronary artery.

I know it sounds like all my thinking and actions at home must have taken at least 20-30 minutes before calling the paramedics, but actually it took perhaps 4-5 minutes before the call, and both the fire station and St Jude are only minutes away from my home, and my Cardiologist was already to go to the OR in his scrubs and get going on restarting my heart (which had stopped somewhere between my arrival and the procedure) and installing the stents. Why have I written all of this to you with so much detail? Because I want all of you who are so important in my life to know what I learned firsthand.

1. Be aware that something very different is happening in your body, not the usual men's symptoms but inexplicable things happening (until my sternum and jaws got into the act). It is said that many more women than men die of their first (and last) MI because they didn't know they were having one and commonly mistake it as indigestion, take some Maalox or other anti-heartburn preparation and go to bed, hoping they'll feel better in the morning when they wake up... which doesn't happen. My female friends, your symptoms might not be exactly like mine, so I advise you to call the Paramedics if ANYTHING is unpleasantly happening that you've not felt before. It is better to have a 'false alarm' visitation than to risk your life guessing what it might be!

2. Note that I said 'Call the Paramedics.' And if you can take an aspirin. Ladies, TIME IS OF THE ESSENCE!

Do NOT try to drive yourself to the ER - you are a hazard to others on the road.

Do NOT have your panicked husband who will be speeding and looking anxiously at what's happening with you instead of the road.

Do NOT call your doctor -- he doesn't know where you live and if it's at night you won't reach him anyway, and if it's daytime, his assistants (or answering service) will tell you to call the Paramedics. He doesn't carry the equipment in his car that you need to be saved! The Paramedics do, principally OXYGEN that you need ASAP. Your Dr. will be notified later.

3. Don't assume it couldn't be a heart attack because you have a normal cholesterol count. Research has discovered that a cholesterol elevated reading is rarely the cause of an MI (unless it's unbelievably high and/or accompanied by high blood pressure). MIs are usually caused by long-term stress and inflammation in the body, which dumps all sorts of deadly hormones into your system to sludge things up in there. Pain in the jaw can wake you from a sound sleep. Let's be careful and be aware. The more we know the better chance we could survive.

Songwriters blocked from testifying



July 21, 2014
by David Lowery

The major webcasters and broadcasters decided to convene a nearly secret last minute congressional panel to urge Congress and the DOJ to keep in place the 73 year old “temporary” consent decree that forces songwriters to let companies like Clear Channel, YouTube, Sirius, Pandora, Amazon and Spotify use our songs without any negotiation whatsoever. The consent decree also empowers a single appointed-for-life federal judge to arbitrarily decide what a “reasonable” rate is for songwriters. In effect we have been forced by federal courts to provide subsidy to corporations that have a combined market cap of more than a trillion dollars.

As I demonstrated in this an earlier post as a songwriter I received less than $17 dollars from Pandora for over a million spins of my song Low.

How is this a “Reasonable” rate?

The panel was hosted by Greg Barnes of DiMA. Other panelists included David Oxenford National Association of Broadcasters and Mathew Schruers from the CCIA. The companies represented by these lobbying outfits (Amazon, Clear Channel, YouTube/Google, Spotify, Pandora, Microsoft, Yahoo have a combined market cap of over a trillion dollars. YET THERE WAS NOT A SINGLE REPRESENTATIVE OF SONGWRITERS ON THE PANEL. This is particularly appalling considering that songwriters are the ones living and working under the consent decree.

I had prepared a short set of comments detailing my experience as a songwriter, especially the financial effects of the consent decree on my digital royalties. I parked myself in the second row and waited for the moderator Greg Barnes to start taking questions from the audience. Mine was the first hand up and Barnes indicated that he would call on me but first he wanted one more comment from Oxenford. It was during Oxenford’s comment that I noticed the lobbyist (?) seated directly in front of me pulled out her smartphone and started frantically texting something. Curious I leaned forward and could clearly read my name and then the phrase “watch out”. Funny stuff. I wanted to say “Hey dumbass, I’m sitting right behind you.” But I resisted.

Curiously it was immediately after this that Barnes suddenly announced that they would only be taking comments from “Staff” members and I would have to wait “til the vey end and time permitting only.” He then proceeded to call upon a college student from GW.

SERIOUSLY? The Digital Media Association is in the business of selling songwriters music but their chief DC lobbyist is afraid of having a songwriter speak. Spineless coward. If that’s not clear, Yes, Greg Barnes, I am calling you a spineless coward. And I’m standing by it.

When the college student finished his comments I raised my hand again. Once again Barnes told me that they were only taking questions from staffers despite the fact he had just demonstrated that they were in fact taking questions from anyone.

This went on for a while and I realize that Barnes clearly intended to not let me ask a question.

•••••

The night before this event I had been warned that it was likely that I would be blocked from asking any questions or making any comments. Considering the fact I was gonna have to get up at 5:45 am to make it to the panel I wasn’t really in the mood to go to all this effort for nothing. I had to have a plan B.

A few days before a songwriter friend remarked that the current licensing system for songs and digital services was so fucked up that songwriters really had nothing left to lose except “the shirts off our backs.” I remembered this. I went across the street to the local grocery store bought some gift bags and wrapping paper and proceeded to gift wrap three shirts that had been worn by me and my bandmates as “gifts” for the NAB, CCIA and DiMA. I figured that at the very least I could present them with the shirts off our backs and eke out a photo op.

Of course it didn’t go that way. Clearly Barnes was terrified of having an actual songwriter air a viewpoint that was contrary to the party line. When he asked for questions again, I asked that as the only person in the room forced against their will to live and work under the consent decree I be allowed to speak. He refused.

So shit, I did what I had to do. I marched up to the panelists and presented each of them with a gift wrapped “shirt off of a songwriters back”. They looked like they were gonna pee their pants. It was priceless.

“I got less than $17 dollars for a million spins on Pandora, that’s your consent decree at work.” I told the room and walked out.

The whole thing was so fucking stupid on the broadcasters/webcasters’ part. If they’d just let me speak they could have spent the final 15 minutes to counter my questions and statements with measured doses of non-sensical legalese and mock concern for the plight of the independent songwriters. But by acting like spineless cowards they totally screwed themselves. Just goes to show that if you put on a “Show trial?” you very well may end up with a show you didn’t expect.

•••••

Streaming Isn’t Saving the Music Industry After All, Data Shows

See the link for graphs.
At the time I read this, there were a couple of obvious typos which I corrected (the text referred to sales of downloads and CDs as being "more", when it is obvious from the graphs that it should have said "less".)

http://www.digitalmusicnews.com/permalink/2014/06/26/streaming-isnt-saving-music-industry-new-data-shows

June 26, 2014
by Paul Resnikoff

(source: RIAA)

Yes, streaming is reversing recording industry declines… in countries like Sweden and Norway. But it’s still not happening in the largest music markets, including the United States, the largest recorded music market in the world.

According to data recently released by US-based recording industry trade group RIAA, streaming revenues are still failing to compensate for plummeting physical and download income.

In 2013, recording revenues fell below $7 billion for the first time ever, according to inflation-adjusted stats released by the RIAA. The group has been tracking recording revenues since 1973.
Here’s a closer look:

(a) Streaming revenues are booming, thanks to players like Pandora, Spotify, YouTube, and Sirius XM…

•••••

But downloads were earning less…

•••••

And CDs were earning much, much less…

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Climate-related drought was a trigger for Syria's civil war

This is a good article, except that it doesn't say anything about the fact that the amount of energy used is caused by the individual actions of each of us. Most of us could each use much less energy than we do w/o degrading our standard of living very much.

http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/news/the-turning-point-new-hope-for-the-climate-20140618?page=4

•••••

Syria is one of the countries that has been in the bull's-eye of climate change. From 2006 to 2010, a historic drought destroyed 60 percent of the country's farms and 80 percent of its livestock – driving a million refugees from rural agricultural areas into cities already crowded with the million refugees who had taken shelter there from the Iraq War. As early as 2008, U.S. State Department cables quoted Syrian government officials warning that the social and economic impacts of the drought are "beyond our capacity as a country to deal with." Though the hellish and ongoing civil war in Syria has multiple causes – including the perfidy of the Assad government and the brutality on all sides – their climate-related drought may have been the biggest underlying trigger for the horror.

The U.S. military has taken notice of the strategic dangers inherent in the climate crisis. Last March, a Pentagon advisory committee described the climate crisis as a "catalyst for conflict" that may well cause failures of governance and societal collapse. "In the past, the thinking was that climate change multiplied the significance of a situation," said retired Air Force Gen. Charles F. Wald. "Now we're saying it's going to be a direct cause of instability."

Pentagon spokesman Mark Wright told the press, "For DOD, this is a mission reality, not a political debate. The scientific forecast is for more Arctic ice melt, more sea-level rise, more intense storms, more flooding from storm surge and more drought." And in yet another forecast difficult for congressional climate denialists to rebut, climate experts advising the military have also warned that the world's largest naval base, in Norfolk, Virginia, is likely to be inundated by rising sea levels in the future.

And how did the Republican-dominated House of Representatives respond to these grim warnings? By passing legislation seeking to prohibit the Department of Defense from taking any action to prepare for the effects of climate disruption.

•••••

Slaves of the Internet, Unite!

I suggest reading the whole article at the following link:

I enjoyed computer programming, but nobody told me I should not expect to get paid because I enjoyed it.

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/10/27/opinion/sunday/slaves-of-the-internet-unite.html?_r=0

By TIM KREIDER
Published: October 26, 2013

Not long ago, I received, in a single week, three (3) invitations to write an original piece for publication or give a prepared speech in exchange for no ($0.00) money. As with stinkbugs, it’s not any one instance of this request but their sheer number and relentlessness that make them so tiresome. It also makes composing a polite response a heroic exercise in restraint.

People who would consider it a bizarre breach of conduct to expect anyone to give them a haircut or a can of soda at no cost will ask you, with a straight face and a clear conscience, whether you wouldn’t be willing to write an essay or draw an illustration for them for nothing. They often start by telling you how much they admire your work, although not enough, evidently, to pay one cent for it. “Unfortunately we don’t have the budget to offer compensation to our contributors...” is how the pertinent line usually starts. But just as often, they simply omit any mention of payment.

A familiar figure in one’s 20s is the club owner or event promoter who explains to your band that they won’t be paying you in money, man, because you’re getting paid in the far more valuable currency of exposure. This same figure reappears over the years, like the devil, in different guises — with shorter hair, a better suit — as the editor of a Web site or magazine, dismissing the issue of payment as an irrelevant quibble and impressing upon you how many hits they get per day, how many eyeballs, what great exposure it’ll offer. “Artist Dies of Exposure” goes the rueful joke.

•••••

Just as the atom bomb was the weapon that was supposed to render war obsolete, the Internet seems like capitalism’s ultimate feat of self-destructive genius, an economic doomsday device rendering it impossible for anyone to ever make a profit off anything again. It’s especially hopeless for those whose work is easily digitized and accessed free of charge.

•••••

I’ve been trying to understand the mentality that leads people who wouldn’t ask a stranger to give them a keychain or a Twizzler to ask me to write them a thousand words for nothing. I have to admit my empathetic imagination is failing me here. I suppose people who aren’t artists assume that being one must be fun since, after all, we do choose to do it despite the fact that no one pays us. They figure we must be flattered to have someone ask us to do our little thing we already do.

I will freely admit that writing beats baling hay or going door-to-door for a living, but it’s still shockingly unenjoyable work. I spent 20 years and wrote thousands of pages learning the trivial craft of putting sentences together. My parents blew tens of thousands of 1980s dollars on tuition at a prestigious institution to train me for this job. They also put my sister the pulmonologist through medical school, and as far as I know nobody ever asks her to perform a quick lobectomy — doesn’t have to be anything fancy, maybe just in her spare time, whatever she can do would be great — because it’ll help get her name out there.

•••••

Practicalities aside, money is also how our culture defines value, and being told that what you do is of no ($0.00) value to the society you live in is, frankly, demoralizing. Even sort of insulting. And of course when you live in a culture that treats your work as frivolous you can’t help but internalize some of that devaluation and think of yourself as something less than a bona fide grown-up.

•••••

So I’m writing this not only in the hope that everyone will cross me off the list of writers to hit up for free content but, more important, to make a plea to my younger colleagues. As an older, more accomplished, equally unsuccessful artist, I beseech you, don’t give it away. As a matter of principle. Do it for your colleagues, your fellow artists, because if we all consistently say no they might, eventually, take the hint. It shouldn’t be professionally or socially acceptable — it isn’t right — for people to tell us, over and over, that our vocation is worthless.

Here, for public use, is my very own template for a response to people who offer to let me write something for them for nothing:

Thanks very much for your compliments on my [writing/illustration/whatever thing you do]. I’m flattered by your invitation to [do whatever it is they want you to do for nothing]. But [thing you do] is work, it takes time, it’s how I make my living, and in this economy I can’t afford to do it for free. I’m sorry to decline, but thanks again, sincerely, for your kind words about my work.

Fresh Scholarship on Copyright

I have experienced this personally. Several times, lyrics have come to me when listening to or thinking about existing songs. Because of copyright laws, I later developed my own melodies.

http://illusionofmore.com/copyright-generative/

by DAVID NEWHOFF posted on JULY 19, 2014

For quite some time, too long perhaps, a considerable amount of academic scholarship has trended toward focus on copyright’s negative effects, or at least doubt its positive effects, without adequate analysis of the creative process itself. When viewing the market, and especially creators, many academic views I have encountered appear to look solely at finished works, how the market interacts with those works, and then to interpolate from these data the creative process that generated the works in the first place. As such, many attempts to reinvestigate copyright’s role in incentivizing production are incomplete. To quote from a new academic article that will be published in the March 2015 issue of the Harvard Law Review, “Copyright’s incentives/access debate has done a good job recognizing the risks. Yet it has all but ignored the rewards.”

At last, a legal scholar has emerged who has taken a scientific approach to examine the creative process in an effort to better understand copyright’s generative benefits. Joseph P. Fishman, Climenko Fellow & Lecturer at Harvard Law School, is the first academic to my knowledge who has attempted to express in analytical terms what I believe most artists understand intuitively — that constraint is always part of the creative process, and that copyright’s constraints very likely produce a greater diversity of works than we would see in a market without such constraints.

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The title refers to a well-established and accepted benefit of patent law that “working around” patents generates the kind of diversity of useful inventions that benefit society exactly as intended. Fishman’s thesis asks why this same working around principle is not applied to legal scholarship on the subject of copyright. Why would working around copyright not be as diversely generative as working around patents? Experientially, creators will tell you that it is. And now Mr. Fishman has applied legal theory that corresponds with that experience.

Last July, I wrote this post describing how the creative process is always about working around obstacles and that obstacles — legal, financial, physical, logistical, and internal — are often the most important catalysts to producing unanticipated, creative solutions that themselves become the signature elements that give a work its unique or masterful qualities. Shortly after publishing that piece, Fishman contacted me, still in the early stages of writing his paper. We spoke for a while, and his article does cite that October post, but what I did not know was that he would produce such a thorough and scientifically-based explanation of what artists throughout history have consistently described anecdotally.

Citing extensive psychological research into the creative process, Fishman demonstrates that there is an optimal balance to be maintained between constraint and freedom. Too much constraint fails to produce creative diversity, but so does too little constraint. In order to view the creative process as a science, Fishman rightly describes artistic work as an exercise in problem solving no different from the activities of a scientist or technologist. We tend to talk about the arts in emotional or poetic terms, but Fishman is right that the process is entirely analogous to problem identification and solution. As such, the psychological experiments to which Fishman refers throughout his article suggest that a purely “open” process free of constraints produces less creative variation than a process with the right amount and right types of constraints.

Taking for the workers to benefit the elite

A Facebook post from economist Robert Reich

July 24, 2014

https://www.facebook.com/RBReich/posts/832025296810068



United Airlines reports it’s outsourcing 630 gate agent jobs at 12 airports to companies paying near-poverty level wages. Employees who have been with the company for years, earning middle-class wages of $50,000 a year, will be replaced by people paid between $9.50 and $12 per hour. United says it must do this to cut costs and raise its profits relative to other airlines. But United CEO Jeff Smisek gave himself $8.1 million this year. If he cut his salary just $2 million (in line with the CEO of the more successful Southwest Airlines, who gets $4 million), United would save about as much as it will by cutting the pay of those 630 employees.

The problem in America isn’t that typical workers are paid more than they’re “worth” in the market. It’s that they have no bargaining power, while too many CEOs and other top executives have the power to pay themselves almost whatever they want. How do redress this power imbalance? Some call for stronger unions and greater shareholder say over CEO pay, but I'm increasingly of the view we have to change the organization of the corporation so that it has to respond to all stakeholders -- not just its shareholders but also its workers and affected communities. What's your view?

Deep Poverty Among Children Worsened in Welfare Reform’s First Decade

http://www.cbpp.org/cms/?fa=view&id=4173

By Arloc Sherman and Danilo Trisi
July 23, 2014

Since the mid-1990s, when policymakers made major changes in the public assistance system, the proportion of children living in poverty has declined, but the harshest extremes of child poverty have increased. After correcting for the well-known underreporting of safety net benefits in the Census data, we estimate that the share of children in deep poverty — with family income below half of the poverty line — rose from 2.1 percent to 3.0 percent between 1995 and 2005. The number of children in deep poverty climbed from 1.5 million to 2.2 million.

In the mid-1990s, policymakers dramatically shifted income assistance policies for low-income families with children toward helping workingfamilies. They replaced Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC), which had chiefly served families with little or no earnings, with Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), which offers less assistance and includes stricter work requirements and time limits. At the same time, policymakers expanded assistance for moderate-income working families, such as by strengthening the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and medical and child care programs and creating and later expanding the Child Tax Credit through a partially refundable component of the credit for lower-income families with earnings.
The results over the ensuing decade were mixed. The bulk of the evidence suggests that while many parents moved from welfare to work and child poverty declined overall, the number and percentage of children in deep or severe poverty, with family income below half the poverty line or even lower, increased.

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Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Global warming’s biggest offenders




Posted on January 15, 2014|By: Cléa Desjardins *
* Parts of this text appear courtesy of New Scientist magazine.

When it comes to global warming, there are seven big contributors: the United States, China, Russia, Brazil, India, Germany and the United Kingdom. A new study published in Environmental Research Letters reveals that these countries were collectively responsible for more than 60 per cent of pre-2005 global warming. Uniquely, it also assigns a temperature-change value to each country that reflects its contribution to observed global warming.

The study was conducted at Concordia under the leadership of Damon Matthews, an associate professor in the Department of Geography, Planning and Environment. In a straight ranking, the U.S. is an unambiguous leader, responsible for a global temperature increase of 0.15 C. That’s close to 20 per cent of the observed warming.

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Matthews and his colleagues also experimented with scaling the emissions to the size of the corresponding area (see graphic above). Western Europe, the U.S., Japan and India are hugely expanded, reflecting emissions much greater than would be expected based on their geographic area. Russia, China and Brazil stay the same. Taken in this light, the climate contributions of Brazil and China don’t seem so out of line — they are perfectly proportionate to the countries’ land masses. Canada and Australia become stick thin as their land mass is much larger than their share of the global-warming pie.

Meanwhile, dividing each country’s climate contribution by its population paints a different picture. Amongst the 20 largest total emitters, the top seven per capita positions are occupied by developed countries, with Canada falling in third place behind the U.K. and the U.S. In this ranking, China and India drop to the bottom of the list.

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The urge to dehumanise others is itself all too human

http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg22129521.500-the-urge-to-dehumanise-others-is-itself-all-too-human.html#.U8_ub-NdWQA

22 January 2014
New Scientist Magazine issue 2952

It is a depressingly familiar story. Two communities live in cheek-by-jowl harmony until, one day, they don't. Then, for reasons that may on the face of it seem quite trivial – a property dispute, or a social slight, perhaps – a rift develops. Neighbour becomes suspicious of neighbour; hostility mounts, then turns to aggression, violence and – well, the story doesn't have a happy ending.

Rival sides in such conflicts describe each other in ways that deny their shared humanity: they may liken each other to vermin, or pests to be exterminated. The words onlookers use to describe such conflicts – bloody religious factionalism in the Central African Republic, for example, or the civil war in Syria – are also animalistic: perpetrators are "brutal", while their victims are "slaughtered".

But thinking of such incidents as no more than outbreaks of bestial savagery is misleading. The cruelties meted out can be so ingenious as to betray the work of a sophisticated social brain. It seems the tendency to see others as less than fully human is deep-seated in our psyches – and dismayingly easy to trigger.

We now know that we are all prone to grouping the people around us according to how they look, where they live or what they believe – an urge that we give in to on the slightest of pretexts – and inclined to deny those outside our own groups their humanity, to varying degrees (see "Talent for prejudice: Why humans dehumanise others").

Far from being a reversion to animal roots, this propensity may be uniquely human. "I don't think that we have any evidence that any other living animal is able to negate the status... of another individual belonging to the same species," cognitive neuroscientist Vittorio Gallese said last month at the launch of the Human Mind Project. The ability to deny another person's humanity is "probably one of the worst spin-offs of language", he concluded.

Understanding this as part of human nature, rather than a departure from it, helps us work against its darkest aspects. We can learn how to make groups more inclusive; or how former enemies might be reconciled, rather than driven to retaliate. Remembering our shared humanity is the best way to guard against those who would deny it.

Attack of the Chicago climate change maggots

http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/storyline/wp/2014/07/23/attack-of-the-chicago-climate-change-maggots/

By Danielle Paquette July 23, 2014

CHICAGO — Sewage gushed up Lori Burns’s toilet. It swept the floor. It wrecked the water heater, the deep freezer, her mother’s wedding veil.

This basement invasion was the third in five years. Burns, 40, could no longer afford to pay a cleanup crew. So she slipped on polka dotted rain boots, waded into the muck, wrenched out the stand-pipe and watched the brown water drain.

The South Side native, a marketing specialist, estimated damages at $17,000. And that did not include what she could not replace: the family heirlooms, the oriental rugs, her cashmere sweaters. The bungalow had flooded four times from 1985 to 2006, when her parents owned it. Lately, it flooded every other year. Burns felt nature was working against her. In a way, it was.

As Washington still fights over whether or not climate change is real, people across the country are already paying costs scientists ascribe to it — sometimes in unexpected places. You might think about climate change in terms of rising sea levels threatening coastal cities. But all over the Midwest, from Chicago to Indianapolis and Milwaukee, residents face just as many difficult issues as changing weather patterns collide with aging infrastructure. The costs — for governments, insurance companies and homeowners — are measured not only in dollars, but in quality of life.

In Chicago over the past century, downpours that force human waste up pipes and into homes — storms that dump at least 1.5 inches of rain in a single day — have struck the city more often. Annual precipitation in the Midwest grew about 20 percent during the past century. Rains of more than 2.5 inches a day are expected to increase another 50 percent in the next 20 years. That means more flooding — and more clean-up costs for people like Burns.

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In May, a year after sewage swamped Burns’s basement, an insurance giant took to an Illinois courtroom for what might have been a publicity stunt, or what might be a preview of a nationwide battle over who foots the bill for extreme weather events linked to climate change. Farmer’s Insurance Co. sued the city of Chicago for failing to prepare for the effects of global warming.

The city “should have known,” the lawsuit alleged, “that climate change in Cook County has resulted in greater rainfall volume … than pre-1970 rainfall history evidenced.” The storms are not an act of God, the suit claimed, but a carbon-driven reality outlined in Chicago’s own Climate Action Plan, published in 2010.

Last April, sewage water flooded roughly 600 Chicago buildings, according to the lawsuit: “Geysers of sewer water shot out from the floor drains, toilets, showers. … Elderly men and women and young children were forced to evacuate.” That could have been prevented, the company claimed, if Chicago would have remedied an underground storm-water storage that has become, over time, “obsolete.”

•••••

“The debate we have entered now is: Why does it seem more and more disasters are happening?” said Erwann Michel-Kerjan, executive director of the Wharton Risk Management and Decision Processes Center at the University of Pennsylvania. “And, as a nation, who’s supposed to pay for them?”

•••••

The American Association for the Advancement of Science, which calls itself the world’s largest non-government group science advocacy group, released a report this year called “What We Know,” which offers a nuanced look at climate change and its effects. The report concludes that natural disasters, like floods, are striking harder and more often. But, beyond anecdotes and weather projections, it adds, it’s hard to link one specific flood to carbon emissions.

“Greenhouse gases have supercharged the climate, just as steroids supercharged hitting in Major League Baseball,” the report says. “Over the course of a baseball season in the steroid era, we witnessed more — and longer — home runs, even though we cannot attribute any specific homer to steroids. Similarly, even though we cannot attribute any particular weather event to climate change, some types of extreme events … are now more frequent.”

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D.C. Man Exonerated After Hair Analysis Review

http://www.innocenceproject.org/Content/DC_Man_Exonerated_After_Hair_Analysis_Review.php

Four months after a Washington, D.C. man was cleared by DNA when the hair analysis used to convict him was found to be wrong, his conviction was vacated Monday. Kevin Martin’s exoneration comes nearly one year after the Innocence Project and the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (NACDL) announced its partnership with the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) and the U.S. Department of Justice to review microscopic hair analysis cases.

Martin was convicted of the 1982 rape and murder of Ursula Brown based largely on the claim that his hair was found at the scene of the crime. He spent more than 26 years behind bars before he was paroled in 2009 and settled in San Francisco.

•••••

Facing multiple life sentences if the case went to trial, Martin entered an Alford plea to manslaughter acknowledging that the prosecution had sufficient evidence to convict him, but he did not admit guilt.

Martin first sought DNA testing in 2001 but was told the evidence from his case had been lost. More than a decade later, boxes from the investigation turned up at a new facility and although the hair was not located, other genetic evidence was recovered for testing. According to prosecutors, the DNA matched William D. Davidson, who is serving a sentence of 65 years to life for multiple offenses including being the lookout during Brown’s attack.

Martin’s is the fifth case since 2009 in which FBI hair analysis has been found to be wrong. Donald Gates, Kirk Odom, Santae Tribble and Cleveland Wright were also wrongly convicted based on false FBI hair analysis.

The Mid-Atlantic Innocence Project assisted in Martin’s case.
- See more at: http://www.innocenceproject.org/Content/DC_Man_Exonerated_After_Hair_Analysis_Review.php#sthash.0xmdm1NE.dpuf

Musicians: Streaming will sweep us into poverty

http://www.cbsnews.com/news/musicians-say-music-streaming-leaves-them-broke/

By ERIK SHERMAN July 23, 2014

Technology has changed few industries as thoroughly as the music business. But the ballooning increase of convenience for consumers has rapidly become a bust for musicians trying to make a living. A number of prominent names have published their actual incomes from streaming, and the money doesn't even match what they'd get from a paper route.

For example, Bette Midler has written some popular music. She recently tweeted that she made $114.11 on 4,175,149 plays of her work.

Grammy-nominated composer, keyboardist and recording artist Armen Chakmakian, once the keyboardist for the band Shadowfax, tracked his earnings from 14,227 plays. He received $4.20 from songwriting royalties, and because he was the recording artist, he also made $11.50. The record label is also his, and it took in $19.39. The total was $35.09, which works out to about a quarter of a cent per play.

"Someone's making money, and in true fashion with the music industry, it's not the artists," he wrote. "Business practices like this are one of the reasons I jumped ship and only write for television now."

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Another musician, Damon Krukowski, estimated that it would take "songwriting royalties for roughly 312,000 plays on Pandora to earn us the profit of one -- one -- LP sale." He went on to explain that the royalties he would see from one CD sale is the equivalent to 47,680 plays on Spotify. He'll get additional payments for his work as a performer with the two other members of the band Galaxy 500. The group registered 64 recordings with Pandora. For one fiscal quarter in 2012, that came to an additional $64.17.

•••••

"The record labels could make a case that they don't need to share royalties with artists whose sales don't cross a certain threshold. If you're Lady Gaga or Justin Bieber, you have no problem. But otherwise, you would get no royalties. The nature of these deals are that the rich get richer and the poor get poorer."
Streaming music can be a great deal for the avid listener. The question is whether we'll continue having an emerging supply of new musicians if streaming takes over, or will everyone have to get accustomed to one oldies station after another?