Friday, November 28, 2014

Paul Krugman: Pollution and Politics

http://economistsview.typepad.com/economistsview/2014/11/paul-krugman-pollution-and-politics.html

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/11/28/opinion/paul-krugman-pollution-and-politics.html

Nov. 28, 2014

Pollution and Politics, by Paul Krugman, Commentary, NY Times: Earlier this week, the Environmental Protection Agency announced proposed regulations to curb emissions of ozone, which causes smog, not to mention asthma, heart disease and premature death. And you know what happened: Republicans went on the attack, claiming that the new rules would impose enormous costs.

There’s no reason to take these complaints seriously... Polluters and their political friends have a track record of crying wolf. ... Again and again, the actual costs have been far lower than they predicted. In fact, almost always below the E.P.A.’s predictions.

So it’s the same old story. But why, exactly, does it always play this way? ... When and why did the Republican Party become the party of pollution?

For it wasn’t always thus. The Clean Air Act of 1970 ... was signed into law by Richard Nixon. (I’ve heard veterans of the E.P.A. describe the Nixon years as a golden age.) A major amendment of the law, which among other things made possible the cap-and-trade system that limits acid rain, was signed in 1990 by former President George H.W. Bush.

But that was then. Today’s Republican Party is putting a conspiracy theorist who views climate science as a “gigantic hoax” in charge of the Senate’s environment committee. And this isn’t an isolated case. ...

So what explains this anti-environmental shift?

•••••

One answer could be ideology... My guess, however, is that ideology is only part of the story — or, more accurately, it’s a symptom of the underlying cause...: rising inequality. ... Any policy that benefits lower- and middle-income Americans at the expense of the elite — like health reform, which guarantees insurance to all and pays for that guarantee in part with taxes on higher incomes — will face bitter Republican opposition.

And environmental protection is, in part, a class issue,... ownership of, say, stock in coal companies is concentrated in a few, wealthy hands. ...

In the case of the new ozone plan, the E.P.A.’s analysis suggests that, for the average American, the benefits would be more than twice the costs. But that doesn’t necessarily matter to the nonaverage American driving one party’s priorities. On ozone, as with almost everything these days, it’s all about inequality.

•••••

Star Light, Star Bright


Star Light, Star Bright
copyright 1994 Patricia M. Shannon
(I wrote a verse a day on the way to work
when I had a long commute, and my car
radio didn't work)

(chorus)
Oh please, start light, star bright,
first star I see tonight, oh yes,
I wish I may and I wish I might
have the wish I wish tonight.

I wish the whole world would live at peace,
and no one hungry be, oh yes,
and every child would have a home
in a loving family.

I wish for tolerance for those
who are not hurting anyone.
And that people would be careful
where they put their chewed up gum!

(chorus)

I wish political candidates
would be less negative,
and the media would give some news
that is more positive.

I wish that people would behave the way
they would like others to.
Then highway 85 would be less like
a rabies-infested zoo!

(chorus)

http://new.livestream.com/accounts/1114629/events/3372862/videos/62214114

I'm not a great singer, but I did receive a compliment for this.



Thursday, November 27, 2014

16 Habits Of Highly Sensitive People

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/02/26/highly-sensitive-people-signs-habits_n_4810794.html?ncid=fcbklnkushpmg00000063

Amanda L. Chan
Feb. 26, 2014

Do you feel like you reflect on things more than everyone else? Do you find yourself worrying about how other people feel? Do you prefer quieter, less chaotic environments?

If the above sound true to you, you may be highly sensitive. The personality trait -- which was first researched by Elaine N. Aron, Ph.D., in the early 1990s -- is relatively common, with as many as one in five people possessing it. Aron, who has written multiple studies and books on high sensitivity, including The Highly Sensitive Person, also developed a self-test (which you can take here) to help you determine if you are highly sensitive.

•••••

being highly sensitive carries a multitude of positive characteristics. Read on for some of the commonalities shared by highly sensitive people.

1. They feel more deeply. •••

2. They're more emotionally reactive. •••

3. They're probably used to hearing, "Don't take things so personally" and "Why are you so sensitive?" •••

Depending on the culture, sensitivity can be perceived as an asset or a negative trait, Zeff explains. In some of his own research, Zeff says that highly sensitive men he interviewed from other countries -- such as Thailand and India -- were rarely or never teased, while highly sensitive men he interviewed from North America were frequently or always teased. "So a lot of it is very cultural -- the same person who is told, 'Oh, you're too sensitive,' in certain cultures, it's considered an asset," he says.

4. They prefer to exercise solo. •••

5. It takes longer for them to make decisions. •••

6. And on that note, they are more upset if they make a "bad" or "wrong" decision. •••

7. They're extremely detail-oriented. •••

8. Not all highly sensitive people are introverts. •••

9. They work well in team environments.

Because highly sensitive people are such deep thinkers, they make valuable workers and members of teams, Aron says. However, they may be well-suited for positions in teams where they don't have to make the final decision. For instance, if a highly sensitive person was part of a medical team, he or she would be valuable in analyzing the pros and cons of a patient having surgery, while someone else would ultimately make the decision about whether that patient would receive the surgery.

10. They're more prone to anxiety or depression (but only if they've had a lot of past negative experiences).

"If you've had a fair number of bad experiences, especially early in life, so you don't feel safe in the world or you don't feel secure at home or ... at school, your nervous system is set to 'anxious,'" Aron says. But that's not to say that all highly sensitive people will go on to have anxiety -- and in fact, having a supportive environment can go a long way to protecting against this. Parents of highly sensitive children, in particular, need to "realize these are really great kids, but they need to be handled in the right way," Aron says. "You can't over-protect them, but you can't under-protect them, either. You have to titrate that just right when they're young so they can feel confident and they can do fine."

11. That annoying sound is probably significantly more annoying to a highly sensitive person. •••

12. Violent movies are the worst. •••

13. They cry more easily. •••

14. They have above-average manners. •••

15. The effects of criticism are especially amplified in highly sensitive people. •••

16. Cubicles = good. Open-office plans = bad. •••

Not All Credit Card Comparison Shopping Sites Created Equal

http://www.clarkhoward.com/news/clark-howard/personal-finance-credit/credit-card-comparison-shopping-sites/nhH8w/

By Clark Howard
Sept. 8, 2014

The banksters are at it again. The Wall Street Journal says there's dirty dealings going on, with many popular credit card comparison sites lying to you when you go to pick the best credit card.

Following the CARD Act of 2009, comparison shopping for credit cards became so easy; the whole thing was made to order for the Internet. So people set up slews of credit card comparison shopping sites.

But The Wall Street Journal reports the banks that control the bulk of our nation's credit card portfolio have intimidated the credit card shopping sites with threats of lawsuits if they publish a bad review and by dangling advertising dollars in front of them for top billing on those sites.

The fix was in. And little by little, one site after another became worthless if you were looking for objective recommendations. Now when you go on line to a comparison site, in many cases, the info is manipulated.

Six popular sites show credit cards that they get paid to show, according to the newspaper report. This is some ugly, crooked, dishonest stuff. And it completely perverts the original intention of the sites.

•••••

Why the odds are against you ever owning your own home

The "median" is the point where half are below it, half above it.

http://www.cbsnews.com/news/why-the-odds-are-against-you-ever-owning-your-own-home/

By Jason Notte
Nov. 27, 2014

Is the housing crisis over? Somewhat. Does that mean you can afford a home? Probably not.

If you earn a median-income, you can afford a median-priced home in only 10 of the 25 largest U.S. metropolitan areas, according to a study by personal finance site Interest.com. Looking for some good news in there? Well consider it an improvement from last year, when median-income households couldn't afford mid-range homes in 17 out of 25 metro areas.

•••••

Still, 17 million Americans said they planned on buying a home this year, even though the median existing home price in the U.S. leapt past $220,000 for the first time since the housing crisis began.

•••••

Overall, median home prices rose 6 percent over the past year in all the areas surveyed, while incomes rose by about 2 percent. The only real break for middle class homebuyers came from mortgage rates, which Freddie Mac notes were down from 4.5 percent for a 30-year, fixed-rate mortgage in January to just 4 percent this month.

•••••

Toyota recalls more vehicles over dangerous air bags

http://www.cbsnews.com/news/toyota-recalls-more-vehicles-over-dangerous-air-bags/

Toyota Motor Corp. (TM) is recalling 57,000 vehicles worldwide amid widening concerns over defective air bags made by Takata.

The Japanese automaker said Thursday that roughly 40,000 of the vehicles were in Japan. The company is also investigating a new type of air bag problem that could lead to further recalls.

Toyota's recall for driver-side air bags is the latest in the widening safety problems related to Takata air bags. Toyota's recall involves three models: Vitz, Yaris and RAV4 vehicles made in 2002 and 2003. The company said it was not aware of any injury or death stemming from the recall.

Daihatsu Motor Co. said it's also recalling more than 27,000 Mira compact models in Japan for the same air bag problem linked to an inflator.

Takata air bags can inflate with excessive force, sending metal shrapnel toward the driver and passengers. More than 16 million vehicles, including 2.6 million in Japan, have been recalled since problems with the air bags began to surface in 2008.

Toyota is looking into whether a new type of air bag problem in a 2003 vehicle that could lead to further recalls. In that case, revealed Wednesday by the transport ministry, the air bag ruptured when it was launched while the vehicle was being scrapped earlier this month.

The rupture occurred on the passenger side of the now discontinued Will Cypha, company spokeswoman Kayo Doi said.

That air bag problem is not part of the ongoing recalls, and Toyota will add the new case to the company's investigation, she said.

NHTSA has posted a list of vehicles affected by the airbag recall and is urging owners to "take immediate action." Drivers can find out if their vehicles are part of the recall by using a search tool on SaferCar.gov.

[There is also a list at the end of this article]

•••••

Another human footprint in the ocean

http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2014-11/uoha-ahf112614.php

PUBLIC RELEASE DATE: 27-Nov-2014

Contact: Marcie Grabowski
University of Hawaii at Manoa

Human-induced changes to Earth's carbon cycle - for example, rising atmospheric carbon dioxide and ocean acidification - have been observed for decades. However, a study published this week in Science showed human activities, in particular industrial and agricultural processes, have also had significant impacts on the upper ocean nitrogen cycle.

The rate of deposition of reactive nitrogen (i.e., nitrogen oxides from fossil fuel burning and ammonia compounds from fertilizer use) from the atmosphere to the open ocean has more than doubled globally over the last 100 years. This anthropogenic addition of nitrogen has reached a magnitude comparable to about half of global ocean nitrogen fixation (the natural process by which atmospheric nitrogen gas becomes a useful nutrient for organisms). David Karl, Professor of Oceanography and Director of the Daniel K. Inouye Center for Microbial Oceanography at the University of Hawai'i, teamed up with researchers from Korea, Switzerland and the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to assess changes in nitrate concentration between the 1960s and 2000s across the open North Pacific Ocean.

Their analysis, which could discern human-derived nitrogen from natural nitrogen fixation, revealed that the oceanic nitrate concentration increased significantly over the last 30 years in surface waters of the North Pacific due largely to the enhanced deposition of nitrogen from the atmosphere.

"This is a sobering result, one that I would not have predicted," said Karl. "The North Pacific is so vast it is hard to imagine that humans could impact the natural nitrogen cycle."

•••••

Homing pigeons may navigate with gravity

http://www.mnn.com/earth-matters/animals/stories/mystery-of-how-homing-pigeons-navigate-may-finally-be-solved

By: Bryan Nelson
Wed, Nov 12, 2014

Their navigational skills are so reliable that homing pigeons have long been used as one of the world's first forms of long distance communication, but exactly how they find their way home has remained a scientific puzzle. Now a team of Swiss and South African scientists think they may have finally solved the mystery, reports Phys.org.

Experts have always assumed the birds used some combination of solar and magnetic cues to navigate — and these skills do appear to matter — but they don't account for all of a pigeon's unique homing abilities. Dissatisfied with current theories, researcher Hans-Peter Lipp from the University of Zurich, Switzerland, and Kwazulu-Natal University, South Africa, decided to test another possibility: that the pigeons can detect the gravity field and use it to navigate.

Lipp first caught wind of this alternative idea after an encounter with Valeryi Kanevskyi from the High-Technologies Institute, Ukraine, who was the first to suspect that the birds were tapping into the Earth's gravitational field.

•••••

The team formulated a study that could isolate gravitational anomalies, and rule out geomagnetic factors, for testing homing pigeons' ability to navigate. Fortunately, a location where gravity was weaker than usual but where no geomagnetic aberrations were at play was known: a massive circular meteorite crater in Ukraine. The team borrowed some homing pigeons from the nearby town of Novoukrainka, Ukraine, where the birds were trained, and over a series of days released them from the middle of the crater.

Of the 26 birds that were released, only 18 made it home. Of those 18, only seven made the journey with an efficient, beeline route. The rest chose far more bizarre, disoriented routes. Using GPS devices to track the flock's movements, researchers noticed that the place where the birds seemed to deviate was, sure enough, at the point where they crossed the crater's edge, indicating that the change in gravity must have thrown them off.

•••••

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Feeling — Not Being — Wealthy Drives Opposition to Wealth Redistribution

http://www.psychologicalscience.org/index.php/news/releases/feeling-wealthy-drives-opposition-to-wealth-redistribution.html?utm_source=pressrelease&utm_medium=eureka&utm_campaign=feelingwealthy

People’s views on income inequality and wealth distribution may have little to do with how much money they have in the bank and a lot to do with how wealthy they feel in comparison to their friends and neighbors, according to new findings published in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science.

“Our research shows that subjective feelings of wealth or poverty motivate people’s attitudes toward redistribution, quite independently of objective self-interest,” says psychological scientist and study co-author Keith Payne of the University of North Carolina.

The research reveals that feeling relatively wealthy not only led participants to oppose redistribution, it led them to view anyone who disagreed as blinded by self-interest.

“These findings are important because they suggest a mechanism by which inequality may lead to increases in political polarization and conflict,” Payne explains. “Peoples’ support for tax and welfare policies depends on how well off each person feels at that moment.”

While it seems logical that people would support whichever wealth distribution policy enhances their own bottom line, research consistently shows that the association between actual household income and attitudes toward redistribution is weak. Lead author Jazmin Brown-Iannuzzi of the University of North Carolina, Payne, and colleagues speculated that perceived socioeconomic status, how people judge their status relative to those around them, might be the more influential factor.

Indeed, an online survey of adults revealed that the more well-off people felt relative to most people in the US, the less supportive they were of policies that involved redistribution of income from the wealthy to the poor. Importantly, support for redistribution wasn’t related to participants’ actual household income or level of education.

•••••

New study examines the effect of timing of folic acid supplementation during pregnancy

http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2014-11/w-nse112514.php

PUBLIC RELEASE DATE: 25-Nov-2014

Contact: Rebecca Jones
Wiley

New study examines the effect of timing of folic acid supplementation during pregnancy

Taking folic acid before conception significantly reduces the risk of small for gestational age (SGA) at birth, suggests a new study published today (26 November) in BJOG: An International Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology (BJOG).

This UK population-based study and systematic review assessed the effect of timing of folic acid supplementation during pregnancy on the risk of the baby being SGA at birth, defined as birth weight less than the 10th centile or in the lowest 10% of babies born.

Being small for gestational age is associated with increased neonatal morbidity and mortality and an increased risk of chronic diseases in later life such as diabetes, hypertension, obesity, cardiovascular disease and mental health problems, states the study.

Folic acid supplementation has already been shown to reduce the risk of neural tube defects, such as spina bifida, and it is recommended in the UK for women to start folic acid supplementation pre-conceptually. However, uptake is low, state the authors, and previous studies have suggested rates of pre-conceptual uptake to be between 14.8% and 31%, with lower uptake in younger age groups and ethnic minorities.

•••••

News Media not doing its job

Someone else posted this on Facebook. It did not have Public share permissions, so I'm copying it w/o attribution because he puts it well.


I really think the News Media is doing Our Country great harm. I saw all kinds of news clips, articles, etc. that said various things like Michael Brown was shot in the back, Brown was beaten, etc. to indicate that their was no cause for the policeman to do anything. THESE REPORTS THE MEDIA WAS PUTTING OUT ENDED UP MOSTLY ABSOLUTELY WRONG. By putting the untruths on National TV and Local TV, The Media led a lot of people in the wrong direction. SOMEBODY OR WE AS A WHOLE NEED TO REQUIRE NEWS MEDIA TO TELL THE TRUTH AND NOT ALLOW PEOPLE TO BE MISLED BY THEIR COVERAGES. By running these erroneous reports over and over again only make them seem like they must be true and the people who want to believe these untruthful reports end up thinking that something bad has occurred and law enforcement is covering it up.

Nebraska Farmers Union prez says climate change must be taken seriously

http://nebraskaradionetwork.com/2014/11/25/nebraska-farmers-union-prez-says-climate-change-must-be-taken-seriously/

Nov. 25, 2014

A report from the General Accounting Office says climate change could make the crop insurance program more vulnerable to potential losses.

Nebraska Farmers Union President John Hansen says the report is another example of why climate change needs to be addressed and taken seriously by both ag and non-ag interests.

“The GAO report is just one more indication we need to deal with the very real impact of too much carbon in our atmosphere,” Hansen says. “We’re just getting more variability, more volatility and more intensity in the weather patterns that already existed.”

The GAO report shows both the Risk Management Agency and FEMA showed an increase of 8% in potential losses for insured property between 2007 and 2013.

Hansen says there’s no doubt those impacts are still being felt.

“We’ve already seen very substantial changes in property and casualty losses, especially in the Midwest,” Hansen says. “As you study loss ratios and loss experiences and go through the actuarial tables, we’re already seeing an impact.”

Hansen says agriculture is in a good position to help battle the negative effects of climate change by storing and utilizing carbon credits.

He says, “While we emit about 8% of all the carbon that’s emitted, we have the opportunity to store, if we modify how we produce and what we do, around 25 to 28% of all the carbon that’s in the atmosphere.”

The GAO report also indicated that climate change may substantially increase losses by 2040 and increase losses from about 50 to 100 percent by 2100.

Record-breaking ocean temperatures wreak havoc

http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg22429954.000-recordbreaking-ocean-temperatures-wreak-havoc.html

12 November 2014 by Michael Slezak
Magazine issue 2995

THE world's oceans are the hottest they've ever been in the modern record. An analysis shared exclusively with New Scientist suggests that the global slowdown in the rise of air temperatures is probably over, and we are entering another period of rapid warming.

Since the last big El Niño event in 1998, when ocean temperatures last peaked, they have remained relatively stable. Such periods are not unexpected, but research is increasingly indicating that the recent slowdown in global surface air temperature rise is down to heat being absorbed by the world's deep oceans, leaving the surface, and therefore also the air, cool.

But when Axel Timmermann of the University of Hawaii in Honolulu analysed the most recent publicly available monthly data from the UK Met Office, he found that the ocean surfaces are now the hottest they have been since records began. In July this year, ocean surfaces were 0.55 °C (99F) above the average since 1890, just beating the previous record of 0.51 °C in 1998. In the North Pacific, the temperatures were about 0.8 °C (1.4F) above average, which is 0.25 °C warmer than the 1998 peak.

"It's a remarkable situation and I've never seen warming of the North Pacific like that," Timmermann says. The sea surface temperatures could drop back to what they've been recently, he says, but unless there is a dramatic drop soon, it will mean the end of the current hiatus in warming. "This will bias the trends over the next two or three years," says Timmermann.

•••••

Most climate scientists had expected the slowdown in global warming to be brought to an end by a large El Niño. These events happen when warm waters deep in the Pacific burst to the surface and raise global air temperatures.

But although a large El Niño was predicted for this year, we haven't had even a small one yet.

•••••

"For an El Niño to develop you need the atmosphere to play ball," says David Jones at the Bureau of Meteorology in Melbourne. Temperature differences across the Pacific Ocean are needed before an El Niño can kick in, so the consistently warm temperatures this year could be why the event forecasted for 2014 doesn't seem to be happening.

The warmer oceans make El Niño forecasts difficult, because they rely on looking at past events. "This is a flawed strategy when the climate is changing," says Kevin Trenberth at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colorado.

Even though a large El Niño is yet to materialise, the warm Pacific temperatures mean some El Niño-like effects are occurring, says Trenberth. This includes more hurricanes in the Pacific, as well as more storms curling over into mainland US. Meanwhile, there have been fewer hurricanes in the Atlantic, just as happens during El Niño. Elsewhere, dry conditions have occurred across Australia, and the Indian monsoon was delayed – effects all arising from warm oceans, despite the lack of an El Nino event.

Cai compared recent temperature maps (see map) with historical patterns for New Scientist to see what to expect over the coming months. He found a correlation with rainfall changes that roughly matches those seen during El Niño, and so predicts that there may be increased rainfall over drought-stricken California. But unlike during El Niño, he says there should be drier than usual conditions in western Canada.

Taylor Swift, Spotify and the Musical Food Chain Myth

I suggest reading the whole article at the following link:

http://performermag.com/taylor-swift-spotify-and-the-musical-food-chain-myth/

By Doria Roberts on November 18, 2014

I cannot tell you how happy I am that the conversation about Taylor Swift and Spotify is happening. Maybe people will start listening to what independent artists like me and my peers have been saying for years now.

A little background for those who don’t know me: I’ve been an indie musician by choice for 22 years. In 1999, I was chosen to perform at Lilith Fair and quit my day job the following Monday. I attracted several major labels, but ultimately, I walked away because I felt the industry was not going to be supportive of me; the business model was almost laughable for a new artist with little leverage

•••••

Fast forward to 2008 when everything was crashing. I don’t think people think of artists being affected in a failing economy, but we were. Gas prices were sky high as were flights, so expenses went up and venues started paying less because fewer were able to come out to the shows (because they were broke, too). And, for the first time in all my touring history, my American dollars lost value going into Canada. It was sobering to say the least.
In the years preceding this, I saw a slow but very deliberate decline in my music sales, which was more than just supplemental income; it was nearly half of my income. So, I stopped touring full-time to assess the situation and come up with solutions.
The only solution I found that allowed me to stay true to who I am an artist was to stay put: which brings me to today.

Like clockwork, once or twice a week since I stopped touring full time in 2008, I get asked when I’m coming back to XYZ. And, like a broken record once or twice a week, I’ve had to say I can’t afford it. I’ve had to explain that not only have physical CD sales been down, but also the digital money I used to get from legal downloads all but disappeared. Instead of getting weekly payments ranging between $200-$750 from my distributor, I started getting an average $11.36, once a month from all streaming services combined. Yes, $11.36/month is what I get from all of them. That is not a sustainable business model for a truly independent artist.

While carefully building and maintaining a social media connection with my fan base and doing mostly one-offs in some of my bigger markets, I decided to do a full regional tour in 2012. And, while I am grateful to the people who came, I had miserable turnouts at most of the shows. In Buffalo, where the temp dropped to 30 degrees that night, I cleared $14 once the door was split with the venue. In Philadelphia, where I started my career, I lost upwards of $1,500-2,000 on one show because only 12 people showed up. It was the night of the Presidential debates, something I couldn’t have known when I booked the show months before. But, I still had to pay the venue, their door person and sound person, pay my band, pay for their hotel room and mine for three nights so we wouldn’t have to stay in NYC, paid for their flights (along with baggage handling fees for my cellist’s cello), my rental car, gas and food for myself and the band (breakfast, lunch and dinner). Same with D.C., where the venue wouldn’t even allow me to officially charge a door fee and where some people (my fans included) opted not to pay one even as a requested donation.

This is my reality and the reality of the many artists you care about.

I’m sorry if you think so, but music is NOT FREE. It costs money to make and it costs money to support via touring. It’s a “life cycle.” This “life cycle” is how I used to get my CDs out and how I used to see my fans two to three times a year in some places. It worked like this: fans would come to my shows, they and their friends would buy my CDs and then I made another CD and went on a another tour and so forth and so on.

Simple.

All the money I made went to bills, touring, promotion and creating new music – so I had to keep my overhead low. No new cars (I had and still have my ’78 Volvo that I bought for $600 in 1996), no new shoes or clothes and I lived in a small 425 sq ft apartment for 12 years. 12 years. That’s how I did it. It’s not a sob story. It’s not a mystery or a marketing ploy. I am a working-class artist. There is no rich-uncle-wizard-behind-the-curtain type situation here. This is how it goes when you make tough decisions to be true to your life and your life’s work.

•••••

The point is, we haven’t just “given up”. It’s not that we don’t “want to” do it anymore. It is, painfully and honestly, simple math that mostly prevents me and others like me from doing what we do.

•••••

HOW CONSUMERS CAN HELP REVERSE THE COURSE

As a consumer and a fan, you are at the top of this food chain, not the bottom. You are not subject to the whims of popular culture; you are the arbiter of it. If you want to see less “fluff” in the music industry, if you want to see your artists remain authentic, creative and prolific beings and, if you want them to come back to your hometowns:

1. Start buying our music again. Digital, hard copy, doesn’t matter, just pay for it. If you can pay $4 for a coffee, you can pay $9.99 for something meaningful that you’ll enjoy forever.

2. Stop using streaming services that only pay us $.0006 per listen if you don’t already own our music either via a legal download or a hard copy. Educate yourself. If you think the profits that oil companies make are obscene, I urge you to do some digging about what some of these streaming companies are really about. [Editor’s note: Spotify claims to have paid Taylor Swift over $2 million dollars in streaming royalties. Her label says that’s not even close to the truth.]

3. And, this is important: Set your DVRs on your favorite show nights and go to our concerts. If I had a dime for every time a person told me they weren’t able to make my show because it was the finals of DWTS or The Voice, I wouldn’t be writing this post. I’d be sitting in a bungalow in Costa Rica sipping something fruity and delicious.

Simple solutions sometimes require difficult choices. Oh, and this goes for independent movies, books, indie/feminist bookstores, small venues and small businesses, too. Just know this: you have the power to change the cultural landscape around you. Use that power wisely.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

High school girl, 17, allegedly ran prostitution ring of underage girls

http://www.pennlive.com/nation-world/2014/11/high_school_girl_17_allegedly.html

John Luciew | jluciew@pennlive.com By John Luciew | jluciew@pennlive.com
Email the author | Follow on Twitter
on November 25, 2014

Disturbing details are coming out about an alleged high school prostitution ring in Venice, Florida. And in one of the exchanges detailed by the Associated Press, a 21-year-old customer allegedly paid "$40 and a bottle of liquor" to have sex with a 15-year-old girl.

Authorities say that at the center of the high school sex ring was a 17-year-old Sarasota High School student named Alexa Nicole De Armas. The ring allegedly involved students from nearby high schools, as well.

According to the Sarasota Herald-Tribune, De Armas wrote this exchange on Facebook exchange to a business partner:

"Why pimp out old hoes when I have fresh young hoes I can give up for money?" De Armas wrote on Facebook. "As long as I'm getting paid I'm trafficking all these (expletive deleted)."

•••••

Background: Officials say the ring was uncovered when four students confided to administrators at Venice High School.

Documents indicate the teen and at least one other student concocted the plan over the summer to prostitute teens for money and alcohol.

•••••

Wrongfully Convicted Inmate, Longest-Serving in California, Released After 36 Years

http://www.nbcsandiego.com/news/local/Theres-No-Words--Wrongfully-Convicted-Inmate-Longest-Serving-in-California-Released-After-36-Years-283791601.html

By Katherine Hafner and Candice Nguyen
Nov. 25, 2014

Moving slowly assisted by a cane, a white-haired and weary Michael Hanline saw the outside of a Los Angeles-area prison cell for the first time in more than three decades Monday.

Hanline ambled his way to freedom after spending 36 years behind bars for a murder he was wrongly convicted of before his release Monday, reuniting with his wife and family.

•••••

Prosecutors said they are no longer sure whether Hanline, now 68, killed Ventura resident J.T. McGarry in 1978.

Hanline’s was the longest wrongful incarceration in the state’s history.

•••••

The California Innocence Project, which dedicates legal services to helping release wrongfully convicted inmates, took up Hanline’s case in 1999 and has been working to prove his innocence ever since, said Alex Simpson, attorney for the case and associate director of the San Diego-based organization.

"The case really rested on two pieces of evidence. There were documents that had never been handed over to the defense which showed other people had knowledge of the crime and were likely responsible for the crime," Simpson said.

Some of the documents proved people knew specific facts they couldn’t have unless they were involved, he added.

Recent testing showed DNA at the crime scene matched an unknown man's, not Hanline's, according to the attorney.

Still, prosecutors will decide whether to retry Hanline at a hearing scheduled for Feb. 27.

•••••

Extreme Weather Will Be ‘New Climate Normal’ Without Immediate Action, Warns World Bank



Anastasia Pantsios | November 24, 2014

World Bank President Jim Yong Kim said this weekend that the organization’s investment focus will be on clean energy and that it will back coal-fired and other fossil fuel projects only when there is “extreme need.” Flying in the face of a popular climate denier narrative that says phasing out fossil fuels and addressing extreme poverty can’t be done at the same time, Kim said climate change threatened efforts to tackle poverty.

His remarks followed the release of the World Bank’s new report, Turn Down the Heat: Confronting the New Climate Normal. It said among other things that the extreme weather impacts of climate change may now be unavoidable and that they are impacting people’s food and water security as well as threatening their safety. But it also said, “More and more voices are arguing that is possible to grow greener without necessarily growing slower. Today, we know that action is urgently needed on climate change, but it does not have to come at the expense of economic growth.”

“There is growing evidence that warming close to 1.5 Centigrade above pre-industrial levels is locked in to the Earth’s atmospheric system due to past and predicted emissions of greenhouse gases, and climate change impacts such as extreme heat events may now be unavoidable,” the report asserted. “As the planet warms, climatic conditions, heat and other weather extremes which occur once in hundreds of years, if ever, and considered highly unusual or unprecedented today would become the ‘new climate normal’ as we approach 4°C—a frightening world of increased risks and global instability.”

“Today’s report confirms what scientists have been saying—past emissions have set an unavoidable course to warming over the next two decades, which will affect the world’s poorest and most vulnerable people the most,” said Kim. “We’re already seeing record-breaking temperatures occurring more frequently, rainfall increasing in intensity in some places and drought-prone regions like the Mediterranean becoming drier. “These changes make it more difficult to reduce poverty and put in jeopardy the livelihoods of millions of people. They also have serious consequences for development budgets, and for institutions like the World Bank Group, where our investments, support and advice must now also build resilience and help affected populations adapt.”

The 200-plus page report enumerated the impacts of heat waves, prolonged droughts, disappearing glaciers, rising sea levels, heavy rainfall and vanishing forests on different parts of the world from Mexico City to Benghazi to Central Asia and spotlighted what it called “The Case for Immediate Action.”

•••••

“The good news is that we can take action that reduces the rate of climate change and promotes economic growth, ultimately stopping our journey down this dangerous path,” said Kim. “World leaders and policy makers should embrace affordable solutions like carbon pricing and policy choices that shift investment to clean public transport, cleaner energy and more energy efficient factories, buildings and appliances.”

•••••

Why College Is Necessary But Gets You Nowhere

http://robertreich.org/post/103472733520

ROBERT B. REICH
Nov. 24, 2014

This is the time of year when high school seniors apply to college, and when I get lots of mail about whether college is worth the cost.

The answer is unequivocally yes, but with one big qualification. I’ll come to the qualification in a moment but first the financial case for why it’s worth going to college.

Put simply, people with college degrees continue to earn far more than people without them. And that college “premium” keeps rising.

Last year, Americans with four-year college degrees earned on average 98 percent more per hour than people without college degrees.

In the early 1980s, graduates earned 64 percent more.

So even though college costs are rising, the financial return to a college degree compared to not having one is rising even faster.

But here’s the qualification, and it’s a big one.

A college degree no longer guarantees a good job. The main reason it pays better than the job of someone without a degree is the latter’s wages are dropping.

In fact, it’s likely that new college graduates will spend some years in jobs for which they’re overqualified.

According to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, 46 percent of recent college graduates are now working in jobs that don’t require college degrees. (The same is true for more than a third of college graduates overall.)

Their employers still choose college grads over non-college grads on the assumption that more education is better than less.

As a result, non-grads are being pushed into ever more menial work, if they can get work at all. Which is a major reason why their pay is dropping.

What’s going on? For years we’ve been told globalization and technological advances increase the demand for well-educated workers. (Confession: I was one of the ones making this argument.)

This was correct until around 2000. But since then two things have reversed the trend.

First, millions of people in developing nations are now far better educated, and the Internet has given them an easy way to sell their skills in advanced economies like the United States. Hence, more and more complex work is being outsourced to them.

Second, advanced software is taking over many tasks that had been done by well-educated professionals – including data analysis, accounting, legal and engineering work, even some medical diagnoses.

As a result, the demand for well-educated workers in the United States seems to have peaked around 2000 and fallen since. But the supply of well-educated workers has continued to grow.

What happens when demand drops and supply increases? You guessed it. This is why the incomes of young people who graduated college after 2000 have barely risen.

•••••

When it comes to beginning their careers, it’s even worse. The starting wages of college graduates have actually dropped since 2000. The starting wage of women grads has dropped 8.1 percent, and for men, 6.7 percent.

•••••

The deeper problem is this. While a college education is now a prerequisite for joining the middle class, the middle class is in lousy shape. Its share of the total economic pie continues to shrink, while the share going to the very top continues to grow.

•••••

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t believe the main reason to go to college – or to choose one career over another — should be to make lots of money.

Hopefully, a college education gives young people tools for leading full and purposeful lives, and having meaningful careers.

Even if they don’t change the world for the better, I want my students to be responsible and engaged citizens.

But when considering a college education in a perilous economy like this, it’s also important to know the economics.


How to raise nice kids

http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/parenting/wp/2014/07/18/are-you-raising-nice-kids-a-harvard-psychologist-gives-5-ways-to-raise-them-to-be-kind/

Are you raising nice kids? A Harvard psychologist gives 5 ways to raise them to be kind
By Amy Joyce July 18, 2014

Earlier this year, I wrote about teaching empathy, and whether you are a parent who does so. The idea behind it is from Richard Weissbourd, a Harvard psychologist with the graduate school of education, who runs the Making Caring Common project, aimed to help teach kids to be kind.

I know, you’d think they are or that parents are teaching that themselves, right? Not so, according to a new study released by the group. (Chat with Weissbourd here.)

About 80 percent of the youth in the study said their parents were more concerned with their achievement or happiness than whether they cared for others. The interviewees were also three times more likely to agree that “My parents are prouder if I get good grades in my classes than if I’m a caring community member in class and school.”

Weissbourd and his cohorts have come up with recommendations about how to raise children to become caring, respectful and responsible adults. Why is this important? Because if we want our children to be moral people, we have to, well, raise them that way.

“Children are not born simply good or bad and we should never give up on them. They need adults who will help them become caring, respectful, and responsible for their communities at every stage of their childhood,” the researchers write.

The five strategies to raise moral, caring children, according to Making Caring Common:

1. Make caring for others a priority •••

2. Provide opportunities for children to practice caring and gratitude •••

3. Expand your child’s circle of concern. •••

4. Be a strong moral role model and mentor. •••

5. Guide children in managing destructive feelings •••


Suicide risk falls substantially after talk therapy

http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2014-11/jhub-srf112014.php

PUBLIC RELEASE DATE: 23-Nov-2014

Contact: Stephanie Desmon
Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health
Suicide risk falls substantially after talk therapy
Researchers find repeat suicide attempts and deaths by suicide plummet even years after treatment

Repeat suicide attempts and deaths by suicide were roughly 25 percent lower among a group of Danish people who underwent voluntary short-term psychosocial counseling after a suicide attempt, new Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health-led research suggests.

The findings are believed to be the first to show that talk therapy-focused suicide prevention actually works, averting future suicide attempts in this very high-risk population. Although just six-to-ten talk therapy sessions were provided, researchers found long-term benefits: Five years after the counseling ended, there were 26 percent fewer suicides in the group that received treatment as compared to a group that did not.

•••••

In Denmark, which has free health care for its citizens, the first suicide prevention clinics were opened in 1992 for people at risk of suicide but not in need of psychiatric hospitalization. The clinics were opened nationwide in 2007.

•••••

The researchers found that during the first year, those who received therapy were 27 percent less likely to attempt suicide again and 38 percent less likely to die of any cause. After five years, there were 26 percent fewer suicides in the group that had been treated following their attempt. After 10 years, the suicide rate for those who had therapy was 229 per 100,000 compared to 314 per 100,000 in the group that did not get the treatment.

•••••

Study co-author Elizabeth A. Stuart, PhD, an associate professor in the Bloomberg School's Department of Mental Health, says that before this, it was not possible to determine whether a specific suicide prevention treatment was working. It isn't ethical to do a randomized study where some get suicide prevention therapy while others don't, Stuart says. That the Danish clinics were rolled out slowly and participation was voluntary, and that extensive baseline and long-term follow-up data were available on such a large group of people, gave the researchers the best way to gather this kind of information.



Monday, November 24, 2014

Economic Double Whammy: America's Growing Wealth Divide Is Actually Putting People out of Work

Those who have studied economic patterns for several centuries have found that high rates of inequality lead to severe economic declines, usually only ending when there is a big war.

http://www.alternet.org/economy/economic-double-whammy-americas-growing-wealth-divide-actually-putting-people-out-work?paging=off¤t_page=1

By Lynn Stuart Parramore
November 20, 2014

Barry Z. Cynamon, currently Visiting Scholar at the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, and Steven M. Fazzari, Professor of Economics at Washington University in St. Louis, are researchers on consumer behavior and how it effects the economy.

•••••

It turns out that the rise of the income share of high-income households begins at almost the same time as the rise in debt that was the focus of our earlier research. It seemed likely that this correspondence was not a coincidence. I began to see a common thread between the dynamics of inequality and the macroeconomics of U.S. expenditure.

LP: An ordinary person on the street would probably say that if the rich have most of the money, that’s bad for the economy. She’d intuit that if the rest of us don’t have enough money in our pockets to spend on goods and services, the overall economy will suffer. Yet this has been minority view in the field of economics. In fact, many economists have long argued that economic inequality was good for economic growth. What explains the persistence of the conventional view?

SMF: The person on the street typically understands that consumer spending is the source of business sales, and if consumer spending falls then businesses will sell less, produce less, and support fewer jobs. As your question suggests, it is also intuitive that rich households will spend a smaller share of their income. So, the person on the street can appreciate that as more and more income flows into the hands of the rich, it will become more difficult for the economy to generate the sales it needs to support job creation.

•••••

Our works shows that this is not so. We find that high and rising inequality is now holding back the U.S. recovery from the Great Recession and the lack of purchasing power faced by most people is a job killer not just for a few quarters but also over a number of years. Unemployment may cause wages and prices to fall (or at least rise more slowly), but disinflation and, especially, deflation are not likely to raise total spending. Of course, consumers appreciate lower prices for the things they buy, but lower wages are bad for spending, especially if the household has a fixed mortgage or car payment to meet.

•••••

LP: How does our sense of fairness and justice evolve in view of this growing inequality; this sense that the hard work of the many is supporting the luxury spending habits of the few?

Barry Z. Cynamon: Humans have achieved incredible things on this planet not just through our use of tools but through cooperation. E.O. Wilson tells us that humans are one of roughly 20 species known to be “eusocial” — that means we live in multigenerational communities, practice division of labor, and show willingness to sacrifice some of our personal interests to that of the group. Regardless of the debate about kin selection versus group selection, it is widely agreed that we have conquered the planet by cooperating with one another in spite of universally present instincts toward survival and self-interest. Our elaborate, interlocking systems of social norms, laws, and concepts of fairness and justice collectively bolster that underlying trait of eusociality so that what once enabled survival and propagation of small bands of humans has also enabled vast civilizations—including the unprecedented global human civilization of which we are all part today.

Fairness is central to this incredible history of cooperation. If we lose our trust in the legal system and the legitimacy of the market, then we will lose trust and cooperation. When that happens, it is not good. Societies that lose their trust end up looking more like Somalia, Iraq, or Sudan than like Sweden, Canada, or Australia. The point is not that the U.S. is one election or financial crisis or a few percentage points of income concentration away from becoming an ungovernable state. Rather, the point is that social infrastructure makes a huge difference, and it is not something that we seem to understand well enough to reliably manipulate it for good.

•••••

Animals steal defenses from bacteria

http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2014-11/uowh-asd112114.php

PUBLIC RELEASE DATE: 24-Nov-2014

Contact: Leila Gray
University of Washington Health Sciences/UW Medicine

Animals steal defenses from bacteria
Microbe toxin genes have jumped to ticks, mites and other animals

It's a dog eat dog world, and bacteria have been living in it for a long time. It's of no surprise that bacteria have a sophisticated arsenal to compete with each other for valuable resources in the environment. In 2010, work led by University of Washington Department of Microbiology Associate Professor Joseph Mougous uncovered a weaponry system used in this warfare between bacteria. The combatants inject deadly toxins into rival cells.

Now, in a surprising twist, Mougous and colleagues have found that many animals have taken a page from the bacterial playbook. They steal these toxins to fight unwanted microbes growing in or on them. The researchers describe their findings in a report to be published online Nov. 24 in the journal Nature.

•••••

"When we started digging into genome databases, we were surprised to find that toxin genes we thought were present only in bacteria were also in several animals," explained co-author Matt Daugherty, a postdoctoral fellow in the Malik lab. "We immediately started wondering why they were there."

Their analyses revealed that these genes had jumped from bacteria into animals. These genes had become permanently incorporated into the genomes of these animals through a process known as horizontal gene transfer. While such transfer events are common between microbes, very few genes have been reported to jump from bacteria to more complex organisms.

•••••

Babies remember nothin’ but a good time, study says

http://news.byu.edu/archive14-nov-babiesremembergoodtimes.aspx

November 24, 2014
Media Contact: Joe Hadfield
Writers: Sierra Naumu Thomas
Brigham Young University

Parents who spend their time playing with and talking to their five-month-old baby may wonder whether their child remembers any of it a day later.

Thanks to a new BYU study, we now know that they at least remember the good times.

The study, published in Infant Behavior and Development, shows that babies are more likely to remember something if there is a positive emotion, or affect, that accompanies it.

•••••

“We think what happens is that the positive affect heightens the babies’ attentional system and arousal,” Flom said. “By heightening those systems, we heighten their ability to process and perhaps remember this geometric pattern.”

This paper was co-authored with Professor Brock Kirwan as well undergraduate and masters students Rebecca B. Janis and Darren J. Garcia. It follows a string of Flom’s significant research on infants’ ability to understand each others’ moods, the moods of dogs, monkeys, and classical music.

•••••

Weather Whiplash: Floods Hit Buffalo as 62°F Temperatures Melt Huge Snowpack

http://www.wunderground.com/blog/JeffMasters/comment.html?entrynum=2866

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 3:54 PM GMT on November 24, 2014

It's weather whiplash in Buffalo, New York, where the temperature surged to 62°F at 11 am EST Monday, following a week of near-record cold and heavy snow. The exceptional warmth would be welcome if not for the massive snowpack on the ground along a swath across the southern and eastern suburbs of Buffalo, where last week's extreme lake effect snow storm dumped up to 88" (7 feet, four inches) of snow at Cowlesville. The water content of the snow, if it all melted at once, is huge--equivalent to up to 6.3" of rain at Orchard Park, NY, as measured last Friday. Fortunately, today's warmth has been accompanied by rainfall amounts less than .10" so far, and only one area river is at moderate flood stage--Cayuga Creek at Lancaster, where over six feet of snow fell last week. With freezing temperatures expected to return on Tuesday night and continue for most of the remainder of the week, widespread damaging flooding is not expected, and the forecast is for mostly minor flooding in the Buffalo area on Monday and Tuesday.

•••••

Moroccan floods kill at least 31
Torrential rains in Morocco on Monday have triggered extreme flooding responsible for at least 31 deaths, reported Al Jazzeera on Monday morning. Dozens remain missing after storms dumped more than 4" of rain (101.6 mm) on the southern part of the north African country.

•••••

Global Warming Is Probably Boosting Lake-Effect Snows

Since global warming has resulted in an increase of the amount of moisture in the air, resulting in an increase of extreme rain and snow falls, it would be surprising if it did not boost lake-effect snows.

Also, the influx of arctic air that caused the extreme lake effect snowfall was caused by the remnants of super-typhoon Nuri, which formed in the warmer than usual waters of the Pacific Ocean, traveled west, then turned around and traveled thru the record high north Pacific to hit Alaska and push a huge mass of arctic air south into the lower 48 states.

Typhoons/hurricanes get energy from warm water, so Nuri was surely more powerful than it would have been otherwise.

http://www.slate.com/blogs/future_tense/2014/11/19/lake_effect_snow_in_buffalo_climate_change_is_making_snowstorms_more_extreme.html

By Eric Holthaus



In the aftermath of a massive lake-effect snowfall event in western New York state on Tuesday, it’s worth asking: Is climate change playing a role here? Because, I mean, come on. Seventy—seven zero—inches, people. And another huge round is forecast for Thursday, by the way. Buffalo deserves answers.

The short answer is: yes. Global warming is probably juicing lake-effect snows, and we’ve had the data to prove it for quite some time.






Here are the details:

Truly extreme lake-effect snows gather their energy from a wide temperature differential between the lake temperature and the air temperature. That temperature contrast produces atmospheric instability—the warm air immediately over the lake wants to surge upward through the colder air on top, bringing with it heaps of evaporated moisture. That moisture is quickly converted to snowfall in massive quantities, and deposited squarely on the hills and towns at the far end of the lake. As the Great Lakes warm due to climate change, there’s now more evaporation, and more of an opportunity for that drastic water-air temperature difference to manifest itself, especially during the kinds of intense cold air outbreaks that we’ve been seeing seemingly more of over the last few years.

In Tuesday’s storm, that difference approached a whopping 50 degrees Fahrenheit—with a pool of warmer-than-average water in Lake Erie joining forces with near-record-low temperatures in the lower part of the atmosphere.

•••••

Lake Erie is warming (along with the rest of the planet) by a steady but measurable amount. Since 1960 that trend has been about a half of a degree Fahrenheit per decade. More important than this, though, Lake Erie has been losing its ability to freeze over in the winter, with a decline of about one sub-freezing day per year in recent decades.

In places such as Syracuse (downwind of Lake Ontario) and Buffalo, for the time being, that’s translated into more total snow each year. But it won’t always be this way. Several decades from now, the warming part of global warming will catch up, and total snowfall should begin a permanent decline. But for now, extreme snowfall events are winning out.

During our lifetimes, that means big lake-effect snowfall events like Tuesday’s are becoming more common, at least as a fraction of total snowfall.

•••••

Earlier this year, New York state updated its assessment of statewide climate change impacts, essentially giving a forecast of the future of lake-effect snowfall in the state:

Annual ice cover has decreased 71 percent on the Great Lakes since 1973; models suggest this decrease will lead to increased lake-effect snow in the next couple of decades through greater moisture availability (Burnett et al. 2003). By mid-century, lake-effect snow will generally decrease as temperatures below freezing become less frequent (Kunkel et al. 2002). The high ice extent of the 2013-2014 winter highlights the fact that natural variability is expected to continue, even as long-term trends gradually shift the statistics in favor of low-ice winters.

•••••

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Remember the spirit of Thanksgiving


Be kind to those who serve you every day!


Physicists Explain Why Coffee Is More Prone to Spills Than Beer

http://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/physicists-explain-why-coffee-more-prone-spills-beer-180953346/

By Rachel Nuwer
smithsonian.com
November 17, 2014

Coffee simply does not like to stay in place. Restaurant servers soon learn to pour coffee at the table or to carry the poured cup and saucer separately, lest they wind up with a half-empty coffee cup sitting in a pool of spilled liquid.

Beer, however, presents no such challenge. Servers can maneuver through crowds while carrying a fully-loaded tray of beers fresh from the tap and filled to the top—all without spilling so much as a drop.

Both coffee and beer are liquids, however, so why is one of those beverages so much more prone to sloshing over the edge of its cup or glass than the other?

•••••

The more foam that was present, they observed, the more energy was absorbed and the less sloshing occurred.

While the researchers found that just a few layers of bubbles were enough to make a difference for slosh, not all beers were equal in their spillage reduction. Once the foam is more than about five bubbles thick, the researchers found, the motion on the foam and liquid's surface becomes more horizontal than vertical. In other words, the thicker the head of foam, the less likely a spill will occur. So when it comes to preventing sloshing, the researchers concluded, Guinness reigns supreme.

•••••

Saturday, November 22, 2014

How to get rich - cheat your clients

http://abcnews.go.com/International/wireStory/regulators-fine-global-banks-currency-probe-26850595

Banks Fined Billions for Rigging Currency Markets
LONDON — Nov 12, 2014, 7:20 PM ET
By DANICA KIRKA and MARCY GORDON Associated Press

Traders with nicknames like the "Three Musketeers" and the "A-Team" plotted over Internet chat rooms to manipulate currency markets for years, profiting at the expense of clients — and then congratulating themselves for their brilliance — regulators said Wednesday, as they fined five banks $3.4 billion.

Using profanity-laced banter, the traders coordinated their financial positions in the multi-trillion dollar currency market, securing profits for those inside their circles. "YESsssssssssss," one of them wrote in a chat message. "Yeah baby" and "nice work gents....I don my hat," wrote others, according to documents of their exchanges.

Citigroup, JPMorgan Chase, Royal Bank of Scotland, HSBC Bank and UBS agreed to settlements totaling almost $3.4 billion with the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission, U.K. Financial Conduct Authority and Swiss Financial Market Supervisory Authority. The British regulator said Barclays remains under investigation.

•••••

Manipulation of the exchange rates has "a profound effect on the economy," CFTC Enforcement Director Aitan Goelman said. That's because a host of financial investments bought and sold by major investors like pension funds are based on benchmark rates for pairs of currencies that are fixed daily by the banks.

•••••

In one example, RBS had net client orders to sell British pounds for dollars. This meant the bank would profit if it were able to push the price of pounds lower. An RBS trader used an online chat room to share information with traders at three other firms, allowing him to increase RBS's net sell orders to 399 million pounds from 202 million pounds and to push the price on the spot market as low as $1.6213 from $1.6276. The fix was eventually set at $1.6218.

As a result, RBS made a profit of $615,000.

•••••

Toddlers Copy Their Peers to Fit In, but Apes Don’t

www.psychologicalscience.org/index.php/news/releases/human-toddlers-copy-their-peers-to-fit-in-but-apes-dont.html

October 30, 2014

From the playground to the board room, people often follow, or conform, to the behavior of those around them as a way of fitting in. New research shows that this behavioral conformity appears early in human children, but isn’t evidenced by apes like chimpanzees and orangutans.

“Conformity is a very basic feature of human sociality. It retains in- and out-groups, it helps groups coordinate and it stabilizes cultural diversity, one of the hallmark characteristics of the human species,” says psychological scientist and lead researcher Daniel Haun of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology and the University of Jena.

“This does not mean that conforming is the right thing to do under all circumstances — conformity can be good or bad, helpful or unhelpful, appropriate or inappropriate both for individuals and the groups they live in. But the fact is that we conform often and that human sociality would look very differently without it,” Haun explains. “Our research shows that children as young as 2 years of age conform to others, while chimpanzees and orangutans instead prefer to stick with what they know.”

The research, published in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science, is novel in that it provides a direct comparison between apes and humans indicating that the tendency to abandon one’s own preferences just in to fit in appears to be particularly pronounced in humans.

In previous research, Haun and colleagues had found that both human children and chimpanzees rely on the majority opinion when they are trying to learn something new, which makes sense if the group has knowledge that the individual doesn’t. But other research has shown that human adults sometimes follow the majority even when they already have the relevant knowledge, just so that they don’t stand out from the group.

To find out whether very young children and apes would also show this so-called “normative” conformity, Haun and co-authors Michael Tomasello and Yvonne Rekers presented 18 2-year-old children, 12 chimpanzees, and 12 orangutans with a similar reward-based task.

•••••

The results revealed that children were more likely to adjust their behavior to match that of their peers than were the apes. Whereas the human children conformed more than half of the time, the apes and orangutans almost always ignored their peers, opting instead to stick with the original strategy they had learned.

A second study with a group of 72 2-year-olds showed that children tended to switch their choice more when they made the choice in front of their peers than when they made the choice privately.

Interestingly, the number of peers didn’t seem to make a difference in whether children conformed — children were equally likely to switch their choice whether it was demonstrated by one peer or by three peers.

•••••

Oklahoma Ignores Link Between Record Number of Earthquakes and Fracking Wastewater Disposal Wells

Oklahomans voted Republican a few weeks ago. Only to be expected that the profits of the rich are considered more important than the health of everybody else.

http://www.desmogblog.com/2014/11/19/oklahoma-ignores-link-record-earthquakes-fracking-wastewater-disposal-wells

Julie Dermansky
Nov. 19, 2014

As Oklahoma continues to experience more earthquakes than California this year, residents are questioning why regulators haven’t taken any meaningful action to guard against increased seismic activity.

The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) says that wastewater injection into deep geologic formations, a part of the hydraulic fracturing (fracking) process, is a likely contributing factor to this increase in quakes. The phenomenon, known as “injection-induced seismicity,” has been documented for nearly half a century, according to the USGS.

“The rate of earthquakes in Oklahoma has increased remarkably since October 2013 — by about 50 per cent — significantly increasing the chance for a damaging magnitude 5.5 or greater quake in central Oklahoma,” says the USGS report.

Angela Spotts is one of many Oklahoma residents who is wondering why no meaningful action has been taken to safeguard residents.

“It is kind of like an assault. You feel like you are being sacrificed for this gold they are pulling out of the ground. And you start meeting people that are getting sick,” Spotts, a member of Stop Fracking Payne County, told DeSmogBlog. “It is the tobacco industry all over again.”

When oil and gas companies use a method called hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” they blast a high-pressure chemical concoction underground to break apart rock to release oil and gas. This process results in high volumes of toxic wastewater that is disposed of by injecting it at high pressures deep under ground into what are known as wastewater injection wells. These disposal wells can lubricate subterranean faults, causing earthquakes.

There have been more than 400 magnitude 3.0 or greater earthquakes in Oklahoma this year, coinciding with a fracking boom in Central and Northern Oklahoma, and across the state line in southern Kansas. Stop Fracking Payne County counts 480 earthquakes over magnitude 3.0 as of today. The group's figures are derived by following Oklahoma's USGS site.

“This isn’t new science,” Oklahoma State University geology professor Todd Halihan told DeSmogBlog.

What is new is how we deal with science that is coupled with uncertainty, he says. Though scientists can link injection well use to earthquakes, linking a specific well to a specific quake is not possible.

•••••

Drinking age laws have a significant effect on collisions among young drivers

http://www.unbc.ca/releases/35524/drinking-age-laws-have-significant-effect-on-collisions-among-young-drivers

Nov. 19, 2014

Minimum legal drinking age legislation in Canada can have a major impact on young drivers, according to a new study from the Northern Medical Program at the University of Northern British Columbia (UNBC). Drivers just older than the legal age had a significant increase in motor vehicle crashes compared to those immediately under the restriction.

•••••

Don't get hacked! New study shows people ignore online warnings


http://news.byu.edu/archive14-nov-malware.aspx

Say you ignored one of those “this website is not trusted” warnings and it led to your computer being hacked. How would you react? Would you:

A. Quickly shut down your computer?

B. Yank out the cables?

C. Scream in cyber terror?

For a group of college students participating in a research experiment, all of the above were true. These gut reactions (and more) happened when a trio of Brigham Young University researchers simulated hacking into study participants’ personal laptops.

•••••

Fortunately for the students, nothing bad had really happened. What they saw—a message from an “Algerian hacker” with a laughing skull and crossbones, a 10-second countdown timer and the words “Say goodbye to your computer”—wasn’t real. What was real was that all of the participants got the message by ignoring web security warnings.

Vance and BYU colleagues Bonnie Anderson and Brock Kirwan carried out the experiment to better understand how people deal with online security risks, such as malware. They found that people say they care about keeping their computers secure, but behave otherwise—in this case, they plowed through malware warnings.

“We see these messages so much that we stop thinking about them,” Vance said. “In a sense, we don’t even see them anymore, and so we often ignore them and proceed anyway.”

•••••

You're your own worst enemy when it comes to online security

Say you ignored one of those “this website is not trusted” warnings and it led to your computer being hacked. How would you react? Would you:

A. Quickly shut down your computer?

B. Yank out the cables?

C. Scream in cyber terror?

For a group of college students participating in a research experiment, all of the above were true. These gut reactions (and more) happened when a trio of Brigham Young University researchers simulated hacking into study participants’ personal laptops.

“A lot of them freaked out—you could hear them audibly make noises from our observation rooms,” said Anthony Vance, assistant professor of Information Systems. “Several rushed in to say something bad had happened.”

Fortunately for the students, nothing bad had really happened. What they saw—a message from an “Algerian hacker” with a laughing skull and crossbones, a 10-second countdown timer and the words “Say goodbye to your computer”—wasn’t real. What was real was that all of the participants got the message by ignoring web security warnings.

Vance and BYU colleagues Bonnie Anderson and Brock Kirwan carried out the experiment to better understand how people deal with online security risks, such as malware. They found that people say they care about keeping their computers secure, but behave otherwise—in this case, they plowed through malware warnings.

“We see these messages so much that we stop thinking about them,” Vance said. “In a sense, we don’t even see them anymore, and so we often ignore them and proceed anyway.”

For the study, researchers first asked participants how they felt about online security. Then, in a seemingly unrelated task, participants were told to use their own laptops to log on to a website to categorize pictures of Batman as animated or photographed. (Students were told their image classification project was being used to check the accuracy of a computer algorithm to do the same task.)

As participants clicked through the image pages, warning signs would randomly pop up indicating malware issues with the site they were accessing. If they ignored the message enough times, they were “hacked.”

“A lot of people don’t realize that they are the weakest link in their computer security,” said Kirwan, assistant professor of Psychology and Neuroscience at BYU. “The operating systems we use have a lot of built-in security and the way for a hacker to get control of your computer is to get you to do something.”

Kirwan’s role in the research added another fascinating layer: Using his expertise in neuroscience, Kirwan carried out an additional experiment on subjects using EEG machines to measure brain responses to risk.

While results showed that people say they care about web security but behave like they don’t; they do behave in-line with what their brains say. In other words, people’s brainwaves better predict how risky they are with online security.

•••••

Permanent stress can cause mental disorders

http://aktuell.ruhr-uni-bochum.de/pm2014/pm00206.html.en

The team focused mainly on a certain type of phagocytes, namely microglia. Under normal circumstances, they repair synapses between nerves cells in the brain and stimulate their growth. Once activated, however, microglia may damage nerve cells and trigger inflammation processes. The studies carried out in Bochum have shown that the more frequently microglia get triggered due to stress, the more they are inclined to remain in the destructive mode – a risk factor for mental diseases such as schizophrenia.

Not every individual who is under permanent stress will develop a mental disorder. Prof Juckel’s team suspects the cause to go back to the embryonic stage. US researchers demonstrated as far back as the 1950s that children born of mothers who contracted true viral influenza during pregnancy were seven times as likely to suffer schizophrenia later in life. The researchers from Bochum confirmed this hypothesis in animal models. Now, they a striving to research into the mechanism that makes people susceptible to this disease. “The embryo undergoes some kind of immune response which has far-reaching consequences and presumably shapes the future immune system,” says Dr Astrid Friebe from the LWL clinic.

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Self-regulation intervention boosts school readiness of at-risk children, study shows

http://oregonstate.edu/ua/ncs/archives/2014/nov/self-regulation-intervention-boosts-school-readiness-risk-children-study-shows


11/21/2014

CORVALLIS, Ore. – An intervention that uses music and games to help preschoolers learn self-regulation skills is helping prepare at-risk children for kindergarten, a new study from Oregon State University shows.

Self-regulation skills – the skills that help children pay attention, follow directions, stay on task and persist through difficulty – are critical to a child’s success in kindergarten and beyond, said OSU’s Megan McClelland, a nationally recognized expert in child development and a co-author of the new study.

“Most children do just fine in the transition to kindergarten, but 20 to 25 percent of them experience difficulties – t hose difficulties have a lot to do with self-regulation,” McClelland said. “Any intervention you can develop to make that transition easier can be beneficial.”

The results of the new study are notable because positive effects of an intervention, especially one that aims to improve self-regulation and academic achievement, can be difficult for researchers to find, said McClelland, the Katherine E. Smith Healthy Children and Families Professor in the College of Public Health and Human Sciences.

•••••

That indicates that children were more likely to integrate the self-regulation skills they’ve learned into their everyday lives, McClelland said. It also supports previous research finding strong links between self-regulation and math skills.

•••••

Study finds that rejecting unsuitable suitors is easier said than done

http://www.artsci.utoronto.ca/main/newsitems/study-rejecting-unsuitable-suitors-easier-said-done

by Jessica Lewis — Friday, Nov 21, 2014

You’re at a slumber party with your friends. One friend asks “if a guy at school asked you out, but you weren’t really attracted to him, would you go?” You laugh and shake your head no: “Why would I, if he’s not my type?”

Or imagine you’re at school, sitting in the cafeteria. A guy who you think is attractive but who has some unsuitable personality traits comes up and asks you out. You say yes, even though what you really meant to say was no. “Why did I do that?” you wonder.

According to new research from the University of Toronto and Yale University, rejecting unsuitable romantic partners is easy in hypothetical situations, but not so when considering a face-to-face proposition.

“When actually faced with a potential date, we don't like to reject a person and make them feel bad, which is not necessarily something that people anticipate when they imagine making these choices,” says the study’s lead researcher, psychology PhD candidate Samantha Joel. “The fact that we underestimate how concerned we’ll feel about hurting the other person’s feelings may help to explain why people's dating decisions often don't match up with their stated dating preferences.”

•••••

October 2014: Earth's Third Consecutive Warmest Month on Record

http://www.wunderground.com/blog/JeffMasters/comment.html?entrynum=2865

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 12:42 PM GMT on November 21, 2014

October 2014 was the warmest October on record, and the year-to-date-period January - October was Earth's warmest such period since record keeping began in 1880, said NOAA's National Climatic Data Center (NCDC) on Thursday. NOAA also rated the past 12 months--November 2013 through October 2014--as the warmest consecutive 12-month period among all months since records began in 1880. "It is becoming pretty clear that 2014 will end up as the warmest year on record," said Deke Arndt, climate monitoring chief for NCDC in an interview with Associated Press. NASA also rated October 2014 as the warmest October on record, tied with 2005. October is the fifth month of 2014 ranked by NOAA as the warmest on record; May, June, August and September 2014 were also the warmest such months on record, and April 2014 was the second warmest April on record. Global ocean temperatures during October 2014 were the warmest on record. This marks the sixth month in a row (beginning in May 2014) that the global ocean temperature broke its monthly temperature record. Global land temperatures in October 2014 were the 5th warmest on record.

•••••

Remarkably, the record-warm global sea surface temperatures over the past six months have occurred in the absence of El Niño, a large-scale warming of the eastern and central equatorial Pacific Ocean that historically has been present whenever record global ocean temperatures have occurred.

•••••

Arctic sea ice extent during October 2014 was the 6th lowest in the 36-year satellite record and was similar to October 2013 levels, according to the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC).

•••••

Commentary
Earth's temperature so far in 2014 has been the warmest ever recorded. This comes despite the absence of an El Niño event, which is usually required in order for a new temperature record to be set. If NOAA's predicted 58% chance of an El Niño event this winter verifies, we could easily have two consecutive warmest years on record--2014 and 2015. Opponents of climate action have pushed the idea that Earth's climate has not warmed since 1998, but that is false assertion that uses a cherry-picked year in an attempt to confuse people about the long-term climate warming that is occurring. Earth's climate is warming, and based on the evidence, more than 97% of climate scientists have concluded that humans are responsible. Climate change is already causing significant impacts to people and ecosystems, and these impacts will grow much more severe in the coming years. We can choose to take economically sensible steps to lessen the damage of climate change, and the cost of inaction is much higher than the cost of action.

•••••

The Pandora Effect On Music Sales

http://music3point0.blogspot.com/2014/11/the-pandora-effect-on-music-sales.html

A study by Pandora earlier this year has found that the more a song is streamed on the service, the more actual sales it will generate. If that's the case, it turns out that Pandora is a radio-like service in more ways than one, as radio plays have always lead to sales as well.

The study, which was outlined in a Billboard article, found that the average positive effect resulted in a 2.31% increase in music sales for new music, and 2.66% for catalog in something they called "track equivalent albums," which is a metric that counts 10 tracks as an album.

This ratio really changed between music released by major and indie labels. New music from the major labels played on Pandora resulted in a 2.82% positive effect, but only 0.62% for indies, who fared much better on catalog at 3.85% compared to the major's 2.36%.

•••••

Algorithms Are Great and All, But They Can Also Ruin Lives

I recommend reading the whole article at the following link. This could happen to any of us.

http://www.wired.com/2014/11/algorithms-great-can-also-ruin-lives/

By Luke Dormehl
Nov. 19, 2014

On April 5, 2011, 41-year-old John Gass received a letter from the Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles. The letter informed Gass that his driver’s license had been revoked and that he should stop driving, effective immediately. The only problem was that, as a conscientious driver who had not received so much as a traffic violation in years, Gass had no idea why it had been sent.

After several frantic phone calls, followed up by a hearing with Registry officials, he learned the reason: his image had been automatically flagged by a facial-recognition algorithm designed to scan through a database of millions of state driver’s licenses looking for potential criminal false identities. The algorithm had determined that Gass looked sufficiently like another Massachusetts driver that foul play was likely involved—and the automated letter from the Registry of Motor Vehicles was the end result.

The RMV itself was unsympathetic, claiming that it was the accused individual’s “burden” to clear his or her name in the event of any mistakes, and arguing that the pros of protecting the public far outweighed the inconvenience to the wrongly targeted few.

John Gass is hardly alone in being a victim of algorithms gone awry. In 2007, a glitch in the California Department of Health Services’ new automated computer system terminated the benefits of thousands of low-income seniors and people with disabilities. Without their premiums paid, Medicare canceled those citizens’ health care coverage.

Where the previous system had notified people considered no longer eligible for benefits by sending them a letter through the mail, the replacement CalWIN software was designed to cut them off without notice, unless they manually logged in and prevented this from happening. As a result, a large number of those whose premiums were discontinued did not realize what had happened until they started receiving expensive medical bills through the mail.

•••••

Similar faults have seen voters expunged from electoral rolls without notice, small businesses labeled as ineligible for government contracts, and individuals mistakenly identified as “deadbeat” parents.

•••••

Equally alarming is the possibility that an algorithm may falsely profile an individual as a terrorist: a fate that befalls roughly 1,500 unlucky airline travelers each week. Those fingered in the past as the result of data-matching errors include former Army majors, a four-year-old boy, and an American Airlines pilot—who was detained 80 times over the course of a single year.

Many of these problems are the result of the new roles algorithms play in law enforcement. As slashed budgets lead to increased staff cuts, automated systems have moved from simple administrative tools to become primary decision-makers.
In a number of cases, the problem is about more than simply finding the right algorithm for the job, but about the problematic nature of believing that any and all tasks can be automated to begin with.

•••••

7 Solutions to Climate Change Happening Now

http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/7-solutions-to-climate-change-happening-now/?WT.mc_id=SA_BS_20141121

November 17, 2014 |By David Biello

A man who once flew all the way to Copenhagen from Washington, D.C., just to tell journalists that climate change wasn't that big a deal is likely now to return to lead (or at least strongly influence) the environment committee of the U.S. Senate. As Sen. James Inhofe (R–Okla.) said at that time, in December 2009, he came to Copenhagen to "make sure that nobody is laboring under the misconception that the U.S. Senate is going to do something" about climate change. His thinking likely will not change by 2015; in fact, Inhofe has already decried the new U.S.–China climate agreement as a "nonbinding charade."

Even though the U.S. is responsible for the largest share of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, the country will not be able to take national legislative action on climate change anytime soon. Despite a president who avers that "those who are already feeling the effects of climate change don't have time to deny it —they're busy dealing with it," the U.S. Congress seems content to let climate change languish as a priority.

•••••

But, believe it or not, action on climate change is taking place in the U.S. “We don't have time for a meeting of the Flat Earth Society," Pres. Barack Obama noted back in June 2013. So his administration has moved forward without Congress as a result, through the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Clean Power Plan and the new agreement to reduce pollution with China.

Here are seven solutions to global warming that are advancing and gathering steam in the U.S.—and around the world.

1. Clean Power Plants •••

2. Local Action •••

3. Control of Methane Leaks •••

4. Tougher Emissions and Efficiency Standards •••

5. Greener Farming •••

6. Private Sector Action ••• It's the fact that—outside of coal companies, a few coal-burning utilities and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce—it's hard to find businesses that do not accept the science on global warming or have plans to deal with it. •••

7. New Kinds of Geopolitical Consensus •••

House Benghazi Report Finds Evidence Doesn't Back Rumors

http://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/house-benghazi-report-finds-evidence-doesnt-back-rumors-n253921

Nov. 21, 2014

The Republican-led House Select Committee on Intelligence on Friday released its report on the deadly 2012 attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, and it found that the military and the Central Intelligence Agency responded appropriately during the attacks.

The investigation, which took nearly two years and thousands of hours of work, found the CIA had "ensured sufficient security" and "bravely assisted" on the night of attacks that killed four Americans, including U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens. The panel also found no intelligence failure prior to the attacks.

The committee said it found no evidence that the military was ordered to "stand down" during the attacks in Benghazi, as some had claimed, and that "appropriate U.S. personnel made reasonable tactical decisions that night." It also found no evidence of similar claims that the CIA was involved in arms shipments or other unauthorized activities.

The report did say that the initial narrative by the White House that the attack stemmed from a protest was not accurate, but it blamed that on contradictory intelligence assessments in the attack’s aftermath rather than an effort to obscure the truth. The committee said it found "no evidence that any officer present during the attacks was intimidated" to prevent them from addressing Congress or revealing what they witnessed.

Record North Pacific temperatures threatening B.C. marine species

B.C. : British Columbia, Canada
CBS : Canadian Broadcasting Company

http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/record-north-pacific-temperatures-threatening-b-c-marine-species-1.2845662

CBC News Posted: Nov 21

The North Pacific Ocean is setting record high temperatures this year and raising concerns about the potential impact on cold water marine species along the B.C. coast, including salmon.

Ocean surface temperatures around the world this year reached the highest temperature ever recorded, due in large part to the normally chilly North Pacific, which was three to four degrees above average — far beyond any recorded value.

Bill Peterson, an oceanographer with the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, said the warmth along the North Pacific coast is very unusual.

"We've never seen this before. It's beyond anyone's experience and this is why it's puzzling," he said.

To further complicate the picture, Peterson says an El Niño warm water ocean current should arrive in about a month.

"We'll have what we call a double whammy," he said. "It's already very warm up north, up here. If we get an extra push of super warm water from the tropics, we could possibly have a big disaster on our hands, ecologically speaking."

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