Tuesday, January 31, 2017

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

This is a very gratifying job. Please share it. We need volunteers, including greeters.
The AARP foundation provides training.
They also need monetary donations, to pay for the computers and training materials.


Help people and give your mind a workout, too.

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

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

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

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

Who volunteers?

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

Good with numbers? Be a tax volunteer.

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

Skilled in all things digital? Be a technology coordinator.

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

Love working with people? Be a greeter.

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

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

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

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

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

Speak a second language? You're urgently needed!

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

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

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

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

Friday, December 09, 2016

Autumn 2016: Warmest in U.S. Weather History


By: Bob Henson , 6:10 PM GMT on December 07, 2016

The autumn of 2016 was the warmest ever observed in records going back to 1895 for the 48 contiguous U.S. states, according to data released on Wednesday by NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information (NCEI). The nation’s average September-to-November temperature of 57.63°F was a full 1.05°F above the previous autumn record, set way back in 1963, and it was 4.08°F above the 20th-century average (see Figure 1). The record-setting margin of more than 1°F is a hefty one for a temperature record that spans an entire season and a landmass as large as the 48 contiguous states. For comparison, the second, third, fourth, fifth, sixth, and seventh-warmest U.S. autumns are all clustered within 1°F of each other, as are the six coldest autumns on record.

Pushing this past autumn to the top of the temperature pack were the third-warmest October and third-warmest November on record, along with the ninth-warmest September. Eight states along a swath from New Mexico to Michigan saw their warmest autumn on record, and every contiguous state except for California, Nevada, Oregon, and Washington had a top-ten warmest autumn


Although it wasn’t the warmest November on record, last month transcended all other months in modern U.S. weather history by the outsized presence of record highs to record lows. According to preliminary NOAA data compiled through Wednesday, November saw 4544 daily record highs set or tied, and just 94 daily record lows set or tied--a ratio of more than 48 to 1! This is the largest such ratio for any month in U.S. data going back to the 1920s, according to independent meteorologist Guy Walton (@climateguyw), who has tracked U.S. records for many years. Because many U.S. reporting stations came on line in the 1890s, the occurrence of records did not stabilize until around the 1920s.


Although 2016 is running just behind 2012 as the warmest year in U.S. records thus far, the widespread chill expected to continue through at least mid-December has a good chance of keeping this year from outpacing 2012.

Thursday, December 08, 2016

Aerobic exercise preserves brain volume and improves cognitive function


Public Release: 30-Nov-2016
Aerobic exercise preserves brain volume and improves cognitive function
Radiological Society of North America

Using a new MRI technique, researchers found that adults with mild cognitive impairment (MCI) who exercised four times a week over a six-month period experienced an increase in brain volume in specific, or local, areas of the brain, but adults who participated in aerobic exercise experienced greater gains than those who just stretched. The study will be presented today at the annual meeting of the Radiological Society of North America (RSNA).

"Even over a short period of time, we saw aerobic exercise lead to a remarkable change in the brain," said the study's lead investigator, Laura D. Baker, Ph.D., from Wake Forest School of Medicine (WFSM) in Winston-Salem, N.C.


Stop smoking! Quitting at any age reduces the risk of death after 70


Public Release: 30-Nov-2016
Stop smoking! Quitting at any age reduces the risk of death after 70
Lifetime smoking history is a key determinant of mortality for people 70 and over and that quitting, even after 60, benefits individuals into their 70s, reports the American Journal of Preventive Medicine
Elsevier Health Sciences

Tobacco use continues to be a major cause of cancer and premature death. Most studies of cigarette smoking and mortality have focused on middle-aged populations, with fewer studies examining the impact of tobacco cessation on disease and mortality risk among the elderly. A new study published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, found that people aged 70 or older currently smoking were more than three times more likely to die than never-smokers, while former smokers were less likely to die the sooner they quit.


Lack of sleep costing US economy up to $411 billion per year


Public Release: 30-Nov-2016
Lack of sleep costing US economy up to $411 billion per year
RAND Corporation

Lower productivity levels and the higher risk of mortality resulting from sleep deprivation have a significant effect on a nation's economy.
Sleep deprivation increases the risk of mortality by 13 per cent and leads to the U.S. losing around 1.2 million working days a year.
Increasing nightly sleep from under six hours to between six and seven hours could add $226.4 billion to the U.S. economy.

A lack of sleep among the U.S. working population is costing the economy up to $411 billion a year, which is 2.28 percent of the country's GDP, a new report finds.

According to researchers at the not-for-profit research organisation RAND Europe, part of the RAND Corporation, sleep deprivation leads to a higher mortality risk and lower productivity levels among the workforce, putting a significant damper on a nation's economy.

A person who sleeps on average less than six hours a night has a 13 percent higher mortality risk than someone sleeping between seven and nine hours, researchers found, while those sleeping between six and seven hours a day have a 7 percent higher mortality risk. Sleeping between seven and nine hours per night is described as the "healthy daily sleep range".

In total, the U.S. loses just over 1.2 million working days a year due to sleep deprivation among its working population. Productivity losses at work occur through a combination of absenteeism, employees not being at work, and presenteeism, where employees are at work but working at a sub-optimal level.


Study finds hearing 'meaningful' sounds decreases performance on cognitive tasks

No surprise at all.

Public Release: 1-Dec-2016
Study finds hearing 'meaningful' sounds decreases performance on cognitive tasks
Scientists also examined the subjective level of annoyance in meaningless sounds
Acoustical Society of America

Open office plans are becoming increasingly common in the workplace -- offering a way to optimize available space and encourage dialogue, interaction and collaboration among employees. However, a new study suggests that productive work-related conversations might actually decrease the performance of other employees within earshot -- more so than other random, meaningless noises.


The study revealed that more meaningful noises, such as music and conversation, had a stronger effect on levels of subjective annoyance than meaningless noises -- and led to a greater decline in performance on cognitive tasks involving memory or arithmetic tests


Taking time off work to raise children is damaging to the careers of highly skilled women


Public Release: 1-Dec-2016
Taking time off work to raise children is damaging to the careers of highly skilled women
American Sociological Association

Mothers who leave work to raise children often sacrifice more than the pay for their time off; when they come back their wages reflect lost raises, according to a new study by Paula England, Professor of Sociology at New York University.


"In the case of highly skilled white women with high wages, what is striking is that they have the highest penalties despite the fact that they have the most continuous work experience of any group of women, which, other things being equal, would reduce their penalties," wrote England. "Their high returns to experience and tenure mean that loss of every year of work caused by motherhood is much more costly for their future wages, even in proportionate terms, than it is for other groups of women."

England investigated how motherhood penalized white and black women, and how this varied by the skill and wage level of the women. She found that:

Highly skilled, highly paid white women lose an average of 10 percent in their wage per child.
White women with lower skills and/or lower wages lose significantly less, between 4 and 7 percent of their wage per child.
The penalties were lower for black women than for white women; however, unlike the white women, the penalties for black women did not differ significantly by skill or wage.


How highs and lows in testosterone levels 'shock' prostate cancer cells to death


Public Release: 30-Nov-2016
How highs and lows in testosterone levels 'shock' prostate cancer cells to death
ECCO-the European CanCer Organisation

A strategy of alternately flooding and starving the body of testosterone is producing good results in patients who have metastatic prostate cancer that is resistant to treatment by chemical or surgical castration, according to new findings.

In a presentation at the 28th EORTC-NCI-AACR [1] Symposium on Molecular Targets and Cancer Therapeutics in Munich, Germany, today (Thursday), researchers reported that results from 47 men who have completed at least three cycles of bipolar androgen therapy (BAT) showed that the strategy was safe and effective. Prostate specific antigen (PSA) levels [2] fell in the majority of the men, tumours shrank in some men, in several the disease did not progress and this included some whose disease continued to be stable for more than a year. One man appears to have been "cured", in that his PSA levels dropped to zero after three months and have remained so for 22 cycles of treatment, with no trace of the disease remaining. The researchers are planning to treat a group of 60 men in total.


Wednesday, December 07, 2016

Intensification of land use leads to the same species everywhere

An example of why over-population is a problem even if we have totally clean energy.


Public Release: 30-Nov-2016
Intensification of land use leads to the same species everywhere
Study in Nature documents the homogenization of species communities in our landscape
Technical University of Munich (TUM)

In places where humans use grasslands more intensively, it is not only the species diversity which decreases -- the landscape also becomes more monotonous, and ultimately only the same species remain everywhere. This results in nature no longer being able to provide its 'services', which range from soil formation for food production to pest control. Led by the Technical University of Munich (TUM), 300 scientists studied the consequences of land-use intensification across different species groups at the landscape level for the very first time.


The findings showed that it did not matter whether grassland areas were used moderately or intensively by humans. For example, a distinction was made between areas where grass was cut twice or four times a year. "According to our observations, the homogenization of species does not progress proportionally to the intensity of use. Instead, even a moderate management of grassland results in cross-regional communities being reduced to the same, less demanding all-rounders," said Gossner -- "a further increase in the intensity of use simply doesn't have a comparably large effect."


Teenagers could see long-term benefits from new treatments for depression


Public Release: 30-Nov-2016
Teenagers could see long-term benefits from new treatments for depression
University of Cambridge

More than two-thirds of adolescents who suffer from depression could see long-term benefits from receiving one of three psychological treatments -- of which only one is currently recommended on the NHS - according to research published today in The Lancet Psychiatry.

Depression affects around one in twenty adolescents, causing considerable suffering and potentially affecting relationships and educational performance. Unfortunately recurrence is likely in a half of all cases through into adult life and is associated with increasing personal difficulties and lower educational and employment prospects. However, it may be possible to reduce the risk of recurrence if a treatment for the condition shows enduring effects a year after the end of therapy.

Good evidence exists that psychological treatments are effective -- around 70% of adolescents who receive treatment go into clinical remission - but there is very little evidence about whether these effects last. Currently, only cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT) has a sufficient evidence base to be offered on the NHS; CBT focuses on identifying the thoughts, feelings and actions that maintain depression, and then working collaboratively with the patient to change unhelpful thoughts and behaviours and thereby improve social functions.


Brief Psychosocial Intervention is a brief active problem solving intervention for depression that focuses on improving and maintaining mental and physical hygiene, engaging in pleasurable activities, maintaining schoolwork and peer relations, and reducing loneliness.

Short term psychoanalytic therapy, on the other hand, focuses on the patient's preoccupations, memories, day-dreams, nocturnal dreams and subconscious drivers. The therapy aims to tackle these at an unconscious level and through the therapist-patient relationship.

The researchers found that 70% of the adolescents in the study improved substantially in each of the therapy groups by end of treatment. Follow up over the next 12 months confirmed a continuing decline in depression symptoms - 50% reduction by the end of the study, confirming non-clinical levels were sustained. Furthermore, for all three, the total cost of therapy and subsequent health service use was around the same amount.

Although it was not possible through this particular study to determine the extent to which improvement can be directly attributed to the treatments, the researchers say it demonstrates that these three different psychological therapies may each be employed in NHS child and adolescent mental health services with equal confidence. Furthermore all three can be delivered in 6-11 sessions over a seven month period and be expected to show sustained effects up to a year later. Importantly, although around 40% of the patients in each treatment arm received an antidepressant, this did not influence the effects of each psychological treatment when compared with each other.


Example of Trump supporters character

Got this classy comment from a Trump supporter

Patricia Shannon: It is really scary if it is true that 50 % have a favorable opinion of Trump.
Like · Reply · 28 mins

Greg Flowers https://www.facebook.com/jgflowers22
Greg Flowers: Scary is your profile picture


Economic Growth in the United States: A Tale of Two Countries


Dec. 6, 2016
Thomas Piketty, Emmanuel Saez, Gabriel Zucman:

Economic growth in the United States: A tale of two countries, by Thomas Piketty, Emmanuel Saez, Gabriel Zucman, Equitable Growth: Overview The rise of economic inequality is one of the most hotly debated issues today in the United States and indeed in the world. Yet economists and policymakers alike face important limitations when trying to measure and understand the rise of inequality.

Our first finding—a surge in income inequality

First, our data show that the bottom half of the income distribution in the United States has been completely shut off from economic growth since the 1970s. ...

It’s a tale of two countries. For the 117 million U.S. adults in the bottom half of the income distribution, growth has been non-existent for a generation while at the top of the ladder it has been extraordinarily strong. And this stagnation of national income accruing at the bottom is not due to population aging. ...

Our second finding—policies to ameliorate income inequality fall woefully short

Our second main finding is that government redistribution has offset only a small fraction of the increase in pre-tax inequality. ...

Our third finding—comparing income inequality among countries is enlightening

Third, an advantage of our new series is that it allows us to directly compare income across countries.


One example of the value of these efforts is to compare the average bottom 50 percent pre-tax incomes in the United States and France.8 In sharp contrast with the United States, in France the bottom 50 percent of real (inflation-adjusted) pre-tax incomes grew by 32 percent from 1980 to 2014, at approximately the same rate as national income per adult. While the bottom 50 percent of incomes were 11 percent lower in France than in the United States in 1980, they are now 16 percent higher. (See Figure 3.) ... Since the welfare state is more generous in France, the gap between the bottom 50 percent of income earners in France and the United States would be even greater after taxes and transfers.

The diverging trends in the distribution of pre-tax income across France and the United States—two advanced economies subject to the same forces of technological progress and globalization—show that working-class incomes are not bound to stagnate in Western countries. In the United States, the stagnation of bottom 50 percent of incomes and the upsurge in the top 1 percent coincided with drastically reduced progressive taxation, widespread deregulation of industries and services, particularly the financial services industry, weakened unions, and an eroding minimum wage.
[In other words, the stagnation in the U.S. coincided with the policies that Trump wants more of.]


Trump’s pick of Wilbur Ross for Secretary of Commerce

Trump has been making a lot of loony tweets, which take up the media's attention. Don't know if this is evidence of a disordered mind or a deliberate strategy to distract us from what is going on.


Dec. 7,2016

Trump’s pick of Wilbur Ross for Secretary of Commerce seems to have escaped media scrutiny, but here’s what you need to know about him:

1. Ross has specialized in buying up steel mills, textile mills and coal mines, then getting rid of their unions, slashing wages, dropping health care, reneging on pension obligations, and cutting operating costs down to the bone.

2. Running a coal mine on the cheap has consequences. On Jan. 2, 2006, 12 miners perished at Ross’s Sago Mine. Just a year before the disaster, the Mine Safety Administration of the Department of Labor cited the mine for 208 safety violations, 96 considered “serious and substantial,” including roof falls, improper ventilation, blocked escape passages and piles of combustible materials. Nineteen days before catastrophe struck, a federal inspector cited the company for “a high degree of negligence” for allowing potentially explosive coal dust to accumulate in the mine. After the Jan. 2 underground explosion trapped miners in a smoke-choked shaft, they discovered their emergency air packs were inoperable. (The mine foreman was later indicted for falsifying safety check reports.)

But despite the findings that the mine was unsafe, Ross refused to shut it down. The mine’s executives said Ross had been intimately involved with the company and knew all about its safety problems, but pushed them to show profits (see below).

3. Forbes magazine lists Ross as one of the world's billionaires with a net worth of $2.9 billion.

Trump portrays himself as the voice of working people, including coal miners. Wilbur Ross is the embodiment of greed that has shafted working people, and, not incidentally, murdered coal miners.

Tuna’s Declining Mercury Contamination Linked to U.S. Shift Away from Coal

I suggest reading the whole article at the following link.


By Richard Conniff on November 23, 2016

Levels of highly toxic mercury contamination in Atlantic bluefin tuna are rapidly declining, according to a new study. That trend does not affect recommended limits on consumption of canned tuna, which comes mainly from other tuna species. Nor does it reflect trends in other ocean basins. But it does represent a major break in the long-standing, scary connection between tuna and mercury, a source of public concern since 1970, when a chemistry professor in New York City found excess levels of mercury in a can of tuna and spurred a nationwide recall. Tuna consumption continues to be the source of about 40 percent of the mercury contamination in the American diet. And mercury exposure from all sources remains an important issue, because it causes cognitive impairment in an estimated 300,000 to 600,000 babies born in this country each year.

The new study, published online on November 10 by Environmental Science & Technology, links the decline directly to reduced mercury emissions in North America. Most of that reduction has occurred because of the marketplace shift by power plants and industry away from coal, the major source of mercury emissions. Pollution control requirements imposed by the federal government have also cut mercury emissions.

Progress on both counts could, however, reverse, with President-elect Donald Trump promising a comeback for the U.S. coal industry, in part by clearing away such regulations.


The new study comes as worldwide mercury emissions continue to rise, particularly in the Pacific, source of much of the tuna and other seafood consumed in the U.S. That increase of about 3.8 percent per year results largely from increased reliance on coal-fired power plants in China, India and other Asian countries.

Despite President-elect Trump’s campaign pledge to revive the coal industry in this country, economic factors, including competition from inexpensive natural gas, make a U.S. coal comeback unlikely. Even U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who for eight years blamed the Obama administration for the demise of coal, began to walk back the idea that Republican control in Washington, D.C., would make much difference: “Whether that immediately brings business back is hard to tell,” he told a Kentucky audience on November 11, “because it’s a private sector activity.”


Carrier union leader: Trump 'lied his ass off' about deal


By Brooke Seipel - 12/06/16 04:39 PM EST

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Carrier union leader: Trump 'lied his ass off' about deal
© Getty

President-elect Donald Trump "lied his ass off" about the terms of the deal to keep Carrier manufacturing jobs in the United States, the Carrier union's president said Tuesday.

United Steelworkers 1999 President Chuck Jones was optimistic when Trump first promised to save the jobs of 1,350 workers at Carrier's Indiana plant, The Washington Post reports. Carrier had originally planned to move the jobs to Mexico, but decided to keep 730 of the jobs in Indiana after receiving $7 million in tax breaks from the state, where Vice President-elect Mike Pence is governor.

Jones told the Post that he hoped Trump would explain at a Dec. 1 meeting that 550 of the Carrier jobs weren't saved.

“But he got up there,” Jones said, “and, for whatever reason, lied his ass off.”

At a celebratory rally last week, Trump praised the deal, telling the press, "Now they’re keeping — actually the number’s over 1,100 people,” he said, “which is so great.”

Jones said the numbers of jobs saved reported by Trump and Pence were misleading and included positions that weren't slated to move to Mexico.

“Trump and Pence, they pulled a dog and pony show on the numbers,” Jones said. “I almost threw up in my mouth.”

Election 2016 recount: Where 5 states stand


Detroit Free Press Staff and News Services 9:15 a.m. EST December 7, 2016

Five states are contending with requests for recounts of ballots cast in the Nov. 8 presidential election.

Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein is behind recount efforts in Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin, states where Republican Donald Trump won narrowly over Democrat Hillary Clinton.

In Nevada, a partial recount of the race was requested by independent presidential candidate Roque De La Fuente. Clinton won in that state.

And a motion was filed Tuesday in central Florida by three voters who say that the election in Florida, which went to Trump, was marred because of hacking, malfunctioning voting machines and other problems.

Here's where each state stands Tuesday.


Note to Breitbart: Earth Is Not Cooling, Climate Change Is Real and Please Stop Using Our Video to Mislead Americans


Dec. 6, 2016

Global warming is not expected to end anytime soon, despite what Breitbart.com wrote in an article published last week.

Though we would prefer to focus on our usual coverage of weather and climate science, in this case we felt it important to add our two cents — especially because a video clip from weather.com (La NiƱa in Pacific Affects Weather in New England) was prominently featured at the top of the Breitbart article. Breitbart had the legal right to use this clip as part of a content-sharing agreement with another company, but there should be no assumption that The Weather Company endorses the article associated with it.

The Breitbart article – a prime example of cherry picking, or pulling a single item out of context to build a misleading case – includes this statement: "The last three years may eventually come to be seen as the final death rattle of the global warming scare."

In fact, thousands of researchers and scientific societies are in agreement that greenhouse gases produced by human activity are warming the planet’s climate and will keep doing so.

Along with its presence on the high-profile Breitbart site, the article drew even more attention after a link to it was retweeted by the U.S. House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology.


For an even deeper dive on the science, we recommend the blog by our experts.

Finally, to our friends at Breitbart: The next time you write a climate change article and need fact checking help, please call. We're here for you. I'm sure we both agree this topic is too important to get wrong.

Tuesday, December 06, 2016

Pentagon buries evidence of $125 billion in bureaucratic waste


By Craig Whitlock and Bob Woodward December 5, 2016

The Pentagon has buried an internal study that exposed $125 billion in administrative waste in its business operations amid fears Congress would use the findings as an excuse to slash the defense budget, according to interviews and confidential memos obtained by The Washington Post.

Pentagon leaders had requested the study to help make their enormous back-office bureaucracy more efficient and reinvest any savings in combat power. But after the project documented far more wasteful spending than expected, senior defense officials moved swiftly to kill it by discrediting and suppressing the results.

The report, issued in January 2015, identified “a clear path” for the Defense Department to save $125 billion over five years. The plan would not have required layoffs of civil servants or reductions in military personnel. Instead, it would have streamlined the bureaucracy through attrition and early retirements, curtailed high-priced contractors and made better use of information technology.


For the military, the major allure of the study was that it called for reallocating the $125 billion for troops and weapons. Among other options, the savings could have paid a large portion of the bill to rebuild the nation’s aging nuclear arsenal, or the operating expenses for 50 Army brigades.

But some Pentagon leaders said they fretted that by spotlighting so much waste, the study would undermine their repeated public assertions that years of budget austerity had left the armed forces starved of funds. Instead of providing more money, they said, they worried Congress and the White House might decide to cut deeper.

o the plan was killed. The Pentagon imposed secrecy restrictions on the data making up the study, which ensured no one could replicate the findings. A 77-page summary report that had been made public was removed from a Pentagon website.


The Defense Business Board was ordered to conduct the study by Deputy Defense Secretary Robert O. Work, the Pentagon’s second-highest-ranking official. At first, Work publicly touted the efficiency drive as a top priority and boasted about his idea to recruit corporate experts to lead the way.

After the board finished its analysis, however, Work changed his position. In an interview with The Post, he did not dispute the board’s findings about the size or scope of the bureaucracy. But he dismissed the $125 billion savings proposal as “unrealistic” and said the business executives had failed to grasp basic obstacles to restructuring the public sector.


Work said the board fundamentally misunderstood how difficult it is to eliminate federal civil service jobs — members of Congress, he added, love having them in their districts — or to renegotiate defense contracts.
[Very true. Republicans get very upset when there are plans to cut back in their own districts.]

Broken machines could throw Michigan recount into chaos

Sam Thielman
Dec. 6, 2016

Broken polling machines may have put vote counts in question in more than half of Detroit’s precincts and nearly one-third of surrounding Wayne County, possibly throwing the Michigan recount into chaos.

If the discrepancies can’t be solved by recounting every paper ballot in question by hand, a recount in those precincts simply won’t happen.

Donald Trump’s slim margin over Hillary Clinton means any chance of the state flipping on a recount likely hinges on Wayne County, where the Democrat won by a landslide. Clinton lost by 10,704 votes in Michigan; Wayne’s population of 1,759,335 makes it the likeliest candidate to contain errors bigger than that margin.

There are three vote totals: the total number of votes the electronic ballot scanners report; the total number of people who signed the electoral roll, or “poll book”; and the total number of paper ballots filled out and stored in sealed containers. The poll books and the electronic ballot scanners do not match, so the paper ballots will be counted by hand. If hand-tallied ballots can’t resolve all the mismatches, the votes will stand in the counties where the errors remain.

Eighty-seven of Wayne County’s decade-old voting machines broke on election day, according to Detroit’s elections director, Daniel Baxter. He told the Detroit News, which first reported the story, that ballot scanners often jammed when polling place workers were trying to operate them. Every time a jammed ballot was removed and reinserted, he suspects the machine may have re-counted it.

Preliminary investigation by election officials in Wayne County found that 610 of the area’s 1,680 precincts could not reconcile the number of votes cast according to the machines with the number of ballots issued according to the electoral rolls. Detroit contains 662 of Wayne’s precincts; in 392 of those, the number of votes didn’t match up.

Baxter told the News he was confident a recount would match the ballots issued to the paper records, which are sealed and stored under guard. “I don’t think it’s going to be 100%,” he said, “but it never is with a recount.”


Trump's National Security Adviser Shared Fake News About Clinton

by Mathew Ingram
November 19, 2016

As Donald Trump puts together his cabinet, some of his picks are getting critical attention for past comments they made that suggest they hold racist or otherwise offensive views about various groups. One of those getting scrutiny is General Michael Flynn, Trump’s nominee for National Security Advisor.

Flynn is a former Lieutenant General who led the Defense Intelligence Agency for two years, from 2012 to 2014, before being forced out. A Pentagon official told the Washington Post at the time that his vision of the future of the DIA was “disruptive,” and others said his management style was “chaotic.”

On Twitter in particular, Flynn has not been shy about holding forth about Muslims, terrorism, and Hillary Clinton. And in several cases he has shared fake news stories about those subjects.

Just a few days before the election, the general tweeted a link to a news hoax from a right-wing conspiracy theory site called True Pundit, and said the New York Police Department had evidence of new Hillary Clinton emails that proved her involvement in or knowledge of money laundering and sex crimes with children, among other things.


Dakota Pipeline Was Approved by Army Corps Over Objections of Three Federal Agencies


By Phil McKenna
Aug. 30, 2016

Senior officials at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and two other federal agencies raised serious environmental and safety objections to the North Dakota section of the controversial Dakota Access oil pipeline, the same objections being voiced in a large protest by the Standing Rock Sioux tribe that has so far succeeded in halting construction.

But those concerns were dismissed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which relied on an environmental assessment prepared by the pipeline's developer, Dakota Access LLC, when it approved the project in July, according to public documents.


After the company rerouted the pipeline to cross the Missouri River just a half-mile upstream of the reservation, the tribe complained that the Army Corps did not consider threats to its water supply and cultural heritage.

The EPA, the Department of the Interior and the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation echoed those concerns in public comments on the Army Corps' draft environmental assessment. Citing risks to water supplies, inadequate emergency preparedness, potential impacts to the Standing Rock reservation and insufficient environmental justice analysis, the agencies urged the Army Corps to issue a revised draft of their environmental assessment.

"Crossings of the Missouri River have the potential to affect the primary source of drinking water for much of North Dakota, South Dakota, and Tribal nations," Philip Strobel, National Environmental Policy Act regional compliance director for the EPA, wrote in a March 11 letter to the Army Corps.

The current route of the pipeline is 10 miles upstream of Fort Yates, the tribal headquarters of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe and the county seat. The Standing Rock Sioux rely on the Missouri River for drinking water, irrigation and fish.


Federal law requires federal agencies to take into account the effect a proposed project will have on historic property. The Army Corps' assessment, however lacked adequate consultation with the Standing Rock Sioux tribe and focused on a limited number of water crossings rather than on the pipeline's entire expanse, according to letters ACHP officials wrote to the Army Corps.


Clinton, Trump Latest Popular Vote Election Results


By Clark Mindock @clarkmindock On 12/06/16 AT 11:46 AM
International Business Times

Hillary Clinton, who lost the Electoral College to President-elect Donald Trump in November, extended her popular vote lead over her former challenger Tuesday to a tally that is far larger than any other election in history where the candidate who lost the election won in the popular vote.

As of Tuesday morning, Clinton leads Trump 65,467,571 to 62,813,613, according to voter data from the Cook Political Report — a margin of 2,653,958 votes. That lead represents nearly a 2.1 percent edge in the popular vote as a whole.

In 13 swing states that played an oversized role in electing the next president, however, Trump has maintained a healthy lead. Trump leads Clinton in those states 22,238,917 to 21,418,687, an 820,230 vote advantage. The lead in those swing states may overstate how many voters played a crucial role in electing the next president, as the Washington Post argued last week, since the deciding swing states — Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin — were decided by an accumulative 79,646 votes.

We are probably going to have a president who thinks exploring space is more important that the welfare of humans on earth.


By Brian Kahn
Dec. 6, 2016

Scientists and policy watchers have been sounding the alarm bell that NASA’s climate work could be in jeopardy ever since Donald Trump’s election last month.

That’s due in large part to some of his advisors saying the agency should be focused on space exploration and not wasting money observing the earth. But the alarm started ringing louder last week with the announcement that Chris Shank, the deputy chief of staff to Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas), will be heading the transition at the agency.

Shank is also policy and coalition director for the House Science, Space and Technology Committee (you know, the committee responsible for that tweet last week) and a former NASA senior official during the Bush era, a period when scientists said they were being censored.

Now Shank will be in charge of helping lay out the priorities for the next NASA administrator and if his past is any indication, NASA’s $1.9 billion earth science budget will be square in the crosshairs.

NASA’s satellites, climate modeling and other earth-based science research are crucial to understanding the threats climate change poses from sea level rise to more extreme precipitation. Losing any of the agency’s earth monitoring abilities would be a huge blow to both science and climate policy in the U.S. and around the world.

Shank has questioned the underpinnings of climate science. His boss has also used his platform as chair of the House Science, Space and Technology Committee to call hearings — hearings that Shank played a role in putting together as policy director — questioning climate science and attacking individual researchers.

Andrew Rosenberg, the director of the Center for Science and Democracy at the Union of Concerned Scientists, said having someone like Shank manage the transition at NASA is essentially having someone “who views things like oversight of science in a way that if you don’t like the answer, you attack the science. They’re trying to politicize science as much as they possibly can. It worries me that somebody like that can be leading a transition team.”

Climate Change Will Stir ‘Unimaginable’ Refugee Crisis

Dec. 4, 2016
By Damian Carrington, The Guardian

Climate change is set to cause a refugee crisis of “unimaginable scale,” according to senior military figures, who warn that global warming is the greatest security threat of the 21st century and that mass migration will become the “new normal”.

The generals said the impacts of climate change were already factors in the conflicts driving a current crisis of migration into Europe, having been linked to the Arab Spring, the war in Syria and the Boko Haram terrorist insurgency.

Military leaders have long warned that global warming could multiply and accelerate security threats around the world by provoking conflicts and migration. They are now warning that immediate action is required.

“Climate change is the greatest security threat of the 21st century,” said Maj Gen Munir Muniruzzaman, chairman of the Global Military Advisory Council on climate change and a former military adviser to the president of Bangladesh. He said one metre of sea level rise will flood 20 percent of his nation. “We’re going to see refugee problems on an unimaginable scale, potentially above 30 million people.”

Previously, Bangladesh’s finance minister, Abul Maal Abdul Muhith, called on Britain and other wealthy countries to accept millions of displaced people.

Brig Gen Stephen Cheney, a member of the U.S. Department of State’s foreign affairs policy board and CEO of the American Security Project, said: “Climate change could lead to a humanitarian crisis of epic proportions. We’re already seeing migration of large numbers of people around the world because of food scarcity, water insecurity and extreme weather, and this is set to become the new normal.

“Climate change impacts are also acting as an accelerant of instability in parts of the world on Europe’s doorstep, including the Middle East and Africa,” Cheney said. “There are direct links to climate change in the Arab Spring, the war in Syria, and the Boko Haram terrorist insurgency in sub-Saharan Africa.”


R Adm Neil Morisetti, a former commander of the UK maritime forces and the UK’s climate and energy security envoy, said: “Climate change is a strategic security threat that sits alongside others like terrorism and state-on-state conflict, but it also interacts with these threats. It is complex and challenging; this is not a concern for tomorrow, the impacts are playing out today.”

Morisetti said climate change would mean the UK military will be deployed more often to conflict and disaster zones. The military leaders were speaking ahead of an event in London on Thursday.

In September, a coalition of 25 U.S. military and national security experts, including former advisers to Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush, warned that climate change poses a “significant risk to U.S. national security and international security” that requires more attention from the U,S, federal government.

In 2015, a UK foreign office report made a stark assessment of the dangers posed by unchecked global warming, including very large risks to global food security, increased risk of terrorism as states fail, and unprecedented migration that would overwhelm international assistance.

“Countries are going to pay for climate change one way or another,” said Cheney. “The best way to pay for it is by tackling the root causes of climate change and cutting greenhouse gas emissions. If we do not, the national security impacts will be increasingly costly and challenging.”

Extreme Storms Will Be a Lot More Frequent as Climate Warms
by Maggie Fox
Dec. 5, 2016

The number of heavy downpours in much of the U.S. could increase five-fold by the end of the century, causing flash floods, mudslides and ruining crops, climate researchers predicted Monday.

People need to start getting ready for these catastrophic storms now, because most places aren't prepared to handle such extreme weather, the team at the National Center for Atmospheric Research said.

And yes, climate change is to blame, the experts said. As the average temperature warms up, the air will get warmer and moister and more prone to these heavy storms, they reported in the journal Nature Climate Change.

"Imagine the most intense thunderstorm you typically experience in a single season. Our study finds that, in the future, parts of the U.S. could expect to experience five of those storms in a season, each with an intensity as strong or stronger than current storms," said NCAR's Andreas Prein, who led the study team.

"Extreme precipitation intensities have increased in all regions of the contiguous United States and are expected to further increase with warming at scaling rates of about 7 percent per degree Celsius, suggesting a significant increase of flash flood hazards due to climate change," the team wrote.


As air gets hotter, it can hold more water vapor. Heavily wet air means for heavier storms.

"Short-term precipitation extremes cause flash floods, landslides, and debris flows in the entire continental United States," they wrote.


At the same time, many areas will be drier overall — meaning those heavy rains will wash over desiccated ground. That's a recipe for crop disaster and mudslides.

"The frequency of extremes increases by a factor of more than five in large parts of Canada and over the western U.S. in December, January and February," they added.

And that will affect roads, bridges and dams as well as communities built in low-lying areas and on hillsides.


Weather patterns are unpredictable and climate experts agree that as temperatures warm, weather patterns will become more extreme and unpredictable. That means heavier rain but also heavier snow, floods as well as droughts and changes in ocean circulation patterns that can make some areas colder than they are now.

Mix-up over homemade herbal tea puts woman in life-threatening condition


Public Release: 1-Dec-2016
Mix-up over homemade herbal tea puts woman in life-threatening condition

A woman who mistakenly used foxglove instead of comfrey leaves to make a herbal tea was rushed to hospital in a life-threatening condition.

Writing in the journal BMJ Case Reports, doctors at King's College Hospital say the case highlights the need to be aware of accidental ingestion of the foxglove plant in patients who use herbal remedies.

The previously well 63-year-old woman arrived at the emergency department with vomiting, palpitations, and lightheadedness. She had no history of heart problems.

A friend had recommended her the herbal drink comfrey (Symphytum officinale) to help ease her insomnia. She had purchased a handful of comfrey leaves from a local market and brewed them into a tea. Her symptoms began several hours later.

Heart monitoring showed an irregular heartbeat, but standard blood tests were normal.

The National Poisons Information Service (NPIS) database did not have an entry for comfrey. However, the entry for foxglove (Digitalis purpurea) states it may be confused with comfrey herbal tea.

In particular during Spring, it is very difficult to distinguish between the thick leaves of comfrey and foxglove (see figure 2). This case illustrates how this subtly can lead to mistaken identity, and near-fatal consequences.

A quick internet search suggested that the comfrey plant closely resembled the foxglove plant, which contains the organic forms of digoxin and digitoxin - active compounds that are frequently used in the treatment of irregular heart rhythm and heart failure.

Raised digoxin levels confirmed this and the patient was given an antidote. After five days of monitoring, her heart returned to normal rhythm and she was discharged home.

The patient was unable to find the original leaves she had purchased in the market but was advised to contact the seller to inform them of the mistake.

"Homemade herbal remedies on the surface may seem harmless," write the doctors. "However, this case illustrates how limited knowledge of plants can be potentially fatal."

They have also contacted the NPIS to recommend including the risk of accidental ingestion of Digitalis under the entry for comfrey.

Certification would ensure quality welfare during cattle transport


Public Release: 30-Nov-2016
Certification would ensure quality welfare during cattle transport
Following best practices will improve welfare of cattle and provide economic benefits in dairy and beef transportation, according to a new article in The Professional Animal Scientist®

Over 530,000 cattle are shipped to slaughter plants each week, making the transport of cattle a vitally important part of the beef and dairy industries. Almost all beef or dairy cattle are transported once during their life, and often they may be transported as many as 6 times. A new report details how a cattle transporter quality assurance program could help ensure the safe, humane, and expeditious shipping of cattle and benefit the industry significantly in terms of both economics and efficiency.

"Every stakeholder has an expectation for fostering animal well-being," Karen Schwartzkopf-Genswein, lead author of the study, said. "Producers, consignors, packers, and retailers alike want to improve animal treatment during transportation."


Identifying areas of concern and managing risk before and during transport is something drivers must be educated about in order to ensure the best outcome for cattle and managers. "A driver's cattle transporting experience is significant in the success of cattle transportation, which makes training and education important," Schwartzkopf-Genswein said.

In order to ensure best management practices are followed and cattle welfare is valued throughout the transportation process, the authors of the study recommend following the lead of the pork industry. Specifically, the majority of pork packers require drivers to show proof of Transporter Quality Assurance certification before entering any slaughter facility. To prove their commitment to good welfare, the beef and dairy industries need to use a practical and robust verification process similar to the pork industry.


Even mildly excessive body iron stores increase the risk of type 2 diabetes


Public Release: 30-Nov-2016
Even mildly excessive body iron stores increase the risk of type 2 diabetes
University of Eastern Finland

Even mildly elevated body iron contributes to the prevalence and incidence of type 2 diabetes, according to research from the University of Eastern Finland. Excess body iron accumulation is a known risk factor of type 2 diabetes in hereditary hemochromatosis, but the results presented by Dr Alex O. Aregbesola in his doctoral thesis show that elevated iron is a risk factor in the general population as well, already at high levels within the normal range.

Men accumulate more iron and are more at risk

In addition, a gender difference was observed in the risk and prevalence of type 2 diabetes, to some extent due to different body iron accumulation between men and women. Men had 61% higher prevalence and 46% increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes when compared to women. At comparable age groups, men were found to accumulate more iron than women, and iron explained about two-fifths and one-fifth of the gender difference in type 2 diabetes prevalence and incidence respectively.

Moderate iron stores are safer than depletion toward iron deficiency


there was a U-shaped type of association between iron stores and the risk of type 2 diabetes which showed that the risk was lowest on moderate levels.


Unhealthy dietary habits associated with the surge of type 2 diabetes include excess dietary intake of iron and unregulated iron supplement use. Iron is a micronutrient that is required in the formation of some essential body proteins and enzymes, like hemoglobin, cytochromes and peroxidase. However, it is harmful when stored in excess in the body. It promotes the release of free radicals that damage the secretory capacity of beta cells of pancreas to produce insulin. It also decreases insulin sensitivity in peripheral tissues and organs involved in glucose metabolism.


Monday, December 05, 2016

We like what experts like -- and what is expensive


Public Release: 30-Nov-2016
We like what experts like -- and what is expensive
Art taste bends to social factors
University of Vienna

Together with colleagues from the University of Copenhagen, Matthew Pelowski and Michael Forster from the Department of Basic Psychological Research and Research Methods at the University of Vienna have observed the influence of social and financial contextual information on the pleasures of art. The focus was on the question whether the purchase price, the prestige of a gallery or the socioeconomic status and educational status of other persons have an influence on the personal taste.

We like what experts or peers like - and what is expensive


"Results showed that when participants thought that either experts or their peers liked a painting, they also liked it more", says Pelowski. "However, when they thought that the unemployed dropouts didn't like a painting, participants went in the opposite direction and said that they liked it more."

In a second study, the researchers also showed that telling participants the (fictitious) sales price of a painting at an art auction, significantly changed the way they rated art. Very low prices made participants like art less, very high prices made them like art more.

Art is used to show allegiance to desirable social groups

"These results provide empirical support for a 'social distinction' theory, first introduced by the French Sociologist and Philosopher Pierre Bourdieu," explains Pelowski. "According to how we use our evaluation and engagement with art in order to show allegiance to, or distance ourselves from, desirable or undesirable social groups." Both studies also have important implications for museums, suggesting that the context can affect how we see art.

Benefits of daily aspirin outweigh risk to stomach


Public Release: 30-Nov-2016
Benefits of daily aspirin outweigh risk to stomach
Cardiff University

Stomach bleeds caused by aspirin are considerably less serious than the spontaneous bleeds that can occur in people not taking the drug, concludes a study led by Cardiff University.

Published in the journal Public Library of Science, the extensive study of literature on aspirin reveals that while regular use of the drug increases the risk of stomach bleeds by about a half, there is no valid evidence that any of these bleeds are fatal.

Professor Peter Elwood from Cardiff University's School of Medicine said: "Although many people use aspirin daily to reduce the risk of health problems such as cancer and heart disease, the wider use of the drug is severely limited because of the side effect of bleeding from the stomach. With our study showing that there is no increased risk of death from stomach bleeding in people who take regular aspirin, we hope there will be better confidence in the drug and wider use of it by older people, leading to important reductions in deaths and disablement from heart disease and cancer across the community."

Heart disease and cancer are the leading causes of death and disability across the world, and research has shown that a small daily dose of aspirin can reduce the occurrence of both diseases by around 20-30%.

Recent research has also shown that low-doses of aspirin given to patients with cancer, alongside chemotherapy and/or radiotherapy, is an effective additional treatment, reducing the deaths of patients with bowel, and possibly other cancers, by a further 15%.


Authoritarian regimes use rhetoric to legitimize their power


Public Release: 30-Nov-2016
Authoritarian regimes use rhetoric to legitimize their power
University of Kansas

Leaders of authoritarian regimes in Central Asia have been able to use rhetoric to define their power as legitimate to the public despite practices of human rights violations and clamping down on dissent, according to a new study by a University of Kansas expert on international relations.

"Those governments have been fairly effective in mobilizing public support through discourse that has shaped the public's understanding of what it means to have a legitimate government," said Mariya Omelicheva, a KU associate professor of political science. "They've persuaded the public that their ideas of legitimacy were informed by the countries' histories and traditions. These governments presented their practices as consistent with the people's primary demands and needs."


The study is important, she said, because roughly 25 years after the breakup of the Soviet Union, several relatively stable authoritarian regimes have emerged in the region. They have adopted formal trappings of democracy, but they have made no progress as states in democratic transformation.

Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan are also viewed as the two most important states in the region economically and politically.

"The leadership of these states have been determined to maintain power under the guise of democracy without exposing themselves to the political risks of competition," Omelicheva said. "They have every single formal democratic institution, but they strip them of their democratic essence."


"Because of these obvious infractions on democratic principles in practice, these authoritarian governments generate public support by resorting to performance legitimation, meaning they would assert that they have been effective in delivering on the public's demands for order, stability, security and socioeconomic progress," Omelicheva said.

More or less they have been successful in following up on their promises relative to the terms they've defined, she said.

Omelicheva found that Nazarbayev and Karimov both used similar rhetorical tactics by comparing their countries' economies at the dawn of their independence -- the collapse of the Soviet Union -- to the present day, arguing how much progress they have made.


"Because of these obvious infractions on democratic principles in practice, these authoritarian governments generate public support by resorting to performance legitimation, meaning they would assert that they have been effective in delivering on the public's demands for order, stability, security and socioeconomic progress," Omelicheva said.

More or less they have been successful in following up on their promises relative to the terms they've defined, she said.

Omelicheva found that Nazarbayev and Karimov both used similar rhetorical tactics by comparing their countries' economies at the dawn of their independence -- the collapse of the Soviet Union -- to the present day, arguing how much progress they have made.

New research: Feeling bad has academic benefits


Public Release: 30-Nov-2016
New research: Feeling bad has academic benefits
A Concordia study reveals that occasional negative moods can positively impact student success
Concordia University

For some, the start of December marks the beginning of the most wonderful time of the year. But for most university students, the coming weeks mean final exams, mounting stress and negative moods.

While that doesn't seem like an ideal combination for great grades, new research from Concordia University in Montreal shows that the occasional bout of bad feelings can actually improve students' academic success.

A study published in Developmental Psychology by Erin Barker, professor of psychology in Concordia's Faculty of Arts and Science, shows that students who were mostly happy during their four years of university but who also experienced occasional negative moods had the highest GPAs at the time of graduation.

In contrast, the study also confirmed that students who experienced high levels of negative moods and low levels of positive moods often ended up with the lowest GPAs -- a pattern consistent with depressive disorders.

"Students often report feeling overwhelmed and experiencing high levels of anxiety and depressive symptoms," says Barker, who is also a member of the Centre for Research in Human Development.

"This study shows that we need to teach them strategies to both manage negative emotions and stress in productive ways, and to maintain positive emotional experiences."


These findings demonstrate that both negative and positive emotions play a role in our successes.

"We often think that feeling bad is bad for us. But if you're generally a happy person, negative emotions can be motivating. They can signal to you that there is a challenge that you need to face. Happy people usually have coping resources and support that they draw on to meet that challenge."


Weakening polar vortex may yield longer, harsher winters in North America

By Michael Kuhne

Longer, harsher winters may be in store for the portions of North America as the polar vortex continues to weaken and shifts, according to a new study.

The polar vortex is a large pocket of frigid air that hovers above the polar regions, and is most prominent in the winter months.

Researchers at China's Lanzhou University penned the study, which was published in Nature Climate Change last month.

Lanzhou researchers found that a loss of sea ice in the Arctic regions due to rising temperatures in the Barents-Kara seas, along with an increase in snow cover over Europe and Asia, has caused the polar vortex to weaken. The pocket of cold air has in turn shifted toward Eurasia.

This movement could lead to colder and possibly extended winter seasons for portions of North America and Eurasia, according to the study.


The polar vortex in winter can extend well into the atmosphere and at times be more than 100,000 feet deep, AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Bob Smerbeck said.

A weaker polar vortex allows the stratosphere, or a distant part of the Earth's atmosphere, to warm, while a stronger one prevents that process, according to Vallee.

"The stratospheric vortex typically governs the tropospheric vortex [in the lower part of the Earth's atmosphere] during the winter months and is based on polar heating and cooling," Vallee said.

"As the stratosphere warms in winter, it can reverse the wind direction below it," he said.

This could block high pressure systems from taking shape in the high latitudes of the Earth, which would increase opportunities for cold in the mid-latitudes.

According to Smerbeck, the southern shift could bring the other end of the polar vortex toward eastern North America, yielding colder winters for the region.

"There are other factors that determine where the vortex sets up," Smerbeck said. "The warm blob over the north Pacific in winter 2013-2014 and the unusually warm waters along the west coast of North America [for the] 2014-2015 winter contributed to a southward dip in the vortex across eastern North America and cold winters in the central and eastern U.S."

Smerbeck said there is a lot of research still being conducted,


Loss of soil carbon due to climate change will be 'huge'


Public Release: 30-Nov-2016
Loss of soil carbon due to climate change will be 'huge'
Netherlands Institute of Ecology (NIOO-KNAW)

55 trillion kilograms: that's how much carbon could be released into the atmosphere from the soil by mid-century if climate change isn't stopped. And all in the form of greenhouse gases such as CO2 and methane. Tom Crowther (NIOO-KNAW) and his team are publishing the results of a worldwide study into the effects of climate change on the soil in the issue of Nature that comes out on 1 December.

For decades, scientists have speculated that rising global temperatures might affect the huge amount of carbon stored in the soil. Carbon is one of the building blocks of life, and nowhere on land are larger carbon stocks to be found than in the soil.

Thousands of studies worldwide have produced mixed signals on whether the soil's storage capacity will decrease as the planet warms, or perhaps even increase.

A new, worldwide study led by researcher Tom Crowther (Netherlands Institute of Ecology NIOO-KNAW, formerly of Yale University) finally answers that question: "The effect will be roughly equivalent to adding another industrialized country to the planet, the size of the United States."

"If climate change isn't stopped, an additional 55 trillion kilograms of carbon will be released into the atmosphere by the year 2050", says Crowther. It will be released in the form of CO2 or methane: greenhouse gases, speeding up what would otherwise have been a natural process.

"It's about 17 percent more than the projected emissions due to human-related activities during that period", says Crowther. And those greenhouse gases could further accelerate global warming, which would have even more of an impact on the soil: a full-fledged domino effect.

So why was this not obvious all along? Because researchers were looking in the wrong places, argues Crowther. "With data from more than 40 institutes around the world, covering 20 years, our scope is now finally worldwide."


The release of those stocks - built up over thousands of years - will be accelerated by climate change because it stimulates soil life. Micro-organisms in the soil, in particular, will become more active.

Factors that could slow down this process, or speed it up even further, should also be considered. With more CO2 in the atmosphere, for instance, plant growth will also be accelerated. That's why the international researchers have reserved a margin for the extra emissions: between 12% and 17%.


NIH study links morning sickness to lower risk of pregnancy loss


Sept. 26, 2016

A new analysis by researchers at the National Institutes of Health has provided the strongest evidence to date that nausea and vomiting during pregnancy is associated with a lower risk of miscarriage in pregnant women. The study, appearing in JAMA Internal Medicine, was conducted by researchers at NIH’s Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) and other institutions.

Nausea and vomiting that occurs in pregnancy is often called “morning sickness,” as these symptoms typically begin in the morning and usually resolve as the day progresses. For most women, nausea and vomiting subside by the 4th month of pregnancy. Others may have these symptoms for the duration of their pregnancies. The cause of morning sickness is not known, but researchers have proposed that it protects the fetus against toxins and disease-causing organisms in foods and beverages.

“It’s a common thought that nausea indicates a healthy pregnancy, but there wasn’t a lot of high-quality evidence to support this belief,” said the study’s first author, Stefanie N. Hinkle, Ph.D, a staff scientist in NICHD’s Epidemiology Branch. “Our study evaluates symptoms from the earliest weeks of pregnancy, immediately after conception, and confirms that there is a protective association between nausea and vomiting and a lower risk of pregnancy loss.”


Trevor Noah: Let’s Not Be Divided. Divided People Are Easier to Rule.

I suggest reading the whole article at the following link

Born in South Africa to an interracial couple at a time when such relationships were illegal under apartheid, Trevor Noah weaves observations about race and ethnicity into his comedy. He has hosted various television shows in South Africa, including “Tonight with Trevor Noah,” and is currently host of “The Daily Show,” based in New York City.


When I took over “The Daily Show” from Jon Stewart in 2015, I was surprised to learn that my job as a late-night comedy host was not merely to entertain but to eviscerate — to attack, crush, demolish and destroy the opponents of liberal, progressive America. Very quickly, people from some quarters — mostly those same liberal progressives — criticized me for not maintaining the minimum acceptable levels of daily evisceration that were established by my predecessor.

The truth is that Jon never liked being labeled the Great Eviscerator. He didn’t think it was healthy, and he always tried to think about the details of issues with a healthy dose of skepticism before going on air and putting his ideas out into the world.


The experience of stepping into Jon’s shoes brought on enormous culture shock for me. In South Africa, where I come from, we also use comedy to critique and analyze, and while we don’t let our politicians off the hook, we don’t eviscerate one another. If anything, my stand-up shows back home are a place where we can push away the history of apartheid’s color classifications — where black, white, colored and Indian people use laughter to deal with shared trauma and pain. In South Africa, comedy brings us together. In America, it pulls us apart.


America, I’ve found, doesn’t like nuance. Either black people are criminals, or cops are racist — pick one. It’s us versus them. You’re with us, or you’re against us. This national mentality is fueled by the hysteria of a 24-hour news cycle, by the ideological silos of social media and by the structure of the country’s politics. The two-party system seems to actively encourage division where none needs to exist.


The past year has been so polarizing and noxious that even I find myself getting caught up in the extreme grandstanding and vitriol. But with extremes come deadlock and the death of progress. Instead of speaking in measured tones about what unites us, we are screaming at each other about what divides us — which is exactly what authoritarian figures like Mr. Trump want: Divided people are easier to rule. That was, after all, the whole point of apartheid.


To the extremists and true believers of any cause, there is an idea that moderation and compromise are simply a prelude to selling out and giving up, when in fact the opposite is true — moderation brings radical ideas to the center to make them possible.


Sadly, given what we’ve seen in this election, Mr. Trump’s victory has only amplified the voices of extremism. It has made their arguments more simplistic and more emotional at a time when they ought to be growing more subtle and more complex. We should give no quarter to intolerance and injustice in this world, but we can be steadfast on the subject of Mr. Trump’s unfitness for office while still reaching out to reason with his supporters. We can be unwavering in our commitment to racial equality while still breaking bread with the same racist people who’ve oppressed us. I know it can be done because I had no choice but to do it, and it is the reason I am where I am today.

When you grow up in the middle, you see that life is more in the middle than it is on the sides. The majority of people are in the middle, the margin of victory is almost always in the middle, and very often the truth is there as well, waiting for us.


Sunday, December 04, 2016

In Macedonia's fake news hub, this teen shows how it's done

I've included an example below of the harm this garbage can do, in addition to affecting our election.


Dec. 2, 2016

On the second floor of a noisy sports center in the Macedonian town of Veles, a teenage purveyor of fake news cracked open his laptop and laid out his case for why lying is more lucrative than the truth.

Real news gets reported everywhere, he argued. Made-up stories are unique.

“The fake news is the good news,” the 18-year-old said, pointing to a graph showing his audience figures, which reached into the hundreds of thousands, a bling watch clasped firmly around his wrist. “A fake news article is way more opened than any other.”

BuzzFeed News identified Veles as a hub of the fake news industry seeding sensationalized or falsified information across Facebook. A reporter from Britain’s Channel 4 News chased the industry’s adolescent kingpins across town, cornering one 16-year-old fake news baron who said he had no plans to stop — even though he acknowledged it was wrong.

But there were no such qualms from the teenager who spoke to The Associated Press at Veles’ Gemdidzii Sports Hall.

Retreating from a spirited indoor soccer game into an empty office, he walked an AP journalist through the ins-and-outs of his fake news operation on condition that neither he nor his stable of bogus news sites would be identified, because otherwise that would hurt his business.

He showed the AP how he ripped much of his material off The Political Insider, a right-wing news site that produces a steady drumbeat of pro-Donald Trump pieces. He then flipped over to Google Analytics, an audience tracking tool, to show that he’d managed to gather more than 685,000 page views a week.


Using the web intelligence service Domain Tools, the AP confirmed that the teen is behind more than a dozen different websites, including knockoffs of well-known U.S. media outlets. Typical headlines include “Wow! Queen Elizabeth Invited Trump - This Is A Game Changer” or “BREAKING: What George Soros Just Did Will Leave You SICK!” Both pieces carried untrue or questionable assertions.

A simple Domain Tools search revealed roughly 200 U.S.-oriented news websites registered in Veles, most created within the last 12 months.

These sites tend to follow one of two patterns: Some masquerade as well-known outlets like The New York Times or Fox News, while others operate under made-in-America-sounding names like USA Daily News 24. That latter site’s lead story — “Michelle Obama DEMANDS Americans PAY UP To Give Her Mom A Cushy $160k Pension” — is entirely false.


For the residents of Veles, a Macedonian rust belt town of 50,000 people with shuttered factories and high unemployment, the thousands of dollars brought in by fake news operations aren’t necessarily unwelcome.

“They see it in a positive way,” said local journalist Petar Peckov. “They say, ‘The boys are working. There is money and we will benefit from it.’”

For everyone else on Facebook, Veles’ new cottage industry means a bewildering assault of misinformation and propaganda.

“Telling real from fake is difficult when people are intentionally trying to mask this from you,” said Robyn Caplan, a researcher at Data & Society, a New York-based institute that studies the cultural impact of technological change.

“The headlines that this Macedonian guy was using would have, could have been found a few years ago on something like — not in the same political sentiment — on Upworthy or on Elite Daily” she said in a telephone interview, referring to two websites that pioneered the viral news phenomenon. “They’re building off of practices that people have become really used to.”

The Macedonian teenager says he’s indifferent to politics. He sees it all as a money-making scheme, as well as a preparation for his career after high school, where he has been studying marketing and politics.

Shrugging off the handwringing over the ethics of fake news, he said the onus was on readers.

“They can read it if they want to,” he said. “I’m not the one pushing them to click on the article.”

[Example of the stupid stuff people can be led to believe. Seeing the stupid stuff my own Facebook friends fall for, this is not surprising, but is disheartening. And I'm supposed to believe humans are the best thing a force that created the universe could come up with?


Dec. 4, 2016

Late last month, Comet Ping Pong was the subject of a fake news report. It is unclear if the incident is related.

As CBS affiliate WUSA reported previously, using the hashtag #PizzaGate, an imaginary story about the popular pizza shop was spread, accusing it to be the center of a child sex slave ring organized by Hillary Clinton and her former campaign manager.

As a result, the pizza place was hammered by thousands of threats, and bizarre, unsubstantiated tales about child sex trafficking.

WUSA reported that they found two women, who declined to give their names, banging on the patio at the pizza place in late November. The women were looking for the alleged tunnels used to traffic children.

“All of this is an underground tunnel that helps take the kids and transport them back and forth so they can can do these rituals,” said one of them. “They are putting a lot of curses and spells over the city. They are kidnapping the children who are missing. They were never missing because D.C. know where they are.”

Comet Ping Pong owner James Alefantis said then that the restaurant does not even have a basement.

He said he suspected the story simply emerged because he and a friend supported the Clinton campaign.

“These people are destroying their lives,” said neighbor Maura Dougherty about the conspiracy theorists. “It’s insane.”

Before the latest incident, Comet Ping Pong’s owner told WUSA that the PizzaGate conspirators have also harassed and abused his staff. The manager got so many threats and vulgar messages, his wife asked him to quit his job. And the online bullies have gone after other businesses on the block as well.