Wednesday, October 01, 2014

Bipartisan Bill Would Help Out-Of-Work Coal Miners Find New Jobs

by Katie Valentine Posted on September 29, 2014

Two lawmakers want to make life a little easier for coal miners who have lost their jobs in recent years.

Rep. Peter Welch (D-VT) and Rep. David McKinley (R-WV) introduced legislation this month that would create a program to help transition out-of-work coal miners into new jobs. The bill, called the Healthy Employee Loss Prevention Act (HELP Act), would create a “worker adjustment assistance program” that would help former coal miners with finding jobs or retraining programs.

“Across West Virginia communities are being decimated by what’s happening to the coal industry,” McKinley said in a statement. “Coal miners and other workers are being hurt by factors beyond their control, whether it’s regulations or market forces. It’s only fair we do something to help these struggling families. This legislation represents a bipartisan effort to move beyond our differences and offer help to the proud men and women of the coal industry who are out of work.”


“American coal workers are national heroes,” Welch said in a statement. “With grit and determination, they fueled America’s rise to an economic powerhouse. While there are strongly held views in Congress on climate change and energy policy, there should be no disagreement that America has an obligation to ensure displaced workers in the coal industry transition successfully to good jobs in other sectors.”


Welch and McKinley’s legislation isn’t the first initiative aimed at getting out-of-work coal miners back into jobs. In June, the Department of Labor announced a $7.5 million award to Eastern Kentucky Concentrated Employment Program Inc. (EKCEP) to help former coal miners in Kentucky find new jobs. West Virginia received a similar Department of Labor grant in 2012.

Both states have been hit hard by the coal industry’s downturn: in 2013, there were fewer coal jobs in Kentucky than there had been since record-keeping began in the state in 1927. New mining practices, such as mountaintop removal, have contributed to the loss in traditional mining jobs, and the coal industry has also suffered economically due to competition from natural gas, which has emerged as a cheap fuel source in the United States.


Record California Drought Directly Linked To Climate Change

by Joe Romm Posted on September 29, 2014

A Stanford study funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF) confirms a growing body of research that finds “The atmospheric conditions associated with the unprecedented drought in California are very likely linked to human-caused climate change.”

The NSF news release, headlined, “Cause of California drought linked to climate change,” explains:

Climate scientist Noah Diffenbaugh of Stanford University and colleagues used a novel combination of computer simulations and statistical techniques to show that a persistent region of high atmospheric pressure over the Pacific Ocean–one that diverted storms away from California–was much more likely to form in the presence of modern greenhouse gas concentrations.

Unprecedented droughts often combine a reduction in precipitation with higher temperatures that increase evaporation, leaving soil parched. As the NSF notes in this case, “Combined with unusually warm temperatures and stagnant air conditions, the lack of precipitation has triggered a dangerous increase in wildfires and incidents of air pollution across the state.”

We know, of course, that global warming is making heat waves longer and stronger and more frequent, which in turn makes droughts worse everywhere. But climate change is also causing reduced precipitation in many regions, such as the Mediterranean and southwestern United States. This double whammy from carbon pollution means we’ll be seeing more and more dangerous record droughts.


scientists a decade ago not only predicted the loss of Arctic ice would dry out California, they also precisely predicted the specific, unprecedented change in the jet stream that has in fact caused the unprecedented nature of the California drought.


Ebola cases 2000 - 2013

I have been seeing/hearing some people claiming that the lack of an Ebola vaccine is sign of racism.

There have been few Ebola cases before this outbreak, not enough to pay drug companies for research. There are many more people in this country with MS, Parkinson's, Lupus, and little effective treatment. Not everything is racial. And why don't African countries develop an Ebola vaccine, since that has been where the problem is?

For 2000 - 2012, I found the following totals, based on the following CDC article and follow-up links. I don't know about 2013, couldn't find any.

Total cases (probable and confirmed) 920
Total deaths 626

Ebola Outbreaks 2000-2014
This section has archived postings of outbreaks that have occurred since the year 2000.

The 2014 Ebola outbreak is the largest in history and the first Ebola epidemic the world has ever known — affecting multiple countries in West Africa.


2012 Total cases (probable and confirmed) 108
Total deaths 57

As of December 2, 2012, the Ugandan Ministry of Health reported 7 cumulative cases (probable and confirmed) of Ebola virus infection, including 4 deaths, in the Luwero District of central Uganda.

Democratic Republic of Congo The November 26 Press Release reports a final total of 77 cases, including 36 laboratory-confirmed cases, 17 probable and 24 suspect cases, with a total of 36 deaths.

On July 28, 2012, the Uganda Ministry of Health reported an outbreak of Ebola Hemorrhagic Fever in the Kibaale District of Uganda. A total of 24 human cases (probable and confirmed only), 17 of which were fatal, were reported starting at the beginning of July. Laboratory tests of blood samples, conducted by the Uganda Virus Research Institute (UVRI) and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), confirmed Ebola virus in 11 patients, four of whom died.



On May 14, 2011, the Ugandan Ministry of Health informed the public that a patient with suspected Ebola Hemorrhagic fever died on May 6, 2011 in the Luwero district, Uganda.


2008 - 2010 no cases reported


2007 Total cases (probable and confirmed) 398
Total deaths 220

Uganda Ebola Hemorrhagic Fever Outbreak. As the outbreak neared conclusion in January 2008, the total number of suspected cases was 149, with 37 deaths.

Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) Ebola Hemorrhagic Fever Outbreak. On October 1, 2007, the total of suspected cases was 249 with 183 deaths.


2005 - 2006 no cases reported


2004: Ebola Hemorrhagic Fever Outbreak in south Sudan.

20 cases, including 5 deaths


2003: Ebola Hemorrhagic Fever Outbreak in The Republic of the Congo

As of 2 December 2003, the Ministry of Health of the Republic of the Congo has reported a total of 47 cases, including 28 deaths, of Ebola haemorrhagic fever (EHF) in Mbomo District, Cuvette Ouest Department


2002: Ebola Hemorrhagic Fever Outbreak in Gabon and The Republic of the Congo

Total cases (probable and confirmed) 92
Total deaths 69

Gabon: On 20 March 2002, the Gabonese Ministry of Health reported 60 confirmed cases, including 50 deaths.

Republic of the Congo: As of 22 March 2002, 32 confirmed cases, including 19 deaths have been reported in villages in Cuvette region, Republic of the Congo.


2001: Ebola haemorrhagic fever in Gabon/The Republic of the Congo

As of 30 December, 30 confirmed cases (14 laboratory and 16 epidemiologically linked), including 22 deaths, have been reported. An additional 5 suspected cases are under investigation in Gabon.

Of the 30 cases, 18 were detected in Gabon and 12 in the neighbouring villages of the Republic of the Congo.


Outbreak of Ebola Hemorrhagic Fever ---Uganda, August 2000--January 2001

As of January 23, 2001, 425 presumptive* case-patients with 224 (53%) deaths attributed to EHF were recorded from three districts in Uganda: 393 (93%) from Gulu, 27 (6%) from Masindi, and five (1%) from Mbarara. The combined area comprises approximately 11,700 square miles (31,000 square kilometers; 2000 combined population: 1.8 million)

Another Record Rainfall in Southern France

Because of global warming, the atmosphere has contains more moisture than it used to. When it comes into contact with colder air, it can result in heavier precipitation.

By: Christopher C. Burt , 8:12 PM GMT on September 30, 2014

It is hard to believe that another rainstorm of equal intensity to that which I blogged about just 11 days ago has again struck the Languedoc Region of Southern France. This time the focus of the storm was centered over the city of Montpellier, Herault District, near the Mediterranean Coast.

Montpellier, a city of some 240,000, was deluged with an all-time 24-hour record 299 mm (11.77”) of rainfall between 8 a.m September 29th and 8 a.m. (local time) September 30th. This is the equivalent of almost four times the average monthly precipitation for September in the city. Its previous 24-hour rainfall record was 187 mm (7.36”) on September 22, 2003. Some private weather stations in Montpellier reported totals of up to 325 mm (12.80”) according to a German weather forum monitored by Michael Theusner of Klimahaus in Bremerhaven, Germany.

Of the official 299 mm total in Montpellier, an amazing 184 mm (7.24”) of this fell in just two hours between 3 p.m. and 5 p.m. on Monday (September 29th) and 252 mm (9.92”) in three hours from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m.


The two-hour total would be a new French national record for rainfall intensity, surpassing the 180 mm (7.09”) measured at Saint-Gervais-sur-Mare just 13 days ago on September 16th! Prior to this month’s extreme rainfalls, the previous greatest two-hour rainfall total observed in France was 178.4 mm (7.02”) at Solenzara on October 26, 1979. However, it should be noted that records in France for short-duration rainfalls only go back to the 1960s or 1970s and do not include every meteorological site in the country. Nevertheless, it is pretty shocking that two such amazing rain events have occurred in the same region over just a two-week period. Fortunately, unlike the September 16-18 event (when four died), it appears that, so far, no known fatalities have occurred with the storm in Montpellier.


The storm brought this September’s total rainfall amount to 350 mm (13.78”), which is also a new monthly record (previous record being 293.2 mm (11.54”) in September 2003.

The cause of the intense rainfalls in both cases of September 16-18 and September 29 is an atmospheric set-up that is typical during the autumn in this part of the Mediterranean region (including Spain and Italy): warm, humid air flowing off the Mediterranean Sea collides with cooler dry air emanating from the Alpine region while a cold upper-air low rests over the area. Most of the greatest rainfall events in Spain, France, and Italy have occurred during September and October when this type of scenario is in play.


It takes a lot of resources to run Facebook

If you don't Facebook to run ads and sell info, how do you want them to acquire the money to run it?

Note that this info is almost a year old, so there would be many more users and equipment now.

by Rich Miller on November 20, 2013


Each Facebook data center operations staffer can manage at least 20,000 servers, and for some admins the number can be as high as 26,000 systems, according to Delfina Eberly, Director of Data Center Operations at Facebook.


Data center operations is a critical skill at Facebook, which now has 1.15 billion users, including 720 million who log in daily. Each day, Facebook users share 4.75 billion content items and “like” 4.5 billion items. The company now stores more than 240 billion photos, and adds 7 petabytes of photo storage each month.


By Stacey Higginbotham
Jun. 19, 2013

Facebook has “hundreds of thousands of machines” on its network, according to one of its executives who may have disclosed more than he intended at the GigaOM Structure conference in San Francisco on Wednesday. In an interview with me, Najam Ahmad, director, technical operations, infrastructure, let it slip that the fabric the social networking company is building needs to help it manage “hundreds of thousands of machines.”

This is the closest thing we have to a server count for the social network, which is notoriously secretive about how many boxes it has.


It’s possible that Ahmad could have been referring to more than just servers: it might include, storage, networking switches and so on. But while the comment isn’t exact, it gets me a lot closer to the server count I have so craved.

Stranded Walrus Are A ‘New Phenomenon’ And We Don’t Know How Bad It Will Get

by Katie Valentine Posted on October 1, 2014

The gathering of 35,000 walrus on a beach in northwest Alaska this week after they couldn’t find their preferred resting grounds of summer sea ice was a notable occurrence in terms of its sheer size, but it wasn’t an isolated event.

Walrus have been gathering on Alaska’s shore in huge numbers almost every year since 2007, a relatively new phenomenon that has scientists working to determine how this change in resting grounds affects the walrus’ behavior, food supply, and health. Typically, Pacific walrus, which don’t have the stamina to swim indefinitely and depend on sea ice for places to rest periodically, follow sea ice in the Bering Sea as it recedes north in the summer, ending up in the Chukchi Sea off the coast of Alaska. This year — and every year since 2007 besides 2008, when there was just enough sea ice left for the walrus to make use of — all the summer sea ice disappeared, causing a record 35,000 walrus to convene on an Alaska beach.


“The massive concentration of walruses onshore — when they should be scattered broadly in ice-covered waters — is just one example of the impacts of climate change on the distribution of marine species in the Arctic,” Margaret Williams, managing director of the World Wildlife Fund’s Arctic program, said.


Under normal conditions, during their fall migration, walrus rest briefly on sea ice before returning to the sea to forage for food and continue on their way South. But Fisbach said that these huge groups of walrus can remain on the Alaska shore for three to five weeks at a time, with individual walrus entering the sea to forage and returning to the beach to rest periodically. Fisbach said this behavior raises “lots of questions” about whether the walrus will run out of food in the surrounding area, due to the high numbers of walrus competing for food.

“Occupying these areas and foraging these areas concentrates tens of thousands of walruses in a smaller area that is already known to be less rich than their off-shore foraging ground, and there is a concern that they could deplete the resources,” he said. “We don’t have a good measure of that — these are simply hypotheses or concerns we have.”


Monday, September 29, 2014

The young women taking aim at ISIS

By Holly Williams September 29, 2014



The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) controls territory on both sides of the border -- land the group refers to as the "Islamic State." But in northeastern Syria, they're meeting resistance from a rag-tag army of Kurdish fighters, and we wanted to meet them.


a Kurdish commander, Omran Hussein, has set up camp.

A strapping former tailor who never stops smiling and pairs his military fatigues with a flower-patterned headscarf, Commander Hussein has just 40 soldiers to hold off ISIS.

"Not enough," he told us, "but they're all I have."

Ten of his fighters are women -- some of them teenagers -- and according to Commander Hussein, they're some of his best soldiers.

"There's no difference between the men and the women," he said. "Some of them are even better fighters than I am."

One of them is 19-year-old Akina Akin, a five-foot tall dynamo who's already battle hardened after two years of fighting.

We asked her if she was frightened of being captured by ISIS -- which has become notorious for kidnapping and raping women and girls in its territory.

"I'm not afraid," she said with a defiant toss of her head. "I'll blow myself up before I let them catch me."

In ISIS territory women must cover their faces, and everyone is subject to a strict version of Islamic law. The Kurdish fighters are also Muslims, but they follow a very different version of Islam.

Asked if ISIS -- as it claims -- practices a "pure" form of Sunni Islam, Commander Hussein guffawed.

"I might be a bit Westernized, but I'm still a Muslim," he told us. "ISIS is killing people, and real Muslims don't kill innocent civilians."


But Commander Hussein told us that, so far, the air campaign has had little impact on the ground.

He's still hopeful, though, that the U.S. will come to the rescue -- with more airstrikes, and a desperately-needed infusion of weapons to battle the well-armed extremists.

"Tell America we need weapons," he said. "If we can't defeat ISIS, their next target will be Europe and the U.S."

War in the land of women

By Holly Williams September 29, 2014



What we didn't expect to find was a society that -- unusual in the Middle East -- appeared to be dominated by women.

A mile away from ISIS positions we met four young female soldiers. The oldest was 24, the youngest only 19. All of them were students before they joined up.

Middle Eastern communities tend to be more conservative than those in the West. Segregation is common, and many Muslim women cover their heads as an act of religious piety.

But dressed in combat fatigues, their heads uncovered and mixing freely with the male soldiers, the women fighters saw nothing unusual in playing a role in active combat. Their commander told us that about a third of the fighting force in Syrian Kurdistan is made up of women.

"I'll stay and fight for as long as it takes to defeat them, as long as I live," said Akina Akin, who at 19 is already a battle-hardened warrior.


In the nearby Kurdish town of Rmaylan, however, the regional government seemed to be almost entirely staffed by women. The head of the government is Hadiya Yusuf, who told us she spent two years in a Syrian government prison after pushing for democratic reforms.

Yusuf pulled no punches when we asked her about the American airstrikes in Syria, which began a week ago.

"We don't think they're hitting the right targets," she told us, suggesting the U.S. might want to communicate with her administration.

Over cups of sweet tea after our interview, one of Yusuf's assistants told us her team was "fighting for all women, everywhere."

The powerful role of Kurdish women in Syria is no aberration. Across the border to the north in Turkey, where the Kurdish minority has a tense relationship with Turkish authorities, Kurdish women also play key roles in the political leadership.

Our Kurdish translator Omar Omar has a theory about why women have become more powerful in Kurdish communities than in many other Middle Eastern societies.

"We've spent centuries fighting wars with Arabs and Persians," he told us, "and they've always tried to force their version of Islam on us. In reaction, we've gone the other way, and become more liberal."

Sunday, September 28, 2014

How to become a rich doctor - kickbacks

Jay Bookman
September 23rd, 2014

> News
> Opinion

Jay Bookman

Posted: 10:04 am Tuesday, September 23rd, 2014
Yet another reason why health care can’t be left to the marketplace

3 54 6 194

< C’mon. Even Darrell Issa admits jobless numbers weren’t manipulated. Warmest August on record, warmest summer on record …. >

By Jay Bookman

In an article in the New York Times on Sunday, we are introduced to Peter Drier, a 37-year-old man in need of neck surgery. He and his insurance company negotiate fees with his surgeon and anesthesiologist, both of whom are in his insurance network. His surgeon, for example, agreed to charge $6,200 for the procedure.

At some point, however, an assistant surgeon was called in without Drier’s knowledge, and from outside his insurance network. Afterward, the assistant surgeon sent Drier a bill for his services: $117,000, almost 19 times as much as the in-network primary surgeon had charged. Rather than fight the bill, Drier’s insurance company chose to pay the full amount.

And Drier’s experience is far from unique.


” …. in an increasingly common practice that some medical experts call drive-by doctoring, assistants, consultants and other hospital employees are charging patients or their insurers hefty fees. They may be called in when the need for them is questionable. And patients usually do not realize they have been involved or are charging until the bill arrives.


As Rosenthal points out, the cheaper, in-network surgeon in such cases often gets a share of the enormous payment to the out-of-network colleague that he or she calls in to “assist”. In most other lines of work, that would be called a kickback, but in the medical industry it is perfectly legal in most states.


Such stories add to the mountainous evidence that the self-correcting features of the free enterprise system that work fine in other areas are absolutely incapable of regulating the medical industry. The information imbalance between the patient and the provider is much too vast; the power discrepancy between patient and provider is much too vast; the process is too complex. In short, when medical decisions are left “to the patient and his or her doctor,” the patient is at a huge disadvantage.

Floods, forest fires, expanding deserts: the future has arrived

Robin McKie Science Editor
Saturday 27 September 2014

Climate change is no longer viewed by mainstream scientists as a future threat to our planet and our species. It is a palpable phenomenon that already affects the world, they insist. And a brief look round the globe certainly provides no lack of evidence to support this gloomy assertion.

In Bangladesh, increasingly severe floods – triggered, in part, by increasing temperatures and rising sea levels – are wiping out crops and destroying homes on a regular basis. In Sudan, the heat is causing the Sahara to expand and to eat into farmland, while in Siberia, the planet's warming is causing the permafrost to melt and houses to subside.

Or consider the Marshall Islands, the Pacific archipelago that is now struggling to cope with rising seas that are lapping over its streets and gardens. Even the home of the country's president Christopher Loeak is feeling the effects. "He has had to build a wall around his house to prevent the salt water from inundating," Tony de Brum, the islands' foreign minister, revealed recently.


Across the planet, it is getting harder and harder to find shelter from the storm. And things are only likely to get worse, say researchers.

As Europe continues to heat up, energy demands are expected to drop in northern countries, but equally they are destined to soar around the Mediterranean and in the south where there will be a desperate need for cooling and air-conditioning that will drive up power costs.

By the middle of the century, forest fires and severe heatwaves will be increasingly common while crops will be devastated and vineyards will be scorched.

Similarly, in the Alps, lack of snow and melting ice will make skiing, walking and climbing far less enticing for tourists.


Other parts of the world face different problems created by the billions of tonnes of carbon dioxide that we now pump into the atmosphere from factories, power plants and cars. In Asia the main issue concerns the presence and absence of water. In the south-east of the region, continued sea-level rises threaten to further erode farmlands and coastal towns and cities, while inland it will be water scarcity that will affect most people's lives. In this latter case, higher temperatures will combine with lack of water to trigger major reductions in rice yields.

In its latest report, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change estimates that up to 139 million people could face food shortages at least once a decade by 2070.

Perhaps most alarming of all the forecasts that concern the future warming of our planet is the work of Camilo Mora at the University of Hawaii. His research – which involved using a range of climate models to predict temperatures on a grid that covered the globe – suggests that by 2047 the planet's climate systems will have changed to such an extent that the coldest years then will be warmer than even the hottest years that were experienced at any time in the 20th century.

"Go back in your life to think about the hottest, most traumatic event you have experienced," Mora said in an interview with the New York Times recently. "What we are saying is that very soon, that event is going to become the norm."


California harvest much smaller than normal across crops

By Dale Kasler, The Sacramento Bee
Published: Sunday, Sep. 28, 2014

It’s harvest time in much of California, and the signs of drought are almost as abundant as the fruits and nuts and vegetables.

One commodity after another is feeling the impact of the state’s epic water shortage. The great Sacramento Valley rice crop, served in sushi restaurants nationwide and exported to Asia, will be smaller than usual. Fewer grapes will be available to produce California’s world-class wines, and the citrus groves of the San Joaquin Valley are producing fewer oranges. There is less hay and corn for the state’s dairy cows, and the pistachio harvest is expected to shrink.

Even the state’s mighty almond business, which has become a powerhouse in recent years, is coming in smaller than expected. That’s particularly troubling to the thousands of farmers who sacrificed other crops in order to keep their almond orchards watered.

While many crops have yet to be harvested, it’s clear that the drought has carved a significant hole in the economy of rural California. Farm income is down, so is employment, and Thursday’s rain showers did little to change the equation.

An estimated 420,000 acres of farmland went unplanted this year, or about 5 percent of the total. Economists at UC Davis say agriculture, which has been a $44 billion-a-year business in California, will suffer revenue losses and higher water costs – a financial hit totaling $2.2 billion this year.


The human cost shows up at rural food banks, which are reporting higher demand for assistance from farmworkers and their families. At the Bethel Spanish Assembly of God, a church in the Tulare County city of Farmersville, the number of families receiving food aid every two weeks has jumped from about 40 last year to more than 200. Farmersville, a city of 10,000, is at the heart of a region that grows an array of crops, from lemons to pistachios to grapes.

“Some of them are working ... but they’re not putting in the hours,” said the Rev. Leonel Benavides, who is also Farmersville’s mayor.


The effect goes beyond the farm fields. N&S Tractor, which sells Case IH brand farm equipment throughout the Central Valley, has seen business tail off as farmers conserve cash.

“It’s not just our dealership,” said N&S marketing director Tim McConiga Jr., who works out of the company’s sales office in Glenn County. “You talk to John Deere, you talk to Caterpillar, everyone is going to tell you their numbers are down.”


Friday, September 26, 2014

Breast Cancer and Night Light

November 13, 2013

The results of several studies suggest that women who work at night -- factory workers, doctors, nurses, and police officers, for example -- have a higher risk of breast cancer compared to women who work during the day. Other research suggests that women who live in areas with high levels of external light at night (street lights, for example) have a higher risk of breast cancer.

Researchers think that this increase in risk is linked to melatonin levels.


It's not clear how much darkness is required to turn on melatonin production. Closing your eyes does a fairly good job of blocking light, but thick curtains or an eye mask can make sure you're sleeping in darkness. If you're concerned about excess light exposure at night, you may want to:

install blackout shades on your bedroom windows
don't turn on lights if you wake up at night
use low-wattage or red bulbs in nightlights
install a low-wattage or red-bulb nightlight in your bathroom(s)


Record Fall Heat in the U.S. and Canadian High Plains

By: Christopher C. Burt , 7:53 PM GMT on September 26, 2014

Temperatures on Thursday, September 25th, soared to record levels for this time of the year in Montana, Wyoming, western North Dakota, and the south-central Canadian Plains. Here are a few details.

After a relatively cool summer, an early fall heat wave engulfed the U.S. and Canadian High Plains on Thursday sending temperatures close to 100°F in North Dakota and Montana.


In Canada, Esteven, Saskatchewan hit 34.3°C (93.7°F) and Brandon, Manitoba 34.0°C (93.2°F). Both sites are near 50°N latitude so it goes without saying that these were the warmest temperatures ever observed for so late in the year at those sites. Jonathan Erdman at The Weather Channel pointed out that these temperatures were actually warmer than any location in Texas (93°F/33.9°C at Cotulla) for September 25th. Regina, the capital of Saskatchewan reached 33.1°C (91.6°F). Amazingly, this was the hottest temperature measured so far this year in the city! UPDATE: The 90°F (32.2°C) isotherm pushed as far north as Swan River, Manitoba (52° 07’ N) where on Friday, September 26th 35.1° (95.1°F) was observed. This may be the hottest temperature ever measured so far north so late in the year on the North American continent. The average high temperature for Swan River on September 26th is 60°F.

Jakarta, Indonesia Observes its Hottest Temperature on Record

While on the topic of heat records, it is worth noting that Maximiliano Herrera has informed me that Jakarta, Indonesia’s largest city, measured a temperature of 37.0°C (98.6°F) on September 24th at the Jakarta Observatory. This is the hottest temperature ever recorded at this site and ties the record from any of the city’s various other official weather stations (for any date of the year).


COPD patients breathe easier with Lung Flute

By Ellen Goldbaum
Release Date: September 26, 2014

Patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) report improved symptoms and health status when they use a hand-held respiratory device called the Lung Flute®, according to a new study by the University at Buffalo. Usually caused by smoking, COPD, which includes chronic bronchitis and emphysema, is the third leading cause of death in the U.S.

The Lung Flute, manufactured by Medical Acoustics, (Buffalo), uses sound waves to break up mucus in the lungs. The device allows patients to clear lung mucus simply by blowing into the hand-held respiratory device, which produces a low frequency acoustic wave.

Published on Sept. 23 in Clinical and Translational Medicine, the 26-week study demonstrates that patients using the Lung Flute experience less difficulty breathing and less coughing and sputum production than a control group, which saw no change in COPD symptoms.


The device is approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to treat COPD and other lung diseases characterized by retained secretions and congestion. It also is approved by FDA to obtain deep lung sputum samples for “laboratory analysis and pathologic examination.”

Colleagues of Sethi’s in the UB medical school are now studying the Lung Flute for use in improving symptoms in asthma. The device is also being investigated for diagnostic use in tuberculosis and lung cancer.


Sethi notes that while similar devices have been developed for cystic fibrosis, the Lung Flute is the only one that has undergone extensive testing specifically for COPD patients. In a previous study comparing a device developed for cystic fibrosis with the Lung Flute, the Lung Flute was superior for COPD patients.


New molecule found in space connotes life origins

By Blaine Friedlander
Sept. 25, 2014

Hunting from a distance of 27,000 light years, astronomers have discovered an unusual carbon-based molecule – one with a branched structure – contained within a giant gas cloud in interstellar space. Like finding a molecular needle in a cosmic haystack, astronomers have detected radio waves emitted by isopropyl cyanide. The discovery suggests that the complex molecules needed for life may have their origins in interstellar space.


This detection opens a new frontier in the complexity of molecules that can be formed in interstellar space and that might ultimately find their way to the surfaces of planets, says Garrod. The branched carbon structure of isopropyl cyanide is a common feature in molecules that are needed for life – such as amino acids, which are the building blocks of proteins. This new discovery lends weight to the idea that biologically crucial molecules, like amino acids that are commonly found in meteorites, are produced early in the process of star formation – even before planets such as Earth are formed.


Koch brothers’ group targets voters - and cats - in North Carolina

By Steve Benen
Sept. 26, 2014


Hundreds of North Carolinians – and one cat – have received incorrect voter registration information, according to the N.C. State Board of Elections.

The information – an “official application form” – was sent by Americans for Prosperity, a national conservative group with a state chapter based in Raleigh.

The News & Observer in Raleigh talked to Joshua Lawson, a public information officer for the state Board of Elections, who said the Koch brothers’ group has “caused a lot of confusion for people in the state.”

Well, yes, if someone sent my cat voter-registration materials, I’d be confused, too.

Of course, the problem goes much deeper than feline foul-ups. The far-right group also provided voters with contradictory information about the registration schedule, mislabeled envelopes, incorrect contact information for the state Board of Elections, and incorrect information about county-clerk notifications.

The materials go on to encourage North Carolinians to refer questions to the Secretary of State’s elections division. In North Carolina, the Secretary of State’s office doesn’t have an elections division.


GOP rep urges US generals ‘behind the scenes’ to resign

By Steve Benen
Sept. 26, 2014

Congressional Republican condemnations of President Obama’s foreign policy are as common as the sunrise. Congressional Republicans urging active-duty U.S. generals to resign, during a war, to protest President Obama’s foreign policy is something else entirely.

As U.S.-led airstrikes continue Friday near the Syrian border with Iraq, it’s hard to imagine what would make the situation worse than the military suddenly losing all its generals.

But that is exactly what Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-Colo.) told a group of voters he wants to see happen, the Colorado Independent reported.

“A lot of us are talking to the generals behind the scenes, saying, ‘Hey, if you disagree with the policy that the White House has given you, let’s have a resignation,’” Lamborn said Tuesday, adding that if generals resigned en masse in protest of President Barack Obama’s Middle East policy, they would “go out in a blaze of glory.”


Lamborn is running for re-election against retired Air Force Gen. Irv Halter (D), who told the Colorado Independent, “Our elected officials should not be encouraging our military leaders to resign when they have a disagreement over policy. Congressman Lamborn’s statement shows his immaturity and lack of understanding of the American armed forces. Someone who serves on the House Armed Services Committee should know better.”



Tech Executive Brags He Was Able To Hire Talented Women ‘Relatively Cheap’ Compared To Men

by Bryce Covert Posted on September 26, 201

Evan Thornley, an Australian tech executive and former politician, told a technology startup conference that when he ran a previous company, he was able to get talented women who were “relatively cheap” because of the gender wage gap.

He started out by saying that the undervaluation of women in technology presented an opportunity for his online advertising company LookSmart. “Call me opportunistic, I just thought I could get better people with less competition because we were willing to understand the skills and capabilities that many of these women had,” he said

But then he went on to say, “There’s a great arbitrage there, we would give [women] more responsibility and a greater share of the rewards than they were likely to get anywhere else and that was still often relatively cheap to someone less good of a different gender.” He said he didn’t want the gender wage gap to necessarily continue, but that it provides “an opportunity for forward thinking people.” He also drew blowback for including a slide that sarcastically said: “Women: Like men, only cheaper.”


He said he doesn’t hire the overrated, over-paid men in the sector and “others may find it a good decision for their business to hire talented women and pay them properly rather than hire less talented men and over-pay them.”


There’s also a surplus of women to choose from if a company wants to hire them. Women hold 41 percent of science and engineering degrees but fill just over a quarter of all technology jobs. A handful of big name tech companies — Apple, eBay, Facebook, Google, Pinterest, Twitter, and Yahoo — recently released their workforce demographics and no company had more than a quarter women among their technology employees.


In El Salvador: Miscarriage is A Crime

This is what happens with an absolute ban on abortion. A result of a lack of separation of religion and government.

María Teresa is serving a 40-year prison sentence for having a miscarriage. Beatriz nearly died because the government refused to let her terminate the pregnancy that was going to kill her. Liliana, who became pregnant after being raped by gang members when she was 13 years old, was forced by her government to give birth.

If you are a woman or girl in El Salvador, it doesn’t matter if you’re pregnant as a result of rape, whether you’re a child, or whether the pregnancy is a risk to your life: the government demands you give birth.




Working too much may lead to diabetes

By Robert PreidtHealthDaySeptember 26, 2014

Working long hours may increase your risk for diabetes, a new study suggests. But the finding seems to depend on your job.

Researchers examined data from prior studies involving more than 222,000 men and women in the United States, Europe, Japan and Australia who were followed for an average of 7.6 years.

The initial analysis revealed no difference in the risk of type 2 diabetes among people who worked more than 55 hours a week and those who worked 35 to 40 hours a week.

However, further analyses showed that people who worked more than 55 hours a week at manual labor or other types of "low socioeconomic status jobs" were 30 percent more likely to develop diabetes than those who worked 35 to 40 hours a week.

This increased risk remained even after the researchers accounted for diabetes risk factors such as smoking, physical activity levels, age, sex and obesity, and after the researchers excluded shift work, which increases the risk of obesity and diabetes.

Although the study, published Sept. 24 in The Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology, found an association between long work weeks and diabetes, it didn't establish a cause-and-effect relationship.

Further research is needed to learn more about the seeming link between working long hours and increased diabetes risk, the study authors said.

Possible explanations include the fact that people who work long hours have little time for healthy behaviors such as exercise, relaxation and adequate sleep.


62 percent of employers think minimum wage should be increased

I have had some small business owners tell me they thing the government should mandate something like health care or higher minimum wage because they would like to provide it for their employees, but can't afford to because their competitors don't do it, and they would not be competitive.

CHICAGO, Sept. 25, 2014 /PRNewswire/ -- With state, local, and midterm elections just five weeks away, the minimum wage remains one of the nation's top socioeconomic and political issues. Recent national polls have shown support for minimum wage increases among voters at large, and according to a new CareerBuilder survey, many businesses are right there with them.

The survey found that a strong majority of employers (62 percent) think the minimum wage in their state should be increased, including 58 percent of company senior leaders.

The nationwide survey, which was conducted online by Harris Poll on behalf of CareerBuilder from May 13 to June 6, included a representative sample of 2,188 full-time hiring and human resource managers and 3,372 full-time workers in the private sector across industries and company sizes.


Why do employers say the minimum wage should be increased? Among employers who want an increase in their state, improving the standard of living of workers led all business-related reasons for their support. A majority say a higher minimum wage helps the economy and helps them retain employees.


Interestingly, employers currently hiring minimum wage workers are more likely to support a minimum wage increase than those who are not by an 11-point margin (70 percent vs. 59 percent).


Yahoo Joins in Exodus, Ends ALEC Membership and Cuts Ties to ALEC

Posted by Jay Riestenberg on September 24, 2014

Yahoo issued the following statement to Common Cause Wednesday night:

"We’ve decided to discontinue our membership in ALEC. We periodically review our membership in organizations and, at this time, we will no longer participate in the ALEC Task Force on Communications and Technology."

Google announced that it had left ALEC on Monday, after Chairman Eric Schmidt said the organization is lying about climate change and funding them was a mistake. Facebook soon announced that is was unlikely that it would renew its ALEC membership, and Yelp confirmed to Common Cause on Wednesday that it had left the organization months ago. Microsoft also left ALEC last month.


Muslims protest ISIS at UN

Sept. 22, 2014

A group of French speaking Muslims gathered at the Place des Nations on Saturday to protest the violence being committed by ISIS and other radical Islamic groups.


The group says Islam condemns torture and oppression and the jihadist fighters are not true Muslims.


Oklahoma Muslims Rally against ISIS

OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla.- Oklahoma Muslims insist their beliefs do not coincide with those of radical extremists in the Middle East.

Today, they take a stand and say enough of being grouped with terrorists.

A rally was held at Penn Square Mall to protest ISIS and promote peace.

The rally was planned last week by people who feel passionately about their religion.


“ISIS that what you see on TV, the radical group to Islam is like the KKK to Christianity. You might claim that the KKK is not a Christian organization but they went to church every Sunday and the cross was the biggest there is and they quoted the Bible they justify killing African-Americans through verses in the Bible,” senior Imam at the Greater Oklahoma Islamic Society, Imad Enchassi said.


Members of CAIR say they’ll continue to hold protests to promote peace.


German Muslims Turn Out In Force For Nationwide Protest Against Islamic State

By Carol Kuruvilla
Sept. 20, 2014

German Muslims are fighting extremism with prayer.

Muslims from more than 2,000 mosques across Germany came out in force on Friday, using their traditional day of prayer to the counter Islamic State propaganda and draw attention to the rising tide of Islamophobia in their own country.

The show of solidarity was organized by Germany’s four main Muslim advocacy groups and attracted thousands of supporters in Berlin, Hamburg, Mölln, Bielefeld, Oldenburg, Frankfurt, and Stuttgart.

About 1,000 Muslims laid prayer mats down outside a Berlin mosque that had been damaged by an arsonist in August.

More than five German mosques have been torched in the past three weeks, Aiman Mazyek, chairman of the Central Council of Muslims told The Local.


“We want to make clear terrorists and criminals do not speak in the name of Islam, they have trampled on the commandments of our religion, and that murderers and criminals have no place in our ranks, in our religion," Mazyek said during a news conference.


French Muslims Hold Nationwide Protest Marches After Beheading

By Gregory Viscusi
Sept. 26, 2014

France’s Muslims held marches today to express their disgust after a radical Algerian group allied with Islamic State beheaded a French hostage.

Dalil Boubakeur, President of the French Council of Muslim Faith, held a gathering outside the Paris Mosque, where he is the rector.

“We, Muslims of France, are shocked by the murder of innocents; we are horrified by this barbarism, by this terrorism,” Boubakeur told a crowd of several thousand gathered after Friday prayers before a minute of silence. “With such blind barbarity, how can they talk of Islam,” He was flanked by Paris mayor Anne Hidalgo and a Catholic monseigneur.

Similar events to condemn Islamic State were held at mosques in Lyon, Nantes, and Bordeaux.

“These people don’t understand the religion,” Abdelkerim Janah, the imam of Nantes told the crowd.

Hassen Chalghoumi, the imam of Drancy, a Paris suburb with a large immigrant population, has called for a rally on Sept. 28 at Paris’s Place de la Republique.

“It is crucial that the Muslims of France and Europe come out and condemn this barbarity,” Chalghoumi said in an interview yesterday on France Info radio. “It is a duty.”


“There is the world of human beings and then there is the world of these people,” Boubakeur said on France Info radio yesterday. “I don’t know how their brains work. They are monsters.”


The rector of the Lyon mosque, Kamel Kabtane, wrote a joint letter entitled “We are dirty French too” published on newpaper Le Figaro’s website and signed by 19 French Muslims including university professors, lawyers, and doctors.

“These savages have no right to claim to be Muslim and to speak in our name,” the letter said.

Meanwhile, the #notinmyname Twitter campaign that began in Britain earlier this month, has hit France, with 56,000 tweets in the past five days, according to

The campaign, which began after a British hostage was murdered in Syria, involves individual Muslims posting photos or videos and holding signs saying “notinmyname,” to disassociate themselves from the Islam preached by Islamic State.

The Union of Islamic Organizations of France, which has been accused of being close to the hard-line Muslim Brotherhood, issued a statement two days ago “condemning with the greatest firmness the horrible assassination of our compatriot Herve Gourdel” and saying that “the Muslims of France and of the world reject any association with these crimes.”

Individual Muslim organisations have condemned Islamic State ever since it went on the offensive over the summer, threatening the stability of Iraq, and as the press reported the growing number of French youth in their ranks.

On Sept. 9, three of the largest French Muslim organizations jointly signed a statement of solidarity with Christian Iraqis threatened by Islamic State, and told mosques to read a statement in support of Arab Christians at the following Friday’s prayers.


Welfare for the super-rich at GM

A Facebook post from economist Robert Reich


Taxpayers lost $11.2 billion on the GM bailout, and we won’t get it back because the government sold its final GM shares last December. If we saved enough jobs at GM and kept the regional economy afloat, the cost was probably worth it. But I don’t get why we paid GM executives so much. Today, the Special Inspector General for the bailout program charged the Treasury Department with approving “excessive” compensation for top GM executives last year – some $3 million in pay increases for each of nine GM executives, amounting to raises ranging from 4% to 20%, The Treasury Department says it forced GM to shift more of its executive pay to stock-based compensation instead of cash, but the Inspector General reports that the Treasury approved cash salaries for 19 of 21 GM executives that were above the U.S. auto industry’s median salaries for executives at comparable levels in other companies.

It’s not as if these executives did such sterling jobs. Given GM’s failure to recall cars it knew to be unsafe, perhaps the Treasury ought to claw back these fat paychecks. Just saying.

‘Shellshock’ Threatens 500M Computers

Maybe this is why Microsoft & Firefox had updates in the last few days.

By Andrew Lumby, The Fiscal Times
September 25, 2014


Now another exploit, going by the name Shellshock, looks to pose a similar threat to machines worldwide. The impact looks to be even greater than Heartbleed’s: Where Heartbleed only affected some 500,000 machines in total, conservative estimates place Shellshock’s influence at over 500 million compromised machines.

The main problem is the location of the vulnerability – a small piece of software called Bash, which stands for Bourne-Again SHell. Bash is a fundamental element of many Unix-based operating systems – including many Linux distributions and Mac OSX. It’s the terminal where commands that are issued for controlling the system – installing software, monitoring networks, and executing code – are run.

If you’re on a Windows box, you’re not out of the woods, either. The servers of most sites that you visit run on Apache, which, as you’ve probably guessed by now, also uses Bash.

This means that a malicious hacker armed with the Shellshock code (a tiny exploit at just three lines) can execute his own malicious code on any vulnerable system. The full extent of this potential vulnerability is yet to be seen, but in theory could allow a hacker unfettered access to any data on the system – including passwords, personal files, and other sensitive information.

“Whereas something like Heartbleed was all about sniffing what was going on, this [is] about giving you direct access to the system,” security researcher Prof Alan Woodward told the BBC.

Luckily, the vulnerability is easily fixed: Several patches were released this morning that claim to eliminate the vulnerability. Yet as with Heartbleed, it may take awhile for IT administrators to actually apply these fixes. Meanwhile, many news outlets are reporting that hackers are starting to use the vulnerability for malicious purposes, with concern rising about the potential development of a worm that jumps from one vulnerable system to the next, executing code wherever it can.

The main difficulty in patching this Bash bug is the sheer widespread nature of it, from the highest point in a piece of system architecture all the way down to a WiFi-enabled toaster.

This is a growing concern for the end user as we rocket towards the oft-quoted Internet of Things, with our entire livelihoods based on our personal networks of Wi-Fi enabled devices. As software architect Troy Hunt says in his excellent primer to the exploit, many household items that have been adapted for the Internet of Things are running Bash. This vulnerability even extends to home routers, which also often have Bash shells.

So what’s a poor user to do until this whole thing dies down? Unfortunately, not a lot, short of hunkering down and waiting for fixes to materialize.

As Hunt tellingly reiterates: “Watch for security updates, particularly on OS X. Also keep an eye on any advice you may get from your ISP or other providers of devices you have that run embedded software. Do be cautious of emails requesting information or instructing you to run software – events like this are often followed by phishing attacks that capitalize on consumers’ fears.”
- See more at:

Thursday, September 25, 2014

How physical exercise protects the brain from stress-induced depression


Contact: Press Office
Karolinska Institutet
How physical exercise protects the brain from stress-induced depression

Physical exercise has many beneficial effects on human health, including the protection from stress-induced depression. However, until now the mechanisms that mediate this protective effect have been unknown. In a new study in mice, researchers at Karolinska Institutet in Sweden show that exercise training induces changes in skeletal muscle that can purge the blood of a substance that accumulates during stress, and is harmful to the brain. The study is being published in the prestigious journal Cell.

"In neurobiological terms, we actually still don't know what depression is. Our study represents another piece in the puzzle, since we provide an explanation for the protective biochemical changes induced by physical exercise that prevent the brain from being damaged during stress," says Mia Lindskog, researcher at the Department of Neuroscience at Karolinska Institutet.


Perfectionism is a bigger than perceived risk factor in suicide

TORONTO, September 25, 2014 – Perfectionism is a bigger risk factor in suicide than we may think, says York University Psychology Professor Gordon Flett, calling for closer attention to its potential destructiveness, adding that clinical guidelines should include perfectionism as a separate factor for suicide risk assessment and intervention.


In a research article, Flett and his co-authors Professor Paul Hewitt of the University of British Columbia and Professor Marnin Heisel of Western University note that physicians, lawyers and architects, whose occupations emphasize on precision, and also those in leadership roles are at higher risk for perfectionism-related suicide, citing the recent cases of prominent perfectionists who died by suicide.


The authors document how being exposed to relentless demands to be perfect, a concept they refer to as socially prescribed perfectionism, is linked consistently with hopelessness and suicide. Other key themes discussed are: how perfectionistic self-presentation and self-concealment can lead to suicides that occur without warning; and how perfectionists often come up with thorough and precise suicide plans.

“We summarize data showing consistent links between perfectionism and hopelessness and discuss the need for an individualized approach that recognizes the heightened risk for perfectionists,” Flett says adding, “They also tend to experience hopelessness, psychological pain, life stress, overgeneralization, and a form of emotional perfectionism that restricts the willingness to disclose suicidal urges and intentions.”


Goats better than chemicals for curbing invasive marsh grass


Contact: Tim Lucas
Duke University
Goats better than chemicals for curbing invasive marsh grass
Periodic livestock grazing keeps invasive plant in check, helps restore views and biodiversity

Herbivores, not herbicides, may be the most effective way to combat the spread of one of the most invasive plants now threatening East Coast salt marshes, a new Duke University-led study finds.

Phragmites australis, or the common reed, is a rapid colonizer that has overrun many coastal wetlands from New England to the Southeast. A non-native perennial, it can form dense stands of grass up to 10 feet high that block valuable shoreline views of the water, kill off native grasses, and alter marsh function.

Land managers traditionally have used chemical herbicides to slow phragmites' spread but with only limited and temporary success.

Now, field experiments by researchers at Duke and six other U.S. and European universities have identified a more sustainable, low-cost alternative: goats.

"We find that allowing controlled grazing by goats or other livestock in severely affected marshes can reduce the stem density of phragmites cover by about half in around three weeks," said Brian R. Silliman, lead author of the new study and Rachel Carson associate professor of marine conservation biology at Duke's Nicholas School of the Environment.

"The goats are likely to provide an effective, sustainable and much more affordable way of mowing down the invasive grass and helping restore lost ocean views," he said.

In fenced-in test plots at the USDA Beltsville Agricultural Research Center in Maryland, Silliman and his colleagues found that a pair of the hungry herbivores could reduce phragmites cover from 94 percent to 21 percent, on average, by the end of the study. Separate trials showed that horses and cows would also readily eat the invasive grass.

In addition to restoring views, the controlled grazing allowed native plant species to re-establish themselves in the test plots over time. The native species diversity index increased five-fold.


The approach has been used for nearly 6,000 years in parts of Europe and recently has been successfully tested on small patches of heavily phragmites-invaded marshes in New York, he notes. "Now, it just has to be tested on a larger spatial scale."

The only drawback, he added, is that "people have to be okay with having goats in their marsh for a few weeks or few months in some years. It seems like a fair trade-off to me."


G.O.P. Error Reveals Donors and the Price of Access



sometimes, a simple coding mistake can lay bare documents and data that were supposed to be concealed from the prying eyes of the public.

Such an error by the Republican Governors Association recently resulted in the disclosure of exactly the kind of information that political committees given tax-exempt status usually keep secret, namely their corporate donors and the size of their checks. That set off something of an online search war between the association and a Washington watchdog group that spilled other documents, Democratic and Republican, into the open.

The documents, many of which the Republican officials have since removed from their website, showed that many of America’s most prominent companies, from Aetna to Walmart, had poured millions of dollars into the campaigns of Republican governors since 2008. One document listed 17 corporate “members” of the governors association’s secretive 501(c)(4), the Republican Governors Public Policy Committee, which is allowed to shield its supporters from the public.


At a policy committee symposium last year at the Omni La Costa Resort and Spa in Carlsbad, Calif., committee members included the health insurers Aetna and WellPoint, the insurance lobby America’s Health Insurance Plans, the utility giant Southern Company, and the lobbying firms Dutko Grayling (now known as Grayling), BGR Group and Leavitt Partners.

With Congress producing so little legislation, governors’ offices have become attractive targets, Mr. Wertheimer said. Last year, the Republican Governors Public Policy Committee allowed corporate donors to make their cases on how to carry out the Affordable Care Act; discuss hydraulic fracturing, an oil- and gas-exploration method regulated at the state level; and hash over state budgets just as coffers began to loosen.


Among the R.G.A. documents is a 21-page schedule of the policy committee’s Carlsbad meeting last year that lists which companies attended, who represented them and what they contributed. The most elite group, known as the Statesmen, whose members donated $250,000, included Aetna; Coca-Cola; Exxon Mobil; Koch Companies Public Sector, the lobbying arm of the highly political Koch Industries; Microsoft; Pfizer; UnitedHealth Group; and Walmart. The $100,000 Cabinet level included Aflac, Blue Cross Blue Shield, Comcast, Hewlett-Packard, Novartis, Shell Oil, Verizon Communications and Walgreen.

Other documents detail, in part, what they received in return.

One 2009 document states the benefits of a Governors Board membership, for a $50,000 annual contribution or a one-time donation of $100,000, saying it “offers the ability to bring their particular expertise to the political process while helping to support the Republican agenda.”


Noise caused disease

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


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

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


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

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



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


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


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


There seems to be no legislation for infrasound.

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


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

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


2014 Arctic Sea Ice Minimum Sixth Lowest on Record

Sept. 22, 2014

Arctic sea ice coverage continued its below-average trend this year as the ice declined to its annual minimum on Sept. 17, according to the NASA-supported National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) at the University of Colorado, Boulder.

Over the 2014 summer, Arctic sea ice melted back from its maximum extent reached in March to a coverage area of 1.94 million square miles (5.02 million square kilometers), according to analysis from NASA and NSIDC scientists. This year’s minimum extent is similar to last year’s and below the 1981-2010 average of 2.40 million square miles (6.22 million square km).

"Arctic sea ice coverage in 2014 is the sixth lowest recorded since 1978. The summer started off relatively cool, and lacked the big storms or persistent winds that can break up ice and increase melting," said Walter Meier, a research scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland.

“Even with a relatively cool year, the ice is so much thinner than it used to be,” Meier said. “It’s more susceptible to melting.”


Video blinds us to the evidence, NYU, Yale study finds


Contact: James Devitt
New York University
Video blinds us to the evidence, NYU, Yale study finds

Where people look when watching video evidence varies wildly and has profound consequences for bias in legal punishment decisions, a team of researchers at New York University and Yale Law School has found. This study raises questions about why people fail to be objective when confronted with video evidence.

In a series of three experiments, participants who viewed videotaped altercations formed biased punishment decisions about a defendant the more they looked at him. Participants punished a defendant more severely if they did not identify with his social group and punished him less severely if they felt connected to the group—but only when they looked at the defendant often.

"Our findings show that video evidence isn't evaluated objectively—in fact, it may even spur our existing biases," explains Emily Balcetis, an assistant professor in NYU's Department of Psychology and one of the study's authors. "With the proliferation of surveillance footage and other video evidence, coupled with the legal system's blind faith in information we can see with their own eyes, we need to proceed with caution. Video evidence is seductive, but it won't necessarily help our understanding of cases, especially when it's unclear who is at fault."


"One might think that the more closely you look at videotape, the more likely you are to view its contents objectively," says Balcetis. "But that is not the case—in fact, the more you look, the more you find evidence that confirms your assumptions about a social group


In order to rule out the possibility that these findings apply only to police, the researchers conducted another experiment with a new set of participants. This time, however, they watched a videotape of an orchestrated fight between two college-aged white men: one wearing a blue shirt and another wearing a green shirt. Prior to viewing the videotape, participants answered personality questions, and the experimenter told them their answers seemed more similar to either the blue group or the green group.

Consistent with the first two experiments, the results showed that close visual attention enhanced biased interpretations of what transpired and influenced punishment decisions. For instance, those who fixated more on the outgroup member (blue or green) were more likely to recommend stiffer punishment than those who looked elsewhere. Again, attention shifted punishment decisions by changing the accuracy of participants' memory of the behaviors that the outgroup member performed.

"We think video evidence is a silver bullet for getting at truth, but it's not," NYU doctoral candidate and lead author on the paper, Yael Granot, observes. "These results suggest that the way in which people view video evidence may exaggerate an already pervasive 'us versus them' divide in the American legal system."


Eating five a day may keep the blues away

Sept. 23, 2014

Fruit and vegetable consumption could be as good for your mental as your physical health, new research suggests.

The research, conducted by the University of Warwick’s Medical School using data from the Health Survey for England, and published by BMJ Open focused on mental wellbeing and found that high and low mental wellbeing were consistently associated with an individual’s fruit and vegetable consumption.

33.5% of respondents with high mental wellbeing ate five or more portions of fruit and vegetables a day, compared with only 6.8% who ate less than one portion. Commenting on the findings Dr Saverio Stranges, the research paper’s lead author, said: “The data suggest that higher an individual’s fruit and vegetable intake the lower the chance of their having low mental wellbeing”.

31.4% of those with high mental wellbeing ate three-four portions and 28.4% ate one-two.


Low mental wellbeing is strongly linked to mental illness and mental health problems, but high mental wellbeing is more than the absence of symptoms or illness; it is a state in which people feel good and function well. Optimism, happiness, self-esteem, resilience and good relationships with others are all part of this state. Mental wellbeing is important not just to protect people from mental illness but because it protects people against common and serious physical diseases.


Lack of sleep increases risk of failure in school


Contact: Christian Benedict
Uppsala University
Lack of sleep increases risk of failure in school

A new Swedish study shows that adolescents who suffer from sleep disturbance or habitual short sleep duration are less likely to succeed academically compared to those who enjoy a good night's sleep. The results have recently been published in the journal Sleep Medicine.


"Another important finding of our study is that around 30 percent of the adolescents reported regular sleep problems. Similar observations have been made in other adolescent cohorts, indicating that sleep problems among adolescents have reached an epidemic level in our modern societies", says Christian Benedict.

Wealthiest older Americans worse off than poorest counterparts in other countries


an independent comparative study of healthcare systems in six Western countries, published last month in Social Science and Medicine, supports a move away from privatized medicine toward state-sponsored healthcare systems. In her research, Dina Maskileyson of Tel Aviv University's Gershon H. Gordon Faculty of Social Sciences found that privatized medical care in the U.S. has contributed to greater wealth-health inequality than state-sponsored healthcare systems in Sweden, the U.K., Israel, Germany, and the Czech Republic. According to her new study, the wealthiest older people in the U.S. surprisingly suffered from worse health than the poorest older people in the other countries reviewed. Moreover, household wealth has a far more powerful effect on the state of an older person's health in the U.S. than in any of the other countries.

"The positive association between household wealth and health is about twice as strong in the U.S. than in the other countries examined," said Ms. Maskileyson. "In the U.S., every additional percentage point in household wealth increased physical health by about twice as much as it did in the other countries. Among the six countries, household wealth was the most important factor in predicting health outcomes of older Americans."


According to the study, the U.S.'s private-based healthcare system not only produced poorer health outcomes and increased the wealth-health inequality gap, it also left the wealthiest Americans, with access to the "best money can offer," still worse off than the poorest citizens in the U.K., Germany, Sweden, and the Czech Republic.


Nature group walks linked to improved mental health

In my experience, you don't have to be in a group to have your spirits lifted by a walk in the woods.

Sept. 23, 2014


Group nature walks are linked with significantly lower depression, less perceived stress and enhanced mental health and well-being, according to the study conducted by the University of Michigan, with partners from De Montfort University, James Hutton Institute, and Edge Hill University in the United Kingdom. The findings appear in a special issue of Ecopsychology devoted to ‘Ecopsychology and Public Health’.

People who had recently experienced stressful life events like a serious illness, death of a loved one, marital separation or unemployment especially saw a mood boost after outdoor group walks.


The lead author of the study was Melissa R. Marselle, Ph.D., M.Sc., of the Department of Psychology at Edge Hill University in Ormskirk, UK and the Institute of Energy and Sustainable Development at De Montfort University in Leicester, UK.

Warber’s long-time collaborator, Katherine Irvine, Ph.D., a graduate of the U-M School of Natural Resources and Environment and senior researcher of the Social, Economic and Geographical Sciences Research Group at the James Hutton Institute in Aberdeen, UK, also contributed significantly to this study.


Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Brain scans reveal 'gray matter' differences in media multitaskers


Contact: Jacqui Bealing
University of Sussex

Brain scans reveal 'gray matter' differences in media multitaskers

Simultaneously using mobile phones, laptops and other media devices could be changing the structure of our brains, according to new University of Sussex research.

A study published today (24 September) reveals that people who frequently use several media devices at the same time have lower grey-matter density in one particular region of the brain compared to those who use just one device occasionally.

The research supports earlier studies showing connections between high media-multitasking activity and poor attention in the face of distractions, along with emotional problems such as depression and anxiety.

But neuroscientists Kep kee Loh and Dr Ryota Kanai point out that their study reveals a link rather than causality and that a long-term study needs to be carried out to understand whether high concurrent media usage leads to changes in the brain structure, or whether those with less-dense grey matter are more attracted to media multitasking.


Scientists have previously demonstrated that brain structure can be altered upon prolonged exposure to novel environments and experience. The neural pathways and synapses can change based on our behaviours, environment, emotions, and can happen at the cellular level (in the case of learning and memory) or cortical re-mapping, which is how specific functions of a damaged brain region could be re-mapped to a remaining intact region.

Other studies have shown that training (such as learning to juggle, or taxi drivers learning the map of London) can increase grey-matter densities in certain parts of the brain.

"The exact mechanisms of these changes are still unclear," says Kep kee Loh. "Although it is conceivable that individuals with small ACC are more susceptible to multitasking situations due to weaker ability in cognitive control or socio-emotional regulation, it is equally plausible that higher levels of exposure to multitasking situations leads to structural changes in the ACC. A longitudinal study is required to unambiguously determine the direction of causation."


Higher Risk of Autism Found in Children Born at Short and Long Interpregnancy Intervals

Sept. 24, 2014

A study published in the MONTH 2014 issue of the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry found that children who were conceived either less than 1 year or more than 5 years after the birth of their prior sibling were more likely to be diagnosed with autism than children conceived following an interval of 2-5 years.


The study found that the risk of an autism diagnosis among children conceived less than 12 months following a sibling's birth was one and a half times as high as those conceived following an interval of 24-59 months. Children conceived following an interval of 60-120 months were almost 30% more likely to be diagnosed with autism. For intervals of more than 120 months, the risk of autism was over 40% higher.

The analysis accounted for certain factors that might explain the association, such as parents' age, prior number of children, and parental history of psychiatric disorders.


Fracking wastewater that is treated for drinking produces potentially harmful compounds


Contact: Michael Bernstein
American Chemical Society
'Fracking' wastewater that is treated for drinking produces potentially harmful compounds

Concerns that fluids from hydraulic fracturing, or "fracking," are contaminating drinking water abound. Now, scientists are bringing to light another angle that adds to the controversy. A new study, appearing in the ACS journal Environmental Science & Technology, has found that discharge of fracking wastewaters to rivers, even after passage through wastewater treatment plants, could be putting the drinking water supplies of downstream cities at risk.

William A. Mitch, Avner Vengosh and colleagues point out that the disposal of fracking wastewater poses a major challenge for the companies that use the technique, which involves injecting millions of gallons of fluids into shale rock formations to release oil and gas. The resulting wastewater is highly radioactive and contains high levels of heavy metals and salts called halides (bromide, chloride and iodide). One approach to dealing with this wastewater is to treat it in municipal or commercial treatment plants and then release it into rivers and other surface waters. The problem is these plants don't do a good job at removing halides. Researchers have raised concern that halide-contaminated surface water subsequently treated for drinking purposes with conventional methods, such as chlorination or ozonation, could lead to the formation of toxic byproducts. Mitch's team set out to see if that was indeed the case.

The researchers diluted river-water samples of fracking wastewater discharged from operations in Pennsylvania and Arkansas, simulating real-world conditions when wastewater gets into the environment. In the lab, they then used current drinking-water disinfection methods on the samples. They found that even at concentrations as low as 0.01 percent up to 0.1 percent by volume of fracking wastewater, an array of toxic compounds formed. Based on their findings, the researchers recommend either that fracking wastewater should not be discharged at all into surface waters or that future water treatment include specific halide-removal techniques.

Lower Buffet Prices Lead to Less Taste Satisfaction

David Just, Ozge Sigirci and Brian Wansink (2014).

Does the price you pay at a buffet influence how much you like the food? Surprisingly, yes! In a new Cornell Food and Brand Lab study published in the Journal of Sensory Studies, researchers found that when charged more for an all-you-can-eat buffet diners rated the food higher than when charged less for the same food.


Alzheimer's patients can still feel the emotion long after the memories have vanished

By: John Riehl
Sept. 24, 2014

A new University of Iowa study further supports an inescapable message: caregivers have a profound influence—good or bad—on the emotional state of individuals with Alzheimer’s disease. Patients may not remember a recent visit by a loved one or having been neglected by staff at a nursing home, but those actions can have a lasting impact on how they feel.

The findings of this study are published in the September 2014 issue of the journal Cognitive and Behavioral Neurology, and can be viewed online for free here.


“Our findings should empower caregivers by showing them that their actions toward patients really do matter,” Guzmán-Vélez says. “Frequent visits and social interactions, exercise, music, dance, jokes, and serving patients their favorite foods are all simple things that can have a lasting emotional impact on a patient’s quality of life and subjective well-being.”


UK warns that climate change could trigger violent conflict in India

Kounteya Sinha,TNN | Sep 24, 2014

A British report has warned that climate change could trigger violent conflict in India - similar to the Arab Spring where climate change, drought, water mismanagement and food prices contributed to the outbreak of civil unrest.

The Global Sustainability Institute at Anglia Ruskin University in Cambridge has said that water availability is closely tied to food production and with India's population expected to reach 1.4 billion by 2050, the country could face a "perfect storm" of challenges.

The report specifically looks at the specific socio-political, economic, cultural and environmental characteristics of the Cauvery and Indus catchments and the potential for both climate change and scarcity of natural resources to destabilise social and political systems.


Dr Aled Jones, director of the Institute, said "Although unlikely to be the primary cause of violent conflict, natural resource scarcity and climate change can be a catalyst that exacerbates simmering tensions and existing conditions for instability. A decreased availability of water and a rise in food prices in already water-stressed regions can create the perfect storm for civil unrest and conflict. Climate change, population increase and water mismanagement stresses on the Indus are therefore a relevant factor in the ongoing peace negotiations between India and Pakistan.