Wednesday, October 26, 2016

World on path to lose two-thirds of wildlife populations in one lifetime

Canada NewsWire
TORONTO, Oct. 26, 2016 /CNW/ -

Global wildlife populations face a plunge of more than two thirds during the 50-year period ending in 2020 as a result of human activities, according to WWF's Living Planet Report 2016 released today. The report, produced in collaboration with the Zoological Society of London, shows how people are overpowering the planet for the first time in Earth's history, and highlights the changes needed in the way society is fed, fuelled and financed.

According to the report, global populations of mammals, birds, fish, amphibians and reptiles have already declined by 58 per cent between 1970 and 2012, the most recent year with available data. At this trajectory, the decline could reach 67 per cent by 2020.


Key findings

Wildlife are disappearing at an unprecedented rate, with:

  • A 38 per cent decline in land-based populations.
  • A 36 per cent decline in ocean-based populations.
  • An 81 per cent decline in freshwater populations.

The biggest threats to species are:

  • Loss and degradation of habitat (through agriculture and logging, and man-made changes to freshwater systems).
  • Overexploitation (through overfishing, hunting and poaching).
  • Invasive species and disease.
  • Pollution.
  • Growing climate change impact.

Humans are exceeding planetary boundaries:

  • The resources of 1.6 planets each year are used to provide the goods and services consumed annually. The bigger the ecological footprint, the greater the pressure on ecosystems and biodiversity, and the greater the risk of biodiversity loss.
  • The Earth is being pushed into uncharted territory, with humanity now violating planetary boundaries that act as safe thresholds for nine critical system processes that maintain life on Earth. Those already pushed past safe limits include climate, biosphere integrity, biogeochemical flows (nitrogen and phosphorous) and land-system change (such as conversion of forests to agricultural land). Some assessments suggest freshwater use has also passed a safe threshold.

To protect biodiversity, the Living Planet Report 2016 identified the following critical changes as needed:

  • A transition to 100 per cent sustainable and renewable energy sources; speed is a key factor for determining our future.
  • Business models that incorporate the true costs of environmental damage into decision making.
  • A food system with less waste along the food chain, fewer chemical and fossil inputs, significantly reduced greenhouse gas emissions and a shift to less animal protein.

Natural ecosystems keep the air breathable, the water drinkable and provide nutritious food. But their complexity, diversity and resilience are rapidly falling due to human activities. This threatens all species, including people, unless we act now.


Easing labor pain may help reduce postpartum depression in some women, early research suggests

Pain causes an increase in stress hormones, which can affect the brain.

Public Release: 26-Oct-2016
Easing labor pain may help reduce postpartum depression in some women, early research suggests
American Society of Anesthesiologists

Epidural anesthesia may do more than relieve pain during labor; in some women it may decrease the likelihood of postpartum depression, suggests a preliminary study presented at the ANESTHESIOLOGY® 2016 annual meeting.

"Labor pain matters more than just for the birth experience. It may be psychologically harmful for some women and play a significant role in the development of postpartum depression," said Grace Lim, M.D., director of obstetric anesthesiology at Magee Women's Hospital of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center and lead investigator on the study. "We found that certain women who experience good pain relief from epidural analgesia are less likely to exhibit depressive symptoms in the postpartum period."


"Although we found an association between women who experience less pain during labor and lower risk for postpartum depression, we do not know if effective pain control with epidural analgesia will assure avoidance of the condition," said Dr. Lim. "Postpartum depression can develop from a number of things including hormonal changes, psychological adjustment to motherhood, social support, and a history of psychiatric disorders."

Labor pain may be more problematic for some women than others, the authors note. Additional research is needed to identify which women are more likely to experience severe labor pain and who would benefit the most from effective labor pain-control strategies to help reduce the risk and affect of pain on postpartum recovery.

General warns climate change refugee wars are coming

Actually, they are already happening.
Generals in the U.S. military have also warned of this.

Oct. 27, 2016

Climate change is threatening to force millions of people to become refugees and spark major wars that could "completely destabilise" the world, a leading general has warned.

And countries which attempted to deal with the coming crisis by resorting to "narrow nationalistic instincts" - for example, by building walls to keep out refugees - will only make the problem worse, according to Major General Munir Muniruzzaman, chairman of the Global Military Advisory Council On Climate Change (GMACCC).

He added that, while countries had talked a lot about the problems posed by global warming and how to address them, there did not seem to be "much action" on the ground.


Speaking ahead of the United Nations climate summit in Marrakesh next month, General Muniruzzaman said it was time to make good on the promises made at last year's historic meeting in Paris with global warming already contributing to flooding and droughts, threatening financial security and affecting people's health.

"In our analysis, we are seeing the risk is now becoming all-pervasive from climate change in the sense that it is touching multiple sectors … many of the sectors are being gravely challenged," he said.

"In some areas of the world, some of the issues we are touching on are becoming so severe they hold tremendous conflict potential."

He pointed to the recent diplomatic row between bitter regional rivals India and Pakistan, which both have large militaries and nuclear weapons, over water supplies.

"There was a possibility of a break down [of diplomacy] … which could have led to the first major water conflict of the world," he said.

The events of the Arab Spring and the Syrian civil war were also connected to unrest caused by droughts and crop failures.

General Muniruzzaman pointed to projections that sea-level rise could result in the loss of 20 per cent of Bangladesh's territory as early as 2050, which would force up to 30 million people to look for a new home.

"Imagine, with an international community unable to cope with a few thousand Syrian refugees, what will happen when millions of people are on the move," he said.


"People have moved before. Environmental changes have forced people to relocate themselves historically," he said.

"What has become more difficult now is we have boxed ourselves into the Westphalian system of states.

"That is in conflict with nature, with the movement of people … we need to find a common ground.

"We need leaders with vision … we have to have a global solution to the problem, this is a civilisational problem.


Major wars and mass migration had the potential to "completely destabilise" not just countries and regions, but the entire world, the general said.

But he warned that most countries and most armed forces were "ill-prepared to meet the challenge for which they will be called upon to meet somebody and not too long away".

"We have to understand and meet the challenge, so we are not completely overwhelmed when they happen on the ground," General Muniruzzaman said.

"We don't have the proper strategies and policies in place to meet the security impacts of climate change.

"I would like to warn everybody we are way behind schedule to trying to find a solution to the problems we can see. In most cases we have been shying away from the problems we can absolutely identify and see.

"For a long time, we have been talking about the issues, but on the ground we don't see much action. As a soldier, I have a more action-orientated approach."

Vitamin E can modify the risk of pneumonia in some older men depending on their lifestyle

Public Release: 26-Oct-2016
Vitamin E can modify the risk of pneumonia in some older men depending on their lifestyle
University of Helsinki

Many people have been advised to take vitamin supplements to boost their immune systems. However, a recent study published in the British Journal of Nutrition found that taking vitamin E supplements led to an increased risk of pneumonia for more than one in four older men (28%) who smoked and did not exercise. However, the opposite effect was true for older men who exercised and did not smoke - in that vitamin E actually decreased their risk of contracting pneumonia.

The findings of this study - which focused on men aged 50 to 69 years old at the baseline of the trial- are particularly striking because analyses in nutritional epidemiology usually assume a uniform effect of a nutrient. However, the author of the study - Dr. Harri Hemilä of the University of Helsinki, Finland - found that the effect of vitamin E on health outcomes may depend on various characteristics of people and their lifestyles. Therefore, a single universal estimate of the vitamin E effect might be substantially misleading for some population groups.


Drawing on the I2 statistic for the first time for this type of analysis, Dr. Hemilä concluded that nearly all variation in the vitamin E effect on pneumonia risk over five subgroups was explained by true differences in the vitamin E effect rather than by chance variation.

Vitamin E increased pneumonia risk by 68% among men who had the highest exposure to smoking and who did not exercise (22% of the ATBC participants), while vitamin E actually decreased pneumonia risk by 69% among participants who had the least exposure to smoking and who exercised during their leisure time (7·6% of the ATBC participants). The author claims that these findings refute there being a uniform effect of vitamin E supplementation on the risk of pneumonia.


Given the current limited understanding about who might benefit, Dr. Hemilä recommends that vitamin E should not be suggested for the general population for improving the immune system. The author concludes that there is a need for further research on vitamin E for non-smoking elderly men who exercise in their leisure time.

Cut exposure to synthetic chemicals to ward off 150,000+ European diabetes cases

Public Release: 26-Oct-2016
Cut exposure to synthetic chemicals to ward off 150,000+ European diabetes cases
...And save billions of euros in associated costs every year, estimate researchers
BMJ (formerly the British Medical Journal)

Cutting exposure to common environmental synthetic chemicals by 25 per cent might ward off more than 150,000 cases of diabetes in Europe and save €4.5 billion every year, suggest estimates published online in the Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health.

A mounting body of evidence suggests that environmental 'pollutants,' such as phthalates (plasticisers), pesticides, and polychlorinated biphenyls or PCBs for short (used in coolant fluids in fridges and other electrical apparatus) contribute to metabolic disorders--particularly obesity and diabetes--by disrupting the production and regulation of hormones in the body.


Iron supplements in the fight against lead

Public Release: 26-Oct-2016
Iron supplements in the fight against lead
ETH Zurich

Lead is a toxic heavy metal that was added to petrol for use in cars until as recently as 25 years ago. It is particularly harmful to the developing brains of infants, children and teenagers, and the damage it does is irreversible.

The situation becomes significantly worse if people are exposed to a high level of lead at the same time as they are suffering from iron deficiency. In the small intestine, lead and iron bind to the same transport protein, which absorbs the metals into the bloodstream. If someone consumes too little iron with their food, the transporter increases its activity, and can carry lead into the bloodstream instead, leading to increased levels of the toxic heavy metal in the body and brain.

A team of researchers led by ETH professor Michael B. Zimmermann from the Laboratory of Human Nutrition have now shown in a study that fortifying food with iron produces a striking reduction in blood lead concentration in children exposed to high levels of the metal.

This is the result of a trial involving over 450 children carried out by Zimmermann's former doctoral student Raschida Bouhouch and colleagues in southern Morocco. It is the first controlled prospective study to investigate the connection between iron deficiency and lead poisoning and to demonstrate that iron fortification can reduce blood lead levels. The study came about within the framework of a North-South project conducted by ETH Zurich and the University and University Hospital of Marrakesh.

Mining in the surrounding area meant that children of preschool and school age were exposed to an increased quantity of lead. At the same time, the level of iron in their blood was relatively low, placing them in a high-risk group.


Before the study began, the children's blood contained on average 4.3 micrograms of lead per decilitre. Biscuits with added sodium iron EDTA facilitated a reduction in blood lead concentration to 2.9 micrograms per decilitre. The biscuits also brought about an improvement in the children's iron status. On the other hand, the reduction in lead concentration had no effect on cognitive performance, as the researchers discovered during the corresponding tests.

Nevertheless, Zimmermann is very happy with the study's results: "The finding - that you can reduce blood lead concentration in exposed individuals with just a short intervention - is hugely significant for public health services," says the ETH professor.


Zimmermann attributes the lack of improvement in cognitive performance to the fact that lead leaves behind lasting damage that cannot be reversed by administering iron. "Nevertheless, it definitely makes sense to use iron fortification to prevent brain damage in exposed sectors of the population," says the nutrition specialist. Iron supplementation may even provides foetuses in the womb with effective protection against subsequent brain damage.


Lead contamination of food and water is still a serious problem in mining and heavy industry areas in Africa, India and China, but the issue is not yet resolved even in industrialised Western countries.


Reading the right sexual cues

ublic Release: 26-Oct-2016
Reading the right sexual cues
Improving cue reading could help college students get the dating game right

Both college men and women focus primarily on a photographed woman's nonverbal emotional cues when making snap decisions about whether she is expressing sexual interest at a particular moment in time. But their judgments also are based to a large degree on how attractive she is and the provocativeness of her attire. Physical attractiveness plays a much larger role in how college men than women make these quick judgments. Female students in turn tend to pick up more than men on clothing style and the woman's emotional cues. This is according to a study1 in the journal Psychonomic Bulletin & Review, published by Springer. Around 500 students were asked to give their first impressions about the current sexual interest of women in a series of photographs.


The findings looked different among students who held more rape-supportive attitudes (as determined by their results from the assessment). These attitudes are hostile to rape victims, including false beliefs about rape and rapists, for example women enjoy sexual violence. Both males and females in this group, relative to their peers, relied less on the photographed women's emotional cues and more on their attire and their attractiveness. This is problematic because appearance-related cues such as clothing and physical beauty are less accurate nonverbal signals of a woman's current (or momentary) sexual interest in a particular man than the woman's nonverbal emotional cues.

It was found that the students who received instruction on non-verbal cues before assessing the photographs were more likely to note emotional cues than aspects such as clothing and physical beauty when making their judgments. Receiving such guidelines also shifted the focus of students who held more supportive attitudes towards rape.


Climate change: Voters will be hot under the collar by 2099

Public Release: 26-Oct-2016
Climate change: Voters will be hot under the collar by 2099
Harvard study of 1.5 billion votes is the first to project how climate change will impact democratic elections

By 2099 the nature of democratic politics could change in costly ways for politicians because of climate change, says Nick Obradovich of Harvard University in a paper in Springer's journal Climatic Change. Leveraging a century's worth of political science research, he predicts that voters' disgruntlement about the societal effects of climatic extremes and weather-related disasters they experience will translate into more frequent turnover of political parties elected in and out of office, and will keep politicians of especially warmer, poorer countries more on their toes than is currently the case.


According to Obradovich, turnover directly related to politician performance is vital to a well-functioning democracy. He notes, however, that findings from the study indicate that democratic turnover might increase as a result of climatic events that are outside the control of individual politicians.

"Such exogenously driven political turnover may shorten democratic time horizons, inducing parties and their politicians to focus on short-run policies at the expense of important longer-run strategies," he warns. "Such altered political time horizons may have a particularly deleterious impact on climate mitigation, as the long-run benefits of mitigation are unlikely to be observed from one election to the next."


Indirect effects of rising CO2 levels on ecosystems more important than previously thought

Public Release: 26-Oct-2016
Indirect effects of rising CO2 levels on ecosystems more important than previously thought
University of Southampton

The indirect effects of rising atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) levels, such as changes in soil moisture and plant structure, can have a bigger impact on ecosystems than previously thought.


A study, involving researchers from the University of Southampton, found that water-limited ecosystems in arid and semi-arid regions, such as The Great Plains and South-West United States and some in Australia and Mediterranean Europe, were particularly impacted by these indirect effects. For those ecosystems, the importance of the indirect effects was as much as or in some cases, greater than, the direct effects.


Skin patch to treat peanut allergy shows benefit in children

Public Release: 26-Oct-2016
Skin patch to treat peanut allergy shows benefit in children
NIH-funded study suggests patch is safe, convenient mode of treatment
NIH/National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases

A wearable patch that delivers small amounts of peanut protein through the skin shows promise for treating children and young adults with peanut allergy, with greater benefits for younger children, according to one-year results from an ongoing clinical trial. The treatment, called epicutaneous immunotherapy or EPIT, was safe and well-tolerated, and nearly all participants used the skin patch daily as directed.

The ongoing trial is sponsored by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), part of the National Institutes of Health, and conducted by the NIAID-funded Consortium of Food Allergy Research (CoFAR), which is led by Hugh Sampson, M.D., of Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York.


Bitter political climate chills some scientific pursuits

Public Release: 26-Oct-2016
Bitter political climate chills some scientific pursuits
American Chemical Society

The House of Representatives Science, Space & Technology Committee has been operating in lockstep with the combative political climate this election season. Since last year, the committee chair has issued more than 25 subpoenas to investigate science agencies and others. But rather than bring misdeeds to light, some scientists say the efforts are having a chilling effect, according to an article in Chemical & Engineering News (C&EN), the weekly newsmagazine of the American Chemical Society.

Jeff Johnson, a special correspondent to C&EN, reports that Lamar Smith, a Texas Republican and the chair of the House science committee, has unilaterally launched the probes over the vehement objections of committee Democrats. The subjects of the probes include the peer-review process at the National Science Foundation, climate change research at the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration, and security at the National Institute of Standards & Technology. Most recently, Smith has also been trying to obtain correspondence between eight environmental advocacy groups and state attorneys general in connection to a science-based fraud investigation of ExxonMobil.

In response to the latest investigation, more than 2,000 scientists signed a letter to Smith urging him to end the probe, which they perceive as an effort to protect oil companies and suppress science. One signer says the hostile climate is indeed having a harmful side effect: Some scientists are shying away from conducting research that could draw unwanted political ire. A former Republican chair of the committee, Sherwood Boehlert, laments the current infighting, but says he's hopeful that the upcoming election will help Congress get back on a more productive and collegial track.

School principals shape students' values via school climate

Public Release: 26-Oct-2016
School pincipals shape students' values via school climate
Association for Psychological Science

Over time, students' personal values become more similar to those of their school principal, according to new research published in Psychological Science, a journal of the Associational for Psychological Science. The findings indicate that principals' values are linked with aspects of school climate which are, in turn, linked with students' own values.

"Given the vast amount of time children spend in school, it is important to assess the impact that schools have on children, beyond their impact on children's academic skills," say researchers Yair Berson (New York University and Bar-Ilan University) and Shaul Oreg (Cornell University and The Hebrew University of Jerusalem). "Our findings show that schools contribute to the formation of children's values."


The researchers found that students' values became more similar to those of their principal over the two-year study period.

"Principals' personal outlook on life is reflected in the overall school atmosphere, which over time becomes reflected in schoolchildren's personal outlook and eventual behavior," Berson and Oreg explain in their paper.

This pattern was consistent for all of the values except for one: conservation values.

"Values that have to do with maintaining the status quo -- emphasizing tradition, conformity and security - showed a different pattern, whereby principals' values are associated with children's values, but without the mediating role of the school climate," say Berson and Oreg.

The researchers speculate that unstudied mechanisms - such as principals' selection of teachers - might explain this exception.


Extreme cold winters fueled by jet stream and climate change

Public Release: 26-Oct-2016
Extreme cold winters fueled by jet stream and climate change
University of Sheffield


Scientists have agreed for the first time that recent severe cold winter weather in the UK and US may have been influenced by climate change in the Arctic, according to a new study.

The research, carried out by an international team of scientists including the University of Sheffield, has found that warming in the Arctic may be intensifying the effects of the jet stream's position, which in the winter can cause extreme cold weather, such as the winter of 2014/15 which saw record snowfall levels in New York.


The researchers have found that the recent pattern of cold winters is primarily caused by natural changes to the jet stream's position; however, the warming of the Arctic appears to be exerting an influence on cold spells, but the location of these can vary from year to year.

Previous studies have shown that when the jet stream is wavy there are more episodes of severe cold weather plunging south from the Arctic into the mid-latitudes, which persist for weeks at a time. But when the jet stream is flowing strongly from west to east and not very wavy, we tend to see more normal winter weather in countries within the mid-latitudes.

"We've always had years with wavy and not so wavy jet stream winds, but in the last one to two decades the warming Arctic could well have been amplifying the effects of the wavy patterns," Professor Hanna said. He added: "This may have contributed to some recent extreme cold winter spells along the eastern seaboard of the United States, in eastern Asia, and at times over the UK (e.g. 2009/10 and 2010/11).


New evidence that politics, not economics, drives inequality

Public Release: 26-Oct-2016
New evidence that politics, not economics, drives inequality
Study included data sensitive to rise of the '1 percent'
Ohio State University

One of the biggest surprises about rising income inequality in the United States may be that economic factors aren't the biggest cause, a new study suggests.

Sociologists at The Ohio State University found that political factors, along with increases in college-educated adults, provided the best explanations for the rise in income inequality in the United States between 1978 and 2011.

But even higher education levels became less important after the 1980s, said David Jacobs, lead author of the study and professor of sociology at Ohio State.

The study found that presidential administrations that were sympathetic to employers but unfavorable to labor drove up levels of income inequality.


The study used a variety of sources to analyze political and economic factors that could be tied to inequality at the state level for each of the 33 years in the study. "Statistics work better with more cases. With 49 states and 33 years to work with, we had 1,615 cases," Jacobs said.

Jacobs said one strength of this study is that it used IRS data on incomes, which is extremely sensitive to changes in the economic well-being of the top 1 percent in the United States.

"The gap between the top earners and the rest of Americans has really been growing and our study was able to capture that change," Jacobs said.

The study found that the presidential administration in power was far and away the biggest political factor linked to economic inequality in each year of the study.

The importance of the presidential administration remained even after the researchers took into account more than 20 other possible explanatory variables, such as stock market values, poverty levels, the number of people employed in finance careers, and the number of people employed in rural occupations. Many of these factors, among others controlled for in this study, have been cited by economists in the past as possible causes of growing inequality, Jacobs said.

After all these and other factors are held constant, the Reagan administration's policies led to an 18 percent increase in inequality, the study found.

Other than the presidential administration, the remaining parts of government had little or no effect on inequality, the study showed. The U.S. Congress had no effect and neither did state governors. State legislatures had a very small effect.

Jacobs said the study was not able to isolate the exact policies that led to increases in inequality, although he had some ideas. The Reagan administration made tax codes more favorable to the affluent, deregulated many industries including finance, weakened unions and reduced spending on programs for the poor.

"I believe it was a lot of policies that each contributed a little bit to growing inequality, and when you added them all up the results were large," Jacobs said.

While presidential administrations and higher education levels through the 1980s had the largest effects on inequality, Jacobs said two other factors also played smaller but significant roles. Manufacturing employment had a fairly strong relationship with income inequality, with researchers finding that a 10 decrease in this employment would produce about a 3.1 percent increase in inequality.

The researchers also found that growth in minority populations was linked to increases in inequality.


School environment key to retaining teachers, promoting student achievement, study finds

Public Release: 26-Oct-2016
School environment key to retaining teachers, promoting student achievement, study finds
New research identifies four organizational and administrative factors that can decrease teacher turnover and lift student test scores in math
Brown University

A school is more likely to retain effective teachers, a new study reports, if it is led by a principal who promotes professional development for teachers, is characterized by collaborative relationships among teachers, has a safe and orderly learning environment and sets high expectations for academic achievement among students, a new study reports.


The authors also found evidence that improving a school's climate may help promote gains in students' academic achievement. Improvements in two dimensions -- school safety and academic expectations -- predicted faster growth in math test scores, according to Kraft.

"The degree to which students and teachers feel their school is a safe, orderly learning environment is of central importance for student achievement in the New York City middle schools we studied," the authors wrote.

These findings "replicate and extend previous research findings that schools with higher-quality school contexts have students who experience larger achievement gains," the researchers wrote. They also noted that organizational improvements that take place over time correspond with increases in student achievement gains.


Integrated neighborhoods more common across the US, study finds

Public Release: 26-Oct-2016
Integrated neighborhoods more common across the US, study finds
New research tracking population shifts over 30 years shows that increasing neighborhood-level diversity is a near-universal trend in urban areas
Brown University

In all parts of the United States, the number of neighborhoods that sustain a mix of black, white, Asian and Hispanic residents over time is growing quickly, a new study finds.

"It is striking that while the all-white neighborhood is disappearing, its main replacement is the most diverse kind, which includes substantial shares of whites, blacks, Hispanics and Asians," said the study's coauthor John Logan, professor of sociology at Brown University. "Given the persistence of residential segregation and the deep divide that still separates whites from other groups, it is reassuring to see this one sign of progress."


Logan pointed out that the news is not all good, however. While the number of global neighborhoods is on the rise, the study also found increasing numbers of all-minority neighborhoods caused by white residents moving out of previously mixed areas -- close to a 50 percent increase over the 30-year period.

The poorest neighborhoods, Logan said, are mostly black, mostly Hispanic, or a combination of these two groups. Despite the publicity devoted to urban gentrification, he added, the study found that it is very rare for whites to move into these areas.

"Overall change in segregation has been modest because the trend toward global neighborhoods is partly counteracted by growing all-minority neighborhoods," Logan said. "But prior to 1980, change was always toward greater racial separation."

Logan said that in his view, "it would be too much to expect that decades of growing separation would be suddenly reversed. The upside is that now we can see how positive change can occur and hope that it will continue."


Money can buy happiness but it's costly to bank on that without measuring debt

Public Release: 26-Oct-2016
Prof: Money can buy happiness but it's costly to bank on that without measuring debt
Purdue University

Yes, money can lead to happiness, but how much debt one has should also be considered in the money-happiness equation, according to a new a study from Purdue University.

"There has been a lot of research looking at whether and how income makes people happy in life, but few studies have examined whether debt can detract from happiness. We found that carrying student loan debt is almost as important as income in predicting financial worry and life satisfaction," said Louis Tay, an assistant professor of psychological sciences, who studies the effects of income and money on happiness.

The study's results are published in the Journal of Happiness Studies. The survey results are from the Gallup-Purdue Index, which provides a measure of how college graduates are doing on five key dimensions of well-being: purpose, social, physical, financial and community. Tay also is member of the committee evaluating results of the ongoing survey.


Pollution exposure is higher in city kids who are active, finds study

Public Release: 26-Oct-2016
Pollution exposure is higher in city kids who are active, finds study
Increased exposure to pollutants may offset health benefits of regular exercise
Columbia University Medical Center

Children from urban areas of New York City who engaged in vigorous daily exercise had greater exposure to black carbon, a traffic-related pollutant, than children who were less active, according to a study by a multidisciplinary team of researchers from Columbia University's College of Physicians & Surgeons and Columbia's Mailman School of Public Health.

The researchers also found that while physically active children had reduced airway inflammation compared to less active children, this association that was offset by having high black carbon exposure.

Findings from the study were published recently online in the journal Environmental Research.

Black carbon, a pollutant that is also an indicator of diesel exhaust exposure, is known to have an adverse impact on health. However, little research has examined whether children living in urban areas receive a higher dose of the pollutant when they engage in regular physical activity.


The study revealed that the active children were exposed to 25 percent greater concentration of black carbon compared to non-active children. Daily physical activity was associated with reduced airway inflammation, but that effect primarily occurred among the children who were exposed to lower concentrations of black carbon. Exercise had no effect on airway inflammation among children exposed to the highest concentrations of black carbon.


UCI and NASA document accelerated glacier melting in West Antarctica

See the article at the link below for how the shape of the underlying bedrock affects the rate of melting.

Public Release: 25-Oct-2016
UCI and NASA document accelerated glacier melting in West Antarctica
Study findings will help improve predictions about global sea level rise
University of California - Irvine

Two new studies by researchers at the University of California, Irvine and NASA have found the fastest ongoing rates of glacier retreat ever observed in West Antarctica and offer an unprecedented look at ice melting on the floating undersides of glaciers. The results highlight how the interaction between ocean conditions and the bedrock beneath a glacier can influence the frozen mass, helping scientists better predict future Antarctica ice loss and global sea level rise.


"Our primary question is how the Amundsen Sea sector of West Antarctica will contribute to sea level rise in the future, particularly following our observations of massive changes in the area over the last two decades," said UCI's Bernd Scheuchl, lead author on the first of the two studies, published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters in August.

"Using satellite data, we continue to measure the evolution of the grounding line of these glaciers, which helps us determine their stability and how much mass the glacier is gaining or losing," said the Earth system scientist. "Our results show that the observed glaciers continue to lose mass and thus contribute to global sea level rise."


Previous studies using other techniques estimated the average melting rates at the bottom of the Dotson and Crosson ice shelves to be about 40 feet (12 meters) per year. Khazendar and his team, analyzing their direct radar measurements, found stunning rates of ice loss from the glaciers' undersides on the ocean sides of their grounding lines. The fastest-melting glacier, Smith, lost between 984 and 1,607 feet (300 and 490 meters) in thickness between 2002 and 2009 near its grounding line, or up to 230 feet (70 meters) per year.


Clinton Voters Aren’t Just Voting Against Trump

By Harry Enten
Oct. 25, 2016

A simpler method for determining positive or negative support is to ask people whether their vote is affirmatively for one candidate or in protest against the other. The latest ABC News survey reveals that, in fact, Clinton’s voters feel about as positively about their candidate as any candidate’s supporters have felt about their own preferred candidate since 1980. Trump voters are less enthusiastic about him: Since 1980, no group of supporters has been less affirmative in its support for its candidate.

Right now, 56 percent of Clinton voters say they are mainly for her compared with just 42 percent of the same voters who say they are voting against Trump. This 56 percent is the highest it’s been all year in the ABC News poll, and it’s been steadily climbing for Clinton since July. In the same survey, only 41 percent of Trump supporters say they are voting for him, while 54 percent say they are mostly voting against Clinton. Those numbers are about the same as they’ve been all year.

That 56 percent of Clinton’s voters are affirmatively supporting her may not seem like a lot, but it’s about average for a presidential candidate. That’s clear from the chart below, which plots the final live-interview poll to ask this type of question in every election since 1980.


The most interesting thing about these numbers is how few of Trump’s supporters are his fans. No candidate since 1980 has had a lower percentage of voters say they plan to cast a vote for their candidate. That includes candidates whose campaigns were viewed as disastrous, including Jimmy Carter in 1980, Michael Dukakis in 1988 and Bob Dole in 1996. (The Republican party basically gave up on Dole in the final month of the 1996 election.)


Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Mom's powerful message after 12-year-old daughter dies from flu

By Jennifer Earl CBS News October 25, 2016, 3:03 PM

On the way to the hospital, Pegy Lowery tried to keep her 12-year-old daughter, Piper, talking.

She knew Piper was sick with the flu, but she had no idea how serious it was until her daughter collapsed into her arms in the parking lot of Mary Bridge Children’s Hospital in Tacoma, Washington.

She sobbed, “Oh, mama,” as Lowery stood there holding her, screaming for help.

A couple of strangers heard her cries and picked Piper up, rushing her through the hospital door.

Three hours later, on Jan. 16, Lowery had to say goodbye to her little girl forever.

“For us, it’s been really hard,” Lowery said. “All I have now is pictures, an urn sitting on the mantle – and you know, she was just my best buddy.”

Lowery said her daughter had been seen by a doctor three times in the span of four days. She was given antibiotics. But something happened inside her daughter’s body that no one saw.
[Antibiotics have no effect on viruses, which are what cause flu.]

The H1N1 flu attacked her kidneys.

She was in renal failure the day before Lowery took her to the hospital, but no one realized it.

Now the mom is making it her mission to share Piper’s story, and encouraging others to do something her family didn’t that year: get a flu shot.


Though the mom isn’t sure whether the shot would have made a difference for her daughter, she does know that it significantly reduces the chance of getting the flu.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a 2014 study showed that the flu vaccine reduced children’s risk of flu-related pediatric intensive care unit admission by 74 percent during flu seasons from 2010-2012.

“The chances are that you have a better fighting chance to win the battle,” Lowery said of getting the flu shot.

Since Piper was afraid of needles, Lowery never pushed her to get the shot. She didn’t think it was necessary.

But this incident opened up her eyes, and she hopes it opens up the eyes of others as well.

“There are so many stigmas about the flu shot that people are either not educated or there’s this fear factor that people put into them,” Lowery said. “But H1N1, the flu, is very deadly. I want to spread this information so people can read it. It really does save lives.”

An open letter from educators on the ‘Trump Effect’: Stop the bullying

Increasingly, educators across the country are reporting that the divisive and hostile rhetoric used by you this presidential campaign is seeping into classrooms and schools. As educators, we know that learning cannot take place when students are anxious or afraid.

Some examples of how students have been affected by what has come to be known as the Trump Effect include:

In Indiana, students holding Trump signs chanted “Build the Wall!” while at a high school basketball game.
In Virginia, two elementary school students taunted their immigrant classmates by saying they would be deported when Trump became president.
After fellow students in Washington had repeatedly shouted slurs from their cars at one Muslim teenager, her teacher reported the girl expressed suicidal thoughts.
A Tennessee kindergarten teacher said a Latino pupil, told by classmates he will be deported and trapped behind a wall, every day asks: “Is the wall here yet?”
An elementary school teacher in Berkeley, Calif., reported one student telling another, “You were born in a Taco Bell.”

As educators, we know we are role models for our students and want them to grow up to be kind, generous and thoughtful. But you have been anything but a role model. You have called women fat pigs, attacked the Gold Star family of a fallen American soldier, want to ban Muslims from coming to our country, and made fun of people with disabilities.

Increased fear and anxiety and inflamed racial and ethnic tensions among students is not the right track for America. That is why we are calling on you to apologize to America’s students and rethink your language and the effect it has on our students, our schools, our families and our communities.

Rudeness in the workplace is contagious

By Megan Scudellari Globe Correspondent October 24, 2016

Yawning, laughing, and even vomiting are contagious — I feel a lump in my throat just writing that sentence. But a new study suggests there’s another kind of behavior we should be wary of catching: rudeness.

Incivility at work — including sarcasm, put-downs, and other rude behaviors — begets more incivility, according to a study in the Journal of Applied Psychology. The authors suggest such “incivility spirals” are caused by diminishing amounts of self-control during the day.

“We all have a finite amount of resources available for controlling our behaviors at work, and this study suggests when you experience incivility from others, it draws down those resources and you’re unable to inhibit your own actions going forward,” says study coauthor Christopher Rosen, a professor of management at the University of Arkansas.

In other words, it’s hard not to snap at a co-worker when you’ve already used up your energy dealing with someone snapping at you.
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Previous studies suggest rude behaviors in the workplace have doubled over the last two decades. The cause of the rise is not clear, but researchers suggest it may be due to fewer face-to-face interactions or information overload.


The team found that when a person had experienced incivility from a colleague, they were more likely to act in an uncivil manner later in the day. That person also took longer to complete the performance tasks, suggesting that he or she had reduced self-control as a result of being on the receiving end of rude behavior.

Contagious rudeness was amplified in overtly “political” workplaces, says Rosen — offices where employees jockey for power or engage in self-serving activities. This may be because in such competitive environments, employees are using up their self-control resources faster by trying to decipher colleagues’ intentions or figuring out how to succeed, he suggests.

Other situations may likewise increase rude behavior in an office. “Things like workload, the competitiveness of an industry, whether they have enough time to do their work, mental fatigue — all these factors might further amplify this effect,” says Rosen.

There may be simple solutions. Psychological research suggests that people who are able to see the bigger picture — looking past immediate irritations — are better able to override their impulses. Because of that, mindfulness or meditation could play a role in preventing incivility spirals. And offering employees short breaks on days when they are under stress or suffering from heavy workloads could make a difference. Perhaps most directly, managers can give clear, regular feedback about what behaviors are expected in the workplace, says Rosen. “Feedback on an individual basis can really shape an environment.”

Monday, October 24, 2016

Nearly 30 percent of U.S. cancer deaths tied to smoking cigarettes

By Ashley Welch CBS News October 24, 2016, 4:06 PM

A startling number of cancer deaths in the United States have one thing in common: they’re linked to smoking.

According to a new report published online today by JAMA Internal Medicine, more than 167,000 cancer deaths in the U.S. in 2014 — almost 29 percent — were attributable to cigarette smoking.


People living in the South, especially men, were disproportionately affected, with nearly 40 percent of male cancer deaths estimated to be connected to smoking in that region.

Arkansas, Tennessee, Louisiana, Kentucky, and West Virginia had the highest estimated proportion of smoking-attributable cancer deaths in men.

The proportion was lowest in Utah, at nearly 22 percent, while it hit about 30 percent or more in every other state.

For women, the proportion ranged from 11 percent in Utah to 29 percent in Kentucky, and was at least 20 percent in every state except Utah, California, and Hawaii.

They also note that the study likely underestimated tobacco-related cancer deaths because only 12 cancers were included.

Overall, nine out of the top 10 worst states for smoking-attributable cancer deaths for men, and six of the top 10 states for women, were in the South.


Brain changes seen in kids after one season of football

By Dennis Thompson HealthDay October 24, 2016

Just one season of competitive football may cause changes in some young players’ developing brains, even if they don’t get a concussion during play, a small study found.

Using imaging scans, researchers spotted “microstructural” changes in the white brain matter of 25 male athletes aged 8 to 13 after a season of football.

They also found that players experienced more significant brain changes if they took a greater number of hits and stronger hits to the head, said lead researcher Dr. Christopher Whitlow. He’s chief of neuroradiology at Wake Forest School of Medicine in Winston-Salem, N.C.

“We’re seeing some associations between the amount of change in the brain and the amount of exposure to head impacts,” Whitlow said. “The more exposure they’ve had, the more change you see.”

However, Whitlow was quick to add that these changes are imperceptible to the naked eye, and future research might prove these changes harmless.

“Football is a very physical sport, so there are lots of changes in the body after a season of football,” he said. “Players have cuts and bruises, and after the season these go away. Perhaps the change we’re seeing is just another one of those physical manifestations of playing a season of football that will just go away.”


Whitlow said he and his colleagues were particularly concerned about the impacts to the head that don’t lead to a concussion. The brains of youth and high school football players are still undergoing rapid development, and repeated hits that don’t result in brain injury still might have an effect that adds up over time, the researchers said.


The researchers concluded that players with more exposure to head impacts displayed more changes to their white matter. The brain’s white matter is composed of millions of nerve fibers that act like communication cables, connecting various regions of the brain.


UN: Heat-trapping gas surges beyond milestone

Oct. 24, 2016

The World Meteorological Organization says heat-trapping gases in Earth’s atmosphere are growing faster than before, surging permanently beyond a troubling milestone.

The United Nations agency says global carbon dioxide levels, which first reached 400 parts per million last year, are likely to stay above that symbolic 400 milestone all year and for generations to come.

Carbon dioxide levels overall rise because of the burning of fossil fuels; they also fluctuate seasonally, peaking in May and dipping in September. Last month’s average level at a key Hawaii monitoring station was 401 parts per million, up from 313 in 1958.


Methane and other heat-trapping gases are also spiking. The WMO issues its annual greenhouse gas bulletin, using public data, before international climate talks.

'The atmosphere is being radicalized' by climate change

Dana Nuccitelli
Oct. 24, 2016

Climate change’s impacts on extreme weather and society are becoming increasingly clear and undeniable. While we are making progress in solving the problem, we’re still moving too slowly, and one of the two political parties governing the world’s strongest superpower continues to deny the science. This led astrophysicist Katie Mack to make the following suggestion, related to a common refrain from Donald Trump and Republican Party leaders:

Maybe governments will actually listen if we stop saying "extreme weather" & "climate change" & just say the atmosphere is being radicalized


Global warming intensified Hurricane Matthew

Hurricane Matthew set a number of records. Its record-breaking rainfall and storm surge caused historic flooding and destructive winds along the coasts of Florida, Georgia, the Carolinas, and Virginia.

At Climate Progress, Joe Romm summarized the various ways in which global warming makes hurricanes like Matthew more intense:

Hotter sea surface and upper ocean temperatures fuel hurricanes, leading to more of the strongest (Category 4 and 5) storms.

Hotter ocean temperatures also cause more rapid intensification of hurricanes, and the most intense storms are those that undergo rapid intensification.

Global warming causes sea level rise, which creates larger storm surges and thus worse flooding.

Global warming also adds more water vapor to the atmosphere, which causes more intense rainfall and exacerbates flooding.

In short, global warming made Hurricane Matthew and its impacts more severe, and will lead to more such devastating hurricanes in the future.

Arctic sea ice is disappearing

According to the National Snow and Ice Data Center, 2016 tied for the second-lowest annual Arctic sea ice minimum extent. However, that only accounts for the amount of ice on the surface of the ocean. The ice has also become thinner due to the warming oceans. As a result, we’ve lost about three-quarters of the volume of sea ice in the Arctic ocean in less than four decades,


That decline is well outside the range of natural variability over the past 1,500 years, and several studies have found that human-caused global warming is the primary driver of the disappearing Arctic sea ice.

Global temperatures keep shattering records

2014 was the hottest year since our measurements began, breaking the record set in 2010, which had broken the record set in 2005. A year later we saw the temperature record shattered once again in 2015, by more than a tenth of a degree Celsius. This year we’ll see the record broken once again, likely by an even larger margin.


The western USA is dry and burning

California is in the midst of a 5-year drought; its worst in over a millennium. 100% of the state is currently experiencing drought conditions, with over 20% of the state in “exceptional” drought – the most severe category.

The drought has created conditions ripe for severe wildfire seasons. Over the past 5 years, California has seen an average of more than 4,000 wildfires burning over 160,000 acres per year. A new study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found that global warming is the main culprit increasing the size of forest fires in the western US:

We demonstrate that human-caused climate change caused over half of the documented increases in fuel aridity since the 1970s and doubled the cumulative forest fire area since 1984. This analysis suggests that anthropogenic climate change will continue to chronically enhance the potential for western US forest fire activity while fuels are not limiting.


The only way to curb these impacts is to cut the carbon pollution that’s intensifying them. As any member of Alcoholics Anonymous knows, denying a problem doesn’t make it go away. Only by admitting we have a problem and taking steps to address it can we avoid a catastrophic outcome.

Bar Association declined to publish report calling Trump 'libel bully' because they feared he would sue

October 24, 2016, 09:56 pm
Report: Bar Association declined to publish report calling Trump 'libel bully'
By Lisa Hagen

A group of media lawyers from the American Bar Association commissioned a report on Donald Trump’s history of filing lawsuits, determining that the GOP presidential nominee is a “libel bully,” according to the New York Times.

But that report was never published because the association said it feared it would be sued by Trump, the GOP presidential nominee. The report discovered that the suits he filed never won in court.

“It is more than a little ironic that a publication dedicated to the exploration of First Amendment issues is subjected to censorship when it seeks to publish an article about threats to free speech,” said David J. Bodney, a former chairman of the media-law committee. Other former chairmen of the committee were also said they were dismayed by the association’s decision not to publish.

Susan Seager, a former journalist and First Amendment lawyer, compiled the study and researched seven lawsuits surrounding free speech that Trump or his companies filed. She said in an interview with the Times that the report is “based on court records.”


Global Temperature Just Short of Record in September, Says NOAA

By: Jeff Masters and Bob Henson , 10:25 PM GMT on October 18, 2016

September 2016 was Earth's second warmest September since record keeping began in 1880, said NOAA's National Centers for Environmental Information (NCEI) on Tuesday. In the NOAA database, September 2016 came in 0.89°C (1.66°F) warmer than the 20th-century average for September, and just 0.04°C shy of the record set in September 2015. NASA reported the warmest September in its database, with September 2016 a mere 0.01°C above the previous record, set in September 2014.

September 2016 marked the end of a remarkable streak of 16 consecutive months in which NOAA’s global monthly temperature record was broken, the longest such streak since global temperature records began in 1880. Ocean-only temperatures this September were 0.04°C (0.07°F) cooler than the record warmth of September 2015, while land-only temperatures were 0.11°C (0.20°F) above the previous land-only record from September 2015. (Since most of Earth’s surface is covered by ocean, the land-plus-ocean reading is dominated by the ocean-only temperatures, thus keeping September 2016 just short of the land-plus-ocean record) For the lowest 8 km of the atmosphere, global satellite-measured temperatures in September 2016 were tied for warmest with 1998 for any September in the 38-year record, according to the University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH).

With the powerful 2015-16 El Niño event having ended early in 2016, the impressive global warmth in recent months can mostly be attributed to the steady build-up of heat-trapping greenhouse gases due to human activities. NOAA’s global surface temperature for the year so far (January-September 2016) is an eye-opening 0.78°C (1.40°F) above the 20th-century average and 0.08°C (0.14°F) warmer than the previous January-to-September record, set in 2015 (see Figure 2 below).

Temperatures would have to plummet at an almost unthinkable pace between now and December in order to keep 2016 from becoming the warmest year in global record-keeping.


Saturday, October 22, 2016

Hungry Humans Are Eating Wild Mammals Into Extinction

By Michael Harthorne, Newser Staff
Posted Oct 22, 2016

Hungry humans are in danger of eating nearly a quarter of all endangered land mammals into extinction, according to a study published this week in Royal Society Open Science. Quartz reports that 301 species of land mammals—from bats and primates to rodents and big cats—are being hunted into extinction. And for the vast majority—285 species—the reason is food, not poaching or sport hunting. Some estimates claims more than a million metric tons of wild animal meat is collected in Africa every year. And approximately $200 million worth of wild animal meat is harvested yearly in the Brazilian Amazon, according to the Telegraph. "These species will continue to decline unless there is major global action to save them," the study's lead author, Bill Ripple, says.

The 285 species are found in poorer countries where protein is hard to find, with the most living in Madagascar, Indonesia, the Philippines, and Brazil. Researchers say tens of millions of people around the world rely on wild animals for meat. They lay out a series of solutions for what they call a "global crisis," reports. Those include creating more protected land for wild animals, providing legal rights for sustainable hunting, swapping high-protein plants like soy and tubers for wild animal meat, and increasing access to education and family planning. Fifteen leading conservation scientists have signed on to the study.

Hacked Cameras, DVRs Powered Today’s Massive Internet Outage

Oct. 21, 2016

A massive and sustained Internet attack that has caused outages and network congestion today for a large number of Web sites was launched with the help of hacked “Internet of Things” (IoT) devices, such as CCTV video cameras and digital video recorders, new data suggests.

Earlier today cyber criminals began training their attack cannons on Dyn, an Internet infrastructure company that provides critical technology services to some of the Internet’s top destinations. The attack began creating problems for Internet users reaching an array of sites, including Twitter, Amazon, Tumblr, Reddit, Spotify and Netflix.


At first, it was unclear who or what was behind the attack on Dyn. But over the past few hours, at least one computer security firm has come out saying the attack involved Mirai, the same malware strain that was used in the record 620 Gpbs attack on my site last month. At the end September 2016, the hacker responsible for creating the Mirai malware released the source code for it, effectively letting anyone build their own attack army using Mirai.

Mirai scours the Web for IoT devices protected by little more than factory-default usernames and passwords, and then enlists the devices in attacks that hurl junk traffic at an online target until it can no longer accommodate legitimate visitors or users.

According to researchers at security firm Flashpoint, today’s attack was launched at least in part by a Mirai-based botnet. Allison Nixon, director of research at Flashpoint, said the botnet used in today’s ongoing attack is built on the backs of hacked IoT devices — mainly compromised digital video recorders (DVRs) and IP cameras made by a Chinese hi-tech company called XiongMai Technologies. The components that XiongMai makes are sold downstream to vendors who then use it in their own products.

“It’s remarkable that virtually an entire company’s product line has just been turned into a botnet that is now attacking the United States,” Nixon said, noting that Flashpoint hasn’t ruled out the possibility of multiple botnets being involved in the attack on Dyn.


As I noted earlier this month in Europe to Push New Security Rules Amid IoT Mess, many of these products from XiongMai and other makers of inexpensive, mass-produced IoT devices are essentially unfixable, and will remain a danger to others unless and until they are completely unplugged from the Internet.


Flashpoint’s researchers said they scanned the Internet on Oct. 6 for systems that showed signs of running the vulnerable hardware, and found more than 515,000 of them were vulnerable to the flaws they discovered.

“I truly think this IoT infrastructure is very dangerous on the whole and does deserve attention from anyone who can take action,” Flashpoint’s Nixon said.


Oct 16
Hacked Cameras, DVRs Powered Today’s Massive Internet Outage

A massive and sustained Internet attack that has caused outages and network congestion today for a large number of Web sites was launched with the help of hacked “Internet of Things” (IoT) devices, such as CCTV video cameras and digital video recorders, new data suggests.

Earlier today cyber criminals began training their attack cannons on Dyn, an Internet infrastructure company that provides critical technology services to some of the Internet’s top destinations. The attack began creating problems for Internet users reaching an array of sites, including Twitter, Amazon, Tumblr, Reddit, Spotify and Netflix.

A depiction of the outages caused by today’s attacks on Dyn, an Internet infrastructure company. Source:

At first, it was unclear who or what was behind the attack on Dyn. But over the past few hours, at least one computer security firm has come out saying the attack involved Mirai, the same malware strain that was used in the record 620 Gpbs attack on my site last month. At the end September 2016, the hacker responsible for creating the Mirai malware released the source code for it, effectively letting anyone build their own attack army using Mirai.

Mirai scours the Web for IoT devices protected by little more than factory-default usernames and passwords, and then enlists the devices in attacks that hurl junk traffic at an online target until it can no longer accommodate legitimate visitors or users.

According to researchers at security firm Flashpoint, today’s attack was launched at least in part by a Mirai-based botnet. Allison Nixon, director of research at Flashpoint, said the botnet used in today’s ongoing attack is built on the backs of hacked IoT devices — mainly compromised digital video recorders (DVRs) and IP cameras made by a Chinese hi-tech company called XiongMai Technologies. The components that XiongMai makes are sold downstream to vendors who then use it in their own products.

“It’s remarkable that virtually an entire company’s product line has just been turned into a botnet that is now attacking the United States,” Nixon said, noting that Flashpoint hasn’t ruled out the possibility of multiple botnets being involved in the attack on Dyn.

“At least one Mirai [control server] issued an attack command to hit Dyn,” Nixon said. “Some people are theorizing that there were multiple botnets involved here. What we can say is that we’ve seen a Mirai botnet participating in the attack.”

As I noted earlier this month in Europe to Push New Security Rules Amid IoT Mess, many of these products from XiongMai and other makers of inexpensive, mass-produced IoT devices are essentially unfixable, and will remain a danger to others unless and until they are completely unplugged from the Internet.

That’s because while many of these devices allow users to change the default usernames and passwords on a Web-based administration panel that ships with the products, those machines can still be reached via more obscure, less user-friendly communications services called “Telnet” and “SSH.”

Telnet and SSH are command-line, text-based interfaces that are typically accessed via a command prompt (e.g., in Microsoft Windows, a user could click Start, and in the search box type “cmd.exe” to launch a command prompt, and then type “telnet” to reach a username and password prompt at the target host).

“The issue with these particular devices is that a user cannot feasibly change this password,” Flashpoint’s Zach Wikholm told KrebsOnSecurity. “The password is hardcoded into the firmware, and the tools necessary to disable it are not present.

“The issue with these particular devices is that a user cannot feasibly change this password,” Flashpoint’s Zach Wikholm told KrebsOnSecurity. “The password is hardcoded into the firmware, and the tools necessary to disable it are not present. Even worse, the web interface is not aware that these credentials even exist.”

Flashpoint’s researchers said they scanned the Internet on Oct. 6 for systems that showed signs of running the vulnerable hardware, and found more than 515,000 of them were vulnerable to the flaws they discovered.

“I truly think this IoT infrastructure is very dangerous on the whole and does deserve attention from anyone who can take action,” Flashpoint’s Nixon said.

It’s unclear what it will take to get a handle on the security problems introduced by millions of insecure IoT devices that are ripe for being abused in these sorts of assaults.

As I noted in The Democratization of Censorship, to address the threat from the mass-proliferation of hardware devices such as Internet routers, DVRs and IP cameras that ship with default-insecure settings, we probably need an industry security association, with published standards that all members adhere to and are audited against periodically.

The wholesalers and retailers of these devices might then be encouraged to shift their focus toward buying and promoting connected devices which have this industry security association seal of approval. Consumers also would need to be educated to look for that seal of approval. Something like Underwriters Laboratories (UL), but for the Internet, perhaps.

Until then, these insecure IoT devices are going to stick around like a bad rash — unless and until there is a major, global effort to recall and remove vulnerable systems from the Internet. In my humble opinion, this global cleanup effort should be funded mainly by the companies that are dumping these cheap, poorly-secured hardware devices onto the market in an apparent bid to own the market. Well, they should be made to own the cleanup efforts as well.

Devices infected with Mirai are instructed to scour the Internet for IoT devices protected by more than 60 default usernames and passwords. The entire list of those passwords — and my best approximation of which firms are responsible for producing those hardware devices — can be found at my story, Who Makes the IoT Things Under Attack.

As long as we have Citizens United, the polluters are going to be in charge of our country

It was the supreme court justices who were nominated by Republican presidents who ruled for the Citizens United decision, making corporations people, and their political contributions speech.

Robert F Kennedy Jr
Robert F Kennedy Jr is president of Waterkeeper Alliance, a global movement for swimmable, drinkable and fishable water. He is also a US radio host, environmental activist and attorney specializing in environmental law.


One of the things I’ve recognized in my 30 years of doing this work is that wherever you see large scale environmental injury, you’ll also see the subversion of democracy. You’ll see the corruption of public officials, and the capture of the agencies that are supposed to protect Americans from pollution – they become sock puppets for the industries they’re supposed to regulate.

You’ll see the disappearance of transparency in government, the corruption of the press and the diminishment of local control. I’ll give you an example: in the town where I live, Bedford, New York, somebody tried to build a quarry. We passed a zoning law to say, “Hey, you can’t do that” because it’s going to diminish everyone else’s property values. So yeah, you’re going to make that one guy rich, but all the rest of us are going to pay for it.

That law was upheld by the top appellate court in New York. In Kentucky and West Virginia, where I do a lot of my work, they don’t have those laws. Those laws have been abolished constitutionally so that there is no way for localities to object to mountaintop removal mining, for example. In North Carolina, laws have been abolished that would allow localities to object to factory farms in their backyard. And the agencies in these states are really just mouthpieces for the industries which they’re supposed to regulate.


In North Carolina, Rick Dove, a 27-year veteran of the US marine corps [and one of the founding members of the Waterkeeper Alliance], owned a commercial fishing operation on the Neuse River. It was his dream job after he retired from the marines. Two years after he started that business, a billion fish died in the Neuse River with lesions on their bodies, and no one could explain why. Rick traced the pollution to the hog industry, which had happened below anybody’s radar. Why? Because the hog factories were placed in poor communities that had no voice, and no access to public office.

A [North Carolina] state senator named Wendell Murphy had looked at what happened to the chicken industry in this country. He’d seen how three men – Tyson, Pilgrim and Perdue – had put a million independent chicken farmers out of business and changed the chicken industry from an agricultural one to an industrial one. They would shoehorn up to a million birds into a single facility and keep them in tiny battery cages where they could not turn around, and then dose them with drugs and hormones and manipulate them with light and cause them to literally lay their guts out over a short and miserable life.

They made themselves billionaires. And Wendell Murphy said, “I can do that with hogs”. He passed laws that made it almost impossible for anyone to sue anyone who called themselves a hog farmer, even if it had nothing to do with farming. At that time, there were 28,000 independent hog farmers in the state, raising hogs sustainably, providing jobs. He put every hog farmer in the state out of business, except those who would sign a contract with him. That contract doomed those farmers to involuntary servitude. In 10 years, [the state] went from 28,000 hog farmers to 2,200 factories. And those factories were deliberately put in areas of the state with minority populations – blacks, Hispanics – where people wouldn’t complain.

Polluters always choose the soft targets of poverty. Four out of every five toxic waste dumps in this country are in a black neighborhood. The largest toxic waste dump in America is in Emelle, Alabama, where a third of the population is in poverty. The highest concentration of toxic waste dumps in America is on Chicago’s South Side. The most contaminated zipcode in California is East LA.

Navajo youths have a thousand times the rate of sexual organ cancer as other Americans because the thousands of tons of uranium tailings that have been dumped on their reservation lands. In North Carolina, we now have an air force that flies over the state every day filming these industries because they can’t be photographed from the road.


You’ll hear this a lot from the big polluters, the Koch brothers, from their indentured servants in Washington DC and their toadies on Fox News: “Oh we have to choose between economic prosperity on the one hand and environmental protection on the other.” That is a false choice. In 100% of situations, good environmental policy is identical to good economic policy.

We should be measuring our economy on how it produces jobs and how it preserves the value of the assets of our community. If, on the other hand, we want to do what the Koch brothers and the big polluters want us to do, which is to treat our country as if it were a business in liquidation, convert our natural resources to cash as quickly as possible, have a few years of pollution-based prosperity ... then we can generate an instantaneous cash flow and the illusion of a prosperous economy and make a few people billionaires by impoverishing the rest of us.

But our children are going to pay for our joy ride. And they’re going to pay for it with poor health and huge cleanup costs that are going to amplify and metastasize over time. Environmental injury is deficit spending. It’s a way of loading the costs of our generation’s prosperity onto the backs of our children. One of the things that I’ve done over the past three decades as an environmental advocate is to constantly go around and confront this argument that an investment in our environment is a diminishment of our nation’s wealth. But it’s not – it’s an investment in infrastructure. It’s the same as investing in telecommunications or road construction. It’s an investment we have to make if we’re going to ensure the economic vitality of future generations.


I would get rid of Citizens United. Because for capitalism to work, you need democracy to work. And right now we don’t have democracy. We have what I would call a corporate kleptocracy, an oligarchy by the corporations and the wealthy. You can’t have a clean environment when you have that.


As long as we have Citizens United, the polluters are going to be in charge of our country. And that’s going to happen every time we try and do something good for our children, or something sustainable. Our assets are going to be liquidated and turned into profit by the big shots who own our government.


What polluters do is make themselves rich by making everyone else poor. They raise standards of living for themselves by lowering quality of life for everyone else.


How facts backfire

By Joe Keohane
July 11, 2010

It’s one of the great assumptions underlying modern democracy that an informed citizenry is preferable to an uninformed one. “Whenever the people are well-informed, they can be trusted with their own government,” Thomas Jefferson wrote in 1789. This notion, carried down through the years, underlies everything from humble political pamphlets to presidential debates to the very notion of a free press. Mankind may be crooked timber, as Kant put it, uniquely susceptible to ignorance and misinformation, but it’s an article of faith that knowledge is the best remedy. If people are furnished with the facts, they will be clearer thinkers and better citizens. If they are ignorant, facts will enlighten them. If they are mistaken, facts will set them straight.

In the end, truth will out. Won’t it?

Maybe not. Recently, a few political scientists have begun to discover a human tendency deeply discouraging to anyone with faith in the power of information. It’s this: Facts don’t necessarily have the power to change our minds. In fact, quite the opposite. In a series of studies in 2005 and 2006, researchers at the University of Michigan found that when misinformed people, particularly political partisans, were exposed to corrected facts in news stories, they rarely changed their minds. In fact, they often became even more strongly set in their beliefs. Facts, they found, were not curing misinformation. Like an underpowered antibiotic, facts could actually make misinformation even stronger.

This bodes ill for a democracy, because most voters — the people making decisions about how the country runs — aren’t blank slates. They already have beliefs, and a set of facts lodged in their minds. The problem is that sometimes the things they think they know are objectively, provably false. And in the presence of the correct information, such people react very, very differently than the merely uninformed. Instead of changing their minds to reflect the correct information, they can entrench themselves even deeper.

“The general idea is that it’s absolutely threatening to admit you’re wrong,” says political scientist Brendan Nyhan, the lead researcher on the Michigan study. The phenomenon — known as “backfire” — is “a natural defense mechanism to avoid that cognitive dissonance.”


On its own, this might not be a problem: People ignorant of the facts could simply choose not to vote. But instead, it appears that misinformed people often have some of the strongest political opinions. A striking recent example was a study done in the year 2000, led by James Kuklinski of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He led an influential experiment in which more than 1,000 Illinois residents were asked questions about welfare — the percentage of the federal budget spent on welfare, the number of people enrolled in the program, the percentage of enrollees who are black, and the average payout. More than half indicated that they were confident that their answers were correct — but in fact only 3 percent of the people got more than half of the questions right. Perhaps more disturbingly, the ones who were the most confident they were right were by and large the ones who knew the least about the topic. (Most of these participants expressed views that suggested a strong antiwelfare bias.)

Studies by other researchers have observed similar phenomena when addressing education, health care reform, immigration, affirmative action, gun control, and other issues that tend to attract strong partisan opinion. Kuklinski calls this sort of response the “I know I’m right” syndrome, and considers it a “potentially formidable problem” in a democratic system. “It implies not only that most people will resist correcting their factual beliefs,” he wrote, “but also that the very people who most need to correct them will be least likely to do so.”

What’s going on? How can we have things so wrong, and be so sure that we’re right? Part of the answer lies in the way our brains are wired. Generally, people tend to seek consistency. There is a substantial body of psychological research showing that people tend to interpret information with an eye toward reinforcing their preexisting views. If we believe something about the world, we are more likely to passively accept as truth any information that confirms our beliefs, and actively dismiss information that doesn’t. This is known as “motivated reasoning.”


It would be reassuring to think that political scientists and psychologists have come up with a way to counter this problem, but that would be getting ahead of ourselves. The persistence of political misperceptions remains a young field of inquiry. “It’s very much up in the air,” says Nyhan.

But researchers are working on it. One avenue may involve self-esteem. Nyhan worked on one study in which he showed that people who were given a self-affirmation exercise were more likely to consider new information than people who had not. In other words, if you feel good about yourself, you’ll listen — and if you feel insecure or threatened, you won’t. This would also explain why demagogues benefit from keeping people agitated. The more threatened people feel, the less likely they are to listen to dissenting opinions, and the more easily controlled they are.

There are also some cases where directness works. Kuklinski’s welfare study suggested that people will actually update their beliefs if you hit them “between the eyes” with bluntly presented, objective facts that contradict their preconceived ideas. He asked one group of participants what percentage of its budget they believed the federal government spent on welfare, and what percentage they believed the government should spend. Another group was given the same questions, but the second group was immediately told the correct percentage the government spends on welfare (1 percent). They were then asked, with that in mind, what the government should spend. Regardless of how wrong they had been before receiving the information, the second group indeed adjusted their answer to reflect the correct fact.

Kuklinski’s study, however, involved people getting information directly from researchers in a highly interactive way. When Nyhan attempted to deliver the correction in a more real-world fashion, via a news article, it backfired. Even if people do accept the new information, it might not stick over the long term, or it may just have no effect on their opinions.


And if you harbor the notion — popular on both sides of the aisle — that the solution is more education and a higher level of political sophistication in voters overall, well, that’s a start, but not the solution. A 2006 study by Charles Taber and Milton Lodge at Stony Brook University showed that politically sophisticated thinkers were even less open to new information than less sophisticated types. These people may be factually right about 90 percent of things, but their confidence makes it nearly impossible to correct the 10 percent on which they’re totally wrong. Taber and Lodge found this alarming, because engaged, sophisticated thinkers are “the very folks on whom democratic theory relies most heavily.”


But keeping atop the news takes time and effort. And relentless self-questioning, as centuries of philosophers have shown, can be exhausting. Our brains are designed to create cognitive shortcuts — inference, intuition, and so forth — to avoid precisely that sort of discomfort while coping with the rush of information we receive on a daily basis. Without those shortcuts, few things would ever get done. Unfortunately, with them, we’re easily suckered by political falsehoods.


Global warming continues; 2016 will be the hottest year ever recorded

Conceivably, there could be a very big volcanic eruption or an asteroid strike to put enough particulate matter in the air, that would decrease temperatures enough to bring down the average enough to avoid this, but that is very unlikely.

John Abraham
Oct. 21, 2016


We have enough data this year to call 2016 as the hottest year ever record – and we have three more months left to go.


I have taken temperature data from NASA and superimposed my predictions for 2016 – it isn’t even close. And by the way, it doesn’t matter whose data you use (NASA, NOAA, JMA, Hadley Centre) the results are the same. 2016 is going to blow 2015 out of the water.


A few things to note. First, these temperatures are surface temperatures that are taken across the globe. But, you can measure temperatures elsewhere and see the same result. Most importantly, measurements in the oceans, where 93% of the extra heat is stored are the best proof of global warming.


You can measure sea level rise as the heated water expands, you can measure ice loss across the globe, you can measure temperatures in the lower part of the atmosphere. It doesn’t matter where; the story is the same.

What is the big deal? Well first of all, 2016 blows away 2015 which was previously the hottest year ever and that had beaten 2014 as the hottest year ever – call this a three-peat. Three records in a row and the last two are by large margins. Does this mean global warming all of a sudden has gotten worse?

No, surface temperatures fluctuate a lot – you can see that in the figure. Temperatures will go up or down from year to year without apparent reason. This is why we are interested in the long term trends. This is also why we are interested in looking at other measures of warming (especially in the oceans). All of our measurements agree with each other – we know the Earth was warming long before this set of records began falling in 2014.

One thing these temperatures can do is enable us to compare computer models with measurements. We’ve seen that models have done an excellent job of correctly predicting the rate of heating of the Earth. My own research shows that in the oceans, the models are slightly under-predicting the rate of heating.


In fact, the 2016 temperatures are above the average which means the models under-predicted the temperature of 2016.

Before we get too anxious, it is almost certain that 2017 will be cooler than 2016. In fact, we may not set another record for a few years. But just as a few hot years doesn’t prove global warming, a few cooler years wont disprove it. The long-term trend is clearer upwards through and the models are spot on.

All this aside, there are still things we can do to bend the arc of this curve. There are actions we can take as individuals and as collectives to reduce our emissions and our dependence on polluting fuels. That message is, and continues to be, the most important one.

But one thing we cannot do is deny facts.

[Unfortunately, humans do deny facts.]

Richard Branson: Trump said he would destroy those who wouldn't help him after he went bankrupt

By Leslie Salzillo
Friday Oct 21, 2016

Billionaire philanthropist, Virgin founder, and entrepreneur Richard Branson has used much of his wealth to help others—but one person he would never help is Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump. Branson published a piece on his blog about one of his encounters with Trump.

“Some years ago, Mr Trump invited me to lunch for a one-to-one meeting at his apartment in Manhattan. We had not met before and I accepted. Even before the starters arrived he began telling me about how he had asked a number of people for help after his latest bankruptcy and how five of them were unwilling to help. He told me he was going to spend the rest of his life destroying these five people.”

Branson says Trump spoke only of this revenge and Branson found that “very bizarre.” He was baffled as to why Trump invited him to lunch to tell him this. Branson wondered if Trump was going to ask Brannon for money—and if so, Brannon said he would be come the sixth person on Trump’s revenge list because that was not going to happen.


Branson said he also met with Hillary Clinton for a one-on-one lunch, and the contrast was stunning. Here is what Branson said about Clinton.

“Here we talked about education reform, the war on drugs, women’s rights, conflicts around the globe and the death penalty. She was a good listener as well as an eloquent speaker. As she understands well, the President of the United States needs to understand and be engaged with wider world issues, rather than be consumed by petty personal quarrels.”


Judge rejects riot charges for journalist Amy Goodman after oil pipeline protest

Sam Levin
Oct. 17, 2016

A North Dakota judge rejected prosecutors’ “riot” charges against Democracy Now! host Amy Goodman for her reporting on the oil pipeline protests, a decision that advocates hailed as a major victory for freedom of the press.

After the award-winning broadcast journalist filmed security guards working for the Dakota access pipeline using dogs and pepper spray on protesters, authorities issued a warrant for Goodman’s arrest and alleged that she participated in a “riot”, a serious offense that could result in months in jail.

On Monday, judge John Grinsteiner ruled that the state lacked probable cause for the riot charge, blocking prosecutors from moving forward with the controversial prosecution.

“I feel vindicated. Most importantly, journalism is vindicated,” Goodman told reporters and supporters on a live Facebook video on Monday afternoon. “We have a right to report. It’s also critical that we are on the front lines. Today, the judge sided with … freedom of the press.”

The case stems from a 3 September report when Goodman traveled to the Native American-led protest against a controversial $3.8bn oil pipeline that the Standing Rock Sioux tribe says is threatening its water supply and cultural heritage.

Goodman’s dispatch on the use of dogs went viral and has since garnered 14m views on Facebook and also prompted coverage from many news outlets, including CBS, NBC, NPR and CNN.

The North Dakota state attorney’s office had originally charged the journalist with “criminal trespass”. But last week, prosecutors emailed Goodman’s attorney, admitting that there were “legal issues with proving the notice of trespassing requirements in the statute”, according to Democracy Now! Instead, the state said it would be seeking riot charges.

“If the prosecutor thought he was going to intimidate Amy, he severely misjudged the situation,” Reed Brody, one of Goodman’s lawyers, told the Guardian after the judge’s decision on Monday.


Depending on the specific charge, Goodman could have faced several months or up to a year if convicted, according to Brody.

The riot claim was particularly unusual and disturbing, the lawyer added.


Brody said he hoped the state would stop targeting Goodman and other journalists. “He tried one charge. He tried another. At a certain point, I would think it would become too embarrassing for him to pursue these charges.”

The case backfired on prosecutors by prompting many journalists to write about law enforcement’s questionable responses to protesters, he added.

“If he thought these charges were going to deflect media attention from the pipeline, then he really blew it.”

The Freedom of the Press Foundation noted that Goodman was arrested in 2008 for covering Minnesota protests at the Republican national convention. She later won $100,000 from the state in a first amendment lawsuit.