Monday, October 20, 2014

Earth Just Had Its Hottest September On Record

by Katie Valentine Posted on October 20, 2014

Last month was the warmest September the globe has experienced since record-keeping began in 1880, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Researchers from NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center found that the Earth’s average global land and ocean surface temperature temperature in September was 60.30°F, which is 1.30°F warmer than the 20th century average.

In September, NOAA states, “warmer-than-average temperatures were evident over most of the global land surface, except for central Russia, some areas in eastern and northern Canada, and a small region in Namibia. Record warmth was notable in much of northwestern Africa, coastal regions of southeastern South America, southwestern Australia, parts of the Middle East, and regions of southeastern Asia.” Southern California experienced a heat wave in September that forced schools to shorten the school day and saw temperatures that about 15 degrees higher than average for the region.

NOAA also found that September’s record-breaking average temperature continues a trend set this year: average temperatures for the January through September 2014 period tied with 1998 and 2010 as the warmest January-September on record. In addition, NOAA states, almost every month in 2014 has been among its respective four warmest on record — May and June were also the warmest on record, as well as February, and this September follows a record-breaking August. It also continues a trend for warm Septembers: the last below-average September, NOAA notes, was in 1976.

According to NOAA, this year’s record-breaking warming trend could continue, making 2014 the warmest year since record keeping began.

“If 2014 maintains this temperature departure from average for the remainder of the year, it will be the warmest calendar year on record,” NOAA states. Already, the last 12-month period (October 2013 – September 2014) was the warmest on record, according to the agency, averaging in at 1.24°F warmer than the 20th century average.

Arctic sea ice also hit its annual minimum in September, falling to the sixth-lowest extent recorded since 1978, according to NASA. NOAA notes that the minimum extent, which hit 1.94 million square miles on September 17, was
463,000 square miles smaller than the 1981-2010 average.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Poor kids who do everything right don’t do better than rich kids who do everything wrong

By Matt O'Brien October 18, 2014

inequality starts in the crib. Rich parents can afford to spend more time and money on their kids, and that gap has only grown the past few decades. Indeed, economists Greg Duncan and Richard Murnane calculate that, between 1972 and 2006, high-income parents increased their spending on "enrichment activities" for their children by 151 percent in inflation-adjusted terms, compared to 57 percent for low-income parents.


But, of course, it's not just a matter of dollars and cents. It's also a matter of letters and words. Affluent parents talk to their kids three more hours a week on average than poor parents, which is critical during a child's formative early years. That's why, as Stanford professor Sean Reardon explains, "rich students are increasingly entering kindergarten much better prepared to succeed in school than middle-class students," and they're staying that way.


Even poor kids who do everything right don't do much better than rich kids who do everything wrong. Advantages and disadvantages, in other words, tend to perpetuate themselves. You can see that in the above chart, based on a new paper from Richard Reeves and Isabel Sawhill, presented at the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston's annual conference, which is underway.

Specifically, rich high school dropouts remain in the top about as much as poor college grads stay stuck in the bottom — 14 versus 16 percent, respectively. Not only that, but these low-income strivers are just as likely to end up in the bottom as these wealthy ne'er-do-wells.


What's going on? Well, it's all about glass floors and glass ceilings. Rich kids who can go work for the family business — and, in Canada at least, 70 percent of the sons of the top 1 percent do just that — or inherit the family estate don't need a high school diploma to get ahead. It's an extreme example of what economists call "opportunity hoarding." That includes everything from legacy college admissions to unpaid internships that let affluent parents rig the game a little more in their children's favor.

But even if they didn't, low-income kids would still have a hard time getting ahead. That's, in part, because they're targets for diploma mills that load them up with debt, but not a lot of prospects. And even if they do get a good degree, at least when it comes to black families, they're more likely to still live in impoverished neighborhoods that keep them disconnected from opportunities.

It's not quite a heads-I-win, tails-you-lose game where rich kids get better educations, yet still get ahead even if they don't—but it's close enough. And if it keeps up, the American Dream will be just that.

Leonardo DiCaprio Donates $2 Million To Ocean Conservation Efforts

by Katie Valentine Posted on October 17, 2014

For an actor who catapulted to international fame for a movie set largely in the ocean, giving back to the marine environment just makes sense.

Leonardo DiCaprio announced Thursday that his foundation, which is focused on conservation and climate change, is donating $2 million to marine conservation group Oceans 5.

“The sad truth is that less than two percent of our oceans are fully protected,” DiCaprio said in a statement. “We need to change that now. My Foundation supports Oceans 5 projects that are directly improving ocean health by stopping overfishing and creating marine reserves.”

Oceans 5 was created in 2011 and has worked on multiple marine conservation projects, including curbing illegal fishing and protecting key marine regions. DiCaprio’s contribution will help the group in its work to create protected areas in the Arctic and the Pacific Islands, and will also go toward enforcing fishing laws in the U.S. and abroad.

DiCaprio’s contribution to Oceans 5 marks the third time this year that he’s pledged donations to ocean-related groups. In June, he announced at a State Department conference that his foundation would be contributing $7 million to marine life and environment conservation efforts over the next two years, and in February, DiCaprio’s foundation donated $3 million to Oceana for initiatives aimed at protecting sharks and other keystone ocean species.

DiCaprio has been outspoken in recent years about the need to take action on climate change and on other major environmental problems, such as overfishing and the shark fin trade. DiCaprio supported bills to ban the sale of shark fins in New York and California, and his foundation donated $3 million last year to help the Wold Wildlife Fund in its quest to double Nepal’s population of wild tigers by 2022. DiCaprio also participated in September’s People’s Climate March in New York City, and spoke at the U.N.’s climate summit about the urgency of acting on climate change.

“I am not a scientist, but I don’t need to be,” he said at the summit. “Because the world’s scientific community has spoken, and they have given us our prognosis. If we do not act together, we will surely perish. Now is our moment for action.”


Children’s Genes Affect their Mothers’ Risk of Rheumatoid Arthritis

October 19, 2014
The American Society of Human Genetics

A child’s genetic makeup may contribute to his or her mother's risk of rheumatoid arthritis, possibly explaining why women are at higher risk of developing the disease than men. This research will be presented Tuesday, October 21, at the American Society of Human Genetics (ASHG) 2014 Annual Meeting in San Diego.

Rheumatoid arthritis, a painful inflammatory condition that primarily affects the joints, has been tied to a variety of genetic and environmental factors, including lifestyle factors and previous infections. Women are three times more likely to develop rheumatoid arthritis than men, with peak rates among women in their 40s and 50s. Certain versions of the immune system gene HLA-DRB1, known collectively as the shared epitope alleles, are associated with the condition. HLA genes are best known for their involvement in the immune system’s response to infection and in transplant medicine for differentiating between one’s own cells and those that are foreign.

The female predilection of rheumatoid arthritis strongly suggests that factors involved in pregnancy are involved, said Giovanna Cruz, MS, graduate student at the University of California, Berkeley, and first author on the new study.

“During pregnancy, you’ll find a small number of fetal cells circulating around the mother’s body, and it seems that in some women, they persist as long as several decades. Women with rheumatoid arthritis are more likely to have this persistence of fetal cells, known as fetal microchimerism, than women without the condition, suggesting that it is a potential risk factor for the development of rheumatoid arthritis,” Ms. Cruz said. “Why it happens, we don’t know, but we suspect HLA genes and their activity may be involved,” she explained.

The researchers analyzed the genes of women with and without the shared epitope or other forms of HLA genes associated with risk of rheumatoid arthritis, and their children. They found that having children with these high-risk alleles – inherited from the children’s father – increased the women’s risk of rheumatoid arthritis, even after accounting for differences among the mothers’ genes. These results showed that beyond a woman’s own genetic risk of rheumatoid arthritis, there is additional risk conferred by carrying and bearing children with certain high-risk alleles.


Can drinking soda make you age faster?

By Mark AlbertCBS NewsOctober 18, 2014


Epel's team discovered that in people who drank more sugar-sweetened beverages, the ends of their chromosomes, known as telomeres, were shorter. The shorter the telomere, the less a cell can regenerate, aging the body and raising the risk of disease and early death.
"This finding is alarming because it suggests that soda may be aging us, in ways we are not even aware of," said Epel.

Researchers found no link in cell aging, however, when drinking diet sodas and fruit juices.


Thirty-nine states and the District of Columbia currently tax sodas sold in vending machines.

But helped by ad campaigns from various groups, soda companies are on a four-year winning streak at the statehouse: 30 bills to levy or raise taxes on sugary drinks have all failed.


Saturday, October 18, 2014

Reminding people of their religious belief system reduces hostility

TORONTO, Oct 15, 2014 – Few topics can prove more divisive than religion, with some insisting it promotes compassion, selflessness and generosity, and others arguing that it leads to intolerance, isolation and even violence.

New research conducted at York University, published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, may shed some light on religion’s actual influence on believers – and the news is positive.


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Reminding people of their religious belief system reduces hostility: York U research

TORONTO, Oct 15, 2014 – Few topics can prove more divisive than religion, with some insisting it promotes compassion, selflessness and generosity, and others arguing that it leads to intolerance, isolation and even violence.

New research conducted at York University, published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, may shed some light on religion’s actual influence on believers – and the news is positive.

“Based on our premise that most people’s religious beliefs are non-hostile and magnanimous, we hypothesized that being reminded of religious beliefs would normally promote less hostile reactions to the kinds of threats in everyday life that usually heighten hostility,” says researcher Karina Schumann, the article’s lead author, now a postdoctoral fellow at Stanford University.


Jet lag can cause obesity by disrupting the daily rhythms of gut microbes


Contact: Mary Beth O'Leary
Cell Press
Jet lag can cause obesity by disrupting the daily rhythms of gut microbes

Organisms ranging from bacteria to humans have circadian clocks to help them synchronize their biological activities to the time of day. A study published by Cell Press October 16th in Cell now reveals that gut microbes in mice and humans have circadian rhythms that are controlled by the biological clock of the host in which they reside. Disruption of the circadian clock in the host alters the rhythms and composition of the microbial community, leading to obesity and metabolic problems.

"These findings provide an explanation for a long-standing and mysterious observation, namely that people with chronically disturbed day-night cycles due to repetitive jet lag or shift work have a tendency to develop obesity and other metabolic complications," says senior study author Eran Elinav of the Weizmann Institute of Science. "These surprising findings may enable us to devise preventive treatments for these people to lower their risk for these complications."


I have to walk how many miles to burn off this soda?


Contact: Susan Murrow
Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health
I have to walk how many miles to burn off this soda?
Easy-to-understand signs linking exercise to sugar-sweetened beverage consumption helps teens make healthier choices, researchers say

Adolescents who saw printed signs explaining the number of miles they would need to walk to burn off the calories in a sugary drink were more likely to leave the store with a lower calorie beverage, a healthier beverage or a smaller size beverage, according to new Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health research.

And those healthier choices persisted weeks after the signs came down.

A report on the findings, published online Oct. 16 in the American Journal of Public Health, adds to the growing evidence suggesting that simply showing calorie counts on products and menus isn't enough to break Americans from their bad eating habits. With calorie counts expected on menus in chain restaurants with more than 20 outlets by early next year the Affordable Care Act, the researchers say policymakers may need to rethink how that information is communicated.


For six-week stretches between August 2012 and June 2013, Bleich and her colleagues installed signs in six corner stores in low-income, predominantly black Baltimore neighborhoods. The signs, four in all, presented a key fact about the number of calories in a 20 oz. bottle of soda, sports drink or fruit juice: that each bottle contained 250 calories, had 16 teaspoons of sugar, would take 50 minutes of running to work off those calories or would take five miles to walk the calories off.


The researchers posted the brightly colored, 8.5-by-11-inch signs with the calorie information, displaying one sign at a time, on beverage cases in full view of customers. Before the signs were put up, researchers found that 98 percent of drink purchases in the stores were sugary beverages. After, regardless of the type of sign the adolescent saw, the number dropped to 89 percent. When compared with purchasing behaviors during times when there was no signage, the most effective sign, Bleich says, was the one which told shoppers they would have to walk five miles to burn off the drink calories.


America's Richest Families

Duncan Greenberg and Marie Thibault

For Sam Walton, low prices meant vast riches. By 1985, Walton was America’s richest man. At the time of his death in 1992 he and his family were worth at least $23 billion, proceeds of a life spent selling everything he could fit under the roofs of his Wal-Mart stores–from tires to tortellini–at prices neighborhood stores could not match.

Today Walton’s heirs–two sons, a daughter, a daughter-in-law and two nieces–are worth at least $90 billion, making them the richest family in America.

The Waltons are so rich that they have more than double the dollars of the second richest family in the U.S., the Koch clan, who command a fortune of at least $40 billion.


The four Koch brothers are the sons of Fred C. Koch, who invented a method of converting heavy oil into gasoline. Each son inherited a stake in Koch Industries when Fred died in 1967.


Today Koch Industries is America’s second-largest private company by sales, with products ranging from fabrics to fertilizer. Charles and David each own 42% of Koch Industries and are vastly richer than their brothers.

William runs energy conglomerate Oxbow Corporation, which last year brought in $3.7 billion in sales. Frederick is said to be living in Europe.

Ranking third: the Mars family, represented by siblings John, Jacqueline and Forrest Jr. Their great-grandmother, Alva Mars, amused her Polio-stricken son Frank (d. 1934) with lessons in chocolate making during the 1880s.

In 1911, Frank launched what would become Mars Inc.–today the world’s largest confectionery company with $30 billion in sales–out of his kitchen in Tacoma, Wash. Frank’s son, Forrest, introduced M&Ms in 1941, and popularized malt-flavored nougat, the chewy-sweet staple that is the foundation of candy classics Milky Way, Snickers and 3 Musketeers.

The three siblings inherited the company when Forrest Sr. died in 1999.

In compiling the list of America’s Richest Families, Forbes scoured biographies, financial filings and our extensive database of well-heeled individuals past and present. The list represents an eclectic mix of families who play an active role in the companies their relatives built, living entrepreneurs who have showered their families with the spoils of their success and old-money families who live off of trusts created decades ago.


How Companies Kill Their Employees' Job Searches

James Bessen Oct 17 2014

The days of working for only one company for a whole career are over. As a worker moves from one job to the next, their value to their next employer stems, at least in part, from the skills and knowledge he or she gained at work. It may seem like an odd idea, but who owns the skills and knowledge a worker gains on the job? Apparently, the companies you work for do. Even Jimmy John's has a noncompete agreement for sandwich-making.

Take Jerry Smith for example (not his real name, because he fears it would affect his future job prospects): He's an expert on speech recognition, but he can't use his deep knowledge of this technology at work anymore because he had signed a noncompete agreement with his former employer, promising not to work in the industry for two years after leaving the firm.

“I’ve been in this industry for 20 years and have a Ph.D. I walked in the door [of my former employer] with all this experience, and while I was there for 18 months they added, what, 2 percent to that?" he says. "Now they don’t want me to work in speech at all?”

He's not alone. Employers are increasingly taking legal action to prevent former employees from taking their knowledge and skills to new jobs, using trade-secret laws and contracts that cover post-employment activity. The number of lawsuits over noncompete agreements and trade secrets has nearly tripled since 2000. Now Congress is about to go further, giving employers new powers to sue employees under federal law. But many economists and legal scholars are against it, armed with ample evidence showing that such a law would reduce innovation and an employee's incentive to learn.

Currently, laws vary significantly from state to state: Some states allow the enforcement of agreements that former employees will not work for a rival company for a period of time, while other states view such agreements as illegal. But even in those states in the latter case, judges have used trade-secret laws to limit what economists call employee mobility—the ability of workers to move from one job to the next.


If you think that such a broad legal interpretation might create obstacles for many employees seeking to change jobs—you’d be right.

Some states have significantly broadened the range of employee knowledge that employers can seek to protect under trade-secret law. In the past, trade secret law mainly protected only concrete knowledge: the formula for Coca-Cola, or the code of a software program. Now, in many states, the law also extends to cover less well-defined knowledge, such as employee know-how, customer relations, and knowledge that is not used commercially. It gives firms control over employee knowledge that goes far beyond true trade secrets, reaching into basic knowledge that employees need to do their jobs. While most employers don’t push the limits of these powers, an increasing number have done so.


Another scientist took an “unpaid sabbatical” at a university; yet another worked in the industry secretly, hoping to avoid notice by his former employer; another, with years of experience, was forced out of the industry after being fired over a disagreement with the company founder. Many felt that noncompete enforcement was particularly unfair because their employers had only mentioned the agreements after they had accepted the job and begun work. Others, such as Jerry, felt it was unfair because it restricted the use of knowledge they had acquired before taking the job. Fair or not, noncompete agreements are taking an economic toll. For example, to avoid legal problems, one scientist took a job that did not use her specialized skills. “I intentionally looked for general-purpose programming, and I took a substantial pay cut to go there.”


But what about employers? It's true that trade secrets can really affect a company. Firms would be reluctant to pour millions of dollars into developing software if a rival could freely access the program code.


In short, noncompete agreements limit the job opportunities of highly skilled workers. When their choices are so limited, employees have less incentive to develop new skills and new knowledge. Statistical analysis supports this: Comparing states that allow firms to enforce noncompete agreements to those that do not, Mark Garmaise of UCLA found that managers earn less and they receive incentive compensation less often in states with noncompete enforcement, all else equal. Other researchers have found a similar effect in states that provide employers stronger controls via trade-secret law.


when employers control not only true trade secrets but also general employee knowledge and skills, the net effect is it reduces investment and innovation. Garmaise found that states that allow employers to enforce noncompete agreements actually invest less per employee. And economists Sampsa Samila and Olav Sorenson found that in these states, venture capital investments generate fewer patents, fewer new firms, and less job growth.


evidence shows that states that enforce noncompete agreements experience something of a “brain drain.” Matt Marx, along with co-authors Lee Fleming and Jasjit Singh, found that inventors tend to migrate to states that do not allow employers to enforce noncompete agreements.

The importance of employee mobility for innovation is illustrated by the phenomenal success of Silicon Valley. California prevents firms from enforcing noncompete agreements and researchers found that this explains the high level of job-hopping in Silicon Valley’s computer industry. Legal scholars Ron Gilson and Alan Hyde connect Silicon Valley’s greater employee mobility with its innovative successes relative to tech clusters in other states, such as the Route 128 cluster in Massachusetts.


Republican = ?

I was behind a car earlier today, in a residential area, that had "Democrats = socialists" painted on their back window. They were going noticeably faster than the speed limit, and tail-gating the car in front of them, so if they could, they would almost certainly have been going even faster.

Some rice-based foods for people with celiac disease contain relevant amounts of arsenic


Contact: SINC
FECYT - Spanish Foundation for Science and Technology

Some rice-based foods for people with celiac disease contain relevant amounts of arsenic

Rice is one of the few cereal grains consumed by people with celiac disease, as it does not contain gluten. However, it can have high concentrations of a toxic substance – arsenic – as revealed by the analyses of flour, cakes, bread, pasta and other foods made with rice, conducted by researchers from the Miguel Hernández University of Elche, Spain. The European Union is working to establish the maximum quantities of arsenic in these products.

Celiac disease affects almost 1% of the population of the western world, a group which cannot tolerate gluten and is thus obliged to consume products without it, such as rice. But this grain, depending on its origin, can also contain worrying levels of arsenic, a toxic and carcinogenic substance.

For the majority of consumers this does not pose any problem because they do not eat much rice every day, but this is not the case for celiac disease sufferers. Researchers from the Miguel Hernández University of Elche (UMH) have analysed the presence of arsenic in flour, bread, sweets, pastas, beers and milk made with rice and intended for this particular group of the population.

The results of the analyses, presented in the journal Food Additives & Contaminants, warn that some of these products contain "important contents" of total arsenic (As-t, up to 120 µg/kg) and inorganic arsenic (As-i, up to 85.8 µg/kg). Total arsenic is the sum of the organic arsenic, which is combined with carbon, and inorganic arsenic, which reacts with other elements such as oxygen, chlorine and sulphur, and is more harmful.


A panel of experts from the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) of the EU established in 2009 that there is evidence to suggest that an intake range of 0.3 - 8.0 µg/kg of body weight per day entails a risk of developing lung, skin or bladder cancer. The estimated intakes in the two studies therefore vary within this range.


Arsenic is naturally present in the Earth's crust, but in some regions its abundance is greater than in others, and its concentration also increases with the use of pesticides. The substance then spreads through water to rice, one of the few plants that is cultivated when flooded.

One of the 'cleanest' types of rice is from the Doñana National Park, as the use of pesticides has not been permitted here and arsenic is not naturally present in large quantities. On the other hand, in countries like India and Bangladesh, where waters are contaminated with inorganic arsenic and rice constitutes a staple food for the population, the result is currently one of the largest mass poisonings in history.

Smoking during pregnancy alters newborn stress hormones and DNA


Contact: Elena Falcone-Relvas

Miriam Hospital study finds smoking during pregnancy alters newborn stress hormones and DNA

PROVIDENCE, R.I. – Researchers from The Miriam Hospital have studied the effects of smoking during pregnancy and its impact on the stress response in newborn babies. Their research indicates that newborns of mothers who smoke cigarettes during pregnancy show lower levels of stress hormones, lowered stress response, and alterations in DNA for a gene that regulates passage of stress hormones from mother to fetus. The study and its findings have been published in the journal Psychoneuroendocrinology.

"Our results suggest that these newborns may not be mounting adequate hormonal response to daily stressors. Their stress systems may not be prepared for the stressors of daily life," says lead researcher Laura Stroud, Ph.D., of the Centers for Behavioral and Preventive Medicine at The Miriam Hospital. "This may be particularly detrimental in babies born to mothers who lack resources and parenting skills and whose babies may encounter more daily stressors."

National health statistics show that despite the warnings and known health risks, approximately one in 10 expectant moms in the United States continue to smoke during pregnancy, with higher rates among young, poor, and underserved moms. Babies born to smoking mothers are born smaller, are more likely to be premature, and are at greater risk for medical complications. Smoking during pregnancy is also associated with long-term behavioral and health problems in child and adult offspring, including asthma, behavior and attention problems, and nicotine addiction. However, biological mechanisms underlying short and long-term effects of smoking during pregnancy on offspring are not well understood.

"One possibility is alterations in stress hormones and epigenetic changes (chemical modifications) in DNA" Stroud says. "We were interested in stress hormones because alterations in stress hormones have been linked to both smoking and behavior problems and because maternal stress hormones during pregnancy exert potent long-term effects on offspring. In particular, we sought to investigate effects of smoking during pregnancy on the newborn stress hormone cortisol." Cortisol is part of the hypothalamic pituitary adrenocortical system that works synergistically with the "fight flight" stress system.


Climate change alters cast of winter birds


Contact: Benjamin Zuckerberg
University of Wisconsin-Madison
Climate change alters cast of winter birds

MADISON — Over the past two decades, the resident communities of birds that attend eastern North America's backyard bird feeders in winter have quietly been remade, most likely as a result of a warming climate.

Writing this week in the journal Global Change Biology, University of Wisconsin-Madison wildlife biologists Benjamin Zuckerberg and Karine Princé document that once rare wintering bird species are now commonplace in the American Northeast.

Using more than two decades of data on 38 species of birds gathered by thousands of "citizen scientists" through the Cornell University Laboratory of Ornithology's Project FeederWatch, the Wisconsin researchers show that birds typically found in more southerly regions are gradually pushing north, restructuring the communities of birds that spend their winters in northern latitudes.

To the causal observer of backyard birds, the list of species becoming more common includes the readily familiar: cardinals, chipping sparrows and Carolina wrens. These birds and other warm-adapted species, according to Princé and Zuckerberg, have greatly expanded their wintering range in a warmer world, a change that may have untold consequences for North American ecosystems.

"Fifty years ago, cardinals were rare in the northeastern United States. Carolina wrens even more so," explains Zuckerberg, a UW-Madison assistant professor of forest and wildlife ecology.


Vitamin D deficiency increases poor brain function after cardiac arrest by sevenfold


Contact: Jacqueline Partarrieu
European Society of Cardiology
Vitamin D deficiency increases poor brain function after cardiac arrest by sevenfold
Lack of vitamin D also increases mortality

Geneva, Switzerland – 18 October 2014: Vitamin D deficiency increases the risk of poor brain function after sudden cardiac arrest by seven-fold, according to research presented at Acute Cardiovascular Care 2014 by Dr Jin Wi from Korea. Vitamin D deficiency also led to a higher chance of dying after sudden cardiac arrest.


Friday, October 17, 2014

A top health official says cuts slowed Ebola vaccine research

The Washington Post 7:59 a.m. EDT October 16, 2014

Federal budget austerity slowed the development of vaccines and therapies for the deadly Ebola virus that has ravaged West Africa, killed one man in Dallas and infected a health-care worker in Texas, according to the top National Institutes of Health official.

NIH Director Francis Collins, a Staunton native, told the Huffington Post on Friday that the agency has been working on Ebola vaccines for more than a decade. But the NIH budget has shrunk by about $5 billion over the same period, after adjusting for inflation.

"Frankly, if we had not gone through our 10-year slide in research support, we probably would have had a vaccine in time for this that would've gone through clinical trials and would have been ready," Collins said.

The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, an NIH division that deals with viruses, has taken a hit with the recent belt tightening. The budget for that subcomponent dropped by about $50 million between 2004 and 2013.

Collins said Congress should approve emergency funding to help with the agency's work on Ebola, but he added that "nobody seems enthusiastic about that."

Two Democrats, Reps. Rosa DeLauro (Conn.) and Brian Higgins (N.Y.) proposed legislation last month that would raise the agency's current budget cap, which was imposed under the so-called sequester.


The Highest-Paid CEOs Are The Worst Performers

Susan Adams

Across the board, the more CEOs get paid, the worse their companies do over the next three years, according to extensive new research. This is true whether they’re CEOs at the highest end of the pay spectrum or the lowest. “The more CEOs are paid, the worse the firm does over the next three years, as far as stock performance and even accounting performance,” says one of the authors of the study, Michael Cooper of the University of Utah’s David Eccles School of Business.


The empirical evidence before fell on both sides of that question, but those studies used small sample sizes. Now Cooper and two professors, one at Purdue and the other at the University of Cambridge, have studied a large data set of the 1,500 companies with the biggest market caps, supplied by a firm called Execucomp. They also looked at pay and company performance in three-year periods over a relatively long time span, from 1994-2013, and compared what are known as firms’ “abnormal” performance, meaning a company’s revenues and profits as compared with like companies in their fields. They were startled to find that the more CEOs got paid, the worse their companies did.

Another counter-intuitive conclusion: The negative effect was most pronounced in the 150 firms with the highest-paid CEOs.


How could this be? In a word, overconfidence. CEOs who get paid huge amounts tend to think less critically about their decisions. “They ignore dis-confirming information and just think that they’re right,” says Cooper. That tends to result in over-investing—investing too much and investing in bad projects that don’t yield positive returns for investors.” The researchers found that 13% of the 150 CEOs at the bottom of the list had done mergers over the past year and the average return from the mergers was negative .51%. Among the top-paid CEOs, 19% did mergers and those deals resulted in a negative performance of 1.38% over the following three years. “The returns are almost three times lower for the high-paying firms than the low-paying firms,” says Cooper. “This wasteful spending destroys shareholder value.”

The paper also found that the longer CEOs were at the helm, the more pronounced was their firms’ poor performance. Cooper says this is because those CEOs are able to appoint more allies to their boards, and those board members are likely to go along with the bosses’ bad decisions. “For the high-pay CEOs, with high overconfidence and high tenure, the effects are just crazy,” he says. They return 22% worse in shareholder value over three years as compared to their peers.


Thursday, October 16, 2014

New Study Details Alarming Acceleration In Sea Level Rise

by Ari Phillips Posted on October 15, 2014

Melting polar and glacial ice and thermally expanding ocean water have accelerated sea level rise to the highest rate in at least 6,000 years according to a new study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Using data from ancient sediment samples from around Asia and Australia, researchers looked back at 35,000 years of sea level history, finding that over the last 6,000 years little changed — until 150 years ago.

Using indicators of the era’s sea level, like location of ancient tree roots and mollusks, the scientists’ reconstruction found no evidence that sea levels fluctuated by more than about eight inches during the relatively stable period that lasted between 6,000 and about 150 years ago. Then, since the onset of the industrial revolution, sea levels have already risen by about that same amount. The scientists attribute climate change and rising temperatures that cause polar and glacial ice to melt and thermal expansion of the oceans as the primary cause for the rapid and extremely unusual increase in sea level. Water expands as it warms, and there is enough warming water in the ocean to cause a significant impact on sea levels.


We know from the last interglacial period that when temperatures were several degrees warmer than today there was a lot more water in the oceans, with levels around four to five meters higher than today,” lead author Kurt Lambeck, a professor at Australian National University, told the Guardian. “The question is how fast that change occurs when you increase temperatures.”

Lambeck said that the sea level increase of the past 100 years is “beyond dispute” and that “what we’ve seen is unusual, certainly unprecedented for these interglacial periods.” He also said this is a process that can’t just be turned off and that “sea levels will continue to rise for some centuries to come even if we keep carbon emissions at present day levels.”


We know from the last interglacial period that when temperatures were several degrees warmer than today there was a lot more water in the oceans, with levels around four to five meters higher than today,” lead author Kurt Lambeck, a professor at Australian National University, told the Guardian. “The question is how fast that change occurs when you increase temperatures.”

Lambeck said that the sea level increase of the past 100 years is “beyond dispute” and that “what we’ve seen is unusual, certainly unprecedented for these interglacial periods.” He also said this is a process that can’t just be turned off and that “sea levels will continue to rise for some centuries to come even if we keep carbon emissions at present day levels.”

Kmart and Dairy Queen Report Data Breach

Target found the problem and let people know about it earlier, and what was their reward? Lost sales and closed stores.

By Nicole Perlroth
October 10, 2014

In the latest cyberattack on American retailers and restaurants, both Kmart and Dairy Queen said their computer systems were compromised in security intrusions involving customers’ credit and debit card information.

Kmart, a subsidiary of Sears Holdings, said on Friday that it had been breached and that it was working with law enforcement as well as a forensics team. The company said that it appeared to have been attacked in early September and that malware was present on some of its in-store payment systems. The malware, like the type found at Home Depot recently, was meant to evade antivirus systems.

Dairy Queen also said on Thursday that its in-store payment systems contained malware. The company said it was working with its franchisees to determine if and when each location was breached and posted a full list, with time frames, on its website. That information suggests hackers made their way into Dairy Queen payment systems in August.

Based on early forensics reports, Sears and Dairy Queen said there was no no evidence that personal information, debit card PINs, email addresses or Social Security numbers were obtained in the attack. Only account numbers and expiration dates were taken.

Sears and Dairy Queen join nearly a dozen retailers — including Target, Sally Beauty, Neiman Marcus, the United Parcel Service, Michaels, Albertsons, SuperValu, P.F. Chang’s and Home Depot — that have had their in-store payment systems compromised with malware over the last year.

The Secret Service estimated this summer that 1,000 American merchants were affected by this kind of attack, and that many of them may not even know that they were breached. There have been no arrests to date.


Calif. atheist re-jailed for refusing faith-based rehab

Arturo Garcia
14 Oct 2014

A Northern California man was awarded almost $2 million in a settlement after prison officials sent him back to jail for refusing to take part in a faith-based treatment program for drug offenders because he is an atheist.

According to the Redding Record Searchlight, Barry Hazle Jr. will receive $1 million from state officials and $925,000 from Westcare California, the contractor in charge of the program, which called for attendees to submit themselves to a “higher power” and pray.

“I’m thrilled to finally have this case settled,” Hazle said on Tuesday. “It sends a clear message to people in a position of authority, like my parole agent, for example, that they not mandate religious programming for their parolees, and for anyone else, for that matter.”

The dispute between Hazle and the state began in 2007, when he was ordered to take part in the Westcare program as part of his probation in connection with possession of methamphetamine. The Huffington Post reported in August 2013 that Hazle asked for a non-religious alternative, but was denied.


He served nearly 100 days there on top of his already-completed sentence and sued, saying his imprisonment violated his First Amendment rights. But a district court refused to award him compensatory damages, while upholding his argument.

However, a federal appeals court ruled last year that Hazle’s damages were mandatory in cases such as his, setting the stage for the settlement.

Having More Than One Set of DNA Carries Legacy of Risk

Mosaics don't only occur from mutations. They can be a result of two embryos that start out as fraternal twins, where some cells of the other twin get combined with the other, or even a total merging of the two twins into one embryo. Of course, the same thing could happen with identical twins, but would not create a mosaic because the celss are genetically the same.

JULY 31, 2014
Carl Zimmer

When Meriel M. McEntagart, a geneticist at St. George’s University of London, met the family in May 2012, she suspected that three of the children had a rare genetic disorder called Smith-Magenis syndrome. They had many of the symptoms of the disease, such as trouble sleeping through the night. Dr. McEntagart confirmed that diagnosis with a genetic test. The children were all missing an identical chunk of a gene known as RAI1.

One of the children had a different father from the other two, and so the mother could be the only source of their altered gene. But when Dr. McEntagart ran a standard blood test on the mother, the results were not nearly so straightforward: The woman had a normal version of RAI1.

Dr. McEntagart and her colleagues suspected that the answer to this puzzle was that the mother was a genetic mosaic.

We tend to think of ourselves as having just one set of genetic material, which exists in identical form in every one of our cells. But sometimes, people have two or more significantly different genomes. As our cells divide, some may go through a major mutation. So some individuals end up with groups of cells that have very different DNA from the rest of them.


Dr. McEntagart got wind that researchers at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston were developing new methods for pinpointing mosaics, and they confirmed that the mother was indeed a mosaic. Some of her cells carried the Smith-Magenis syndrome mutation.


In a study released Thursday in the American Journal of Human Genetics, the Baylor team and its colleagues describe the biggest search for cases in which mosaic parents passed down disease-causing mutations to their children. It turns out to be far from a fluke.

“This happens a surprising amount of the time,” said Chad A. Shaw, a co-author of the new study.


The majority of the mother’s blood cells had intact copies of the RAI1 gene, the scientists found. But 25 percent of the cells lacked the same piece that was missing from the children’s genes.

The scientists argue that there’s only way to explain these strange results: The mother became a mosaic when she was a tiny clump of embryonic cells.


the line of cells with the defective RAI1 gene gave rise to some of the mother’s eggs, some of her blood and perhaps some of her other tissues as well.


Ebola Nurses Are As Brave As Soldiers

Michael Daly
Oct. 16, 2014

By comparing the work schedules of the two Texas nurses who have been diagnosed with Ebola, medical detectives have narrowed down when they were most likely infected.

Nina Pham and Amber Joy Vinson were both treating Thomas Duncan during the days between his Sept. 28 admission to the Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital and the subsequent confirmation that he did indeed have Ebola.

And, according to an anonymous statement apparently issued by some of their co-workers, this was the same period of time before the hospital instituted adequate precautions.


But that is still only supposition. What is uncontestable is that 26-year-old Pham and 29-year-old Vinson and all the other nurses who treated Duncan were uncommonly brave.

As an Ebola patient slips from bad to worse to dire, he can expel as many as two and a half gallons of effluvia a day. A single drop of his blood can hold nearly a half billion viral particles, some 50,000 times more than with untreated HIV—math that makes Ebola at this stage so much more contagious.

Yet the nurses kept giving their all to save Duncan, fighting to keep their patient hydrated as he geysered it back out as hyper-hazardous waste.

They did so knowing that each time they inserted a needle or cleaned him or simply adjusted him in the bed they risked sharing his fate. His very skin would have had high levels of Ebola.


And none of the nurses was more meticulous or caring than 26-year-old Pham. She once told a friend that she asks herself a question when treating a patient.

“What would I do if this was my mom, dad, or grandparent?”


“They’re all tired. They’re stressed because they all think ‘Maybe I’m the next one,’” Dr. Pierre Rollin of the CDC told a Dallas TV station. “But they’re all willing to work. They’re all volunteers. They’re not forced to come to help; they want to do it.”


Struggling Ga. taxpayers subsidize jetsetters’ lifestyle

Jay Bookman
Oct. 16, 2014


The real top-of-the-line model at Gulfstream is the highly coveted G650, with a sales price of $64.5 million and a waiting list of almost four years for delivery. It has a maximum range of more than 8,000 miles, reaching air speeds twice that of commercial airliners, and boasts luxury touches that make it a must-have status item among billionaires.

And when you’ve got billionaires lining up, willing to wait years to get their hands on your product, business is very good. Stock of Gulfstream’s parent company, General Dynamics, is up 33.7 percent in the past year, even after the recent selloff on Wall Street, and second-quarter profits were $646 million, with Gulfstream generating a huge part of that number.

In many ways, that’s a great success story. However, I think it’s worth noting that the people of Georgia are making their own contribution to the General Dynamics bottom line, in addition to what they contribute in terms of their own labor and education. Earlier this year, the Georgia Legislature approved a bill that gives Gulfstream a permanent special-interest tax break worth an estimated $29 million to $40 million a year.

Under House Bill 933, signed into law by Gov. Nathan Deal in April**, Gulfstream gets a permanent sales tax exemption on all parts used to maintain and repair the high-end corporate jets that it sells. Your local auto mechanic pays a sales tax on items used to repair your car; which means that he in turn charges it to you. But Gulfstream and its deep-pocketed customers are exempt.

t’s a remarkable situation. Corporate after-tax profits are at or near record highs, which is why Gulfstream’s business is so good. The wealthiest 1 percent have collected almost all of the income gain generated since the Great Recession. CEO compensation last year was up 21.7 percent since 2010. It is up 937 percent since 1978.

Meanwhile, median household incomes in Georgia continue to drop. More than 17 percent of Georgians live in poverty, as do 27 percent of our children — that’s more than one in four. In fiscal 2013, we had 42,000 more students in Georgia public schools than we did in 2009, being taught by 9,000 fewer teachers. We aren’t allowing our working poor to get access to Medicaid coverage that is available in other states because we’re told that Georgia can’t afford it.

Yet even with all that, Georgia’s struggling taxpayers are being forced to subsidize a extremely profitable manufacturer of high-end corporate jets and its billionaire customers to the tune of up to $40 million a year.


Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Easing stress can lower your risk of diabetes

AARP Bulletin Oct. 2014
Peter Jaret


Stress at home or work may add to the risk of developing diabetes. In a 2014 study led by University of Colorado psychologist Mark Whisman, researchers found that men in rocky marriages had a higher prevalence of the disease than men in happier unions. Another study published last year found that chronic stress adds to the harmful effects of a high fat/high sugar diet, and may cause people to carry more abdominal fat and increase their risk of insulin resistance. “Stress hormones like cortisol and norepinephrine can bind to receptors on cells, including muscle and fat cells, and change the way they respond,” says Kirstin Aschbacher, an assistant professor of psychiatry at the University of California, San Francisco, who led the study. “If you’re at risk of type 2 diabetes, it’s advisable to take some steps to manage stress.” Physical activity, which has many benefits, may help, as can meditation, yoga and breathing exercises.

How to get rich - cheat your employees

A friend of mine recently got a job at Denny's. Her salary was the minimum for tipped employees $2.13. By law, if salary + tips is less than regular minimum wage, the employer is supposed to make up the difference. This employer said to report tips, if the wage + tips was less than the minimum wage, he would make up the difference. And then he would fire her, because if she didn't make sufficient tips it would show that she was not a good server. My friend was on a shift with few customers, and a couple other servers and couldn't make the minimum, but didn't report it for fear of losing the job. She finally quit.

Jimmy John's Non-Compete Agreements Are Utterly Psychotic

C.A. Pinkham

More evidence that Jimmy Johns is the quite possibly the worst company to work for in America: they force their employees — even those at the bottom rungs of the ladder like sandwich makers and delivery drivers — to sign non-competes that would seem overbearing to a governmental espionage agency.

Huffington Post obtained a copy of a Jimmy John's non-compete agreement that all employees are required to sign, no matter where they sit on the corporate food chain. The agreement states that after leaving Jimmy John's for any reason, the employee cannot work for two years at any Jimmy John's competitor. That would be crazy enough, but it gets even more Banana Town when you consider what Jimmy John's apparently considers a "competitor": any business that makes at least 10% of its revenues from sandwiches within three miles of ANY Jimmy John's.

Basically, any former Jimmy John's employee can't work at ANY restaurant that serves sandwiches or even any business that provides sandwiches as a side service (10% of their revenue, remember) within three miles of any existing Jimmy John's.

As HuffPo points out, ordinarily non-competes at companies like Jimmy John's exist for executives who could potentially reveal company secrets to their chief competitors. Unless "company secrets" has been broadened to include "that guy at 1321 Pine Boulevard is a non-tipping asshole," it's hard to see how that case could be made here. Luckily, the non-compete is now part of the same proposed class action that alleges systematic wage theft at the company.

Obviously, this has nothing to do with the divestment of company secrets and everything to do with putting workers in as desperate a situation as possible where they're terrified to lose or leave their jobs. Jimmy John's seeks to control its employees lives, treat them as crappily as they feel like, and prevent them from seeking out any better situation. To say it's an actively, heinously evil practice would be a profound understatement.


Entering DeKalb County Georgia, lunacy ahead

By Bill Torpy
Oct. 10, 2014
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Tom Owens is a candidate for the DeKalb County Commission seat vacated by Elaine Boyer, who couldn’t tell the difference between the taxpayers’ money and her own. Owens has a colorful history that includes an arrest for stalking.

George Chidi is a blogger for the website “Peach Pundit” and somewhat of an excitable boy himself. He recently wrote a tough piece about Owens. A very, very tough piece.

Now, Owens has gotten a judge to slap some metaphorical handcuffs on Chidi, in the form of a protective order warning him not to go near Owens. Which sort of gets in the way of covering the upcoming election. It would be funny, except for that little thing called the First Amendment.

[The rest of the on-line article, which I read in the print version, is behind a pay wall. I am typing in some info from the print article.]

I went to speak with Chidi this week about this weirdness.


About that time, there was a knock on Chidi's door. It was Dekalb sheriff's deputies serving a notice that Owens wanted him held in contempt for violating the restraining order. Owen's new salvo was signed by Judge Richard Foxworth. The document said Chidi violated his TPO by "contacting third parties social media."

It turns out that two days earlier, after the TPO was issued, Chidi put a posting online about how absurd it was for a judge to issue a restraining order on behalf of a candidate for public office to keep a reporter away. "Journalism is not a crime" was the headline.

[this situation got national attention]

Sam Levine
Oct. 8, 2014

Georgia Reporter Served With Stay-Away Order After Writing Critical Profile Of Candidate

A Georgia reporter was served Monday with a temporary protective order barring him from "stalking" a GOP candidate after he wrote a lengthy and unflattering profile of the man.

George Chidi wrote an article on the site Peach Pundit about Thomas Mitchell Owens, a Republican candidate in a special election for the DeKalb County Board of Commissioners. Chidi detailed Owens’ legal troubles, reporting that three different people had obtained restraining orders against Owens in the last eight years.

Chidi spoke with Owens' former fiancée, who claimed that he had financially abandoned her and their child. The story also described an instance in which the head of a Christian charity filed a police report against Owens for allegedly coming to her thrift shop, spitting on her door and saying that she had “insufficient hate” toward African Muslims.


The article was posted at 9 a.m. on Monday, and that afternoon Chidi wrote that he was served with the temporary protective order, which prohibits him from "stalking, harassing and/or intimidating" Owens, having any contact with Owens or coming within 100 yards of him. The order was signed by DeKalb County Superior Court Judge Nora Polk. A hearing on the order was scheduled for Oct. 22, just two weeks before the election.

On Wednesday, Chidi told HuffPost that he had also been served with a notice that he had violated the order by "contacting third parties via social media."

Chidi said that he's worried his case could set a dangerous precedent for journalists who write unfavorably about politicians.

“Imagine a politician who can shut off a journalist covering him in the month before an election when everybody is paying attention to politics,” he told HuffPost. “It is chilling. It makes it much more fraught to report on issues of public importance, particularly around politics.”

“It’s dangerous to the public to have a court tell a journalist to stay away from public figures and political candidates," Chidi added.


Arkansas Tossed Ballot Of 79-Year-Old Woman Who Has Been Voting Since Jim Crow

by Alice Ollstein Posted on October 10, 2014

LITTLE ROCK, ARKANSAS—In a small one-story house filled with knickknacks and stuffed animals, Joy Dunn sat at her dining room table going over her absentee ballot. Turning the pages with long fingernails painted fire engine red, she said she wanted to make sure she had everything in order, as the vote she cast in March’s special election was never counted.

“I got a letter saying my vote wasn’t counted because I didn’t have ID. But I’ve been voting in this state since 1954 and I never had to have ID,” she told ThinkProgress. “I didn’t know I was supposed to send in an ID this time. Nobody told me.”

Dunn, who just turned 79, has several forms of valid ID, but says she was never notified that she had to include a copy of it with her absentee ballot. Arkansas is one of a tiny handful of state to require copies of ID from absentee voters, and the only state in the nation to make those over age 65 do. The only exceptions to this rule are for active duty service members and their spouses and residents of long-term care or residential care facilities.

This time, Joy is aware of the requirement, but it hasn’t been easy for her to meet it. Because of a foot injury that left her unable to drive, she had to ask a neighbor to take her drivers’ license to the library and bring her back a photocopy to include with her ballot. “I had to depend on somebody to go do it for me and that’s a hardship on me,” she said. “And most people don’t even have that kind of help! I think it’s unfair for a lot of us older people.”

She said this hardship reminded her of the very first time she cast a ballot, in Little Rock in 1954. She was forced to pay a $2 poll tax, which she said was “not much more” than people made working a full day’s shift. “It was a little white slip, looked like a rent receipt,” she said. “You had to have that slip to vote.”

Echoing comments made by the US Attorney General, members of Congress, and a federal district judge, Dunn said voter ID laws are the modern day equivalent of those poll taxes. “This is to do anything they can to stop some folks from voting,” she said.


The confusion was exacerbated because the voter ID law itself included no plan and no budget whatsoever for reaching out and educating voters like Joy. While other states have spent millions just to raise public awareness of voter ID laws, Arkansas budgeted only $300,000 for the entire implementation of the ID law in all 75 counties, including machines to print new IDs.

“We’ll do whatever we can with the existing money that we have,” the Secretary of State’s office told the Arkansas New Bureau earlier this year.

The existing money didn’t amount to much. “They rented a few billboards and did some radio ads, but they didn’t even rent those billboards until May for the May primary,” ACLU Arkansas’ Holly Dickson said. “It would be laughable if the consequences weren’t so great.”


“The absentee voters didn’t even know they needed to do this, and besides that, there’s a reason we allow people to vote absentee: you have to be unavoidably absent from the polls because of a disability or travel or something. Those situations don’t go away when you need come show an ID.”


she told ThinkProgress: “It’s not going to stop me from voting, that’s for sure. I know that if you vote, it gives you a little small say, not much, but a little bit. And if enough get together, you can change things.”


Living near major roads may increase risk of sudden cardiac death in women

I have seen people jogging beside busy highways. Really counter-productive.

Oct. 13, 2014 — Living close to a major road may increase women’s risk of dying from sudden cardiac death, according to new research in the American Heart Association journal Circulation.

“It’s important for healthcare providers to recognize that environmental exposures may be under-appreciated risk factors for diseases such as sudden cardiac death and fatal coronary heart disease,” said Jaime E. Hart, Sc.D., study lead author and an instructor in medicine at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School in Boston, Massachusetts. “On a population level, living near a major roadway was as important a risk factor as smoking, diet or obesity.”

While researchers previously found a modest increase in coronary heart disease risk among people who live near major roadways, the new study may be the first to examine the impact of roadway proximity to the risk of sudden cardiac death. Researchers note that roadway proximity could be a marker for exposure to air pollution.


Crocodiles are sophisticated hunters


Contact: Whitney Heins
University of Tennessee at Knoxville
University of Tennessee study finds crocodiles are sophisticated hunters
New University of Tennessee, Knoxville, research published in the journal Ethology Ecology and Evolution shows just how sophisticated crocodile hunting techniques can be

Recent studies have found that crocodiles and their relatives are highly intelligent animals capable of sophisticated behavior such as advanced parental care, complex communication and use of tools for hunting.

New University of Tennessee, Knoxville, research published in the journal Ethology Ecology and Evolution shows just how sophisticated their hunting techniques can be.

Vladimir Dinets, a research assistant professor in UT's Department of Psychology, has found that crocodiles work as a team to hunt their prey. His research tapped into the power of social media to document such behavior.


the observations had something in common—coordination and collaboration among the crocodiles in hunting their prey.

"Despite having been made independently by different people on different continents, these records showed striking similarities. This suggests that the observed phenomena are real, rather than just tall tales or misinterpretation," said Dinets.

Crocodiles and alligators were observed conducting highly organized game drives. For example, crocodiles would swim in a circle around a shoal of fish, gradually making the circle tighter until the fish were forced into a tight "bait ball." Then the crocodiles would take turns cutting across the center of the circle, snatching the fish.

Sometimes animals of different size would take up different roles. Larger alligators would drive a fish from the deeper part of a lake into the shallows, where smaller, more agile alligators would block its escape. In one case, a huge saltwater crocodile scared a pig into running off a trail and into a lagoon where two smaller crocodiles were waiting in ambush—the circumstances suggested that the three crocodiles had anticipated each other's positions and actions without being able to see each other.

"All these observations indicate that crocodilians might belong to a very select club of hunters—just 20 or so species of animals, including humans—capable of coordinating their actions in sophisticated ways and assuming different roles according to each individual's abilities. In fact, they might be second only to humans in their hunting prowess," said Dinets.

Dinets said more observations are needed to better understand what exactly the animals are capable of. "And these observations don't come easily," he said.


Turtle tumors linked to excessive nitrogen from land-based pollution

The interdependent web of life.

University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa
Contact: Celia Smith
Professor, Marine Biology
Walter Zimmermann
Media Contact, College of Natural Sciences
Posted: Oct 6, 2014

Hawai‘i’s sea turtles are afflicted with chronic and often lethal tumors caused by consuming non-native algae, "superweeds," along coastlines where nutrient pollution is unchecked. The disease that causes these tumors is considered the leading cause of death in endangered green sea turtles. The new research was just published in the scientific journal PeerJ.

Turtles that graze on blooms of invasive seaweeds end up with a diet that is rich in a particular amino acid, arginine, which promotes the virus that creates the tumors. Scientists at the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa and their NOAA colleague estimate that adult turtles foraging at high-nutrient grazing sites increase their arginine intake 17–26 g daily, up to 14 times the background level.


Van Houtan and colleagues previously described an epidemiological link between tumors and coastal eutrophication, that is, the enrichment of coastal waters with nutrients from land-based sources of pollution such as wastewater or agricultural fertilizers. This new study analyzed the actual tissues from tumored green turtles and the amounts of arginine in the dominant algae forage species from across Hawai‘i.

The analysis revealed remarkably high levels of arginine in tissues of invasive seaweeds harvested under nutrient-rich conditions, such as those affected by nitrogen from land-based pollution. These are the same conditions that promote algal blooms. The non-native algae "superweeds" grow so quickly when fertilized that some can double their weight in a period of two days.


Energy drinks may pose danger to public health


Contact: Gozde Zorlu
Energy drinks may pose danger to public health

Increased consumption of energy drinks may pose danger to public health, especially among young people, warns a team of researchers from the World Health Organization Regional Office for Europe in the open-access journal Frontiers in Public Health.

Energy drinks are non-alcoholic beverages that contain caffeine, vitamins, and other ingredients for example, taurine, ginseng, and guarana. They are typically marketed as boosting energy and increasing physical and mental performance.


Studies included in the review suggest that caffeine intoxication can lead to heart palpitations, hypertension, nausea and vomiting, convulsions, psychosis, and in rare cases, death. In the USA, Sweden, and Australia, several cases have been reported where people have died of heart failure or were hospitalized with seizures, from excess consumption of energy drinks.

Research has shown that adolescents who often take energy drinks are also more likely to engage in risky behaviours such as sensation seeking, substance abuse, and binge drinking.


Diet and exercise during pregnancy has hidden benefits


Contact: Rosalie Grivell
University of Adelaide
Diet and exercise during pregnancy has hidden benefits

It might not be obvious on the scales, but healthy eating and increased physical activity from walking during pregnancy is directly associated with a range of improved outcomes at birth, according to researchers from the University of Adelaide.

Results of the world's biggest study of its kind – offering healthy eating and exercise advice to pregnant women who are overweight or obese – are published today in two papers in the journal BMC Medicine.


Study leaders have previously reported a significant reduction in the number of babies born over 4kg to women who received the diet and lifestyle advice during pregnancy. The researchers can now report a range of other benefits for these babies, including a reduced chance of moderate to severe respiratory distress syndrome and reduced length of stay in hospital.

"Approximately 50% of women are overweight or obese during pregnancy. Until this study was conducted, there had been little evidence about the overall benefits of dietary and lifestyle interventions on this group of women," says study co-author Dr Rosalie Grivell from the University's Robinson Research Institute.


Orphanage care linked to thinner brain tissue in regions related to ADHD

When I worked for a short time in a preschool, the lady who took care of the babies let them lay in their cribs crying. She didn't pick them up and interact with them. This was a comparatively low cost chain, where the workers were paid minimum wage, while the owner was a millionaire.

Of course, if a baby's parents don't interact with them, it will have the same effect.

Hannah Hickey
Oct. 14, 2014
The research was funded by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation and the National Institutes of Health.

Under the rule of dictator Nicolae Ceausescu, thousands of Romanian children were placed in overcrowded orphanages with bleak conditions and minimal human contact. Even after the 1989 revolution, the legacy of institutionalization continued. Only recently has research and public concern over early childhood environments caused changes in policies.

University of Washington research on children who began life in these institutions shows that early childhood neglect is associated with changes in brain structure. A paper published this month in Biological Psychiatry shows that children who spent their early years in these institutions have thinner brain tissue in cortical areas that correspond to impulse control and attention.

“These differences suggest a way that the early care environment has dramatic and lasting effects for children’s functioning,” said lead author Katie McLaughlin, a UW assistant professor of psychology.


The brain scan images can explain more than 75 percent of the difference in symptoms of ADHD between kids who did and did not spend time in institutions. Thinning was seen in children who left the institution as early as 8 months of age. Researchers also found that the thinner the brain tissue, the more symptoms of inattention and impulsivity the children displayed.

Researchers did not find differences in the volume of sub-cortical structures. No significant difference was seen between girls and boys, who were about equally represented.


The researchers can’t pinpoint exactly which conditions acted to alter brain development. Babies in the institutions had their physical needs met but they lacked socialization, language exposure, human touch and emotional attachment with their caregiver.


The results are meaningful for other countries, such as those in Africa, where orphanages and institutions are becoming more common. The findings may also be relevant for less-extreme situations of neglect.


Corruption of the Health Care Delivery System

Annmarie Christensen
The Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy & Clinical Practice
Sept. 2014


Drs. Glyn Elwyn and Elliott Fisher of The Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy & Clinical Practice are authors of the report in which they highlight five major problems set against a backdrop of “obvious corruption.” There is a dearth of transparent research and a low quality of evidence synthesis. The difficulty of obtaining research funding for comparative effectiveness studies is directly related to the prominence of industry-supported trials: “finance dictates the activity.”

The pharmaceutical industry has influenced medical research in its favor by selective reporting, targeted educational efforts, and incentivizing prescriber behavior that influences how medicine is practiced, the researchers say. The pharmaceutical industry has also spent billions of dollars in direct-to-consumer advertising and has created new disease labels, so-called disease-mongering, and by promoting the use of drugs to address spurious predictions.

Another problem with such studies is publication bias, where results of trials that fail to demonstrate an effect remain unpublished, but trials where the results are demonstrated are quickly published and promoted.


Why contemporary poetry is boring

Why people don't read/listen to contemporary "poetry".
You also hear stuff like this at song critiques.

Example of "mellow speak".

William Blake's:
The moon like a flower in heaven's high bower,
with silent delight sits and smiles on the night.

is translated into:
Oh wow, look at the moon!

Monday, October 13, 2014

Pentagon: Climate Change Poses ‘Immediate Risks’

October 13th, 2014
By Brian Kahn

The Department of Defense sees climate change as an “immediate” risk and is taking steps to assess those risk and respond to them according to its newly unveiled Climate Change Adaptation Roadmap.

The document, released on Monday, is an update to the agency’s first climate roadmap released in 2012. But rather than being a slight tweak, it provides a major overhaul of how the military views the challenges that climate change poses in the near- and long-term to its training, operations, supply chains and infrastructure around the world.

“This is the strongest language coming out of the Department of Defense we’ve seen. That represents an evolution of how they have been looking at this issue,” said Francesco Femia, co-director of the Center for Climate and Security, a nonpartisan think tank.

In his introduction to the roadmap, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel also referred to climate change as a “threat multiplier” that could increase the risk of disease and conflict in addition to affecting the military’s preparedness and operations.


That means the Pentagon will have to consider not just how much seas and temperatures will rise or rainfall patterns will shift. It will also have to consider the cascading effects those changes will have on health, landscapes and society itself. Some research already points to how mosquito-borne diseases could become more prevalent, how climate change could increase the odds of conflict and how receding Arctic sea ice could open up a resource rush.

The Department of Defense has been thinking about climate change for years, with a heavy focus on how it could affect the $850 billion in infrastructure the department operates around the world as well as the long-term effects it could have.

A report earlier this year from the Government Accountability Office also found that military installations across the U.S. are already dealing with climate change impacts including rising seas, melting permafrost and more extreme precipitation. The report looked at 15 installations in the U.S. but there are more than 500 major bases worldwide and thousands of other installations, all of which face risks from climate change that could undermine readiness according to the new roadmap.


Department of Defense
FY 2014 Climate Change Adaptation Roadmap

Climate change will affect the Department of Defense's ability to defend the Nation and poses immediate risks to U.S. national security. The Department is responding to climate change in two ways: adaptation, or efforts to plan for the changes that are occurring or expected to occur; and mitigation, or efforts that reduce greenhouse gas emissions.


The foundation for the Department’s strategic policy on climate change adaptation began with the publication of the Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR) in 2010 by the Secretary of Defense. The QDR articulates the United States’ national defense strategy and seeks to adapt, shape and rebalance our military to prepare for the strategic challenges and opportunities we face in the years ahead. The 2010 QDR recognized that climate change was a threat to national security and the 2014 QDR reaffirms the Department’s position: “The impacts of climate change may increase the frequency, scale, and complexity of future missions, including Defense Support to Civil Authorities (DSCA), while at the same time undermining the capacity of our domestic installations to support training activities.”

The third National Climate Assessment notes that certain types of weather events have become more frequent and/or intense, including heat waves, heavy downpours, and, in some regions, floods and droughts. Sea levels are rising, oceans are becoming more acidic, and glaciers and arctic sea ice are melting. Scientists predict that these changes will continue and even increase in frequency or duration over the next 100 years.

These climate-related effects are already being observed at installations throughout the U.S. and overseas and affect many of the Department’s activities and decisions related to future operating environments, military readiness, stationing, environmental compliance and stewardship, and infrastructure planning and maintenance.


The Planet Just Had Its Hottest September On Record

by Joe Romm Posted on October 13, 2014

Last month was the warmest September globally since records began being kept in 1880, NASA reported Sunday. January through September data have 2014 already at the third warmest on record. Projections by NOAA make clear 2014 is taking aim at hottest year on record.

Remarkably, this September record occurred even though we’re still waiting for the start of El Niño, which reveals just how strong the underlying trend of human-caused warming is. It’s usually the combination of the long-term manmade warming trend and the regional El Niño warming pattern that leads to new global temperature records.

In this country, temperatures were quite hot in the West, and just “normal” or very close to the 1951-1980 average in the East, as this NASA chart shows:


For the second month in a row, it was so hot over West Antarctica, that NASA had to put in the color brown to cover the 4°C to 8.7°C (7°F to over 15°F!) anomalous warmth. But given how far away the South Pole is, why should we get concerned about it when D.C. is having such a pleasant fall? Sure, recent studies have found that the huge glaciers in the West Antarctic ice sheet “have begun the process of irreversible collapse,”


Cuts to CDC

On March 1, 2013, as required by statute, President Obama signed an order initiating sequestration. The sequestration requires CDC to cut 5 percent or more than $285 million of its fiscal year (FY) 2013 budget. CDC applied the cut evenly across all program s, projects, and activities (PPAs), which are primarily CDC national centers, offices and centers. This means every area of CDC was affected. In addition, the Prevention and Public Health Fund allocation in FY 2013 was almost $350 million below FY 2012.
In total, CDC’s program level, including the Vaccines for Children mandatory program and other external sources, was almost $1 billion (or 10 %) below FY 2012.
The reductions to CDC’s funding accounts are as follows:
• Immunization = $ 100 million $62 million
• Emerging and Zoonotic Infectious Diseases = $13 million
• Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion = $195 million
• Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities = $7 million
• Environmental Health = $17 million
• Injury Prevention and Control = $7 million
• Public Health Scientific Services = $19 million
• Occupational Safety and Health = $9 million
• Global Health = $18 million
• Public Health Preparedness and Response = $98 million
• Cross-cutting Activities and Program Support = $35 million

Reduced ability to ensure global disease protection:
• Jeopardizes polio eradication efforts:
o Sequestration forced CDC to reduce support to purchase oral polio vaccine by over 40,000,000 doses.
o Cuts to UNICEF funding jeopardize plans for vaccination rounds later in 2013 and into 2014 to respond to ongoing outbreaks in Syria, Horn of Africa, and Cameroon along with planned aggressive campaigns during the December – April low transmission season in Nigeria, Pakistan, and Afghanistan unless other resources can be identified and secured.
• $25 million cut to global efforts to eliminate polio, prevent measles outbreaks, malaria, and pandemic flu.
• $13 million in cuts to our efforts to prevent and respond to outbreaks of other emerging infectious diseases, such as the MERS-Coronavirus emerging globally now.

Reduced support for state and local public health efforts:
• $160 million less in funding to on-the-ground public health in the United States, a system already strained by sta te and local budget cuts.
• CDC's ability to support state, local, and international health departments was reduced.
• $33 million will be cut from state and local preparedness ability to respond to natural and man-made disasters.
Reduced ability to prevent domestic HIV/AIDS:
• $40 million reduction in HIV prevention.
o 175,000 fewer HIV tests would be conducted.
o $7 million reduction to CDC’s HIV testing activities.
Reduce ability to prevent the leading causes of illness and death:
• Programs to prevent cancer, heart attacks, strokes, and diabetes are being cut by almost $200 million due to sequestration and Prevention and Public Health Fund allocations.

Software schedule insanity