Friday, September 25, 2015

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

Feb. 2015

Help people and give your mind a workout, too.

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

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

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

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

Who volunteers?

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

Good with numbers? Be a tax volunteer.

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

Skilled in all things digital? Be a technology coordinator.

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

Love working with people? Be a greeter.

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

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

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

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

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

Speak a second language? You're urgently needed!

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

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

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

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

Thursday, July 02, 2015

Cuba named first country to end mother-to-child HIV and syphilis transmission

Reporting by Jaime Hamre; Editing by Daniel Trotta and Lisa Von Ahn
July 1, 2015

The World Health Organization on Tuesday declared Cuba the first country in the world to eliminate the transmission of HIV and syphilis from mother to child.

The WHO said in a statement that an international delegation that it and the Pan American Health Organization sent to Cuba in March determined the country met the criteria for the designation. In 2013, only two children in Cuba were born with HIV and five with syphilis, the statement said.

"Cuba's success demonstrates that universal access and universal health coverage are feasible and indeed are the key to success, even against challenges as daunting as HIV," PAHO Director Carissa Etienne said in the statement.

Cuba's Communist government considers its free healthcare a major achievement of the 1959 revolution, although ordinary Cubans complain of a decline in standards since the fall of the Soviet Union, the country's former benefactor, in 1991.

The PAHO and WHO credited Cuba with offering women early access to prenatal care, HIV and syphilis testing, and treatment for mothers who test positive. The two organizations began an effort to end congenital transmission of HIV and syphilis in Cuba and other countries in the Americas in 2010.







Jeb Bush below average in giving to charities

By Lesley Clark and Amy Sherman
July 1, 2015

Jeb Bush says he’s proud of what he and his wife, Columba, have contributed to charity. But his tax records show they’ve given less than the national average and less than others with similar wealth.

The former Florida governor’s boast that he and his wife had donated $739,000 to charity since he left the governor’s office in 2007 is only one view of his record.

In 2013, the most recent tax year for which his records were available, the Bushes’ charitable contributions of $110,616 amounted to 1.5 percent of an adjusted gross income of $7.3 million. In 2012, their $104,169 in contributions amounted to 1.8 percent of their adjusted gross income.

Bush said he will report contributing $307,944 to charity in his 2014 tax return, but he has filed for a six-month filing extension and his adjusted gross income for that year was not made available.

That’s below the 3 percent national average for charitable giving and the 3.38 percent average in Florida, according to the Chronicle of Philanthropy.

And it’s well below some of Bush’s political peers, who have far outpaced that level of giving, particularly as they made more money or began considering a run for election.


SEC Proposes Executive Bonus ‘Clawback’ Rule

July 1, 2015

The Securities and Exchange Commission voted 3-2 today to propose a rule that would require exchanges to establish standards for revoking executive bonuses when companies restate earnings. The rule is the SEC’s last executive compensation rule to be proposed under the Dodd-Frank Act.

Under the rule, publicly listed companies would be required to establish and enforce policies to claw back executive bonuses when the firms make accounting errors leading to restatements of earnings, regardless of the executive’s fault. The clawback would apply to incentive-based compensation that is tied to accounting-related measures, stock prices or total shareholder return.

The clawback window would extend for three years after the bonus is given. All listed companies — regardless of size and excepting certain mutual funds, would be required to adopt such policies.


US probing possible airline collusion that kept fares high

Jul 1, 8:50 PM (ET)

The U.S. government is investigating possible collusion among major airlines to limit available seats, which keeps airfares high, according to a document obtained by The Associated Press.

The civil antitrust investigation by the Justice Department appears to focus on whether airlines illegally signaled to each other how quickly they would add new flights, routes and extra seats.


American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, Southwest Airlines and United Airlines all said they received a letter and are complying. Several smaller carriers, including JetBlue Airways and Frontier Airlines, said they had not been contacted by the government.

The airlines publicly discussed capacity early last month in Miami at the International Air Transport Association's annual meeting. After hearing about that meeting, U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., requested a Justice Department investigation.


Thanks to a series of mergers starting in 2008, America, Delta, Southwest and United now control more than 80 percent of the seats in the domestic travel market. They've eliminated unprofitable flights, filled more seats on planes and made a very public effort to slow growth to command higher airfares.

It worked. The average domestic airfare rose an inflation-adjusted 13 percent from 2009 to 2014, according to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics. And that doesn't include the billions of dollars airlines collect from new fees. During the past 12 months, the airlines took in $3.6 billion in bag fees and $3 billion in reservation-change fees.

That has led to record profits. In the past two years, U.S. airlines earned a combined $19.7 billion.

This year could bring even higher profits thanks to a massive drop in the price of jet fuel, airlines' single highest expense. In April, U.S. airlines paid $1.94 a gallon, down 34 percent from the year before.

That worries Wall Street analysts and investors. Cheap fuel has led airlines to make money-losing decisions in the past, rapidly expanding, launching new routes and setting unrealistically low fares to lure passengers. Airlines already flying those routes would match the fare, and all carriers would lose money.

Such price wars are long gone, but today's low fuel costs along with recent comments from airline executives have given the market jitters.


On June 1, Southwest CEO Gary Kelly said his airline would cap its 2015 growth at 7 percent. That sparked a rally in airline stocks, as investors were more assured that capacity growth would be limited.

Keay said Wednesday that he had not been contacted by the government and doesn't think the airlines have been acting inappropriately.

"The analyst community is bringing up the subject. You certainly can't fault an airline executive for responding to the question," Keay said. "The capacity continues to grow at the airports people want to fly to and air travel remains a particular good value for the consumer, especially for the utility that it provides."

Wednesday, July 01, 2015

Boy chained up with dead chicken around neck tells his story

Jul 1, 5:37 PM (ET)

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Handcuffed and shackled to a block of steel, the young boy would brace himself when he heard footsteps outside his bedroom door. He knew that once the grown-ups entered, the abuse would begin.

For years, he was whipped with belts, his face was burned with electrical wires and his fingers were broken with pliers — all to "teach him a lesson." The abusers, who have since pleaded guilty, were his legal guardian — a supervisor with the Department of Social Services in Union County, North Carolina — and her longtime boyfriend, an emergency room nurse.

The abuse ended in November 2013 after police discovered the boy in handcuffs, chained to the front porch of the house with a dead chicken hung around his neck.

When police entered the roach-infested house "covered with urine and animal feces," they found something else: four other children, ages 7 to 14, who had been adopted by the couple over the years. They were removed and placed in protective custody.

All were abused, but authorities say the boy bore the brunt of the couple's rage.

"I was scared to death," the boy, now 13, told The Associated Press on Tuesday. "I thought I wouldn't survive."

The AP is not naming the boy because of the nature of the abuse.

Three months after Wanda Sue Larson and her boyfriend Dorian Harper were sentenced, the boy is telling his story. Larson was released from prison in April, just nine days after pleading guilty to child abuse charges. Now, the boy wants everyone to know she didn't serve enough time.

"I want her to be in jail longer," he says.

His mother agrees.

"It's ridiculous," his mother said. The AP isn't identifying the mother, to avoid indirectly identifying her son.

Jeff Gerber is founder of the Justice for All Coalition, which organized protests against the plea deal that led to Larson's release. He said there is widespread outrage over Larson's lenient sentence.

Harper, 58, was sentenced to up to 10 ½bd} years in prison after pleading guilty March 17 to maiming, intentional child abuse inflicting serious injury and assault with a deadly weapon.

Two weeks later, Larson, 58, was sentenced to nearly 17 months in jail after pleading guilty to four counts of child abuse. But she was given credit for time served in jail after her arrest and was released April 9. She lives in the same county where the boy now lives.

Telephone messages left for District Attorney Trey Robison were not returned Wednesday. Robison has said he agreed to the plea deals mainly to spare the child-victims from having to testify.

Messages left for Larson's attorney, Robert Leas, were not returned Wednesday.

At her sentencing, Larson expressed remorse for failing to protect the boy and the four others. She blamed most of the abuse on her boyfriend.

The boy, however, says Larson not only knew about the abuse, but encouraged it. As he tries to recover, he worries that he might run into her at a neighborhood store, a mall. What would happen then?

"That's why I want to tell my story," he said, softly.


Eventually, Larson and Harper pulled the children out of a Union County school, saying they'd school them at their secluded home where they also kept farm animals.

The boy says he was handcuffed and chained to a steel anvil in his locked room where he slept on the floor. At times, they'd starve him and he'd have to beg for scraps. Sometime, the other children would sneak food to him and he'd hide the wrappers in a hole in the wall. Many nights, he wasn't allowed to use the bathroom.

The boy says he was even shackled when he went outside. The only time they removed the chains was when he cleaned the house, or picked up animal feces.

One time, he says Harper cut his left arm and poured salt in the wound. The scar is still visible. It reached a point that every time they entered his room, he'd pray: "I hope I don't get hurt."

Then he'd think about his mother, that maybe they'd be reunited. He kept dreaming of escaping, and that kept him going.

A few days before the boy was rescued, Harper blamed him for the death of a chicken and made him wear it around his neck — even at night.

The police were responding to a call about a loose animal when they stumbled on him, chained up on the front porch.

The boy is still recovering. His mother says it will be a long road. Her son goes to therapy twice a week. He's in summer camp and public school. Still, there are times he can't escape. He had a nightmare that Larson came to his house and took him away. He couldn't find his mother.

"I woke up and I thought it was real," he said. "It was just a dream, but I couldn't go back to sleep."

tags: child abuse

As SC Fire Investigated, Stats Show Church Fires Not Unusual

I'm certainly not saying not claiming that none of the church burnings were due to hateful arson. I don't know. That's my point. Many people are making claims that the burned churches reported by the media are due to arson by haters, making a knee-jerk robotic response, egged on by a media that lusts after audience, and works for those who are helped by sowing racial dissension to keep us from working together for mutual benefit.

By BRUCE SMITH and RAY HENRY Associated Press
July 1, 2015

The Rev. John Taylor feared the worst when he learned his church was on fire, only days after a mass shooting at a black church in Charleston prompted Southern leaders to call for removing Confederate flags.

The Mount Zion African Methodist Episcopal Church was burned to the ground by the Ku Klux Klan in 1995, one of many arsons at black churches that prompted President Bill Clinton to create a federal task force that led to hundreds of arrests.

"Of course we thought about it. We wouldn't be human if we didn't," he said, standing in the hot sun outside the church's charred shell on Wednesday. But Taylor also recalled the fierce lightning storm that blew through town about the time the fire began Tuesday night. "I really thought it probably was a lightning strike is what I thought."

Preliminary indications suggest the Mount Zion fire was not the result of arson, according to a federal official who spoke with The Associated Press Wednesday on condition of anonymity, for lack of authority to discuss the case publicly.

More than a half-dozen fires at black churches have burned in the days since a white gunman was charged with murder in the shootings of nine black churchgoers in Charleston. Investigators have determined that several were intentionally set, but have yet to announce any evidence of racial motives.

According to the best available national statistics, if these have been the only church fires happening recently, this would be a relatively safe time.

An average of 31 houses of worship burned every week from 2007 through 2011, according to a 2013 estimate by the National Fire Protection Association, which analyzed government data and survey results.

Among these, arson was relatively rare: Just 16 percent of the estimated blazes at religious structures were intentionally set during the five-year period ending in 2011. That means arsonists set fire to roughly five each week. The figures include a small number of funeral homes and do not distinguish between predominantly white and black congregations.


No one keeps an up-to-date tally of every church fire in the United States, making exact comparisons impossible. But 84 percent of these fires happen for reasons other than arson. Kitchen equipment and faulty heating and electrical systems are the most likely causes.



It may simply be that people are paying more attention to church fires now, given this month's tumultuous events, suggested NFPA analyst Marty Ahrens.

"Perception matters," Ahrens said. "We don't know all the causes of all the fires that have gone on this week. But if the church arsons had not happened so soon after the tragedy in Charleston, that horrible incident, would it have gotten the same level of attention?"

Some intentional fires set in black churches defy simple racial motives. The Clinton task force found whites represented 63 percent of the people arrested for bombing or burning black churches in the late 1990s, but 37 percent were black.

Motives also varied widely: Some were vandals or pyromaniacs. Others tried to cover up burglaries or financial theft, or simply held grudges.


Even fraud-savvy investors often look for the wrong red flags

Public Release: 29-Jun-2015
North Carolina State University

New research identifies the types of investors who are vigilant about corporate fraud, but finds that most of those investors are tracking the wrong red flags - meaning the warning signs they look for are clear only after it's too late to protect their investment. The work was performed by researchers at North Carolina State University, George Mason University, the University of Virginia and the University of Cincinnati.

"Individual investors get hurt if they own stock in fraudulent companies that cook the books, such as Enron," says Dr. Joe Brazel, a professor of accounting at NC State and lead author of a paper on the work. "But we wanted to know how investors think about fraud and whether they try to protect themselves."

The researchers surveyed 194 experienced, nonprofessional investors from 38 states about fraud and their investment activity. Among other things, the researchers asked investors if they looked for specific red flags that can be indicative of fraudulent activity, such as abnormally high revenue growth, a change in the company's auditor, or the launch of an investigation by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).

The researchers found two factors that are common to investors who are concerned about fraud. First, if investors think corporate fraud is a common practice, they are more likely to place importance on assessing fraud risk when making investment decisions. Second, investors are more likely to assess fraud risk if they rely primarily on financial statements to make investment decisions, rather than other sources like news reports or advice from professionals.


PTSD raises odds of heart attack and stroke in women

Public Release: 29-Jun-2015
Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health

Women with elevated symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder consistent with the clinical threshold for the disorder had 60 percent higher rates of having a heart attack or stroke compared with women who never experienced trauma, according to scientists at Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. Results appear in Circulation, the journal of the American Heart Association.


Sugary drinks linked to high death tolls worldwide

Public Release: 29-Jun-2015
Tufts University, Health Sciences Campus

Consumption of sugary drinks may lead to an estimated 184,000 adult deaths each year worldwide, according to research published today in the journal Circulation and previously presented as an abstract at the American Heart Association Council on Epidemiology and Prevention in 2013.

"Many countries in the world have a significant number of deaths occurring from a single dietary factor, sugar-sweetened beverages. It should be a global priority to substantially reduce or eliminate sugar-sweetened beverages from the diet," said Dariush Mozaffarian, M.D., Dr.P.H., senior author of the study and dean of the Friedman School of Nutrition Science & Policy at Tufts University in Boston.


In 2010, the researchers estimate that sugar-sweetened beverages consumption may have been responsible for approximately:

133,000 deaths from diabetes

45,000 deaths from cardiovascular disease

6,450 deaths from cancer

"Some population dietary changes, such as increasing fruits and vegetables, can be challenging due to agriculture, costs, storage, and other complexities. This is not complicated. There are no health benefits from sugar-sweetened beverages, and the potential impact of reducing consumption is saving tens of thousands of deaths each year," Mozaffarian said.

The impact of sugar-sweetened beverages varied greatly between populations. At the extremes, the estimated percentage of deaths was less than 1 percent in Japanese over 65 years old, but 30 percent in Mexican adults younger than 45.

Of the 20 most populous countries, Mexico had the highest death rate attributable to sugar-sweetened beverages with an estimated 405 deaths per million adults (24,000 total deaths) and the U.S. ranked second with an estimated 125 deaths per million adults (25,000 total deaths).

About 76 percent of the estimated sugar-sweetened beverage-related deaths occurred in low- or middle-income countries.

In nations of the Caribbean and Latin America, such as Mexico, homemade sugary drinks (e.g. frescas) are popular and consumed in addition to commercially prepared sugar-sweetened beverages. "Among the 20 countries with the highest estimated sugar-sweetened beverage-related deaths, at least 8 were in Latin America and the Caribbean, reflecting the high intakes in that region of the world," said Gitanjali Singh, Ph.D., lead author of the study and a research assistant professor at the Friedman School.

Overall, in younger adults, the percent of chronic disease attributed to sugar-sweetened beverages was higher than the percent in older adults.

"The health impact of sugar-sweetened beverage intake on the young is important because younger adults form a large sector of the workforce in many countries, so the economic impact of sugar-sweetened beverage-related deaths and disability in this age group can be significant. It also raises concerns about the future. If these young people continue to consume high levels as they age, the effects of high consumption will be compounded by the effects of aging, leading to even higher death and disability rates from heart disease and diabetes than we are seeing now," Singh said.

Nicholas Winton Is Dead at 106; Saved Children from the Holocaust


Nicholas Winton, a Briton who said nothing for a half-century about his role in organizing the escape of 669 mostly Jewish children from Czechoslovakia on the eve of World War II, a righteous deed like those of Oskar Schindler and Raoul Wallenberg, died on Wednesday in Maidenhead, England. He was 106.


It was only after Mr. Winton’s wife found a scrapbook in the attic of their home at Maidenhead, in 1988 — a dusty record of names, pictures and documents detailing a story of redemption from the Holocaust — that he spoke of his all-but-forgotten work in the deliverance of children who, like the parents who gave them up to save their lives, were destined for Nazi concentration camps and extermination.

For all his ensuing honors and accolades in books and films, Mr. Winton was a reluctant hero, often compared to Schindler, the ethnic German who saved 1,200 Jews by employing them in his enamelware and munitions factories in Poland and Czechoslovakia, and to Wallenberg, the Swedish businessman and diplomat who used illegal passports and legation hideaways to save tens of thousands of Jews in Nazi-occupied Hungary.


Nearly all the saved children were orphans by war’s end, their parents killed at Auschwitz, Bergen-Belsen or Theresienstadt. After the war, many remained in Britain, but others returned to Czechoslovakia or emigrated to Israel, Australia or the United States. The survivors, many now in their 70s and 80s, still call themselves “Winton’s Children.”


The rescues were explored in three films by the Slovak director Matej Minác: the fictionalized “All My Loved Ones” (1999); a documentary, “The Power of Good: Nicholas Winton” (2002), and “Nicky’s Family” (2011), and in Mr. Minác’s book, “Nicholas Winton’s Lottery of Life” (2007).


Sleeping on the job? Actually, that's a good thing

Public Release: 29-Jun-2015
University of Michigan

Employees seeking to boost their productivity at work should take a nap--yes, sleeping on the job can be a good thing.

A new University of Michigan study finds that taking a nap may be an effective strategy to counteract impulsive behavior and to boost tolerance for frustration.

Napping, the researchers say, can be a cost-efficient and easy strategy to increase workplace safety. In other words, employers may find their employees more productive when the workplace has nap pods in the workplace or extended break times are offered.

It's becoming increasingly common for people, especially adults, to not sleep an entire night. This can negatively impair a person's attention and memory, as well as contribute to fatigue.

U-M researchers examined how a brief nap affected adults' emotional control. The study's 40 participants, ages 18-50, maintained a consistent sleep schedule for three nights prior to the test.

In a laboratory, participants completed tasks on computers and answered questions about sleepiness, mood and impulsivity. They were randomly assigned to a 60-minute nap opportunity or no-nap period that involved watching a nature video. Research assistants monitored the participants, who later completed those questionnaires and tasks again.

Those who napped spent more time trying to solve a task than the non-nappers who were less willing to endure frustration in order to complete it. In addition, nappers reported feeling less impulsive.

Combined with previous research demonstrating the negative effects of sleep deprivation, results from this latest study indicate that staying awake for an extended period of time hinders people from controlling negative emotional responses, said Jennifer Goldschmied, the study's lead author.

"Our results suggest that napping may be a beneficial intervention for individuals who may be required to remain awake for long periods of time by enhancing the ability to persevere through difficult or frustrating tasks," said Goldschmied, a doctoral student in the Department of Psychology.

Unprecedented June Heat on Four Continents; Wimbledon Roasts in Record Heat

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 3:52 PM GMT on July 01, 2015

Unprecedented June heat scorched portions of four continents during the past week, and many all-time heat records are likely to fall across multiple continents this July as the peak heat of summer arrives for what has been the hottest year in recorded human history. Already on July 1, in Wimbledon, England--site of the classic Wimbledon tennis tournament--players are enduring the city's hottest day in tournament history. The mercury hit 96.3°F (35.7°C) at Kew Gardens, the nearest recording site, topping the previous record of 94.3°F (34.6°C) on June 26, 1976. London's Heathrow Airport has risen to 98.1°F (36.7°C) so far on July 1. This is not only a new all-time July record at that location, but also a July heat record for the UK, topping the previous record of 97.7°F (36.5°C) in Wisley on July 19, 2006.

We've already seen two of the planet's top ten deadliest heat waves in history over the past two months; the Pakistani government announced on Wednesday that the death toll from the brutal June heat wave in Pakistan's largest city, Karachi, had hit 1,250. According to statistics from EM-DAT, the International Disaster Database, this makes the 2015 heat wave in Pakistan the 8th deadliest in world history. The heat wave that hit India in May, claiming approximately 2,500 lives, ranks as the 5th deadliest:

Portions of four continents--Asia, Europe, North America, and South America--broke all-time June heat records during the past week, with some locations surpassing their all-time heat records for any date:

Asia: In addition to the record deadly heat wave that hit Pakistan over the past few weeks, other portions of Asia also saw extreme June heat. According to weather records researcher Maximiliano Herrera, Ashkabad, the capital of Turkmenistan, set a new all-time record (for any month) with 117°F (47.2°C) on June 30, 2015, smashing the old record of 46.7°C from June 30, 1995. The national all-time heat record of June for Kazakhstan of 45.0°C came within 0.5°C of being matched, as well.

An extreme jet stream configuration is in place over Western Europe, where a strong ridge of high pressure has brought the warmest June temperatures ever recorded to the Spanish cities of Madrid (39.1° on June 28) and Toledo (40.8° on June 30).

The heat will continue over much of Western Europe the remainder of the week, when the hottest temperatures since 2006 are expected. So far on Wednesday, the high temperature in Paris, France has been 102°F (38.9°C), not far from Paris' all-time record of 104.7°F (40.4°C).

North America: A searing heat wave unprecedented for June scorched the Northwest U.S. and Western Canada last weekend, sending temperatures soaring to their highest June levels in recorded history for portions of Washington, Idaho, Montana, and British Columbia. Both Idaho and Washington set all-time high temperature records for the month of June on Sunday. According to wunderground's weather historian, Christopher C. Burt, the 113°F measured in Walla Walla, Washington beat that state's previous June record of 112°F, set at John Day Dam on June 18, 1961. In addition, the 111°F reading at Lewiston, Idaho was that state's hottest June temperature on record.


South America:
Prior to 2015, the hottest Colombia had ever been in June was 40.8°C (105.4F) in June 1973 at Guaymaral. That mark was tied on June 20, 2015, at Agustin Codazzi. That mark was smashed on June 25, when both Valledupar and Urumitia hit 41.6°C (106.9F). On June 27, Urumitia, Colombia beat the new June national record, with a 42.0°C (107.6F) reading. One major city, Cartagena, set its all-time heat record with 40.4°C (104.7F) on June 25. Previous record: 39.0°C (102.2F) in October 1969. Thanks go to weather records researcher Maximiliano Herrera for these stats.

Record June heat was also observed in Venezuela earlier in the month, with Coro beating the June national record with 42°C (107.6F) on June 4.

Western Heat Wave Enters Second Chapter

By Jon Erdman and Nick Wiltgen
Published Jul 1 2015

While it may not be quite as hot as this past weekend in some areas, there appears to be no end in sight to this torrid heat wave in the West.

June and even a few all-time record highs have already been shattered in parts of the interior Northwest, northern Rockies and Great Basin. The extreme heat is likely to last into next week and may end up breaking records for longevity as well.


The perils of Florida’s refusal to expand Medicaid

By Billy Manes
April 8, 2014

Charlene Dill didn’t have to die.


They were the working poor, and they existed in the shadows of the economic recovery that has yet to reach many average people.


Dill, who was estranged from her husband and raising three children aged 3, 7 and 9 by herself, had picked up yet another odd job. She was selling vacuums on a commission basis for Rainbow Vacuums. On that day, in order to make enough money to survive, she made two last-minute appointments. At one of those appointments, in Kissimmee, she collapsed and died on a stranger’s floor.

Dill’s death was not unpredictable, nor was it unpreventable. She had a documented heart condition for which she took medication. But she also happened to be one of the people who fall within the gap created by the 2012 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that allowed states to opt out of Medicaid expansion, which was a key part of the Affordable Care Act’s intention to make health care available to everyone. In the ensuing two years, 23 states have refused to expand Medicaid, including Florida, which rejected $51 billion from the federal government over the period of a decade to overhaul its Medicaid program to include people like Dill and Woolrich – people who work, but do not make enough money to qualify for the Affordable Care Act’s subsidies. They, like many, are victims of a political war – one that puts the lives and health of up to 17,000 U.S. residents and 2,000 Floridians annually in jeopardy, all in the name of rebelling against President Barack Obama’s health care plan.

Woolrich has spent the better part of 2014 canvassing for the Service Employees International Union and for Planned Parenthood in an effort to educate people about Medicaid expansion and to enroll residents of poor neighborhoods into the Affordable Care Act’s medical-care exchanges. During the course of her work, she saw women with tumors that had yet to be treated, many chronic conditions affecting people living in the gap, and sometimes she found herself having to be the bearer of bad news. March 21 was her day off. She was looking forward to getting away from the politics. “I was off. Spring break was going to start for me and her kids,” she says.

Woolrich was aware that Dill was trying to get refills on her medication but not that she had become ill. Dill had been bumped off Medicaid because she was making too much money – an estimated $9,000 a year – and had yet to be able to afford a divorce, which might have bettered her chances. A message to Woolrich from a distant relative confirmed that Dill would not be showing up that Friday because she had passed away, but even that might not have happened if Dill’s cell phone hadn’t lit up while she lay prostrate on that Kissimmee floor. The people to whom Dill was peddling vacuums noticed the phone and called her relatives, says Woolrich, telling them, “There’s a girl lying on our floor. We don’t know who she is.”

These are the people in the coverage gap – the unknowns, the single mothers, the not-quite-retired – the unnamed 750,000 Floridians who are suffering while legislators in Tallahassee refuse to address the issue in this year’s legislative session, which ends on May 2. The working poor – who used to be the middle class – are on a crash course with disaster for no logical reason. Charlene Dill, at the age of 32, didn’t have to die.


“She worked really hard to provide for her kids,” Woolrich said from the lectern, surrounded by supporters holding up Dill’s picture. “She did baby-sitting, cleaned houses, collected cans for recycling and took them to recycling centers and got money for it, and sold vacuum cleaners. Whatever it took. But Charlene had health problems. She had pulmonary stenosis, sepsis from tooth decay, fibromyalgia and a lot of other health issues from these conditions. When she separated from her husband in 2009, that was last time she had reliable health insurance.”

Woolrich actually walked Dill through the process of the ACA online calculator and they found that she was in the gap. As recently as last October, Woolrich used online crowd-funding sources to help Dill get the medication she needed. Her heart condition had complicated all three of her pregnancies, and sometimes the hustle to survive wasn’t enough to make life bearable.

“People like Charlene are dying,” Russo says. “The thing is, the resources are there to pay for it. That’s what’s so mind-boggling about this situation. The money is there; it’s on the table.”


According to the DCF website, parents are only eligible if their income is less than or equal to 19 percent of the Federal Poverty Level. The Federal Poverty Level for a household of four in 2014 is $23,850. Charlene Dill would have missed that mark if she made more than $4,531.50. Medicaid expansion would have raised that percentage of FPL to 138 percent, or $32,913, and would also have included non-parents in a household of just one that made less than $16,104.

Coincidentally, Kathleen Voss Woolrich found out she lost her Medicaid benefits on April 2 after driving all the way from Conway to Kissimmee to see a doctor that would accept Medicaid – again, on a day off from canvassing for the ACA. She was bumped into the “Share of Cost” program via DCF.

The program operates with a deductible of sorts – you are given a monthly share-of-cost dollar figure that’s tabulated based on your income. If your medical needs for the month meet or exceed that figure, Medicaid then kicks in and pays the bill. If not, you pay your own bills. From the website: “Your share of cost is $800. You go to the hospital on May 10 and send us the bill for $1,000. You have met the share of cost and are Medicaid eligible from May 10 through May 31. Medicaid will pay the $1,000 medical bill. This is only an example.”

D’Aiuto gives a similar example and says that there is no reimbursement should you accidentally pay your bill. And in order for Medicaid benefits to kick in, you have to spend a lot of money (or at least owe a lot of money) before you have any coverage at all. Woolrich says her doctor – who charged her for her visit and gave her the required prescriptions for the autoimmune disorder for which she is often hospitalized; prescriptions she couldn’t afford to fill until she met her $491 share of cost – asked, “Why don’t you just go to the emergency room?”


Land surface temperatures in the Snake River Plain reaches 150ºF based on satellite measurements

This was the temperature of the ground surface, on June 28, 2015. Not the air temperature.

From US National Weather Service Boise Idaho Facebook

More CO2 means bigger, more agressive poison ivy

I found poison ivy in my yard for the first time last year.

June 24, 2015

More than 100 plant species can cause skin irritation, but among the most well known is poison ivy. With our greenhouse gas emissions climbing and the atmospheric concentration of CO2 building, we expect poison ivy to thrive. A 2007 study by Lewis Ziska, a plant physiologist at the U.S. Department of Agriculture, supports this concept. His study exposed poison ivy plants to four different concentrations of CO2 (300, 400, 500, and 600 ppm). The lowest two levels correspond to observations from the 1950s and the present. The highest two levels mirror projections for the years 2050 and 2090 from the 2007 AR4 IPCC report. In this analysis, we updated those projection dates based on the 2013 AR5 IPCC report, which are reflected in the graphic and animation.

The experiment found that as CO2 concentration increased, there were dramatic surges in the size of the poison ivy leaves and the amount of urushiol they produced. Urushiol is the toxic, oily compound that causes skin rashes and blisters after exposure, and it is present in each part of the plant.

Based on the experiments, there has already been a substantial increase in poison ivy development since the 1950s. When CO2 increased in the lab from 300 to 400 ppm, the leaf area increased a remarkable 120 percent. In the experiment at 600 ppm, the leaf size increased an additional 37 percent from the 400 ppm level.

The jump in the urushiol was more dramatic, increasing 173 percent from the 1950s to the present. But while the growth in leaf size began to slow as CO2 concentration increased beyond current levels, the amount of urushiol nearly doubled between the current concentration of 400 ppm and the projected concentration of 600 ppm. According to the 2013 IPCC report, at current emission rates, that concentration will be reached between 2060 and 2070.

So, it would appear the makers of calamine lotion will be in business for a long time.

Soaring Temps in Pacific Northwest Shattered Records

By Andrea Thompson
July 1, 2015

Scorching temperatures above 110°F are more often associated with the stark landscapes of places like Death Valley than the cooler reaches of the Pacific Northwest. But a suped-up heat wave has left parts of Washington feeling much more like the desert Southwest and has shattered longstanding high temperature records in many spots.

The searing heat even broke the all-time state temperature record for the month of June, with two locations — Chief Joseph Dam and Walla Walla — both hitting 113°F on Sunday, when the event peaked, according to the National Weather Service office in Spokane.

While the skyrocketing temperatures are a marker of a particularly strong area of high pressure, such record-breaking temperatures are more likely to happen in a warming world. Summer temperatures have already increased across the U.S. in recent decades; in the Pacific Northwest they have risen by almost 0.5°F per decade since 1970.
[High pressure areas happen occasionally. They might cause higher than usual temperatures, but the fact that these are record highs is what is notable. We are not seeing nearly as many record low temperatures, which would be expected if this were just due to normal variation.]


Though these searing temperatures were the result of a weather event that can naturally happen, summer temperatures in the Pacific Northwest have followed the same upward trend as most of the rest of the U.S. and the world as a whole over recent decades. These rising temperatures are fueled by the buildup of heat-trapping greenhouse gases in the atmosphere that has intensified over this same period.

In the U.S., the biggest increases in summer temperatures have been in the Southwest, where they have risen by more than 3.5°F since 1970. The Pacific Northwest has also seen substantial increases in average summer temperatures, which have gone up as much as 2.6°F over that same time.


Warming temperatures in the region are a major concern for water resources, as eastern Washington depends on its winter snowpack to supply reservoirs and streams come the warmer summer months. Exceptionally warm temperatures this past winter led to dismally low snowfall which has led to a widespread drought and amped up concerns over the wildfire season.


Why Your 401(k) Is Such an Attractive Target for Hackers

By Ellen Chang, MainStreet
June 24, 2015

Many Americans assume their money is relatively safe regardless of where the account is located. As hackers have moved from retailers to banks, the likelihood of retirement accounts being the next target is increasing.

While having access to financial accounts, including banking and retirement portfolios, has increased accessibility to consumes, it has also increased the risk of fraud “significantly,” said Paul Martini, CEO of iboss Network Security, a San Diego network security provider.


“Retirement accounts are squarely in their crosshairs,” he added.

IRA and 401(k) accounts are even more attractive targets for hackers, because most people do not track them the way they do their credit cards or checking accounts. The thefts could wind up being undetected for months.

Even cyber criminals who are “semi-skilled” can access a victim’s 401(k) or IRA account easily using stolen personal information and social engineering tactics, Johnson said.

“Once they have access to the account, it can be emptied in a matter of minutes, but the victim may not realize it until they do their annual review of their retirement accounts months later,” he said.

Although retirement accounts are insured by the FDIC for up to $250,000,FDIC insurance only “comes into play if a bank fails,” said David Barr, a FDIC spokesperson. “Banks carry separate insurance to cover losses or other liabilities.”


Any data posted on the Internet is vulnerable to attacks, including that related to your 401(k) and IRA accounts.

“Your money can disappear,” said Sergio Galindo, a general manager for GFI Software, an IT services provider based in Durham, N.C. If it happened to JP Morgan Chase and other financial companies that invest in millions of dollars to prevent and detect “rogue access,” then it can happen to any account, he said. Finding the hackers is becoming more of a challenge and can take weeks, if not longer.

Cyber criminals are not giving up, especially since many consumers make hacking fairly easy for them. Industry experts estimate that half of people are using the same ID and password combination on multiple accounts.


Too few consumers are checking their accounts on a regular basis. Galindo recommends checking your account for charges or other changes at least once a month.

“Little charges sometimes indicate bigger issues," he said. "If you don’t recognize it, ask and stop the charge.”

Consumers can safeguard their accounts better by following these five tips:

Don’t make it easy for the hackers. If your browser gives you the option to remember your password, always say no. “Typing in your password also assures that you are physically the one interacting with the system,” Martini said.

When you are shopping online, make sure the website is one you can trust such as PayPal or Amazon, which are more likely to have “security policies in place over a small run-of-the-mill website,” he said.

Always opt to use your bank card as a credit card instead of a debit card, because “recovering fraudulent activity from a credit card is much easier as it doesn’t lock up your bank account funds while that’s in process,” Martini said.

Use strong passwords that are not related to your personal information. Avoid your birthday, a pet’s names or other information someone can find via social media, said Shawn Marck, an executive vice president at Nexusguard, a San Francisco-based security provider.

Take advantage of two -factor authentication when it is available. Some retirement account providers such as Vanguard will text a code to your smartphone before you can log-in.


Great songs about Global Warming

The web site also includes the beautiful lyrics.

Our purpose is to touch people through the emotion of music, to teach and educate people about what we are doing to our Earth, and to bring people together to fight against climate change and save our planet. Planet Mouth is a fictitious studio band born out of Todd’s Climate Project and these original songs.

Todd is no singer but felt he had to get the message out. Are you a great singer with compassion for our planet? We need your help. Please contact us.


Puerto Rico

By Rob Garver
June 29, 2015

As creditors in Europe look with trepidation at the increasing probability that Greece will default on its debts, investors in the United States are watching a similar situation play out in Puerto Rico, where decades of borrowing and a stagnating economy have, according to the commonwealth’s governor, made default on general obligation bonds all but inevitable.

In an alarming report that leaked over the weekend, a team of economists headed by Anne O. Krueger, former chief economist for the World Bank and more recently first deputy managing director of the International Monetary Fund, issued dire warnings.

“Puerto Rico faces hard times,” the authors found. “Structural problems, economic shocks and weak public finances have yielded a decade of stagnation, outmigration and debt. Financial markets once looked past these realities but have since cut off the commonwealth from normal market access. A crisis looms.”


Any move to restructure the commonwealth’s obligation will likely meet stiff resistance from the bond markets. Puerto Rico’s debt is widely held by U.S. hedge funds, mutual funds and other investment vehicles. It has been particularly popular because a special provision of U.S. law for years made it exempt from federal, state and local taxes.

Related: ‘Grexit’ Chances Increase with Greek Referendum

That allowed Puerto Rico to fund large amounts of deficit spending for well over a decade, resulting in a debt load that has placed an enormous fiscal burden on an economy that has begun shrinking. As recently as 2013, Puerto Rico’s Government Development Bank could borrow at between 5 and 6 percent interest. Today, that rate has rocketed to more than 15 percent, essentially shutting the island out of the bond markets.

The combination has left Puerto Rico unable to pay its debts, Gov. Alejandro Garcia Padilla admitted in an interview with The New York Times. “The debt is not payable,” he said. “There is no other option. I would love to have an easier option. This is not politics, this is math.”

The Krueger report notes that Puerto Rico’s close association with the United States is both a benefit and a curse when it comes to the island’s economy.

For example, employers are subject to federal minimum wage laws, despite the fact that the federal minimum of $7.50 per hour is much higher relative to per capita income on the island than it is on the mainland. A mainland U.S. worker earning the minimum wage is making about 28 percent of per capita income in the country as a whole. A worker earning the same in Puerto Rico earns 77 percent of the island’s per capita income. This means that even entry-level workers are much more expensive to hire in Puerto Rico.

Additionally, the report found, social safety net benefits are, given the cost of living on the island and the relative earnings of minimum wage, more generous than on the mainland.

“Workers are disinclined to take up jobs because the welfare system provides generous benefits that often exceed what minimum wage employment yields; one estimate shows that a household of three eligible for food stamps, AFDC [Aid to Families with Dependent Children], Medicaid and utilities subsidies could receive $1,743 per month — as compared with a minimum wage earner’s take-home earnings of $1,159.”

One result is that only 40 percent of the adult population is gainfully employed, versus more than 60 percent in the mainland.

The report paints a picture of an island trapped in a vicious cycle. Poor economic growth, the result of past fiscal mismanagement, has led to an increasing need for deficit spending, which further depresses growth, perpetuating what Garcia Padilla has called a “death spiral.”


The Puerto Rico crisis, explained
Updated by Matthew Yglesias on July 1, 2015


2) What is the "death spiral" Padilla is warning about?

The bad news is that Puerto Rico is really facing two separate death spirals.

One is the basic death spiral of self-fulfilling default risk. The more money you owe, the more likely it is that you won't be able to pay back all the money that you owe. That means that when your debts come due and you need new loans to pay off the old ones, investors start demanding that you compensate them for their risks in the form of higher interest rates. Those higher interests rates increase the financial burden on your country, and that in turn makes default more likely.

But the death spiral Padilla was referring to is a second one.

People generally don't like paying taxes but do enjoy receiving high quality government services. Consequently, a given territory's ability to turn tax revenue into useful services is an important driver of whether people will want to live and do business there. To the extent that your tax revenue is going to pay off old debts, it is not going to provide current services. Thus the more of your budget that you dedicate to debt repayment, the worse the value proposition that you are delivering to your territory's residents and businesses.

The harder Puerto Rico squeezes, in other words, the more its economy suffers. But the more the Puerto Rican economy suffers, the harder it is for Puerto Rico to pay back its debts. In other words: death spiral.
[As in Greece.]


4) Who lent Puerto Rico all this money? What were they thinking?

A large share of the money was initially lent by people not so different from you or me — middle class Americans, especially those living in higher tax states. As for what they were thinking, they probably weren't thinking much of anything in particular.

They were just putting money away for retirement in municipal bond funds to diversify their portfolios.
[As financial "experts" tell them they should do.]

Those funds, in turn, were invested in a diverse array of US public sector bonds. Since Puerto Rican bonds feature some unusual tax advantages, there was an unusually robust level of demand for Puerto Rican debt. Successful Puerto Rican governments responded to demand for their debt in the economically rational way — they borrowed an unusually large amount of money.


7) What went wrong for Puerto Rico?

Starting in 2006, the island has been hit by a series of negative shocks that have undermined its economy and its creditworthiness.

That was the year that Puerto Rico lost its longstanding federal tax advantages as a location for US companies to do business in. From 1986 to 1996, these took the form of special tax credits that were rationalized as a way to help Puerto Rico be competitive with developing countries as a manufacturing location, given that Puerto Rico-based firms need to comply with basic US labor rights and safety standards. But starting in 1996 these advantages were placed on a 10-year phaseout schedule and despite the hopes of Puerto Rican politicians (and tax break hungry business) they were never extended or replaced. That began an exodus of businesses from the island from which it has never really recovered.


A related ongoing development is that in response to Puerto Rico's economic woes, Puerto Rican people have increasingly chosen to leave the island.

For any given individual, migrating to the mainland makes a lot of sense given the economic conditions on the island. But each person who departs leaves the people who remain with a higher share of old debts to repay. That makes the economic situation even worse and the debt even harder to pay.


The Problem with Completely Free Markets

As in most areas of life, extremism is not desirable.

By Mark Thoma
June 30, 2015

The Supreme Court’s decision last week saved Obamacare from the Republican’s latest attempt to get government out of health care. But if Republicans can find another way to attack the Affordable Care Act, they surely will.

Healthcare is not, of course, the only place where Republicans object to government intervention in private markets. They believe that markets free of government rules and regulations almost always outperform markets where the government is involved. So it’s a good time to review why this faith in free markets is sometimes misplaced, and how government involvement in some markets can improve their performance.

When a market works well, when it approaches the competitive ideal found in economics textbooks, there is no need for the government to intervene. The market will do better if the government stays away. But we shouldn’t confuse free markets with competitive markets. When there are significant departures from pure competition, what economists call market failures, markets are “free” to perform very badly, and sometimes a market will collapse entirely. In these cases, government intervention can help.

The conditions for textbook competitive markets are fairly strict. To begin, there must be numerous participants on both sides of the market. When, for example, there are only a small number of sellers the price will be too high and the quantity too low relative to the competitive outcome. If the good is a necessity – suppose a single firm has a monopoly on the supply of water – the price could be very high indeed. To combat this problem, the government tries to prevent firms from pursuing strategies to monopolize markets, and regulators break up markets that become monopolized anyway.

When a monopoly is unavoidable as with public utilities, the government regulates the price that can be charged and the customers that must be served. We can debate where to draw the line – when the government should and shouldn’t be concerned about monopoly power (e.g. how dominant does one firm have to become before the government takes action to break it up?), but I doubt that any of us wants to live in a world where most of our markets are monopolized.

All participants must also have perfect information about the market. If the buyer does not know the exact quality of art, wine, or health care services, if a home-buyer is unaware of a big problem with a house, if a seller misrepresents the quality of a good (a fake watch instead of a real one, or a tipped scale), if a service provider does not have the credentials that are claimed, and so on, then the market will be distorted – people will pay more than they would have if they had been informed.

Despite free market rhetoric, we want government to intervene to ensure that weights and measures are accurate, there is no fraud, people are truthful about their credentials, and known defects in a product are disclosed to buyers.


Competitive markets are free of externalities. If a firm can pollute the air and water when producing a good without having to pay the costs, then the firm will produce more of that good than is socially desirable.


Principle agent problems, which occur when one person is making economic choices on behalf of another, can also cause non-competitive outcomes. For example, when a manager of a firm makes decisions on behalf of shareholders, he or she may do what’s best for their own income rather than what’s best for shareholders.


Finally, there are some goods society desires such as national defense that the private sector will not provide. If a private firm asked you to pay for national defense, why would you say yes? If everyone else pays, you will still be protected, so why pay yourself? If everyone thinks this way – or if enough people do – then there will be no way to pay for the defense that is needed. The solution is for government to provide the good itself, and then mandate that everyone help to pay through taxes.
[Same for paying for food inspectors, etc.]


Specialized therapy can aid traumatized children in developing nations

Public Release: 29-Jun-2015
Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health

A specific type of talk therapy dispensed in the developing world to orphans and other vulnerable children who experienced trauma such as sexual and domestic abuse showed dramatic results, despite being administered by workers with little education, new research shows.

The findings, from a group of researchers led by the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, suggest that young people from poor nations can benefit from mental health treatment, even when health professionals do not provide it. Untreated childhood trauma, the researchers say, is linked to skills deficits and unhealthy decision-making as adults as well as long-term negative health outcomes and lower economic productivity.

A report on the study appears in the June 29 issue of JAMA Pediatrics.

"We found that children from very distressed backgrounds can really be helped by a prescribed set of sessions with trained lay workers who otherwise have absolutely no mental health education and barely a high school education," says study leader Laura K. Murray, PhD, an associate scientist in the Bloomberg School's Department of Mental Health. "This study demonstrates that evidence-based treatments can be done in low-resource countries with good outcomes. We need to make these interventions available to children so they aren't set up for significant difficulties as adults."


The intervention consisted of between eight and 12 one-hour sessions, conducted by workers with no prior formal training in counseling but who received some ongoing training and supervision by the research team. The children had time to get to know the lay counselors and were taught relaxation techniques, how to talk about their feelings and how they could choose how to think about their circumstances. They were walked through their traumatic experiences in detail to clear out the stories causing them nightmares. They learned how to think about the trauma in different ways and to see that it was not their fault. They also worked with counselors to plan how to avoid violent situations in the future in very specific ways. For example, detailed safety plans were developed with the children to avoid violence at home or in the community, such as going to a neighboring "auntie's" house for the night when they sensed trouble brewing.

Those in the intervention group saw their trauma symptom scores - measures of sleep problems, feelings of sadness, the ability to talk about issues - fall by nearly 82 percent, on average, while those in the treatment-as-usual group had a reduction in their scores of 21 percent.

One limitation of the study is that it did not follow the children in the months after the treatment to see if the positive effect endured. But studies in the United States focused on child trauma in poor populations have found that Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is effective and has sustained benefits at six months to two years after treatment.


The new study did not compare cost-effectiveness of the two types of treatment, but Murray says the findings raise the question of whether dollars are being spent in the most effective way to help orphans and vulnerable children.

"The United States spends billions in poor countries on programs for orphaned children and others who have experienced trauma, but the programs are often more social in nature and have not shown effectiveness in treating the mental health effects of trauma," Murray says. "Our research suggests that treatments like the one we studied in Zambia may be able to provide better care for children with trauma-related mental health problems."

The researchers say cost-effectiveness studies are needed to determine whether the usual treatment provided for this population is worth the money, or if it is better to put those funds where they can make a greater impact.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Athletes should drink only when thirsty

But it is also important not to get dehydrated. A friend of mine got very sick, and had kidney damage, because he got severely dehydrated.

Public Release: 29-Jun-2015
Loyola University Health System

At least 14 deaths of marathon runners, football players and other athletes have been attributed to a condition called exercise-associated hyponatremia, which results from drinking too much water or sports drinks.

But there's an easy way to prevent hyponatremia, according to new guidelines from an international expert panel: Simply put, drink only when you're thirsty.

"Using the innate thirst mechanism to guide fluid consumption is a strategy that should limit drinking in excess and developing hyponatremia while providing sufficient fluid to prevent excessive dehydration," according to the guidelines, published in the Clinical Journal of Sport Medicine.


Exercise-associated hyponatremia (EAH) occurs when drinking too much overwhelms the ability of the kidneys to excrete the excess water load. Sodium in the body becomes diluted. This leads to swelling in cells, which can be life-threatening.

Symptoms of mild EAH include lightheadedness, dizziness, nausea, puffiness and gaining weight during an athletic event. Symptoms of severe EAH include vomiting, headache, altered mental status (confusion, agitation, delirium, etc.), seizure and coma.
[Can also be symptoms of dehydration.]

EAH has occurred during endurance competitions such as marathons, triathlons, canoe races and swimming; military exercises; hiking; football; calisthenics during fraternity hazing; and even yoga and lawn bowling, the guidelines said.

Athletes often are mistakenly advised to "push fluids" or drink more than their thirst dictates by, for example, drinking until their urine is clear or drinking to a prescribed schedule. But excessive fluid intake does not prevent fatigue, muscle cramps or heat stroke.

"Muscle cramps and heatstroke are not related to dehydration," Dr. Winger said. "You get heat stroke because you're producing too much heat."
[From my personal experience, this is misleading. Not drinking enough water can lead to not sweating. Evaporation of sweat cools you off.]

Modest to moderate levels of dehydration are tolerable and pose little risk to otherwise healthy athletes. An athlete can safely lose up to 3 percent of his or her body weight during a competition due to dehydration without loss of performance, Dr. Winger said.

The guidelines say EAH can be treated by administering a concentrated saline solution that is 3 percent sodium - about three times higher than the concentration in normal saline solution.






New study finds words speak louder than actions

Public Release: 29-Jun-2015
University of Chicago Booth School of Business

When it comes to the art of persuasion, you can attract more followers if you turn conventional wisdom on its head and stress what you like, not what you do.

A new study, to be published in an upcoming issue of the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, finds that people are more likely to conform to others' preferences than conform to others' actions. In other words, people want to like what others like, but they want to have or do what others don't have or don't do.


"The tendency to conform is pervasive and rooted in human psychology," said Fishbach. "When people conform, they conform to what others like and to others' attitudes. But in terms of what they do, they want to be different. So if you want to persuade people, you should talk about liking, not about having."

The researchers found that people conform to others' preferences at last partially because they adopt others' judgments as their own. They further found that when people behave as if they are not conforming, their motivation could be to coordinate or complement their actions with others' actions.

For example, when people mentally share an action, such as watching a friend eat a bowl of oatmeal over breakfast, they feel in a way that they ate the oatmeal too, so they seek to enrich their own experience by choosing something that is different, such as an omelet. But when people mentally share another person's preference, such as liking oatmeal more than omelets, they adopt the others' preference as their own and say they like oatmeal more than omelets.

Even when information about others' preferences and actions are available at the same time--such as an online shopping site that lists both its bestselling products and its most liked products--people are more likely to follow what others like, rather than what others buy.
[Well, people might buy things, then find out they don't like them, so this makes sense.]


Sunday, June 28, 2015

Australian Climate Roundtable: Business, union, environmental, investor and welfare groups form unusual coalition on climate policy

By business editor Peter Ryan
June 28, 2015

An unprecedented alliance of business, union, environmental, investor and welfare groups has been formed to forge what it sees as urgent common ground on climate policy.

The highly unusual coalition — to be branded the Australian Climate Roundtable — comes as developed nations gear up for the Paris Climate Conference in December, where leaders will be under pressure to update their strategies for dealing with climate change.

While Australia's main political parties support the international goal of limiting climate change to less than 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, the alliance warns the objective will require "deep global reductions".

The high-profile members cover some influential employer and industry lobby groups, such as the Australian Industry (Ai) Group, the Business Council of Australia (BCA), the Australian Aluminium Council, the Energy Supply Association and the Investor Group on Climate Change.

They will be joined by groups at the opposite end of the political and economic spectrum — the Australian Conservation Foundation (ACF), WWF Australia, the Australian Council of Social Service, the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) and the Climate Institute.

In a statement, the Roundtable warned emissions reductions on the necessary scale would require "substantial change "and present "significant challenges" in Australia and other developed nations.

"We believe Australia should play its fair part in global efforts to avoid the serious economic, social and environmental impacts that unconstrained climate change would have on Australia," the statement said.

In a warning to the Federal Government, the group said "delayed, unpredictable and piecemeal action will increase the costs and challenges of achieving the goals and maximising the opportunities".

"We also know that policies won't work if they don't last and stay on investors' radars," the statement said.

"The foundations of climate policy need broad and durable support, and we all have a role in building it."


Highlighting the social risks of climate policy and climate change, the Roundtable said climate policy must also:

protect the most vulnerable individuals;
avoid disproportionate impacts on low-income households; and
assist communities that are vulnerable to economic shocks or physical risks as a result of climate change or climate policy.

The united agreement from often distant parties on climate policy goals is significant, according to BCA chief executive Jennifer Westacott.

"There is now overwhelming common ground on the need for a more certain and meaningful approach to emissions reduction," Ms Westacott said.


ACF chief executive Kelly O'Shanassy described it as "an unlikely alliance, but we've come together because the challenge of tackling global warming is bigger than any of our differences".

"Among the things we have in common is a shared goal for Australia to cut its net greenhouse pollution to zero or below," she said.


Friday, June 26, 2015

Most of America's poor have jobs, study finds

Public Release: 25-Jun-2015
Brigham Young University

The majority of the United States' poor aren't sitting on street corners. They're employed at low-paying jobs, struggling to support themselves and a family.

In the past, differing definitions of employment and poverty prevented researchers from agreeing on who and how many constitute the "working poor."

But a new study by sociologists at BYU, Cornell and LSU provides a rigorous new estimate. Their work suggests about 10 percent of working households are poor. Additionally, households led by women, minorities or individuals with low education are more likely to be poor, but employed.


BYU professor Scott Sanders says the findings dispel the notion that most impoverished Americans don't work so they can rely on government handouts.

"The toxic idea is if we clump all those people together and treat them as the same people, then we don't solve the real problem that the majority of people in poverty are working, trying to improve their lives, and we treat them all as deadbeats," Sanders.

Working poor is the term used to describe individuals or families who hold jobs, but can't break out of poverty. No standards currently exist for determining exactly who qualifies as working poor, so previous estimates vary widely in their results. This study compared 126 different measures of working poverty using 2013 population data. The authors found the most useful representation is determined when a head of household works at least half time and the household income is below 125 percent of the official poverty line. [So this definition does not include people who less than half time when they want full time work.]


The study estimates that between 6.4 million and 8 million heads of families classify as working poor, which is actually less than the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics' 2011 estimate of 10.6 million.


Argonne analysis shows increased carbon intensity from Canadian oil sands

Public Release: 25-Jun-2015
DOE/Argonne National Laboratory

The U.S. Department of Energy's Argonne National Laboratory this week released a study that shows gasoline and diesel refined from Canadian oil sands have a higher carbon impact than fuels derived from conventional domestic crude sources.


Thursday, June 25, 2015

Kids can drown hours after leaving the pool, experts say

June 24, 2015

The last place parents want to be flocking to during the summer is the emergency room, yet every year dozens of children end up there for drowning. This particular drowning doesn't occur while swimming though. It happens hours after the child has left the water, CBS New York station WCBS reports.

Sports medicine specialist Dr. Lewis Maharam explains to WCBS it is a condition known as "dry drowning" and it is landing a lot of kids in the hospital hours after swimming in the pool. He said it takes just a few teaspoons of water to go down the wrong way and into the lungs that causes this condition.

"Dry drowning" happens when children playing around in the pool or lake accidentally inhale water. They may cough, but then they seem fine. But, sometimes, they are not fine.

"They had a normal day and then they go to bed and they're coughing or they're wheezing or their parents see bubbling from the mouth," Dr. Maharam explained.

Dr. Maharam said the lungs are irritated and start to secrete fluid -- and as a result children can actually drown in their body's own fluid.

WCBS spoke to parents at a Long Island pool and asked what they knew about the condition. One parent said she was shocked, and especially shocked it can occur nearly a day after leaving the water.


The symptoms can include lethargy, irritability and trouble breathing.

Jim Hazen with the swim school Safe-T-Swim advises caregivers to go straight to the emergency room, not the pediatrician, after noticing a problem after their child has been in the water.

Hazen says most cases are treatable and preventable.

"The prevention is obviously adult supervision, number one, learn to swim, number two," Hazen said.

WCBS reports that research shows not all children are susceptible to "dry drowning." And while it can also happen in adults -- it's rare.

DOJ Has the Power to Crush Price-Fixers

Albert Foer, American Antitrust Institute (AAI)

Douglas H. Ginsburg, U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit;
George Mason University School of Law

Robert H. Lande, University of Baltimore - School of Law

Joshua D. Wright, Federal Trade Commission; George Mason University School of Law

May 29-31, 2015

USA Today Weekend, May 29-31, 2015, Page 11A.
University of Baltimore School of Law Legal Studies Research Paper

The four of us are known in antitrust circles for the points on which we disagree. We do agree, however, that price fixing among competitors is inadequately deterred, is often profitable despite existing fines and damages actions, and that it's time to focus more on the individuals who participate in illegal cartels. We propose that, as part of its plea agreements, the Department of Justice should insist that corporate defendants agree not to hire or rehire anyone who has been convicted of price fixing. This re-employment often occurs today. In addition, the Department should insist that corporations agree not to pay the fines of their convicted employees, either directly or indirectly, or compensate them for serving time.

No new legislation would be needed to implement these measures, and there would be no significant budgetary consequences for taxpayers. These policies are logical extensions of a long-term bipartisan agreement on the necessity of tough anti-cartel enforcement, something that both conservatives and liberals support.


There’s nothing like Wednesday’s announcement of a $5.6 billion penalty in the Libor currency manipulation case to make us feel good, secure in the knowledge that the Department of Justice (DOJ) is getting tough on illegal corporate collusion. This was the amount JPMorgan, Citigroup, Royal Bank of Scotland, UBS and Barclay’s just agreed to pay for participating in a cartel that fixed the prices of international foreign currencies in violation of antitrust laws.

Should we really sleep more securely on account of this huge fine? Realistically, will even a fine this large be likely to stop other firm s from engaging in similar activities?


Unfortunately, in spite of the DOJ’s best efforts, corporate collusion is often still profitable net of fines and damages. Moreover, evidence suggests that many companies encourage their employees to engage in this lucrative but illegal activity by reemploying them upon their release from prison. The prospect of a one to two year “timeout” at a white-collar clink is not too much to pay, it seems, for job security and other benefits.

The four of us are known in antitrust circles for the points on which we disagree. We do agree, however, that price-fixing among competitors is bad for consumers who pay artificially elevated prices and is inadequately deterred, with too many price fixing cartels continuing to opera te despite ever increasing sanctions. Indeed, two careful event studies covering 40 years of price fixing indictments of publicly traded firms in the United States show that the stock prices of 80 percent of the companies rebounded to pre-indictment levels in less than one year.


Weight loss plus vitamin D reduces inflammation linked to cancer, chronic disease

Public Release: 24-Jun-2015
Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center

For the first time, researchers at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center have found that weight loss, in combination with vitamin D supplementation, has a greater effect on reducing chronic inflammation than weight loss alone. Chronic inflammation is known to contribute to the development and progression of several diseases, including some cancers.


"We know from our previous studies that by losing weight, people can reduce their overall levels of inflammation, and there is some evidence suggesting that taking vitamin D supplements can have a similar effect if one has insufficient levels of the nutrient," said lead and corresponding author Catherine Duggan, Ph.D., a principal staff scientist in the Public Health Sciences Division at Fred Hutch. However, it has not been known whether combining the two -- weight loss and vitamin D -- would further boost this effect. "It's the first study to test whether adding vitamin D augments the considerable effect of weight loss on inflammatory biomarkers," she said.


At the end of the study, all of the participants had reduced levels of inflammation, regardless of whether they took vitamin D, "which highlights the importance of weight loss in reducing inflammation," Duggan said. However, those who saw the most significant decline in markers of inflammation were those who took vitamin D and lost 5 to 10 percent of their baseline weight.


We were quite surprised to see that vitamin D had an effect on an inflammation biomarker only among women who lost at least 5 percent of their baseline weight," Duggan said. "That suggests vitamin D can augment the effect of weight loss on inflammation."

Vitamin D is a steroid hormone that has multiple functions beyond its widely recognized role in regulating calcium levels and bone metabolism. Vitamin D receptors are found in more than 30 cell types and the research focus around this nutrient recently has shifted from bone health to vitamin D's effect on cancer, cardiovascular health and weight loss, among other health issues.


Friends motivate us to drink more: QUT study

Public Release: 24-Jun-2015
Queensland University of Technology

Friends can be a dangerous influence, with new QUT research confirming what many drinkers already know - that drinking with mates can push you to drink more.

Dr Ryan McAndrew, from QUT's Business School, said group dynamics played a big role in how much people drank when they were with their friends.

Dr McAndrew's research suggests that excessive alcohol consumption could be curbed by offering alternative settings in which people could achieve the same satisfaction that motivates risking drinking.


"Past research has found education on its own promotes awareness but not behaviour change, and legislative policies are limited, so we need to be taking an alternative approach to curbing this risky behaviour."


What we found is that when friends drink together their alcohol consumption can increase, with four main factors being responsible," he said.

"When friends drink socially, whether they know it or not, they drink more because they are mimicking their friends, they are conforming to their friends, they are winding down with their friends and they are enjoying the company of drinking with their friends."

He said the strongest predictor of alcohol consumption was copying or mimicking behaviour, followed by the desire to wind down, then enjoyment and conformity.

Dr McAndrew said the study also found the gender of the participant influenced alcohol consumption, with males on average drinking almost 25 standard drinks per week, double that of females who drank on average 11 standard drinks per week.

"When examining the effect of group gender composition, all girl groups drink for the same reasons as the all boy groups," he said.

"This is likely to be because traditional views around female intoxication have reduced, allowing mostly female groups to adopt similar drinking practices as mostly male groups."