Thursday, December 31, 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

Monday, November 30, 2015

Adapting to -70 degrees in Siberia: A tale of Yakutian horses

Public Release: 23-Nov-2015
Adapting to -70 degrees in Siberia: A tale of Yakutian horses
Faculty of Science - University of Copenhagen

From an evolutionary perspective it happened almost overnight. In less than 800 years Yakutian horses adapted to the extremely cold temperatures found in the environments of eastern Siberia. The adaptive process involved changes in the expression of a plethora of genes, including some also selected in human Siberian groups and the extinct wooly mammoth.

In a new scientific study, the comparison of the complete genomes of nine living and two ancient Yakutian horses from Far-East Siberia with a large genome panel of 27 domesticated horses reveals that the current population of Yakutian horses was founded following the migration of the Yakut people into the region in the 13-15th century AD. Yakutian horses, thus, developed their striking adaptations to the extreme cold climate present in the region in less than 800 years. This is one of the fastest examples of adaptation within mammals.


Horses have been essential to the survival and development of the Yakut people, who migrated into the Far-East Siberia in the 13-15th century AD, probably from Mongolia. There, Yakut people developed an economy almost entirely based on horses. Horses were indeed key for communication and keeping population contact within a territory slightly larger than Argentina, and with 40 % of its surface area situated north of the Arctic Circle. Horse meat and hide have also revealed crucial for surviving extremely cold winters, with temperatures occasionally dropping below -70C.


It provides a compelling example of evolutionary convergence, where unrelated groups exposed to similar environments end up independently developing similar adaptations.

Such genes showing convergent signals of adaptation include in humans PRKG1, which is involved in the shivering response to cold, and BARX2 in the woolly mammoth which is involved in hair development.


Expensive drugs that cure hepatitis C are worth the cost, even at early stages of liver fibrosis

Public Release: 23-Nov-2015
Expensive drugs that cure hepatitis C are worth the cost, even at early stages of liver fibrosis
University of California - San Francisco

It is worthwhile to give patients expensive new drugs that can cure their hepatitis C much earlier than some insurers are now willing to pay for them, according to a UC San Francisco study that models the effects of treating the disease early versus late in its development.

Researchers said they were surprised by the findings, since the drugs can cost up to $100,000 for a full course of treatment. But when they factored in the long-term medical cost of delaying treatment for hepatitis C, they found the savings, in combination with improvements in the quality of patients' lives, were enough under current standards to justify using them even at early stages of liver fibrosis. Researchers said the drugs were therefore cost effective.

Cost effectiveness is a measure of broad social benefit that health economists use to make decisions about whether medical treatments are warranted. The researchers said the balance was tipped in favor of the drugs because the hepatitis C virus can cause so much damage. Hepatitis C is one of the leading causes of liver cancer, liver transplants and liver-related death, yet the drugs can prevent much of that with an early cure. Moreover, even if costly hepatitis C treatments are delayed, they eventually will be given to many patients once the infection causes enough damage to their livers.

About 3.2 million people have hepatitis C in the United States. The vast majority were infected by blood transfusions before testing of blood donors became available in 1992. Today, most people get infected from injecting drugs.


Ancient genomes reveal natural selection in action

Public Release: 23-Nov-2015
Ancient genomes reveal natural selection in action
Study tracks gene changes during the introduction of farming in Europe
Harvard Medical School

The introduction of agriculture into Europe about 8,500 years ago changed the way people lived right down to their DNA.

Until recently, scientists could try to understand the way humans adapted genetically to changes that occurred thousands of years ago only by looking at DNA variation in today's populations. But our modern genomes contain mere echoes of the past that can't be connected to specific events.

Now, an international team reports in Nature that researchers can see how natural selection happened by analyzing ancient human DNA.

"It allows us to put a time and date on selection and to directly associate selection with specific environmental changes, in this case the development of agriculture and the expansion of the first farmers into Europe," said Iain Mathieson, a research fellow in genetics at Harvard Medical School and first author of the study.

By taking advantage of better DNA extraction techniques and amassing what is to date the largest collection of genome-wide datasets from ancient human remains, the team was able to identify specific genes that changed during and after the transition from hunting and gathering to farming.

Many of the variants occurred on or near genes that have been associated with height, the ability to digest lactose in adulthood, fatty acid metabolism, vitamin D levels, light skin pigmentation and blue eye color. Two variants appear on genes that have been linked to higher risk of celiac disease but that may have been important in adapting to an early agricultural diet.

Other variants were located on immune-associated genes, which made sense because "the Neolithic period involved an increase in population density, with people living close to one another and to domesticated animals," said Wolfgang Haak, one of three senior authors of the study, a research fellow at the University of Adelaide and group leader in molecular anthropology at the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.

"Although that finding did not come fully as a surprise," he added, "it was great to see the selection happening in 'real time.'"

The work also supports the idea that Europe's first farmers came from ancient Anatolia, in what is now Turkey, and fills in more details about how ancient groups mixed and migrated.


"In the past year, we've had a super-exponential rise in the number of ancient samples we can study on a genome scale," said Reich, who is also an associate member of the Broad Institute of Harvard and MIT and a Howard Hughes Medical Investigator. "In September 2014, we had 10 individuals. In this study, we have 230."

The DNA came from the remains of people who lived between 3,000 and 8,500 years ago at different sites across what is now Europe, Siberia and Turkey. That time span provided snapshots of genetic variation before, during and after the agricultural revolution in Europe.


Members of the team used several technological advances to obtain and analyze the new genetic material. For example, they exploited a method pioneered by Pinhasi's laboratory to extract DNA from a remarkably rich source: a portion of the dense, pyramid-shaped petrous bone that houses the internal auditory organs. In some cases, the bone yielded 700 times more human DNA than could be obtained from other bones, including teeth.

"That changed everything," said Pinhasi. "Higher-quality DNA meant we could analyze many more positions on the genome, perform more complex tests and simulations, and start systematically studying allele frequency across populations."


Congress Prepares Huge Tax-Break Giveaways for 2015

I'm sure most people who read my blog are aware that both branches of Congress are now dominated by Republicans.

Fiscal Times

By Eric Pianin
November 30, 2015

With the holiday season upon us, Congress and the White House are once again engaging in the ritual of parceling out tens of billions of dollars in tax breaks and other goodies to just about every conceivable interest group – from well-heeled corporate executives and film producers to rum makers, horse breeders and just plain Americans looking for a tax break or two.

The process rarely draws much attention and lacks the political sex appeal of major tax reform or monster spending bills that sometimes lead to epic showdowns or even government shutdowns.

Instead, lawmakers and the administration will be wrestling with decisions on the fate of 55 or so highly obscure but often extraordinarily costly tax breaks that lapsed at the end of 2014 and must be reauthorized retroactively for the 2015 tax year. GOP House and Senate leaders will make a big push soon to try to work out a two-year compromise with the White House before the Christmas recess.

None of the measures are part of the permanent federal tax code and therefore must be renewed every year or two. For that reason, they are called tax “extenders,” although they could be viewed more colorfully and perhaps more accurately as generous gifts in wrapping paper under the Christmas tree. Congress last handled this chore in December 2014.

These tax rules range in quality from the very serious – such as business research and development tax credits and tuition fee reductions -- to the frivolous or even ridiculous, including tax breaks for NASCAR track owners and write-offs for film and television producers.

The one thing they all have in common, however, is that they aren’t paid for. As much as Republican and Democratic members of Congress wring their hands over the federal deficit and the massive national debt, when it comes to the many billions of dollars in revenues lost to the tax extenders, they are more than happy to add it to the nation’s credit card. A Senate version of a new two-year extenders bill approved last summer would increase the deficit by $87 billion over the coming decade, according to the Congressional Budget Office.


One of the budget organization’s pet peeves is with the so-called “bonus depreciation,” an incredibly costly measure that the government used several times during the Great Recession but that seems superfluous and extravagant since the recovery.

The bonus depreciation allows businesses to write off 50 percent of the cost of capital investments immediately while the rest is deducted more gradually over time. Between 2008 and 2014, the bonus depreciation has cost the Treasury roughly $200 billion, including interest, and it will cost even more if it is reauthorized retroactively for the 2015 tax year.

Yet Republican lawmakers have even bigger plans for the bonus depreciation. They want to make it permanent,


If the bonus depreciation is made permanent, the Committee on a Responsible Federal Budget warns it would cost overall nearly $450 billion through 2025. The other tax breaks made permanent would drain the Treasury of tens of billions of dollars more in just the next couple of years.


Loneliness triggers cellular changes that can cause illness, study shows

Public Release: 23-Nov-2015
Loneliness triggers cellular changes that can cause illness, study shows
University of Chicago

Loneliness is more than a feeling: For older adults, perceived social isolation is a major health risk that can increase the risk of premature death by 14 percent.

Researchers have long known the dangers of loneliness, but the cellular mechanisms by which loneliness causes adverse health outcomes have not been well understood. Now a team of researchers, including UChicago psychologist and leading loneliness expert John Cacioppo, has released a study shedding new light on how loneliness triggers physiological responses that can ultimately make us sick.

The paper, which appears Nov. 23 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, shows that loneliness leads to fight-or-flight stress signaling, which can ultimately affect the production of white blood cells.


Finally, the researchers determined that this monocyte-related CTRA shift had real consequences for health. In a monkey model of viral infection, the impaired antiviral gene expression in "lonely like" monkeys allowed simian immunodeficiency virus (the monkey version of HIV) to grow faster in both blood and brain.

Taken together, these findings support a mechanistic model in which loneliness results in fight-or-flight stress signaling, which increases the production of immature monocytes, leading to up-regulation of inflammatory genes and impaired anti-viral responses. The "danger signals" activated in the brain by loneliness ultimately affect the production of white blood cells. The resulting shift in monocyte output may both propagate loneliness and contribute to its associated health risks.

Breastfeeding lowers risk of type 2 diabetes following gestational diabetes

Public Release: 23-Nov-2015
Breastfeeding lowers risk of type 2 diabetes following gestational diabetes
Kaiser Permanente study finds breastfeeding more often and for longer durations helps mother's health
Kaiser Permanente

Women with gestational diabetes who consistently and continuously breastfeed from the time of giving birth are half as likely to develop type 2 diabetes within two years after delivery, according to a study from Kaiser Permanente published today in Annals of Internal Medicine.

Gestational diabetes mellitus, or high blood glucose during pregnancy, is diagnosed in 5 percent to 9 percent of all pregnancies in the United States -- approximately 250,000 women annually. Women with gestational diabetes are up to seven times more likely to develop type 2 diabetes within several years after pregnancy.


Climate study finds evidence of global shift in the 1980s

I don't see why they associated this with the volcano five years earlier. They state that these changes were due to the effects of global warming. Maybe the cooling caused by the volcano dissipated over those 5 years, so that the warming that would otherwise have occurred over that 5 year time span was held down for five years, and when the cooling elements [ash & sulfur compounds] had been washed out, allowed a sudden jump in global warming to the level it would otherwise risen to more gradually w/o the volcano?

Public Release: 23-Nov-2015
Climate study finds evidence of global shift in the 1980s
Anthropogenic [human induced] warming and volcanic eruption sparked biggest change in 1,000 years
University of Plymouth

Planet Earth experienced a global climate shift in the late 1980s on an unprecedented scale, fuelled by anthropogenic warming and a volcanic eruption, according to new research published this week.

Scientists say that a major step change, or 'regime shift', in the Earth's biophysical systems, from the upper atmosphere to the depths of the ocean and from the Arctic to Antarctica, was centered around 1987, and was sparked by the El Chichón volcanic eruption in Mexico five years earlier.

Their study, published in Global Change Biology, documents a range of associated events caused by the shift, from a 60% increase in winter river flow into the Baltic Sea to a 400% increase in the average duration of wildfires in the Western United States. It also suggests that climate change is not a gradual process, but one subject to sudden increases, with the 1980s shift representing the largest in an estimated 1,000 years.

"We demonstrate, based on 72 long time series, that a major change took place in the world centred on 1987 that involved a step change and move to a new regime in a wide range of Earth systems," said Professor Reid.

"Our work contradicts the perceived view that major volcanic eruptions just lead to a cooling of the world. In the case of the regime shift it looks as if global warming has reached a tipping point where the cooling that follows such eruptions rebounds with a rapid rise in temperature in a very short time. The speed of this change has had a pronounced effect on many biological, physical and chemical systems throughout the world, but is especially evident in the Northern temperate zone and Arctic."

Over the course of three years, the scientists - drawing upon a range of climate models, using data from nearly 6,500 meteorological stations, and consulting innumerable scientists and their studies round the world - found evidence of the shift across a wide range of biophysical indicators, such as the temperature and salinity of the oceans, the pH level of rivers, the timing of land events, including the behaviour of plants and birds, the amount of ice and snow in the cryosphere (the frozen world), and wind speed changes.

They detected a marked decline in the growth rate of CO2 in the atmosphere after the regime shift, coinciding with a sudden growth in land and ocean carbon sinks - such as new vegetation spreading into polar areas previously under ice and snow. And they found that the annual timing of the regime shift appeared to have moved regionally around the world from west to east, starting with South America in 1984, North America (1985), North Atlantic (1986), Europe (1987), and Asia (1988).

These dates coincide with significant shifts to an earlier flowering date for cherry trees around the Earth in Washington DC, Switzerland, and Japan and coincided with the first evidence of the extinction of amphibians linked to global warming, such as the harlequin frog and golden toad in Central and South America.

Second author Renata E. Hari, Eawag, Dübendorf, Switzerland, said: "The 1980s regime shift may be the beginning of the acceleration of the warming shown by the IPCC. It is an example of the unforeseen compounding effects that may occur if unavoidable natural events like major volcanic eruptions interact with anthropogenic warming."

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Food industry can help lower cardiovascular diseases by adding little seaweed to products

Public Release: 23-Nov-2015
Food industry can help lower cardiovascular diseases by adding little seaweed to products
University of Southern Denmark

Adding seaweed to processed foods such as frozen pizzas, hot dogs and dried pasta will reduce cardiovascular diseases, concludes a new scientific article. One suggestion is to replace 5% of the flour in pizza dough with dried and granulated seaweed.


In the article the authors offer suggestions to how both individual consumers and the food industry can use seaweed to make our everyday meals healthier.

"Certain substances in seaweed may be important for reducing cardiovascular diseases. We think this knowledge should be available for society and also be put to use", says Mouritsen.


Many seaweed species have a variety of health benefits. They contain, among other things, beneficial proteins, antioxidants, minerals, trace elements, dietary fiber and polyunsaturated fatty acids.

Seaweed's content of potassium salts does not led to high blood pressure - unlike the sodium salts, typically encountered in the processed food.

An important feature is also that the seaweed has umami - the fifth basic taste, which is known to promote satiety and hence regulate food intake in addition to reduce the craving for salt, sugar and fat.

"It is difficult to determine how much seaweed a person should consume to benefit from its good qualities. 5-10 grams of dried seaweed per day is my estimate", says Professor Mouritsen.

He and the co-authors suggest that seaweed should be added fast food, thus making this type of food healthier. It can even enhance the flavor of the food, they argue. For example, dried and granulated seaweed can replace some of the flour when producing dry pasta, bread, pizza, snack bars, etc.



Seaweed contains only few calories, but is still rich in rich in essential amino acids, dietary fibers, minerals, trace elements, vitamins and polyunsaturated fats.
You can easily add up to 5% dried seaweed to a dough without losing its ability to raise.
Dried seaweed can be stored for months or years without loss of flavor and nutritional value.
Dried seaweed can be added to food as powder, granulate or pieces in pastries, egg dishes, mashed potatoes, dressings, or sprinkled on vegetables or fish dishes.
Powders and granulates can be used as a salt substitute.
Hijiki contains arsenic, which is carcinogenic and therefore some national food authorities recommend that you do not eat it. Despite these warnings, you can buy dried hijiki in many stores.
Some species may contain large amounts of iodine.
Never eat seaweed that is washed up on the beach.

Earth not due for a geomagnetic flip in the near future

This is a relief. The effects of global warming are bad enough.

Public Release: 23-Nov-2015
Earth not due for a geomagnetic flip in the near future
Researchers find geomagnetic field intensity is double the long-term historical average
Massachusetts Institute of Technology

The intensity of Earth's geomagnetic field has been dropping for the past 200 years, at a rate that some scientists suspect may cause the field to bottom out in 2,000 years, temporarily leaving the planet unprotected against damaging charged particles from the sun. This drop in intensity is associated with periodic geomagnetic field reversals, in which the Earth's North and South magnetic poles flip polarity, and it could last for several thousand years before returning to a stable, shielding intensity.

With a weakened geomagnetic field, increased solar radiation might damage electronics -- from individual pacemakers to entire power grids -- and could induce genetic mutations. A reversal may also affect the navigation of animals that use Earth's magnetic field as an internal compass.

But according to a new MIT study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the geomagnetic field is not in danger of flipping anytime soon: The researchers calculated Earth's average, stable field intensity over the last 5 million years, and found that today's intensity is about twice that of the historical average.

This indicates that the current field intensity has a long way to fall before reaching an unstable level that would lead to a reversal.

"It makes a huge difference, knowing if today's field is a long-term average or is way above the long-term average," says lead author Huapei Wang, a postdoc in MIT's Department of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences. "Now we know we are way above the unstable zone. Even if the [field intensity] is dropping, we still have a long buffer that we can comfortably rely on."

Earth has undergone multiple geomagnetic reversals over its lifetime, flip-flopping its polarity at random intervals.

"Sometimes you won't have a flip for about 40 million years; other times there will be 10 flips in 1 million years," Wang says. "On average, the duration between two flips is a few hundred thousand years. The last flip was around 780,000 years ago, so we are actually overdue for a flip."


Blood from small children 'remembers' prenatal smoking exposure

Public Release: 23-Nov-2015
Blood from small children 'remembers' prenatal smoking exposure
Molecular evidence that mother smoked during pregnancy is still detectable 5 years later
Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health

New Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health-led research finds that blood taken from children up to the age of five contains molecular evidence about whether their mothers smoked during pregnancy.

The findings, published online in the journal Environmental Research, offer strong evidence that environmental exposures that go as far back as the womb may continue to remain in the body and potentially affect someone's health for years after birth. They also suggest that with further research it could be possible to detect exposures to other potential toxins during pregnancy that are less evident such as to chemicals in plastics, undetected infections or contaminants in drinking water.

Ultimately, the hope would be to link these exposures to chronic diseases such as autism, obesity or heart disease to better understand how diseases develop and possibly help prevent them.

"If you have a blood sample, you may be able to ask research questions that you could never ask before," says study leader M. Daniele Fallin, PhD, the Sylvia and Harold Halpert Professor and Chair of the Bloomberg School's Department of Mental Health. "Smoking is one thing. But if this turns out to be possible for other kinds of exposures, this could be a paradigm shift.

"We have long known that the body is an accumulator of past exposures - evidence of lead exposure lives on in our bones, for example. But we did not know that something as easy to collect as blood could contain evidence of exposures not only during your life but prenatally. That's what makes this so compelling."

For this new proof of principle study, Fallin and her colleagues did an analysis of epigenetics, molecules that are not part of the DNA sequence but sit on top of it and regulate which genes are turned on and off when and where in the body. Two years ago, another group of researchers looked at newborn cord blood and found that the amount of an epigenetic mark, known as DNA methylation, at 26 locations on the genome, was correlated with whether that baby's mother had smoked during pregnancy.
[Some epigenetic changes can be passed on to following generations.]

For this study, Fallin and her colleagues took the experiment a step further. They tested the blood of 531 preschoolers from six different sites in the United States and also spoke to their mothers about whether or not they smoked during pregnancy. They again analyzed methylation patterns at the same 26 locations in the genome and found that 81 percent of the time their test was able to accurately predict prenatal smoking exposure. It was not previously known whether this epigenetic signature would still be around as many as five years later, but the blood still contained this molecular memory.

It is possible, the researchers say, that the signature is also related to exposure to secondhand smoke after birth, but that would not account for all of it since at birth -- before they could be exposed to secondhand smoke -- those whose mothers smoked while pregnant already had the signature.


Early childhood exposure to Medicaid linked to better adult health

Public Release: 23-Nov-2015
Early childhood exposure to Medicaid linked to better adult health, UMD study shows
University of Maryland

Expanding publicly funded health insurance to low-income children could have long-term benefits for adult health, according to new research from the University of Maryland School of Public Health. Published in the Journal of Health Economics, the study found that exposure to Medicaid in early childhood, from conception through age 5, is associated with significant improvements in adult health (age 25 to 54). The research suggests that the improvement in health may be linked to greater access to and use of health services by children whose families received Medicaid, and a decreased economic burden on families from medical expenses and debt.

"There's growing recognition that what happens to you as a child is carried with you throughout life," said Dr. Michel H. Boudreaux, lead researcher and assistant professor in the Department of Health Services Administration at the University of Maryland School of Public Health. "Investing in young children could have important payoffs and our study suggests that the benefits of Medicaid may persist for decades into the future."


Greater exposure to Medicaid during early childhood was associated with a significant and meaningful improvement in midlife health using a composite index that combines information on high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease/heart attack, and obesity. Low-income children's exposure to Medicaid throughout early childhood relative to no exposure is associated with a 22 percent decrease in the prevalence of high blood pressure among adults.


Dr. Boudreaux points to two mechanisms that link early childhood Medicaid exposure to adult health outcomes: childhood health service use and family medical debt. Researchers found that Medicaid exposure increased hospital usage by low-income children four percent during early childhood and that Medicaid's introduction is associated with a decrease in medical debt in households that have children, freeing up resources that could be invested in kids in other ways.

High-fat diet prompts immune cells to start eating connections between neurons

Public Release: 23-Nov-2015
High-fat diet prompts immune cells to start eating connections between neurons
Medical College of Georgia at Georgia Regents University

When a high-fat diet causes us to become obese, it also appears to prompt normally bustling immune cells in our brain to become sedentary and start consuming the connections between our neurons, scientists say.

The good news is going back on a low-fat diet for just two months, at least in mice, reverses this trend of shrinking cognitive ability as weight begins to normalize, said Dr. Alexis M. Stranahan, neuroscientist in the Department of Neuroscience and Regenerative Medicine at the Medical College of Georgia.

"Microglia eating synapses is contributing to synapse loss and cognitive impairment in obesity," Stranahan said. "On the one hand, that is very scary, but it's also reversible, meaning that if you go back on a low-fat diet that does not even completely wipe out the adiposity, you can completely reverse these cellular processes in the brain and maintain cognition."


She notes that the high-fat-eating mice actually ate less chow and consumed the same amount of calories as mice eating low fat. "The entire metabolic phenotype is driven by diet composition rather than the amount of calories," Stranahan said.


Vitamin D does not reduce colds in asthma patients

Public Release: 23-Nov-2015
Vitamin D does not reduce colds in asthma patients
American Thoracic Society

Vitamin D supplements do not reduce the number or severity of colds in asthma patients, according to a new study published online ahead of print publication in the American Thoracic Society's American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine.

Loren C. Denlinger, MD, PhD, associate professor of medicine at the University of Wisconsin, and colleagues conducted a randomized, controlled trial of adults with mild-to-moderate asthma. Among African Americans in the study, those receiving supplemental vitamin D, rather than a placebo, experienced more colds.

The findings surprised the researchers who had previously published research showing a 40 percent reduction in asthma exacerbations in patients with a vitamin D deficiency who achieved normal levels of the vitamin with supplements. Because colds often trigger exacerbations, they hypothesized that vitamin D supplementation would reduce colds and cold severity.


The researchers analyzed separately the results of the 82 percent of participants receiving supplements who achieved vitamin D sufficiency within 12 weeks. Achieving sufficiency made no difference in number of colds or their severity this group experienced.

The researchers wrote that one possible explanation for the unexpected finding: asthma patients with low vitamin D levels may be more likely to experience upper respiratory infections asymptomatically than those with normal levels of vitamin D, which is known to trigger an inflammatory response. This inflammatory response may, in turn, reduce the risk of lower airway infections, which are triggers for asthma exacerbations.
[The inflammatory response is part of the immune system. Most of the symptoms of a cold are due to the bodies immune response.]

Although there are other reasons to recommend vitamin D supplements for asthma patients, including the fact that they are at greater risk for bone weakening, Denlinger said, "we can't recommend vitamin D for the prevention of colds."


Teaching problem-solving, leadership to young African-American girls lowers relational aggression

Public Release: 23-Nov-2015
Teaching problem-solving, leadership to young African-American girls lowers relational aggression
CHOP study demonstrates continued effects one year later
Children's Hospital of Philadelphia

A new study from the Violence Prevention Initiative at The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) suggests that educators, particularly in urban schools, should teach elementary school-aged girls problem-solving skills and provide them leadership opportunities as a way to reduce their relational aggression. Relational aggression includes using gossip and social exclusion to harm others, which is the most common form of aggression among girls.

Published in the journal Psychology of Violence, the study was a randomized control trial with third- to fifth-grade urban African-American girls to evaluate the effectiveness of the Friend to Friend (F2F) aggression prevention program.

F2F is the first and only relational aggression intervention to demonstrate a decrease in relationally aggressive behaviors among urban minority girls that continued at least a year after the conclusion of the program. Specifically, it improved the girls' social problem-solving knowledge and decreased their levels of relational aggression.

"Including this type of positive skill development in urban school curricula is important because children attending inner-city, under-resourced schools are at high risk for emotional and behavioral problems," says psychologist Stephen Leff, PhD, the study's lead author, and co-director of the Violence Prevention Initiative (VPI). "There is evidence that having these skills and positive leadership opportunities increases the students' resilience and leads to better future social interactions.


"Teachers were vital implementation partners for us, particularly in reinforcing newly learned pro-social skills and strategies outside of the structured sessions," says Leff. "Having their buy-in and support was essential."

The study group found significant improvements on self-report and teacher-report measures completed before and after implementing the program. In a one year follow-up, the participants' new teachers completed the same measures about the students' social behaviors as their previous teachers the year before. Notably, the new teachers were unaware of the girls' aggressive and intervention status, a fact that helped to strengthen the validity of the findings.


Learning social and emotional skills increases academic ability

Employers want employees who have good social and emotional skills.

Public Release: 21-Nov-2015
Impact of social-emotional learning on academic achievement
An article spotlight
American Psychological Association

Those promoting a "whole-child" approach to education contend that we need a holistic perspective that aims to nurture the full range of skills and capacities that will help children of today become healthy and competent future adults. But increasing scrutiny of academic achievement gaps among children in the United States, as well as between children in our country and other developed countries, has created an urgency to promotion of academic achievement that has left little time for the development of non-academic skills. However, research recently reported in School Psychology Quarterly suggests there's no real conflict: a randomized, controlled trial of an evidence-based social and emotional learning (SEL) curriculum (PATHS: Promoting Alternative THinking Strategies) in grades 3-6 showed that students in schools randomized to receive an enhanced SEL program were more likely than those in the control group to achieve basic proficiency in reading, writing and math on independently administered state mastery tests in later grades (Schonfeld et al., 2015).


Those children randomized to schools where the enhanced SEL curriculum was taught were more likely to achieve basic proficiency in the three academic areas evaluated by the mastery test. Furthermore, within the schools where the enhanced SEL curriculum was implemented, researchers saw a "dosage effect;" students whose teachers reported teaching more of the lessons were more likely to achieve basic proficiency.


Many schools are actively restricting classroom time devoted to any subjects or activities that do not appear to directly prepare children for high-stakes testing in reading, writing, and math. Teachers and school administrators are increasingly finding their job performance linked to the degree to which their students demonstrate achievement in these subject areas. As a result, many important components of children's education, including SEL, are being seriously compromised or eliminated entirely. This research provides support that SEL may be a promising approach to promote basic academic proficiency, especially for those students most at risk.

Sea traffic pollutes our lungs more than previously thought

Public Release: 20-Nov-2015
Sea traffic pollutes our lungs more than previously thought
Lund University

New data presented by researchers at Lund University and others in the journal Oceanologia show that the air along the coasts is full of hazardous nanoparticles from sea traffic. Almost half of the measured particles stem from sea traffic emissions, while the rest is deemed to be mainly from cars but also biomass combustion, industries and natural particles from the sea.


Nanoparticles can be hazardous to our health as they, because of their small size, can penetrate deeper into the lungs than larger particles contributing to both cardiovascular and pulmonary diseases. A cubic centimetre can contain several thousand nanoparticles.


Particles from sea traffic in the North Sea and the Baltic Sea are expected to contribute to 10 000 premature deaths every year, but Adam Kristensson stresses that this estimate is very uncertain, and believes that it is important to continue to conduct these types of measurements.

He also advocates stricter legislation. "It is especially important to continue to set stricter caps on nitrogen oxides and sulphate content from ship fuel."


Inflammation linked to weakened reward circuits in depression

Anhedonia is the inability to feel pleasure..

Public Release: 20-Nov-2015
Inflammation linked to weakened reward circuits in depression
Brain imaging shows distinctive aspects of high-inflammation depression
Emory Health Sciences

About one third of people with depression have high levels of inflammation markers in their blood. New research indicates that persistent inflammation affects the brain in ways that are connected with stubborn symptoms of depression, such as anhedonia, the inability to experience pleasure.


The findings bolster the case that the high-inflammation form of depression is distinct, and are guiding researchers' plans to test treatments tailored for it.

Anhedonia is a core symptom of depression that is particularly difficult to treat, says lead author Jennifer Felger, PhD, assistant professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Emory University School of Medicine and Winship Cancer Institute.

"Some patients taking antidepressants continue to suffer from anhedonia," Felger says. "Our data suggest that by blocking inflammation or its effects on the brain, we may be able to reverse anhedonia and help depressed individuals who fail to respond to antidepressants."


A previous study of people with difficult-to-treat depression found that those with high inflammation (as measured with CRP), but not other participants in the study, improved in response to the anti-inflammatory antibody infliximab.


Global Climate March Nov. 28, 29

Go to the following link to find a march near you. Click on the "Join an Action" button.

On the eve of the big U.N summit in Paris, the climate movement is taking to the streets. With climate change in the global spotlight, this is our chance to make the talks work for our movement. This is our chance to set the agenda for ambition.

Our message: keep fossil fuels in the ground and finance a just transition to 100% renewable energy by 2050.


Total Government Employment Since 1962

Recently heard and read people, some Republicans, complaining about slow service at federal government offices, such as at the local Social Security office, and trying to get info from the IRS. Congressional Republicans have forced cutbacks in the federal budget, which has led inevitably to cutbacks in the number of federal employees. But the population of the U.S. has been growing.

Year Executive branch civilians (thousands) Uniformed military personnel (thousands) Legislative and judicial branch personnel (thousands) Total Federal personnel (thousands)
1962 2,485 2,840 30 5,354

1968 3,020 3,584 35 6,639

1975 2,848 2,164 49 5,061

1985 3,008 2,190 58 5,256

1995 2,858 1,555 62 4,475

2005 2,636 1,436 65 4,138

2014 2,663 1,459 63 4,185

The Big Stores That Gave Their Employees a Break on Thanksgiving Day

Fiscal Times

By Rebecca Lehmann, Brad's Deals
November 25, 2015

ere's a list of every store that's announced plans to stay closed on Thursday November 26th so their employees - and you - can enjoy Thanksgiving with your family.

A.C. Moore
Abt Electronics
Academy Sports
Ace Hardware
American Girl
BJ’s Wholesale Club
Bass Pro Shops
Bed Bath & Beyond
Big 5 Sporting Goods
Blain's Farm and Fleet
Burlington Coat Factory
Christmas Tree Shops
Christopher & Banks
Cost Plus World Market
Craft Warehouse
Crate & Barrel
Disney Store
Fred Meyer
Guitar Center
Half Price Books
Harbor Freight
Hobby Lobby
Home Depot
Jo-Ann Fabric
Mattress Firm
Micro Center
Mills Fleet Farm
Neiman Marcus
Northern Tool
PC Richard & Son
Payless Shoe Source
Pet Supplies Plus
Pier 1 Imports
Saks Fifth Avenue
Sam’s Club
Sierra Trading Post
Sportsman's Warehouse
TJ Maxx
The Container Store
Tractor Supply Company
True Value
Von Maur
West Marine

Rumored or Likely:

Allen Edmonds
Ethan Allen

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Study Says White Extremists Have Killed More Americans in the U.S. Than Jihadists Since 9/11

Joanna Plucinska
June 24, 2015

Since 9/11, white right-wing terrorists have killed almost twice as many Americans in homegrown attacks than radical Islamists have, according to research by the New America Foundation.

In their June study, the foundation decided to examine groups “engaged in violent extremist activity” and found that white extremists were by far the most dangerous. They pointed to the recent Emanuel AME Church shooting in Charleston, S.C., and the 2012 attack on a Sikh temple in Wisconsin, as well as many lesser-known attacks on Jewish institutions and on police. They found that 48 people were killed by white terrorists, while 26 were killed by radical Islamists, since Sept. 11.

The study also found that the criminal justice system judged jihadists more harshly than their non-Muslim counterparts, indicting them more frequently than non-jihadists and handing down longer sentences.


Climate Change is real for a climate scientist – more coastal flooding in Norfolk

See the article at the link below for informative graphs.

Larry Atkinson is the Slover Professor of Oceanography at Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Virginia. He studies sea level rise and other processes.

By: Dr Larry P. Atkinson , 11:01 PM GMT on November 27, 2015

Hi. I’m Larry Atkinson and I live in Norfolk, Virginia. I, like many people living in coastal areas, am personally experiencing the effects of climate change. The ocean is rising and there are many days when I have to figure out which road to take to work at Old Dominion University’s Climate Change and Sea Level Rise Initiative. These are not just any roads but Federal highways that almost 100,000 personnel who work at the Norfolk Naval Base must also use. So for us climate change is now a matter of adapting to it. We can’t talk about preventing it: it is too late for that. Minor street flooding that used to occur 10’s of hours per year 50 years ago now occurs 50 to 100 hours per year or more. It may be called ‘minor’ but driving through salt water is not good!

I’ve been studying the ocean for over 50 years and before that I was a commercial salmon fisherman during my high school and college years in Bellingham, Washington. I’ve spent months on the ocean off the east and west coasts of the US, off Chile, Japan, Spain and on long ocean research campaigns in the North and South Atlantic Ocean, the Pacific, and the Antarctic. I’ve studies methane in the ocean, gas exchange, Gulf Stream and Kuroshio Current dynamics, effects of cold air outbreaks off the SE US, aquaculture in Spain, effects of oil and gas exploration, offshore wind energy, and more that I’ve forgotten. And now I’m studying sea level rise with colleagues and more importantly studying how we figure out how fast the ocean is rising and how we can adapt to it. And that is what this blog will focus on.

These data are from Norfolk but the same story holds for just about any low lying coastal area.
Because of the very low topography of these coastal areas a small rise in sea level results in more hours of some area experiencing flooding.







The Soul of the Earth

The Soul of the Earth
copyright Patricia M. Shannon 2000

When I go up to the woods
all my troubles seem to fade out of sight,
all my worries seem to roll off my back,
and I'm one with the world.

When I walk in the woods,
oh, what wonders I do behold,
as the cycle of life now unfolds
before my wondering eyes.

When I'm filled up with darkness
and I'm deep in despair,
I go up to the woods
where my soul I repair.

And the peace of the woods
soothes my soul when I am hounded by machines,
and the sweet-smelling soft earth
soothes my feet when they are pounded by concrete.

The trees provide a shelter
from the scorching summer sun;
a home for frogs and porcupines
where sparkling streams do run.

We must protect our forests
so our children still will know
the joy and peace that can be found
in a woodland grove.

But the peace of the woods
is now shattered by the sounds of machines,
as the sweet-smelling, soft earth
is now covered by a sea of hard concrete.

The living trees are cut down,
and replaced by sawed-up boards;
The birds and squirrels have lost their nests,
and the bobcat is no more.

And they say that it is progress,
but will you tell me, please,
where will we go to ease our souls,
when they've cut down all the trees.


Pope's adviser urges Catholics to join climate marches

I know from experience that being part of peaceful march for a good purpose nourishes the soul.

By Matt McGrath
Nov. 28, 2015

The Pope's closest adviser on ecology has urged Catholics to join global climate marches planned for Sunday.

In an internal letter to bishops, Cardinal Peter Turkson says people should be "encouraged" to exercise their "ecological citizenship".

The letter says that climate negotiators meeting in Paris need to hear the voice of "God's people".


Major demonstrations across the world have been planned to mark the start of the global climate conference, known as COP21.


Over the next two weeks, delegates meeting here are hoping to strike a new, far-reaching deal on climate change.


In his letter to around 5,000 Catholic bishops around the world, the cardinal makes it clear that relying on political leaders to achieve environmental justice is not enough.


He states that more than one million people around the world are likely to take part in climate marches on 29 November.

The marchers will be exercising "global ecological citizenship", he says, and he suggests to the bishops that they "are warmly invited to offer your support in prayer, word and action".

The letter gives contact details for the bishops on how to find out about marches in their diocese.

"If you could please encourage the faithful and many others to exercise their 'ecological citizenship', this would surely help to reinforce the humble and peaceable spirit of Laudato si', and it would spiritually express communion with the universal church," the letter reads.


The Pope has expressed his worries that the negotiating process here in Paris may fail to deliver a global agreement. He said it would be "catastrophic" if global leaders let special interest groups derail the deal.

Speaking in Nairobi earlier this week, the Pope said the world faced a stark choice to either "improve or destroy the environment".


Export of wood pellets from US to EU more environmentally friendly than coal

And it's sustainable. Once a coal deposit is gone, the coal company moves on, leaving devastated land and no jobs. There are laws mandating reclamation, but they are not necessarily followed, and some coal companies will declare bankruptcy to get out of paying for pensions and land reclamation.

Public Release: 20-Nov-2015
Export of wood pellets from US to EU more environmentally friendly than coal
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

As the export of wood pellets from the U.S. to the European Union has increased six-fold since 2008, questions have been raised about the environmental impact of the practice. According to a new paper from a University of Illinois expert in environmental economics, even after accounting for factors ranging from harvesting to transportation across the Atlantic Ocean, wood pellets still trump coal by a wide margin in carbon emissions savings.

The greenhouse gas intensity of wood pellet-based electricity is between 74 to 85 percent lower than that of coal-based electricity, says published research co-written by Madhu Khanna, a professor of agricultural and consumer economics at Illinois.


Khanna and her co-authors, including Weiwei Wang, a postdoctoral research associate at Illinois, found that across different scenarios of high and low demand for pellets, the greenhouse gas intensity of pellet-based electricity generated from forest biomass such as pulpwood and milling residues is still significantly less than that of coal-based electricity.

"Even if you include all of these emissions that go into the process of producing and transporting pellets, and if you include for all the land-use changes that occur and the fact that you'll be diverting some amount of pulpwood and other forest biomass from conventional forest products to pellets, you can still get emissions reductions that range from 74 to 85 percent compared with coal-based electricity," Khanna said.


A new “Happy Birthday” owner? Charity claims it owns famous song’s copyright

Patty Smith Hill died in 1946.
Her sister, Mildred J. Hill, died in 1916.

I am a songwriter, and support copyrights, but I don't think a copyright should last so long.

by Joe Mullin - Nov 12, 2015

In September, a judge ruled that music licensor Warner-Chappell doesn't own the copyright to "Happy Birthday." The question now seems to have become who does?

A charity called the Association for Childhood Education International (ACEI) has now stepped forward to say that if Warner loses the copyright, it should become the rightful owner. Earlier this week, ACEI filed court papers (PDF) asking to intervene in the copyright dispute.

ACEI has been receiving one-third of the licensing revenue Warner generates from Happy Birthday, estimated to be around $2 million per year. The charity is the sole shareholder of the Hill Foundation, an organization set up by song author Patty Hill and her sister Jessica to collect royalty revenue from the song. Royalty payments from Happy Birthday "represent a substantial portion of the Organization's yearly budget."


King didn't invalidate the copyright altogether, although he expressed doubts about whether the Hill sisters wrote the song at all and when they wrote it. The Hills are widely acknowledged to have sold a song with similar lyrics, "Good Morning to You," to Summy Co. in 1893.

While King definitively nixed Warner's claim to Happy Birthday, the song isn't in the public domain. As Techdirt, which first reported the ACEI filing, points out, the song instead is a kind of "orphan work."


Newspapers reference the singing of a Happy Birthday song in 1901 and 1909, and "Happy Birthday" appeared in a songbook in 1911 without crediting anyone with the lyrics. Songbooks from 1911 and the 1920s published the work without a credit, with one exception, and were copyrighted by other authors. Patty Hill never publicly claimed she had written "Happy Birthday" until she was deposed in a 1935 copyright lawsuit.


Thursday, November 26, 2015

'Healthy' foods differ by individual

Public Release: 19-Nov-2015
'Healthy' foods differ by individual
Cell Press

Ever wonder why that diet didn't work? An Israeli study tracking the blood sugar levels of 800 people over a week suggests that even if we all ate the same meal, how it's metabolized would differ from one person to another. The findings, published November 19 in Cell, demonstrate the power of personalized nutrition in helping people identify which foods can help or hinder their health goals.


As expected, age and body mass index (BMI) were found to be associated with blood glucose levels after meals. However, the data also revealed that different people show vastly different responses to the same food, even though their individual responses did not change from one day to another.

"Most dietary recommendations that one can think of are based on one of these grading systems; however, what people didn't highlight, or maybe they didn't fully appreciate, is that there are profound differences between individuals--in some cases, individuals have opposite response to one another, and this is really a big hole in the literature," says Segal, of Weizmann's Department of Computer Science and Applied Math.


The individualized feedback yielded many surprises. In one case, a middle-aged woman with obesity and pre-diabetes, who had tried and failed to see results with a range of diets over her life, learned that her "healthy" eating habits may have actually been contributing to the problem. Her blood sugar levels spiked after eating tomatoes, which she ate multiple times over the course of the week of the study.


To understand why such vast differences exist between people, the researchers conducted microbiome analyses on stool samples collected from each study participant. Growing evidence suggests gut bacteria are linked to obesity, glucose intolerance, and diabetes, and the study demonstrates that specific microbes indeed correlate with how much blood sugar rises post-meal. By conducting personalized dietary interventions among 26 additional study participants, the researchers were able to reduce post-meal blood sugar levels and alter gut microbiota. Interestingly, although the diets were personalized and thus greatly different across participants, several of the gut microbiota alterations were consistent across participants.


High levels of physical activity may worsen asthma control in young females

Public Release: 19-Nov-2015
High levels of physical activity may worsen asthma control in young females

Among 526 adolescents and young adults who were asked about their exercise habits, those with asthma tended to report more physical activity than those without asthma. Compared with moderate physical activity, high physical activity levels were linked with poorer asthma control in females, but not in males.


"It is important to remember that the high level of activity means nothing extreme--in our patient material every third girl exercised that much. Still, we uncovered these results, and with such a distinct gender difference," said lead author Dr. Ludvig Lövström.

Natural remedies can jeopardize cardiovascular health

Public Release: 19-Nov-2015
Can natural remedies jeopardize cardiovascular health?
Chinese physicians report on a case of potentially lethal cardiovascular symptoms induced by a traditional Chinese medicine component (aconitine), in the Canadian Journal of Cardiology
Elsevier Health Sciences

Chinese physicians report on the case of a woman who presented with aconitine-induced cardiovascular symptoms. Their report, published in the Canadian Journal of Cardiology, warns that the use of this natural ingredient may lead to severe poisoning.

A 45-year-old Chinese woman was diagnosed with a severe heart-rhythm disorder, bidirectional ventricular tachycardia (BVT), associated with aconitine poisoning. BVT is a rare form of tachycardia (characterized by a resting heart rate over 100 beats per minute) and a distinct pattern of ECG waves on presentation.

The patient's husband reported that she had drunk about 50 milliliters of a medicinal liquid about 30 minutes before she developed a sudden drop in blood pressure and then lost consciousness. The woman had no history of previous heart-rhythm problems and there was no family history of unexpected sudden death or fatal accidents. On examination she had a heart rate of 150 beats per minute and her blood pressure was 50/30. Her skin was cool, moist, and cyanotic. Treatment with the antiarrhythmic agents amiodarone, metoprolol, lidocaine, and potassium chloride was ineffective. An abdominal ultrasound showed marked gastric retention. A gastric tube was used to suction out the contents of her stomach. After two hours, the patient's BVT ceased and her circulation improved.

Investigation revealed that the patient's blood was positive for aconitine, a substance produced by the Aconitum plant, also known as devil's helmet or monkshood. Although well-known for its highly toxic properties, aconitine is the primary ingredient of the traditional Chinese medicine known as Fuzi, a remedy made from the processed lateral roots of Aconitum carmichaeli Debx. It is widely distributed in the southwest provinces of China and is used in small doses for its anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving effects.

"Management of potentially lethal ventricular tachyarrhythmia associated with aconitine poisoning presents a therapeutic challenge. In a previously published case, amiodarone was effective in suppressing the BVT. However, in our patient, both lidocaine and amiodarone were ineffective," explained lead author Zhong Yi, MD, PhD, of the Aerospace Center Hospital, Beijing, People's Republic of China.

"The public should be warned of the risk of severe poisoning that can accompany traditional Chinese medicinal usage of Fuzi," Dr. Yi concluded.

Commenting on the report, P. Timothy Pollak, MD, PhD, FRCPC, of the Department of Medicine at the University of Calgary, Alberta, cautioned that "not all products of Mother Nature are free of harm. This case report reminds us that aconitine is not the only naturally derived substance that can cause potentially lethal ventricular tachyarrhythmias, including BVT. The report also demonstrates the human tendency to think that if a little is good, more must be better."


Study finds tree nut consumption may lower risk of cardiovascular disease

Public Release: 19-Nov-2015
Study finds tree nut consumption may lower risk of cardiovascular disease
Study supports growing body of research on walnuts' potential beneficial rolein preventing cardiovascular disease
Edelman Seattle

A new study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that consuming tree nuts, such as walnuts, may lower the risk of cardiovascular disease.1 After conducting a systematic review and meta-analysis of 61 controlled trials, one of the authors, Michael Falk, PhD, Life Sciences Research Organization, found that consuming tree nuts lowers total cholesterol, triglycerides, LDL cholesterol, and ApoB, the primary protein found in LDL cholesterol. These are key factors that are used to evaluate a person's risk of cardiovascular disease. Walnuts were investigated in 21 of the 61 trials, more than any other nut reviewed in this study.


Children don't necessarily follow in their parents' political footsteps

Public Release: 19-Nov-2015
Children don't necessarily follow in their parents' political footsteps
Penn State

More than half of all children in the U.S. either misperceive or reject their parents' political party affiliations, according to researchers.

"This finding turns the conventional wisdom, as well as years of political socialization research, on its head," said Christopher Ojeda, a former doctoral student in political science at Penn State and currently a postdoctoral scholar in the Stanford Center for American Democracy at Stanford University. "The public, the media and the academic world have long believed that children learn their political values, such as which party to support or which policy positions to endorse, from their parents. In this view, learning occurs mostly because parents impose their values on their children. This belief depends on the assumption that children know and choose to adopt their parents' values."


The researchers also found that more discussion about politics in the home increases the probability that children correctly identify their parents' party affiliations, but does not increase the likelihood that they will adopt those affiliations.

"We were not surprised by this finding," Ojeda said. "Parent-child communication is a vehicle for delivering information, but it does not always deliver agreement. As we all know, political discussions can sometimes lead to consensus and they can sometimes lead to conflict."


Improving fitness may counteract brain atrophy in older adults

Public Release: 19-Nov-2015
Improving fitness may counteract brain atrophy in older adults, UMD study shows
Exercise may help to reverse neurodegeneration in those with mild cognitive impairment, an early stage of Alzheimer's disease
University of Maryland

Older adults that improved their fitness through a moderate intensity exercise program increased the thickness of their brain's cortex, the outer layer of the brain that typically atrophies with Alzheimer's disease, according to a new study from the University of Maryland School of Public Health. These effects were found in both healthy older adults and those diagnosed with mild cognitive impairment (MCI), an early stage of Alzheimer's disease.

"Exercise may help to reverse neurodegeneration and the trend of brain shrinkage that we see in those with MCI and Alzheimer's," says Dr. J. Carson Smith, associate professor of kinesiology and senior author of the study, published in the Journal of the International Neuropsychological Society on Nov. 19, 2015. "Many people think it is too late to intervene with exercise once a person shows symptoms of memory loss, but our data suggest that exercise may have a benefit in this early stage of cognitive decline."


Children from chaotic homes benefit from time in child care, study finds

Public Release: 19-Nov-2015
Children from chaotic homes benefit from time in child care, study finds
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Regularly attending child care may have numerous developmental benefits for children who live in chaotic, disorganized home environments, suggests a new study.

Numerous studies have linked chaotic households - homes that are overcrowded, noisy, unclean and lacking predictable routines - with low academic achievement and attention, social and behavioral problems among children in poverty.

Children from chaotic homes who spent more time in child care during infancy and early childhood experienced better cognitive, emotional and social development than peers from similar home environments who attended fewer hours of weekly child care, the researchers in the current study found.


Higher degrees of household chaos and disorganization across early childhood were associated with less optimal executive functioning, weaker vocabularies and worse social behavior, the researchers found.

However, these detrimental associations were significantly moderated by the amount of time the children attended child care, according to the study.

For children who spent 35 hours or more per week in child care, the links between household chaos and adverse developmental outcomes were eliminated. The researchers' analyses suggested that the mitigating effects of child care on the broader age-5 social and cognitive outcomes were explained largely by the buffering role that child care played in protecting children's executive functioning.

"The exposure to greater hours and higher quality care may provide a mitigating effect on the impact of chaos in the home," Berry said. "We don't understand the mechanisms fully, but we hypothesize that minimizing young children's exposure to highly chaotic environments may provide some relief."

Household chaos such as constant noise from a television, or frequent comings and goings by household members and visitors, may negatively impact a child's executive functioning by frequently diverting the child's attention, impairing their ability to regulate their attention and modulate their arousal, the researchers hypothesized.

Prior research findings on the effects of child care on children have been mixed, with some studies suggesting that children who spend greater time in child care are prone to more behavioral problems.

However, families in poverty were underrepresented in many of these studies' samples, and the developmental implications of child care may differ substantially for children from high-risk home environments, Berry said.


Seven minutes of meditation can reduce racial prejudice, study finds

Public Release: 19-Nov-2015
Seven minutes of meditation can reduce racial prejudice, study finds
University of Sussex

A popular meditation technique that's intended to create feelings of kindness can also reduce prejudice, according to new University of Sussex research.

The study, published online in the journal Motivation and Emotion, found that just seven minutes of Loving-kindness meditation (LKM), a Buddhist practise that promotes unconditional kindness towards oneself and others, is effective at reducing racial bias.

Lead researcher Alexander Stell, a Doctoral student in Psychology, said: "This indicates that some meditation techniques are about much more than feeling good, and might be an important tool for enhancing inter-group harmony."

LKM is known to engender happiness and kindness to oneself and others through repeating phrases such as 'may you be happy and healthy' while visualising a particular person.

Some previous studies have shown that inducing happiness in people, for example by exposing them to upbeat music, can actually make them more likely to have prejudiced thoughts compared to those hearing sad music.

Mr Stell said: "We wanted to see whether doing LKM towards a member of another ethnic group would reduce the automatic preference people tend to show for their own ethnic group."


The researchers found that just seven minutes of LKM directed to a member of a specific racial group (in this case, a black person) was sufficient to reduce racial bias towards that group. However, there was no marked reduction in racial bias towards other groups.

Additionally the researchers measured levels of positive emotions that were either 'other-regarding' (e.g. love, gratitude, awe, elevation) and those that were more self-directed (e.g. contentment, joy, pride) and found that people doing LKM showed large increases specifically in other-regarding emotions. These other-regarding emotions were found to be what drives the reduction of bias.


Walking faster or longer linked to significant cardiovascular benefits in older adults

It seems to me that the effects of the speed of walking depends on how tall a person is. A short person might have to trot to keep up with a tall person at a moderate speed.

Public Release: 19-Nov-2015
Walking faster or longer linked to significant cardiovascular benefits in older adults
Tufts University, Health Sciences Campus

In a large prospective community-based study of older Americans, modest physical activity was associated with a lower risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD). This was true even among men and women older than age 75 at baseline - a rapidly growing population for whom regular activity has been advised, but with little supportive empirical evidence.

Led by senior author, Dariush Mozaffarian, M.D., Dr.P.H., dean of the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University, the researchers studied a group of American adults whose mean age was 73 at the start of the study and who were then followed for 10 years.


The associations found include:

After adjustment for other risk factors and lifestyle behaviors, those who were more active had significantly lower risk of future heart attacks and stroke.

Adults who walked at a pace faster than three miles per hour (mph) had a 50%, 53%, 50% lower risk of coronary heart disease (CHD), stroke and total CVD, respectively, compared to those who walked at a pace of less than two mph.

Those who walked an average of seven blocks per day or more had a 36%, 54% and 47% lower risk of CHD, stroke and total CVD, respectively, compared to those who walked up to five blocks per week.

Those who engaged in leisure activities such as lawn-mowing, raking, gardening, swimming, biking and hiking, also had a lower risk of CHD, stroke and total CVD, compared to those who did not engage in leisure-time activities.

The findings were similar in both men and women, in those above or below age 75 at baseline, and including only those with similarly good or excellent self-reported health.


Decreasing mental health services increases mental health emergencies

Public Release: 19-Nov-2015
Decreasing mental health services increases mental health emergencies
American College of Emergency Physicians

Countywide reductions in psychiatric services -- both inpatient and outpatient -- led to more than triple the number of emergency psychiatric consults and 55 percent increases in lengths of stay for psychiatric patients in the emergency department. The before and after study of the impact of decreasing county mental health services was published online Friday in Annals of Emergency Medicine ('Impact of Decreasing County Mental Health Services on the Emergency Medicine').

"As is often the case, the emergency department catches everyone who falls through the cracks in the health care system," said lead study author Arica Nesper, MD, MAS of the University of California Davis School of Medicine in Sacramento. "People with mental illness did not stop needing care simply because the resources dried up. Potentially serious complaints increased after reductions in mental health services, likely representing not only worse care of patients' psychiatric issues but also the medical issues of patients with psychiatric problems."

After Sacramento County in California decreased its inpatient psychiatric beds from 100 to 50 and closed its outpatient unit, the average number of daily psychiatry consults in the emergency department increased from 1.3 to 4.4. The average length of stay for patients requiring psychiatric consults in the emergency department increased by 55 percent, from 14.1 hours to 21.9 hours. Three hundred and fifty patients (out of a total of 1,392 patients undergoing psychiatric evaluation) were held in the emergency department longer than 24 hours. The study period was 16 months: eight months before the cuts and eight months after.

"Between 2009 and 2011, $587 million was cut from mental health services in California," said Dr. Nesper. "These cuts affect individual patients as well as communities and facilities like emergency departments that step in to care for patients who have nowhere else to turn. Ultimately, these cuts led to a five-fold increase in daily emergency department bed hours for psychiatric patients. That additional burden on emergency departments has ripple effects for all other patients and the community."

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Rise in Early Cervical Cancer Detection Is Linked to Affordable Care Act


Cancer researchers say there has been a substantial increase in women under the age of 26 who have received a diagnosis of early-stage cervical cancer, a pattern that they say is most likely an effect of the Affordable Care Act.


Koch Brothers self-serving support of sentencing reform

Rare White House Accord With Koch Brothers on Sentencing Frays

For more than a year, a rare coalition of liberal groups and libertarian-minded conservatives has joined the Obama administration in pushing for the most significant liberalization of America’s criminal justice laws since the beginning of the drug war. That effort has had perhaps no ally more important than Koch Industries, the conglomerate owned by a pair of brothers who are well-known conservative billionaires.

Now, as Congress works to turn those goals into legislation, that joint effort is facing its most significant test — over a House bill that Koch Industries says would make the criminal justice system fairer, but that the Justice Department says would make it significantly harder to prosecute corporate polluters, producers of tainted food and other white-collar criminals.

The tension among the unlikely allies emerged over the last week as the House Judiciary Committee, with bipartisan support, approved a package of bills intended to simplify the criminal code and reduce unnecessarily severe sentences.

One of those bills — which has been supported by Koch Industries, libertarians and business groups — would make wholesale changes to certain federal criminal laws, requiring prosecutors to prove that suspects “knew, or had reason to believe, the conduct was unlawful,” and did not simply unknowingly violate the law.

Many laws already carry such a requirement — known as “mens rea” — but Congress left it out of many others, and libertarian groups say that has made it too easy to unknowingly violate obscure laws. Some environmentalists argue, however, that the real motive of Charles Koch, the philanthropist and the company chairman, in supporting the legislation is to block federal regulators from pursuing potential criminal actions against his family’s network of industrial and energy companies, a charge the company denies.

The proposed standard, Justice Department officials said, might have prevented guilty pleas in a variety of cases, such as the charges filed in 2013 against Jensen Farms of Colorado for failing to adequately clean cantaloupe, resulting in an outbreak of food-borne illness that was cited as a factor in at least 33 deaths. It also might have prevented the plea in the 2012 charges against the owner of a pharmacy who sold mislabeled, super-potent painkillers blamed in three deaths.

The same powers, officials said, have allowed the government to pursue charges against major corporations, like the 2011 conviction of Guidant, the giant medical device company, for failing to report safety problems with defibrillators, used to restart heartbeats.

At a time when the Justice Department has pledged to intensify its efforts to pursue white-collar crimes, the proposed legislation would significantly weaken the government’s hand, said Scott Faber, the vice president of government affairs at Environmental Working Group, who is also a former lobbyist for the food industry.

“This is a sweeping change to the way many crimes under consumer and environmental protection laws will be prosecuted,” Mr. Faber said. “Reform of our criminal code is long overdue, but it should not be at the expense of basic environmental protections.”

Mark V. Holden, general counsel and senior vice president at Koch Industries, acknowledged in an interview this week that the company’s efforts to pursue revisions in federal criminal law were inspired in part by a criminal case filed 15 years ago against Koch Industries claiming that it covered up releases of hazardous air pollution at a Texas oil refinery. Those charges resulted in a guilty plea by the company and a $20 million penalty.


Political Polarization


Washington is such a polarized pressure cooker, former House Speaker John Boehner told The Forum Club of Southwest Florida in Naples this month, that "I'd get to the point where I'd have to sneak into the White House to see the president." If anyone on the left or right saw him enter, he said, both sides would get "all worked up" and wonder, "What are these two going to do now?"

When Obama played golf with Boehner a few years ago, he was criticized for only playing with him once. But it turns out that wasn't his fault. Boehner told the Naples group they had a "nice" game but he declined a couple of subsequent invitations in order to avoid irritating his "band of renegades" (his description of some of his fellow Republicans).

The exchange with Obama went like this, according to Boehner: "You think it would be too much trouble if we played golf again?" "Yes, Mr. President, I think it would be." To the audience, he added, "You just can't believe the grief I got."


Experiencing major stress makes some older adults better able to handle daily stress

Public Release: 18-Nov-2015
Experiencing major stress makes some older adults better able to handle daily stress
North Carolina State University

Dealing with a major stressful event appears to make some older adults better able to cope with the ups and downs of day-to-day stress, according to new research from North Carolina State University.

"Our study tells us that there's no expiration date on the impact of life-changing, stressful events," says Shevaun Neupert, an associate professor of psychology and co-author of a paper on the work. "And the study tells us that many people actually weather these major stressors and emerge more resilient and less easily influenced by daily stresses."

And these major stressors can be good or bad, such as getting married, retiring or losing a loved one.

"Previous studies had only evaluated an individual's response to either major stressful events or to daily stress," says Jennifer Bellingtier, a Ph.D. candidate at NC State and lead author of the paper. "We've found that these things need to be viewed in tandem in order to capture the complex ways that people respond to both kinds of stress."


The results showed that people who had experienced major stressors responded differently to daily stress than people who had not experienced such stressful life events.

Study participants who hadn't had a major life stressor in the past year were more likely to feel significantly older on stressful days, but participants who had experienced a major stressor were less likely to fluctuate in how old they felt on a day-to-day basis.

"They were much more stable in response to day-to-day stress," Bellingtier says.

This resilience extended to people's views on how old they looked.

On days that weren't stressful, both groups of participants thought they looked approximately 10 years younger than their actual age. But there was an unexpected difference on stressful days. Participants who had experienced a major stressor thought they looked more than 20 years younger on stressful days - while people who had not experienced a major stressor thought they looked their actual age (i.e., they thought they looked 10 years older than they usually did).

This trend did not extend to how old study participants wished they were. Unsurprisingly, all of the study participants wished they were younger. But people who had experienced a major stressor wanted to be much younger on stressful days - whether compared to themselves on non-stressful days or to study participants who hadn't experienced a stressful life event.


Insulin-sensitizing drug relieves symptoms of chronic depression in some people

Public Release: 18-Nov-2015
Insulin-sensitizing drug relieves symptoms of chronic depression in some people
Stanford University Medical Center

A drug that makes the body more sensitive to insulin helped to relieve symptoms of chronic depression in people resistant to the hormone, according to a study by researchers at the at the Stanford University School of Medicine.


Insulin resistance -- a precursor to Type 2 diabetes -- and major depression are common conditions. Close to one in five Americans are diagnosed with depressive illness at some point in their lives, Rasgon said, while about one in three otherwise healthy Americans -- and an even greater share of people with depression -- are insulin-resistant.

"While insulin resistance is more prevalent among people who are overweight or obese, significant numbers of people with normal weight are insulin-resistant, too," she said. "But most don't find out about it until they're diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes, hypertension or cardiovascular disease."

Insulin resistance is associated with higher likelihoods of many chronic diseases, among them Alzheimer's disease and depression.


New strategy reduces side effects in Parkinson's treatment

Public Release: 18-Nov-2015
New strategy reduces side effects in Parkinson's treatment
Uncontrolled movements dramatically reduced with novel drug lead
Northwestern University

In an international study, Northwestern Medicine scientists and colleagues have identified a novel strategy for reducing the side effects of uncontrolled movement caused by the drug levodopa, commonly used to treat the stiffness, tremors and poor muscle control of Parkinson's disease.

These unwanted movements caused by levodopa significantly diminish the quality of life for Parkinson's disease patients.

A team lead by D. James Surmeier found neurons in the brain responsible for the side effects have a distinctive surface receptor that normally helps balance the effects of levodopa treatment. When mouse or primate models of Parkinson's disease were given a compound that boosts functioning of this receptor, the uncontrolled motor side effects of levodopa treatment were dramatically reduced.

Surmeier is the Nathan Smith Davis Professor and chair of physiology at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine.

The study will be published Nov. 18 in the journal Neuron.

Although this new compound -- an M4 muscarinic receptor positive allosteric modulator -- is not currently approved for human use, it is in development with the goal of clinical trials, a Phase I trial possibly starting by 2017.


Weekday sleep changes may raise risk of diabetes, heart disease

Public Release: 18-Nov-2015
Weekday sleep changes may raise risk of diabetes, heart disease
Study first to find link between social jet lag, metabolism
The Endocrine Society

Monday mornings could be harmful to your health. Even routine sleep changes such as waking up early for work during the week may raise the risk of developing metabolic problems such as diabetes and heart disease, according to a new study published in the Endocrine Society's Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism.

Researchers have long recognized that shift work can contribute to metabolic risk because of the continual disruption to the circadian system. Shift workers are more likely to develop metabolic syndrome, coronary heart disease and Type 2 diabetes than employees with regular daytime shifts.

Sleep disruption is among the factors that have contributed to rising rates of diabetes and obesity. More than 29 million Americans have diabetes, and 35.1 percent of American adults are obese, according to the Endocrine Society's Endocrine Facts and Figures report.

"Social jetlag refers to the mismatch between an individual's biological circadian rhythm and their socially imposed sleep schedules. Other researchers have found that social jetlag relates to obesity and some indicators of cardiovascular function," said Patricia M. Wong, MS, of the University of Pittsburgh in Pittsburgh, PA. "However, this is the first study to extend upon that work and show that even among healthy, working adults who experience a less extreme range of mismatches in their sleep schedule, social jetlag can contribute to metabolic problems. These metabolic changes can contribute to the development of obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular disease."


Participants who had a greater misalignment between their sleep schedules on free and work days tended to have poorer cholesterol profiles, higher fasting insulin levels, larger waist circumference, higher body-mass index and were more resistant to insulin than those who had less social jetlag. The association persisted even when the researchers adjusted the measurements to account for variation in other sleep measures and health behaviors such as physical activity and calorie intake.

"If future studies replicate what we found here, then we may need to consider as a society how modern work and social obligations are affecting our sleep and health," Wong said. "There could be benefits to clinical interventions focused on circadian disturbances, workplace education to help employees and their families make informed decisions about structuring their schedules, and policies to encourage employers to consider these issues."