Thursday, December 31, 2009

May you be free of want, and free of care, and free of holes in your underwear

Have a happy, safe new year.

I won't be posting until after the weekend, except for a post-dated blog.

GOP Preventing Confirmation Vote for Surgeon General

By David Weigel 10/26/09 2:01 PM

Following up on Daphne’s piece about the hold-up on Dawn Johnsen’s nomination to head the Office of Legal Counsel, this Roll Call story by Jessica Brady got published on Saturday, so it hasn’t received much attention. It should. Regina Benjamin, the president’s nominee for surgeon general, is being kept out of her job because of a Republican hold.

Benjamin was unanimously approved by the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee on Oct. 7, but Senate Republicans are holding up all [Department of Health and Human Services] nominees over a so-called gag order on insurance companies that have been critical of Democratic efforts to reform health care.

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Republicans blocked Obama nomination for Legal Counsel

By Daphne Eviatar 10/26/09 12:38 PM

When the Senate Judiciary Committee held hearings on the nomination of Dawn Johnsen to head the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel in February, one of her harshest questioners was Sen. Arlen Specter, then a Republican from Pennsylvania facing a likely challenge from the conservative former Rep. Pat Toomey. Even then, though, Specter passed on the committee vote, and although in April he said he was considering supporting a filibuster against Johnsen, now he says he’s still considering her nomination.

That’s not going to get Johnsen any nearer to a vote, however. Seven months after her nomination was approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee, she still hasn’t gotten an up or down vote from the full Senate. Yet she’s been nominated for a critical position in the Justice Department — the senior lawyer to advise the president on the legality of his administration’s policies. Johnsen’s supporters are irate. When asked, Republican senators refuse to say where they stand on Johnsen, whether they would support a vote on her nomination, or if they plan to fillibuster.

Senate Republican Blocking Obama nominees

By Daphne Eviatar 10/26/09 12:59 PM

A “new form of obstructionism” by Republicans in the Senate is delaying confirmation of Obama’s nominees for federal judgeships, writes Doug Kendall, president of the Constitutional Accountability Center, in Slate today.

With only three of 22 judicial nominees confirmed so far, it “seems clear that Senate Republicans are prepared to take the partisan war over the courts into uncharted territory—delaying up-or-down votes on the Senate floor for even the most qualified and uncontroversial of the president’s judicial nominees.”

The problem of judicial nominations parallels the obstruction of executive nominations, a problem I highlight in my piece today about the seven-month delay in confirming President Obama’s pick to head the Office of Legal Counsel, Dawn Johnsen.

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Last June, ThinkProgress reported that Senate conservatives were using single-senator anonymous holds to deny dozens of Obama nominees the up-or-down vote Republicans used to think was so important.

Four months later, nothing has changed. Since taking office last January, only four of President Obama’s judicial nominees have been confirmed, despite the fact that President Bush’s judges received very different treatment:

Consider, for example, the judicial nominations process during President George W. Bush’s last two years in office, 2007 and 2008. Bush was deeply unpopular at the time, and he faced a Senate firmly under Democratic control. Still, a large number of Bush nominees sailed through. The Senate voted on more than one-third of Bush’s confirmed nominees (26 of 68) less than three months after the president nominated them. [...]

The story was similar in the first two years of Bush’s presidency: A Democratic majority in Congress confirmed 100 of Bush’s nominees in 17 months, even after delays due to a change in party control of the Sen. after Senator James Jeffords left the Republican Party in May 2001.

Blocking nearly every single one of a President’s nominees is unprecedented, but conservatives have played Calvinball with the Senate’s confirmation rules for decades. During the Reagan and Bush I Administrations, then-Senate Judiciary Chair Joe Biden (D-DE) followed a longstanding rule allowing a nominee’s home state senators to block a judicial nominee, but only if both senators agreed to do so. After President Clinton took office and conservative Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) became judiciary chair, however, the rules suddenly changed to allow a single-home state senator to veto a nominee — a power that segregationist Sen. Jesse Helms (R-NC) used to block every single one of Clinton’s nominees from North Carolina. Yet when Bush II took office, Hatch eliminated the home-state senator veto altogether.

Who's running the TSA? No one, thanks to Sen. Jim DeMint

Posted on Monday, December 28, 2009
By Margaret Talev | McClatchy Newspapers

WASHINGTON — An attempt to blow up a trans-Atlantic flight from Amsterdam to Detroit on Christmas Day would be all-consuming for the administrator of the Transportation Security Administration — if there were one.

The post remains vacant because Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C., has held up President Barack Obama's nominee in opposition to the prospect of TSA workers joining a labor union.

As al Qaida claimed responsibility Monday for the thwarted attack and President Barack Obama made a public statement about it, Democrats urged DeMint to drop his objection and allow quick confirmation of nominee Erroll Southers, a counterterrorism expert, when the Senate reconvenes in three weeks.

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When People Feel Powerful, They Ignore New Opinions, Study Finds

COLUMBUS, Ohio – Don’t bother trying to persuade your boss of a new idea while he’s feeling the power of his position – new research suggests he’s not listening to you.

“Powerful people have confidence in what they are thinking. Whether their thoughts are positive or negative toward an idea, that position is going to be hard to change,” said Richard Petty, co-author of the study and professor of psychology at Ohio State University.

The best way to get leaders to consider new ideas is to put them in a situation where they don’t feel as powerful, the research suggests.

“If you temporarily make a powerful person feel less powerful, you have a better chance of getting them to pay attention,” said Pablo Briñol, lead author of the study and a social psychologist at the Universidad Autónoma de Madrid in Spain. Briñol is a former postdoctoral fellow at Ohio State.

The study was published in a recent issue of the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.

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Petty said the research casts doubt on the classic assertion that power corrupts people and leads them to negative actions. Instead, what power does is make people more likely to unquestionably believe their own thoughts and act on them, he said.

Both low- and high-power people may have negative thoughts at times, and think about doing something bad. But because high-power people are more confident in their thoughts – and less susceptible to countering views – they are more likely to follow through into action.

“A lot of people may have a momentary thought about doing something bad, but they don’t do it because they can inhibit themselves. A powerful person is more likely to follow through on the negative thoughts,” Petty said.

By the same token, if a powerful person has a positive, pro-social thought, she may be more likely to follow through on that thought and turn it into reality.

“Powerful people are more likely to act on what they are thinking – good or bad – without second guessing themselves,” Petty said.

Why Powerful People -- Many of Whom Take a Moral High Ground -- Don't Practice What They Preach

ScienceDaily (Dec. 30, 2009) — 2009 may well be remembered for its scandal-ridden headlines, from admissions of extramarital affairs by governors and senators, to corporate executives flying private jets while cutting employee benefits, and most recently, to a mysterious early morning car crash in Florida. The past year has been marked by a series of moral transgressions by powerful figures in political, business and celebrity circles. New research from the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University explores why powerful people - many of whom take a moral high ground - don't practice what they preach.

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"This research is especially relevant to the biggest scandals of 2009, as we look back on how private behavior often contradicted the public stance of particular individuals in power," said Galinsky, the Morris and Alice Kaplan Professor of Ethics and Decision in Management at the Kellogg School. "For instance, we saw some politicians use public funds for private benefits while calling for smaller government, or have extramarital affairs while advocating family values. Similarly, we witnessed CEOs of major financial institutions accepting executive bonuses while simultaneously asking for government bailout money on behalf of their companies."

"According to our research, power and influence can cause a severe disconnect between public judgment and private behavior, and as a result, the powerful are stricter in their judgment of others while being more lenient toward their own actions," he continued.

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Galinsky noted that moral hypocrisy has its greatest impact among people who are legitimately powerful. In contrast, a fifth experiment demonstrated that people who don't feel personally entitled to their power are actually harder on themselves than they are on others, which is a phenomenon the researchers dubbed "hypercrisy." The tendency to be harder on the self than on others also characterized the powerless in multiple studies.

"Ultimately, patterns of hypocrisy and hypercrisy perpetuate social inequality. The powerful impose rules and restraints on others while disregarding these restraints for themselves, whereas the powerless collaborate in reproducing social inequality because they don't feel the same entitlement," Galinsky concluded.


I really am irritated by whoever decided to "deprecate" easy ways of formatting html, and try to force people to do everything with css. I'm happy that the deprecated things still work. For someone like me, who only wants to use it to occasionally set some lines of text to bold, or a different color or size, it's ridiculous to take away an easy way that works and replace it by a complicated way that I would have to relearn every time I use it, because I wouldn't use it often enough to remember. Making things harder is anti-progress. Maybe it makes it easier for experts to justify higher salaries, but I'm not going to hire someone to format my blog entries, so it just makes life harder for me. And I am very probably much more technically knowledgeable than the average person who writes a blog.

Russia may send spacecraft to knock away asteroid

Why is the U.S. so averse to dealing with problems before they become a crisis? Stupidity, irresponsibility, laziness, what? This particular asteroid might not be a problem, but eventually one will. Since we have had some that have come rather close that were not detected until they were close by, or even after they had passed, it would be a good idea to start preparing now, rather than wait and try to do a crash program that would cost much more and be more likely to have problems or failure.

IT people wanted to start fixing the Y2K problem long before 2000, but they couldn't get funding approved until it a crash program was needed. It would have cost much less to fix it if the work had started earlier. And other work had to be put off in the meantime.

The same thing is happening with the greenhouse effect. In this case, at least part of the blame is due to deliberate lies on behalf of some businesses, especially Exxon Mobile.;_ylt=Am7.QxE0FvhGFvywnLpJaBGs0NUE;_ylu=X3oDMTFpbmY5MHRuBHBvcwMzNQRzZWMDYWNjb3JkaW9uX21vc3RfcG9wdWxhcgRzbGsDcnVzc2lhbWF5c2Vu

By VLADIMIR ISACHENKOV, Associated Press Writer Vladimir Isachenkov, Associated Press Writer – 40 mins ago

MOSCOW – Russia's space agency chief said Wednesday a spacecraft may be dispatched to knock a large asteroid off course and reduce the chances of earth impact, even though U.S. scientists say such a scenario is unlikely.

Anatoly Perminov told Golos Rossii radio the space agency would hold a meeting soon to assess a mission to Apophis. He said his agency might eventually invite NASA, the European Space Agency, the Chinese space agency and others to join the project.

When the 270-meter (885-foot) asteroid was first discovered in 2004, astronomers estimated its chances of smashing into Earth in its first flyby, in 2029, at 1-in-37.

Further studies have ruled out the possibility of an impact in 2029, when the asteroid is expected to come no closer than 18,300 miles (29,450 kilometers) from Earth's surface, but they indicated a small possibility of a hit on subsequent encounters.

NASA had put the chances that Apophis could hit Earth in 2036 as 1-in-45,000. In October, after researchers recalculated the asteroid's path, the agency changed its estimate to 1-in-250,000.

NASA said another close encounter in 2068 will involve a 1-in-330,000 chance of impact.

Don Yeomans, who heads NASA's Near-Earth Object Program, said better calculations of Apophis' path in several years "will almost certainly remove any possibility of an Earth collision" in 2036.

"While Apophis is almost certainly not a problem, I am encouraged that the Russian science community is willing to study the various deflection options that would be available in the event of a future Earth threatening encounter by an asteroid," Yeomans said in an e-mail Wednesday.

Without mentioning NASA's conclusions, Perminov said that he heard from a scientist that Apophis is getting closer and may hit the planet. "I don't remember exactly, but it seems to me it could hit the Earth by 2032," Perminov said.

"People's lives are at stake. We should pay several hundred million dollars and build a system that would allow us to prevent a collision, rather than sit and wait for it to happen and kill hundreds of thousands of people," Perminov said.

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"Apophis is just a symbolic example, there are many other dangerous objects we know little about," he said, according to RIA Novosti news agency.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Solution to killer superbug found in Norway;_ylt=AsGaIQRzrxlUY.QEO4a.vRas0NUE;_ylu=X3oDMTRiY29kcTI2BGFzc2V0A2FwLzIwMDkxMjMwL3doZW5fZHJ1Z3Nfc3RvcF93b3JraW5nX25vcndheV9zX2Fuc3dlcgRjY29kZQNtb3N0cG9wdWxhcgRjcG9zAzgEcG9zAzUEcHQDaG9tZV9jb2tlBHNlYwN5bl9oZWFkbGluZV9saXN0BHNsawNzb2x1dGlvbnRva2k-

By MARTHA MENDOZA and MARGIE MASON, Associated Press Writers Martha Mendoza And Margie Mason, Associated Press Writers – 21 mins ago

OSLO, Norway – Aker University Hospital is a dingy place to heal. The floors are streaked and scratched. A light layer of dust coats the blood pressure monitors. A faint stench of urine and bleach wafts from a pile of soiled bedsheets dropped in a corner.

Look closer, however, at a microscopic level, and this place is pristine. There is no sign of a dangerous and contagious staph infection that killed tens of thousands of patients in the most sophisticated hospitals of Europe, North America and Asia this year, soaring virtually unchecked.

The reason: Norwegians stopped taking so many drugs.

Twenty-five years ago, Norwegians were also losing their lives to this bacteria. But Norway's public health system fought back with an aggressive program that made it the most infection-free country in the world. A key part of that program was cutting back severely on the use of antibiotics.

Now a spate of new studies from around the world prove that Norway's model can be replicated with extraordinary success, and public health experts are saying these deaths — 19,000 in the U.S. each year alone, more than from AIDS — are unnecessary.

"It's a very sad situation that in some places so many are dying from this, because we have shown here in Norway that Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) can be controlled, and with not too much effort," said Jan Hendrik-Binder, Oslo's MRSA medical adviser. "But you have to take it seriously, you have to give it attention, and you must not give up."

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Convenience stores in downtown Oslo are stocked with an amazing and colorful array — 42 different brands at one downtown 7-Eleven — of soothing, but non-medicated, lozenges, sprays and tablets. All workers are paid on days they, or their children, stay home sick. And drug makers aren't allowed to advertise, reducing patient demands for prescription drugs.

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Norway responded swiftly to initial MRSA outbreaks in the 1980s by cutting antibiotic use. Thus while they got ahead of the infection, the rest of the world fell behind.

In Norway, MRSA has accounted for less than 1 percent of staph infections for years. That compares to 80 percent in Japan, the world leader in MRSA; 44 percent in Israel; and 38 percent in Greece.

In the U.S., cases have soared and MRSA cost $6 billion last year. Rates have gone up from 2 percent in 1974 to 63 percent in 2004. And in the United Kingdom, they rose from about 2 percent in the early 1990s to about 45 percent, although an aggressive control program is now starting to work.

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But can Norway's program really work elsewhere?

The answer lies in the busy laboratory of an aging little public hospital about 100 miles outside of London. It's here that microbiologist Dr. Lynne Liebowitz got tired of seeing the stunningly low Nordic MRSA rates while facing her own burgeoning cases.

So she turned Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Kings Lynn into a petri dish, asking doctors to almost completely stop using two antibiotics known for provoking MRSA infections.

One month later, the results were in: MRSA rates were tumbling. And they've continued to plummet. Five years ago, the hospital had 47 MRSA bloodstream infections. This year they've had one.

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Beth Reimer of Batavia, Ill., became an advocate for MRSA precautions after her 5-week-old daughter Madeline caught a cold that took a fatal turn. One day her beautiful baby had the sniffles. The next?

"She wasn't breathing. She was limp," the mother recalled. "Something was terribly wrong."

MRSA had invaded her little lungs. The antibiotics were useless. Maddie struggled to breathe, swallow, survive, for two weeks.

"For me to sit and watch Madeline pass away from such an aggressive form of something, to watch her fight for her little life — it was too much," Reimer said.

Since Madeline's death, Reimer has become outspoken about the need for better precautions, pushing for methods successfully used in Norway. She's stunned, she said, that anyone disputes the need for change.

"Why are they fighting for this not to take place?" she said.


"Why are they fighting for this not to take place?" For some, it's just because they are conservative by nature, and are uncomfortable with change. But for some, it's because they don't want to lose money.

What I don't like is that in the U.S., it seems to be more of a problem than in many other countries, of powerful people who are willing and able to block changes needed to save many lives, whether it be in medicine, the environment, product safety.

In South Africa, drug-resistant HIV emerging

updated 9:40 a.m. ET, Wed., Dec . 30, 2009

PRETORIA, South Africa - EDITOR'S NOTE: Once-curable diseases such as tuberculosis and malaria are coming back, as germs rapidly mutate to form aggressive strains that resist drugs. The reason: The misuse of the very drugs that were supposed to save us has built up drug resistance worldwide. Fourth in a five-part series.

It's 8 a.m. and Dr. Theresa Rossouw is already drowning behind a cluttered desk of handwritten HIV charts — new, perplexing cases of patients whose lifesaving drugs have turned against them.

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Rossouw is on the front lines of a new battle in the fight against HIV: The drugs that once worked so well are starting not to work. And now the resistance is showing up in sub-Saharan Africa, home to two-thirds of the world's 33 million HIV cases.

Ten years ago, between 1 percent and 5 percent of HIV patients worldwide had drug-resistant strains. Now, between 5 percent and 30 percent of new patients are already resistant to the drugs. In Europe, it's 10 percent; in the U.S., 15 percent.

In sub-Saharan Africa, where the drugs only started arriving a few years ago, resistance is partly the unforeseen consequence of good intentions. There are not enough drugs to go around, so clinics run out and patients can't do full courses. The inferior meds available in Africa poison other patients. Misprescriptions are common and monitoring is scarce.

The story of HIV mirrors the rise worldwide of new and more deadly forms of killer infections, such as tuberculosis and malaria. These diseases have mutated in response to the misuse of the very drugs that were supposed to save us, The Associated Press found in a six-month look at soaring drug resistance worldwide.

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In sub-Saharan Africa, resistance rates have quietly climbed to around 5 percent in the past few years, and that's a substantial undercount. It's hard to pinpoint resistance because most cases in the developing world aren't tracked. In some high-risk populations worldwide, HIV drug resistance rates soar as high as 80 percent, according to studies published in AIDS, the official journal of the International AIDS Society.

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Drug-resistant urinary tract infections spreading worldwide

Public release date: 28-Dec-2009
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Contact: Steve Pogonowski
Faculty of 1000: Biology and Medicine
Drug-resistant urinary tract infections spreading worldwide

A sudden worldwide increase in an antibiotic-resistant bacterium is cause for concern, according to a review in f1000 Medicine Reports.

Faculty of 1000 member Dr Johann Pitout, of the Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, University of Calgary, urges the medical community to monitor the spread of a multi-drug resistant bacterium before it becomes necessary to use more powerful antibiotics as a first response.

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New study shows rise in drug resistance of dangerous infection in US hospitals

Public release date: 23-Dec-2009
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Contact: Kay Campbell
Burness Communications
New study shows rise in drug resistance of dangerous infection in US hospitals

Washington, D.C. -- A new study in the journal Infection Control and Hospital Epidemiology reports a surge in drug-resistant strains of Acinetobacter, a dangerous type of bacteria that is becoming increasingly common in U.S. hospitals. This study is being posted online today and will appear in the journal's February print edition.

Acinetobacter infections attack patients in hospital intensive care units (ICUs) and others and have recently plagued soldiers returning home from the war in Iraq. These infections often appear as severe pneumonias or bloodstream infections, and require strong drugs to be treated, when they can be stopped at all.

Using data from 300 hospitals around the country, researchers at the Extending the Cure project analyzed trends in resistance to imipenem, an antibiotic often reserved as a last-line treatment. The study found that between 1999 and 2006, there was more than a 300% increase in the proportion of Acinetobacter cases resistant to the drug.

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Pressure rises to stop antibiotics in agriculture;_ylt=ArNWEtgdPsQyyRXJ3UXC7Vms0NUE;_ylu=X3oDMTFpc2ZjY2hxBHBvcwMzOQRzZWMDYWNjb3JkaW9uX21vc3RfcG9wdWxhcgRzbGsDcHJlc3N1cmVyaXNl

By MARGIE MASON AND MARTHA MENDOZA, Associated Press Writers Margie Mason And Martha Mendoza, Associated Press Writers – Tue Dec 29, 7:49 am ET

FRANKENSTEIN, Mo. – The mystery started the day farmer Russ Kremer got between a jealous boar and a sow in heat.

The boar gored Kremer in the knee with a razor-sharp tusk. The burly pig farmer shrugged it off, figuring: "You pour the blood out of your boot and go on."

But Kremer's red-hot leg ballooned to double its size. A strep infection spread, threatening his life and baffling doctors. Two months of multiple antibiotics did virtually nothing.

The answer was flowing in the veins of the boar. The animal had been fed low doses of penicillin, spawning a strain of strep that was resistant to other antibiotics. That drug-resistant germ passed to Kremer.

Like Kremer, more and more Americans — many of them living far from barns and pastures — are at risk from the widespread practice of feeding livestock antibiotics. These animals grow faster, but they can also develop drug-resistant infections that are passed on to people. The issue is now gaining attention because of interest from a new White House administration and a flurry of new research tying antibiotic use in animals to drug resistance in people.

Researchers say the overuse of antibiotics in humans and animals has led to a plague of drug-resistant infections that killed more than 65,000 people in the U.S. last year — more than prostate and breast cancer combined. And in a nation that used about 35 million pounds of antibiotics last year, 70 percent of the drugs went to pigs, chickens and cows. Worldwide, it's 50 percent.

"This is a living breathing problem, it's the big bad wolf and it's knocking at our door," said Dr. Vance Fowler, an infectious disease specialist at Duke University. "It's here. It's arrived."

The rise in the use of antibiotics is part of a growing problem of soaring drug resistance worldwide, The Associated Press found in a six-month look at the issue. As a result, killer diseases like malaria, tuberculosis and staph are resurging in new and more deadly forms.

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Disinfectants May Promote Growth of Superbugs

I reposted this so it would be with some other articles on antibiotic resistant bacteria.

ScienceDaily (Dec. 27, 2009) — Using disinfectants could cause bacteria to become resistant to antibiotics as well as the disinfectant itself, according to research published in the January issue of Microbiology. The findings could have important implications for how the spread of infection is managed in hospital settings.

Researchers from the National University of Ireland in Galway found that by adding increasing amounts of disinfectant to laboratory cultures of Pseudomonas aeruginosa, the bacteria could adapt to survive not only the disinfectant but also ciprofloxacin -- a commonly-prescribed antibiotic -- even without being exposed to it. The researchers showed that the bacteria had adapted to more efficiently pump out antimicrobial agents (disinfectant and antibiotic) from the bacterial cell. The adapted bacteria also had a mutation in their DNA that allowed them to resist ciprofloxacin-type antibiotics specifically.

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I don't use disinfectants, but those who do put me at risk.

Bank of England Calls Bluff of Bankers Who Threaten to Depart UK to Avoid Taxes

Saturday, December 19, 2009

The UK is providing a lesson the US badly needs to learn, that push comes to shove, regulators hold the whip, and have to be willing to use it when necessary. Given how intransigent the financial services industry has become, the time for discipline has come.

Maybe some of them even want it secretly….

In response to a 50% bonus supertax, bankers in the UK are threatening to decamp, as if that will move the authorities to relent. They are not blinking. And with good reason. The idea that everyone ensconced in a large financial firm can decamp to a hedge fund or a private equity fund, or start their own boutique is wildly exaggerated. Even though many traders like to cast themselves as solo producers, they have tremendous advantages by operating in a large firm, namely, access to concentrated capital and information flows, and in many cases leverage that either cannot be obtained at all in a smaller firm format or would be far more costly. Similarly, a lot of supposed “talent” in other businesses depends on the firm franchise to a greater degree than they fancy.

No less than a former co-chairman of Goldman, John Whitehead, disputed the idea that lofty pay levels were necessary (and he was criticizing 2006 bonuses, which were trumped by 2007 pay levels):

“I’m appalled at the salaries,” the retired co-chairman of the securities industry’s most profitable firm said in an interview this week. At Goldman, which paid Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Lloyd Blankfein $54 million last year, compensation levels are “shocking,” Whitehead said. “They’re the leaders in this outrageous increase.”

Whitehead went even further, recommending the unthinkable, that Goldman cut pay:

Whitehead, who left the firm in 1984 and now chairs its charitable foundation, said Goldman should be courageous enough to curb bonuses, even if the effort to return a sense of restraint to Wall Street costs it some valued employees. No securities firm can match the pay available in a good year at the top hedge funds. “I would take the chance of losing a lot of them and let them see what happens when the hedge fund bubble, as I see it, ends.”

The Guardian tells us that Bank of England officials are telling unhappy bankers that they are free to take a hike, and England may well be better off without them. By contrast, every time US banks have gotten themselves all worked up (the list seems endless, plain vanilla products, mortgage cramdowns, usury ceilings, exiting the TARP so they can pay high bonuses) the US officialdom has caved. And this behavior simply encourages the banks to escalate their demands.

A senior bank of England official said that bankers moving overseas to avoid the bonus supertax could be price worth paying to achieve lasting reform of the sector.

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The Telegraph provides more commentary:

Haldane, as regular readers will know, stands out as one of the heroes of the crisis. In 2006 he was one of the lead authors of a Bank report which was among the first to warn of the impending crisis that could face the City as a result of the ballooning gap between what banks had in their vaults and what they were lending out to customers. In the past year or so he has given a number of speeches and papers which, among other things, have warned that the relationship between banks and the state is a “doom loop” in which banks continually try to “game” the regulators, and pointed out that the vast majority of banks’ apparent earnings over the past century have been based not on actual performance but on leverage [debt].

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The Truth About Lie-Detection

Posted Monday, December 28, 2009 12:08 PM
The Truth About Lie-Detection – What Works And What Doesn't
Ashley Merryman and Po Bronson
During a trip to Dr. Victoria Talwar's lab at McGill University, Po and I took part in one of her experiments. Talwar investigates why and when kids lie, so she asked us to watch videos of children describing a bullying incident. Our job was to decide if each child was talking about a real event or just making up a story. Po was only able to correctly identify four of the eight, but I'd done even worse: just three right answers, making Po's 50 percent look stellar by comparison.

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It's hard enough when you're trying to catch an adult in a lie. For kids, once they know enough to tell a reasonable version of what happened, it's darn near impossible to tell when they're lying. (For those parents and teachers out there saying, "I can tell with my kids," Talwar tested parents on their own kids, and they still can't reliably catch a lie.)

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Outside the ideal setting of a laboratory, lie detection is even more difficult. Part of the problem is the myths out there on lie-telling.

Liars do not look down or look to the left. They do not shift from side to side. They don't fidget. Actually, liars often hold themselves still, restraining their movements so that they appear truthful. And liars don't get nervous, because they're sure you believe them. (In comparison, shy, truth-telling introverts often get anxious during a confrontation and thus mistakenly get accused of lying.)

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In one study, Talwar had police officers come into the lab. During their years on the job, the officers developed a list of “sure-fire” behaviors to watch for. But it turned out that the officers had it exactly backwards. The behaviors they were looking for meant that they identified truth- tellers as liars, and they said liars were telling the truth.

Other studies have come up with similar results. In lab tests, FBI agents are better than average at identifying liars, but the longer they are in the field, the worse at it they become.

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In study after study, trained coders can’t find any physical behaviors that reliably give kids’ untruthfulness away. In one round of experiments, Talwar’s team studied 47 physical behaviors: looking down, sitting on their hands, turning away, changing tone of voice, just to name a few. The kids were notably different on only two of the 47. More of the liars had a big smile at some point, while most truth-tellers had a relaxed mouth when they weren’t talking.

Most of the liars did look away, but almost 70 percent of the truthful kids looked away, too. Kids just seem to look away when they are thinking. (And these were behaviors the researchers observed while meticulously studying videotapes—it isn't as if the scholars identified them during live interactions.)

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The national security double standard

Posted: Wednesday, December 30, 2009 11:52 AM by Mark Murray
From NBC's Mark Murray
Huffington Post and Politico have both noted that it took George W. Bush -- then on vacation -- six days to respond to shoe-bomber Richard Reid's failed attack back in 2001.

But that incident didn't turn into a partisan food fight -- unlike what has erupted over President Obama's response to the Christmas Day failed plot.

Why the double standard? Here's one explanation: Democrats back in 2001, then out of power, chose not make it an issue the way that Republicans have now.

Indeed, looking back at 20th century -- the GOP charges after the Yalta conference, Nixon and the House Committee on Un-American Activities, the accusations that Democrats "lost" China, Joe McCarthy -- historians note that Republicans have been much more willing than their Democratic counterparts to play the national security card to score political points, especially when out of power.

"It has worked very well for them," presidential historian Robert Dallek tells First Read. "It is a talking point that has helped them win elections and hold off the Democrats… There is a long history going back here."

To be sure, Democrats have participated in demagoguery, too. Yesterday, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid accused Republicans of politicizing national security for placing a hold on Obama's pick to head the Transportation Security Administration. And Democrats have demagogued domestic programs like Social Security and Medicare for partisan advantage.

So pointing out that the other party is guilty of demagoguery is itself demogaguery. What garbage. So the Democrats are just supposed to smile pleasantly when slimy Republican traitors criticize them? I would say that's just another example of a double standard in favor of Republicans.


But on matters of national security, Republicans are more likely to accuse the opposition of weakness and cowardice -- whether or not the charge is justified. And it has worked for them.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Dyslexia: Some Very Smart Accomplished People Cannot Read Well

ScienceDaily (Dec. 19, 2009) — Contrary to popular belief, some very smart, accomplished people cannot read well. This unexpected difficulty in reading in relation to intelligence, education and professional status is called dyslexia, and researchers at Yale School of Medicine and University of California Davis, have presented new data that explain how otherwise bright and intelligent people struggle to read.

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The researchers found that in typical readers, IQ and reading not only track together, but also influence each other over time. But in children with dyslexia, IQ and reading are not linked over time and do not influence one another. This explains why a dyslexic can be both bright and not read well.

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Sally Shaywitz estimates that one in five people are dyslexic and points to many accomplished writers, physicians and attorneys with dyslexia who struggle with the condition in their daily lives, including Carol Greider, the 2009 Nobel laureate in medicine. She hopes to dispel many of the myths surrounding the condition.

"High-performing dyslexics are very intelligent, often out-of-the box thinkers and problem-solvers," she said. "The neural signature for dyslexia is seen in children and adults. You don't outgrow dyslexia. Once you're diagnosed, it is with you for life."

Shaywitz also stresses that the problem is with both basic spoken and written language. People with dyslexia take a long time to retrieve words, so they might not speak or read as fluidly as others. In students, the time pressure around standardized tests like the SATs and entrance exams for professional schools increases anxiety and can make dyslexia worse, so the need for accommodations is key in helping those with the disorder realize their potential, she says.

Alzheimer's Disease May Protect Against Cancer and Vice Versa

ScienceDaily (Dec. 24, 2009) — People who have Alzheimer's disease may be less likely to develop cancer, and people who have cancer may be less likely to develop Alzheimer's disease, according to a new study published in the December 23, 2009, online issue of Neurology®, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology.

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For people who had Alzheimer's disease at the start of the study, the risk of future cancer hospitalization was reduced by 69 percent compared to those who did not have Alzheimer's disease when the study started. For Caucasian people who had cancer when the study started, their risk of developing Alzheimer's disease was reduced by 43 percent compared to people who did not have cancer at the start of the study, although that finding was not evident in minority groups.

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Can't tell from this if they allowed for the fact that both diseases would cause decreased life expectancy, which in itself would decrease the incidence of another disease in the future.

Air Pollution Linked to Hospitalizations for Pneumonia in Seniors

ScienceDaily (Dec. 23, 2009) — A McMaster University researcher has found the first evidence that prolonged exposure to higher levels of the pollutants found in car exhaust fumes and industrial air pollution can lead to hospitalization for pneumonia in adults aged 65 and older.

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The researchers found that exposure for more than 12 months to higher levels of nitrogen dioxide and fine particulate matter of less than 2.5 micrometres more than doubled the risk of hospitalization for pneumonia in adults aged 65 and older. Exposure to sulfur dioxide was not associated with an increased risk of hospitalization.

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Physical Activity Associated With Lower Risk of Mortality in Men With History of Colon Cancer

ScienceDaily (Dec. 26, 2009) — Increased physical activity appears to be associated with a lower risk of cancer-specific and overall death in men with a history of colorectal cancer that has not spread to other parts of the body, according to a report in the December 14/28 issue of Archives of Internal Medicine, one of the JAMA/Archives journals.

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Each physical activity was assigned a metabolic equivalent task (MET) score. Activities that required more energy were assigned higher MET scores.

There were 258 deaths in the group of study participants, of which 88 were due to colon cancer. "Men who were physically active after diagnosis of nonmetastatic colorectal cancer experienced a significantly decreased risk of colorectal cancer-specific death, as well as death from any cause," the authors write. "Men who engaged in more than 27 MET hours per week had more than 50 percent lower risk of colorectal cancer-specific mortality compared with inactive men. This association was consistently detected regardless of age, disease stage, body mass index, diagnosis year, tumor location and prediagnosis physical activity."

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Milk Thistle Herb Protects Cancer Patients from Chemotherapy-Associated Liver Toxicity

ScienceDaily (Dec. 27, 2009) — A new study finds that the herb milk thistle may help treat liver inflammation in cancer patients who receive chemotherapy. Published early online in Cancer, a peer-reviewed journal of the American Cancer Society, the study indicates that the herb could allow patients to take potent doses of chemotherapy without damaging their liver.

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Monday, December 28, 2009

Psychologists Show That Future-Minded People Make Better Decisions for Their Health

ScienceDaily (Dec. 24, 2009) — When New Year's Eve rolls around and you're deciding whether to have another glass of champagne, your decision may be predicted by your perspective of the future.

A pair of Kansas State University researchers found that people who tend to think in the long term are more likely to make positive decisions about their health, whether it's how much they drink, what they eat, or their decision to wear sunscreen.

"If you are more willing to pick later, larger rewards rather than taking the immediate payoff, you are more future-minded than present-minded," said James Daugherty, a doctoral student in psychology who led the study. "You're more likely to exercise and less likely to smoke and drink."

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Five Exercises Can Reduce Neck, Shoulder Pain of Women Office Workers

ScienceDaily (Dec. 28, 2009) — Strength training exercises using dumbbells can reduce pain and improve function in the trapezius muscle, the large muscle which extends from the back of the head, down the neck and into the upper back. The exercises also improve the muscle's ability to respond quickly and forcefully among women suffering trapezius myalgia, a tenderness and tightness in the upper trapezius muscle. The results are the latest findings from an ongoing Danish study aimed at reducing repetitive strain injury caused by office work.

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The team's latest finding confirms that that five strength exercises -- the one-arm row, shoulder abduction, shoulder elevation, reverse fly and upright row -- can substantially reduce perceived pain. By finding out more about how the muscle function has been impaired and how it improves with exercise, the team has developed a way to assess the muscle in the rehabilitation setting. In particular, the Danish team found that the women who had diminished ability to activate the muscle quickly and forcefully could benefit from the strength training.

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Environment May Be Why Women Don't Like Computer Science

I'm a woman who is a computer programmer/analyst, and I have at time stayed up all night coding, and enjoy reading science fiction, although not interested in science fiction memorabilia, and I don't feel any clash with my gender. Although at some places I have worked, some men had a problem with competent women.

ScienceDaily (Dec. 28, 2009) — In real estate, it's location, location, location. And when it comes to why girls and women shy away from careers in computer science, a key reason is environment, environment, environment.

The stereotype of computer scientists as nerds who stay up all night coding and have no social life may be driving women away from the field, according to a new study published this month. This stereotype can be brought to mind based only on the appearance of the environment in a classroom or an office.

"When people think of computer science the image that immediately pops into many of their minds is of the computer geek surrounded by such things as computer games, science fiction memorabilia and junk food," said Sapna Cheryan, a University of Washington assistant professor of psychology and the study's lead author. "That stereotype doesn't appeal to many women who don't like the portrait of masculinity that it evokes." Such objects help create what Cheryan calls ambient belonging, or the feeling that you fit or don't fit in somewhere.

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Spider Mite Predators Serve As Biological Control

ScienceDaily (Dec. 28, 2009) — The control of spider mites, which damage tree leaves, reduce fruit quality and cost growers millions of dollars in the use of pesticide and oil spraying, is being biologically controlled in Pennsylvania apple orchards with two tiny insects known to be natural predators, according to Penn State researchers.

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Microbes Help Mothers Protect Kids from Allergies

ScienceDaily (Dec. 28, 2009) — A pregnant woman's exposure to microbes may protect her child from developing allergies later in life. Researchers in Marburg, Germany find that exposure to environmental bacteria triggers a mild inflammatory response in pregnant mice that renders their offspring resistant to allergies.

The study will be published online on December 7, 2009 in the Journal of Experimental Medicine. In an accompanying Commentary, Patrick Holt and Deborah Strickland discuss the biological mechanisms behind these findings and how they might one day prevent allergies in people.

The progressive rise in allergies in the past several decades is often attributed to an increasing tendency to keep kids too clean -- a theory known as the hygiene hypothesis. According to this theory, exposure of young children to environmental microbes conditions the developing immune system to tolerate microbes and allergens later in life. Studies have shown, for example, that children raised on farms, which teem with microbes, developed fewer allergies than those raised in cities or non-farming rural regions. But it may not be the kids' exposure that counts; children of farming mothers are also less susceptible to allergies regardless of their own exposure. But the biological mechanisms behind this phenomenon were a mystery.

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Of course, the effects of prenatal and postnatal exposure are not necessarily exclusive. They might both be helpful.

Seeing Family for the Holidays? Scientists Discover How the Stress Might Kill You

ScienceDaily (Dec. 28, 2009) — If you ever thought the stress of seeing your extended family over the holidays was slowly killing you -- bad news: a new research report in the December 2009 print issue of the Journal of Leukocyte Biology shows that you might be right. Here's the good news: results from the same study might lead to entirely new treatments that help keep autoimmune diseases like lupus, arthritis, and eczema under control.

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Record highs are double the lows
updated 2:09 p.m. ET, Thurs., Nov . 12, 2009

Climate scientists normally are wary of associating daily weather events to longer term climate change, but new research does just that by showing that daily record high temperatures across the continental U.S. occurred twice as often as record lows over the last decade.

"Climate change is making itself felt in terms of day-to-day weather," Gerald Meehl, a researcher at the National Center for Atmospheric Research, said in a statement announcing the research. "The ways these records are being broken show how our climate is already shifting."

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"One of the messages of this study is, you still get cold days," he said. "Winter still comes. Even in a much warmer climate, we're setting record low minimum temperatures on a few days each year. But the odds are shifting so there's a much better chance of daily record highs instead of lows."

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Sunday, December 27, 2009

Depression as Deadly as Smoking, Study Finds

ScienceDaily (Nov. 18, 2009) — A study by researchers at the University of Bergen, Norway, and the Institute of Psychiatry (IoP) at King's College London has found that depression is as much of a risk factor for mortality as smoking.

Utilising a unique link between a survey of over 60,000 people and a comprehensive mortality database, the researchers found that over the four years following the survey, the mortality risk was increased to a similar extent in people who were depressed as in people who were smokers.

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Psychological Therapy 32 Times More Cost Effective at Increasing Happiness Than Money

Of course, the people in the subject were comfortable enough to be able to afford to visit a psychologist. Studies, and personal experience, show that more money does bring more happiness for the poor.

ScienceDaily (Nov. 21, 2009) — Research by the University of Warwick and the University of Manchester finds that psychological therapy could be 32 times more cost effective at making you happy than simply obtaining more money. The research has obvious implications for large compensation awards in law courts but also has wider implications for general public health.

Chris Boyce of the University of Warwick and Alex Wood of the University of Manchester compared large data sets where 1000s of people had reported on their well-being. They then looked at how well-being changed due to therapy compared to getting sudden increases in income, such as through lottery wins or pay rises. They found that a 4 month course of psychological therapy had a large effect on well-being. They then showed that the increase in well-being from an £800 course of therapy was so large that it would take a pay rise of over £25,000 to achieve an equivalent increase in well-being. The research therefore demonstrates that psychological therapy could be 32 times more cost effective at making you happy than simply obtaining more money.

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Saturday, December 26, 2009

U.S. pay czar Feinberg OKs compensation at some bailout firms

A birthday present from the taxpayers to some people who helped bring down the U.S. economy.

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. pay czar Kenneth Feinberg on Wednesday approved compensation plans for several executives and top-paid employees at three firms that have received taxpayer aid.

Feinberg approved up to $9.5 million for GMAC CEO Michael Carpenter in 2010, up to $6.2 million for General Motors CFO Christopher Liddell and $600,000 annually in salary stock for Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne for his service on the Chrysler board of directors.

The approval for Marchionne does not include his compensation for his role as CEO, which is paid by Fiat SpA, where Marchionne is also CEO.

The totals also include exceptions to the agency's compensation rules. For example, Feinberg agreed to a salary of $750,000 for Liddell, above the $500,000 limit. Liddell is also allowed $3.45 million in salary stock and $2.0 million in restricted stock grants.

Feinberg approved $950,000 in salary for Carpenter and stock salary up to $5.415 million and restricted stock grants up to $3.135 million.

According to a Treasury official, the exemptions were agreed to because they were "exceptional cases."

The Twelve Days of Health Care Reform

by Karoli on December 21, 2009

On the first day of Christmas,
the Senate sent to me
A smackdown of the GOP.

On the second day of Christmas,
the Senate sent to me
Two cloture motions
And a smackdown of the GOP.


see link for the rest

Friday, December 25, 2009

How to fight extremism with civility

An inspiring article

E.J. Dionne Jr.
Squaring Idealism and Realism
November 29, 2009 | 9:49 pm

WASHINGTON -- The most surprising and disappointing aspect of our politics is how little pushback there has been against the vile, extremist rhetoric that has characterized such a large part of the anti-Obama movement.

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And so it is that the first genuinely ringing call for moderation has come from a man who is effectively without a party, and whose own demeanor and career define temperance.

Jim Leach spent 30 years as a Republican member of Congress who went his own way. If this meant standing almost alone against his caucus, he was content to do so.

But he was never bombastic about it, as befits an extravagantly understated guy. The characteristic Leach look is a comfortable sweater worn under a tweed jacket, in season and out. That's about as fashionable as the persona of old Mr. Chips, the warmhearted and mildly Victorian headmaster who was the hero of James Hilton's 1934 novel.

Leach lost his Iowa seat in the 2006 Democratic tide, but he emerged relieved rather than bitter. He turned to academia, not the lobbying trade favored by so many other defeated politicians, and in 2008 engaged in the ultimate act of a maverick (a real one) by becoming a Republican for Obama. The new president in turn appointed Leach chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

It was in this role that Leach offered his critique of extremism in a speech at the National Press Club titled "Bridging Cultures" a few days before Thanksgiving. It deserves far more attention than it has received.

"Little is more important for the world's leading democracy in this change-intensive century," Leach argued, "than establishing an ethos of thoughtfulness and decency of expression in the public square.

"If we don't try to understand and respect others, how can we expect them to respect us, our values and our way of life?"

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Christmas in the Trenches

lyrics are at

website with downloads at

This song available on CD at

It's based on a true incident, a spontaneous Christmas truce at Chritmas 1914 during World War I.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Fossil Fuel Carbon Dioxide Emissions Up by 29 Percent Since 2000

ScienceDaily (Nov. 17, 2009) — The strongest evidence yet that the rise in atmospheric CO2 emissions continues to outstrip the ability of the world's natural 'sinks' to absorb carbon is published November 17 in the journal Nature Geoscience.

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CO2 emissions from the burning of fossil fuels increased by two per cent from 2007 to 2008, by 29 per cent between 2008 and 2000, and by 41 per cent between 2008 and 1990 -- the reference year of the Kyoto Protocol.

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Doctors' Bedside Skills Trump Medical Technology

ScienceDaily (Dec. 21, 2009) — Sometimes, a simple bedside exam performed by a skilled physician is superior to a high-tech CT scan, a Loyola University Health System study has found.

Researchers found that physicians' bedside exams did a better job than CT scans in predicting which patients would need to return to the operating room to treat complications such as bleeding.

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Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Warming continues

Posted by: JeffMasters, 3:46 PM GMT on December 17, 2009

The globe recorded its fourth warmest November since record keeping began in 1880, according to NOAA's National Climatic Data Center. NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies rated November 2009 as the warmest November on record, beating the 2001 record by 0.02°C. NOAA classified the year-to-date period, January - November 2009, as the fifth warmest such period on record. The November satellite-measured temperatures for the lowest 8 km of the atmosphere were the warmest on record according to the University of Alabama Huntsville data set, or fifth warmest, according to the RSS data set.

Southern Hemisphere land areas had their warmest November on record including Australia, according to the Australian Bureau of Meteorology. November was 1.87°C (3.4°F) above average in Australia, and several statewide records were broken, with New South Wales, Victoria, and Tasmania, surpassing the previous largest maximum temperature anomaly recorded for an Australian state. The highest minimum temperature record for the continent was also broken, with an anomaly of 1.61°C (2.90°F) above average.

For the contiguous U.S., the average November temperature was 4.0°F above average, making it the 3rd warmest November in the 115-year record, according to the National Climatic Data Center. That's a pretty remarkable swing from October, which was the third coldest October on record. Delaware experienced its warmest November on record, Wisconsin and New Jersey their second warmest, and five states had their third warmest November (Maine, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Iowa, and North Dakota). Eighteen other states had an average temperature that ranked in the top ten. No states had below normal temperatures for the month.

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November 2009 Northern Hemisphere sea ice extent was the 3rd lowest since satellite measurements began in 1979, according to the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC). Only 2006 and 2007 saw lower arctic sea ice extent. During 10-day period in the first half of November, arctic ice extent decreased below the 2007 record minimum, but rose above record minimum levels by the middle of the month.

"Spirit, Draw Near", new song at Myspace

I have posted a song I wrote, "Spirit, Draw Near", at

It was performed by the Georgia Gospelites

at 45 South Cafe, in Norcross, on Nov. 7, 2009


Spirit, Draw Near
copyright 2006, Patricia M. Shannon
(verse can also be sung to tune of "Gathered Here" by Philip A. Porter)

We are here in the mystery of the hour,
join us as we come together,
in the love that is the highest power;
Spirit draw near.

Spirit draw near,
Spirit draw near,
in the love that is the highest power;
Spirit draw near.

All the woes of the world we put away,
as we search for higher meaning,
and a path that leads to wiser ways,
Spirit draw near

Spirit draw near,
Spirit draw near,
lead us on a path to wiser ways,
Spirit draw near.

In a world full of wondrous things to know,
we can be forever learning,
when we work together we can grow.
Spirit draw near

Spirit draw near,
Spirit draw near,
when we work together we can grow,
Spirit draw near.

Tree in California survives for more than 13,000 years

By Michael Reilly
updated 27 minutes ago

At the top of a small hill in suburban southern California, there is what appears to be a thicket of stunted, gnarled oak trees wedged between a pile of boulders. A passerby would likely miss this ancient, biological wonder.

The entire grove of trunks is in fact one plant, a newly discovered Palmer's oak (Quercus palmeri) that researchers estimate is over 13,000 years old, making it one of the oldest plants on Earth.

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At first glance, the scientists thought it was an isolated grove of trees, but something didn't add up: None of them produced fertile acorns, so the plants couldn't reproduce.

The trees were a little too similar in appearance, too — almost like identical twins. And Palmer's oaks typically don't grow in the hot, parched environs of Riverside County.

The team began to suspect they were looking at a clone.

Genetic analysis confirmed their suspicion. Each of the 70 stems are genetically identical; they are the same plant, currently growing in an oval 25 yards long and 8 yards wide.

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I would say that if they are "the same plant", they are not clones, and vice versa. A clone might start out as part of another organism, but it would not become a clone until it separated enough to be a separate organism.

The Software Development Life Cycle (SDLC)

It's a Small World - Pandas

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Mother of dead pregnant woman blasts EMTs

I certainly hope there is more to the store that makes it less revolting. If so, I will update this.

updated 4:13 p.m. ET, Tues., Dec . 22, 2009

NEW YORK - Two emergency medical technicians accused of refusing to help a dying pregnant woman are "inhuman," her mother said Tuesday. A lawyer for the EMTs argued his clients are being vilified in a rush to judgment.

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But lawyer Douglas Rosenthal said the facts will show that Jason Green and Melissa Jackson acted "appropriately" at the Au Bon Pain outlet in Brooklyn on Dec. 9.

The two were at the eatery when Eutisha Rennix, an employee, collapsed. Witnesses have said the EMTs told workers to call 911, then left when they were asked to help the 25-year-old woman.

Rennix died at a hospital shortly afterward, her baby too premature to survive.

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Fire Department spokesman Steve Ritea said that all FDNY members "take an oath to assist others whenever they're in need of emergency medical care. It's their sworn duty."

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Umbilical Cord Could Be New Source of Plentiful Stem Cells

ScienceDaily (Dec. 18, 2009) — Stem cells that could one day provide therapeutic options for muscle and bone disorders can be easily harvested from the tissue of the umbilical cord, just as the blood that goes through it provides precursor cells to treat some blood disorders, said University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine researchers in the online version of the Journal of Biomedicine and Biotechnology.

Public release date: 1-Oct-2009
Contact: Cathleen Genova
Cell Press
It's in the bank: Human cord blood reprogrammed into embryonic-like stem cells

Human umbilical cord blood cells may be far more versatile than previous research has indicated. Two independent studies, published by Cell Press in the October 2nd issue of the journal Cell Stem Cell, report that they have successfully reprogrammed human umbilical cord blood cells into cells with properties similar to human embryonic stem cells. The results are significant as they identify cord blood as a convenient source for generating cells with a theoretically limitless potential.

The FBI is investigating a hacker attack on Citigroup Inc.

If this is true, or even if it is not, it immediately raises the question - Is the FBI investigating the hacking of e-mails and breakins of climate researchers? If not, why not?

updated 2 hours, 11 minutes ago

WASHINGTON - The FBI is investigating a hacker attack on Citigroup Inc. that led to the theft of tens of millions of dollars, The Wall Street Journal reported Tuesday. The bank strenuously denied the report.

Citing anonymous government officials, the Journal reported that the hackers were connected to a Russian cyber gang. Two other computer systems, at least one of connected to a U.S. government agency, were also attacked.

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Break-Ins Climate Research Centers Show Desperation Of Global Warming Deniers

Richard Graves
Blogger/Online Campaigner, Global Campaign for Climate Action
Posted: December 8, 2009 12:07 AM

Some environmental leaders have been working to minimize the scandal of ClimateGate, by focusing on the fact the hacked email archive of East Anglia's Climate Research Unit has nothing, besides a few cherry-picked quotes taken out of context, that casts a shadow of a doubt upon validity of modern climate science. They are wrong. ClimateGate is a huge scandal, probably bigger than they even imagine.

The real scandal is not the email archive, or even how it was acquired, sorted, and uploaded to a Russian server, but rather the emerging evidence of a coordinated international campaign to target and harass climate scientists, break and enter into government climate labs, and misrepresent climate science through a sophisticated media infrastructure on the eve of the international climate talks.

One leaked archive could have been the result of an aggrieved staff member or rogue hacker, out to grind a political axe or wreak revenge upon a colleague. However, the University of Victoria was targeted in a similar attack, when two people disguised as network computer technicians attempted to penetrate the security of the facility and access the data servers of the Canadian Centre for Climate Modeling and Analysis. When challenged by an employee, the two individuals fled the scene. The network penetration effort was confirmed by University spokespeople in the National Post and was reported by Kevin Grandia of DeSmogBlog.

"This is disturbing news and it shows that there is an organized criminal campaign that is going to great lengths to infiltrate secure facilities and steal private data," said Jim Hoggan, author of the new book Climate Cover-Up: The Crusade to Deny Global Warming. "We don't know who is behind these criminal acts, but we hope they will eventually be unmasked by police."

This campaign has been proved to be international in scope, with criminal acts of breaking and entering probable in both the UK and Canada, as well as coordinated with the sophisticated communications infrastructure founded and built by former tobacco lobbyists that were hired by fossil fuel interests, such as ExxonMobil, to cast doubt on the links between the sale and use of fossil fuels and the changing of the world's climate. This infrastructure was detailed by within Hoggan's book, as well as documented in extensive detail by projects like

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6 December 2009
The Canadian Centre for Climate Modelling And Analysis at the University of Victoria has been broken into, another in a series of security breaches in an attempt to discredit climate science.

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If so, the question remains, who will get to the bottom of ClimateGate? This could be a scandal bigger than anybody has imagined.

18 days ago (12/3/2009)
Two weeks ago, thousands of illegally hacked emails from a British climate research center were dumped on a Russian webserver, timed to influence the politics of of the international climate negotiations commencing next week in Copenhagen, Denmark.

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It's a Small World - Phillipines

Monday, December 21, 2009

Warming Climate Chills Sonoran Desert's Spring Flowers

ScienceDaily (Dec. 20, 2009) — Global warming is giving a boost to Sonoran Desert plants that have an edge during cold weather, according to new research.

Although the overall numbers of winter annuals have declined since 1982, species that germinate and grow better at low temperatures are becoming more common.

"It's an unexpected result -- that global warming has led to an increase in cold-adapted species," said lead author Sarah Kimball, a research associate at the University of Arizona in Tucson. "Because the winter rains are arriving later, they are occurring under colder temperatures."

Climate change is shifting the winter storm track so the Sonoran Desert's winter rains now generally begin in late November or early December, rather than during the balmy days of late October.

Therefore seeds that require winter rains must sprout during the cooler days of December.

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"Even though overall the winter growing season is getting warmer, what's important in this system is that the growing season is initiated at a later date under colder temperatures," Kimball said. "This demonstrates that the response of organisms to climate change can be unexpected."

Fewer Migratory Birds in Dutch Woods Due to Climate Change

ScienceDaily (Dec. 21, 2009) — All insect-eating migratory birds who winter in Africa and breed in the Dutch woods have decreased in numbers since 1984.

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This decline is dramatic for certain species: nightingales have declined by 37 percent, wood warblers by 73 percent and Ictarine warblers by 85 percent.

Due to climate change, spring is starting earlier and earlier in the year. On average, trees are in leaf two weeks earlier than 25 years ago, and the caterpillars who eat the young leaves are also appearing two weeks earlier. The eggs of many birds hatch at the moment when there are lots of caterpillars in the woods so that their young have enough to eat.

The researchers already knew that two of the woodland bird species have not been able to adapt their breeding periods sufficiently to the warming climate. Great tits and pied flycatchers now breed too late for the caterpillar peak.

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In Northern Europe, where spring has hardly shifted, the woodland birds are not declining in numbers. The resident birds in Dutch woods do not show a decline either. In addition, biologists do not see any decline in the Africa migrants who breed in our marshes.

Taking all of this together, the researchers conclude that the decline is not only the result of changing circumstances in Africa. In their view, the decline is mainly due to long-distance migrants not having adapted their migration sufficiently to the earlier appearance of the caterpillars.

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Daily Pot Smoking May Hasten Onset of Psychosis

ScienceDaily (Dec. 21, 2009) — Progression to daily marijuana use in adolescence may hasten the onset of symptoms leading up to psychosis, an Emory University study finds. The study was published in the November issue of the American Journal of Psychiatry.

The researchers analyzed data from 109 hospitalized patients who were experiencing their first psychotic episode. The results showed that patients who had a history of using marijuana, or cannabis, and increased to daily pot smoking experienced both psychotic and pre-psychotic symptoms at earlier ages.

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Marijuana is the most abused illicit substance among people with schizophrenia, the most extreme form of psychosis, and previous research has shown that smoking pot is likely a risk factor for the disease.

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Your Christmas Tree Has Seven Times More DNA Than You Do!

ScienceDaily (Dec. 21, 2009) — Take a close look at your Christmas tree -- it has seven times more genetic material (DNA) than you do! Why this is so is still largely unknown, but now the DNA of the spruce is going to be mapped by Swedish researchers from Umeå Plant Science Center (a collaboration between the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences (SLU) and Umeå University), the Royal Institute of Technology (KTH), and the Karolinska Institute (KI), with the aid of a SEK 75 million grant from the Knut and Alice Wallenberg Foundation.

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Apparently conifers managed as early as 300 million years ago to create an extremely successful genetic make-up that has allowed them to dominate the globe, but what does it look like? All conifers have twelve chromosomes, but they are extremely large: a cell from a spruce or pine has seven times as much DNA as a human cell does. Why do conifers have so much DNA? Does it have to do with their having thrived for millions of years on earth, and do they really have more genes than you and I, or are their genes simply more 'diluted'? This is not known, but their enormous amount of DNA has entailed that scientists have not dared to tackle a mapping of the complete genome of coniferous trees.

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Global Warming Likely to Be Amplified by Slow Changes to Earth Systems, Geologists Say

ScienceDaily (Dec. 21, 2009) — The kinds of increases in atmospheric carbon dioxide taking place today could have a significantly larger effect on global temperatures than previously thought, according to a new study led by Yale University geologists.

Their findings appear December 20 in the advanced online edition of Nature Geoscience.

The team demonstrated that only a relatively small rise in atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) was associated with a period of substantial warming in the mid- and early-Pliocene era, between three to five million years ago, when temperatures were approximately 3 to 4 degrees Celsius warmer than they are today.

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To do this, the team focused on the most recent episode of sustained global warmth with geography similar to today's. Their reconstructed CO2 concentrations for the past five million years was used to estimate Earth-system climate sensitivity for a fully equilibrated state of the planet, and found that a relatively small rise in CO2 levels was associated with substantial global warming 4.5 million years ago. They also found that the global temperature was 2 to 3 degrees Celsius higher than today while CO2 levels were only between about 365 and 415 parts per million (ppm) -- similar to today's concentration of about 386 ppm.

"This work and other ancient climate reconstructions reveal that Earth's climate is more sensitive to atmospheric carbon dioxide than is discussed in policy circles," Pagani said. "Since there is no indication that the future will behave differently than the past, we should expect a couple of degrees of continued warming even if we held CO2 concentrations at the current level."

Must be Santa

Bob Dylan

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Aspirin, Tylenol May Decrease Effectiveness of Vaccines

ScienceDaily (Dec. 2, 2009) — With flu season in full swing and the threat of H1N1 looming, demand for vaccines is at an all-time high. Although those vaccines are expected to be effective, University of Missouri researchers have found further evidence that some over-the-counter drugs, such as aspirin and Tylenol, that inhibit certain enzymes could impact the effectiveness of vaccines.

"If you're taking aspirin regularly, which many people do for cardiovascular treatment, or acetaminophen (Tylenol) for pain and fever and get a flu shot, there is a good chance that you won't have a good antibody response," said Charles Brown, associate professor of veterinary pathobiology

in the MU College of Veterinary Medicine. "These drugs block the enzyme COX-1, which works in tissues throughout the body. We have found that if you block COX-1, you might be decreasing the amount of antibodies your body is producing, and you need high amounts of antibodies to be protected."

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I don't find this surprising. Some years ago, when I was taking time-release aspirin before I went to bed, for back pain, I started gettomg sick a lot. Then I read that aspirin depresses the immune system, and stopped taking it. I stopped getting sic so often.

Big Freeze Plunged Europe Into Ice Age in Months

ScienceDaily (Nov. 30, 2009) — In the film The Day After Tomorrow, the world enters the icy grip of a new glacial period within the space of just a few weeks. Now new research shows that this scenario may not be so far from the truth after all.

William Patterson, from the University of Saskatchewan in Canada, and his colleagues have shown that switching off the North Atlantic circulation can force the Northern hemisphere into a mini 'ice age' in a matter of months. Previous work has indicated that this process would take tens of years.

Around 12,800 years ago the northern hemisphere was hit by a mini ice-age, known by scientists as the Younger Dryas, and nicknamed the 'Big Freeze', which lasted around 1300 years. Geological evidence shows that the Big Freeze was brought about by a sudden influx of freshwater, when the glacial Lake Agassiz in North America burst its banks and poured into the North Atlantic and Arctic Oceans. This vast pulse, a greater volume than all of North America's Great Lakes combined, diluted the North Atlantic conveyor belt and brought it to a halt.

Without the warming influence of this ocean circulation temperatures across the Northern hemisphere plummeted, ice sheets grew and human civilisation fell apart.

Previous evidence from Greenland ice cores has indicated that this sudden change in climate occurred over the space of a decade or so. Now new data shows that the change was amazingly abrupt, taking place over the course of a few months, or a year or two at most.

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Looking ahead to the future Patterson says there is no reason why a 'Big Freeze' shouldn't happen again. "If the Greenland ice sheet melted suddenly it would be catastrophic," he says.

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This kind of scenario would not discount evidence pointing toward global warming — after all, it leans on the Greenland ice sheet melting.

"We could say that global warming could lead to a dramatic cooling," Patterson told LiveScience. "This should serve as a further warning rather than a pass."

"People assume that we're political, that we're either pro-global-warming or anti-global-warming, when it's really neither," Patterson added. "Our goal is just to understand climate."


At this point, I am not very optimistic that we humans will act wisely enough to avoid very bad results from global warming, but I certainly hope it is gradual enough to at least avoid stopping the North Atlantic conveyor belt. The article referenced below gives hope for that.

And if it does, that means that the heat from more southern areas would no longer be transferred from more southern areas to more northern areas, so those southern areas would become even hotter than otherwise.

ScienceDaily (Dec. 4, 2009) — The Gulf Stream system is known for its impact on Europe's mild climate. For quite some time oceanographers and climate scientists worry that its strength could decline due to the climate change. Unexpected help could come from the ocean currents south of Africa: researchers of the Leibniz Institute of Marine Sciences (IFM-GEOMAR) and the University of Cape Town have discovered that the Agulhas Current transports more saline waters into the Atlantic. These could potentially contribute to stabilize the Gulf Stream system. The study will appear on 26 November in the scientific journals Nature.

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Undocumented Volcano Contributed to Extremely Cold Decade from 1810-1819

Undocumented Volcano Contributed to Extremely Cold Decade from 1810-1819

ScienceDaily (Dec. 7, 2009) — South Dakota State University researchers and their colleagues elsewhere in America and in France have found compelling evidence of a previously undocumented large volcanic eruption that occurred exactly 200 years ago, in 1809. The discovery helps explain the record cold decade from 1810-1819.

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Cole-Dai said climate records show that not only were 1816 -- the so-called "year without a summer" -- and the following years very cold, the entire decade of 1810-1819 is probably the coldest for at least the past 500 years.

Scientists have long been aware that the massive and violent eruption in 1815 of an Indonesian volcano called Tambora, which killed more than 88,000 people in Indonesia, had caused the worldwide cold weather in 1816 and after. Volcanic eruptions have a cooling effect on the planet because they release sulfur gases into the atmosphere that form sulfuric acid aerosols that block sunlight. But the cold temperatures in the early part of the decade, before that eruption, suggest Tambora alone could not have caused the climatic changes of the decade.

"Our new evidence is that the volcanic sulfuric acid came down at the opposite poles at precisely the same time, and this means that the sulfate is from a single, large eruption of a volcano in 1809," Cole-Dai said. "The Tambora eruption and the undocumented 1809 eruption are together responsible for the unusually cold decade."

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See also:

Diesel Truck Engine Made With Barely Measurable Emissions

ScienceDaily (Dec. 7, 2009) — Just three months after the Euro 5 Norm for exhaust emissions went into force for all new car models, researchers at the Technische Universitaet Muenchen (TUM) have demonstrated an engine that is already close to meeting the more stringent Euro 6 emissions standard. A research team headed by Prof. Georg Wachtmeister from the Chair of Internal Combustion Engines has succeeded in reducing the pollutants in exhaust emissions to barely measurable levels.

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The Euro 6 Norm, scheduled to come into force by 2014, is a tough standard by any measure. The directive stipulates emission levels that are barely measurable. A diesel engine, for instance, may emit a mere 5 milligrams of soot particles and 80 milligrams of nitrogen oxides per kilometer.

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Good news, although it doesn't sound like it reduces CO2.

Genny Nelson served up dignity at the Sisters of the Road Cafe for 30 years

By John Foyston, The Oregonian
December 10, 2009, 9:45PM

Genny Nelson is not a big or imposing woman, but she has stared down a drunk brandishing a chair and talked a distraught kitchen staffer into putting down the chef's knife he was clutching at Sisters of the Road Cafe.

When you sense the granitic commitment to ideals that underlies her shyness, you can envision her breaking up two guys going at each other with a broken wine bottle and a hay hook, and standing up to a man about to bust a chair over his buddy's head.

Nelson, 57, will retire Saturday from Sisters of the Road in Old Town after three decades of helping replace the taint of charity with dignity. She affirmed the nonprofit's commitment to nonviolence and the "gentle personalism" of the Catholic Workers movement.

Her retirement celebration Saturday afternoon at Sisters of the Road will happen exactly 30 years after the cafe's opening celebration, a month after Nelson and co-founder Sandy Gooch opened its doors Nov. 7, 1979.

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Sisters was, and is, a place where you can use your food stamps for a meal -- Sisters and Nelson helped make that a federal law. It's a place where, if you lack the buck and a quarter for a meal -- the price hasn't changed in 30 years -- you can work 15 minutes to pay for your lunch or half an hour to earn enough to treat a pal to lunch, and imagine how lordly that bit of generosity might feel to a man who perhaps owns little other than his good name.

"What makes Sisters so special is that how we do what we do is the most important thing," said Monica Beemer, executive director of Sisters of the Road since 2005. "That's Genny's legacy: It's about building relationships and community and challenging the violence within ourselves and society; it's about seeing each other every day and sharing stories.

"Genny's done a great job of institutionalizing that, because nonviolence informs everything we do, and she reminds us to stand up for nonviolence not just when it's easy to do so, but when it's hard."

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Nelson, who's been diabetic since she was 8, is retiring because she's running out of steam. "This is still the best place in the world to work, but you have to have energy and I just don't have it anymore."

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Social Scientists Build Case for 'Survival of the Kindest'

ScienceDaily (Dec. 9, 2009) — Researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, are challenging long-held beliefs that human beings are wired to be selfish. In a wide range of studies, social scientists are amassing a growing body of evidence to show we are evolving to become more compassionate and collaborative in our quest to survive and thrive.

In contrast to "every man for himself" interpretations of Charles Darwin's theory of evolution by natural selection, Dacher Keltner, a UC Berkeley psychologist and author of "Born to be Good: The Science of a Meaningful Life," and his fellow social scientists are building the case that humans are successful as a species precisely because of our nurturing, altruistic and compassionate traits.

They call it "survival of the kindest."

"Because of our very vulnerable offspring, the fundamental task for human survival and gene replication is to take care of others," said Keltner, co-director of UC Berkeley's Greater Good Science Center. "Human beings have survived as a species because we have evolved the capacities to care for those in need and to cooperate. As Darwin long ago surmised, sympathy is our strongest instinct."

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"I've found that parents who start consciously cultivating gratitude and generosity in their children quickly see how much happier and more resilient their children become," said Carter, author of "Raising Happiness: 10 Simple Steps for More Joyful Kids and Happier Parents" which will be in bookstores in February 2010. "What is often surprising to parents is how much happier they themselves also become."

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One Tin Soldier

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Jobs Crisis Fact Sheet

I have excerpted facts I think of particular interest. Please click on the link to see more.

By Anna Turner,
December 4, 2009

(Note that all numbers are current as of December 4, 2009. States numbers are current as of November 20, 2009.)

The jobs crisis

* Number unemployed: 15.4 million (up from 7.5 million in December 2007)
* Portion of unemployed who have been jobless more than six months: 38.3%
* Total jobs lost during the recession: 8.0 million
* Jobs lost in November, 2009: 11,000
* Jobs needed to return to pre-recession unemployment rate: 10.9 million
* Number of jobseekers per job opening: 6.3
* Unemployment rate: 10.0%
* Underemployment rate: 17.2%; Share of workers un- or underemployed: more than 1 in 6
* Under- and unemployed, marginally attached and involuntary part-time workers: 26.9 million

Hardships and the safety net

* Americans with no health insurance in 2008: 46.3 million
* Drop in children covered through parents’ employers, 2000 to 2007: 3.4 million
* Annual Social Security benefit for average retiree: $13,922; Share of older Americans receiving all their income from Social Security: more than 1 out of 4
* Number of children in poverty in 2008: 14.1 million (over one-third)
* Drop in real median income from 2007 to 2008: 3.6% (largest one-year drop since 1967)
* Growth rate of nominal, hourly wages of production workers over the last three months: 1.7%
* Additional people covered by Medicaid/SCHIP in 2008: 3 million

American Recovery and Reinvestment Act

* Average weekly unemployment benefit in October (including additional $25 per week from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act): $334
* Number of additional people each week receiving unemployment compensation because of ARRA in October: 3.9 million
* Average monthly cost of COBRA with American Recovery and Reinvestment Act subsidy: $370; Without American Recovery and Reinvestment Act subsidy: $1,057
* Jobs lost since February 2008: 2.7 million ; Jobs likely lost since February 2008 without passage of ARRA: 4.0 to 4.5 million