Monday, December 31, 2012

Some good news for tigers

Dec. 26, 2012 — The Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) has announced significant progress for tigers in three key landscapes across the big cat's range due to better law enforcement, protection of additional habitat, and strong government partnerships.

The successes are much-needed good news as tiger numbers worldwide continue to hover at all-time lows due to the combined threat of poaching, loss of prey, and habitat destruction. WCS estimates that only 3,200 tigers exist in the wild.

The news begins in southwestern India where WCS research and conservation efforts that began 25 years ago now show a major rebound of tigers in the Western Ghats region of Karnataka State. Over 600 individuals have been identified to date from camera trap photos during the last decade in this mountainous landscape. In Nagarahole and Bandipur National Parks, tigers have actually reached saturation levels, with surplus young tigers spilling out into forest-reserves and dispersing using secured forest corridors through a landscape that holds over a million human beings. The combination of strict government-led anti-poaching patrols, voluntary relocation of villages away from tiger habitats, and the vigilant local presence of WCS conservation partners watching over tigers has led to the rebound of big-cat populations and their prey. In newer tiger reserves including Bhadra and Kudremukh, numbers have increased by as much as 50 percent after years of neglect and chronic poaching were tackled.


Stress and Noise


Even sounds you can't hear can have a powerful affect on your nervous system. One example is the "infrasound" in the roar of a tiger.

A tiger's intimidating roar has the power to paralyze animals. Even experienced human trainers are stunned. "We suspect that this is caused by the low frequencies and loudness of the sound," says Elizabeth von Muggenthaler, a bioacoustician from the Fauna Communications Research Institute in North Carolina. "Humans can hear frequencies from 20 hertz to 20,000 hertz, but whales, elephants, rhinos, and tigers can produce sounds below 20 hertz."


Not just loud or sudden noises provoke a stress response. Chronic low-level noise also negatively influences the brain and behavior. Whether from the road or in the office, low-intensity noise has a subtle yet insidious effect on our health and well-being.

Noise at home or school can affect children's ability to learn. Compared to kids from quieter neighborhoods, children living near airports or busy highways tend to have lower reading scores and develop language skills more slowly. Psychiatric hospitalizations are higher in noisy communities. Bad moods, lack of concentration, fatigue, and poor work performance can result from continual exposure to unpleasant noise.

According to Dr. Alice H. Suter, an audiologist at the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health: "Included in noise-related problems are high blood pressure, peptic ulcers, cardiovascular deaths, strokes, suicides, degradation of the immune system, and impairment of learning. Noise is also associated with an increase in aggression and a decrease in cooperation."

Even everyday traffic noise can harm the health and well-being of children. In the first study to look at the non-auditory health effects of typical ambient community noise, it was shown that chronic low-level noise from local traffic raised levels of stress hormones in children, as well as their blood pressure and heart rates.

"We found that even low-level noise can be a stressor. It elevates psychophysiological factors and triggers more symptoms of anxiety and nervousness," says environmental psychologist Gary Evans of Cornell University, an international expert on environmental stress, such as noise, crowding, and air pollution.


Women respond differently to loud noise, too. A study at Texas A&M University found that "women have a lower threshold to experience noise as stressful," according to psychologist Dr. Mary W. Meagher. "Our data suggest that women may be more sensitive to noise stress than men."


"The U.S. Census Bureau reports that Americans cite noise – more than crime, litter, traffic, or inefficient government – as the biggest problem affecting their neighborhoods. 138 million people are regularly exposed to noise levels labeled as excessive by the Environmental Protection Agency."8

British investigators found that a greater amount of neighborhood problems, including noise, was associated with residents being three times as likely to say their physical function was impaired and twice as likely to report poorer health. "What we think is happening is that neighborhood stress influences the biological processes that promote disease risk," said Dr. Andrew Steptoe of University College London.

RIP excessively loud TV commercials

People have described Rep. Anna Eshoo, who originated the law, as a hero.

In several places I lived, somebody would move in and start playing their music very loud. My neighbors said I was a hero because I got them to stop. If you've ever had this problem, you know that just asking them to turn down the sound doesn't work, although of course one needs to do so and give them a chance to act decently.

But in the manufactured home community I currently live, several years ago, a family moved in that had a very loud boombox in their vehicle, with very loud bass. They would turn it on as loud as it would go for hours. People around them moved out, and more noisy people moved in, causing more people to move out and be replaced by noisy ones. The only reason I and my next door neighbor are still here is because of the cost of moving. I do plan on doing so next year. However, I worry that I might use a lot of my savings to move someplace quiet, and have the same thing happen.

I have called the police repeatedly, but the next day it's the same thing. A nearby neighbor asked me why I was so "mean". I told him the noise tortured me. The result was that he got noisier. He and some others come home at 2 or 3 in the morning with their truck stereos blasting, disturbing people's sleep.

One time, when someone had their truck radio on really loud, I saw a little girl on a bicycle ride up and talk to them. They turned the sound down. A short while later, the manager's wife came along pushing her baby in a buggy. After she was gone, they ramped up the sound again.

The only way I have found effective in stopping them is to go out in the middle of the night and blow my stadium horn and wake them up. Then it's quiet for a couple of weeks.

But I'm not called a hero now. People accuse me of being a racist because my neighbors are from Mexico. Why is it racist to think that they are capable of learning to be considerate human beings? It isn't because they are incapable of learning. My next door neighbor is prone to playing the stereo in her house so loudly the bass comes into my home. A couple of years ago, when I had a job, she asked me to let her son mow my yard, for money. (She can't speak English, her son acted as interpreter.) I think she had been keeping her noise down for a short while, so I said yes. All summer she kept her noise down. When the weather changed, and it was obvious I wouldn't need the grass cut any more that summer, she was back to playing her stereo very loudly by the next day.

By Mike M. Ahlers, CNN
updated 7:56 AM EST, Thu December 13, 2012

Say goodbye to one of the greatest irritants of modern life: television commercials that are MUCH LOUDER THAN THE SHOW YOU ARE WATCHING!

Beginning Thursday [Dec. 13, 2012], the Federal Communications Commission is barring broadcasters and pay TV providers from airing excessively loud commercials, saying ads must maintain the "same average volume" as the programs they accompany.

The move -- which undoubtedly will make many TV viewers happier, and save countless marriages -- addresses a problem that, regulators say, is almost as old as television itself.

Loud commercials have been a leading source of complaints to the FCC since its consumer call center began reporting top complaints in 2002.

Since January 2008, the FCC has received about 1,000 complaints and about 5,000 inquiries, the commission said.

Congress mandated the change in the aptly named Commercial Advertisement Loudness Mitigation, or CALM, Act in 2010. Last year, the FCC set a December 13, 2012, deadline for full compliance.


The CALM Act bill had wide bipartisan support, passing the Senate unanimously and the House by a voice vote.

Bill supporters Rep. Anna Eshoo, D-California, and Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-Rhode Island, and industry representatives plan an event in Washington on Thursday to mark the full implementation of the law.


The FCC says it has granted two temporary waivers to the law: one to South Georgia Governmental Services Authority, a municipal cable system, because of financial hardship; and to WPFO in Waterville, Maine, which asked for a grant because it is relocating its facilities.

Non-commercial television stations are exempt from the act. Political ads, however, must comply.

The FCC will not monitor compliance, but instead will rely on consumer complaints to assist the commission to enforce the rule.

Complaints can be filed by using the online complaint form, 2000G, at

Economic Environment During Infancy Linked With Substance Use, Delinquent Behavior in Adolescence

Dec. 31, 2012 — The larger economic environment during infancy may be associated with subsequent substance use and delinquent behavior during adolescence, according to a report published Online First by Archives of General Psychiatry, a JAMA Network publication.

The current economic crisis has received much attention from policy makers, although the focus has been on short-term effects, while the long-term influences of such financial crises, especially on young children, have generally not been examined, according to the study background.


According to the study results, exposure to a 1 percent deviation from mean regional unemployment rates at the age of 1 year was associated with an increase in the odds ratios of engaging in marijuana use (1.09), smoking (1.07), alcohol use (1.06), arrest (1.17), gang affiliation (1.09), and petty (1.06) and major theft (1.11). No significant associations were noted with the use of hard drugs and assaultive behavior, the results indicate.


Benefits of higher oxygen, breathing device persist after infancy

Public release date: 26-Dec-2012
Contact: Robert Bock
NIH/National Institute of Child Health and Human Development

Preterm infants still better off as toddlers, NIH network study confirms

By the time they reached toddlerhood, very preterm infants originally treated with higher oxygen levels continued to show benefits when compared to a group treated with lower oxygen levels, according to a follow-up study by a research network of the National Institutes of Health that confirms earlier network findings. Moreover, infants treated with a respiratory therapy commonly prescribed for adults with obstructive sleep apnea fared as well as those who received the traditional therapy for infant respiratory difficulties, the new study found.


Inequality destroys

“The causes which destroyed the ancient republics were numerous; but in Rome, one principal cause was the vast inequality of fortunes.”
~Noah Webster

When you think about the significance of income inequality – one need only look to history. We know that income inequality leads to political instability and that leads to potential revolutions or implosions within government. There was a day when the Romans was the most powerful people in the world and they too thought that day would never end … but it did. The British thought the same. Ghengis Khan. Napoleon. The Ottoman Empire in the Middle East and the Romanov Dynasty in Russia.

They were all powerful until they weren’t. Income inequality is THE issue that we must address.

Congress Collapses from Exhaustion After Doing Job

December 31, 2012
Posted by Andy Borowitz

(The Borowitz Report)—The House of Representatives adjourned this evening after the legislative body collapsed from exhaustion brought on by hours of doing its job.

Hundreds of congressmen complained of headaches, dizzy spells, and extreme fatigue after putting in what sources called “a six, maybe seven-hour day.”

With the nation headed over the fiscal cliff, there was no indication when Congress might reconvene, since many of its members had to be hospitalized after what was described as their near-total physical meltdown.

Read more:

The Story Behind the 47 Percent Video

By David Corn | Mon Dec. 31, 2012

Editor's Note: This article is adapted from Corn's ebook, 47 Percent: Uncovering the Romney Video that Rocked the 2012 Election.

Hillary Clinton, Obama Top Most Admired List

A new Gallup poll finds Hillary Clinton is the "most admired woman" for the 11th year in a row while President Obama is the "most admired man" for the 5th year in a row.

Birdsong study pecks at theory that music is uniquely human

Friday, December 21, 2012
By Carol Clark, Emory University

A bird listening to birdsong may experience some of the same emotions as a human listening to music, suggests a new study on white-throated sparrows, published in Frontiers of Evolutionary Neuroscience.

“We found that the same neural reward system is activated in female birds in the breeding state that are listening to male birdsong, and in people listening to music that they like,” says Sarah Earp, who led the research as an undergraduate at Emory University.

For male birds listening to another male’s song, it was a different story: They had an amygdala response that looks similar to that of people when they hear discordant, unpleasant music.


During the non-breeding season, both sexes of sparrows use song to establish and maintain dominance in relationships. During the breeding season, however, a male singing to a female is almost certainly courting her, while a male singing to another male is challenging an interloper.

For the females in the breeding state every region of the mesolimbic reward pathway that has been reported to respond to music in humans, and that has a clear avian counterpart, responded to the male birdsong. Females in the non-breeding state, however, did not show a heightened response.

And the testosterone-treated males listening to another male sing showed an amygdala response, which may correlate to the amygdala response typical of humans listening to the kind of music used in the scary scenes of horror movies.


Groundbreaking air-cleaner saves polluting industrials

Public release date: 28-Dec-2012
Contact: Matthew Johnson
University of Copenhagen

Industries across Europe are threatened with shutdown as European Union emission rules for Volatile Organic Compounds are tightened. Now an air cleaning invention from the University of Copenhagen has proven its ability to remove these compounds. And in the process they have helped a business in Danish town Aarhus improve relations to angry neighbors.

Inventor, Copenhagen chemist Matthew Johnson, presented evidence for the air cleaning invention at the conference "First International Education Forum on Environment and Energy Science" held on Hawaii December 14 to 18.

In deepest secrecy the inventor Matthew Johnson from the Department of Chemistry at the University of Copenhagen has been collaborating with an investor, INFUSER, in mounting and testing a revolutionary air cleaning device at the industrial plant, "Jysk Miljoerens" in Danish town Aarhus. The reason for keeping the testing secret was that they wanted to be absolutely sure that they could in fact remove the pollution before going public. Now their measurements are concluded and the results are in. And the device actually works.

At the department of Chemistry atmospheric chemist Matthew Johnson invented and patented the air cleaning method which is based on the natural ability of the Earth atmosphere to clean itself. In a process triggered by sunlight, polluting gasses rising into the sky start forming particles when they come across naturally occurring compounds such as ozone. The newly formed particles are washed out of the atmosphere by rain. Once the rain hits the ground, the atmosphere is clean again. In other words the whole process is nature's own purifications works, explains Professor Johnson.

"I have investigated the self-cleaning mechanism of the atmosphere for years. Suddenly I realized, that the mechanism is so simple, that we could wrap it in a box and use it to clean indoor air. This makes for a better indoor climate, and in this particular case it also removes smells from this industrial process allowing the company to stay in business and making the neighbours happy," says Matthew Johnson.


The whole process is housed in five aluminium boxes on the roof of the Aarhus business. Compared to traditional methods the new process outshines by removing pollution rather than diluting it, as is the case when we send smoke up a chimney. The method requires no filters, so maintenance is inexpensive. It consumes very little energy, so its climate impact is negligible. Finally it removes the need for a chimney which would have been costly to erect.


Cave dwelling nettle discovered in China

Public release date: 28-Dec-2012
Contact: Alex Monro

South West China, Myanmar and Northern Vietnam contain one of the oldest exposed outcrops of limestone in the world. Within this area are thousands of caves and gorges. It is only recently that botanists have sought to explore the caves for plants. This exploration is yielding many new species new to science, that are known only from these habitats. The current study was published in the open access journal PhytoKeys.

Kew botanist and nettle expert Alex Monro says, "When my Chinese colleague Wei Yi-Gang from the Guangxi Institute of Botany first mentioned cave-dwelling plants to me, I thought that he was mis-translating a Chinese word into English. When we stepped into our first cave, Yangzi cave, I was spell-bound. It had an eerie moonscape look to it and all I could see were clumps of plants in the nettle family growing in very dark condition".

The plants do not grow in complete darkness but do grow in extremely low light levels, deep within the entrance caverns of the caves (sometimes, in as little as 0.04% full sunlight). The British and Chinese authors have been collecting plants from the Nettle family in this limestone landscape for several years and have just published a paper describing three new species, one from a cave and another two from deep gorges.


Study reports racial disparities in pediatric appendicitis treatment tied to hospital type

Public release date: 28-Dec-2012
Contact: Sally Garneski
American College of Surgeons

Study authors explain that findings published in Journal of American College of Surgeons point to the need for further research on why these racial disparities exist and what preventive interventions can be developed

CHICAGO (December 28, 2012): When researchers from UCLA Medical Center investigated the link between racial disparities and appendicitis outcomes in children, they found that the type of hospital in which black, Hispanic and other minority patients receive care—community, children's or county—affects their odds of developing a perforated appendix. The study published in the January issue of the Journal of the American College of Surgeons is a first-of-its-kind look at the role hospital type plays in race-based treatment variances among this patient subset.


"Appendicitis is a time-dependent disease process that leads to more a complicated medical outcome, and that outcome, perforated appendicitis, has increased hospital costs and increased burden to both the patient and society," according to study author Stephen Shew, MD, FACS, associate professor of surgery, UCLA Medical Center, and a pediatric surgeon at Mattel Children's hospital, both in Los Angeles.


After accounting for age, income level and other known factors that increase risk for a perforated appendix, researchers found that at community hospitals, Hispanic children were 23 percent more likely to experience appendix perforation than white children, and Asian children were 34 percent more likely than white children to experience appendix perforation. Further, Hispanic patients treated at children's hospitals were 18 percent more likely to develop this complication than white patients. Odds of appendix perforation did not differ by race within county hospitals. Researchers also found that black patients treated at children's and county hospitals had a higher risk of appendix perforation compared with black patients treated at community hospitals.


Dr. Shew stressed that further research is still needed on a variety of issues, including whether there is a link between language barriers and understanding symptoms of appendicitis and access to care. "We don't know what explains these findings; however we suspect that there are some other barriers in play," Dr. Shew said. This discovery shows that a critical piece of the puzzle—what is happening with the child and the parents from the time they first discover the symptoms of appendicitis to the time they seek care—is still missing.


Sunday, December 30, 2012

Myths about charitable giving

By Ken Stern 12/27/2012

1. Charities are principally dedicated to serving the poor and needy.

The term “charity” is associated with helping the poor and downtrodden, but American charities — 1.1 million organizations with $1.5 trillion in annual revenue — make up a large, rapidly growing economic sector that includes health care, higher education, scientific research, social services and the arts.


2. Donors should reward charities that have low overhead.

The notion that charities should put as much money as possible into services and as little as possible into overhead expenses is widely accepted. Overhead ratios, which measure the relationship between a charity’s income and expenses, are one factor in popular rating systems such as Charity Navigator and the Better Business Bureau’s Wise Giving Alliance.


But charities need to spend on research, training and financial systems, all classified as “overhead,” to be effective. Those that shortchange these investments — and many do — are less likely to achieve their goals. The American Red Cross, for instance, struggled during Hurricanes Katrina and Sandy in part because it hadn’t invested enough in the infrastructure necessary to handle complex emergency relief.

That lack of investment is partly due to public pressure, rather than a shortage of funding. When then-Red Cross chief executive Bernadine Healy tried to appropriate unused money from the 9/11 Liberty Fund to correct weaknesses in the group’s broader emergency response capacity, she was forced to resign.


3. Tax incentives are critical to charitable giving.

People with income in the lowest quintile give a higher percentage of their earnings to charity than do more wealthy Americans. This pattern persists despite the fact that low earners have less disposable income and rarely take advantage of itemized tax deductions for charitable donations.


5. It is easy to find a good charity to support.


Finding good charities takes time. It means using the few organizations, such as GiveWell, that do in-depth studies of charities’ effectiveness.


There's Only One Way To Fix The Deficit — And Actually It's Totally Painless

Joe Weisenthal | Dec. 28, 2012

People who insist that the US has a gigantic "spending problem" are ignorant of what really drives the deficit and the national debt, as Henry Blodget easily demonstrated in a series of charts.

Closing the deficit is not just about lowering spending, relative to GDP, but also about increasing revenue from our very low levels.

So how is that accomplished?

When people talk about the deficit, they almost always use the "pain" metaphor.


So this is just a popular idea: Take the pain now, be redeemed.

The good news is that in economics and when talking about the deficit it doesn't need to work that way! Fixing the debt is painless!

That's because the primary driver of deficits is a lack of growth.

A chart that everyone needs to have seared into their brains is this one, which shows the deficit as a percentage of GDP (red line) vs. the unemployment rate (blue line).


For 60 years (!) the pattern has held. When unemployment drops, the deficit as a percentage of GDP drops. When unemployment rises, the deficit rises.


This chart shows spending as a percent of GDP (red line) vs. the unemployment rate (blue line). Want to get the red line down to its historical range closer to 22 percent of GDP? Improve the unemployment rate! This makes total logical sense, of course, since lower unemployment implies reduced spending on all kinds or programs.


With zero actual "belt tightening" over the last few years, the deficit as a percent of GDP has been falling at its fastest pace since WWII, all thanks to people re-entering the workforce, and the pain of the economy being reduced.


In the debate over fiscal policy, you frequently hear liberals argue: "It's not time to deal with the deficit, we need to fix the economy first and then fix the deficit when the economy is stronger." While this has merit as a political concept, it's actually giving into a false frame that dealing with the deficit and dealing with unemployment are two separate things that you do at different times. Steps you take to improve unemployment are deficit reduction measures, as the above chart from IBD shows. While the government has done, technically, nothing to address the deficit in the last few years, the deficit is shrinking (relative to GDP) merely because the economy has improved, and more people are going back to work. If unemployment drops to 7 percent, or 6.5 percent, or 6 percent, we'll get quite a bit of deficit reduction then.


So what about taxes then? If closing the deficit and getting more revenue as a percent of GDP is all about growth, then why do we have to raise taxes on anyone?

Here it's probably best to think of Fiscal Policy not as a tool to create revenue and close deficits, but as a tool to shape society by incentivizing some kind of activity (e.g. tax credits for R&D), disincentivizing other kinds of activity (sin taxes) and redistributing wealth (progressive taxation). All of this is controversial stuff, but there's almost nobody on either side of the political spectrum at this point who doesn't favor some kind of redistribution of wealth so as to ameliorate extreme inequality. It's true that raising taxes on the rich to Clinton-era levels doesn't raise much revenue (just $40 billion a year, perhaps) but with income inequality at historical extremes (it's worse now than it was pre-crisis) it may still be a beneficial policy tool to smooth things out somewhat via taxes.


America’s Other Immigration Problem

By Jacqueline Stevens and Dalton Conley
Posted Thursday, April 26, 2012

Many countries sending immigrants to the United States—and asking that America welcome those immigrants—themselves have policies that discourage Americans from moving there. This is a profound unfairness at the heart of our immigration policy, and one that almost no one acknowledges. The first step to domestic immigration reform may be overturning the restrictions that other nations, including Mexico, place on American immigration to their countries.

Mexico, while pressing for its citizens to work and conduct business in the United States, poses Kafka-esque obstacles to foreigners wanting to acquire legal residence and buy desirable property there. For instance, Article 27 of the Mexican constitution states: “Foreign citizens cannot own land within 100 km of the borders or 50 km of the sea; however, foreigners can have a beneficial interest in such land through a trust (fideicomiso), where the legal ownership of the land is held by a Mexican financial institution.” Of course Mexican immigrants to the United States can own land outright.

Hurdles to citizenship are higher in Europe than in the United States. For instance, Austria, Italy, Lithuania, Slovenia, and Spain require most applicants to have a decade of legal residency (PDF) before being able to naturalize, versus the five years or less required of those seeking to naturalize in the United States. Contrast the $2,500 fees for naturalization charged by Switzerland with the $680 application fee charged here. Many other countries, including China, Egypt, and Haiti, make it tougher for children of U.S. citizens born there to become citizens than vice versa. Bilateral agreements for citizenship would be fair, mutually enhance the respective economies, and reduce the xenophobia and antagonisms between nation-states so linked.


Friday, December 28, 2012

Russia Punishes U.S. By Blocking Adoption Of Russian Orphans

I heard on the radio this evening that Putin signed the bill.
Don't they see that this is an implicit admission that they are human rights violators. Maybe they just want us to feel less embarrassed about our own politicians.

By Hayes Brown posted from ThinkProgress Security on Dec 27, 2012

In retaliation for the United States placing sanctions on Russian human rights violators, the Russian parliament has passed a bill banning U.S. citizens from adopting Russian orphans. The action comes after President Obama signed the so-called “Magnitsky Act,” named for a Russian lawyer who died while in prison, into law on Dec. 14.

The Russians are responding with the Dima Yakovlev bill. The measure commemorates a young boy adopted from Russia who later died in the U.S and places travel sanctions on those Americans whom Russia has deemed violate the human rights of Russian citizens. The Russian Duma, or Parliament, voted unanimously in favor of the bill on Wednesday, and President Vladimir Putin is fully prepared to sign it into law. Putin attempted to head off criticism about the effect the ban will have on the already strained Russian system of care for its orphans:


Hobby Lobby To Deny Contraception To Employees, Ignoring Court Order

Note that the number of abortions has gone down in recent years because of people using contraception more diligently.

By Annie-Rose Strasser posted from ThinkProgress Health on Dec 28, 2012

Craft store chain Hobby Lobby announced on Friday that it will ignore the ruling of U.S. courts and refuse to provide copay-free birth control access to its employees. It will do so despite whatever costs it may incur, even if they are higher than the cost of birth control itself.

Upon learning that Obamacare required employers and insurance companies to provide birth control with no cost to employees, Hobby Lobby sued, saying that, despite the secular nature of the business, the company’s owner’s religious objections should be taken into consideration. When a court denied that line of reasoning, Hobby Lobby took its grievances to the Supreme Court and asked for an injunction. The highest court in the land denied that request, telling Hobby Lobby that it must allow its employees access to birth control as it seeks further litigation.

But Hobby Lobby is saying no.

The store plans to ignore the provision anyway, opting to pay a fine instead of provide birth control, including the morning after pill commonly known as Plan B, which the owner feels goes against his personal religious values:


GOP Senators Want To Take Debt Ceiling Hostage In Order To Raise Retirement Age

By Pat Garofalo posted from ThinkProgress Economy on Dec 28, 2012

Two Republican senators want to use the threat of an economic meltdown to raise the retirement age and cut Medicare. Sens. Bob Corker (R-TN) and Lamar Alexander (R-TN) introduced a plan today that would raise the federal debt limit by $1 trillion in exchange for $1 trillion in cuts to Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security, as The Hill reported:


Though lawmakers point to America’s increasing life expectancy in order to justify raising the retirement age, life expectancy is only increasing for wealthier workers in non-physical jobs. As the Center for Economic and Policy Research put it, “there has been a sharp rise in inequality in life expectancy by income over the last three decades that mirrors the growth in inequality in income.”

Thursday, December 27, 2012

New record set for tornadoes on Christmas day

Dr. Jeff Masters, 4:04 PM GMT on December 27, 2012

Winter Storm Euclid continues its U.S. tour today, and is pounding New England with heavy snows, high winds, and coastal flooding. The impressive storm set a record for most tornadoes spawned on Christmas Day, as 13 tornadoes have been confirmed (with at least 12 other suspected tornadoes still unrated.) The previous record for most tornadoes on Christmas Day was twelve, back in 1969. Yesterday, Euclid spawned an additional confirmed tornado in North Carolina. No more tornadoes are expected today.


At least two of the Christmas Day tornadoes were rated EF-3. The EF-3 that hit Pennington, in Southeast Texas, completely destroyed a feed store and a restaurant, and had winds up to 150 mph. The other EF-3 hit McNeil, Mississippi, and was rated a weak EF-3 with winds of 140 mph. The tornado cut a path 24 miles long, injured 8 people, and damaged or destroyed 46 homes. Only four other EF-3 tornadoes have been recorded on Christmas Day since 1950, according to the Tornado History Project. The latest in the year an EF-3 tornado has touched down is December 31. This occurred just two years ago, in 2010, when five EF-3 tornadoes raked Arkansas, Missouri, and Illinois.


The FBI vs. Occupy

No surprise. As they said, they have always done this. They also have encouraged violent actions in the past in order to discredit things like the civil rights movement, and I would be surprised if they didn't do it to the Occupy movement, esp. since they have been doing it in other cases.

Once-secret documents reveal the FBI monitored Occupy Wall Street from its earliest days and treated the nonviolent movement as a potential terrorist threat. Internal government records show Occupy was treated as a potential threat when organizing first began in August of 2011. Counterterrorism agents were used to track Occupy activities, despite the internal acknowledgment that the movement opposed violent tactics. The monitoring expanded across the country as Occupy grew into a national movement, with FBI agents sharing information with businesses, local police agencies and universities. We’re joined by Mara Verheyden-Hilliard of the Partnership for Civil Justice Fund, which obtained the FBI documents through the Freedom of Information Act. "We can see, decade after decade, with each social justice movement, that the FBI conducts itself in the same role over and over again, which is to act really as the secret police of the establishment against the people," Verheyden-Hilliard says.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Smoking laws limit heart attacks

By Nathan Seppa
Web edition: October 29, 2012
Print edition: December 1, 2012; Vol.182 #11 (p. 18)

In a Minnesota county that banned smoking in public places in 2007, the heart attack rate dropped by one-third after the ban compared with the period just before the restrictions were phased in, researchers report in the Oct. 29 Archives of Internal Medicine.

The study is the longest analysis to date to measure a smoking ordinance’s effect on community-wide heart health, says study coauthor Richard Hurt, an internist at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn.


The new data reflect less smoke exposure and probably also less smoking, she says. “One of the arguments was that smoke-free policies would restrict it in the workplace but that people would smoke more at home,” Ling says. “But actually, studies suggest ... that people don’t compensate.”

Among bass, easiest to catch are best dads

By Susan Milius
Web edition: December 4, 2012

The same qualities that make a largemouth bass an easy mark for anglers make him a successful dad. So recreational fishers, a new study suggests, may be accidental forces of evolution, selecting against the best in male fish parenting.

“Does that mean that bass populations are imminently in danger of becoming too hard to catch and at the same time totally inefficient at reproducing? Not really,” says study coauthor David Philipp of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. “Does it mean that we are impacting populations of bass in ways that we never envisioned and don’t understand well at all? Most certainly.”

Among the prized sports fish Micropterus salmoides, it’s the dads that do the child care. They go for weeks without food to guard their nests from predators or to swim protectively nearby as tiny fry start exploring the big wet world.

In a study of fish dads in experimental ponds, largemouth bass from a lineage known to be an easy target for anglers proved more diligent at babysitting than did hard-to-catch males, says coauthor David Sutter, a fisheries ecologist at the University of Illinois. Fish that were swift to strike at lures that anglers jiggled in the water also readily attacked nest intruders.

Such good parenting paid off: Those easy-mark males tended to raise more youngsters than hard-to-catch males in the same ponds, Sutter and his colleagues report online December 3 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.


To see what inheriting vulnerability (or not) might mean for fish, Sutter stocked four gullible and four wary male bass in each of six lab ponds, along with wild female bass as well as predatory bluegills. At the end of the breeding season, Sutter used genetic markers to identify the parents of 1,200 of the many bass offspring. The highly vulnerable males had sired about 62 percent of the next generation, and a statistical analysis uncovered the links between catchability and parenting.

Most states let anglers fish during the spawning period, when touchy, hyperprotective dads may be especially vulnerable, Philipp notes. Whether that’s a good idea has been debated at length.


“From my perspective, the implications of this work go far beyond bass management,” Allendorf says. Managers of other species, in the sea or on land, would do well to consider the possibility that harvesting can bring fast evolutionary changes that may turn the enterprise unsustainable.

Evidence contradicts idea that starvation caused saber-tooth cat extinction

People have tried to avoid the likelihood that humans were directly responsible for killing off the large mammals in the Americas by suggesting the cause was a lack of food due to changing climate. But humans habitually kill off other species, esp. those that compete with or hunt us.

Public release date: 26-Dec-2012
Contact: David Salisbury
Vanderbilt University

In the period just before they went extinct, the American lions and saber-toothed cats that roamed North America in the late Pleistocene were living well off the fat of the land.

That is the conclusion of the latest study of the microscopic wear patterns on the teeth of these great cats recovered from the La Brea tar pits in southern California. Contrary to previous studies, the analysis did not find any indications that the giant carnivores were having increased trouble finding prey in the period before they went extinct 12,000 years ago.

The results, published on Dec. 26 in the scientific journal PLOS ONE, contradicts previous dental studies and presents a problem for the most popular explanations for the Megafaunal (or Quaternary) extinction when the great cats, mammoths and a number of the largest mammals that existed around the world disappeared.

"The popular theory for the Megafaunal extinction is that either the changing climate at the end of the last Ice Age or human activity – or some combination of the two – killed off most of the large mammals," said Larisa DeSantis, assistant professor of earth and environmental sciences at Vanderbilt, who headed the study.

Drug shortage linked to greater risk of relapse in young Hodgkin lymphoma patients

Public release date: 26-Dec-2012
Contact: Robert Dicks
Stanford University Medical Center

STANFORD, Calif. — A national drug shortage has been linked to a higher rate of relapse among children, teenagers and young adults with Hodgkin lymphoma enrolled in a national clinical trial, according to research led by St. Jude Children's Research Hospital.

Estimated two-year cancer-free survival for patients enrolled in the study fell from 88 to 75 percent after the drug cyclophosphamide was substituted for mechlorethamine for treatment of patients with intermediate- or high-risk Hodgkin lymphoma. The study was launched before the drug shortages began. The change occurred after a mechlorethamine shortage began in 2009. No study patients have died, but those who relapsed received additional intensive therapy that is associated with higher odds for infertility and other health problems later.


Hodgkin lymphoma is a cancer of the lymph system and accounts for about 6 percent of childhood cancers. In the United States, about 90 percent of patients will become long-term survivors.


For pre-teens, kindness may be key to popularity

Public release date: 26-Dec-2012
Contact: Jyoti Madhusoodanan
Public Library of Science

Nine to twelve-year-olds who perform kind acts are not only happier, but also find greater acceptance in their peer groups, according to research published December 26, 2012 in the open access journal PLOS ONE by Kristin Layous and colleagues from the University of California, Riverside.

The authors randomly assigned over 400 students aged 9-12 to two groups: one group performed 'acts of kindness' and the other kept track of pleasant places they visited each week. Examples of kind acts included descriptions like "gave someone some of my lunch" or "gave my mom a hug when she was stressed by her job", and places visited included the baseball diamond, shopping center or a grandparent's house.

Children were asked to report on their levels of happiness after 4 weeks of activities, and the researchers found that children who performed kind acts were happier than the other group. To assess peer acceptance, students were given a list of classmates and asked to circle those they would like to work with for school activities. Here, the authors found that the group that had performed kind acts fared significantly better.

Though both groups of children had an increased sense of well-being from the activities, only the group that performed kind acts experienced greater acceptance by their peers. According to the authors, "Increasing peer acceptance is a critical goal related to a variety of important academic and social outcomes, including reduced likelihood of being bullied." They suggest that teachers and others can use the findings of this study to introduce regular pro-social activities into classrooms for pre-teens. Layous adds, "The findings suggest that a simple and relatively brief prosocial activity can increase liking among classmates. Given the relationship between peer acceptance and many social and academic outcomes, we think these findings have important implications for the classroom."

Georgia’s Hunger Games

The results have been that the rate of unemployment in Georgia has been higher than the national average every month for years.

Fewer than 4,000 adults in the southern state receive welfare, even as poverty is soaring. How Georgia declared war on its poorest citizens—leaving them to fight for themselves.

By Neil deMause|Posted Wednesday, Dec. 26, 2012

When the economy crashed in 2008, millions of Americans lost their jobs. Applications for food stamps soared. So did attendance at emergency food providers—soup kitchens and food pantries—that help the estimated 50 million people, working and non-working, who can't afford enough groceries to get through the month.

Unlike in past economic downturns, though, the welfare rolls barely budged. Where 15 years ago 68 percent of poor Americans received cash via Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (as welfare was officially renamed in 1996), today only 27 percent of Americans with incomes low enough to qualify for cash benefits receive them. As the New York Times' Jason DeParle discussed in a front-page article earlier this year, the resulting welfare gap has left at least 4 million families with neither jobs nor cash aid.

The size of the welfare gap, however, varies widely from state to state. In states like California and Maine, which have focused on getting their poor citizens into jobs programs, about two-thirds of those eligible still receive welfare. On the opposite end of the spectrum is Georgia, which over the past decade has set itself up as the poster child for the ongoing war on welfare. Even as unemployment has soared to 9 percent and 300,000 Georgia families now live below the poverty line—50 percent higher than in 2000, for a poverty rate that now ranks sixth in the nation—the number receiving cash benefits has all but evaporated: Only a little over 19,000 families receiving TANF remain, all but 3,400 of which were cases involving children only. That's less than 7 percent, making Georgia one of the toughest places in the nation to get welfare assistance.


"Local offices were really taking a lot of steps to dissuade people from applying—or once they had applied, they were doing things to make the process really cumbersome and difficult," recalls Allison Smith of the Georgia Coalition Against Domestic Violence, whose office began documenting troubling reports of welfare applicants being discouraged from applying for benefits by any and all means necessary: "Making them go through 60 job searches a week, or come to 8 orientations." One woman in her seventh month of pregnancy was ordered to take a waitressing job that would require her to be on her feet all day. Another was told that if she applied for TANF while living in a shelter her children would be taken away. Smith recalls, "Some of the stuff that was said to individuals was pretty awful—'If you can't find a job, we'll have you shoveling shit at the dog pound.' "

[Note that many poor people don't have cars. And even if you do, going to 8 orientations in a week costs gas money and wear and tear on a car. And to do your job searches may require access to a computer.]

Missed appointments are one common reason for rejected TANF applications in Georgia. Failure to meet state job search rules—which require 30 days of job search before a first check will be cut—is another. Teresa says she was told she'd have to file a record of 24 job applications a week in order to have her welfare application processed. "That was really hard, because I couldn't find any places that were hiring," she says. She was approved for benefits, but only so long as she performed 24 hours a week of community service, plus 12 hours of job search, which she struggled to do during the limited computer time available at the domestic violence shelter. Eventually, she had her benefits cut off for failing to properly record the phone numbers of her job contacts.

Teresa later landed a job at a Bi-Lo grocery store, and gave up on applying for government aid altogether. But many domestic violence survivors aren't so lucky, says Smith: "A lot of folks we know are staying in their abusive relationships longer, or returning. We know from research that financial concerns are probably the No. 1 reason why victims don't leave, or go back. Usually TANF will be a stepping stone, and now that it's going, people are having to make hard choices."


As for getting Georgia’s poor back to work—the ostensible goal of welfare reform—the numbers are similarly unpromising. Georgia has bragged about its rising "work participation" rate—a key metric set down by Congress to ensure that states followed federal work rules by insisting that at least half of welfare recipients were engaged in "work activities," which can include anything from actual employment to an active search for a job. Yet the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities found that far fewer Georgians living in poverty were engaged in "work activities" under Walker; rather, the percentage was only up because the denominator—the number of people getting cash aid—had plummeted.


As for what's happened to the hundreds of thousands who've left welfare or never made it on, no one is quite sure: The state conducted its last "leaver study" of those departing the rolls in 2006—after that, explains Carter, the contractor retired and was never replaced.


While about 70 percent of those who left welfare were employed during their first year after leaving TANF, more than 80 percent remained below the federal poverty level. The one thing that was helping Georgia’s poor, noted the study, was increased child care assistance that was approved by the state in 2005 to encourage people to leave TANF for employment—a program now imperiled by a lack of state funds.

Cassie, a single mom in the western Atlanta suburb of Austell, is one of those who have been turned away for child care assistance because the state ran out of money. After her partner skipped town when he learned their son had a chronic blood disorder—"He said, 'You're going to have to eventually send me to child support court, and when you do that I never want to see y'all again' "—Cassie found herself juggling shifts as a nursing aide while managing her son's frequent hospital visits. She applied for TANF, only to be forced to drop out of school for her degree as an ultrasound sonographer, she says, in order to have time for the grueling job search process.


Even for those lucky few who do manage to receive TANF, the increasingly meager grant levels—which haven't been raised in Georgia since 1996, leading to a 30 percent drop in spending power relative to inflation—are hardly meeting people’s most basic needs."Two hundred and thirty-five dollars, what the hell is that supposed to pay?" wonders Renea Buck, a Savannah grandmother caring for her daughter's two children. Buck recently fought her way onto TANF with the help of a local antipoverty group, Step Up Savannah. "I see these people on TV, and they say people are just living off the welfare system. There might be a lot of people on food stamps because they need help. And they might have Medicaid so their kids can have medical. But they're crazy if anybody's milking the damn system for that $235 a month."


It's a form of creative bookkeeping, says Democratic state representative and minority leader Stacey Abrams, that's especially alluring to a state like Georgia, which features not just a Republican-controlled state house and governor's office but an exceptionally high number of state leaders who belong to the American Legislative Exchange Council, the conservative policy group that has recently attracted attention for drafting hundreds of bills on behalf of corporate lobbyists. Georgia, she says, was a perfect match for those looking to eliminate the welfare rolls, along with a Republican-controlled legislature that takes its cues from an interest group like ALEC—"We have become a laboratory for their policies."


the state recently added a new hurdle: Pending a court challenge, welfare applicants will soon be forced to take a drug test within 48 hours of applying—for a $17, non-refundable fee.

It shouldn't be this way, says O'Neal, the young grandmother, as she prepares to file TANF paperwork yet again for her daughter, hopefully this time with a better result. “All of these people coming down here are not people just looking for handouts," she says. "You got a lot of people who have worked hard pretty much all their lives and have paid taxes. And now they're in need, and they can't get what they need. And it's so sad."

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Don’t Let Scientists Get Near Your Guns!

December 24, 2012 4:09 PM

As Kevin Drum noted late last week, the theological nature of conservative firearms idolatry has been outrageously confirmed by Republican congressional efforts to suppress federally funded research on the real-life consequences of this or that gun law regime. He and Austin Frakt have drawn attention to a Journal of the American Medical Association article by Arthur Kellermann and Frederick Rivara in response to the Newtown tragedy that should make your blood boil:

The nation might be in a better position to act if medical and public health researchers had continued to study these issues as diligently as some of us did between 1985 and 1997. But in 1996, pro-gun members of Congress mounted an all-out effort to eliminate the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Although they failed to defund the center, the House of Representatives removed $2.6 million from the CDC’s budget—precisely the amount the agency had spent on firearm injury research the previous year. Funding was restored in joint conference committee, but the money was earmarked for traumatic brain injury. The effect was sharply reduced support for firearm injury research.

To ensure that the CDC and its grantees got the message, the following language was added to the final appropriation: “none of the funds made available for injury prevention and control at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention may be used to advocate or promote gun control.”

Precisely what was or was not permitted under the clause was unclear. But no federal employee was willing to risk his or her career or the agency’s funding to find out. Extramural support for firearm injury prevention research quickly dried up. Even today, 17 years after this legislative action, the CDC’s website lacks specific links to information about preventing firearm-related violence.

Restrictions on research were later extended from the CDC to all parts of the Department of Health and Human Services. And similar efforts have affected other federal and state agencies.


Antarctica Is Heating Up Even Faster Than Previously Thought

By Zack Beauchamp on Dec 24, 2012

Dangerous climate-change induced melting of Antartica’s ice may be happening even faster than we think, as a new study has found that Antarctica is warming far more quickly than scientists had previously thought. The study, published in the journal Natural Geoscience, reviewed a previously spotty dataset on Antarctic temperature, correcting several gaps. The New York Times summarizes the results:

A paper released Sunday by the journal Nature Geoscience reports that the temperature at a research station in the middle of West Antarctica has warmed by 4.4 degrees Fahrenheit since 1958. That is roughly twice as much as scientists previously thought and three times the overall rate of global warming, making central West Antarctica one of the fastest-warming regions on earth. …


Melting at this scale in West Antarctica, the focus of this study, could potentially be catastrophic: not only would it have “knock-on effects” on the larger East Antarctic Ice Sheet, but it could potentially speed up worldwide warming by releasing massive CO2 deposits trapped under Antarctica.

Sea-level rise is one of the most dangerous potential consequences of climate change. In some projections, it could “put hundreds coastal cities around the globe entirely under water.” One study found that the even the best case scenario would “hit low lying coastal areas housing one in ten humans on the planet hard.” Sea-level rise will also greatly exacerbate the damage done by megastorms like Sandy and Katrina, themselves already intensified by warmer ocean temperatures.

The Ghost Of Climate Yet To Come

If your car is headed for a collision with a concrete wall, and you know you won’t be able to stop the car before you hit the wall, you don’t just continue as usual. You hit the break as hard as possible to minimize the damage.

By Joe Romm on Dec 25, 2012
Irreversible does not mean unstoppable

Unlike Scrooge, we don’t get a spirit to show us what the future holds if we don’t change our ways.

In the past two years, though, we have gotten the tiniest glimpse of climate gone wild (see “Masters: “The stunning extremes we witnessed [in 2010] gives me concern that our climate is showing the early signs of instability” and A New Record: 14 U.S. Billion-Dollar Weather Disasters in 2011 and Experts Warn ‘Near Ice-Free Arctic In Summer’ In A Decade If Volume Trends Continue).

And we did get dozens of scientific papers warning us of what is to come (see “An Illustrated Guide to the Science of Global Warming Impacts: How We Know Inaction Is the Gravest Threat Humanity Faces“).

Yes, it is increasingly unlikely that we will adopt the aggressive but low-net-cost policies needed to stabilize at 450 ppm atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide, and then quickly come back to 350 — thanks in large part to the deniers, along with their political pals and media enablers. But when reporters ask me if it’s “too late,” — or, as one did last year, “have we crossed a tipping point?” — I have to explain that the question doesn’t have a purely scientific answer.

It does seem clear that the most dangerous carbon-cycle feedback — the defrosting permafrost — hasn’t kicked in yet but is likely to with two decades (see “Carbon Time Bomb in the Arctic“).

If humanity gets truly serious about emissions reduction — and by serious I mean “World War II serious” in both scale and urgency — we could go to near-zero global emissions in, say, 2 decades and then quickly go carbon negative. It wouldn’t be easy, far from it (see “The full global warming solution: How the world can stabilize at 350 to 450 ppm“). But even in the 2020s it would be vastly cheaper and preferable to the alternative (see Scientists find “net present value of climate change impacts” of $1240 TRILLION on current emissions path, making mitigation to under 450 ppm a must).

Delay is very risky and expensive. In releasing its 2009 Energy Outloook, the International Energy Agency explained, “we need to act urgently and now. Every year of delay adds an extra USD 500 billion to the investment needed between 2010 and 2030 in the energy sector”. In releasing its 2011 Energy Outloook, the IEA said “On planned policies, rising fossil energy use will lead to irreversible and potentially catastrophic climate change” and “we are on an even more dangerous track to an increase of 6°C [11°F].” They concluded:

Delaying action is a false economy: for every $1 of investment in cleaner technology that is avoided in the power sector before 2020, an additional $4.30 would need to be spent after 2020 to compensate for the increased emissions.”

And we know that large parts of the currently habited and arable land are at risk of turning into Dust Bowls, gravely threatening global food security.

We most certainly do not want to significantly exceed 450 ppm for any length of time, as Dust-Bowlification isn’t the only impact that is irreversible:

New study of Greenland under “more realistic forcings” concludes “collapse of the ice-sheet was found to occur between 400 and 560 ppm” of CO2
Science: CO2 levels haven’t been this high for 15 million years, when it was 5° to 10°F warmer and seas were 75 to 120 feet higher “” “We have shown that this dramatic rise in sea level is associated with an increase in CO2 levels of about 100 ppm.”
Nature Geoscience study: Oceans are acidifying 10 times faster today than 55 million years ago when a mass extinction of marine species occurred
2009 Nature Geoscience study concludes ocean dead zones “devoid of fish and seafood” are poised to expand and “remain for thousands of years”

That said, RealClimate made a good point with the title of its 2009 post, “Irreversible Does Not Mean Unstoppable“:

Perhaps the despair we heard in our interviewers’ questions arose from the observation in the paper that the temperature will continue to rise, even if CO2 emissions are stopped today. But you have to remember that the climate changes so far, both observed and committed to, are minor compared with the business-as-usual forecast for the end of the century. It’s further emissions we need to worry about. Climate change is like a ratchet, which we wind up by releasing CO2. Once we turn the crank, there’s no easy turning back to the natural climate. But we can still decide to stop turning the crank, and the sooner the better.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Android virus uses your phone to spread spam

Byron Acohido, USA TODAY5:12a.m. EST December 24, 2012

Android smartphone users beware. Spammed text messages have begun circulating that can infect your handset, causing it to continually send virulent text messages to thousands of live phone numbers each day.

That discovery comes as hackers continue to probe the Android platform, in particular, for security holes with no slowdown expected in 2013.


Messaging security firm Cloudmark Research recently discovered a virulent spam campaign that is sending text messages to Android users offering free versions of Need for Speed Most Wanted, Angry Birds Star Wars, Grand Theft Auto and other popular games.

By installing the free app, the user actually downloads a hidden program connecting their handset to a command and control server in Hong Kong, says Cloudmark researcher Andrew Conway. The Hong Kong server next sends the handset a list of 50 phone numbers, copies of viral messages and instructions to begin sending the messages to each of the numbers.


The victim can lose in two ways. If they don't have an unlimited texting plan, the next phone bill could be a whopper. It takes about 65 seconds to automatically text 50 phone numbers, after which the Hong Kong server sends a fresh batch of numbers. So each infected phone can blast thousands of viral text messages a day.

What's more, the malicious program also blocks incoming messages from anyone not on the user's contact list. "So the phone company or a friend can't text you back and say, 'Stop sending me spam,'" Conway says.

In such cases, the carrier could decide to unilaterally shut down the user's text-messaging capabilities, he says.


Conway advises Android users to stick strictly to Google's official application store, Google Play, and ignore unsolicited offers that arrive by text message. If you see a suspicious text message offer, forward it in a text message to 7726, a free service set up by the carriers to eliminate spam.

Google Play is a "99.99% trustworthy" because the search giant is on high alert for hackers and fixes any breaches quickly.

"You're much safer going to Google Play than from any other source, especially ones from Asia," Conway says. "If an offer is too good to be true, it's a fake."

Owner of Bob’s Red Mill Natural Foods Gives His Company To His 209 Employees

This falls under one of those beautiful stories that you love to hear about. I’ve heard stories like this before but I missed this one a couple of years ago. Maybe you’ve seen Bob’s Red Mill at the health aisle at your local grocery store; they produce over 400 whole grain products at their mill that sits on over 17 acres just 15 minutes outside of Portland, Oregon. Most of the time – a person who builds a business decides to sell it to the highest bidder and instead he’s handing it over to his employees over time. What I found interesting and uplifting was how his religious views and Christianity informed his decision to do this.

ABC shares on that HERE:

If making Americans healthier is his passion, encouraging good business practices and entrepreneurship is his mandate.

“There’s a lot of negative stuff going into business today,” he said. “It’s a good old basic Bible lesson — love of money is the root of all evil. And unfortunately, our entire philosophy today is get all the money you can and whatever way you can. It’s caused many corporations to bite off more than they can chew. And it causes people to do a lot of things just for money that they feel in their hearts is not the right thing to do.”

With his own company, Moore has tried to do just the opposite. In a refreshing twist to the typical tenets of corporate America, Moore thinks of his employees and customers first and foremost.


Parents' addiction, unemployment and divorce are risk factors for childhood abuse

There are times when not to divorce would be worse.

Public release date: 20-Dec-2012
Contact: Michael Kennedy
University of Toronto

Adults who had parents who struggled with addiction, unemployment and divorce are 10 times more likely to have been victims of childhood physical abuse, according to a new study prepared by the University of Toronto's Factor-Inwentash Faculty of Social Work.

The study, which was published online this week in the journal Child: Care, Health & Development, found that more than one-third of adults who grew up in homes where all three risk factors were present reported they had been physically abused by someone close to them while under the age of 18 and still living at home.

The results found that only 3.4 per cent of those with none of the three risk factors reported they had been physically abused. However, with each additional risk factor experienced, the prevalence of childhood physical abuse increased dramatically.

Approximately 13 per cent of those with one risk factor reported childhood physical abuse (CPA). The prevalence of child physical abuse was between 8% and 11% for those who had experienced parental divorce alone or parental unemployment alone but increased to between 18% and 19% for those who experienced parental addictions alone. Between 25 per cent and 30 per cent of those who had experienced two risk factors reported they had been abused in childhood. Among those with all three risk factors, the prevalence of CPA was between 36 and 41 per cent, representing a ten-fold increase from the 3.4 per cent reported by those without any of these risk factors. The study was based on two representative community samples, one study conducted in 1995 and the second, with a different sample, in 2005. Each survey included approximately 13,000 Canadians aged 18 and older.

"We were so astonished by the magnitude of the association between the combination of these three risk factors and child abuse in the 1995 survey that we replicated the analysis with a different sample from a 2005 survey," says co-author Jami-Leigh Sawyer, a University of Toronto doctoral student and a social worker at Toronto's Hospital for Sick Children. "The findings in both data sets were remarkably consistent and very worrisome."

The unsung heroes of medicine

By Dr. Anthony Youn, CNN Contributor
updated 7:19 AM EST, Fri December 21, 2012

Editor's note: Dr. Anthony Youn is an assistant professor of surgery at the Oakland University/William Beaumont School of Medicine in Michigan. He is the author of "In Stitches," a memoir about growing up Asian-American and becoming a doctor. The names of the doctor and patient in this story have been changed to protect their privacy.

(CNN) -- I once had a doctor tell me, "Physicians get all the glory and all the money."

While that's not necessarily true -- nurses get quite a bit of recognition in health care -- most people don't realize just how many people it takes to save a life.

I was struck by this one night as a resident on the trauma service. Here's how I recall it:

The double doors to the emergency room slam open. A pair of emergency medical technicians (EMTs) wheel in a young man on a gurney.

"Eighteen-year-old male named John, involved in head-on collision. Brief loss of consciousness. He complains of chest and abdominal pain."

The EMT's, two trauma nurses and I move John over to the bed. One nurse begins cutting off his clothes with a huge pair of shears; the other connects him to the monitors.

A phlebotomist draws blood from one of his arms to send to the laboratory for analysis. A respiratory therapist applies an oxygen mask and monitors his breathing.

We've all heard the old African proverb, "It takes a village to raise a child." Well, it takes a village to save a life, too. Kim and I needed more than 20 people working as a team to save John. Take one member out of the equation and he likely would have died.

So why do "physicians get all the glory?" We may be the decision-makers, but we don't deserve all the credit. The unsung heroes of medicine -- members of the health care team other than doctors and nurses -- should be recognized, too.

So this holiday season, consider thanking the unsung heroes of your local hospital. Send some cookies to the respiratory therapists, pizza to the radiology technicians, and cupcakes to the phlebotomists. They deserve it just as much as we do.

Maybe more.

Police in India crackdown amid outrage over gang rape

The wonderful results of male dominamce [sarcasm]

By Harmeet Shah Singh, CNN
updated 5:16 PM EST, Mon December 24, 2012

New Delhi (CNN) -- Police locked down New Delhi's key government district ahead of Monday's visit by Russian President Vladimir Putin, after two days of pitched street battles following the gang rape of a woman on a bus.

Furious weekend demonstrations rocked Raisina Hills as public outrage surged after a 23-year-old woman was sexually assaulted and beaten to near death on a bus on December 16 by a group of six suspects, now under arrest, police say.

The rape victim's injuries were so severe she spent days in intensive care in a city hospital, battling for her life. Police said Saturday that she had recovered enough to give a statement to a magistrate from her hospital bed the night before.

But on Sunday, she underwent another surgery to wash out infection in her abdomen, her doctors said.

Alex PearlmanDecember 20, 2012

The victim, a 23-year-old traveling with a male friend, was assaulted on a bus Sunday as the couple was on their way home. The friend was allegedly beaten with an iron rod while the bus driver and his friends repeatedly raped the woman for hours.

Since Sunday's incident, at least five gang rapes have been reported in Uttar Pradesh, Rae Bareli, Rampur, Sonbhadra and Farrukhabad. And even with the whole country up in arms about rape, the Uttar Pradesh incident almost went unreported because police wouldn't levy rape charges, and instead put the situation down as a molestation and theft, reports the Times of India.

The AP reported yesterday that police found the body of a 10-year-old girl who had been gang-raped and killed, while a 14-year-old was in critical condition after being raped by four men.

India is one of the worst places in the world to be a woman, according to a global survey by the Thompson Reuters Foundation that profiled a number of countries and compared maternal health, rape statistics, and answers to topics such as domestic violence.

But why?

Times of India blogger, editor and columnist Anand Soondas laid it out in a post Wednesday called "Why Indian Men Rape."

"Strange theories are floated to explain the depravity of Indian men...but the truth is that at the root of it all lies a culture built around hierarchies, of gender, faith, colour, caste, region. We are, quite simply, not used to people being equal."

Soondas points out that rape is rare in areas of India that no longer have dowry systems, and do not put a monetary amount of value on women.

"In India, women and girls continue to be sold as chattels, married off as young as 10, burned alive as a result of dowry-related disputes and young girls exploited and abused as domestic slave labour," said Gulshun Rehman, health program advisor at Save the Children UK, who was one of those polled for the Trust Law survey, to the Guardian.

These backwards attitudes about women contribute to a culture of violence and misogyny, despite India billing itself as the world's largest democracy. Women still don't have rights, but they are fighting for them.

Activism has taken off in the cities, and SlutWalks, protests, and demonstrations are regular occurances, even if they aren't widely accepted or acknowledged.

For a deeper look at the lives of modern women in medieval India, check out this wonderful investigation by the Guardian's Helen Pidd, who looked at a number of factors contributing to the culture of violence against women.

Why is India so bad for women?

Of all the rich G20 nations, India has been labelled the worst place to be a woman. But how is this possible in a country that prides itself on being the world's largest democracy?

Helen Pidd
The Guardian, Monday 23 July 2012

One evening two weeks ago, just a few miles downhill, a young student left a bar and was set upon by a gang of at least 18 men. They dragged her into the road by her hair, tried to rip off her clothes and smiled at the cameras that filmed it all. It was around 9.30pm on one of Guwahati's busiest streets – a chaotic three-lane thoroughfare soundtracked by constantly beeping horns and chugging tuk-tuks. But for at least 20 minutes, no one called the police. They easily could have. Many of those present had phones: they were using them to film the scene as the men yanked up the girl's vest and tugged at her bra and groped her breasts as she begged for help from passing cars. We know this because a cameraman from the local TV channel was there too, capturing the attack for his viewers' enjoyment. The woman was abused for 45 minutes before the police arrived.

Within half an hour, clips were broadcast on Assam's NewsLive channel. Watching across town, Sheetal Sharma and Bitopi Dutta were horrified. "I was fuming like anything. There was this horrible, brutal assault being shown on screen – and the most disturbing thing was, the blame was being put on the woman, who, the report emphasised, was drunk," says Sharma, a 29-year-old feminist activist from the North-East Network, a women's rights organisation in Guwahati. "The way it was filmed, the camera was panning up and down her body, focusing on her breasts, her thighs," says Dutta, her 22-year-old colleague.

No attempt was made to arrest the men whose faces could clearly be seen laughing and jeering on camera. Soon afterwards, the editor-in-chief of NewsLive (who has since resigned) remarked on Twitter that "prostitutes form a major chunk of girls who visit bars and night clubs".

It was only a few days later, when the clip had gone viral and had been picked up by the national channels in Delhi, that the police were shamed into action. By then, Guwahati residents had taken matters into their own hands, producing an enormous banner that they strung up alongside one of the city's arterial roads featuring screen grabs of the main suspects. Six days after the attack, the chief minister of Assam, the state where Guwahati is located, ordered the police to arrest a dozen key suspects. He met the victim and promised her 50,000 rupees (£580) compensation.

"We have a woman president, we've had a woman prime minister. Yet in 2012, one of the greatest tragedies in our country is that women are on their own when it comes to their own safety," said a female newsreader on NDTV. She went on to outline another incident in India last week: a group of village elders in Baghpat, Uttar Pradesh, central India, who banned women from carrying mobile phones, choosing their own husbands or leaving the house unaccompanied or with their heads uncovered. "The story is the same," said the news anchor. "No respect for women. No respect for our culture. And as far as the law is concerned: who cares?"

Halarnkar then offered as proof a survey that caused indignation in India last month: a poll of 370 gender specialists around the world that voted India the worst place to be a woman out of all the G20 countries. It stung – especially as Saudi Arabia was at the second-worst. But the experts were resolute in their choice. "In India, women and girls continue to be sold as chattels, married off as young as 10, burned alive as a result of dowry-related disputes and young girls exploited and abused as domestic slave labour," said Gulshun Rehman, health programme development adviser at Save the Children UK, who was one of those polled.

Study shows rapid warming on the West Antarctic Ice Sheet

Public release date: 23-Dec-2012
Contact: Pam Frost Gorder
Ohio State University

COLUMBUS, Ohio—In a discovery that raises further concerns about the future contribution of Antarctica to sea level rise, a new study finds that the western part of the ice sheet is experiencing nearly twice as much warming as previously thought.

The temperature record from Byrd Station, a scientific outpost in the center of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet (WAIS), demonstrates a marked increase of 4.3 degrees Fahrenheit (2.4 degrees Celsius) in average annual temperature since 1958—that is, three times faster than the average temperature rise around the globe.

This temperature increase is nearly double what previous research has suggested, and reveals—for the first time—warming trends during the summer months of the Southern Hemisphere (December through February), said David Bromwich, professor of geography at Ohio State University and senior research scientist at the Byrd Polar Research Center.

The findings were published online this week in the journal Nature Geoscience.


Prostitution for the Price of a Happy Meal

Emily Wang
December 21, 2012

Carla walked into my office with despair in her eyes. I was surprised. Carla has been doing well in her four months out of prison; she got off drugs, regained custody of her kids, and even enrolled in a local community college.

Without much prodding she admitted to me that she had retuned to prostitution: “I am putting myself at risk for HIV to get my kids a f---ing happy meal.”

Despite looking high and low for a job, Carla explained, she was still unemployed. Most entry-level jobs felt out of reach with her drug record, but what’s worse, even the state wasn’t willing to throw her a temporary life preserver.

You see, Carla is from one of the 32 states in the country that ban anyone convicted of a drug felony from collecting food stamps. With the release of the Global Burden of Disease Study last week, it bears looking at how we are perpetuating burdens among the most vulnerable Americans with our outdated laws.

If she’d committed rape or murder, Carla could have gotten assistance to feed herself and her children, but because the crime she committed was a drug felony, Carla joined the hundreds of thousands of drug felons who are not eligible.

The 1996 passage of the Welfare Reform Act was supposedly implemented to prevent drug addicts from selling their food stamps for drugs. But that concern is virtually unwarranted today. Unlike old food-stamp coupons, today’s food stamps are distributed electronically, which makes selling or trading them quite difficult.

Nonetheless, the law persists. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, nine states have a lifetime ban for food-stamp eligibly for people convicted of drug felonies. Twenty-three states have a partial ban, such as permitting eligibility for persons convicted of drug possession but not sale, or for persons enrolled in drug treatment programs.

Denying food stamp benefits to people convicted of drug offenses is an excessive and ineffective crime control strategy. The policy increases an individual’s risk of returning to prison by making it more difficult for people to survive after they get out, slowing or possibly even preventing their reintegration into society. People without the financial cushion necessary to get through the initial period of job searching and re-establishing a life have little choice but to turn to illegal means to make ends meet.

What’s more, the food-stamp ban is a law that works against good public health policy. As a doctor who cares predominantly for people who are released from prison, I see the damaging consequences of this ban on food stamps. I have seen patients of mine with diabetes go without food and end up hospitalized with low blood sugar, and still others with HIV skip their antiretrovirals because they don’t have food to take with their pills. Not having access to food is associated with bad health outcomes including worsening diabetes, HIV, depression. Young children face anemia, diabetes, and depression.

Women with children are especially affected. It’s estimated that 70,000 women and their children are banned from obtaining food stamps. This means mothers who are simply trying to feed themselves and their children, and who are trying to get back on their feet after serving their time, are banned from receiving the money to pay for the basics necessary to survive. Meanwhile, 46 million others, including college graduates and PhDs with far more resources, can receive food aid.

No other criminal conviction results in such a ban—not arson, not rape, not even murder.


[From a comment to the article]

Sat, 2012-12-22 11:22


Thank you for this article, however, you make it sound as if her children cannot get assistance. The children remain eligible even if the parent is not.
Also, you call it Food Stamps when the program is now called Nutrition Assistance which leads me to believe that you did not research the actual policy before writing this piece. If you would have researched a little further you would have found that the rules are different in each state. Depending on which state Carla lives in, which you conveniently left out, there are ways for her to become eligible and any first year eligibility worker can tell you what those are.
The funny thing is that I believe that the policy is unfair, but your article leaves out information that is vital for people to make an informed opinion.

Explaining the brain of a killer: Science offers clues

By Maggie Fox, NBC News
Dec. 25, 2012

Genetics alone almost certainly cannot explain what went wrong when 20-year-old Adam Lanza killed his mother, two classrooms full of small children and teachers and then himself on Dec. 14, experts say.


"The genes by themselves don’t tell you. If you just have a PET scan or MRI you can’t tell," Fallon said. "The psych report alone won't tell you. You put those things together you really get a lot of information." And some of what's been found by Fallon and other researchers provides some surprising insights.


There is something that many violent people do have in common, however. Research done by Teicher, Fallon and others shows that violent criminals are, in fact, excessively anxious and fearful.

“Individuals at risk for violence often suffer from tremendous anxiety,” Teicher said. “It’s one of the most striking things I have noticed.” He’s treated high school students expelled or suspended for violence, but when they are in his office, they are anything but threatening.

“These are the frightening children in high school, yet they are essentially sitting in their mother’s laps,” Teicher said. “They were ridden with anxiety.”

And in some cases, this is combined with an inability to “read” other people. Teicher’s found this in some patients.

“We found differences in the (brain) cortex of violence-exposed individuals that play a role in social perception,” Teicher said. “These are regions involved in being able to infer what other people are thinking.” Brain scans show that the blood isn’t flowing normally in those brain regions. “They may be prone to misattribute thoughts and feelings,” Teicher says.

Such deficiencies can be immensely stressful to a young man or teenager, Fallon says. “He looks at people and doesn’t understand what they are feeling,” he said.

On top of this, Teicher has seen differences in parts of the brain’s frontal cortex that are involved in impulse control. “Misreading people and having difficulty controlling impulses may foster inappropriate actions,” Teicher says.

And while schizophrenia or bipolar disease do not usually lead to violent behavior, they can contribute to dangerous acts if patients are also racked with anxiety and not getting any sort of treatment.

“The late teens, early 20s, are when people have these psychotic breaks," Fallon said.


Critical EPA report highlighting chemical dangers to kids is sidetracked

Well, we wouldn't want to reduce the income of chemical company executives who work so hard to make money, and work so hard to suppress the effects of their products on our children.

Dec. 24, 2012
By Sheila Kaplan

A landmark Environmental Protection Agency report concluding that children exposed to toxic substances can develop learning disabilities, asthma and other health problems has been sidetracked indefinitely amid fierce opposition from the chemical industry.

America’s Children and the Environment, Third Edition, is a sobering analysis of the way in which pollutants build up in children’s developing bodies and the damage they can inflict.

The report is unpublished, but was posted on EPA’s website in draft form in March 2011, marked “Do not Quote or Cite.” The report, which is fiercely contested by the chemical industry, was referred to the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB), where it still languishes.

For the first time since the ACE series began in 2000, the draft cites extensive research linking common chemical pollutants to brain damage and nervous system disorders in fetuses and children.

It also raises troubling questions about the degree to which children are exposed to hazardous chemicals in air, drinking water and food, as well exposures in their indoor environments – including schools and day-care centers – and through contaminated lands.


The report cites hundreds of studies -- both human, epidemiological studies that show a correlation between exposure to certain chemical pollutants and negative health outcomes, and animal studies that demonstrate cause and effect.


The report said that “a growing number of human health studies” have found an association between prenatal exposure to PFCs and low birth weight, decreased head circumference and low birth length. It also stated that based on “emerging evidence suggests that exposure to some PFCs can have negative impacts on human thyroid function.”


The EPA’s website still notes that the report will be published by the end of 2011. But after a public comment period that was marked by unusually harsh criticism from industry, additional peer review and input from other agencies, the report landed at OMB last March, where it has remained. No federal rule requires the OMB to review such a report before publication, but EPA spokeswoman Julia Valentine said the agency referred it to the OMB because its impact cuts across several federal agencies.

The spokeswoman said EPA had no idea when OMB would release it, allowing publication.

A spokeswoman for the White House Office of Management and Budget said she would not discuss the review process or give an estimated release date.


Some present and former EPA staffers, who asked not to be named for fear of losing their jobs, blamed the sidetracking of the report on heightened political pressure during the campaign season. The OMB has been slow to approve environmental regulations and other EPA reports throughout the Obama Administration — as it was under George W. Bush according to reports by the Center for Progressive Reform, a nonprofit consortium of scholars, doing research on health, safety and environmental issues, which generally advocate for stronger regulation and better enforcement of existing law.


The EPA states that the report is intended, in part, to help policymakers identify and evaluate ways to minimize environmental impacts on children.

That’s an unwelcome prospect to the $674 billion chemical industry, which stands to lose business and face greater legal liability if the EPA or Congress bans certain substances mentioned in the report or sets standards reducing the levels of exposure that is considered safe.

Among other findings, the report links numerous substances to ADHD, including certain widely available pesticides; polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBS), which were banned in 1979 but are still present in products made before then and in the environment; certain polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs), used as flame retardants; and methyl mercury, a toxic metal that accumulates in larger fish, such as tuna. The draft also cites children’s exposure to lead, particularly from aging lead water pipes, as a continuing problem (See previous coverage, Toxic Taps.)

Among the other widespread contaminants linked to learning disabilities is perchlorate, a component of rocket fuel , fireworks and other industrial products, which has polluted water around the country. The Department of Defense, which wants to avoid paying to clean it up, is alarmed by research showing that the chemical interferes with thyroid function and otherwise damages the nervous system, according to R. Thomas Zoeller, a biology professor at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, and an expert on perchlorate.


One of the new sections of the report notes that children may be widely exposed to pollutants in schools and day-care centers. Among them are pesticides; lead; PCBs; asbestos, a mineral fiber long used as insulation and fire-proofing; phthalates, chemicals that are used to soften vinyl and as solvents and fixers, and are found in numerous consumer goods, among them: toys, perfumes, medical devices, shower curtains and detergents; and perfluorinated chemicals, which are used in non-stick and stain-proof products. The study notes that these substances are (variously) associated with asthma, cancer, reproductive toxicity and hormone disruption.

The American Chemistry Council (ACC) , the chief industry trade group, has accused EPA of lacking objectivity and vilifying its products. It has filed dozens of pages of comments accusing the EPA of ignoring certain studies – including some funded by ACC itself — that would help businesses make the case that their products are safe. The ACC also contends that EPA has not included enough positive comments about the role of chemicals in society.


Rena Steinzor, a professor at the University of Maryland School of Law, and president of the Center for Progressive Reform, said the ACE report need not have gone to OMB for review in the first place. Steinzor notes that Executive Order 12866 states that proposed significant regulations — generally defined as those that could cost more than $100 million — need be reviewed by OMB, but studies do not.


The report should be released now, she said, “ because to protect children adequately we need all the information we can get… I guess I understand why there was great anxiety and paranoia before the election … (but) why would you not do it now? It’s sad that things have gotten so polarized that we’re afraid to release scientific information.”