Thursday, May 30, 2013

Update: El Salvador Will Allow Dying Woman To End Her Pregnancy: ‘What Matters Is To Protect Beatriz’s Life’

By Tara Culp-Ressler posted from ThinkProgress Health on May 31

Beatriz, the 22-year-old El Salvadoran woman who needs an emergency abortion in order to survive, will now be allowed to end her pregnancy with a Caesarean section. On Thursday, El Salvador’s health minister approved the C-section procedure for the dying woman, whose health has increasingly worsened throughout her pregnancy.


Over the past three months, Beatriz’s life has hung in the balance as her deeply conservative country has refused to compromise its stringent abortion ban. In El Salvador, having an abortion is illegal under all circumstances and can result in up to 30 years in prison. Even though Beatriz is carrying a nonviable fetus — it will not be able to survive outside the womb for more than a few hours because it’s missing its brain — her government has continued to deny her the life-saving abortion that would prevent her from dying along with her fetus. On Wednesday, El Salvador’s Supreme Court refused to grant Beatriz an exception to the country’s abortion ban, and there didn’t seem to be much hope left for the pregnant woman who has begged for the chance to live for her 14-month-old son.

However, since Beatriz is now 26 weeks along in her pregnancy, her case is no longer subject to El Salvador’s abortion laws. The reproductive rights advocates who have taken up her case say that at this point, the country’s health ministry can decide on the best option to safeguard Beatriz’s health.

That’s exactly what El Salvador’s health minister has decided to do. Essentially, Beatriz will be given a different means to achieve the same ends. Rodriguez will sidestep the abortion controversy by allowing Beatriz to undergo a C-section surgery — which her fetus will likely not survive — instead of undergoing a less-invasive abortion procedure. The Health Department hasn’t yet decided when Beatriz will have her surgery, but she is now “going through all the medical exams” in order to prepare for it.



By Tara Culp-Ressler on May 30, 2013

El Salvador’s Supreme Court has decided to deny a 22-year-old woman a lifesaving abortion, ruling against making a medical exception to the conservative nation’s stringent abortion ban. Without an abortion, the woman will likely die — along with her nonviable fetus, which is missing its brain.

Identified in the press only as “Beatriz,” the young Salvadoran woman suffers from a chronic health condition that worsens when she is pregnant, and her doctors have warned that she is at “high risk of death” if she continues to carry her fetus. Several ultrasounds have revealed that, even if Beatriz does survive to carry the fetus to full term, it has virtually no chance of survival because it has no brain.

Beatriz has been fighting for an abortion for the past three months, and several international human rights organizations have taken up her case. But it’s been an uphill battle in her deeply Catholic nation, where abortion is illegal under absolutely all circumstances and punishable by up to 30 years in prison. After El Salvador’s attorney general refused to grant Beatriz and her doctors an exception to the harsh law, the pregnant woman turned to the Supreme Court.

And on Wednesday, the highest court in the country denied Beatriz permission to access the medical care that would save her life. El Salvador’s Supreme Court took several weeks to deliberate Beatriz’s case in consultation with the Institute of Legal Medicine, which advises the court on medical issues. The Institute determined that Beatriz’s health “was not yet in absolute danger.”

There are no options left. “We cannot appeal the case because this was the last step, the Supreme Court,” Victor Hugo Mata, the lawyer representing Beatriz, told CBS News.

Beatriz has been hospitalized for the last several months, separated from her husband and 14-month-old son. And even though the country’s Institute of Legal Medicine claims that Beatriz isn’t in critical condition yet, a group of her doctors have warned that her health is deteriorating daily. Earlier this month, Beatriz recorded a personal appeal to her president to intervene and save her life. “President Mauricio Funes Cartagena, help me please,” she begged. “This baby inside me cannot survive. I am ill. I want to live… I want to live for my son.” That help has not come for Beatriz.


Wealthy benefit the most from top tax breaks, government study shows

May 30, 2013

The top ten tax deductions, credits and exclusions will keep $12 trillion out of federal government coffers over the next decade, and several of them mainly benefit the wealthiest Americans, a new study from the Congressional Budget Office shows.

The top 20 percent of income earners will reap more than half of the $900 billion in benefits from these tax breaks that will accrue in 2013, the non-partisan CBO said on Wednesday.

Further, 17 percent of the total benefits would go to the top 1 percent of income earners -- families earning roughly $450,000 or more. The same group that was hit with a tax rate hike in January.

The benefits of preferential tax rates on capital gains and dividends, a break worth $161 billion this year, go almost entirely to the wealthy, including 68 percent to the top one percent of earners.


But the study also showed that benefits for the largest of the tax preferences, the exclusion for employer-paid health benefits, worth $3.4 trillion over 10 years, are more evenly distributed, with well over half of the benefits going to the middle 60 percent of earners.

The middle 20 percent of earners also got the biggest benefit from excluding a portion of Social Security and Railroad Retirement benefits, a perk worth $414 billion over 10 years.

Three other big tax breaks, the $2 trillion exclusion of net pension contributions and earnings over 10 years, the $1 trillion deduction for mortgage interest and the $1.1 trillion deduction for state and local taxes, also benefited the top 20 percent disproportionately.


Pot-laced treats may send more kids to the ER, study suggests

May 27, 2013

Increased use of medical marijuana may lead to more young children getting sick from accidentally eating food made with the drug, a Colorado study suggests.

Medical marijuana items include yummy-looking gummy candies, cookies and other treats that may entice young children. Fourteen children were treated at Colorado Children's Hospital in the two years after a 2009 federal policy change led to a surge in medical marijuana use, the study found. That's when federal authorities said they would not prosecute legal users.

Study cases were mostly mild, but parents should know about potential risks and keep the products out of reach, said lead author Dr. George Sam Wang, an emergency room physician at the hospital. stare

Unusual drowsiness and unsteady walking were among the symptoms. One child, a 5-year-old boy, had trouble breathing. Eight children were hospitalized, two in the intensive care unit, though all recovered within a few days, Wang said. By contrast, in four years preceding the policy change, the Denver-area hospital had no such cases.

Some children came in laughing, glassy-eyed or "acting a little goofy and 'off,'" Wang said. Many had eaten medical marijuana food items, although nonmedical marijuana was involved in at least three cases. The children were younger than 12 and included an 8-month-old boy.


The happiest countries? Balance matters more than money

Looks like the U.S. rated as sixth-happiest because the measure included other things besides happiness. When they measured how people actually felt, we did not as well.
And the gross domestic product is a poor measurement in a country with as much inequality as ours because it does not measure the financial well-being of most people, since most of the wealth is held by a small part of the population.

by John Newl,
May 28, 2013

You might not think it from listening to politicians, but the United States is one of the happiest places on Earth.

In fact, according to this year’s Better Life Index, released Tuesday by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, the U.S. is the sixth-happiest of the 36 countries rated, falling just behind such perennially cheerful nations as Sweden and Australia, which grabbed the top spot.

If money were the key to happiness, America would be No. 1 based on its top ranking for disposable income and total household wealth. But that’s not the only thing that matters.

The Paris-based OECD says that gross domestic product, often used to measure a country’s success, isn’t a sufficient indicator of people’s sense of well-being. So the organization takes 11 factors into account, including security, work-life balance, environment and housing.

The U.S. ranks sixth with all 11 factors weighted equally. But if you give the most weight to the elusive “life satisfaction” category, northern European countries are atop, with Switzerland, Norway and Sweden taking the top three spots and the U.S. dropping to 12th.

Work-life balance? Denmark, Norway and Sweden come out on top, and the U.S. is a middling 15th.

Romina Boarini, the OECD’s head of monitoring well-being and progress, sees a pattern in the data. The countries that do best are not only the richest, they’re often the ones that have the smallest gaps between the rich and poor.

Significant inequalities in such areas as health, education and housing can have a major impact, she said.

“We actually see that the lower the social gaps are, the higher the average well-being outcomes,” Boarini said.


The G.O.P.’s Court-Shrinking Plan

On Wed., May 29, 2013, NPR morning edition commented on Republican Senator's Grassley's attempt to decrease the size of the DC court of appeals, and increase the number on some other courts. Grassley claimed this court has fewer cases to decide than some others. NPR did mention that Grassley's measurements do not take into account that this court tends to get more complicated cases.

As NPR said, currently this court is split evenly between the party of the presidents who chose them: four Democrats, four Republicans. [According to a post by Robert Reich on Facebook, there are only 3 chosen by Democratic presidents, and there are 3 vacancies.] NPR didn't say it, but the change Grassley wants would put the conservative judges in the majority. NPR also didn't mention the fact that this court has already been blocking much of President Obama's agenda because of the six senior ("retired") judges who still regularly hear cases. Five of these were appointed by a Republican president. [This was reported by the New York Times print edition on May 28, 2013.]

May 30, 2013

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has vowed to crack down on Republican filibusters several times with no effect, so it’s hard not to feel dubious about his latest threat to change Senate rules if Republicans continue to block President Obama’s nominations. He claims he is considering eliminating the 60-vote threshold to approve judicial and executive nominees.

But if nothing else, Mr. Reid is at least using his power to call attention to an unprecedented attempt by a Senate minority to prevent a president from making appointments on three levels: cabinet departments, federal agencies and the courts.

Republicans have already filibustered two cabinet-level appointments, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and C.I.A. director John Brennan. They made Treasury Secretary Jack Lew answer 444 questions, more than the previous seven nominees for the job combined, and have come up with 1,000 questions for the nominee to run the Environmental Protection Agency, Gina McCarthy. (“One thousand questions is beyond the point of absurdity,” Norman Ornstein of the American Enterprise Institute told the Boston Globe.) Thomas Perez, the choice for Labor secretary, is also being held up. [The American Enterprise Institute is a conservative organization, but obviously have more integrity than many Republicans in Congress.]

They are trying to disable two agencies they hate, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and the National Labor Relations Board, by refusing to allow confirmation votes on any nominees to run them.

And now they are angry that Mr. Obama is daring to nominate three judges to long-open seats on the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, where one seat has been empty since 2005. Senators Mitch McConnell and Charles Grassley have accused the White House of “court-packing,” apparently hoping the public no long remembers the real meaning of that term. (It refers to F.D.R.’s attempt to add more seats to the Supreme Court to get the rulings he wanted. It has nothing to do with filling existing vacancies.)

It’s Mr. Grassley, in fact, who wants to pull an F.D.R. in reverse, talking openly about shrinking the D.C. Circuit so that Republican-appointed judges can remain in the majority there. The circuit court has overruled the Obama administration on several important regulatory issues, and Republicans want it to continue doing so.

Democrats, of course, want to counterbalance those Republican appointees so that they can begin winning a few of those cases.

Democrats, of course, want to counterbalance those Republican appointees so that they can begin winning a few of those cases. That may infuriate conservatives, but here’s the thing: Mr. Obama won the election. He has not only the right but the obligation to fill those seats, and unless he nominates criminals or slipshod judges, they are supposed to be confirmed by the Senate.


Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Helping or hovering? When 'helicopter parenting' backfires

by JoNel Alecci,
May 24, 2013

The father who called to dispute the C grade his adult son got on a college exam had good intentions, Chris Segrin knows. He only wanted what was best for his kid, and if that involved lobbying the University of Arizona professor for a change, so be it.

“Somehow, his dad just seemed to know that the exam was worth a grade of a B,” says Segrin, a behavioral scientist who studies interpersonal relationships and mental health.

But what the dad didn’t know is that the phone call actually undermined his son, leaving the young man feeling insecure and incapable, not empowered and supported, a casualty of what researchers like Segrin describe as an epidemic of “overparenting.”

“When it was all done, the son came in. He was actually a nice kid who apologized profusely,” Segrin recalls. “Sometimes this type of parenting is imposed on children against their will.”

Whether it’s called overparenting or the better-known “helicopter parenting,” the style of overly attentive, competitive child-rearing popular since about the mid-1990s may have backfired.

As the first generation of overparented kids continues to graduate into the world, a slew of studies, including Segrin’s, now show that youngsters whose parents intervene inappropriately -- offering advice, removing obstacles and solving problems that kids should tackle themselves -- actually wind up as anxious, narcissistic young adults who have trouble coping with the demands of life.

“The paradox of this form of parenting is that, despite seemingly good intentions, the preliminary evidence indicates that it is not associated with adaptive outcomes for young adults and may indeed be linked with traits that could hinder the child’s success,” concludes Segrin’s latest study, set to be published next month in the Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology.

Other recent studies also have found that too much help can create undesired outcomes, including a paper by California sociologist Laura T. Hamilton that says that the more money parents spend on their child’s college education, the worse grades the kid gets. Another study by Virginia psychologist Holly H. Schiffrin finds that the more parents are involved in schoolwork and selection of college majors, the less satisfied their kids feel with their college lives.


“When we do not give the child the freedom to try on his or her own and maybe fail on his own, he doesn’t develop the competency that children who fail learn,” he says.


It would be better, suggests Segrin, for parents to put that energy into helping children -- especially late adolescents and young adults -- learn to handle problems and setbacks on their own

That can be challenging because different kids can handle responsibility at different ages, experts say. But it starts with parents actively choosing to let children experience the consequences of their actions instead of rushing to intervene. Suzanne May, an elementary school teacher who left the workforce while she raised her three kids, recalls a time when one child forgot crucial homework and called to ask May to bring it to school.

"I told her, 'No, it's your responsibility. I'm not at your disposal to say, 'Hey, Mom, I forgot this,'" May says. That was a hard stance at the time, but her daughter learned that she needed to remember her work.

In the short run, letting kids suffer discomfort or failure is tough, Segrin says. Most parents want to help their children if they can.

“Overparenting is motivated with the idea of doing good things,” Segrin says. “But it does the exact opposite in the long run. In the long run, parents are impairing their child’s coping skills. They’re winning the battle, but actually losing the war.”

Monday, May 27, 2013

NPR staying true

For more than a week, NPR has been hewing to the Republican spin on the IRS investigations of organizations which claim to be social service organizations, but whose real purpose is to support political candidates and issues. They have been falsely claiming that only certain Republican groups were "targeted." Finally, Sun. afternoon there was a fair report, and they allowed Democrats to have a say, not just Republicans. After this, they thanked people who donated to their pledge drive.

Of course, NPR and it's corporate sponsors are aware that once people have a belief, it is almost impossible for the to change, no matter how much evidence there is against the belief. Which I think explains this pattern I have often seen on NPR. They will hammer home the sponsors message. Then finally they will give a more fair and comprehensive look. This way they can serve the interests of their sponsors, and also maintain their credentials with many people as being fair, or even liberal.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Weather Satellite's failure on eve of hurricane season

Note that President George W. Bush canceled funding for new weather satellites, apparently in order to make it harder to detect global warming. I'll be giving info and links in an adjacent post.

by John Roach,
May 23rd 2013

For the second time in less than a year, the main satellite that keeps an eye on severe weather systems in the eastern half of the United States has malfunctioned, according to government officials. The failure is indicative of the overall aging of the nation's weather satellite network that could lead to gaps in coverage as the fleet is replaced, an expert said.

Although a backup satellite began operating Thursday, the failure of GOES-East, also known as GOES-13, is "really bad timing because of the upcoming hurricane season, and also we are smack dab in the middle of severe weather season," Marshall Shepherd, president of the American Meteorological Society, told NBC News.

Hurricane season officially starts on June 1. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration issued an outlook Thursday calling for a "possibly extremely active" season with 13 to 20 named storms, including three to six major hurricanes with winds of 111 miles per hour (179 kilometers per hour) or higher.

The satellite that failed on Tuesday is one of NOAA's three geostationary satellites. GOES-East hovers above the equator at 75 degrees longitude, providing a steady stream of image data for the eastern U.S. and Atlantic Ocean. The second satellite is GOES-West, which focuses on the western U.S. and the Pacific.

The backup satellite, GOES-14, is in geostationary orbit at 105 degrees longitude. This 30-degree difference between GOES-East and GOES-14 means "you can't see as far east," Thomas Renkevens, deputy division chief with NOAA's satellite products and services division, explained to NBC News.


The loss of GOES-13 on Tuesday marks the second time the satellite had malfunctioned in less than a year — it last blinked out in September prior to Hurricane Sandy, and took several weeks to repair. Engineers are still studying Tuesday's failure to determine the cause and whether the satellite can be fixed, Renkevens noted.

The failures are "indicative of the creeping problem that we are all worried about with our overall weather satellite infrastructure," said Shepherd, who is also a professor and research meteorologist at the University of Georgia.

The satellite fleets that meteorologists use to monitor severe weather and generate forecasts are aging. Replacements are scheduled to launch beginning in 2015, but between now and then there is growing concern "that we are going to end up with gaps in our coverage," Shepherd said.

Renkevens said the agency is "doing the best we can with what we have, trying to make it last as long as we can, not only for more data for the users, but of course the benefit of the taxpayer."

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Statin use is linked to increased risk of developing diabetes, warn researchers

Public release date: 23-May-2013
Contact: Stephanie Burns
BMJ-British Medical Journal

But some statins can reduce risk of diabetes

Treatment with high potency statins (especially atorvastatin and simvastatin) may increase the risk of developing diabetes, suggests a paper published today on

Statins are among the most widely prescribed medications for the prevention of cardiovascular events. Although tolerated well, an association with new-onset diabetes has recently been suggested. One trial suggested a 27% increased risk of diabetes with rosuvastatin whereas another suggested patients taking pravastatin benefitted from a 30% lower risk.


Uninsured Texans Seek Health Care In Mexico As Their Governor Resists Medicaid Expansion

By Sy Mukherjee on May 22, 2013

The debate over Medicaid expansion has devolved into a GOP platform for grandstanding about the health reform law and the Obama administration. But an NPR article from Tuesday shines a light on what, exactly, most Republican governors’ refusal to expand Medicaid will mean for real Americans by examining poor communities in a state headed by one of Obamacare’s most ardent critics: Gov. Rick Perry (R-TX).

The piece centers on particularly destitute populations in southern Texas, where some uninsured residents are so poor, sick, and unable to cope with their medical bills that they resort to desperate measures such as crossing the border into Mexico for medications and even sharing their insulin shots:

[M]any of those who live here [in Brownsville] — including poor Latino immigrants, both legal and undocumented — suffer from diabetes and lack of insurance. Some of those uninsured diabetics, including American citizens and others living here legally, used to go across the border to Matamoros, Mexico for insulin. But now with the fear of brutal drug violence and tougher border restrictions, families share their insulin shots rather than risking the crossings.

A community health worker in Brownsville noted that “many of those who used to cross the border would qualify for Medicaid under the expansion offered by the health care law.”


Employers Were Cutting Workers’ Hours Long Before Obamacare Was Around

By Sy Mukherjee on May 23, 2013

Obamacare critics have been pointing to several companies’ claims that the law is forcing them to cut their part-time workers’ hours as proof that the health law is bad for businesses and employees. But a new report finds that employers were cutting health benefits and workers’ hours long before Obamacare was even an idea.

According to data compiled by the Employee Benefit Research Institute (EBRI), large employers have increasingly been turning to part-time workers for their labor. Between 2007 and 2011, the percentage of workers employed in part-time jobs increased from 16.7 percent to 22.2 percent of the work force. That means that workers’ hours have also been declining, since using more part-time workers lets companies scale back on how many hours those employees can work.

But these companies’ cuts haven’t been limited to workers’ hours — they’ve been cutting back on part-time employees’ health benefits, too. During the same four year period, part-time workers experienced a 15.7 percent decline in the likelihood of having health coverage through their jobs:

As the graph demonstrates, that trend existed even before the recession, and has only gotten worse since then.


Former NY Army Corps Commander On Post-Sandy Reality: ‘Climate Change Is Real,’

Former NY Army Corps Commander On Post-Sandy Reality: ‘Climate Change Is Real,’ ‘We’ve Got To Stop Ignoring It’

By Brad Johnson, Guest Blogger on May 23, 2013

At a May 16 televised forum on the recovery from Superstorm Sandy, a former top military infrastructure official called on Americans to “stop ignoring” climate change and “realize it’s the new reality.”

At the Sandy town hall organized by public television stations NJTV and WNET, John Boulé, the former commander of the New York District, Army Corps of Engineers, warned New Yorkers to stop ignoring climate change and start preparing for higher sea level rise and more frequent and more powerful storms:

First of all, we’ve got to realize it’s the new reality. Climate change is real. It’s more than sea level rise that’s going to happen over the course of the next 100 years. It’s greater storm intensities, it’s greater storm frequencies. We’ve got to stop ignoring it and start planning and building to reduce the risk to the public. That’s where we are.


At no point during the two-hour forum did any panelist or reporter discuss the manmade causes of climate change or recommend opposing the threat to civilization posed by the fossil-fuel industry. The words “fossil fuels,” “carbon”, “greenhouse,” “pollution,” and “oil” were never mentioned. Also not mentioned was David Koch, the carbon pollution billionaire and richest man in New York, who was on the board of WNET from 2006 until the day of the forum. At the WNET board meeting on the morning of May 16, Koch’s resignation was accepted.

Cockroaches quickly lose sweet tooth to survive

May 23, 2:06 PM (ET)


NEW YORK (AP) - For decades, people have been getting rid of cockroaches by setting out bait mixed with poison. But in the late 1980s, in an apartment test kitchen in Florida, something went very wrong.

A killer product stopped working. Cockroach populations there kept rising. Mystified researchers tested and discarded theory after theory until they finally hit on the explanation: In a remarkably rapid display of evolution at work, many of the cockroaches had lost their sweet tooth, rejecting the corn syrup meant to attract them.

In as little as five years, the sugar-rejecting trait had become so widespread that the bait had been rendered useless.


The findings illustrate the evolutionary prowess that has helped make cockroaches so hard to stamp out that it is jokingly suggested they could survive nuclear war.


Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Health Care For A Family Of Four Now Costs More Than The Groceries To Feed Them For An Entire Year

By Tara Culp-Ressler posted from ThinkProgress Health on May 22, 2013

As medical costs continue to rise, the annual health expenses for a family of four now exceed the typical of cost of their groceries during the same time period, according to a new report from consulting firm Milliman, Inc.

The firm estimates that a typical family of four with an employer-sponsored health plan will end up incurring about $22,030 for all of their medical costs in 2013. That represents a 6.3 increase from last year, when the typical family racked up $20,728.

Some of that total sum ends up being covered by the family’s health insurance plan — the firm’s analysts found that employers paid about 58 percent of the total health care costs — but a big chunk of it falls onto the family itself. The average family pays more than $9,000 in payroll deductions and out-of-pocket bills for their health care, which is more than they typically spend on groceries and gas for an entire year


Average CEO Salary Reached A New Record High Of $9.7 Million In 2012

By Aviva Shen posted from ThinkProgress Economy on May 22, 2013

The average CEO salary broke records in 2011 at $9.6 million — and now, that record high has been topped by 2012 salaries, which averaged out to $9.7 million. Health care and media CEOs enjoyed the highest pay, while utility CEOs had the lowest at $7.5 million. Sixty percent of CEOs got a raise last year.

Though CEO pay dropped slightly after the financial crisis, it quickly rebounded to reach new heights in 2010, 2011, and now 2012. Simultaneously, the pay gap between CEOs and workers has also broken records, as the average CEO in 2012 earned 354 times more than the average worker.

----- [I don't know if CEO salaries are included in the "average worker" salary. If so, the pay discrepancy between CEO's and others is even larger.]


The Dodd-Frank Wall Street reform law tried to address this phenomenon by ordering public companies to reveal the exact disparity between their CEO and worker pay. Three years later, many big businesses are lobbying to kill the requirement in the rule-making process. Transparent payrolls can help keep executive compensation within the stratosphere and help investors get a sense of employee morale and company reputation. Even so, JP Morgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon compared efforts to tamp down executive pay to Communist Cuba. Whole Foods, which tracks pay to ensure that no employee makes more than 19 times the median company salary, has dismissed claims that the rule burdens businesses, noting it only takes a few days to track.

Skewed executive compensation levels made some CEOs iconic villains after the financial crisis. Citigroup CEO Vikram Pandit got a $6.7 million pay-out after driving the bank to near ruin, while a Duke Energy CEO received $44 million for one day of work.

3 Planets Performing Rare Night Sky Show: How to See It

See the following link for a picture of how to locate the planets, and for more info.

by Mike Wall, Senior Writer
Date: 21 May 2013

Three planets are coming together in the evening sky at the moment, putting on a celestial show that won't be seen again for more than a decade.

Jupiter, Venus and Mercury are gathering low in the west-northwest evening sky, and next week they'll form the tightest grouping of three naked-eye planets that skywatchers will see until 2026, experts say.


The Latest Lie: IRS Targeted Conservatives

I just heard NPR refer to the IRS "targeting" conservative groups. By this time, they have to know that is a lie. Sadly, I am not at all surprised. NPR is dependent enough on its corporate sponsors that it is part of the corporate media.

And I don't believe this is a matter of ignorance by the media. It is part of a wide-ranging, long-term pattern of the media serving the interests of the power elite which owns or funds them.

by Dave Johnso,
May 21st 2013

Remember the video of the guy in the "pimp costume" who got advice from ACORN employees on how to run his prostitution ring? Turns out the whole story was just a lie, a doctored-video smear job on an important organization. The guy never wore a "pimp costume" and the real, undoctored videos showed that ACORN employees did nothing wrong. But a lie travels around the world before the corporate media bothers to check the facts. The "news" media blasted the story everywhere, and Congress was so outraged they forced ACORN to close its doors. And here we are again.

The corporate media is blasting out the story that the IRS "targeted conservative groups." Some in the media say there was "IRS harassment of conservative groups." Some of the media are going so far as claiming that conservative groups were "audited."

This story that is being repeated and treated as "true" is just not what happened at all. It is one more right-wing victimization fable, repeated endlessly until the public has no choice except to believe it.

Conservative Groups Were Not "Targeted," "Singled Out" Or Anything Else

You are hearing that conservative groups were "targeted." What you are not hearing is that progressive groups were also "targeted." So were groups that are not progressive or conservative.

All that happened here is that groups applying to the IRS for special tax status were checked to see if they were engaged in political activity. They were checked, not targeted. Only one-third of the groups checked were conservative groups.

Once again: Only one-third of the groups checked were conservative groups.

Conservative groups were not "singled out," were not "targeted" and in the end none were denied special tax status – even though many obviously should have been.

From last week's House hearings on this:

Rep. Peter Roskam, R-IL: "How come only conservative groups got snagged?"

Outgoing acting IRS commissioner Steve Miller: "They didn't sir. Organizations of all walks and all persuasions were pulled in. That’s shown by the fact that only 70 of the 300 organizations were tea party organizations, of the ones that were looked at by TIGTA [Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration]."

Bet you didn't see that blasted all over your TV news that night.


Here's the story. After the "Citizen's United" decision allowed unlimited corporate money into elections there was a flood of applications to get special tax status that allowed an organization to hide its donors from the public, and in some cases even be tax-exempt. But the rules say that political groups can't get this special tax status. The IRS has to check out applications for tax status to see if it is really a political group trying to sneak in to a special tax status.

Because they were flooded and couldn't check out every applying organization, the IRS group looked for things in the applications that "flagged" an organization as possibly a political group. These flagged applications were then passed along to specialists to look deeper and determine if they were legit or not.

So What Was The "Wrongdoing"?

The Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) has issued a full report: Inappropriate Criteria Were Used to Identify Tax-Exempt Applications for Review that looked into the accusation that the IRS "targeted" tea party groups that were applying for special tax status for extra scrutiny. The report is not all that long. You should read it. (Apparently most the people you are hearing from in the media haven't read it.)


Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Tornadoes, Extreme Weather And Climate Change, Revisited

Of course, we've always had severe weather. But global warming is adding energy to our system, which would be expected to make for more extremes. Like if you shove the ground harder when you are swinging, you expect to go higher.

By Joe Romm on May 21, 2013

Tom Karl, the director of the National Climatic Data Center, explained in a 2011 email:

What we can say with confidence is that heavy and extreme precipitation events often associated with thunderstorms and convection are increasing and have been linked to human-induced changes in atmospheric composition.


The main climate change connection is via the basic instability of the low level air that creates the convection and thunderstorms in the first place. Warmer and moister conditions are the key for unstable air.

The climate change effect is probably only a 5 to 10% effect in terms of the instability and subsequent rainfall, but it translates into up to a 32% effect in terms of damage. (It is highly nonlinear). So there is a chain of events and climate change mainly affects the first link: the basic buoyancy of the air is increased. Whether that translates into a super-cell storm and one with a tornado is largely chance weather.

------ [see link above for more info]

Senator Undertakes $3-Per-Day Food Stamp Challenge As Congress Readies Cuts

By Alan Pyke posted from ThinkProgress Economy on May 20, 2013

As the farm bill approved by the Agriculture Committee last week reaches the Senate floor Monday afternoon, Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT) will be a few hours into an experiment: eating for a week on the meager food budget afford by the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). Murphy announced on Twitter that he would take the SNAP Challenge, which is the brainchild of the Food Research and Action Center (FRAC).

That means Murphy will be eating on a few dollars per day, as his colleagues debate a measure that would cut $4 billion from the SNAP budget over the next decade. Murphy is using the $3 per day allowance FRAC and allies recommended in 2007 guidelines for lawmakers interested in the challenge, although government data shows the program averaged about $4.40/day nationwide in fiscal year 2012.

But if anything, the SNAP Challenge understates the hardships actual SNAP recipients face, both today and in the near future.

Those Americans must make it a full month on SNAP, and statistics show that about 80 percent of a given recipient’s monthly allotment gets spent in the first two weeks of the month:


It’s harder to quantify another facet of life on SNAP that Murphy’s attempt to raise awareness of the program won’t require him to face: social stigma. The senator won’t have to worry about a cashier loudly asking him to run his Electronic Benefits Transfer card again while other customers wait behind him. He probably won’t experience the judgment of peers described here by Tiffani Stacy of Columbus, TX.

Murphy’s experience of life on SNAP, however muted, ought to help draw attention to the program’s inability to absorb the further cuts Congress has proposed.

Before Deadly Tornado Hit, Oklahoma Senators Worked To Undermine Disaster Relief

I very much doubt that Coburn will want all the offsets to come from Oklahoma.

By Rebecca Leber on May 21, 2013

Oklahoma residents will now turn to government assistance for emergency disaster aid after a tornado ripped through the state on Monday, leaving dozens dead and tearing apart hundreds of buildings. But the same night that many residents lost their homes, Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) told CQ Roll Call insisted he would “absolutely” require any federal disaster aid to be offset by other budget cuts. He later clarified on Tuesday, promising, “I can assure Oklahomans that any and all available aid will be delivered without delay.”

Both of the state’s senators, Sen. James Inhofe (R) and Coburn, however, have long worked to undermine the Federal Emergency Management Agency, even though their state heavily relies on disaster aid:


A spokesman told the Huffington Post that Coburn has supported offsets for the Oklahoma City bombing recovery effort, which tapped funds not yet appropriated.

Oklahoma and Texas rank as the top two states in FEMA disaster declarations; combined, they account for more than a quarter of declared disasters since 2009. So it doesn’t come as a surprise that the senators have requested disaster aid for severe storms and drought, even though Coburn is willing to hold up relief with his demands.

Congressman Who Gets Millions In Farm Subsidies Denounces Food Stamps As Stealing ‘Other People’s Money’

By Aviva Shen posted from ThinkProgress Economy on May 21, 2013

Rep. Stephen Fincher (R-TN) agitated against food aid for poor Americans included in the Farm Bill during last week’s House Agricultural Committee debate, accusing the government of stealing “other people’s money.” Funding for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) has already been decimated in both the House and Senate versions of the Farm Bill, cutting off nearly 2 million working families, children, and seniors from food assistance.


While Fincher interprets food assistance for the needy as “stealing,” he has not similarly condemned the Farm Bill’s massive agricultural subsidies. In fact, he supported a proposal to expand crop insurance by $9 billion over the next 10 years. Fincher has a great personal stake in maintaining these particular government handouts, as the second most heavily subsidized farmer in Congress and one of the largest subsidy recipients in Tennessee history:

USDA data collected in EWG’s 2013 farm subsidy database update — going live tomorrow –shows that Fincher collected a staggering $3.48 million in “our” money from 1999 to 2012. In 2012 alone, the congressman was cut a government check for a $70,000 direct payment. Direct payments are issued automatically, regardless of need, and go predominantly to the largest, most profitable farm operations in the country.

Fincher’s $70,000 farm subsidy haul in 2012 dwarfs the average 2012 SNAP benefit in Tennessee of $1,586.40, and it is nearly double of Tennessee’s median household income. After voting to cut SNAP by more than $20 billion, Fincher joined his colleagues to support a proposal to expand crop insurance subsidies by $9 billion over the next 10 years.

As the Environmental Working Group notes, crop insurance subsidies have no limits on their recipients’ income levels. Therefore, the bulk of the crop insurance is paid out in million-dollar installments to a small group of large farm businesses, while the bottom 80 percent of farmers receive roughly $5,000 a year. SNAP, on the other hand, limits aid to income below 130 percent of the federal poverty line, or $30,000 per year for a family of four.

NPR slanting IRS story in favor of Republicans, again

May 21, 2013

Several years ago, when I was working and thus getting up early enough to listen to NPR news in the morning, for about a year and a half I kept a log of things I was interested in and how, and whether, they were being covered, in order to check my observation that there was a blackout of any mention of anything that might suggest global warming was happening, or could have bad effects if it did occur. They started covering this problem only after their oil company sponsors admitted that human-caused global warming is real and is a problem. I verified that I was right. But I also found something that I hadn't realized. Almost all the time, when NPR covered something that the power elite would not want covered, like rising rates of inequality, the stories were aired either right before or during a pledge drive. I have seen this pattern continue. Not long ago (maybe a year?), after NPR started did not meet it's pledge drive goal, coverage of such topics noticable increased. In the most recent pledge drive, ending a few weeks ago, they asked for more sponsors, saying it might end the need for pledge drives. I would say that would be terrible, because then they would lose the pressure to serve the average listener. (For all I know, the employees at NPR might welcome the chance to present a more balanced view rather than being a genteel version of right-wing media.) Then they changed to asking people to become sustaining members, automatically-paid monthly deductions, that it might reduce the length of the pledge drives. That seems like it would retain the incentive to cover the news more fairly. This pledge drive was very successful. And now they are presenting the investigation of the tax status of some conservative political groups overwhelmingly with the standpoint of the Republicans. Without mentioning that only a few of from groups were investigated. Language to the effect that they were unfairly investigated, whereas they should have been investigated. The possible questionable behaviour was singling them out unfairly, and we are not given sufficient info to know if that was actually the case. W/o mentioning the many other groups that were investigated. W/o mentioning the names of any other of the many groups that were similarly investigate. Etc. And this has been going on for more than a week, so they have had plenty of time to investigate more deeply, and bring us more info than we could get from listening to Faux Noise.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

More US babies die day they are born than any industrialized country, report shows

by Maggie Fox,
April 30, 2013

The US is a worse place for newborns than 68 other countries, including Egypt, Turkey and Peru, according to a report released Tuesday by Save the Children.

A million babies every year die on the same say they were born globally, including more than 11,000 American newborns, the report estimates. Most of them could be saved with fairly cheap interventions, the group says.

“The birth of a child should be a time of wonder and celebration. But for millions of mothers and babies in developing countries, it is a dance with death,” the report reads. “A baby’s first day is the most dangerous day of life—in the United States and countries rich and poor,” it adds.

“The United States has the highest first-day death rate in the industrialized world. An estimated 11,300 newborn babies die each year in the United States on the day they are born. This is 50 percent more first-day deaths than all other industrialized countries combined.”


Save the Children says it’s not precisely clear why the United States does so poorly in protecting newborns, but says politics and culture both play a role.

“Many babies in the United States are born too early. The U.S. preterm birth rate (1 in 8 births) is one of the highest in the industrialized world (second only to Cyprus). In fact, 130 countries from all across the world have lower preterm birth rates than the United States,” the report reads.

Teen births are partly to blame, the report says – echoing other research that has shown this. The U.S. has the highest teenage birth rate of any industrialized country.

“Teenage mothers in the U.S. tend to be poorer, less educated, and receive less prenatal care than older mothers. Because of these challenges, babies born to teen mothers are more likely to be low-birthweight and be born prematurely and to die in their first month. They are also more likely to suffer chronic medical conditions, do poorly in school, and give birth during their teen years (continuing the cycle of teen pregnancy),” the report says.

“Poverty, racism and stress are likely to be important contributing factors to first-day deaths in the United States and other industrialized countries.”


The report also strongly links a country’s politics to its newborn death rate. “Women hold only 18 percent of seats in the United States Congress,” the report says. “Sixteen countries have more than double this percentage of seats occupied by women. In Finland and Sweden, for example, women hold 43 and 45 percent of parliamentary seats, respectively.”

Finland and Sweden have the lowest rates of newborn deaths in the world.


“Other low-cost interventions such as kangaroo mother care and early and exclusive breastfeeding would save many more babies.” Kangaroo care is skin-to-skin contact that keeps babies warm and stimulated.

Education is also key, the group says. “The more time girls spend in school, the later they marry and begin childbearing. Educated girls also are more likely to grow up to be mothers who are healthy, well-nourished, economically empowered and resourceful when it comes to caring for themselves and their babies. “


About Half of Adults Lacked Adequate Health Coverage in 2012

May 6th 2013

About half of United States adults ages 19 to 64 didn’t have health insurance for at least part of last year or were underinsured, a new report from the Commonwealth Fund says.

The fund, a private nonprofit organization that finances research into health care and health policy issues, conducts the health insurance survey every two years.

One bright spot, the report found, is that the proportion of young adults without health insurance fell significantly over the last two years, probably because of a provision of the Affordable Care Act that allows young adults to stay on their parents’ health plans until age 26. The rule took effect in September 2010.


Agent Orange linked with aggressive prostate cancer

by Genevra Pittm,
May 13, 2013

Men who were exposed to Agent Orange chemicals used during the Vietnam War are at higher risk for life-threatening prostate cancer than unexposed veterans, researchers have found.

What's more, those who served where the herbicide was used were diagnosed with cancer about five years earlier than other men, on average, in the new study.

"This is a very, very strong predictor of lethal cancer," said urologist Dr. Mark Garzotto, who worked on the study at the Portland Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Oregon.


Agent Orange - named after the giant orange drums in which the chemicals were stored - was used by the U.S. military to destroy foliage, mainly in southern Vietnam. The herbicide was often contaminated with a type of dioxin, a potently carcinogenic chemical.

The Vietnam Red Cross Society has estimated that up to one million Vietnamese suffered disabilities or health problems as a result of Agent Orange, including children born with birth defects years after their parents were exposed.

Past research has also suggested that U.S. veterans who served where Agent Orange was used are at an increased risk of lymphoma and certain other cancers, including prostate cancer.


Separating out different types of tumors showed the herbicide was not linked to an increased risk of slower-growing, low-grade cancer. But it was tied to a 75 percent higher risk of being diagnosed with aggressive prostate cancer, the study team reported Monday in the journal Cancer.

"The increase in the rate of cancers was almost exclusively driven by the potentially lethal cancers," said Garzotto, who’s also associated with Oregon Health & Science University.


the United States may be experiencing the lowest murder rate in over a century

May 18, 2013 4:38 PM

Now for some good news: according to economic consultant Rick Nevin, this year, the U.S. in on track to experience the lowest murder rate in over 100 years. Nevin reports that, based on preliminary FBI data, the weighted average murder rate in 30 large localities nationwide this year is 18% lower than it was at this time last year. Even in my hometown of Chicago, for example, which has suffered from a sky-high homicide rate, murders have declined by an astonishing 39%, as compared to this time last year. And New Orleans, which in recent years has experienced the nation’s highest murder rate, has seen an 11% decline in homocides this year.

Nevins, like Kevin Drum, believes the crime is attributable to declining rates of lead exposure in childhood.


It’s one thing to have two simple curves that match up well. That could just be a coincidence. But to have two unusual double-humped curves that match up well is highly unlikely unless there really is an association. Put that together with all the statistical evidence from other countries; plus the prospective studies that have tracked lead exposure in individual children from birth; plus the MRI scans showing the actual locations of brain damage in adults who were exposed to lead as children—put all that together and you have a pretty compelling set of evidence. Lead exposure doesn’t just lower IQs and hurt educational development. It also increases violent tendencies later in life. If we want less crime 20 years from now, the best thing we can do today is clean up the last of our lead.


Put this all together and the benefits of lead cleanup could be in the neighborhood of $200 billion per year. In other words, an annual investment of $20 billion for 20 years could produce returns of 10-to-1 every single year for decades to come. Those are returns that Wall Street hedge funds can only dream of.

Are gadgets making us dumber?

By Bob Sullivan, Columnist, NBC News
May 18, 2013

Are gadgets making us dumber? Two new studies suggest they might be. One found that people who are interrupted by technology score 20 percent lower on a standard cognition test. A second demonstrated that some students, even when on their best behavior, can't concentrate on homework for more than two minutes without distracting themselves by using social media or writing an email.

Interruptions are the scourge of modern life. Our days and nights are full of gadgets that ping, buzz and beep their way into our attention, taking us away from whatever we are doing.

We've known for a while that distractions hurt productivity at work. Depressing research by Gloria Mark at the University of California, Irvine, says that typical office workers only get 11 continuous minutes to work on a task before interruption.


Multitasking has been the subject of popular debate, but among neuroscientists, there is very little of that. Brain researchers say that what many people call multitasking should really be called “rapid toggling” between tasks, as the brain focuses quickly on one topic, then switches to another, and another. As all economics students know, switching is not free. It involves "switching costs" — in this case, the time it takes to re-immerse your mind in one topic or another.


All that task-switching wears out the brain and makes learners more tired and less competent. Most important, several studies have shown that information learned while partially distracted is often quickly forgotten, so the learning is tragically shallow.

The key to transferring new information from the brain's short-term to long-term memory is a process called "encoding." Without deep concentration, encoding is unlikely to occur, explained Nicholas Carr in his book “The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains.”

Four Presidents, Four Umbrellas

I learned from Facebook that the Republican propaganda machine is criticizing President Obama because a marine held an umbrella for him, although they didn't mind when it was done for other presidents. And they don't want to fund adequate medical care for veteran's.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Getting fit in middle age can reduce heart failure risk

Public release date: 15-May-2013
Contact: Cathy Lewis
American Heart Association
Getting fit in middle age can reduce heart failure risk
American Heart Association meeting report -- Abstract 156

Middle aged and out of shape? It's not too late to get fit — and reduce your risk for heart failure, according to research presented at the American Heart Association's Quality of Care and Outcomes Research Scientific Sessions 2013.

Researchers ranked fitness levels of 9,050 men and women (average age 48) who took two fitness tests — eight years apart — during mid-life. After 18 years of follow-up, they matched the fitness information to Medicare claims for heart failure hospitalizations.

"People who weren't fit at the start of the study were at higher risk for heart failure after age 65," said Ambarish Pandey, M.D., lead author of the study and an internal medicine resident at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas. "However, those who improved their fitness reduced their heart failure risk, compared to those who continued to have a low fitness level eight years later."


Unlocking the manipulation of mosquitoes by malaria parasites

Public release date: 15-May-2013
Contact: Katie Steels
London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine

Scientists will attempt to find out how malaria parasites manipulate their mosquito hosts after discovering that smell could be a major factor.

In a study published in PLOS ONE today, a team of researchers led by the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine show for the first time that female mosquitoes infected with malaria parasites are significantly more attracted to human odour than uninfected mosquitoes.


More sleep may decrease the risk of suicide in people with insomnia

No surprise to me. I have found that if I don't get enough sleep, I am prone to depression when under stress that I can handle when I am more well-rested.

American Academy of Sleep Medicine
Wednesday, May 15, 2013


CONTACT: Lynn Celmer

DARIEN, IL – A new study found a relationship between sleep duration and suicidal thoughts in people with insomnia.

Results show that every one-hour increase in sleep duration was associated with a 72 percent decrease in the likelihood of moderate or high suicide risk, in comparison with low risk. Data were adjusted for age, gender, race/ethnicity, education and age of onset of sleep difficulties.


Jekyll into Hyde: Breathing auto emissions turns HDL cholesterol from 'good' to 'bad'

Public release date: 15-May-2013
Contact: Rachel Champeau
University of California - Los Angeles Health Sciences

Academic researchers have found that breathing motor vehicle emissions triggers a change in high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol, altering its cardiovascular protective qualities so that it actually contributes to clogged arteries.

In addition to changing HDL from "good" to "bad," the inhalation of emissions activates other components of oxidation, the early cell and tissue damage that causes inflammation, leading to hardening of the arteries, according to the research team, which included scientists from UCLA and other institutions.

The findings of this early study, done in mice, are available in the online edition of the journal Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis and Vascular Biology, a publication of the American Heart Association, and will appear in the journal's June print edition.


Depression linked to almost doubled stroke risk in middle-aged women

Public release date: 16-May-2013
Contact: Carrie Thacker
American Heart Association

American Heart Association Rapid Access Journal Report

Depressed middle-aged women have almost double the risk of having a stroke, according to research published in Stroke: Journal of the American Heart Association.


Work-related stress linked to increased blood fat levels

Public release date: 16-May-2013
Contact: SINC

FECYT - Spanish Foundation for Science and Technology

An altered lipid profile is dangerous for the heart

Spanish researchers have studied how job stress affects cardiovascular health. The results, published in the 'Scandinavian Journal of Public Health', link this situation to dyslipidemia, a disorder that alters the levels of lipids and lipoproteins in the blood.

Experts have been saying for years that emotional stress is linked to the risk of suffering cardiovascular disease as a result of unhealthy habits such as smoking, an unsuitable diet or leading a sedentary lifestyle, among other factors.


Climate change 'will make hundreds of millions homeless'

It is already causing or making worse things that are causing many, many deaths, directly from starvation from failed crops, or indirectly from social unrest from food shortages and their resulting high food prices - in Africa and the Middle East; fires in the U.S. and other countries.

Robin McKie, science editor
The Observer, Saturday 11 May 2013

It is increasingly likely that hundreds of millions of people will be displaced from their homelands in the near future as a result of global warming. That is the stark warning of economist and climate change expert Lord Stern following the news last week that concentrations of carbon dioxide in our atmosphere had reached a level of 400 parts per million (ppm).

Massive movements of people are likely to occur over the rest of the century because global temperatures are likely to rise to by up to 5C (9F) because carbon dioxide levels have risen unabated for 50 years, said Stern, who is head of the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change.

"When temperatures rise to that level, we will have disrupted weather patterns and spreading deserts," he said. "Hundreds of millions of people will be forced to leave their homelands because their crops and animals will have died. The trouble will come when they try to migrate into new lands, however. That will bring them into armed conflict with people already living there. Nor will it be an occasional occurrence. It could become a permanent feature of life on Earth."

The news that atmospheric carbon dioxide levels have reached 400ppm has been seized on by experts because that level brings the world close to the point where it becomes inevitable that it will experience a catastrophic rise in temperatures. Scientists have warned for decades of the danger of allowing industrial outputs of carbon dioxide to rise unchecked.


The last time the Earth's atmosphere had 400ppm carbon dioxide, the Arctic was ice-free and sea levels were 40 metres (131 feet) higher.

The prospect of Earth returning to these climatic conditions is causing major alarm. As temperatures rise, deserts will spread and life-sustaining weather patterns such as the North Indian monsoon could be disrupted. Agriculture could fail on a continent-wide basis and hundreds of millions of people would be rendered homeless, triggering widespread conflict.


Arctic waters growing alarmingly acidic

May 11, 2013

The seas of the world are becoming increasingly acidic and the Arctic is hardest hit.

Scientists think that by the year 2100 the Arctic Ocean will be twice as acidic as it is today.

Today, after three years of studies, the results have been presented at the AMAP International Conference on Arctic Ocean Acidification in Bergen. The main conclusions are:

The oceans are becoming more acidic. Marine acidification is the result of the seas absorbing huge amounts of CO2 caused by human activities.
In the past 200 years the average degree of acidity in ocean surface waters has increased 30 percent worldwide.
The ocean in the Arctic region is especially vulnerable. CO2 is more readily absorbed in cold water and the increasing flow of fresh water reduces the ocean’s capabilities of neutralising acidification.
In central areas of the ocean in the Arctic the acidification is more extensive, especially because surface water in these areas is so heavily affected.
As the food chains in the Arctic are relatively short and simple, marine ecosystems are succeptible to changes when external factors impact key species.


He explains that the sea has done us all a great service in protecting the climate the last 200 years by acting as a carbon sink, absorbing huge amounts of CO2. The sea has absorbed about half the CO2 we have discharged since the industrial revolution and still takes about 25 percent.

Study Finds 97% Consensus on Human-Caused Global Warming in the Peer-Reviewed Literature

By Climate Guest Blogger on May 15, 2013
By Dana Nuccitelli and John Cook via Skeptical Science.

A new survey of over 12,000 peer-reviewed climate science papers by our citizen science team at Skeptical Science has found a 97 percent consensus in the peer-reviewed literature that humans are causing global warming.


Our results are also consistent with previous research finding a 97 percent consensus amongst climate experts on the human cause of global warming. Doran and Zimmerman (2009) surveyed Earth scientists, and found that of the 77 scientists responding to their survey who are actively publishing climate science research, 75 (97.4%) agreed that “human activity is a significant contributing factor in changing mean global temperatures.” Anderegg et al. (2010) compiled a list of 908 researchers with at least 20 peer-reviewed climate publications. They found that:

“≈97% of self-identified actively publishing climate scientists agree with the tenets of ACC [anthropogenic climate change]“

In our survey, among scientists who expressed a position on AGW in their abstract, 98.4% endorsed the consensus. This is greater than 97% consensus of peer-reviewed papers because endorsement papers had more authors than rejection papers, on average.


However, research has also shown that the public is misinformed on the climate consensus. For example, a 2012 poll from US Pew Research Center found less than half of Americans thought that scientists agreed that humans were causing global warming. One contributor to this misperception is false balance in the media, particularly in the US, where most climate stories are “balanced” with a “skeptic” perspective. However, this results in making the 3 percent seem much larger, like 50 percent. In trying to achieve “balance”, the media has actually created a very unbalanced perception of reality. As a result, people believe scientists are still split about what’s causing global warming, and therefore there is not nearly enough public support or motivation to solve the problem.

Such false balance has long been the goal of a dedicated misinformation campaign waged by the fossil fuel industry. Just as one example, in 1991 Western Fuels Association conducted a $510,000 campaign whose primary goal was to “reposition global warming as theory (not fact).” These vested interests have exploited the media desire to appear “balanced.”


Another important point is that once you accept that humans are causing global warming, you must also accept that global warming is still happening; humans cause global warming by increasing the greenhouse effect, and our greenhouse gas emissions just keep accelerating. This ties in to our previous posts noting that global warming is accelerating; but that over the past decade, most of that warming has gone into the oceans (including the oft-neglected deep oceans). If you accept that humans are causing global warming, as over 97% of peer-reviewed scientific papers do, then this conclusion should not be at all controversial. With all this evidence for human-caused global warming, it couldn’t simply have just stopped, so the heat must be going somewhere. Scientists have found it in the oceans.


GOP Sources Altered Benghazi E-Mails To Suggest A Cover-Up, Reporter Confirms

By Rebecca Leber posted from ThinkProgress Security on May 17, 2013

Since September, Republicans have claimed the Obama administration covered up the truth about the attack on the American consulate in Benghazi, Libya by altering the talking points Susan Rice used on the Sunday morning talk shows. To bolster the story, Republicans misquoted or significantly embellished the emails officials used to draft Rice’s remarks, the CBS Evening News reported Thursday.

CBS News’ Major Garrett confirmed that it was a GOP source who leaked the altered emails.

The miscast quotes affect at least two emails that include a State Department spokesperson and a White House deputy adviser — the two parties GOP lawmakers insist were trying to engage a cover-up on behalf of the Obama administration to protect the president’s chances of re-election.

A leaked email adds new language to State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland’s email, including a specific reference to al-Qaeda:


Fitness protects you from cancer, even 20 years later

By Maggie Fox Senior Writer, NBC news
updated 5/17/2013

Fitness can protect you from cancer -- even 20 or more years down the road, researchers report. And men who were the most fit in middle age were the least likely to die a quarter century later even if they were unlucky enough to get cancer, a new study finds.


Thursday, May 16, 2013

Cancer increases bankruptcy risk, even for insured

by Barbara Mantel,
May 15th 2013 4:29 AM

Cancer patients are at much greater risk of bankruptcy than people without cancer, according to a large new study. And while the new health care law promises insurance coverage to more than 30 million Americans who lack it now, the high cost of cancer care can push many patients, especially younger women, into financial trouble, experts say.


Overall, cancer patients were 2.5 times as likely as others to file for bankruptcy.

Non-white females were the most likely to file, while patients 65 or older were the least likely -- possibly because they were covered by Medicare and eligible for Social Security.

Bankruptcy rates among the younger groups were up to 10 times that of the older patients. “People who have fewer assets, less income and less generous insurance because of entry level jobs or no insurance are more vulnerable to severe financial distress,” Ramsey says.


“previous studies tell us that about three-quarters of people who say that illness was a major factor in their bankruptcy had private health insurance, at least when they first got sick,”


Head of Fort Campbell harassment program arrested

May 16, 6:39 PM EDT

FORT CAMPBELL, Ky. (AP) -- The manager of the sexual assault response program at Fort Campbell, Ky., was arrested in a domestic dispute and relieved of his post, authorities said Thursday.

Lt. Col. Darin Haas (HAHZ') turned himself in to police in Clarksville, Tenn., late Wednesday on charges of violating an order of protection, and stalking. Master Sgt. Pete Mayes, a spokesman for the Army post on the Tennessee-Kentucky line, said Haas was immediately removed as manager of a program meant to prevent sexual harassment and assault and encourage equal opportunity.


Thousands of Georgia veterans could be left out of Medicaid

In Georgia, a single person w/o children and not officially disabled is NOT eligible for Medicaid if they have income over $230/month. And that is not a typo. That's $2760/year!

Atlanta Journal Constitution:

by Misty Williams
April 30, 2013

Uninsured Georgia Veterans Could Remain Ineligible For Medicaid.

Poor, uninsured military veterans and their spouses in Georgia won’t gain the same access to critical health coverage that hundreds of thousands of their peers will receive in states that plan to expand Medicaid. More than 83,000 Georgia veterans and their spouses under age 65 don’t have health insurance, the fourth-largest such population among states nationwide, a recent study examining U.S. Census Bureau data shows. Nearly 40 percent of them — people like Dale Zipperer of Griffin, a Marine from the Vietnam era whose poor health prevents him from working — have incomes low enough to qualify for coverage under a Medicaid expansion set to begin in January under the Affordable Care Act (Williams, 4/30).

Flu in Pregnancy Is Linked to Bipolar Disorder

May 15th 2013

Flu infection during pregnancy may increase the risk for bipolar disorder in the child, according to a new report.

Previous studies have found an association between flu infection and schizophrenia, but this one, published online in JAMA Psychiatry, is the first to find a connection with bipolar disorder.


After controlling for maternal age, race, educational level, gestational age at birth and maternal psychiatric disorders, they found that people whose mothers had the flu during pregnancy had quadruple the risk for bipolar disorder as adults. [confusing wording. Better to say "when they were adults"]

“Pregnant women should not be alarmed,” said the senior author, Dr. Alan S. Brown, a professor of psychiatry and epidemiology at Columbia. “Bipolar disorder occurs in only 1 percent of the population. But this is another piece of knowledge indicating that pregnant mothers and women planning a pregnancy should consider getting a flu shot.”

A lot of competition in the music business

May 13, 2013

With Nashville's first season about to wrap up — and a second one just ordered — the prime-time TV drama has found a niche audience on Wednesdays. The soundtrack has also enjoyed pop chart success.


But tracking down those songs is no easy thing. That job falls to , the music supervisor for Nashville, who tells All Things Considered's Audie Cornish that when she first put out a call for unreleased music, she guessed she received "at least 50,000 songs."


Tiny preemies get a boost from live music therapy

May 16, 4:16 AM (ET)


(AP) Music therapist Elizabeth Klinger, right, quietly plays guitar and sings for Augustin as he grips...
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CHICAGO (AP) - As the guitarist strums and softly sings a lullaby in Spanish, tiny Augustin Morales stops squirming in his hospital crib and closes his eyes.

This is therapy in a newborn intensive care unit, and research suggests that music may help those born way too soon adapt to life outside the womb.

Some tiny preemies are too small and fragile to be held and comforted by human touch, and many are often fussy and show other signs of stress. Other common complications include immature lungs, eye disease, problems with sucking, and sleeping and alertness difficulties.

Recent studies and anecdotal reports suggest the vibrations and soothing rhythms of music, especially performed live in the hospital, might benefit preemies and other sick babies.


Music therapists say live performances in hospitals are better than recorded music because patients can feel the music vibrations and also benefit from seeing the musicians.


Fish Are Fleeing Climate-Warmed Waters And Heading For The Earth’s Poles

By Ryan Koronowski on May 16, 2013

For more than 30 years, ocean fish and mammals have migrated away from warming equatorial waters and toward the poles, providing more evidence climate change has already had broad global consequences. [Washington Post]


Wednesday, May 15, 2013

How New York Times, NPR And Wall Street Journal Print Fossil Fuel Talking Points Without Full Disclosure

By Rebecca Leber on May 15, 2013

Major news outlets often mislead readers by failing to report the fossil fuel funding of the conservative think tanks they cite and quote, according to a new study from the Union of Concerned Scientists.

Journalists commonly cited eight groups with known oil, gas, and coal funding: The American Enterprise Institute, Americans for Prosperity, Cato Institute, Competitive Enterprise Institute, Heartland Institute, Heritage Foundation, Manhattan Institute for Policy Research, and Institute for Energy Research (and its arm American Energy Alliance).

In total, they were cited 357 times, but outlets identified their funding from the Koch brothers, American Petroleum Institute, ExxonMobil, or General Motors a mere one-third of the time


Based on a Nexus search, UCS’s Elliott Negin found the rate of reporting varies widely across outlets: Politico and the Los Angeles Times, and the Associated Press disclosed funding over 40 percent of the time. The two largest papers in the country, USA Today and Wall Street Journal (owned by Rupert Murdoch), disclosed this information the least. And if Koch Industries succeeds in its bid for the Los Angeles Times, along with seven other major papers, it is possible the average will drop even more.


Laws on political action by tax-exempt groups - updated 9:26pm EST

Please read the link below for a fuller discussion of this issue.

By Josh Israel posted from ThinkProgress Justice on May 14, 2013

The Internal Revenue Service is under fire from both parties for improperly targeting certain groups for additional scrutiny because their names included keywords such as “Tea Party” and “patriot.” But the challenge of addressing the skyrocketing numbers of “social welfare” groups registering for tax exempt status could be lessened by fixing the broken disclosure laws for political advertisers.

Since the Supreme Court’s controversial 5 to 4 ruling in the Citizens United v. FEC case in 2010, the IRS has seen a more than 100 percent increase in the number of groups applying for 501(c)(4) status — the section of the federal tax code that governs non-profit groups dedicated to social welfare — from 1,500 in 2010 to 3,400 in 2012.

Not all 501(c)(4) engage in political activity of any kind — the United States Chess Federation, for example, is a fairly apolitical group. Political 501(c)(4) groups are required to adhere to certain rules, including that they not be “primarily engaged” in electioneering activity. In a failed attempt to sort out which groups were apolitical and which needed additional scrutiny, the IRS reportedly tried a variety of ineffective screening methods, including flagging “patriot” groups as well as groups that focused on making “America a better place to live.”

As long as it is not their primary purpose, Citizens United allows (c)(4) groups to spend unlimited funds on “independent expenditure” ads aimed at swaying voters and the deadlocked Federal Election Commission allows these groups to avoid any disclosure of who bankrolls these advertisements. And since the 2002 law governing political advertisements came before the ruling, it does not adequately address the specific issue of disclosure for independent expenditure ads.


May 15, 2013


But there are two aspects of the “IRS Scandal” that keep nagging at me.

The first is nicely covered by TNR’s Noam Scheiber today: the applications for 501(c)(4) status that are at issue are not part and parcel of some burdensome government regulation of political speech. They are voluntary, and simply provide the applicant an advance assurance of tax-exempt status before they file their tax returns for a given year. If they are reasonably sure they aren’t afoul of the rules for 501(c)(4) organizations, they don’t need the certification at all. So the idea that the IRS was “shutting down” Tea Party and other groups by sitting on their applications or requiring them to deal with burdensome questionnaires is an exaggeration from the get-go. Besides, most groups like this don’t (and shouldn’t) wind up having the sort of “profits” that generate tax liability to begin with.


When the IRS targeted liberals

Under George W. Bush, it went after the NAACP, Greenpeace and even a liberal church
By Alex Seitz-Wald
Tuesday, May 14, 2013

While few are defending the Internal Revenue Service for targeting some 300 conservative groups, there are two critical pieces of context missing from the conventional wisdom on the “scandal.” First, at least from what we know so far, the groups were not targeted in a political vendetta — but rather were executing a makeshift enforcement test (an ugly one, mind you) for IRS employees tasked with separating political groups not allowed to claim tax-exempt status, from bona fide social welfare organizations. Employees are given almost zero official guidance on how to do that, so they went after Tea Party groups because those seemed like they might be political. Keep in mind, the commissioner of the IRS at the time was a Bush appointee.

The second is that while this is the first time this kind of thing has become a national scandal, it’s not the first time such activity has occurred.

“I wish there was more GOP interest when I raised the same issue during the Bush administration, where they audited a progressive church in my district in what look liked a very selective way,” California Democratic Rep. Adam Schiff said on MSNBC Monday. “I found only one Republican, [North Carolina Rep. Walter Jones], that would join me in calling for an investigation during the Bush administration. I’m glad now that the GOP has found interest in this issue and it ought to be a bipartisan concern.”

The well-known church, All Saints Episcopal in Pasadena, became a bit of a cause célèbre on the left after the IRS threatened to revoke the church’s tax-exempt status over an anti-Iraq War sermon the Sunday before the 2004 election. “Jesus [would say], ‘Mr. President, your doctrine of preemptive war is a failed doctrine,’” rector George Regas said from the dais.


And while All Saints came under the gun, conservative churches across the country were helping to mobilize voters for Bush with little oversight. In 2006, citing the precedent of All Saints, “a group of religious leaders accused the Internal Revenue Service yesterday of playing politics by ignoring its complaint that two large churches in Ohio are engaging in what it says are political activities, in violation of the tax code,” the New York Times reported at the time. The churches essentially campaigned for a Republican gubernatorial candidate, they alleged, and even flew him on one of their planes.


And it wasn’t just churches. In 2004, the IRS went after the NAACP, auditing the nation’s oldest civil rights group after its chairman criticized President Bush for being the first sitting president since Herbert Hoover not to address the organization. “They are saying if you criticize the president we are going to take your tax exemption away from you,” then-chairman Julian Bond said. “It’s pretty obvious that the complainant was someone who doesn’t believe George Bush should be criticized, and it’s obvious of their response that the IRS believes this, too.”


Then, in 2006, the Wall Street Journal broke the story of a how a little-known pressure group called Public Interest Watch — which received 97 percent of its funds from Exxon Mobile one year — managed to get the IRS to open an investigation into Greenpeace. Greenpeace had labeled Exxon Mobil the “No. 1 climate criminal.” The IRS acknowledged its audit was initiated by Public Interest Watch and threatened to revoke Greenpeace’s tax-exempt status, but closed the investigation three months later.


The IRS also targeted at least three liberal groups

I have noticed how the media started blowing this up before there is much info. When they said the president had apologized, I thought he was making the same mistake as when he fired someone over what turned out to be remarks out of context. Then I heard him speak, and he correctly said IF it turned out to be as reported, it would be bad. And I have not seen the media give a list of all the keywords. I have to say, even if the reports are all true, I don't see it as really shocking, because the corrupt super-rich were/are funding the Republicans and tea party in corrupt ways.

And this morning, NPR mentioned one time that the IRS had also targeted groups such as Greenpeace during the Bush administration, but it didn't get a lot of press, no calls for Congressional investigation. Then the rest of the day they reverted back to just talking about targeting Patriot and Tea Party key words.

By Brad Plumer, Published: May 15, 2013

We already know that the IRS developed “inappropriate criteria” in flagging for review more than 90 Tea Party groups that were applying for tax-exempt status as 501(c)(4)s. But did any liberal groups receive heavy scrutiny, or did they get a free pass?

Some new reporting from Bloomberg suggests that at least three Democratic-leaning groups faced similar inquiries from the IRS:

The Internal Revenue Service, under pressure after admitting it targeted anti-tax Tea Party groups for scrutiny in recent years, also had its eye on at least three Democratic-leaning organizations seeking nonprofit status.

One of those groups, Emerge America, saw its tax-exempt status denied, forcing it to disclose its donors and pay some taxes. None of the Republican groups have said their applications were rejected.

Progress Texas, another of the organizations, faced the same lines of questioning as the Tea Party groups from the same IRS office that issued letters to the Republican-friendly applicants. A third group, Clean Elections Texas, which supports public funding of campaigns, also received IRS inquiries.


Meanwhile, there’s still the disparity that Nicholas Confessore reported here. At the same time the IRS was investigating smaller groups applying for 501(c)(4) status, it gave a pass to larger organizations like Karl Rove’s Crossroads GPS or Bill Burton’s Priorities USA that were allowed to receive anonymous donations — groups that were overtly political and heavily involved in the 2012 campaign.


[this article says the IRS should investigate all 501(c)(4)s, but doesn't mention that Republicans have denied adequate funding to the IRS.]

By David Weigel | Posted Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Now that the floodgates are good and burst, I'm getting a bunch of emailed IRS letters from groups whose leaders feel they were unusually hassled. Progress Texas sent this over, pointing to questions 1, 2, 12, 16, 19, and 21, and adding that their request took 479 days for approval.

"Progress Texas and the Tea Party strongly disagree on the role of government," said PT executive director Ed Espinoza. "Yet, when we applied for tax-exempt status, Progress Texas received the same type of additional scrutiny that Tea Party groups are complaining about. The similar treatment indicates the IRS was likely addressing a flood of 501c4 applications after Citizens United, and undermines the paranoid notion that Tea Party groups were singled out."