Thursday, January 30, 2014

Facebook helps good Samaritan rescue pregnant woman in freezing Atlanta storm

Keith Wagstaff
Jan. 29, 2014

In snowy Atlanta, stranded drivers are sending a social media SOS.

One of those messages was received by Craig Catalfu, a 25-year-old who was looking to help some of the thousands of drivers stranded on the icy streets of the city after a winter storm passed through.

Late Tuesday night, he posted a message on SnowedOutAtlanta, a Facebook group that has attracted more than 46,000 members in less than one day, where people ask and offer everything from rides to food to moral support. Little did he know that he would end up guiding a woman who was eight-months pregnant through the dark and back to her husband only hours before sunrise.


Around 2 a.m., he drove his all-wheel drive Ford Edge to where the I-285 meets the I-75 and discovered a scene that he described to NBC News as a "parking lot." Cars were left abandoned on the interstate, some parked sideways or up against each other.

"I'm from Pennsylvania, and I have seen weather like this, but I have never seen so much utter chaos," Catalfu, who moved to Atlanta two years ago, told NBC News.


Changing climate is killing penguin chicks in Argentina

Nidhi Subbaraman NBC News
Jan. 29, 2014

Extreme weather along the Argentine coast is killing chicks of Magellanic penguins that roost there. A 28-year study of the birds has found very hot years and very wet ones claiming as many as 50 percent of new chicks in the worst of times.

“Penguin [chicks] don’t do well when they get wet,” said Dee Boersma, a researcher at University of Washington who’s been tracking the birds at the Punta Tombo peninsula, the largest colony of Magellanic penguins, since 1983.

New chicks that encounter a rainstorm before they grow out a waterproof coat get drenched and die of hypothermia, she reports in a study published Wednesday in the journal PLOS ONE. "If you've ever had a down sleeping bag, and got it wet, all the insulating properties are lost," Boersma explained.


"We're going to see years where almost no chicks survive if climate change makes storms bigger and more frequent during vulnerable times of the breeding season as climatologists predict," Ginger Rebstock, Boersma’s co-author on the study, said in a release.

"This year we’re not going to have any chicks that will die from rain," Boersma said. "But we’ve had a lot of chicks that die this year from heat, because it’s been hot."

Weather isn’t the only thing threatening the Magellanic penguins; they’re starving as well. In a 2008 study, Boersma showed that decreasing sea ice meant the birds needed to swim up to 40 miles farther to reach their food, she told the New York Times then.

----- [several other penguin species are being hurt by climate change]

As for the Magellanics, there’s a chance humans can help, in ways that don't involve reprogramming the weather. Boersma said protecting Punta Tombo peninsula as a marine preserve would mean the penguins wouldn't have to compete with humans that fish there for food.


Study confirms 'he hormone' link to heart attacks

Since men tend to get problems with heart attacks and strokes at an earlier age than women, this is not a surprising finding.

Maggie Fox NBC News
Jan. 29, 2014

Heavily promoted male hormone products may be sending men flocking to stores, but their next stop may be the emergency room, according to a new study published Wednesday.

The research confirms earlier studies that show men with heart disease double their risk of heart attack soon after they start using testosterone gels or other supplements. And testosterone doubled the risk in men over 65 with or without heart disease.


It’s a similar pattern to women using hormone replacement therapy after menopause — doctors used to think it lowered the risk of heart attacks and cancer, but it in fact has the opposite effect.

The study, published in the Public Library of Science journal PLoS ONE, confirms the results of several smaller studies. One published in November found that the use of "low T" therapy boosted the risk of serious problems including heart attack, stroke and death in men who already had heart trouble and who had low testosterone.

And another one released in December found that men with higher levels of the male hormone are more likely to have weak or no response to a flu vaccine, meaning that their bodies don’t mount a strong defense.


To be sure, they compared the men getting testosterone to those getting prescriptions for erectile dysfunction drugs, as the two groups are similar in many ways. The ED drugs, which include brands such as Viagra and Cialis, only very slightly raised the risk of heart attack.

Doctor walks six miles in snow to perform life-saving brain surgery

By Mike Oliver
January 29, 2014

BIRMINGHAM, Alabama -- Dr. Zenko Hrynkiw was at Brookwood Medical Center Tuesday morning when he was needed for emergency brain surgery at Trinity Medical Center.

The problem was the sudden snowstorm had locked down traffic, and the neurosurgeon didn't get farther than a few blocks.

"The cell service was bad so we were fading in and out," said Steve Davis, charge nurse in the neuro intensive care unit at Trinity. "At one point, I heard him say, 'I'm walking.'"


Hours had gone by since the initial contact in the morning.

"He finally called me and said where's the patient? What's the status?" Davis said. "He spoke to the family and went off to surgery."

It was an emergency surgery for a traumatic brain injury. Hrynkiw is Trinity's only brain surgeon, Davis said.
hrynkiw-zenkojpg-f85559e63a895faa.jpgView full sizeDr. Zenko Hrynkiw

"Without the surgery, the patient would have most likely died," Davis said. "But he is doing well."

Davis said he and colleagues at Trinity were estimating the hike to the Montclair Road hospital at about eight miles, although Google Maps puts it at about six.


Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Marshall scientist found formaldehyde in Charleston water

January 29, 2014
By David Gutman

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- A Marshall University environmental scientist and member of the state Environmental Quality Board said today that he has found formaldehyde in local water samples and that the continued lack of data on the chemical that leaked into the Elk River is very concerning.

"It's frightening, it really is frightening," said Scott Simonton, a member of the EQB, which oversees water permits for the state Department of Environmental Protection. "What we know scares us, and we know there's a lot more we don't know."


Formaldehyde is a carcinogen, a chemical that causes cancer.

4-methylcyclohexanemethanol, or "Crude MCHM," the chemical compound that leaked into the Elk River, has methanol as one of its main components. Methanol breaks down into formaldehyde, Simonton said.


Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Temporarily reduced activity

I am taking a class, so I will be posting less for at least a week.

Why it's still a big deal if your teen smokes pot

By Randye Hoder,
updated 7:05 AM EST, Tue January 28, 2014


After consulting with two researchers from Northwestern University's Feinberg School of Medicine, I now know what I'm going to tell my own 16-year-old: Not so fast, buddy. Your brain simply isn't ready for you to start using pot.

"Adolescence is a sensitive time for brain development," says Matthew J. Smith, a research assistant professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences. "If a teen introduces the abuse of marijuana at that point in their life, it could have consequences for their ability to problem solve, for their memory and for critical thinking in general."

Unfortunately, this crucial message is getting lost in the pro-legalization fervor. Use of pot among adolescents, which had declined from the late 1990s through the mid-to-late 2000s, is again on the rise, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

One likely reason: "The percentage of high-schoolers who see great risk from being regular marijuana users has dropped," over time, the agency points out.

That perception, however, is all wrong. In a study published last month, Smith and his colleagues found that teens who smoked a lot of pot had abnormal changes in their brain structures related to working memory -- a predictor of weak academic performance and impaired everyday functioning -- and that they did poorly on memory-related tasks.

While the study focused on heavy marijuana users -- specifically, those who indulged daily for about three years -- one of its most crucial findings related not to the amount of pot an adolescent smoked, but when he or she started: The earlier the drug was taken up, the worse the effects on the brain.

"Marijuana is the ideal compound to screw up everything for a kid," says Hans Breiter, a professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Northwestern University's Feinberg School of Medicine and a senior author of the study. "If you're an athlete, a chess player, a debater or an artist, you need working memory, and marijuana hurts the brain circuitry."

Breiter, who himself has four children 11 to 21, adds: "The more I study marijuana, the more I wonder if we should have legislation banning the use of it for everyone under 30."


Although the researchers were not equating pot smokers with those suffering from schizophrenia -- a chronic, disabling brain disorder -- they did find parallels in one respect. "Schizophrenia is a very disruptive illness on working memory, and using marijuana produced many similar effects to schizophrenia," Breiter says.

The scientists noted that these effects were still apparent two years after their subjects had stopped using marijuana, but more research will be needed to determine whether the neurological abnormalities in heavy teen pot smokers are permanent.


Monday, January 27, 2014

Record Alaskan Warmth and Rains Trigger Huge Avalanche That Isolates Valdez

By: Dr. Jeff Masters, 9:06 PM GMT on January 27, 2014

If you're wondering where California's missing precipitation has been going, look northwards to the south and southeast coasts of Alaska. The remarkably persistent ridge of high pressure that has blocked rain from falling in California during January has shunted all the rain-bearing low pressure systems northward, bringing exceptionally warm and wet weather to coastal Alaska. Heavy rains, snows, and warm temperatures helped trigger a‪ series of huge avalanches that began on Friday, which blocked a 52-mile long section of the ‬Richardson Highway, the only road into Valdez, Alaska (population 4,000), located about 120 miles east of Anchorage. The avalanches, called some of the largest avalanches ever observed in the region, blocked the Lowe River in Keystone Canyon, creating a large backup of water behind the snow and ice dam. The water level is slowly dropping, but a Flash Flood Watch has been posted for the region in case the avalanche dam suddenly releases. The highway is expected to be cleared no earlier than February 2, according to the city of Valdez website.


Wunderground's weather historian Christopher C. Burt has much more detail on the record Alaska January warmth in his latest post, Record Warmth in Alaska Contrasts Cold Wave in Eastern U.S. A few highlights:

- Temperatures of up to 40° above normal occurred across the interior and West Coast of Alaska on Sunday. Bolio Lake Range Complex in Fort Greely, Alaska, located about 100 miles southeast of Fairbanks, hit 60°. This is only 2° short of the all-time state January heat record of 62° set at Petersburg in 1981.

- At 10pm local time Sunday in Homer, Alaska, the temperature was 54°. This was warmer than any location in the contiguous U.S., except for Southern Florida and Southern California. The 55° high in Homer on Sunday broke their all-time monthly record by 4°.

- All-time January heat records have been set in 2014 in Nome, Denali Park, Palmer, Homer, Alyseka, Seward, and Talkeetna.



The extreme warmth experienced so far this month in Alaska has also been noted in Canada’s Yukon Province where Carmacks has averaged 22.5°C (40.5°F) above average for the past 10 days (-12.1°C low 2.2°C high versus a normal of -33.6°C low and -23.8°C high). In Iceland, Reykjavik is so far experiencing it’s 8th warmest January on record with a POR beginning in 1871. Greenland has also been exceptionally warm with the normally frigid Summit Station (at 10,500’) yet to record a -50°C (-45.5°F) reading this month (which is around what the entire monthly daily minimum average should be).

Meanwhile, of course, California has seen an unprecedented 14 consecutive days of record-breaking high temperatures including several all-time monthly records such as the 79°F (26.1°C) at downtown Sacramento on January 24th which smashed by 5°F the previous warmest January temperature of 74°F (23.3°C) set on January 12, 2009. Records at downtown Sacramento go back to 1877.


Low Vitamin D Levels During Pregnancy May Increase Risk of Severe Preeclampsia

NIH is the National Institutes of Health, a federal agency. A drug company is unlikely to fund such a study, since it does involve a drug they can patent.

Lisa Bodnar, Ph.D., M.P.H.,R.D, is the lead author of this study
Additional co-authors include: Hyagriv N. Simhan, M.D., Janet M. Catov, Ph.D., James M. Roberts, M.D., and Jill C. Diesel, M.P.H., all of the University of Pittsburgh; and Robert W. Platt, Ph.D., of McGill University.

This research was supported by NIH grant HD 056999.

PITTSBURGH, Jan. 24, 2014 – Women who are deficient in vitamin D in the first 26 weeks of their pregnancy may be at risk of developing severe preeclampsia, a potentially life-threatening disorder diagnosed by an increase in blood pressure and protein in the urine, according to research by the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health.


The researchers found that vitamin D sufficiency was associated with a 40 percent reduction in risk of severe preeclampsia. But there was no relationship between vitamin D and mild preeclampsia.


“Scientists believe that severe preeclampsia and mild preeclampsia have different root causes,” said senior author Mark A. Klebanoff, M.D., M.P.H., Center for Perinatal Research at The Research Institute at Nationwide Children’s Hospital and the Department of Pediatrics at The Ohio State University College of Medicine. “Severe preeclampsia poses much higher health risks to the mother and child, so linking it with a factor that we can easily treat, like vitamin D deficiency, holds great potential.”


Chiune Sugihara, Japan Diplomat Who Saved 6,000 Jews During Holocaust

Jaweed Kaleem
Posted: 01/24/2013 7:15 am EST | Updated: 01/26/2013

Most Americans know of Oskar Schindler, the German businessman who saved more than 1,200 lives during the Holocaust by hiring Jews to work in his factories and fought Nazi efforts to remove them.

But fewer know about Chiune Sugihara, the Japanese diplomat who disobeyed his government's orders and issued visas that allowed 6,000 Jews to escape from Nazi-occupied territories via Japan.


Without him, many of the most accomplished minds of our world would not exist today. His legacy produced doctors, bankers, lawyers, authors, politicians, even the first Orthodox Jewish Rhodes Scholar," said Richard Salomon, a board member of the Illinois Holocaust Museum and Education Center.


Sugihara, who in 1940 became the Japanese consul general to Lithuania, an area where Polish Jewish refugees had relocated during World War II. As Nazis threatened to invade Lithuania, thousands of Jews surrounded the Japanese consulate and asked for visas to escape. Disobeying his bosses in Japan, Sugihara issued thousands. From July 31 to Aug. 28, 1940, Sugihara and his wife stayed up all night, writing visas.

The Japanese government closed the consulate, located in Kovno. But even as Sugihara's train was about to leave the city, he kept writing visas from his open window. When the train began moving, he gave the visa stamp to a refugee to continue the job.

The group has documented 2,139 Sugihara visas (many were for entire families). It's unknown exactly how many people can trace their ancestry to a Sugihara survivor, though Akabori's organization estimated it to be more than 100,000. More conservatively, the Simon Wiesenthal Center has estimated that 40,000 people are alive today because of the Sugiharas.

Salomon's son, Mark Salomon, a 23-year-old law student at New York University, said knowing that his family would not have existed without Sugihara has ingrained a lifelong lesson in him about the "power of an individual."

"Most people have this idea that you can't really help the whole world, so what's the point?" said Mark Salomon. But Sugihara showed that "whatever you are doing with yourself, you are having a much broader impact. Sometimes it's hard to see the forest through the trees, but it's important in every aspect of your life to remember you are having an effect and to make it a positive effect."

Sunday, January 26, 2014

US corporate profits are so high because wages are so low

And increased wages for the non-rich would lead to increased spending, leading to increased jobs.

By Jamie McGeever
January 24, 2014

U.S. businesses have never had it so good.

Corporate cash piles have never been bigger, either in dollar terms or as a share of the economy.

The labor market, meanwhile, is still millions of jobs short of where it was before the global financial crisis first erupted over six years ago.


Not in the slightest, according to Jan Hatzius, chief U.S. economist at Goldman Sachs:

“The strength (in profits) is directly related to the weakness in hourly wages, which are still growing at just a 2% nominal pace. The weakness of wages and the resulting strength of profits are telling signs that the US labor market is still far from full employment.


Hourly labor costs would need to grow more than 4% to eat into margins on a systematic basis.


Saturday, January 25, 2014

As Arctic ice melts, polar bears starve to death

This article goes on & on about how polar bears are eating alternative food now that the ice is melting and they have less access to seals. At the end of the article, where most people would have stopped reading, they finally give the facts about how this is not sufficient. And note the misleading title they gave the article.

So NBC can say they are reporting on the results of global warming, while actually encouraging people to think it's not a problem.

As Arctic ice melts, polar bears switch diets to survive, studies say
John Roach NBC News
Jan. 24, 2014

Arctic polar bears may be adjusting their eating habits as their sea ice habitat melts and the furry white predators stand to lose the floating platform they depend on to hunt seals, their primary food. According to researchers, however, the bears are displaying flexible eating habits as their world changes around them.

Indeed, scientific studies indicate polar bear populations are falling as the sea ice disappears earlier each spring and forms later in the fall. But a series of papers based on analysis of polar bear poop released over the past several months indicate that at least some of the bears are finding food to eat when they come ashore, ranging from bird eggs and caribou to grass seeds and berries.


In addition to berries, birds and eggs, Andrew Derocher, a University of Alberta polar bear biologist who was not involved with the recent studies, said people have seen a polar bear drink hydraulic fluid as it was drained out of a forklift, chomp the seats of snow machines, and eat lead acid batteries.

"Polar bears will eat anything," he told NBC News. "The question is: Does is it do them any good? And everything we can see from what bears eat when they are on land is it has a very, very minimal energetic return relative to the cost."

------ [several pages of similar stuff making it sound like polar bears are adjusting to the loss of polar ice]


Derocher, the polar bear biologist, said the only reason these polar bears are eating the snow geese and other plants and animals is that they still have sea ice in the winter to hunt seals and pack on the fat. Once on shore, his and other studies show, polar bears lose about 1.5 pounds per day.

"We've got bears that are dying of starvation on land in the Churchill area at the end of the ice free period. These are bears that don't have enough energy coming off the sea ice. So any resources that they by default have got while they are on land haven't been enough to change that trajectory," he said.

The most recent published population estimates for Hudson Bay polar bears is 935 as of 2004, down from 1,194 in 1987. Unpublished estimates put the current population at around 800, Derocher said. Climate models indicate that the region will be free of suitable ice for polar bears to hunt seals by the middle of this century, perhaps sooner.

"You can't just push polar bears on shore and expect them to do just fine," Derocher said.

Friday, January 24, 2014

College friends shocked to find out they’re half-sisters by sperm donor

A. Pawlowski
Jan. 24, 2014


Meet Mikayla Stern-Ellis, 19, and Emily Nappi, 18, who recently found out they are half-sisters, sharing the same biological father who donated sperm to their mothers.


The teens met on social media last year during the roommate search process at Tulane University in New Orleans. The girls — both freshmen — filled out a survey and noticed they had a lot in common. They didn’t end up sharing a dorm room, but kept in touch on Facebook. A few weeks later, Emily noticed Mikayla posting about her “Colombian sperm donor” biological father. It made Emily pause: she, too, was conceived with the help of an anonymous sperm donor from Colombia.

“When she posted that status, I thought that’s too much of a coincidence,” Emily said.


So over the Christmas break, the girls asked their mothers for help. Sperm donors are issued numbers to identify them without revealing their names, so the teens compared theirs and were stunned to find out they matched.


Home birth as risky as not putting on child's seat belt, researchers warn

A. Pawlowski, NBC News contributor
Jan. 23, 2014

While not calling for an outright ban on home births, two experts are urging parents who “wish to return to the past” by choosing to skip the hospital labor room to consider the potential harm to the baby.

“Having a home birth may be like not putting your child’s car seat belt on,” the researchers write in a paper published Wednesday in the Journal of Medical Ethics

“Most children will be unharmed. Some trips are very safe. And wearing a seat belt will not remove all risk of injury or death… But on balance it is much safer with a seat belt.”


babies born at home are about 10 times as likely to be stillborn compared to babies born in hospitals, according to a study published last fall in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology. They're also almost four times as likely to have neonatal seizures or serious neurologic dysfunction.


Huckabee did not fall into a trap

Huckabee didn't "fall into a trap". That implies he was tricked in some way. He volunteered this sentiment at a Republican meeting.

By Chuck Todd, Mark Murray, and Domenico Montanaro
Jan. 24, 2014

Huckabee falls into the contraception trap

*** Huckabee falls into the contraception trap: At yesterday’s RNC meeting, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee stepped right into controversy when he decided to talk about women’s “libido” and birth control. "If the Democrats want to insult women by making them believe that they are helpless without Uncle Sugar coming in and providing for them a prescription each month for birth control because they cannot control their libido or their reproductive system without the help of the government, then so be it," he said,


Thursday, January 23, 2014

Industry Awakens to Threat of Climate Change


Coca-Cola has always been more focused on its economic bottom line than on global warming, but when the company lost a lucrative operating license in India because of a serious water shortage there in 2004, things began to change.

Today, after a decade of increasing damage to Coke’s balance sheet as global droughts dried up the water needed to produce its soda, the company has embraced the idea of climate change as an economically disruptive force.

“Increased droughts, more unpredictable variability, 100-year floods every two years,” said Jeffrey Seabright, Coke’s vice president for environment and water resources, listing the problems that he said were also disrupting the company’s supply of sugar cane and sugar beets, as well as citrus for its fruit juices. “When we look at our most essential ingredients, we see those events as threats.”


Nike, which has more than 700 factories in 49 countries, many in Southeast Asia, is also speaking out because of extreme weather that is disrupting its supply chain. In 2008, floods temporarily shut down four Nike factories in Thailand, and the company remains concerned about rising droughts in regions that produce cotton, which the company uses in its athletic clothes.


The Effect of Graphic Cigarette Warning Labels on Smoking Behavior: Evidence from the Canadian Experience

I have seen in the last few days a Facebook sign casting doubt on the ability of graphic warnings on cigarette packs to have an effect. I wonder if it was created by a tobacco company?

Sunday Azagba, Ph.D. and Mesbah F. Sharaf, M.A.
Corresponding Author: Sunday Azagba, Ph.D., Department of Community Health and Epidemiology, Centre for Clinical Research, Dalhousie University, 5790 University Avenue, Halifax, NS, Canada
First published online: September 18, 2012

Introduction: There is a substantial literature that graphic tobacco warnings are effective; however, there is limited evidence based on actual smoking behavior. The objective of this paper is to assess the effect of graphic cigarette warning labels on smoking prevalence and quit attempts.



Results: We found that graphic warnings had a statistically significant effect on smoking prevalence and quit attempts. In particular, the warnings decreased the odds of being a smoker (odds ratio [OR] = 0.875; 95% CI = 0.821–0.932) and increased the odds of making a quit attempt (OR = 1.330, CI = 1.187–1.490). Similar results were obtained when we allowed for more time for the warnings to appear in retail outlets.

Conclusion: This study adds to the growing body of evidence on the effectiveness of graphic warnings. Our findings suggest that warnings had a significant effect on smoking prevalence and quit attempts in Canada.

Are you 'binge working'?

Bob Sullivan, NBC News contributor
Jan. 23, 2014

More people are living a life marked by energy-drink-fueled all-nighters.

A toxic combination of digital leashes, the hypnotic effects of technology, economic anxiety, and caffeine is encouraging workers to push far beyond normal limits in the name of hard work.

It’s a costly trend. Consequences range from poor work and long unscheduled absences, to workers paying with their health, and in rare cases, their lives.

Take Mita Diran. The 24-year-old advertising copywriter worked for 30 hours straight just before Christmas, bragged that she was "still going strooong" on Twitter, and dropped dead within hours. The young Indonesian was the latest high-profile victim of what some are now calling "binge working."


Ken Matos researches workplace trends at the Familes and Work Institute, a non-profit. He points out that a few binge working deaths certainly don't make a trend, but he cautions that they are "a canary in a coal mine." More widespread consequences, he said, will be reduced life spans and other health impacts for workers who no longer take breaks, even on nights and weekends.


Virtual overwork is just the most obvious representation of a larger trend. Americans, for example, now toil for eight-and-a-half hours a week more than they did in 1979. This phenomenon has sometimes been called “the Great Speed- Up,” as workers simply can’t seem to jump off the digital rat-wheel.


A survey in 2012 by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimated that almost a third of working adults get six hours or less of sleep a night.


A recent survey of medical research published in the American Journal of Epidemiology lays out the case against overwork:
•Long working hours have been found to be associated with cardiovascular and immunologic reactions, reduced sleep duration, unhealthy lifestyle, and adverse health outcomes, such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, subjective health complaints, fatigue, and depression.

•There is increasing evidence to suggest the importance of midlife risk factors for later dementia. Furthermore, the link between cognitive impairment and later life dementia is clearly established.


Binge working is encouraged by many workplace cultures. One reason Matos says: Companies measure and reward the wrong things.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Marijuana poisoning on the rise in pets

Brian Alexander NBC News
Jan. 21, 2014

Please don’t let your dog drink the bong water.

Calls reporting pet poisonings by marijuana have increased by about 30 percent since 2009, from 213 calls that year to 320 in 2013, according to the Animal Poison Control Center, a division of the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

Those calls probably represent only a fraction of poisonings related to cannabis.

In Boulder, Colo., where marijuana recently became legal, Dr. Matt Booth said his veterinary emergency center sees about a case a month. The episodes are usually accidental, he said, but even if some were deliberate, “and some ding-a-ling gave his dog marijuana, they wouldn’t tell me that” because of local animal cruelty laws.

Dr. Monica Kaeble of the Pet Emergency and Specialty Care Center in La Mesa, Calif., adjacent to San Diego, told her practice sees more, about one or two cases of cannabis poisonings per week.

Marijuana doesn’t agree with dogs — and though cats can also be poisoned by second-hand smoke, dogs seem more apt to root through their owners’ stashes.

“Animals don’t react the same way as humans,” explained Dr. Tina Wismer, director of the Animal Poison Control Center. “They may become sedated, act drunk and wobbly, but about 25 percent go the other way. They become agitated, have high heart rates, they’re in distress. Most dogs become incontinent. They stagger around dribbling urine everywhere.”

Blood pressure can soar. Without treatment, dogs can go into comas and die.

Bong water (yes, really) is only one way animals can access the active ingredients in marijuana. While dogs can, and do, eat plant material, including marijuana leaves, serious poisonings more often result from edibles prepared by owners for their own use.


Users then make brownies or cookies with the butter, and dogs, being dogs, and loving brownies and cookies, may scarf them down when a pet owner isn’t looking.

In the case of brownies, that’s doubly dangerous. Chocolate, a heart and nervous system stimulant in dogs, is one of the leading causes of dog poisonings in the U.S. Last year, the ASPCA poison control center received 9,200 calls related to chocolate poisoning, dwarfing the number of calls for marijuana.

But cookies can be doubly dangerous, too, Booth said. He’s seen cases of dogs ingesting marijuana-laced raisin oatmeal cookies, but the real problem wasn’t so much the marijuana as the raisins, which can be toxic to dogs, causing kidney failure.

Other frequent poisonings involve human medications, pesticides, and ethylene glycol anti-freeze.

The increasing availability of marijuana due to legalizations may be one reason why pet poisonings have gone up.


If your dog shows signs of wobbliness, incontinence, is hyper reactive to sound and sights, has seizures or signs of hyperthermia, you can call the ASPCA’s poison control center at (888) 426-4435, a local emergency animal hospital, or your usual vet.

Lots of precipitation

Jan. 21, 2014

I notice that the weather front causing high levels of precipitation, mainly snow in the NE U.S., is coming in from the Atlantic Ocean. Note that warmer water evaporates more easily, and warmer air holds more moisture. When it comes into contact with cooler air, the result will be increased precipitation.

Vitamin D status associated with multiple sclerosis activity, progression

Contact: Karen Feldscher
The JAMA Network Journals

Vitamin D status appears to be associated with reduced disease activity in patients with multiple sclerosis (MS) and a slower rate of disease progression, according to a study by Alberto Ascherio, M.D., Dr.P.H., of the Harvard School of Public Health, Boston, and colleagues.

MS is a common cause of neurological disability and vitamin D status may be related to the disease process, according to the study background.


Contact: Karen Feldscher
Harvard School of Public Health
Boosting vitamin D could slow progression, reduce severity of multiple sclerosis

Boston, MA — For patients in the early stages of multiple sclerosis (MS), low levels of vitamin D were found to strongly predict disease severity and hasten its progression, according to a new study led by Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) investigators in collaboration with Bayer HealthCare. The findings suggest that patients in the early stages of MS could stave off disease symptoms by increasing their vitamin D intake.

"Because low vitamin D levels are common and can be easily and safely increased by oral supplementation, these findings may contribute to better outcomes for many MS patients," said lead author Alberto Ascherio, professor of epidemiology and nutrition at HSPH.

The study will appear online January 20, 2014 in JAMA Neurology.


Gay-straight alliances in schools reduce suicide risk for all students

January 20, 2014

Canadian schools with explicit anti-homophobia interventions such as gay-straight alliances (GSAs) may reduce the odds of suicidal thoughts and attempts among both sexual minority and straight students, according to a new study by University of British Columbia researchers.

Gay-straight alliances are student-led clubs that aim to make the school community a safer place for all students regardless of their sexual orientation. Their members include lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer or questioning (LGBTQ) youth and their straight allies.

“We know that LGBTQ students are at higher risk for suicide, in part because they are more often targeted for bullying and discrimination,” says Elizabeth Saewyc, lead author of the study and professor with the UBC School of Nursing. “But heterosexual students can also be the target of homophobic bullying. When policies and supportive programs like GSAs are in place long enough to change the environment of the school, it’s better for students’ mental health, no matter what their orientation.”

LGBTQ youth and heterosexual students in schools with anti-homophobia policies and GSAs had lower odds of discrimination, suicidal thoughts and suicide attempts, primarily when both strategies were enacted, or when the polices and GSAs had been in place for three years or more.


The researchers previously found that Canadian high schools with GSAs in place for three years or more have a positive effect on both gay and straight students’ problem alcohol use.


McMaster University researchers find fever-reducing medications may aid spread of influenza

Contact: Veronica McGuire
McMaster University

Hamilton, ON (Jan. 21, 2014) -- Contrary to popular belief, fever-reducing medication may inadvertently cause more harm than good.

New research from McMaster University has discovered that the widespread use of medications that contain fever-reducing drugs may lead to tens of thousands more influenza cases, and more than a thousand deaths attributable to influenza, each year across North America. These drugs include ibuprofen, acetaminophen and acetylsalicylic acid.

"When they have flu, people often take medication that reduces their fever. No-one likes to feel miserable, but it turns out that our comfort might be at the cost of infecting others," said lead author David Earn, an investigator with the Michael G. DeGroote Institute for Infectious Disease Research (IIDR) and professor of mathematics at McMaster University.

"Because fever can actually help lower the amount of virus in a sick person's body and reduce the chance of transmitting disease to others, taking drugs that reduce fever can increase transmission. We've discovered that this increase has significant effects when we scale up to the level of the whole population."

The study, published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B today, was co-authored with McMaster professors Ben Bolker, of the departments of mathematics & statistics and biology and the IIDR, and Paul Andrews of the Department of Psychology, Neuroscience and Behaviour.

"People often take -- or give their kids -- fever-reducing drugs so they can go to work or school," Earn said. "They may think the risk of infecting others is lower because the fever is lower. In fact, the opposite may be true: the ill people may give off more virus because fever has been reduced."


The bottom line is that fever suppression increases the number of annual cases by approximately five per cent, corresponding to more than 1,000 additional deaths from influenza in a typical year across North America.


Long term exposure to air pollution linked to coronary events

Contact: Emma Dickinson
BMJ-British Medical Journal

Long term exposure to particulate matter in outdoor air is strongly linked to heart attacks and angina, and this association persists at levels of exposure below the current European limits, suggests research conducted at the Department of Epidemiology in Rome, Italy and published on today.


Large amounts of folic acid shown to promote growth of breast cancer in rats

Balance is needed in most areas of life.

Contact: Leslie Sheph
St. Michael's Hospital

Role of folate in development, progression of breast cancer highly controversial

TORONTO, Jan. 21, 2014---Folic acid supplements at levels consumed by breast cancer patients and survivors in North America promoted the growth of existing breast cancer in rats, new research found.

The role of folate, a B vitamin, and its synthetic form, folic acid, in the development and progression of breast cancer is highly controversial. Although some studies have found it may offer protection against breast cancer, recent studies have suggested that taking high amounts of folic acid may increase the risk of developing breast cancer.

Dr. Young-In Kim, a physician and researcher at St. Michael's Hospital, said his lab has shown for the first time that folic acid supplements in doses 2.5 to five times the daily requirement "significantly promotes" the growth of existing pre-cancerous or cancerous cells in the mammary glands of rats. His research was published today in the online journal PLOS ONE.

"This is a critically important issue because breast cancer patients and survivors in North America are exposed to high levels of folic acid through folic acid fortification in food and widespread use of vitamin supplements after a cancer diagnosis," Dr. Kim said. "Cancer patients and survivors in North America have a high prevalence of multivitamin and supplement use, with breast cancer patients and survivors having the highest prevalence."

The amount of folic acid consumed in North America has increased dramatically in the past 15 years. Women are routinely advised to take folic acid supplements before becoming pregnant and while pregnant to prevent neural tube birth defects such as spina bifida. Since 1998, the Canadian and U.S. governments have required food manufacturers to add folic acid to white flour, enriched pasta and cornmeal products as a way of ensuring women receive enough of the B vitamin. In addition, up to 30 to 40 per cent of North Americans take folic acid supplements for possible but as yet unproven health benefits.

Dr. Kim is also a professor of medicine at the University of Toronto. This research was funded in part by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research.

Older brains slow due to greater experience, rather than cognitive decline

Contact: Ben Norman

What happens to our cognitive abilities as we age? Traditionally it is thought that age leads to a steady deterioration of brain function, but new research in Topics in Cognitive Science argues that older brains may take longer to process ever increasing amounts of knowledge, and this has often been misidentified as declining capacity.

The study, led by Dr. Michael Ramscar of the University of Tuebingen, takes a critical look at the measures that are usually thought to show that our cognitive abilities decline across adulthood. Instead of finding evidence of decline, the team discovered that most standard cognitive measures are flawed, confusing increased knowledge for declining capacity.


tags: cognition, aging, older, memory, elderly

Arctic Warmth Unprecedented in 44,000 Years

When the temperature rises on Baffin Island, in the Canadian high Arctic, ancient Polytrichum mosses, trapped beneath the ice for thousands of years, are exposed. Using radiocarbon dating, new research in Geophysical Research Letters has calculated the age of relic moss samples that have been exposed by modern Arctic warming. Since the moss samples would have been destroyed by erosion had they been previously exposed, the authors suggest that the temperatures in the Arctic now must be warmer than during any sustained period since the mosses were originally buried.


The records suggest that in general, the eastern Canadian Arctic is warmer now than in any century in the past 5000 years, and in some places, modern temperatures are unprecedented in at least the past 44,000 years. The observations, the authors suggest, show that modern Arctic warming far exceeds the bounds of historical natural variability.


A Risk in Caring for Abusive Parents

People who were abusive to their children often continue to be abusive after the children are grown, so a care-giving child has to endure more abuse. And people can be abusive to their own family, and charming to people outside the family.

January 20, 2014

Who could condemn someone for staying far away from a parent, even an ailing or dying parent, who mistreated him or her as a child? The last time I wrote about this emotional subject, most readers understood that response. Many who had suffered through similar experiences said they had taken the same stance.

“He was a terrible father and mean, so I didn’t feel bad about moving out of state a few years before he died,” wrote Murre from Alaska. “I was glad not to see him anymore and relieved when he died.”


Yet we also heard from people who had agreed to become caregivers even if their parents had been, or remained, abusive.


We know relatively little about how many adults become caregivers for abusive or neglectful parents, or about why they choose to — or not to. But thanks to a recent study, we can see that those who report having endured childhood maltreatment are particularly vulnerable to depression if they later care for their parents.


The researchers divided their sample into three categories: those with no history of childhood abuse or neglect; those who had been abused and were caring for their non-abusive parent; and those who had been abused and were, to borrow the study’s memorable title, “caring for my abuser.” They also compared caregivers neglected as children with those who were not neglected.

Those who had been abused or neglected were more likely to have symptoms of depression — like lack of appetite, insomnia, trouble concentrating, sadness and lethargy — than those who had not been. No surprise there, perhaps.

But the link was strongest for the third category. “The key was caring for the abusive parent,” said the lead author, Jooyoung Kong, a doctoral candidate in social work. Years later, “they are still affected. They’re more depressed.”


But the study does indicate that caregivers with a history of maltreatment should be aware of the risk they are taking — and, if the strain of caregiving becomes overwhelming, the increased risk that they will abuse their charges, perpetuating a sorrowful cycle.

“It’s such an untenable position to be placed in,” Dr. Moorman said. “My guess is, people only do it if they’re forced to, if there’s no one else to do it.” People in that situation should “be aware of the signs and symptoms of depression,” she said, and seek therapy or find a support group.

The rest of us are hardly in a position to judge those who walk away. But our society’s overreliance on unpaid family caregiving can make that difficult to do. As Dr. Moorman pointed out, “Not only nice people get old.”

tags: child abuse

Overfishing pushes quarter of sharks, rays to extinction

Denise Chow, Staff Writer LiveScience
Jan. 21, 2014

A quarter of the world's sharks and rays are at risk of extinction, according to a new assessment by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). The latest update to the IUCN's "Red List" of threatened species, which found ray species to be at higher risk than sharks, is part of a first-ever global analysis of these marine species.


"Our analysis shows that sharks and their relatives are facing an alarmingly elevated risk of extinction," Nick Dulvy, co-chair of the IUCN Shark Specialist Group and Canada Research Chair at Simon Fraser University in British Columbia, Canada, said in a statement. "In greatest peril are the largest species of rays and sharks, especially those living in shallow water that is accessible to fisheries," where they can become entangled in fishing gear — a phenomenon known as bycatch.


In particular, the global market for shark fins, used in shark fin soup, is severely depleting shark species, and even some ray species that have fins, such as guitarfish. These marine animals are also hunted for their meat, which can be made into products such as Chinese tonic, from manta and devil ray gills, or pharmaceuticals, from deep-sea shark livers, IUCN researchers said.


2013 joins the top 10 for temperatures

And there are several climate cycles that are normally associated with colder temperatures.

John Roach NBC News
Jan. 21, 2013

Globally, 2013 failed to shatter temperature records, but it ranks among the top 10 warmest years since recordkeeping began, according to new figures released Tuesday by government scientists. The readings, they said, are consistent with a long-term global warming trend.

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the global average temperature for 2013 was 58.12 degrees Fahrenheit, which ties with 2003 as the fourth-warmest since 1880. NASA said 2013's global average was 58.3 degrees F and put the year in a tie for No. 7.

The two agencies use different methods to collect and interpret global temperature data. One big difference is that NASA extrapolates observational data into regions without meteorological stations, including the polar regions, whereas NOAA does not.

"That means when you are looking at the global means, the numbers are slightly different," Gavin Schmidt, deputy director of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies, explained on a call with reporters Tuesday. He added that the differences between them are "within the uncertainty level of what we can estimate."


Priest charged with money laundering in Vatican Bank probe

Jan. 21, 2014

The Vatican Bank scandal is spreading.

Monsignor Nunzio Scarano, a former top Vatican accountant now on trial for an alleged plot to smuggle 20 million euros from Switzerland into Italy, was further charged on Tuesday with laundering millions through the Vatican bank, his lawyer said.


A police statement said millions of euros in "false donations" from offshore companies moved through Scarano's accounts at the Vatican bank, formally known as the Institute for Works of Religion.


tags: charity, donations, religion

Monday, January 20, 2014

Waterfowl poisoning halved by lead shot prohibition

Contact: SINC
FECYT - Spanish Foundation for Science and Technology

Lead shot was forbidden in 2001 in Spanish wetlands on the Ramsar List of these areas of international importance. Ten years later, this prohibition -and the consequent use of steel shot by hunters- has started to bear fruit, according to a report in the journal 'Environment International'.

"The most important part of our work is that it shows that, despite it's still covering a partial area, the change of material from lead to steel shot has reduced waterfowl poisoning and the contamination of hunted meat," Rafael Mateo Soria of the Hunting Resources Research Institute (IREC) and co-author of the study, told SINC.

Lead shot accumulating in wetlands, with over 100 per square metre in many areas, remains in the sediments for decades.

Its main damage is to the health of waterfowl. When the shot is eaten it is retained in the gizzard and is worn down in the stomach, freeing lead that reaches the animal's tissues.

"The birds start to develop neurological problems, they cannot move and they also suffer from anaemia. Normally, if they ingest lead, they die with notable emaciation after days or even weeks after starting to ingest the shot," explained Mateo.

In species such as the mallard, 30% caught at the start of the 1990s in the Ebro delta had ingested lead shot, a figure which has now dropped to 15%. The same trend has been seen in other species such as the northern shoveller, the Eurasian teal and the common pochard.


Fetal exposure to nicotine increases long-term risk of obesity

Contact: Kathy Wallis
University of Western Ontario

Many women are encouraged to quit smoking when they become pregnant using nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) whether as gum, transdermal patches, nasal spray or lozenges. But new research from Western University in London, Canada, has shown that nicotine from either smoking or NRT causes a wide range of long-term adverse reactions for the offspring, including an increased risk of obesity and metabolic syndrome by influencing the liver to produce more triglyceride. The research, led by Daniel Hardy, PhD, of the Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry is published online in the journal "Toxicology and Applied Pharmacology."

"We knew smoking was bad during pregnancy. But the problem is one fifth of pregnant women in Canada continue to smoke, and 30 prospective studies have shown us that that babies born to smoking mothers have a 47 per cent increase in the odds of becoming overweight. And here's the interesting thing, that's even after adjusting for mom's diet and socioeconomic status," says Hardy, an assistant professor in the Departments of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, and Physiology and Pharmacology "Our studies were designed to find if there is a biological basis between nicotine exposure from either NRT or smoking, and obesity and metabolic syndrome later in the offspring's life."


Secondhand smoke exposure increases odds of hospital asthma readmission for children

Contact: Jim Feuer
Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center

A new study shows that exposure to secondhand smoke at home or in the car dramatically increases the odds of children being readmitted to the hospital within a year of being admitted for asthma.


The researchers found that there was no correlation between caregiver report of tobacco exposure and readmission. But a more scientific analysis of actual secondhand exposure via measurement of cotinine in the blood and saliva demonstrated a readmission risk in children exposed to secondhand smoke more than twice that of children not exposed.

"Of the 619 children in the study, 76 percent were covered by Medicaid," says Judie Howrylak, MD, PhD, a physician at Hershey Children's and lead author of the study. "Certainly there could be a financial incentive for insurance companies to help caregivers quit smoking, rather than pay the downstream costs of a future asthma readmission."

Made in China for us: Air pollution tied to exports

Not surprising

And producing products far from where they are used means more pollution from transportation.

Contact: Janet Wilson
University of California - Irvine

Study finds blowback causes extra day per year of ozone smog in LA

Chinese air pollution blowing across the Pacific Ocean is often caused by the manufacturing of goods for export to the U.S. and Europe, according to findings by UC Irvine and other researchers published today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The study is the first to quantify how much pollution reaching the American West Coast is from the production in China of cellphones, televisions and other consumer items imported here and elsewhere.

"We've outsourced our manufacturing and much of our pollution, but some of it is blowing back across the Pacific to haunt us," said UC Irvine Earth system scientist Steve Davis, a co-author. "Given the complaints about how Chinese pollution is corrupting other countries' air, this paper shows that there may be plenty of blame to go around."

Los Angeles, for instance, experiences at least one extra day a year of smog that exceeds federal ozone limits because of nitrogen oxides and carbon monoxide emitted by Chinese factories making goods for export, the analysis found. On other days, as much as a quarter of the sulfate pollution on the U.S. West Coast is tied to Chinese exports. All the contaminants tracked in the study are key ingredients in unhealthy smog and soot.

China is not responsible for the lion's share of pollution in the U.S. Cars, trucks and refineries pump out far more. But powerful global winds known as "westerlies" can push airborne chemicals across the ocean in days, particularly during the spring, causing dangerous spikes in contaminants. Dust, ozone and carbon can accumulate in valleys and basins in California and other Western states.


"When you buy a product at Wal-Mart," noted Davis, an assistant professor, "it has to be manufactured somewhere. The product doesn't contain the pollution, but creating it caused the pollution."


Nine Nations or Territories Set All-Time Heat Records in 2013

See the link below for the full list:

By: Dr. Jeff Masters, 2:43 PM GMT on January 20, 2014

It was another notable year for all-time heat records in 2013, with six nations and three territories tying or setting records for hottest temperature on record. No nations set an all-time cold record in 2013. For comparison, five countries and two territories set all-time hottest temperature records in 2012, and the most all-time national heat records in a year was twenty nations and one territory in 2010. Since 2010, 45 nations or territories have set or tied all-time heat records, but only one nation has set an all-time cold temperature record. Since each of those years ranked as one of the top eleven warmest years in Earth's recorded history, and 2010 was the warmest year on record, this sort of disparity in national heat and cold records is to be expected.


The United States tied its highest undisputed temperature at the Furnace Creek Visitors Center, Death Valley California, with 53.9°C (129°F) on 30 June. The only higher temperatures ever recorded on the planet occurred in Death Valley on July 10, 12, and 13, 1913, when readings of 134°F, 130°F, and 131°F were recorded. These 100-year-old official hottest temperatures in Earth’s history have many doubters, though, including Mr. Burt, who noted in a 2010 blog post that "The record has been scrutinized perhaps more than any other in the United States. I don't have much more to add to the debate aside from my belief it is most likely not a valid reading when one looks at all the evidence.


Number of major world stations which set their all time highest temperature in 2013: 389

Number of major world stations which set their all time lowest temperature in 2013: 12


Fear corrupts

Neither a man nor a crowd nor a nation can be trusted to act humanely or to think sanely under the influence of a great fear. - Bertrand Russell

Poor Parenting -- Including Overprotection -- Increases Bullying Risk

Apr. 25, 2013 — Children who are exposed to negative parenting -- including abuse, neglect but also overprotection -- are more likely to experience childhood bullying by their peers, according to a meta-analysis of 70 studies of more than 200,000 children.

The research, led by the University of Warwick and published in the journal Child Abuse & Neglect, found the effects of poor parenting were stronger for children who are both a victim and perpetrator of bulling (bully-victims) than children who were solely victims.

It found that negative or harsh parenting was linked to a moderate increase in the risk of being a 'bully-victim' and a small increase in the risk of being a victim of bullying. In contrast, warm but firm parenting reduced the risk of being bullied by peers.


The study categorised behaviours such as abuse/neglect, maladaptive parenting and overprotection as negative parenting behaviour.

It categorised authoritative parenting, parent-child communication, parental involvement and support, supervision and warmth and affection as positive parenting behaviours.

Professor Wolke highlighted the finding that overprotection was linked to an increased risk of bullying.

"Although parental involvement, support and high supervision decrease the chances of children being involved in bullying, for victims overprotection increased this risk.

"Children need support but some parents try to buffer their children from all negative experiences.

"In the process, they prevent their children from learning ways of dealing with bullies and make them more vulnerable.

"It could be that children with overprotective parents may not develop qualities such as autonomy and assertion and therefore may be easy targets for bullies.

"But it could also be that parents of victims become overprotective of their children.
"In either case, parents cannot sit on the school bench with their children.

"Parenting that includes clear rules about behaviour while being supportive and emotionally warm is most likely to prevent victimisation.

"These parents allow children to have some conflicts with peers to learn how to solve them rather than intervene at the smallest argument."

New Study Finds That Divorce Rates Are Higher in Counties with a Greater Concentration of Conservative Christians

I have lived in the south since 1960, and I suspect part of this is due to the rigidity and lack of tolerance for any kind of difference that is learned. Like, if you like oranges and they don't, they will get upset and tell you you are wrong.

January 19, 2014 By Hemant Mehta

Given that religious conservatives look down upon divorce and fight against LGBT rights in part to protect what they call the “sanctity of marriage,” you would think their rates of divorce would be pretty low.

But a new study scheduled to be published in an upcoming edition of the American Journal of Sociology suggests otherwise:

Demographers Jennifer Glass at the University of Texas and Philip Levchak at the University of Iowa looked at the entire map of the United States, going county by county, to examine where divorces occurred in 2000 and what the characteristics of those counties were. Their work confirms that one of the strongest factors predicting divorce rates (per 1000 married couples) is the concentration of conservative or evangelical Protestants in that county.

Not only do conservatives Christians have higher divorce rates, people around them — including non-religious people — are likely to absorb a lot of that culture and then become prone to divorce as well:

Glass and Levchak believe that this comes from living in a cultural climate where most people expect to marry young and there is little support from schools or community institutions for young people to get more education and postpone marriage and children.

It’s important to note this study controlled for things like income and region. So even when you remove those elements, the higher divorce rates are “explained in large part by the earlier ages at first marriage and first birth, and the lower educational attainment and lower incomes of conservative Protestant youth.”


World's 85 richest have same wealth as 3.5 billion poorest

Li Anne Wong CNBC
Jan. 20, 2014

The combined wealth of the world's richest 85 people is now equivalent to that owned by half of the world's population – or 3.5 billion of the poorest people – according to a new report from Oxfam.


It added that the wealth of the richest one percent of people in the world now amounts to $110 trillion, or 65 times the total wealth of the bottom half of the world's population.


Oxfam singled out India as an example, where the number of billionaires increased from less than 6 to 61 in the past decade, concentrating approximately $250 billion among a few dozen people in a country of 1.2 billion.

"What is striking is the share of the country's wealth held by this elite minority, which has skyrocketed from 1.8 percent in 2003 to 26 percent in 2008," the report said.

Oxfam said that India's billionaires acquired their wealth in 'rent thick' sectors – industries where profits are dependent on access to scarce resources – "made available exclusively through government permissions and therefore susceptible to corruption by powerful actors, as opposed to creation of wealth."

Higher social class predicts increased unethical behavior

Paul K. Piffa, Daniel M. Stancatoa, Stéphane Côtéb, Rodolfo Mendoza-Dentona, and Dacher Keltner
Edited* by Richard E. Nisbett, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI, and approved January 26, 2012 (received for review November 8, 2011)


Seven studies using experimental and naturalistic methods reveal that upper-class individuals behave more unethically than lower-class individuals. In studies 1 and 2, upper-class individuals were more likely to break the law while driving, relative to lower-class individuals. In follow-up laboratory studies, upper-class individuals were more likely to exhibit unethical decision-making tendencies (study 3), take valued goods from others (study 4), lie in a negotiation (study 5), cheat to increase their chances of winning a prize (study 6), and endorse unethical behavior at work (study 7) than were lower-class individuals. Mediator and moderator data demonstrated that upper-class individuals’ unethical tendencies are accounted for, in part, by their more favorable attitudes toward greed.


Sunday, January 19, 2014

What happens when the poor receive a stipend

January 18, 2014

Growing up poor has long been associated with reduced educational attainment and lower lifetime earnings. Some evidence also suggests a higher risk of depression, substance abuse and other diseases in adulthood. Even for those who manage to overcome humble beginnings, early-life poverty may leave a lasting mark, accelerating aging and increasing the risk of degenerative disease in adulthood.

Today, more than one in five American children live in poverty.


So when, in 1996, the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians in North Carolina’s Great Smoky Mountains opened a casino, Jane Costello, an epidemiologist at Duke University Medical School, saw an opportunity. The tribe elected to distribute a proportion of the profits equally among its 8,000 members. Professor Costello wondered whether the extra money would change psychiatric outcomes among poor Cherokee families.


The poorest children tended to have the greatest risk of psychiatric disorders, including emotional and behavioral problems. But just four years after the supplements began, Professor Costello observed marked improvements among those who moved out of poverty. The frequency of behavioral problems declined by 40 percent, nearly reaching the risk of children who had never been poor. Already well-off Cherokee children, on the other hand, showed no improvement. The supplements seemed to benefit the poorest children most dramatically.


She and her colleagues kept following the children. Minor crimes committed by Cherokee youth declined. On-time high school graduation rates improved. And by 2006, when the supplements had grown to about $9,000 yearly per member, Professor Costello could make another observation: The earlier the supplements arrived in a child’s life, the better that child’s mental health in early adulthood.


What precisely did the income change? Ongoing interviews with both parents and children suggested one variable in particular. The money, which amounted to between one-third and one-quarter of poor families’ income at one point, seemed to improve parenting quality.

By age 3, measures of vocabulary, working memory and executive function show an inverse relationship with the stressors experienced by parents.

These skills are thought important for success and well-being in life. Maternal warmth can seemingly protect children from environmental stresses, however; at least in these communities, parenting quality seems to matter more to a child than material circumstances. On the other hand, few parents managed high levels of nurturing while also experiencing great strain. All of which highlights an emerging theme in this science: Early-life poverty may harm, in part, by warping and eroding the bonds between children and caregivers that are important for healthy development.

Evidence is accumulating that these stressful early-life experiences affect brain development.


Numerous animal studies, of course, show that early life stress can have lifelong consequences, and that maternal nurturing can prevent them.


Bill Would Cripple EPA's Power to Prevent Toxic Spills in poor areas

13 January 2014

Those who push an extreme anti-environmental agenda often use the concept of freedom to promote their ideas. They are not concerned with your freedom to breathe clean air or to drink clean water. Instead they want to give corporations the freedom to exploit natural resources without regard for the adverse impacts, and they want to ensure that polluters have freedom from accountability for the potentially deadly impacts of their actions.

In December, Kentucky politicians proposed to “free” unemployed residents from environmental laws that protect their health and well-being.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and his colleague Rand Paul (R-Ky.) introduced a bill they call the “Economic Freedom Zones Act of 2013.” Among other things, the bill would exempt polluters in high-poverty regions from complying with (and would bar the U.S. EPA from enforcing) water pollution permitting requirements under Clean Water Act section 402. (Adding insult to injury, the two politicians are billing this proposal as an anti-poverty measure.)

During the last few days, residents of the nearby Charleston, WV, area have been treated to a tragic glimpse of what a life free of environmental protections might be like. For people in the Appalachian coal-bearing region, these are just the latest developments in a long-running assault on human health and the environment.

The impact of such an extreme proposal is difficult to overstate. While the Clean Water Act strictly prohibits the discharge of pollutants without a permit, it is section 402 of the Act that the EPA relies on in most cases to impose enforceable pollution controls on specific sources and discharges. The Economic Freedom Zones Act would hamstring EPA’s enforcement of water pollution restrictions and oversight of state pollution permitting activities.


S. 1852: Economic Freedom Zones Act of 2013

113th Congress, 2013–2015. Text as of Dec 18, 2013


December 18, 2013

Mr. Paul (for himself and Mr. McConnell) introduced the following bill; which was read twice and referred to the Committee on Finance


To provide for the establishment of free market enterprise zones in order to help facilitate the creation of new jobs, entrepreneurial opportunities, enhanced and renewed educational opportunities, and increased community involvement in bankrupt or economically distressed areas.


Sec. 401.
Suspension of certain laws and regulations
(a) Environmental Protection Agency

For each area designated as an Economic Freedom Zone under this Act, the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency shall not enforce, with respect to that Economic Freedom Zone, and the Economic Freedom Zone shall be exempt from compliance with-

(1) part D of the Clean Air Act (42 U.S.C. 7501 et seq.) (including any regulations promulgated under that part);
(2) section 402 of the Federal Water Pollution Control Act (33 U.S.C. 1342);
(3) sections 139, 168, 169, 326, and 327 of title 23, United States Code;
(4) section 304 of title 49, United States Code; and
(5) sections 1315 through 1320 of Public Law 112–141 (126 Stat. 549).

(b) Department of the Interior

(1) Wild and scenic rivers
For each area designated as an Economic Freedom Zone under this Act, the Secretary of the Interior shall not enforce, with respect to that Economic Freedom Zone, and the Economic Freedom Zone shall be exempt from compliance with the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act (16 U.S.C. 1271 et seq.).

(2) National heritage areas
For the period beginning on the date of enactment of this Act and ending on the date on which an area is removed from designation as an Economic Freedom Zone, any National Heritage Area located within that Economic Freedom Zone shall not be considered to be a National Heritage Area and any applicable Federal law (including regulations) relating to that National Heritage Area shall not apply.


Be prepared: 'Extreme' El Niño events to double, study says

It is really irritating when someone says weather has changed because of more El Niño events, like these are things that just happen on a whim. Global warming will have to change the pattern of El Niño/La Niña cycles, because they are caused by temperature changes in the Pacific ocean.

John Roach NBC News
Jan. 19, 2014

During February 1998, a powerful jet stream pounded California with an unrelenting series of wet Pacific storms. Longstanding rainfall records fell. Oceanfront homes slumped into the roiling surf. Roads washed out across the state. Federal disaster areas were declared in 35 counties. At least 17 people died. The Red Cross opened 79 shelters and fed more than 100,000 people.

The culprit? An extreme El Niño, a phenomenon triggered by a warming of waters in the equatorial Pacific Ocean that shifts weather patterns around the world.

El Niño's ills weren't confined to California: In 1997-98, torrential rains washed away villages in northern Peru, heat waves rolled across Australia, and massive peat-bog fires cloaked Indonesia in a thick haze. All told, the impacts caused upwards of $45 billion in global economic losses and claimed an estimated 23,000 lives.

Given the damage from such extreme El Niño events, scientists are anxious to determine how their frequency and intensity will change as the planet warms. Past efforts have been frustratingly inconclusive. But now, new research is bringing a new approach to the problem — and finding that the frequency of extreme El Niño events akin to the 1997-98 episode should double in response to greenhouse warming.


Police: Children Killed as Part of Exorcism

Taking the Bible literally.

Interesting, a few minutes after I the link to this on, it has disappeared from the main page.

Jan 19, 2014

A second woman has been arrested in the stabbing deaths of two young children in Germantown, Md., in what investigators say was an attempted exorcism.

Montgomery County police arrested Monifa Denise Sanford, 21, of Germantown, Saturday afternoon after she was released from the hospital. Sanford was injured during a violent incident Friday morning where two children were killed and two others were hurt.


The deceased children are identified as Norell N. Harris, 1, and Zyana Z. Harris, 2. The other two children are still hospitalized. They are identified as Taniya Harris, 5, and Martello Harris, 8.

Investigators learned Avery and Sanford believed they were performing an exorcism.


Saturday, January 18, 2014

California Gov. Brown Declares Drought Emergency Amid Broken Heat Records And Low Reservoirs

By Ryan Koronowski on January 18, 2014

On Friday, California Governor Jerry Brown declared a drought emergency in the Golden State, asking residents to cut back water use by 20 percent.

“We’re facing perhaps the worst drought that California has ever seen since records began being kept about a hundred years ago,” Brown said. “Hopefully it will rain eventually but in the meantime we have to do our part… make it easier to transfer water from one part of the state to the other so that farmers, particularly those with permanent crops can keep them alive.”


Though much of the rest of the country has been dealing with colder temperatures and the effects of the polar vortex, California has been breaking heat records in January. San Francisco Airport had its hottest January day on record on Wednesday. On top of the record heat, the state has also had to deal with its driest year in history in 2013. This could impact the entire country — California is America’s agricultural leader, and the important sector uses 77 percent of the state’s water.

The U.S. Drought Monitor reported on Thursday that 98.57 percent of California was “abnormally dry,” and 62.71 percent was in “extreme drought.” That number is by far the highest ever recorded since the inception of the drought monitor in 2000 — two weeks ago the extreme drought percentage was at just 27 percent.

Australian Tennis Tournament Invokes ‘Extreme Heat Policy’ To Suspend Outdoor Play

By Emily Atkin on January 17, 2014


Because of extreme heat, Day 4 of the 2014 Australian Open was halted — and not before Canadian player Frank Dancevic reportedly hallucinated and passed out on the court from the heat.

“I was dizzy from the middle of the first set and then I saw Snoopy and I thought, ‘Wow Snoopy, that’s weird,’ Dancevic told the Guardian, adding that he thought forcing players to play through the heat was “inhumane.”


Australia set heat records in the spring of 2013, and its Bureau of Meteorology has said that the previous year was the hottest since records began in 1910. Now it has started 2014 with another record-breaking heat wave — inland, temperatures reached 122 degrees last week — that is affecting the nation’s signature international sporting event.

While the impacts of the record-breaking heat are painfully apparent to Australians, since the election of Prime Minister Tony Abbott in September, those in power have chosen to pretend the problem doesn’t exist. As prime minister, Abbott has abandoned the country’s emissions target, made efforts to repeal Australia’s carbon emissions trading scheme and dissolved the country’s climate commission.

Green tea may sabotage blood pressure medication

Beth Mole
1:19pm, January 13, 2014

Green tea chemicals linked to reducing the risk of cancer and cardiovascular disease may also thwart a blood pressure medication by preventing it from getting into the blood stream.

In a preliminary study, researchers gave 10 healthy adults the blood pressure medication nadolol after the volunteers drank about two glasses of green tea a day for two weeks and again after they stopped drinking tea for two weeks. Compared with taking the medication after they avoided drinking tea, the volunteers had just 24 percent as much nadolol in their blood after consuming tea, the researchers found. What’s more, after drinking tea, the drug was less effective at lowering blood pressure.


‘Good bacterium’ prevents colic symptoms in newborns

Nathan Seppa
6:02pm, January 13, 2014

Newborns who take drops containing a beneficial bacterium cry less than babies not given the supplement, researchers report January 13 in JAMA Pediatrics.

The cause of excessive crying — or colic – is not well understood, but scientists suspect that the microbial mix in infants’ intestines is involved.


Newborns getting the microbe were less apt to develop colic symptoms. They cried for an average of 38 minutes per day; infants getting placebo cried for 71 minutes. The microbe-treated babies also spit up less often. These improvements meant fewer doctor visits and trips to emergency departments for the infants. Parents whose babies got the microbes lost only about half a day of work during the study, compared with nearly three days for parents of infants getting a placebo.

Smart refrigerators and TVs hacked to send out spam

ulianne Pepitone NBC News
Jan. 18, 2014

A new report shows cyberattacks aren’t relegated to laptops anymore: Now, even a fridge or a TV can send malicious emails.

Security firm Proofpoint has uncovered a cyberattack that involved the hacking of “smart” home appliances connected to the Internet. Hackers broke into more than 100,000 gadgets -- including TVs, multimedia centers, routers, and at least one fridge – and used the appliances to send out more than 750,000 malicious emails between December 23 and January 6.

The attack also included compromised laptops and tablets, but Proofpoint said about 25% of the emails were sent from appliances beyond the traditional Internet-connected gadgets.


To launch those types of large-scale attacks, hackers link up compromised devices to create what’s called a botnet: an army of “zombie” devices that attack other computers through tasks like overloading a website with traffic or, in this case, sending hundreds of thousands of spam emails.


Friday, January 17, 2014

Surgeon general links colon cancer, diabetes to smoking

By Miriam Falco, CNN
updated 12:49 PM EST, Fri January 17, 2014

Fifty years ago, smoking was linked to cancer in the first surgeon general's report on tobacco.

On Friday, Dr. Boris Lushniak, the acting surgeon general, issued the 32nd report on tobacco, saying "enough is enough." His goal: eliminating the use of cigarettes and tobacco.

In 1964, when Dr. Luther Terry released the first surgeon general's report, the public learned smoking causes lung cancer. At the time, 42% of American adults smoked, Lushniak says.

Since then, "Tobacco has killed more than 20 million people prematurely," says Dr. Thomas Frieden, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in the forward to the new report.

The number of smokers has dropped to 18% in 2012, according to the latest estimates published Thursday by the CDC.

But "that still translates into 45 million people, including 3 million kids," Lushniak says. "One out of three cancers is caused by tobacco (and other smoking products)."

Even though the number of smokers has gone down, the figures of those dying from disease linked to tobacco products are up.

While 440,000 people died from smoking-related causes in 2008, that number has risen to 480,000 people dying each year, according to the report.

And even though the latest data suggests 87% of lung cancer deaths are caused by smoking and secondhand smoke, more smokers age 35 and older die from heart disease than lung cancer.


Thirteen cancers are now linked to smoking and secondhand smoke. Liver and colorectal cancer are added in this report. So far, there's not enough evidence to say smoking causes breast cancer. Smoking does not cause prostate cancer, according to existing evidence, according to the report.

Another finding: "Exposure to secondhand smoke is a cause of stroke," according to the report. People who don't smoke themselves but are exposed to secondhand smoke have a 20% to 30% increased risk for a stroke.

For the first time, the report found that smoking can cause diabetes, erectile dysfunction, rheumatoid arthritis, macular degeneration, ectopic pregnancies and impaired immune function. Smokers have a 30% to 40% increased risk of developing Type 2 diabetes compared with nonsmokers.

And women who smoke early in their pregnancies put their unborn at risk of having cleft palates or cleft lips, according to the report.


Net Neutrality

I've thought that it was reasonable that people who use a lot of bandwidth should pay more. Why should I have to pay for people who download a bunch of video, often priated.

Now that Facebook is forcing the use of more bandwidth by not allowing us to prevent unneeded images from loading with a link, I am re-considering my position. The last few days, even when I check the box indicating not to display an image with a link, it displays anyway. I try to avoid displaying images which don't add value to the message, as they use up bandwidth and slow down my internet. And now at the same time, a lot of things I want to share have the message attached to a picture, so to get one you have to get another.

And interesting coincidence that this forcing us to used more bandwidth is happening at the same time internet providers are pushing to be able to charge people more if they use more bandwidth. I have lived long enough to know that it might not be coincidence.

3-D Printed Music Box Plays Customer-Composed Songs

You can order it, don't need to buy your own 3-D printer & material.!stGBS

Jan. 2014

Left Field Labs is a digital creative agency ...


Their latest endeavor, Music Drop, is a modern take on the hand-cranked music box. The team explains, “since the 18th century, people have embraced the charm of the music box – a compact music player originally built on the mechanics and tradition of artisan watchmaking. We wanted to create a modern day adaptation to put tech and cheer right in your hand.”

Buyers are able to customize the gadget’s by naming it, choosing the colors and composing the music it will play via an HTML5 site. The Team at Left Field will then assemble your Music Drop by hand and have it shipped directly to your door.


In yet another traffic incident for Alice Walton, the case is now closed

She's rich enough to hire a driver.

December 9, 2013
The Kansas City Star

It’s uncanny what money and influence can accomplish. Take the case of Alice L. Walton, the Texas billionaire, Wal-Mart heir and philanthropist who founded the attractive and popular Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville, Ark.

On Oct. 7, 2011, a few weeks before the museum’s opening, a Texas state trooper pulled Walton over as she headed home from a party celebrating her 62nd birthday in Fort Worth. She refused a breath test and was arrested on suspicion of driving while intoxicated. She spent about nine hours in jail, suffered the humility of an Internet posting of her mug shot, which went viral, and later expressed contrition.

Fast forward to 2013: The highway patrolman is suspended for an undisclosed infraction. He thus is unavailable to testify against Walton, and in September, closing in on a two-year expiration of a statute of limitations, the case is dropped. Last week, Walton’s lawyers successfully got the record expunged.

If this had been an isolated incident, few might have taken notice. But Walton’s record on the road is a bit alarming.

According to law enforcement records and published accounts — I profiled Walton, without her help, for The Star in 2006 — she once spent many months hospitalized after a Jeep accident in Mexico; in 1998 she racked up a DUI charge in Springdale, Ark., mouthed off to the arresting officer and paid a fine; and while driving another day on an Arkansas highway she struck and killed a pedestrian — though she was neither blamed nor charged in that fatal incident.

Social Security fraud

Typical of Republicans. They reduce funding to the Social Security Agency, then grandstand about how the SSA should be investigating fraud more. Of course, if the SSA hadn't been investigating it to an extent, we wouldn't know about these cases. Since this long running fraud was discovered during President Obama's administration, he should get credit for uncovering it. But the Republicans will probably blame the fraud on him. And Rep. Sam Johnson (R-TX) says that they won't get more money because they failed to prevent the fraud in the first place. Typical, wanting something but not willing to pay for it; what they would call welfare mentality. I would be surprised if there aren't Republican members of Congress who have relatives that are drawing disability while managing to do whatever they want to do. Maybe why they don't want to fund it more. Also giving them more reason to claim Social Security is not viable and should be terminated.

Brianna Ehley The Fiscal Times
January 17, 2014

Congress is demanding a “top-to-bottom” investigation into the Social Security Administration after a spate of high profile fraud cases have resulted in the loss of billions of tax dollars.

During a hearing Thursday morning, Rep. Sam Johnson (R-TX), the chairman of the House Ways and Means subcommittee overseeing the SSA, ordered the Social Security Inspector General Pat O’Carroll to review the agency’s management practices, adding that it should be the IG’s number one priority.


The hearing comes just one week after 106 people were indicted for allegedly attempting to defraud the government by collecting more than $23 million in Social Security Disability benefits for which they did not actually qualify. The investigation into the fraud scheme revealed that some of the people indicted were retired New York police officers or firefighters who falsely reported a mental illness stemming from responding to the tragic events of the Sept 11 terrorist attack on the World Trade Center in order to obtain hundreds of thousands of dollars in benefits.


Last August more than 70 people were indicted in Puerto Rico after a two-year investigation into Social Security disability payments. According to The New York Times, three doctors and a former SSA employee were charged with helping people falsify their applications in order to qualify for the benefits.

Despite media coverage surrounding the high profile fraud schemes, SSA officials say fraud at the agency is rare. Testifying before the committee, SSA’s Acting Commissioner Carolyn Colvin, told lawmakers that her agency is doing a sufficient job of preventing fraud, but said SSA has been severely hampered by budget cuts and would need more funding.

“If we are to keep the incidence of fraud in the disability program low, we need support from both the public and Congress,” Colvin said. “Continued success also requires a sustained commitment of resources to ensure the integrity of the disability program.” Colvin noted that in the last two years, Congress appropriated $421 million less for “program integrity reviews” than was authorized in the Budget Control Act of 2011.

“The net effect has been the loss of nearly 11,000 employees at Social Security—that means drastically fewer people standing watch for the next attempted theft and drastically fewer people available to serve those who truly need us,” Colvin said.

However, she added that the current omnibus bill that Congress is poised to pass shortly includes full funding of the program integrity reviews, which would help the review process and potentially save “billions of taxpayer’s dollars.”


“Don’t just tell us about what you did. It’s clearly not been enough,” Johnson said. “And do not just say you need more money when the fact is that Social Security has utterly failed to protect taxpayer dollars in the first place. Social Security must first regain the trust of the American taxpayer before it can credibly argue for more money.” [Crazy idiocy.]