Saturday, October 31, 2015

How companies prey on your weaknesses: a Robert Shiller Q&A

I wish I could believe everybody over the age of 30 has already discovered this for themselves.

As I have pointed out in some of my blog posts, headlines often do not accurately portray the information in an article. They are written to draw in the reader. A problem is that some people won't read the story, they will just read the headline and get misinformed. Or if they do read the article, their understanding of it will be affected by the first impression they got from the headline.

http://www.cbsnews.com/news/how-companies-prey-on-your-weaknesses-a-robert-shiller-q-a/

Oct. 30, 2015

It's no secret we do things we know we shouldn't. We overeat, gamble away our savings and live like tomorrow will never come. One reason, two Nobel laureates argue, is that there are plenty of businesses happy to lead us astray.

Robert Shiller, an economist at Yale University, used his understanding of how human behavior can affect markets to predict the dot-com crash of the early 2000s and the housing collapse of 2007. He won the Nobel Prize for Economics in 2013 for his work showing that stock and bond prices can move out of step with economic fundamentals even over the long run.

In his new book with George Akerlof, another Nobel-prize winning economist, Shiller examines the many ways credit-card companies, financial firms and other businesses lure people into buying things that might harm them. The authors call that phishing, adopting the word for a common email scam to a broad array of cynical business practices. They call the person who takes the bait a phool. Their book is called "Phishing for Phools: The Economics of Manipulation and Deception."

Their big point: It's not that bad actors are gaming the free market, it's that hucksters and dishonest marketing are part of the free-market game.

In a recent interview with The Associated Press, Shiller talked about how phishers lure phools, the appeal of one-armed bandits and the media's misleading fascination with splashy stories.

•••••

Q: The gist is that businesses keep casting new lures into the water until they get a bite?

A: It's the same thing with Cinnabon. They don't publicize the experimentation they do. Manufacturers of food try to get the optimal ratio to tap into your impulsivity. They don't care about your health. Cinnabon boasts about their genuine Makara cinnamon from Indonesia. They can boast about that sort of thing. They can't say, "Boy, we really cranked up the fat and sugar."

•••••

Q: You say the news media is guilty of phishing, too. How so?

A: They often focus on things that aren't important because they know what kind of story sells. In March of last year, this Malaysia Airlines plane went down mysteriously. The logical thing is to think somebody made a mistake. However, the news media latched onto a mystery story for days and days. It's just a waste of time to think about.

•••••

tags: influence

Study finds medication errors, adverse drug events in 1 out of 2 surgeries studied

http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2015-10/mgh-sfm101915.php

Public Release: 25-Oct-2015
Study finds medication errors, adverse drug events in 1 out of 2 surgeries studied
Massachusetts General Hospital

The first study to measure the incidence of medication errors and adverse drug events during the perioperative period - immediately before, during and right after a surgical procedure - has found that some sort of mistake or adverse event occurred in every second operation and in 5 percent of observed drug administrations. The study of more than 275 operations at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH),

•••••

"We found that just over 1 in 20 perioperative medication administrations resulted in a medication error or an adverse drug event," says Karen C. Nanji, MD, MPH, of the MGH Department of Anesthesia, Critical Care & Pain Medicine, lead author of the report. "Given that Mass. General is a national leader in patient safety and had already implemented approaches to improve safety in the operating room, perioperative medication error rates are probably at least as high at many other hospitals.

•••••

Nanji explains that, while drug orders on inpatient floors go through a process in which they are checked several times by different providers - the ordering physician, pharmacist and nurses administering the medications - the rapidity with which the condition of patients in the operating room can change doesn't allow time for that sort of double- and triple-checking during surgical procedures. Although operating rooms at MGH and other hospitals have installed electronic documentation and bar-coded syringe labeling systems to reduce errors, in other patient care the measures that have cut errors areas have all started with a rigorous analysis of the incidence and type of errors that were occurring.

•••••

Overall, it was determined that 124 of the 277 observed operations included at least one medication error or adverse drug event. Of the almost 3,675 medication administrations in the observed operations, 193 events, involving 153 medication errors and 91 adverse drug events, were recorded either by direct observation or by chart review. Almost 80 percent of those events were determined to have been preventable. One-third of the observed medication errors led to an adverse drug event, and the remainder had the potential to cause an adverse event. Of the adverse drug events that were recorded, 20 percent were not associated with a medication error.

The most frequently observed errors were mistakes in labeling, incorrect dosage, neglecting to treat a problem indicated by the patient's vital signs, and documentation errors. Of all the observed adverse drug events and the medication errors that could have resulted in patient harm - four of which were intercepted by operating room staff before affecting the patient - 30 percent were considered significant, 69 percent serious and less than 2 percent life-threatening; none were fatal. The overall medication error rate of around 5 percent was the same among anesthesiologists, nurse anesthetists and residents. Medication errors and adverse drug events were more common with longer procedures, especially those lasting longer than six hours and involving 13 or more medication administrations.

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GOP official admits to faking threats, An innocent man may have spent 18 years in prison for a previous accusation

This story is of interest both in itself, and because it shows how headlines can be misleading, or in this case, just plain wrong. The original headline is:

"GOP official admits to faking threats — and an innocent man may have spent 18 years in prison for it"

But the threats she has admitted to faking were just a couple of years ago. The man has been in prison because of a different accusation in 1994.

http://www.rawstory.com/2015/10/gop-official-admits-to-faking-threats-and-an-innocent-man-may-have-spent-18-years-in-prison-for-it/

Tom Boggioni
30 Oct 2015

A former Republican candidate for Congress has admitted to a judge that she was the author of threatening letters she sent to herself during her campaign in 2013 and 2014, reports Sacramento news outlet Fox40.

Former Stanislaus County clerk recorder Karen Mathews Davis, who claimed she stood up to terrorists in the 1990s, admitted to federal authorities that she sent the threatening letters after she failed a polygraph test. She was arrested and charged in California on Wednesday. She was released Thursday after posting a $50,000 bond.

What concerns prosecutors is that Mathews Davis also claimed that Roger Steiner attacked and sexually assaulted her in her garage in 1994, resulting in Steiner being sent to a federal prison for 18 years.

According to former state and federal prosecutor Bill Portanova, the confession by Mathews Davis brings into question her accusations against Steiner who, to this day, maintains his innocence.

“And the intriguing part is the latest story that she admits is a lie sounds a lot like the first story that she testified to under oath,” Portanova said.

•••••

During her run for Congress beginning in 2013, Mathews Davis claimed someone was threatening her if she didn’t bow out of the race.

One letter she turned over to authorities read: “A close up shot to your head or to your husband will be final. You make the decision now to not run for congress.”

Mathews Davis was attempting to ride her notoriety as a foe to terrorism after having written the book about her alleged attack called, “The Terrorist in My Garage.”

Now that has all been called into question with Portanova calling it a “prosecutor’s worst nightmare.”

“We don’t know yet whether or not an innocent man spent 18 years in prison,” he added.

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Game design can reduce stereotypes and social biases

http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2015-10/dc-dsi102315.php

Public Release: 25-Oct-2015
Dartmouth study illustrates how game design can reduce stereotypes and social biases
'Embedded design' approach strengthens impact of prosocial games
Dartmouth College

The potential negative impact of games receives a lot of media coverage, yet research conducted at Dartmouth just published by Cyberpsychology: Journal of Psychosocial Research on Cyberspace, illustrates how games can have a positive impact in our society. The researchers use a new approach in game design-- 'embedded game design'-- to demonstrate how games can change players' biases, reduce social stereotypes and prejudice, and engender a more complex view of diversity.

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According to Kaufman, "Designers of social impact interventions, including games, must be mindful of people's natural psychological resistance to any activity they perceive is attempting to alter the way they think or feel about an issue. This may be particularly true in the design of persuasive games, which, to be effective, should ideally be intrinsically engaging and re-playable experiences that people will return to again and again."

•••••

The studies with Awkward Moment and Buffalo demonstrate the ability of games to decrease players' social biases and promote more egalitarian, diversity-embracing mindsets, if the games are designed to do so. Both games are published by Mary Flanagan, LLC and are available for purchase online.

Where Have All The Teachers Gone?

http://www.npr.org/sections/ed/2015/03/03/389282733/where-have-all-the-teachers-gone

Eric Westervelt
March 3, 2015

Several big states have seen alarming drops in enrollment at teacher training programs. The numbers are grim among some of the nation's largest producers of new teachers: In California, enrollment is down 53 percent over the past five years. It's down sharply in New York and Texas as well.

In North Carolina, enrollment is down nearly 20 percent in three years.

"The erosion is steady. That's a steady downward line on a graph. And there's no sign that it's being turned around," says Bill McDiarmid, the dean of the University of North Carolina School of Education.

Why have the numbers fallen so far, so fast?

McDiarmid points to the strengthening U.S. economy and the erosion of teaching's image as a stable career. There's a growing sense, he says, that K-12 teachers simply have less control over their professional lives in an increasingly bitter, politicized environment.

The list of potential headaches for new teachers is long, starting with the ongoing, ideological fisticuffs over the Common Core State Standards, high-stakes testing and efforts to link test results to teacher evaluations. Throw in the erosion of tenure protections and a variety of recession-induced budget cuts, and you've got the makings of a crisis.

The job also has a PR problem, McDiarmid says, with teachers too often turned into scapegoats by politicians, policymakers, foundations and the media.

"It tears me up sometimes to see the way in which people talk about teachers because they are giving blood, sweat and tears for their students every day in this country.

•••••

Isabel Gray is a senior art history major at Millsaps College in Mississippi. She is passionate about exploring a career in K-12 teaching. But, as graduation nears, she's also having second thoughts about a profession that, she feels, is obsessed with testing and standards.

"You want to find the right balance between being a really good teacher and still meeting those standards and not just teaching toward the test, really retaining that material and not just being taught, you know, testing strategies. And it's hard to find that balance. And there's just so much that's changing" in education, she says.

•••••

There are, of course, alternative teacher certification programs across the U.S. including Teach for America. But TFA, too, has seen large drops in enrollment over the past two years.

One possible path out of this crisis is to pay teachers more.

But, across the country, proposals to boost pay or give teachers merit pay have stalled or been scrapped altogether.

•••••

In spite of all the noise and politics, surveys show that public school teachers still believe it's an incredibly satisfying job helping children learn.

Friday, October 30, 2015

Canine companionship helps calm children undergoing cancer treatment, Research suggests

http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2015-10/aaop-rsc101615.php

Public Release: 23-Oct-2015
Research suggests canine companionship helps calm children undergoing cancer treatment
Ongoing study of animal assisted interventions at five hospitals fetches first solid data showing how therapy dogs can affect the stress levels of pediatric cancer patients and their parents
American Academy of Pediatrics

Although survival rates for children diagnosed with cancer have increased dramatically over the past 40 years, hard evidence of proven psychosocial benefits to improve quality of life among patients and families during treatment has remained elusive.

Many hospitals have therapy dogs who visit with patients, and anecdotal evidence underscores the positive impact these programs have on children with cancer and their families. Preliminary findings from a new, multi-center trial provides some of the first quantitative data to validate these claims.

•••••

Preliminary findings show that blood pressure readings in the group receiving animal-assisted interventions remains more stable across all sessions than in the control group, said lead researcher Amy McCullough, Ph.D., National Director of Humane Research and Therapy for the American Humane Association. Similarly, there was a higher degree of variability in heart rate within the control group patients than with the treatment group patients.

"These findings suggest that the dog may have a calming effect on the patient," Dr. McCullough said.

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Hands-only CPR in high school class pumps up likelihood of bystander response to cardiac arrest

http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2015-10/aaop-hci101615.php

Public Release: 23-Oct-2015
Hands-only CPR in high school class pumps up likelihood of bystander response to cardiac arrest
Freshmen at eight Florida schools who learned and practiced chest compressions without mouth-to-mouth ventilation reported increased knowledge and decreased fear of performing lifesaving skill on actual victim compared to video-only training
American Academy of Pediatrics

Freshmen at eight Florida high schools who learned how to provide circulatory support to someone in sudden cardiac arrest using chest compressions without mouth-to-mouth ventilations said they would be significantly more comfortable performing the skill in a real-life situation when their training included a hands-on component, according to a new study.

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Skin-to-skin contact with baby in neonatal unit decreases maternal stress levels

http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2015-10/aaop-scw101615.php

Public Release: 23-Oct-2015
Skin-to-skin contact with baby in neonatal unit decreases maternal stress levels
Already linked to happier, healthier newborns, study finds that snuggling with babies in intensive care eases mothers' anxiety that can interfere with parent-child bonding
American Academy of Pediatrics

Research shows that stable parent-child bonds are fundamental to healthy child development. For parents of babies born prematurely or with special medical needs, this early bonding can be interrupted by the complex medical care required in a neonatal intensive care unit (NICU).

An ongoing study conducted at a large metropolitan NICU, however, shows that a little skin-to-skin snuggling between mothers and babies can go a long way toward reducing maternal stress levels.

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Study finds injuries from nonpowder guns severe among children

http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2015-10/aaop-sfi101615.php

Public Release: 23-Oct-2015
Study finds injuries from nonpowder guns severe among children
As airsoft, BB and paintball guns begin to rival the power of traditional firearms, injuries from these 'toy' weapons treated at a large metropolitan children's hospital demonstrate a significant threat to pediatric patients' vision and lives
American Academy of Pediatrics

Researchers at a Dallas children's hospital aim to show that nonpowder firearms such as airsoft, BB, and paintball guns should not be viewed as toys, but rather powerful weapons causing increasingly severe and sometimes life-threatening injuries in pediatric patients.

A new study being presented at the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) Conference and Exhibition in Washington, DC, looked at medical records of patients treated at Children's Medical Center Dallas after being injured by nonpowder guns between 2010 and 2013. Of the 176 patients studied, 87 percent were male and 30 percent were under 10 years of age, said lead researcher Nina Mizuki Fitzgerald, MD, FAAP, a pediatric emergency medicine fellow at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center. The majority of injuries were unintentional.

Twenty-nine percent of the children ultimately needed surgery to remove deeply embedded objects, repair structures of the eye, remove part of the skull or insert drains to relieve swelling resulting from traumatic brain injury. According to Dr. Fitzgerald, 10 percent of children suffered a lasting functional deficit, of which 83 percent were eye-related, and 8 percent of children ultimately had an eye removed surgically.

"Nonpowder guns are not toys, and an adult should always supervise their use by children," Dr. Fitzgerald said. In addition to following safety recommendations that children always wear eye protection when using a nonpowder gun, she said the study's findings suggest a need for stricter regulations of the muzzle velocities of nonpowder guns.

New AAP report targets lack of adequate food as ongoing health risk to US children

http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2015-10/aaop-nar101615.php

Public Release: 23-Oct-2015
New AAP report targets lack of adequate food as ongoing health risk to US children
Nation's pediatricians release policy statement stressing the importance of federal, state and local nutrition programs to help combat the immediate and potentially lifelong impact of food insecurity
American Academy of Pediatrics

For the first time, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) is recommending that pediatricians screen all children for food insecurity. In a new policy statement identifying the short and long-term adverse health impacts of food insecurity, the AAP also recommends that pediatricians become familiar with and refer families to needed community resources, and advocate for federal and local policies that support access to adequate, nutritious food.

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USDA data released in September show that the number of children regularly getting enough food to stay healthy and active last year was its highest since 2007. The slight but significant rise to pre-recession food security levels underscores the effectiveness and ongoing importance of federal nutrition programs such as the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and school lunch and breakfast programs, according to the AAP. In fact, nearly half of all SNAP recipients are children.

"The health effects of hunger on children are pervasive and long-lasting, which is why our new policy urges pediatricians to take action in and outside of the clinic to conquer food insecurity and promote child health," said Sarah Jane Schwarzenberg, MD, FAAP, a lead author of the policy statement and director of pediatric gastroenterology, hepatology and nutrition at the University of Minnesota Masonic Children's Hospital. Health problems linked to hunger described in the AAP policy statement include:

Children who live in households that are food insecure, even at the lowest levels, get sick more often, recover more slowly from illness, have poorer overall health and are hospitalized more frequently.

Children and adolescents affected by food insecurity are more likely to be iron deficient, and preadolescent boys dealing with hunger issues have lower bone density. Early childhood malnutrition also is tied to conditions such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease later in life.

Lack of adequate healthy food can impair a child's ability to concentrate and perform well in school and is linked to higher levels of behavioral and emotional problems from preschool through adolescence.

"As is the case with many childhood health conditions, being malnourished or not getting enough healthy food early in life has effects that can last well into adulthood," Dr. Schwarzenberg said.

•••••

Women who experience food insecurity during pregnancy are at increased risk for poorer birth outcomes, including low birth weight babies and toxic stress, which can have lifelong effects on the health and well-being of a child.

•••••

For many families, seemingly small changes to income, expenses, or access to federal or state assistance programs can instantly reduce the ability to buy enough nutritious food, according to the AAP policy statement. In addition, statistics show that more than 30 percent of families who reported food insecurity said they had to choose between paying for food or paying for medicine or medical care.

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The secret to a younger brain may lie in exercising your body

http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2015-10/uot-aba102215.php

Public Release: 23-Oct-2015
Active body, active mind: The secret to a younger brain may lie in exercising your body
University of Tsukuba

It is widely recognised that our physical fitness is reflected in our mental fitness, especially as we get older. How does being physically fit affect our aging brains? Neuroimaging studies, in which the activity of different parts of the brain can be visualised, have provided some clues. Until now, however, no study has directly linked brain activation with both mental and physical performance.

As reported in the latest volume of the journal NeuroImage, an exciting new study led by Dr Hideaki Soya from the University of Tsukuba in Japan and his colleagues show, for the first time, the direct relationship between brain activity, brain function and physical fitness in a group of older Japanese men. They found that the fitter men performed better mentally than the less fit men, by using parts of their brains in the same way as in their youth.

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Depression too often reduced to a checklist of symptoms

http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2015-10/kl-dto102315.php

Public Release: 23-Oct-2015
Depression too often reduced to a checklist of symptoms
KU Leuven

How can you tell if someone is depressed? The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) - the 'bible' of psychiatry - diagnoses depression when patients tick off a certain number of symptoms on the DSM checklist. A large-scale quantitative study coordinated at KU Leuven, Belgium, now shows that some symptoms play a much bigger role than others in driving depression, and that the symptoms listed in DSM may not be the most useful ones.

To diagnose depression, psychiatrists typically tally up the number of depression symptoms that patients report in questionnaires. It does not matter which of the symptoms these patients have, as long as they have a certain number of them.

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"If you think of depression as a network of interacting symptoms, one symptom can cause another", Fried clarifies. "For instance, insomnia may lead to fatigue, which in turn may cause concentration problems that feed back into insomnia. This example of a vicious circle shows that the specific symptoms patients report, and their interactions, can be of crucial clinical importance".

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In the study, the two main DSM symptoms - sad mood and decreased interest or pleasure - ranked among the top 5 in terms of centrality. But the researchers also found that DSM symptoms such as hypersomnia, agitation, and weight change are not more central than other common depression symptoms such as pessimism and anxiety.

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Children Aren't the Enemy

I hope to record this some day, when I have the money.

Children Aren't the Enemy
copyright 2000 Patricia M. Shannon

(chorus)
What kind of country do we live in
where children are the enemy,
except when they are just reflections of their parents,
or targets of the ads on MTV?

When adults treat their children with unkindness,
we say that they are not to blame;
they'r only doing what they've learned from their own parents,
how can we expect them to know a better way?

But when children have been tortured by their parents
for years and years, until they finally break,
we say, "For shame, there's no excuse, ever;
why didn't they figure out a better way?"

(chorus)

Forgive your parents the beatings and the harsh words
that made your childhood years a misery;
displace your anger on your children and employees,
your pets and people in minorities.

Children today start out the same as we did,
genetically there hasn't been a change;
if we'd been brought up in the same world that they live in,
for sure we would have turned out just the same.

(chorus)

Experts Predict Rising Deficits and Debt in GOP Candidates’ Tax Plans

No surprise. We've seen this happen under Reagan & GW Bush.

If cutting back on the government is so good for the economy, the economy should be booming, because non-government employment has largely recovered, it is government employment that is still reduced.



By Eric Pianin
October 30, 2015

Amid signs that the U.S. economy is beginning to slow down again, the leading Republican presidential candidates were in near agreement at Wednesday night’s GOP presidential debate that major tax reform – including deep cuts in rates across the board -- would be included in any long-term economic initiatives.

Indeed, many of the GOP candidates, including billionaire Donald Trump, former Florida governor Jeb Bush and Sen. Marco Rubio, have floated comprehensive tax plans in recent months that consolidate and reduce individual and corporate tax rates to spur economic growth. Retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson and Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, meanwhile, are pressing to scrap the tax code in favor of a 10 percent to 15 percent flat tax that would apply equally to all Americans, with some exceptions for low-income families. [Of course, a flat tax would affect the quality of life more the less people make.]

While many economists agree that these proposals could spur investment, economic growth and job creation over the coming decade, most of the Republican candidates don’t acknowledge that these approaches inevitably will reduce revenue collections and drive up the long-term debt by tens of trillions of dollars. [But tax cuts in the past did not spur the economy.]

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“Some of these candidates are cutting revenues by up to 20 percent per year,” he said in an interview Thursday. “And if you’re cutting revenues by 20 percent initially, you would need your economy to quickly grow by 20 percent in order to finance your tax cut entirely through growth. And that’s not a realistic assumption.”

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Climate change unravels the silk industry of Assam



Mubina Akhtar
Oct. 29, 2015

Assam, in North-east India, produces one of the finest, and most expensive, types of silk in the world. Produced by the semi-domesticated silkworm Antheraea assamensis, which is only found in the Brahmaputra Valley, this silk is called Muga – Assamese for “yellow” or “amber” – and is often called golden silk. This silk has been produced in the region from as far back as 321 BC, and is an inextricable part of the life and culture of Assam. Unfortunately silkworms are highly sensitive to climatic conditions since they are grown outdoors. Recently unpredictable rainfall patterns, a rise in temperature and persistent floods have endangered Muga cocoon production across the state.

•••••

The Dhemaji district in northern Assam is a major Muga growing area. About 98% of the people of the district live in the rural areas and agriculture is the principal occupation for more than 85% of the people. These families are also engaged in Muga cultivation. Muga cultivation is a labour intensive activity and almost all the family members of the household are involved in silkworm rearing, silk reeling and weaving. Unfortunately for the farmers of Dhemaji floods are destroying the basis of this industry.

The district has experienced recurrent floods, on an annual basis for the last few years. The Dhemaji Agriculture Department put the number of farm families affected this year at 50,500. Assam has an average family size of just under 5 people per family, which would mean that almost 250,000 people would have been affected out of a total population of about 700,000. A total of 3,718 hectares of agricultural land was covered in silt this year, pushing the affected people to search alternative livelihood in non-agricultural sector.

The floods and siltation have destroyed, or endangered, plantations of the Som plant, on which the Muga silkworms feed. The Som plantations – known as Sumonis – have been gradually destroyed as they have either been displaced, or their roots buried in sandy silt. Kusha Sonowal of Laomuri village, Dhemaji, said that the unavailability of good quality seeds has severely affected indigenous Muga rearing. Abandoning her expertise in weaving, she now helps her family run a small tea stall some 2 kilometres from her home.

•••••

The silkworm needs temperatures of around 30-35 degree Celsius (86-95F) and a humidity level of 80-85% in order to thrive. Dhemaji suffered heavy losses in Muga production in the last couple of years as silkworms died out due to the increase of air temperature and humidity, according to the Sericulture Department of Assam. The current records show the annual rainfall of the district ranges from 2600 mm to 3200 mm, the relative humidity varies from 90% to 73% while the temperature varies between 39.9C (103.82F) in summer and 5.9C (42.62F) in winter. Changes in temperature and humidity lead to diseases like Flacherie, and Grasserie that can wipe out an entire lot of silkworms.

•••••

Climate change compels tea cultivators to use more pesticides to kill pests and mites in their garden. This pesticide contaminates the air, and silkworms die when they breathe in the pesticides used in tea gardens nearby.

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Thursday, October 29, 2015

Plastic litter taints the sea surface, even in the Arctic

http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2015-10/awih-plt102215.php

Public Release: 22-Oct-2015
Plastic litter taints the sea surface, even in the Arctic
For the first time, AWI researchers survey litter on the sea surface at such high latitudes
Alfred Wegener Institute, Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research

In a new study, researchers from the Alfred Wegener Institute, Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research (AWI) show for the first time that marine litter can even be found at the sea surface of Arctic waters. Though it remains unclear how the litter made it so far north, it is likely to pose new problems for local marine life, the authors report on the online portal of the scientific journal Polar Biology. Plastic has already been reported from stomachs of resident seabirds and Greenland sharks.

Plastic waste finds its way into the ocean, and from there to the farthest reaches of the planet - even as far as the Arctic. This was confirmed in one of the first litter surveys conducted north of the Arctic Circle, carried out by an international research team from the Alfred Wegener Institute, Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research (AWI) and Belgium's Laboratory for Polar Ecology. The researchers presented their results in an article released yesterday on the online portal of the journal Polar Biology.

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Implant procedure helps patients with sacroiliac joint pain

http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2015-10/wkh-iph102215.php

Public Release: 22-Oct-2015
Implant procedure helps patients with sacroiliac joint pain
Wolters Kluwer Health

A minimally invasive implant procedure is highly effective in reducing pain and disability for patients with sacroiliac joint (SIJ) dysfunction, reports a clinical trial in the November issue of Neurosurgery, official journal of the Congress of Neurological Surgeons, published by Wolters Kluwer.

The randomized controlled trial shows superior outcomes in patients undergoing minimally invasive sacroiliac joint (SIJ) fusion using triangular titanium implants, compared to nonsurgical management, according to the new research overseen by Dr. Daniel J. Cher of SI-BONE, Inc., in San Jose, Calif. (The study was sponsored by SI-BONE, manufacturer of the SIJ implants.)

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100 CEOs Have Saved as Much for Retirement as 50 Million Americans

Fiscal Times

By Janna Herron
October 28, 2015

Just 100 top CEOs have as much saved for retirement as 50 million Americans, thanks in large part to special savings plans that their employees don’t receive, according to a new study.

The Center for Effective Government found that the 100 biggest nest eggs of corporate chiefs added up to $4.9 billion $4,900,000,000), or 41 percent of what American families have saved for retirement. David Novak, the former CEO of Yum Brands, the company that owns Taco Bell, Pizza Hut and KFC, had the largest nest egg, worth $234.2 million, or enough money to provide an annuity check of about $1.3 million ($1,300,000) a month starting at age 65.

By contrast, almost three in 10 Americans approaching their golden years have no retirement savings at all, the study said, and more than half between 50 and 64 will have to depend on Social Security alone, which averages $1,233 per month.

Aside from fatter paychecks, CEOs get two other perks to help them grow their retirement funds faster than their employees can.

•••••

Special Pensions

More than half of Fortune 500 CEOs receive supplemental executive retirement plans (SERPs), a type of tax-deferred defined-benefit plan for the C-suite. These plans have come under heat from shareholders as expensive and unnecessary.

CEOs enjoy these plans even as companies eliminate regular defined-benefit plans for employees. Only 10 percent of companies provide defined-benefit pension plans, covering just 18 percent of private sector workers, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. In the early 1990s, more than a third of private sector workers had pension plans.

Executive Tax-Deferred Compensation Plans

Almost three-fourths of Fortune 500 companies offer their senior executives tax-deferred compensation plans. Unlike 401(k) plans offered to regular workers, these special plans have no limits on annual contributions. That allows CEOs to invest a lot more in their retirement than everyday Americans. For example, last year, 198 CEOs running Fortune 500 companies were able to invest $197 million more in these plans because they were not hamstrung by limitations on defined compensation plans, the study found.

American workers over 50 can contribute only $24,000 a year to 401(k) plans, while younger employees have an $18,000 limit.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Cadavers buoy idea our hands are for dexterity and fistfights

Male human brains have larger fluid-filled spaces that protect it from blows to the head.

http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2015-10/uou-dmp101615.php

Public Release: 21-Oct-2015
Dead men punching
Cadavers buoy idea our hands are for dexterity and fistfights
University of Utah

University of Utah biologists used cadaver arms to punch and slap padded dumbbells in experiments supporting a hotly debated theory that our hands evolved not only for manual dexterity, but also so males could fistfight over females.

"The idea that aggressive behavior played a role in the evolution of the human hand is controversial," says biology professor David Carrier, senior author of the study published online Oct. 21 in the Journal of Experimental Biology. "Many skeptics suggest that the human fist is simply a coincidence of natural selection for improved manual dexterity. That may be true, but if it is a coincidence, it is unfortunate."

"As an alternative, we suggest that the hand proportions that allow the formation of a fist may tell us something important about our evolutionary history and who we are as a species," Carrier adds. "If our anatomy is adapted for fighting, we need to be aware we always may be haunted by basic emotions and reflexive behaviors that often don't make sense - and are very dangerous - in the modern world."

Humans have shorter palms and fingers and longer, stronger, flexible thumbs compared with other apes. These features have been long thought to have evolved so our ancestors had the manual dexterity to make and use tools.

Carrier and his collaborators not only have argued our hands evolved partly for punching but that the faces of human ancestors, the australopiths, evolved to resist punching - and that human faces became more delicate as our violence became less dependent on brute force. The new study sought more experimental evidence for his theory using nine male cadaver arms purchased from the university's body donor program and from a private supply company.

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After hundreds of punches and slaps using eight arms (one was too arthritic), "our results suggest that humans can safely strike with 55 percent more force with a fully buttressed fist than with an unbuttressed fist, and with twofold more force with a buttressed fist than with an open hand slap," Carrier and his students write.

They add that the evolutionary significance of the hands of humans and their ancestors "may be that these are the proportions that improved manual dexterity while at the same time making it possible for the hand to be used as a club during fighting."

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Carrier emphasizes: "We are not proposing the only important things were natural selection for dexterity and for punching." Other possibilities include genetic drift - variation in hand proportions being lost among a small, isolated population - and unidentified genetic and developmental factors. Carrier notes that natural selection favored lengthening the big toe and shortening other toes so human ancestors could run more easily, and the same genes likely affected hand proportions as well.

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"Metacarpals are bones in the hand that break most often - not finger bones, but bones of the palm," Carrier says. "When guys get mad and punch a wall, or when bars close and they punch each other, the bones that break most often are the metacarpals."

Strain gauges to measure bone deformation - stretching and compression - were glued to the back-of-the-hand side of the metacarpals, usually the second metacarpal. The gauges measured stress on those hand bones during punches and slaps.

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Carrier's theory has been criticized harshly by some, with one well-known blogger calling it "bro science - dudes pummeling each other driving human evolution." Here are some criticisms and Carrier's responses:

-- Critics say that if the human hand is adapted for fighting, then the primary target of fists - the face - would have coevolved protective features. Carrier and colleagues argue that is what the fossil record indicates happened in burly human ancestors, the australopiths. In humans, "as our face became less massive, we also lost punching power" along with upper body size, Carrier says.

-- Skeptics say the idea the face evolved to resist punches ignores the nose. Carrier acknowledges "the nose is the one part of the face - in Homo, not australopiths - that is inconsistent with the idea that the face has evolved to be protected from punches. It sticks out. It is weak. But in great apes and australopiths it is flat. And in australopiths, all of the features of the face are consistent."

-- Many anthropologists argue that little historic and prehistoric evidence exists for fistfighting. Carrier says history shows the use of fists to strike was common in many human cultures, and the prehistoric record provides consistent ancient evidence.

-- Some people believe the human hand is too delicate to have evolved to be an important weapon. They say early humans would use sticks or rocks. However, Carrier says studies of assault injuries indicate that human fists are common, effective weapons, and that when humans fight, face bones break much more frequently than hand bones.

-- Critics argue that if men were adapted for fistfighting, our species would exhibit large rather than relatively small differences in body mass between men and women. Carrier counters that in terms of lean body mass and upper body muscular strength, such differences in humans are large. He adds that the male-female differences in hand and face shape and size are among the largest.

-- Critics of the "aggressive ape" theory of human evolution often argue that humans are by nature empathetic, cooperative and peaceful. Carrier agrees, but believes aggression played a key role in our evolution. [We tend to be empathetic, cooperative, and peaceful with our in-groups, not with those outside our group.]

Biologists discover bacteria communicate like neurons in the brain

http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2015-10/uoc--bdb101915.php

Public Release: 21-Oct-2015
Biologists discover bacteria communicate like neurons in the brain
University of California - San Diego

Biologists at UC San Diego have discovered that bacteria--often viewed as lowly, solitary creatures--are actually quite sophisticated in their social interactions and communicate with one another through similar electrical signaling mechanisms as neurons in the human brain.

In a study published in this week's advance online publication of Nature, the scientists detail the manner by which bacteria living in communities communicate with one another electrically through proteins called "ion channels."

"Our discovery not only changes the way we think about bacteria, but also how we think about our brain," said Gürol Süel, an associate professor of molecular biology at UC San Diego who headed the research project. "All of our senses, behavior and intelligence emerge from electrical communications among neurons in the brain mediated by ion channels. Now we find that bacteria use similar ion channels to communicate and resolve metabolic stress. Our discovery suggests that neurological disorders that are triggered by metabolic stress may have ancient bacterial origins, and could thus provide a new perspective on how to treat such conditions."

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When a biofilm composed of hundreds of thousands of Bacillus subtilis bacterial cells grows to a certain size, the researchers discovered, the protective outer edge of cells, with unrestricted access to nutrients, periodically stopped growing to allow nutrients--specifically glutamate, to flow to the sheltered center of the biofilm. In this way, the protected bacteria in the colony center were kept alive and could survive attacks by chemicals and antibiotics.

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Exposure to secondhand smoke linked to increased risk of tooth decay in young children

http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2015-10/b-ets101915.php

Public Release: 21-Oct-2015
Exposure to secondhand smoke linked to increased risk of tooth decay in young children
Findings support extending public health and clinical interventions to reduce secondhand smoke
BMJ

Although these findings cannot establish causality, they support extending public health and clinical interventions to reduce secondhand smoke, say the researchers.

The level of dental caries in deciduous (baby) teeth in developed countries remains high - 20.5% in children ages 2 to 5 years in the US and 25% in children aged 3 years in Japan.

While established methods for caries prevention in young children is limited to sugar restriction, oral fluoride supplementation and fluoride varnish, some studies have suggested associations between secondhand smoke and caries.

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They analysed data for 76,920 children born between 2004 and 2010 attending routine health checkups at 0,4,9, and 18 months and at 3 years of age at health care centres in Kobe City, Japan.

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Compared with having no smoker in the family, exposure to tobacco smoke at 4 months of age was associated with an approximately twofold increased risk of caries.

The risk of caries was also increased among those exposed to household smoking, by 1.5-fold, whereas the effect of maternal smoking during pregnancy was not statistically significant.

This is an observational study so no definitive conclusions can be drawn about cause and effect, stress the authors, and results may have been influenced by other unmeasured factors.

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Gardening therapy helps women on long-term sick leave return to work

http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2015-10/uog-gth102115.php

Public Release: 21-Oct-2015
Gardening therapy helps women on long-term sick leave return to work
University of Gothenburg

Being and working in a garden combined with active job coaching can effectively help women on long-term sick leave return to work. A study conducted at Sahlgrenska University explored the reasons for the trend.

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Poor medical data access could lead to erroneous clinical decisions


http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2015-10/uoea-pmd102115.php

Public Release: 21-Oct-2015
Poor medical data access could lead to erroneous clinical decisions
University of East Anglia

Researchers from the University of East Anglia are calling for medical trial data to be kept in national repositories.

A BMJ study published today reveals how a series of barriers stopped researchers from reviewing the effects of heart failure drugs such as beta blockers on patients.

Now they are calling for greater transparency in research and recommend that access to data should be a mandatory requirement of funding.

They warn that the risks of not doing so, could lead to "erroneous clinical decisions".

Lead researcher Dr Robert Fleetcroft, from UEA's Norwich Medical School, said: "Current NICE guidelines on drug treatments for heart failure are heavily based on evidence from patients with severe symptoms. However most patients only have minor symptoms and these drugs might be less effective.

"We wanted to carry out a systematic review of the effectiveness of heart failure drugs - such as beta blockers, angiotensin converting enzyme inhibitors and angiotensin receptor blockers - for patients with minor symptoms.

"We found 30 studies that looked at the effect of these drugs on heart failure. But none of the studies included enough data to assess outcomes for patients with minor symptoms."

The research team set out to request the additional data by contacting the authors of each study.

Authors from only 24 studies could be contacted because of difficulties finding up to date email addresses. Of these, one of the authors had passed away, and three had left their institutions, but contact details were found on the internet for two of the latter. In total, only six authors replied from the 24 authors contacted.

Three authors said that data were not available, one said that only one class of heart failure patient had been included in their study, one author refused the data on the grounds that such analyses were not appropriate and may lead to misleading results, and one author recommended getting in touch with a co-author.

Dr Fleetcroft said: "We were surprised at the difficulties we faced, even though the majority of studies were published between the 1990s and 2010 and four had been published since 2010.

"Difficulty accessing data from clinical trials means that only part of the evidence base is available and this may lead to erroneous clinical decisions.

"Many funders and institutions now recommend data sharing. Benefits of access to patient data include that it can enable researchers to answer new questions with existing data, validate findings, and combine the power of individual studies. It may also prevent selective reporting and research fraud.

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"It is unacceptable for NICE to make decisions about new drugs based on clinical effectiveness data that are not in the public domain. Such transparency is essential to bolster trust in the process of evaluation of new treatments.

"We also recommend that research ethics and funding committees should make future access to data a mandatory requirement. Funders should cover the costs of archiving data and journals could require evidence of archived data."

Blood pressure medication can't undo all damage

http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2015-10/nu-bpm102115.php

Public Release: 21-Oct-2015
Blood pressure medication can't undo all damage
Northwestern University

Treating out-of-control blood pressure with antihypertensive medication can greatly reduce your risk for heart attack, stroke and heart failure, but the current approach to treatment can't undo all of the previous damage or restore cardiovascular disease risk to ideal levels, a new Northwestern Medicine study suggests.

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"The best outcomes were seen in those who always had ideal levels of blood pressure and never required medications," said Donald Lloyd-Jones, MD, chair of the Department the Preventive Medicine at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine and senior author of the study. "Those who were treated with medication and achieved ideal levels were still at roughly twice the risk of those with untreated ideal levels. And, of course, people with untreated or uncontrolled high blood pressure were at even greater risk."

He stressed that it remains very important to treat high blood pressure and that lowering blood pressure with antihypertensive medications has been found to lower the risk of cardiovascular disease significantly in middle-aged and older adults.

The new findings strongly suggest that there should be an even greater effort to maintain lower blood pressure levels in younger adults to avoid increases in blood pressure over time that may eventually require medication.

"A greater focus on healthy lifestyles, such as healthier eating patterns, with more fruits and vegetables and lower sodium intake and regular participation in physical activity are the best means for preventing blood pressure levels that might require medication," Dr. Lloyd-Jones said.

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They found that MESA participants on antihypertensive medication (all aged 50 years or older at baseline) with well-controlled hypertension (<120/<80 mm Hg), still had twice the risk of cardiovascular disease events in the next nine and a half years compared with participants who had the same low blood pressure levels without treatment.

Results from the CARDIA participants indicate that middle-aged adults with blood pressure well-controlled by medication had longer exposure to higher blood pressure levels throughout young adulthood than those with ideal blood pressure without medication. As a result, they had significantly higher risk of end-organ damage, as measured by left ventricular mass, kidney function, and the presence of coronary artery calcification.

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Wildflowers on farms -- not just crops -- can expose bees to neonicotinoids

One of those things that seem obvious in hindsight.

If the poisons are leaching thru the soil & being taken up by wildflowers, that means the same thing is happening to food crops.

http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2015-10/acs-wof102115.php

Public Release: 21-Oct-2015
Wildflowers on farms -- not just crops -- can expose bees to neonicotinoids
American Chemical Society

Since bee colonies started declining at alarming rates over the past few decades, some scientists have identified a group of pesticides called neonicotinoids that are commonly used on crops as a potential contributor. Now one team reports in ACS' journal Environmental Science & Technology that bees could be getting an unexpected dose of neonicotinoids from wildflowers on farms. Their results suggest past studies may have underestimated the bees' exposure to these compounds.

Scientists trying to close in on the causes of bee declines have identified a mix of pressures that could be to blame. Loss of habitats, and contact with parasites and neonicotinoids all have been cited as possible factors. Past research on neonicotinoids has focused mainly on bees' exposure through crops treated with the pesticides. But because several flowering plants grow naturally on farms, and farmers often sow wildflowers near fields to attract pollinators, Cristina Botías and colleagues suspected that they could be a missing piece of the puzzle.

The researchers analyzed pollen samples from plants growing in areas close to arable fields and from beehives on five farms in the U.K. They found that pollen from wildflowers growing in these locations often contains neonicotinoid residues. In addition, 97 percent of neonicotinoids in the pollen that bees brought back to honey bee hives was from wildflowers, which were not directly treated with the pesticides. They say that neonicotinoids are likely leaching through the soil and being taken up by the nearby wildflowers. The team says their results suggest that exposure is likely to be higher and more prolonged than currently recognized.

Children who take antibiotics gain weight faster than kids who don't

Farmers give their animals antibiotics because it makes them grow faster.

http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2015-10/jhub-cw102115.php

Public Release: 21-Oct-2015
Children who take antibiotics gain weight faster than kids who don't
New study suggests that repeated antibiotic use could lead to higher BMI long term
Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health

Kids who receive antibiotics throughout the course of their childhoods gain weight significantly faster than those who do not, according to new Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health research.

The findings, published online Oct. 21 in the International Journal of Obesity, suggest that antibiotics may have a compounding effect throughout childhood on body mass index (BMI), a measure often used to determine whether someone is at a healthy weight.

"Your BMI may be forever altered by the antibiotics you take as a child," says study leader Brian S. Schwartz, MD, MS, a professor in the Department of Environmental Health Sciences at the Bloomberg School. "Our data suggest that every time we give an antibiotic to kids they gain weight faster over time."

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At age 15, children who had taken antibiotics seven or more times during childhood weighed about three pounds more than those who received no antibiotics, they found. Approximately 21 percent of the kids in the study, or almost 30,000 children, had received seven or more prescriptions during childhood. Schwartz says that the weight gain among those frequently prescribed antibiotics is likely an underestimate since the children did not stay with Geisinger throughout childhood so their lifetime antibiotic histories, including antibiotic use outside the health system, would not have been recorded and because the effect of certain antibiotic types was even stronger than the overall average.

"While the magnitude of the weight increase attributable to antibiotics may be modest by the end of childhood, our finding that the effects are cumulative raises the possibility that these effects continue and are compounded into adulthood," he says.

Scientists working with penicillin learned early on that its byproducts caused weight gain in animals. This led to the modern industrial farming techniques of including small quantities of antibiotics in daily animal feed to fatten up the animals in an accelerated time frame. So a connection with weight gain does make biological sense, Schwartz says.

In humans, meanwhile, there is growing evidence that antibiotics could lead to weight gain because of the effect that they have on what is known as the microbiota, or the microorganisms that inhabit the body. There are 10 times more bacterial cells in the human body than our own cells. Many of these bacteria do their work in the gastrointestinal tract, helping the body to digest food and absorb nutrients. Antibiotics kill off harmful bacteria but also those vital to gastrointestinal health. Research has shown that repeated antibiotics use can forever change the microbiota, altering the way it breaks down food and increasing the calories of nutrients absorbed. This, in turn, can increase weight gain.

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"Systematic antibiotics should be avoided except when strongly indicated," Schwartz says. "From everything we are learning, it is more important than ever for physicians to be the gatekeepers and keep their young patients from getting drugs that not only won't help them but may hurt them in the long run."

This fish out of water cools down fast

http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2015-10/uog-tfo102115.php

Public Release: 21-Oct-2015
This fish out of water cools down fast: Study
University of Guelph

On hot, humid days, you might jump into water to cool down, but for the tiny mangrove rivulus fish, cooling down means jumping out of water, according to a new study from the University of Guelph.

In the study published today in the journal Biology Letters, the researchers describe how these fish air-chill themselves on solid ground in order to drop their body temperatures. The researchers also found that fish exposed to higher temperatures for a week tolerated warmer water better.

The fish jump out of the water to escape rising temperatures, said integrative biology professor Pat Wright, senior author of the study.

"If the fish are prevented from jumping out of the water, they would die," she said.

"The water evaporates off the fish and they cool down their body temperatures slightly. It only takes about a couple seconds for the fish to start to cool down."

The rivulus fish live in waters from Florida to Brazil, where water temperatures can reach 38 C (100.4 F). (Normal human body temperature is 37 C.)

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Wright said the fish wriggle to a chosen spot once on land and even find their way by barriers.

"These fish will also jump out because of conflict with other rivulus fish or looking for food, but the primary reason is to cool their bodies down," said Wright.

"As climate change continues, and temperatures in their habitats continue to increase, we could potentially see them jumping more."

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Up to 27 seconds of inattention after talking to your car or smartphone

http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2015-10/uou-ut2102115.php

Public Release: 21-Oct-2015
Up to 27 seconds of inattention after talking to your car or smartphone
Distraction rated 'high' for most devices while driving
University of Utah

If you think it is okay to talk to your car infotainment system or smartphone while driving or even when stopped at a red light, think again. It takes up to 27 seconds to regain full attention after issuing voice commands, University of Utah researchers found in a pair of new studies for the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety.

One of the studies showed that it is highly distracting to use hands-free voice commands to dial phone numbers, call contacts, change music and send texts with Microsoft Cortana, Apple Siri and Google Now smartphone personal assistants, though Google Now was a bit less distracting than the others.

The other study examined voice-dialing, voice-contact calling and music selection using in-vehicle information or "infotainment" systems in 10 model-year 2015 vehicles. Three were rated as moderately distracting, six as highly distracting and the system in the 2015 Mazda 6 as very highly distracting.

"Just because these systems are in the car doesn't mean it's a good idea to use them while you are driving," says University of Utah psychology professor David Strayer, senior author of the two new studies. "They are very distracting, very error prone and very frustrating to use. Far too many people are dying because of distraction on the roadway, and putting another source of distraction at the fingertips of drivers is not a good idea. It's better not to use them when you are driving."

The research also found that, contrary to what some may believe, practice with voice-recognition systems doesn't eliminate distraction. The studies also showed older drivers - those most likely to buy autos with infotainment systems - are much more distracted than younger drivers when giving voice commands.

But the most surprising finding was that a driver traveling only 25 mph continues to be distracted for up to 27 seconds after disconnecting from highly distracting phone and car voice-command systems, and up to 15 seconds after disconnecting from the moderately distracting systems.

The 27 seconds means a driver traveling 25 mph would cover the length of three football fields before regaining full attention.

"Most people think, 'I hang up and I'm good to go,'" Strayer says. "But that's just not the case. We see it takes a surprisingly long time to come back to full attention. Even sending a short text message can cause almost another 30 seconds of impaired attention."

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In 2013, 3,154 people died and 424,000 others were injured in motor vehicle crashes on U.S. roads involving driver distraction, says the U.S. Department of Transportation.

The new AAA reports urge that voice activated, in-vehicle information systems "ought not to be used indiscriminately" while driving, and advise that "caution is warranted" in smart-phone use while driving.

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Strayer personally doesn't even make hands-free cellphone calls while driving. He advises against using voice commands system while driving for purposes such as voice dialing, voice contact calling, surfing the Internet, sending email and text messages, reading email, tweeting or updating Facebook.

"If you are going to use these systems, use them to support the primary task of driving - like for navigation or to change the radio or temperature - and keep the interaction short."

Lifestyle, occupational factors that may put truck drivers in danger

http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2015-10/uouh-crl102115.php

Public Release: 21-Oct-2015
Crash risk: Lifestyle, occupational factors that may put truck drivers in danger
University of Utah Health Sciences

Truck drivers who are frequently fatigued after work, use cell phones while driving, or have an elevated pulse pressure - a potential predictor of cardiovascular disease - may be at increased risk for getting into truck accidents, according to a study by the Rocky Mountain Center for Occupational and Environmental Health (RMCOEH) at the University of Utah School of Medicine and published in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine (JOEM).

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Long-haul truck driving is one of the deadliest professions, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Truck drivers are involved in an estimated 250,000 crashes each year, with 1 to 2 percent resulting in fatalities.

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Two indicators of poor health management - high pulse pressure and fatigue - were highly associated with crash risk. High pulse pressure, a blood pressure measurement, may signal heart problems. Thiese adds that any number of characteristics common to the profession - including stress, long hours, heavy lifting, and lack of sleep and exercise - could contribute to these conditions.

As has been observed among the general population, cell phone use while driving was also highly associated with crash risk.

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Beavers take a chunk out of nitrogen in Northeast rivers

http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2015-10/asoa-bta102115.php

Public Release: 21-Oct-2015
Beavers take a chunk out of nitrogen in Northeast rivers
Ponds and slower streams created by the rodents serve as nitrogen sinks
American Society of Agronomy

Beavers, once valued for their fur, may soon have more appreciation in the Northeastern United States. There they are helping prevent harmful levels of nitrogen from reaching the area's vulnerable estuaries. By creating ponds that slow down the movement of water, they aid in removing nitrogen from the water.

Nitrogen levels have been increasing in Northeast waters for years. The use of nitrogen fertilizers has risen and urbanization has brought in influences such as septic systems. This nitrogen is released into small streams and ponds and eventually travels to estuaries, where rivers meet the sea.

High levels of nitrogen in these areas stimulate algal blooms. As these organisms die and decompose, oxygen is consumed from bottom waters, creating low oxygen levels that can generate fish kills. While many know of these dead zones in the Gulf of Mexico, they are also becoming a problem for the plentiful estuaries that comprise the coastline of the Northeast U.S.

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Bacteria in the organic matter and soil were able to transform nitrogen, specifically a form called nitrate, into nitrogen gas, removing it from the system. This is denitrification. Thanks to the conditions brought about by the beaver ponds, this process can remove approximately 5-45% of the nitrogen in the water, depending on the pond and amount of nitrogen present.

"I think what was impressive to us was that the rates were so high," Gold explained. "They were high enough and beavers are becoming common enough, so that when we started to scale up we realized that the ponds can make a notable difference in the amount of nitrate that flows from our streams to our estuaries."

The study also found 12% of the nitrogen gases created in the samples were nitrous oxide, a potent greenhouse gas. However, the scientists pointed out that the high amount was likely a result of some unique experimental conditions and these ponds are not likely to release that much of the gas in nature.

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"Most of these beavers are in areas with smaller streams, not big rivers," Lazar said. "These smaller streams are usually the first to be developed, causing a decrease in beaver populations. So, it may be important to keep these areas from being developed so they can have effects on nitrogen levels downstream."

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"It's noteworthy that the beavers have such an impact on improving nitrogen downstream," Gold said. "We have a species whose population crashed from wide-spread trapping 150 years ago. With their return they help solve one of the major problems of the 21st century. I don't want to minimize that. We have to remember that those ponds wouldn't be there without the beavers."

Research links gratitude to positive marital outcomes



Public Release: 21-Oct-2015
The power of thank you: UGA research links gratitude to positive marital outcomes
University of Georgia

Athens, Ga. - A key ingredient to improving couples' marriages might just be gratitude, according to new University of Georgia research.

The study was recently published in the journal Personal Relationships.

"We found that feeling appreciated and believing that your spouse values you directly influences how you feel about your marriage, how committed you are to it, and your belief that it will last," said study co-author Ted Futris, an associate professor in the College of Family and Consumer Sciences.

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The results indicated that spousal expression of gratitude was the most consistent significant predictor of marital quality.

"It goes to show the power of 'thank you,'" said the study's lead author Allen Barton, a former doctoral student in the College of Family and Consumer Sciences and current postdoctoral research associate at UGA's Center for Family Research. "Even if a couple is experiencing distress and difficulty in other areas, gratitude in the relationship can help promote positive marital outcomes."

The study also found that higher levels of spousal gratitude expressions protected men's and women's divorce proneness as well as women's marital commitment from the negative effects of poor communication during conflict.

"Importantly, we found that when couples are engaging in a negative conflict pattern like demand/withdrawal, expressions of gratitude and appreciation can counteract or buffer the negative effects of this type of interaction on marital stability," Futris said.

•••••
Results from this study also replicated previous findings by documenting demand/withdraw communication to be a pathway through which financial distress negatively influences marriage.

"Demand/withdraw communication occurs when one partner tends to demand, nag or criticize, while the other responds by withdrawing or avoiding the confrontation," Barton said. "Although wife demand/husband withdraw interactions appear more commonly in couples, in the current study we found financial distress was associated with lower marital outcomes through its effects on increasing the total amount of both partners' demand/withdraw interactions."

"When couples are stressed about making ends meet, they are more likely to engage in negative ways--they are more critical of each other and defensive, and they can even stop engaging or withdraw from each other, which can then lead to lower marital quality," Futris said.

Gratitude, however, can interrupt this cycle and help couples overcome negative communication patterns in their relationship, patterns that may be a result of current stressors they are experiencing.

Gratitude was measured in terms of the degree to which individuals felt appreciated by their spouse, valued by their spouse and acknowledged when they did something nice for their spouse.

"All couples have disagreements and argue," Futris said. "And, when couples are stressed, they are likely to have more arguments. What distinguishes the marriages that last from those that don't is not how often they argue, but how they argue and how they treat each other on a daily basis."

Bats important to survival of rare frog, other species

I sometimes hear of criticism of efforts to protect habitat for the sake of an endangered species. Some people argue that we shouldn't care about the existence of a single species if it gets in the way of people making money. But even if that were an acceptable way to think, every species interacts with others. We don't know beforehand the ultimate effects of killing off a species. And unless there are people studying the situation, we might never realize how it hurts us.

And we haven't just killed off a single species. We have destroyed many, and continue to do so. They all add up.

If you believe in God, surely it is wrong to destroy a species He created.

http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2015-10/uota-usb102115.php

Public Release: 21-Oct-2015
University of Tennessee study: Bats important to survival of rare frog, other species
University of Tennessee at Knoxville

KNOXVILLE--Bat poop matters.

So says a University of Tennessee, Knoxville, study examining a little-known species, the Caucasian parsley frog, and its reliance on insects that breed in bat guano.

Vladimir Dinets, UT research assistant professor of psychology, conducted a study of the frogs in remote caves hidden in densely forested mountains near the border between Russia and the Republic of Georgia. Until now, virtually everything that was known about the little frogs' natural history came from studies in breeding pools, where they congregate in spring.

Dinets found that in the summer, most of the frogs find shelter in limestone caves, although some probably wander outside at night. The frogs showed significant preference for caves with bat colonies, most likely because insects breeding in bat waste provided a rich source of food.

"This is yet another study showing how critically important are bats for the environment," Dinets said. "Their role is not limited to controlling agricultural pests; entire cave ecosystems with dozens of species depend on bats for survival, and many of these species are yet to be discovered."

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Dinets noted that as bat populations in eastern North America are being devastated by human-introduced white-nose syndrome, the disaster is likely to cause a cascade of extinctions and widespread ecosystem destabilization.

White-nose syndrome is of Eurasian origin, but it is a problem only in North America because bats here are not adapted to it.

"The study shows the importance of protecting even small bat colonies," Dinets said.

He added that the Caucasian parsley frog is of conservation concern and there have been attempts to breed it in captivity.

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Antarctic species threatened by willful misinterpretation of legal treaty

The same people who criticize individuals for not saving, support destroying our children's future for the sake of immediate business profits that make a few people extremely rich.

http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2015-10/ssoe-ast102115.php

Public Release: 21-Oct-2015
Antarctic species threatened by willful misinterpretation of legal treaty
Stanford's School of Earth, Energy & Environmental Sciences

Countries are loosely interpreting the legal meaning of "rational use" of natural resources to escalate fishing efforts in Antarctic waters and hinder efforts to establish marine protected areas in the Southern Ocean, scientists and legal scholars say.

The findings, published online in the journal Marine Policy, come as 24 countries plus the European Union convene in Hobart, Australia, this week for the annual meeting of the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) to set fisheries management rules in the Southern Ocean.

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Taking less asthma medicine can be done safely with guidance Mayo Clinic study says

Obviously,it has to be done carefully, and attention paid to the results. Insuffient oxygen puts a stress on the heart, and can lead to heart failure. A severe asthma attack can cause death directly, thru severe lack of oxygen.

http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2015-10/mc-tla102115.php

Public Release: 21-Oct-2015
Taking less asthma medicine can be done safely with guidance Mayo Clinic study says
Mayo Clinic

Stepping down asthma medicines can be done safely and at less cost for patients says a new Mayo Clinic study published this week in The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology. It is common for patients and doctors to test out if taking less daily asthma medicine is safe -- primarily because of the high cost of asthma medicine. However, deciding when to step down daily asthma medicines can be challenging, and it would be helpful to understand the risks involved.

The study, led by Matthew Rank, M.D., an allergy and immunology specialist at Mayo Clinic in Arizona, analyzed asthma outcomes after patients stepped down their daily asthma medicines. The team studied more than 4,000 patients (adults and children) who were taking daily asthma medicines and focused their analysis on two groups: patients who had stable asthma for at least one year who stayed on their same daily asthma medicine and patients who had stable asthma for at least one year who stepped down their daily asthma medicine.

Stepping down asthma medicines in patients who have had stable asthma for at least one year appears to be as safe as continuing the same level of medicines, the study found. Only 11 percent of patients had problems with their asthma in the 4-5 months after stepping down their asthma medicines.

"Trying to reduce the daily asthma medicine speaks to the principle of using the least amount of medicine to control symptoms and prevent attacks," Dr. Rank says.

Additionally, the study is the first to broadly consider the financial costs. Patients who stepped down their asthma medicines saved an average $34 each month compared to patients who maintained their same level of medicines. The authors did not find increased costs for patients who stepped down for hospital or emergency asthma care. Also, patients who stepped down did not miss any more work or school than patients who kept their medicines at the same level.

"This study is important because many people with asthma may be able to safely reduce their asthma medicines with the appropriate guidance from their healthcare teams," Dr. Rank added. "Many patients try to step down on their own but we encourage patients to work with their doctors before doing so."

Even Some Fossil Fuel Companies Support An International Climate Agreement

http://thinkprogress.org/climate/2015/10/15/3712719/fossil-fuel-companies-climate-statement/

by Natasha Geiling Oct 15, 2015

In a joint statement released Wednesday by the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions, 14 major Fortune 500 companies voiced their support for a strong global agreement on climate change.

The 14-company coalition represents a broad set of business interests, from technology giants like Intel and HP to the electronics manufacturer Siemens Corporation. But the letter also includes supporters that might not seem like the most natural allies to a global climate agreement, including coal mining companies like BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto, oil and gas companies like BP and Shell, and industrial manufacturers like Alcoa and LafargeHolcim. Together, the companies have a combined revenues of $1.1 trillion and employ more than 1.5 million people, according to the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions.

“These are companies with real skin in the game – either they’re large emitters or their products are,” Center for Climate and Energy Solutions President Bob Perciasepe said in a statement. “They know emissions need to come down and are taking steps on their own. But they believe the low-carbon transition requires stronger leadership from governments, too.”

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The companies in support of the statement join a growing wave of corporations that have called for climate action in advance of the Paris talks. In early October, leaders from ten of the world’s biggest food companies published a letter to Congress, urging leaders to “meaningfully address the reality of climate change.” Earlier this summer, seven oil companies submitted climate pledges to the United Nations. And, earlier this spring, the heads of BP, Shell, BG Group, Statoil, Eni, and Total — the world’s top oil producers — wrote a letter to U.N. climate chief Christiana Figueres voicing their support for an international climate agreement.

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A Strategy to Ignore Poverty

http://economistsview.typepad.com/economistsview/2015/10/a-strategy-to-ignore-poverty.html#comment-6a00d83451b33869e201b8d16dc998970c

Eduardo Porter:

A Strategy to Ignore Poverty, NY Times: Arizona, where I was born, in July became the first state to cut poor families’ access to welfare assistance to a maximum of 12 months over a lifetime. That’s a fifth of the time allowed under federal law, and means that 5,000 more people will lose their benefits by next June.

This is only the latest tightening of the screws in Arizona. Last year, about 29,000 poor families received benefits under the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program, 16,000 fewer than in 2005. In 2009, in the middle of the worst economic downturn since the Depression of the 1930s, benefits were cut by 20 percent.

And if Paul Ryan, the Republican lawmaker from Wisconsin who is expected to become speaker of the House, has his way, poor people in many other states can expect similar treatment in the years ahead. ...

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http://www.marketplace.org/topics/wealth-poverty/parking-lot-homeless-phoenix

A parking lot for the homeless in Phoenix [Arizona]

by Krissy Clark
Wednesday, July 17, 2013

A couple hundred people without permanent homes have been setting up a makeshift camp each night in a parking lot. The asphalt lot is big enough to fit about 60 cars, surrounded by chain link fence, with a few portable toilets and some awnings set up for shade.

The homeless camp is run by a shelter next door that doesn't have any more room.

“This is sort of an overflow to our overflow shelter,” says Mark Holleran, chief executive of Central Arizona Shelter Services. He says he opened up the parking lot, which he leases from the county, to homeless people a few months ago, after the number of people showing up at the other homeless shelters he runs nearby began to spike. Holleran said he had “nowhere to put them, to be honest.”

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[more recently]
http://tucson.com/news/local/tucson-to-find-new-site-for-downtown-homeless-camp/article_92cacb51-e9a5-54c5-8f8a-1772bdaa98f3.html

March 03, 2015 7:30 pm • By Becky Pallack

The city will look for a new site for the ongoing “protest” that has homeless people living in plywood boxes and tents on the sidewalks downtown.

The City Council voted Tuesday to find a new place for the people living in and around Veinte de Agosto Park, and to explore a new urban-camping ordinance modeled on a Denver law. The new law could prevent camping on public property.

Neither the cost of a new location, nor where the money will come from, was discussed.

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the 3,100 beds in Tucson homeless shelters are mostly full, with only 35 beds open Monday night, she said, and demand outweighs supply for places for couples, people with pets, and addicts.

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Tuesday, October 27, 2015

How stereotypes hurt

http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2015-10/uosc-hsh101515.php

Public Release: 20-Oct-2015
How stereotypes hurt
The threat of facing stereotypes in the health care environment can mean poorer health outcomes for anyone with a stigmatized social identity, according to a new study led by USC Davis School Assistant Professor Cleopatra Abdou
University of Southern California

A national study led by a USC researcher found people who encountered the threat of being judged by negative stereotypes related to weight, age, race, gender, or social class in health care settings reported adverse effects. The researchers found those people were more likely to have hypertension, to be depressed, and to rate their own health more poorly. They were also more distrustful of their doctors, felt dissatisfied with their care, and were less likely to use highly accessible preventive care, including the flu vaccine.

Health care stereotype threats stems from common stereotypes about unhealthy lifestyle choices or inferior intelligence that may be perpetuated, often unintentionally, by health care professionals or even by public health campaigns. Although health messages are intended to raise awareness of health issues or trends that may affect specific communities, one implication of this study is that these messages can backfire, said lead author Cleopatra Abdou, an assistant professor at the USC Davis School of Gerontology and Department of Psychology.

"An unintended byproduct of public health campaigns is that they often communicate and reinforce negative stereotypes about certain groups of people," Abdou said. "As a result, they may inadvertently increase experiences of what we call 'healthcare stereotype threat,' which can affect health care efficacy and even prompt some patients to avoid care altogether."

As an example, Abdou cited campaigns about reproductive health in African American women and other women of color, sexual health in the LGBTQ community, depression among women, and memory problems in older adults. Such messages can reinforce and magnify the negative lens through which these groups of people are commonly viewed in society, she said.

"It's not that there aren't real health concerns in specific communities that we need to do more--much more--to address, but how we communicate about these concerns is key," Abdou said.

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Abdou said the challenge now is to find ways to inform all people, including people at heightened risk, about how to live healthier, happier, and longer lives while also minimizing the experience and effects of health care stereotype threat.

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Tdap vaccination during pregnancy following other recent tetanus-containing vaccine

http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2015-10/tjnj-tvd101615.php

Public Release: 20-Oct-2015
Tdap vaccination during pregnancy following other recent tetanus-containing vaccine
The JAMA Network Journals

Among women who received the tetanus, diphtheria, and acellular pertussis (Tdap) vaccine during pregnancy, there was no increased risk of adverse events in the mothers or adverse birth outcomes in newborns for women who had received a tetanus-containing vaccine in the previous 5 years, according to a study in the October 20 issue of JAMA.

Pertussis (whooping cough) is a vaccine-preventable illness that has been increasing in incidence over the past decade in the United States. Neonates (a baby from birth to four weeks) and infants are at increased risk of pertussis-related hospitalization and death compared with older children and adults. The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices recommends the Tdap vaccine for pregnant women during each pregnancy, regardless of prior immunization status. However, safety data on repeated Tdap vaccination in pregnancy has been lacking, according to background information in the article.

Lakshmi Sukumaran, M.D., M.P.H., of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta, and colleagues conducted a study that included 29,155 pregnant women, ages 14 through 49 years, using data from 2007 to 2013 from 7 Vaccine Safety Datalink sites in California, Colorado, Minnesota, Oregon, Washington, and Wisconsin. The authors examined outcomes for women who received Tdap in pregnancy following a prior tetanus-containing vaccine less than 2 years before, 2 to 5 years before, and more than 5 years before.

The researchers found no significant differences in rates of acute adverse events in the mothers (fever, allergy, and local reactions) or adverse birth outcomes in neonates (small for gestational age, preterm delivery, and low birth weight) when comparing women who were vaccinated with Tdap during pregnancy regardless of the length of time since a prior tetanus-containing vaccine.

"Our findings should reassure patients and clinicians who might be hesitant to give Tdap vaccine to pregnant women who recently received a Tdap or other tetanus-containing vaccination," the authors write.

The researchers add that future studies are needed to determine if there are differences in other important adverse pregnancy outcomes, such as stillbirth and spontaneous abortion, when Tdap is given in pregnancy in close intervals from prior tetanus-containing vaccines.

Alcohol ads linked to teen alcohol brand choices

http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2015-10/jhub-aal101615.php

Public Release: 20-Oct-2015
Alcohol ads linked to teen alcohol brand choices
The more youth are exposed to a brand's advertising on TV or in magazines, the more likely they are to consume that brand
Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health

Overall exposure to brand-specific alcohol advertising is a significant predictor of underage youth alcohol brand consumption, with youth ages 13 to 20 more than five times more likely to consume brands that advertise on national television and 36 percent more likely to consume brands that advertise in national magazines compared to brands that don't advertise in these media.

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tags: influence

Program for parents helps sustain learning gains in kids from Head Start to kindergarten

http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2015-10/nksn-pfp101615.php

Public Release: 20-Oct-2015
Program for parents helps sustain learning gains in kids from Head Start to kindergarten
NIH-funded study shows involving parents sets the stage for later academic success
NIH/Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development

An instructional program for parents helps young children retain the literacy skills and positive learning behaviors acquired in Head Start through to the end of the kindergarten year, according to researchers funded by the National Institutes of Health.

The program appears to offset what education researchers call "summer loss," or the tendency of children to forget during summer break what they learned during the previous year.

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People with sedentary lifestyles are at increased risk of developing kidney disease

http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2015-10/ason-pws101915.php

Public Release: 20-Oct-2015
People with sedentary lifestyles are at increased risk of developing kidney disease
American Society of Nephrology

Highlights

Each 80 minutes/day (assuming 16 awake hours/day) increase in sedentary duration was linked with a 20% increased likelihood of having chronic kidney disease in a recent study

Research that uncovered the association between sedentary behavior and kidney disease will be presented at ASN Kidney Week 2015 November 3-8 at the San Diego Convention Center in San Diego, CA.

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Case report finds acute hypersensitivity pneumonitis in patient using e-cigarettes

http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2015-10/acoc-crf101915.php

Public Release: 20-Oct-2015
Case report finds acute hypersensitivity pneumonitis in patient using e-cigarettes
Report points to possibility of diacetyl, a flavoring agent known to cause bronchiolitis obliterans and used in some e-cigarettes, as the causative agent
American College of Chest Physicians

[CORRECTION] An October 19, 2015 version of this press release stated in error a diagnosis of bronchiolitis obliterans. Researchers reported a diagnosis of inhalational injury, suspected acute hypersensitivity pneumonitis, related to e-cigarette use.

MONTRÉAL (October 20, 2015)- Researchers from VA Hospital in White River Junction, Vermont will present a case report of acute inhalation lung injury related to the use of e-cigarettes and a flavored e-cigarette liquid containing diacetyl.

The case study presented involves a 60-year-old cigar-smoking male who was admitted with weakness, chills and cough. No significant radiologic abnormalities were found, but he was treated with ceftriaxone and azithromycin and discharged after three days feeling normal. One month later the patient presented with similar symptoms. Additionally, he had a fever and was hypoxemic. On examination, he had bilateral upper lung zone crackles and bilateral upper lobe predominant ground glass opacities on chest CT. After further questioning, the patient reported using strongly-flavored e-cigarettes prior to each admission. The patient was diagnosed with inhalation injury and suspected acute hypersensitivity pneumonitis related to electronic cigarette use. The patient did not use e-cigarettes again and had no further symptoms. A follow up CT scan and pulmonary function test at 3 months were normal.

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Another dimension: 3-D cell growth opens new pathway for spinal cord repair

http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2015-10/gu-ad3101915.php

Public Release: 20-Oct-2015
Another dimension: 3-D cell growth opens new pathway for spinal cord repair
Griffith University researchers reveal novel technique using 'floating liquid marbles' to tackle paralysis
Griffith University

Griffith University researchers have opened a new avenue to advance a therapy to repair the paralysed spinal cord.

A paper published in the prestigious Nature group journal Scientific Reports presents a novel technique to grow cells in three dimensions, without the traditional restrictions of matrix or scaffolds.

By using floating liquid marbles, cells can freely associate and form natural structures as they would normally within the human body.

"Allowing cells to grow in this 3D format dramatically increases their growth and function and is particularly useful for spinal transplantation repair in which cells are transplanted into the injury site," says research supervisor Dr James St John, from Griffith's Eskitis Institute for Drug Discovery.

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The transplantation of the specialised cell type from the olfactory (sense of smell) system is a promising approach to spinal cord repair.

"Successful partial regeneration of a completely severed spinal cord in a human was achieved recently in an overseas study, thus demonstrating this therapy can work," says Mr Vadivelu.

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