Friday, April 21, 2017

Fecal microbiota transplants improve cognitive impairment caused by severe liver disease

Public Release: 21-Apr-2017
Fecal microbiota transplants improve cognitive impairment caused by severe liver disease
ILC 2017: Fecal microbiome transfer significantly reduced the number of hospitalizations compared to standard of care treatment
European Association for the Study of the Liver

A study presented today found that faecal transplantation of bacteria from one healthy donor into patients that suffer from hepatic encephalopathy (decline in brain function due to severe liver disease), is safe and improves cognitive function compared with standard of care treatment for the condition. Presented at The International Liver Congress™ 2017 in Amsterdam, The Netherlands, the study results also demonstrated that the number of hospitalisations following faecal transplantation plus antibiotics was two, compared to the standard of care arm (lactulose and rifaximin), which was 11 (IQR 83 days). Specifically, there was a significant reduction in hospitalisations due to recurrent hepatic encephalopathy (six in the standard of care and none in the faecal transplant arm).

In the study, faecal transplant plus antibiotic treatment was well tolerated without any serious side effects. Furthermore, it was found that the faecal transplant plus antibiotic therapy restored antibiotic-associated changes in the body's bacterial composition.


Treatment of HCV allows for sustained removal from the liver transplant waiting list

Public Release: 21-Apr-2017
Treatment of HCV allows for sustained removal from the liver transplant waiting list
ILC 2017: Of 38 patients (26.7 percent) that were delisted due to clinical improvement, one died as a result of rapidly progressing hepatocellular carcinoma while two (5.2 percent) other patients had to be relisted or considered for relisting
European Association for the Study of the Liver

The Netherlands: A new European study presented today demonstrated that patients with chronic Hepatitis C virus (HCV) and severe liver damage, taken off the liver transplant list as a result of successful direct-acting antiviral (DAA) therapy, had a favourable outcome over a year later. The study, presented at The International Liver Congress™ 2017 in Amsterdam, The Netherlands, showed that 38 of 142 patients (26.7%) could be removed from the waiting list due to clinical improvement. Of the 38 patients taken off of the transplant list, one (2.6%) died as a result of rapidly progressing HCC while two other patients (5.2%) had to be relisted or considered for relisting.


Diet high in animal protein is associated with NAFLD in overweight people

Public Release: 21-Apr-2017
Diet high in animal protein is associated with NAFLD in overweight people
ILC 2017: Significant associations between macronutrients and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease were found predominantly in overweight individuals
European Association for the Study of the Liver

A large epidemiological study presented today found that a diet high in animal protein was associated with a higher risk of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), a condition in which fat builds up in the liver. These findings from The Rotterdam Study, presented at The International Liver Congress™ 2017 in Amsterdam, The Netherlands, also showed that fructose consumption per se might not be as harmful as previously assumed.

NAFLD is a major health concern, because it can lead to permanent scarring (cirrhosis) and subsequently to cancer and malfunction of the liver.1 This may result in life-threatening complications for which a liver transplant is needed. Additionally, NAFLD also contributes to an increased risk of cardiovascular diseases such as diabetes mellitus and atherosclerosis. NAFLD is diagnosed when accumulation of fat in the organ exceeds 5% of hepatocytes (the cells that make up the majority of the liver).2 It is estimated that approximately 1 billion people worldwide may have NAFLD with a prevalence of 20-30% in Western countries.3 It parallels one of world's most rapidly growing health concerns, obesity, which is also one of the most important risk factors in NAFLD.3 In its early stages NAFLD can be treated through diet and lifestyle changes, such as weight loss, but it can progress to more serious liver diseases.1 However, there is still a lot of debate whether weight loss alone is enough to reverse NAFLD, while emerging evidence suggests that the composition of the diet, rather than the amount of calories consumed, might also be important in NAFLD.


Friendships play a vital role in helping people get through substantial challenges in life

Public Release: 21-Apr-2017
That's what friends are for
Friendships play a vital role in helping people get through substantial challenges in life, according to a new study
British Psychological Society

Friendships play a vital role in helping people get through substantial challenges in life, according to a new study.

Until now, little research has been carried out into the role friends and, in particular, best friends play in building resilience to adversity -- surviving and thriving in the face of difficult times.

The new preliminary study, by Dr Rebecca Graber, University of Brighton Senior Lecturer in Psychology, for the first time provides long-term statistical evidence of the enormous benefit these valued social relationships have on adults.


Dr Graber said: "These findings reveal that best friendships are a protective mechanism supporting the development of psychological resilience in adults, although the mechanisms for this relationship remain unclear.

"The study provides long-term statistical evidence, for the first time, of the vital role of these valued social relationships for developing resilience in a community-based adult sample, while posing open questions for just how best friendships facilitate resilience in this way."

These findings support previous research by Dr Graber, published last year, revealing that best friends facilitate resilience processes in socioeconomically vulnerable children.

Making bins more convenient boosts recycling and composting rates

Public Release: 21-Apr-2017
Making bins more convenient boosts recycling and composting rates
University of British Columbia

Want to recycle or compost more? Try moving the bins closer, new UBC research suggests.

The study shows that placing bins 1.5 metres away from suite doors drastically boosts recycling and composting rates by 141 per cent. The findings highlight how small changes in convenience can have a big impact on performance.


When liver immune cells turn bad

Public Release: 21-Apr-2017
When liver immune cells turn bad
University Health Network

A high-fat diet and obesity turn "hero" virus-fighting liver immune cells "rogue", leading to insulin resistance, a condition that often results in type 2 diabetes, according to research published today in Science Immunology.


"We found that under conditions of obesity and a high-fat diet, the cells that typically strengthen our immune system by killing viruses and pathogens instead increase blood sugar. They become pathogenic and worsen insulin resistance," explains Dr. Dan Winer. In fact, the normal function of the immune cells becomes misdirected. The pathways they would typically use to fight infection create inflammation, unleashing a chemical cascade which impacts insulin and glucose metabolism.


Climate change will fuel terrorism, report warns

The U.S. military has warned of this, too.

Natasha Geiling
April 20, 2017

Climate change-fueled natural disasters and resource shortages will strengthen recruiting efforts of terror groups like ISIS and Boko Haram, according to a new report commissioned by the German government.

“As the climate is changing, so too are the conditions within which non-state armed groups such as Boko Haram and ISIS operate,” the report, issued by the think tank Adelphi, said in its executive summary. “Climate change contributes to creating a fragile environment in which these groups can thrive.”


The report also points to diminishing natural resources as fueling an environment ripe for terror recruitment. Africa’s Lake Chad, for instance, provides economic livelihood for nearly 80 percent of the population that lives in its basin. As the lake shrinks, economic opportunities for people in that area also decline, making the population susceptible to recruitment by Boko Haram.


In Syria, for instance, prolonged drought beginning in 2007 had a devastating impact on farmers and the state’s agricultural sector. Widespread food shortages caused mass migration from rural Syria into its cities, forcing an overcrowding that only served to further exacerbate existing resource shortages and grievances with the Syrian government.

“Amongst the chaos and instability brought about by fighting between the government, the Free Syrian Army and rebel groups, terrorist groups such as ISIS were able, later in 2014, to easily gain control over large parts of contested territory,” the report found. “Although ISIS had already been present in Iraq, it could only expand its influence to Syria when the country was pulled into a civil war.”

Born Anxious: Why Some of Us Are Wired to Worry

by Daniel P. Keating
April 20, 2017

We're all feeling much more stressed out these days, showing up as increases over the last few decades in how many of us suffer from stress-related diseases and disorders. Even if we're not sick yet, we carry more of the physical markers of stress that lead to future illnesses. We have a full-blown stress epidemic on our hands.


The problems come when we have excess cortisol in our body over an extended time. Why is this happening so much more often now? One reason is that there are more stressors, experienced more frequently. A second, hidden reason is biological. As stress increases overall, more of us will develop a poorly regulated stress system as a result of stressful experiences in early life, while we are still in the womb or in the first year of life. If we become "stress dysregulated" (SDR), we react more often, more strongly and for a longer time.


A harsh early life environment sends a signal that "amping up" the stress system is the best defense against danger — in other words, it is a chance for the genes to "listen to the environment" in terms of what that young life is likely to encounter.


But even if this SDR pattern is "biologically embedded" from early life, there are things we can do to change the pattern of our lives, even if it doesn't change the basic physiology.

Start before birth. A first goal should be to minimize early life stress, by providing more support for expectant and new parents, to avoid the early onset of stress dysregulation from stress methylation.
Supernuture fussy babies. For infants showing the pattern of high fussiness, difficulty in soothing, high sensitivity, and trouble sleeping - beyond the occasional episodes that most babies show — finding ways to provide "supernurturing" can turn the pattern around. Persisting in soothing for longer times, even though it is stressful, helps the infant toward better regulation of stress and emotions. This usually requires more than one caregiver to provide respite to the primary caregiver, and can come from partners, extended family, or others.

Pair stressed teens with a trusted adult. For children and teens, finding a strong social connection with a trusted adult — a family member, coach, teacher, mentor, or as they grow older, a romantic partner — can provide a positive path to reduce the effects of SDR. Strong social connections are almost always found in resilient individuals, who have bounced back from early adversity to succeed in many aspects of life.


Adopt healthy habits. Beyond awareness, changes in behavior and in how we see our stress reactions have biological effects that counter stress. Physical exercise burns cortisol and helps us to regulate our emotions and moods. Social connections remain important, and release chemicals — oxytocin and serotonin - that counteract cortisol. Becoming mindful helps us keep stressors in perspective, and also reduces cortisol.


U.S. Warming Fast Since 1st Earth Day

April 21, 2017

Across most of the country, average temperatures have increased at a rate of about 0.13°F (0.07°C) per decade since 1910. That trend is in line with the broader trend of rising global temperatures fueled by the accumulation of heat-trapping greenhouse gases in the Earth’s atmosphere.

Of course warming isn’t uniform across the planet, and some regions are warming faster than others. And since the 1970s, warming across the U.S. has accelerated. On average, temperatures in the contiguous 48 states have been warming at a rate of 0.45°F (0.25°C) per decade since 1970.

The fastest-warming states over that period were New Mexico, Arizona and Delaware, which warmed at a rate of more than 0.6°F (0.3°C) per decade. The slowest-warming states were South Carolina, Georgia and Missouri, which warmed at a rate of 0.3°F (0.17°C) per decade.

This analysis draws on temperature data collected from the National Climatic Data Center’s Climate at a Glance database.

Informative links

The reason why the Gwinnett Recling Bank closed on Satellite Blvd. I could never understand why people who cared enough to bring their recycled stuff there would be so lazy not to follow the signs, like not putting plastic bags filled with recyclables in the bins. How incredibly lazy do you have to be to not be willing to empty the contents of the bag into the bin, and put the bag in its proper place.

The Lord's Resistance Army is a violent Christian cult, which is not mentioned in this article. If they were Muslims, that would surely have been mentioned.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Informative links

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

"Normal" is hotter than it used to be

People in this part of the country (southeast) act like the world is coming to an end when we have winter weather that used to occur every winter.

This Graphic Puts Global Warming in Full Perspective
By Brian Kahn

To say the world is having a streak like no other is an understatement. Global warming has made cold scarce on a planetary scale.

This March clocked in as the second warmest March on record when compared to the 20th century average, according to newly released data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. NASA data published last week came to the same conclusion, comparing temperatures to a 1951-1980 baseline.

The NOAA data shows the planet was 1.9°F (1.05°C) above the 20th century average for March, the first time any month has breached the 1°C threshold in the absence of El Niño. This March is the latest freakishly hot month following three years in a row of record heat.

NOAA and NASA baselines don’t really tell the whole story. How much the world has warmed since pre-industrial times is a crucial measuring stick for international climate talks and a more accurate representation of how much climate change is altering the planet.

Using the baseline of 1881-1910, a new, more dire picture of global warming emerges. This March was 2.4°F (1.3°C) above the pre-industrial average by that measure. More notably, this March marks a whopping 627 months in a row of warmer than normal temperatures. If you were born after December 1964, you’ve never experienced a month cooler than average on this planet.


Our Climate Future Is Actually Our Climate Present

How do we live with the fact that the world we knew is going and, in some cases, already gone?


We seem able to normalize catastrophes as we absorb them, a phenomenon that points to what Peter Kahn, a professor of psychology at the University of Washington, calls “environmental generational amnesia.” Each generation, Kahn argues, can recognize only the ecological changes its members witness during their lifetimes. When we spoke recently, Kahn pointed to the living conditions in megacities like Kolkata, or in the highly polluted, impoverished areas affected by Houston’s oil refineries, where he conducted his initial research in the early ’90s. In Houston, Kahn found that two-thirds of the children he interviewed understood that air and water pollution were environmental issues. But only one-third believed their neighborhood was polluted. “People are born into this life,” Kahn told me, “and they think it’s normal.”

A University of British Columbia fisheries scientist, Daniel Pauly, hit upon essentially the same idea around the same time, recognizing that as populations of large fish collapsed, humanity had gone on obliviously fishing slightly smaller species. One result, Pauly wrote, was a “creeping disappearance” of overall fish stocks behind ever-changing and “inappropriate reference points.” He called this impaired vision “shifting baseline syndrome.”


Such shifting baselines muddle the idea of adaptation to climate change, too. Adaptation, Kahn notes, can mean anything from the human eye’s adjusting to a darker environment within a few milliseconds to wolves’ changing into dogs over thousands of years. It doesn’t always mean progress, he told me; “it’s possible to adapt and diminish the quality of human life.” Adapting to avoid or cope with the suffering wrought by climate change might gradually create other suffering. And because of environmental generational amnesia, we might never fully recognize its extent. Think of how Shel Silverstein’s Giving Tree, nimbly accommodating each of the boy’s needs, eventually winds up a stump.


Putin-linked think tank crafted plan to swing election for Trump

Putin-linked think tank crafted plan to swing election for Trump: report
By Nikita Vladimirov - 04/19/17

A Moscow-based think tank linked to Russian President Vladimir Putin created a plan to swing the 2016 election in favor of Donald Trump, Reuters reported on Wednesday.

Three current and four former U.S. officials told Reuters that two confidential documents obtained from the Russian Institute for Strategic Studies justify the conclusion reached by the U.S. intelligence community about Russia's interference in the U.S. presidential election.

According to the report, the institute is run by former senior Russian intelligence officials appointed by the Russian president's office.

The seven U.S. officials told Reuters that one of the documents was a strategy paper drafted in June of 2016 that advocated a propaganda campaign on various media platforms urging U.S. voters to back a presidential candidate with a friendlier stance toward Russia.

The second document, written in October, advocated for Russia to switch focus to amplifying voter fraud claims, given the widely held view at the time that Hillary Clinton was likely to beat Trump.

The shift in strategy would be utilized to undermine Clinton's presidency and damage her reputation, the document implied.

According to four of the sources, the June strategy paper expanded on Putin's earlier strategy from March 2016, in which Moscow allegedly instructed state-backed media outlets such as Sputnik News and RT to produce more pro-Trump content.

A spokesperson for Sputnik dismissed the claims of U.S. sources, calling them an "absolute pack of lies" in a statement to Reuters.

Informative links

Fossil Fuel Industries Pumped Millions Into Trump's Inauguration, Filing Shows

By Marianne Lavelle
April 19, 2017

Fossil fuel companies were not big donors to Donald Trump's presidential campaign, but they helped him shatter records in raising money for his inauguration festivities, according to new disclosures filed at the Federal Election Commission.

More than 1,500 corporations and individuals gave a total $107 million to the presidential inaugural committee. That is more than double the $53 million raised for President Barack Obama's then record-breaking inaugural in 2009.

Among the big donors were Chevron, which gave $525,000; Exxon, BP and Citgo Petroleum, which each donated $500,000; and the Ohio-based coal company Murray Energy, which contributed $300,000. Kelcy Warren, the chief executive of Energy Transfer Partners, developer of the Dakota Access pipeline, gave $250,000. Continental Resources, the Oklahoma-based fracking company whose chief executive Harold Hamm was an early Trump supporter, gave $100,000.

Those seven donations alone surpass the $2 million that the Trump campaign raised from the energy and natural resources industry before the election, according to the tally by the Center for Responsive Politics. (In contrast, Republican Mitt Romney raised $13 million from the sector in his 2012 presidential bid.)

The Trump team's inauguration fundraising blitz raises red flags for those concerned about the influence of money in politics. "It's very clear the reason a corporation would seek to make a contribution to an inauguration is that they are making a business investment," said Tyson Slocum, head of the energy program at Washington watchdog Public Citizen. "And they are expecting a financial return on their investment in the form of access, or when they are pushing for specific legislative and regulatory priorities."

The Trump inaugural committee offered top donors perks such as access to cabinet appointees at "leadership luncheons" and other events.

The fossil fuel industry certatinly wasn't the only sector contributing to the inauguration festivities. The committee recorded big donations from Las Vegas casino magnate Sheldon Adelson ($5 million), Microsoft ($500,000), American Financial Group ($500,000) and the health insurer Anthem ($100,000), among many others.


In addition to fossil fuel companies, some of the larger donors to the Trump inauguration were private equity titans who have major investments in oil, gas and coal. Contributing $1 million each to the inauguration were: Henry Kravis, co-chairman and CEO of KKR, a major energy company investor, and Paul Singer of Elliott Management, whose firm has stakes in Marathon Petroleum, Hess Oil and BHP Billiton. Private equity firms poured $20 billion into investments in U.S. shale oil and gas production in the first quarter of this year, indicating they are betting on big growth for the sector, despite low oil and gas prices, according to financial data firm Preqin.


Other energy companies that gave at least $100,000 to the Trump inauguration include Xcel Energy, one of the nation's largest utilities; White Stallion Energy of Houston, an oil and gas company; Consol Energy, a coal and natural gas company; and Cheniere Energy, a natural gas exporter.

The inaugural committee also garnered donations from the renewable energy industry, including $1 million from the Nebraska ethanol firm Green Plains Renewable Energy and $250,000 from NextEra Energy of Florida, the parent company of Florida Power & Light, which has mostly natural gas and nuclear power plants, but also a large amount of wind and solar generation.

March set a remarkable new record for global warming, NOAA reports

Joe Romm
Apr 19, 2017

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) reported that last month set an unusual and unexpected new record for global warming.

No month before March 2017 had ever exceeded the “normal” temperature (the 1981–2010 average) by a full 1.8°F (1.0°C) — “in the absence of an El Niño episode in the tropical Pacific Ocean.”


So when a month sees record high global temperatures in the absence of an El Niño, that is a sign the underlying global warming trend is stronger than ever.

NOAA reports that both March and the year to date (January through March) were the “second warmest on record” for the world since global temperature records began in 1880. They were second only to 2016 which, of course, was a year marked by a major El Niño.

Significantly, both March and Janurary-March 2017 beat their 2015 counterparts easily — even though all of 2015 had El Niño conditions.

It was especially hot last month in the Siberian permafrost,


Weather disasters from climate change are pushing some companies to Amazon's cloud, says CTO

Ari Levy
April 18, 2017

Amazon Web Services has been winning business worldwide from companies that are stripping down their data centers and taking advantage of emerging cloud technologies.

Some clients are signing on for a different reason: climate change.

From New Jersey to Japan, massive storms and earthquakes in recent years have instantly wiped out technical infrastructures, leaving businesses unable to retrieve critical data. Amazon Chief Technology Officer Werner Vogels told CNBC on Tuesday that companies are turning to the cloud to make sure their data is backed up and always accessible.

Speaking in an interview from the AWS Summit in San Francisco, Vogels said that banks and telecommunications companies in the Philippines have been swarming into AWS facilities in Singapore of late, "given the massive typhoons that have hit the country time after time."


AWS wasn't created to address natural disasters, but there's no denying the trend is pushing companies into its doors. Last year was the warmest on record and NASA predicts that the number of powerful storms will increase as warming continues.

After Hurricane Sandy in 2012 on the New Jersey coast, an AWS client that builds backup solutions saw a surge in demand from nearby customers "that became interested in backing up their data on the West Coast," Vogels said. Following the devastating earthquake in Japan a year earlier, more companies there started moving to AWS.


NASA releases “then-and-now” photos of Earth. The changes are shocking

The earth has changed thru the eons. The difference now is how fast it is changing due to human influence. In the past, such rapid change has led to mass extinctions.

written by Kristi Shinfuku on April 7th, 2017

The Earth has made giant geological shifts throughout the lifespan of our planet, but what we sometimes fail to realize is that even during human history, major changes in weather, environment, climate, and more have changed before our eyes.

We’ve found some differences between the same places and you won’t believe how different some of these places look!


This the Pedersen Glacier in Alaska. The left depicts the location during the summer, 1917, while the new photo showcases the summer, 2005. Notice the massive changes in snow level during the same time period.


Deforestation has taken a lot of forests in South America, and the forests of Brazil look drastically different than they did in the past. Look at the shocking difference. Forests in Rondonia, Brazil. June 1975 — August 2009.


Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Humans on the verge of causing Earth’s fastest climate change in 50m years

17 April 2017

A new study published in Nature Communications looks at changes in solar activity and carbon dioxide levels over the past 420 million years. The authors found that on our current path, by mid-century humans will be causing the fastest climate change in approximately 50 million years, and if we burn all available fossil fuels, we’ll cause the fastest change in the entire 420 million year record.

The study relates to a scientific conundrum known as the “faint young sun paradox” – that early in Earth’s history, solar output was 30% less intense than it is today, and yet the planet was warm enough to have a liquid ocean. A stronger greenhouse effect due to higher carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere may be one explanation.

Over time, solar output has grown stronger, and atmospheric carbon dioxide levels have fallen due to an effect known as “weathering” of rocks and an increase in plant life. The authors of this study found that over the past 420 million years, the slow heating of the sun and slow decline of the greenhouse effect have roughly offset each other, leading to a fairly stable long-term global climate.


In every case the line is already quite steep due to the hundreds of billions of tons of carbon pollution humans have dumped into the atmosphere thus far. The size of the global energy imbalance we’ve caused is already on par with those previous blue wiggles – Earth’s ice age transitions. If we keep burning lots of fossil fuels, we could soon cause higher carbon dioxide levels and faster climate change than the Earth has seen in 50 million years. If we burn all available fossil fuel reserves (the black “Wink12k” line), we’ll see faster climate change than in the entire 420 million year record.

It’s an alarming proposition. Climate deniers will often argue against taking action to curb carbon pollution because climate changed naturally in the past and carbon dioxide levels were higher in the past. One Republican congressman repeated these talking points in the latest House “Science” committee hearing. While both arguments are technically true, they miss several important points.

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To find a location near you:

Important documents to bring with you:

Monday, April 17, 2017

Scientists: Get Used to Wildfires in a Warming World

Bobby Magill
April 17, 2017

Communities across the Western U.S. and Canada may have to adapt to living with the ever-increasing threat of catastrophic wildfires as global warming heats up and dries out forests across the West, according to a University of Colorado study published Monday.

Residents living in neighborhoods adjacent to forests — known as “wildland-urban interface” zones — will have to accept that many wildfires may have to be allowed to burn and that building new homes in fire-prone forests should be discouraged, the study says.


climate change is making wildfire seasons longer and more intense. The trend bends toward bigger, more destructive and drought-driven blazes in the West. On average, wildfires burn six times the acreage they did 45 years ago, Climate Central research shows.

Since the 1970s, the frequency of wildfire has increased 1,000 percent in the Pacific Northwest, 889 percent in the Northern Rockies, 462 percent in the Southwest and 256 percent in California’s Sierra Nevada as the mountain snowpack melts earlier and the fire season lengthens, according to Schoennagel’s team’s research.


Climate change taking big bite out of alpine glaciers

Across the Alps, glaciers have lost half their volume since 1900. And there is no letting up: Melting has accelerated since 1980. Most Alpine glaciers will be gone by the end of this century, scientists say.

"It's almost time to say farewell to our glaciers," Austrian mountain farmer Siggi Ellmauer said, looking at the craggy summits across the Pyhrn valley. After a tour of the nature camp he's building for school kids, Ellmauer talks about how climate change is reshaping his world.

"As a child, I never would have thought they could vanish. Even 20 years ago there were still patches of ice up there on those north-facing slopes. I've watched, we've all watched the glaciers shrink here and across the country," he said.

"When will they all be completely gone?"

Most glaciers in Austria and across the Alps are going to disappear by 2100, scientists say. There is already enough heat-trapping pollution in the air to melt nearly all the ice, even if greenhouse gas emissions are cut to zero immediately, said climate physicist Carl-Friedrich Schleussner, who works as a scientific advisor for the NGO Climate Analytics.

Some future climate impacts could be mitigated by limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) - but not the demise of alpine glaciers, he added.

A few shards of ice will linger in high shady crags, but the powerful rivers of ice that carved the valleys as recently as 150 years ago will be gone. The climate will probably be too warm for new glaciers to form for centuries to come, Schleussner added.


Glacier ice is the largest reservoir of freshwater on Earth, holding more water than all lakes, rivers, soils and plants combined.


Austria's glaciers are not only losing in length - that is, how far they extend down the valley - they are also becoming thinner, said Anton Neureiter, a glaciologist with Austria's central Institute for Meteorology and Geodynamics (ZAMG) who monitors ice mass on 12 glaciers both north and south of the main crest of the Alps.


A recent update from World Glacier Monitoring Service says the Austrian decline is in line with recent global averages.

Readings from 130 glaciers around the world showed an average thinning of 1.1 meters (3.6 feet) in 2015. Since 1980, the world's glaciers have thinned on average by almost 20 meters (65.6 feet).

The world's glaciers outside the polar regions contain enough water to raise global sea level by 0.3 to 0.6 meters (1 to 2 feet), which would swamp some low-lying islands and worsen coastal flooding during storm surges and hurricanes. About 670 million people would be affected.

Hearing first arguments as member of the Supreme Court, Gorsuch jumps right in

By Robert Barnes April 17, 2017


He stressed, as he had at his confirmation hearings, that the text of the law would matter more to him than whether it resulted in outcomes that might not be what Congress had intended.
[So what happens when the text can be read in more than one way, or when words change, thus changing the meaning?]


Informative links

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Fewer Freezing Nights

April 12, 2017

The growing season is underway in parts of the U.S., primarily in the Southeast. As the world warms, the average date of that last spring freeze is occurring earlier in the year, extending that season. While the longer growing season does have some benefits, it also raises concerns about both agriculture and health.

Consistently warmer weather helps pests survive longer while also stressing crops and potentially decreasing yields. Each crop thrives in a favored temperature range, so net warming can lead to a geographical shift in areas that have been historically productive for a particular crop. Correspondingly, higher overnight temperatures tend to reduce the productivity and quality of grains and fruits, which can drive up the cost of produce at the supermarket.

A longer growing season also means a longer allergy season, as pollen counts rise with the longer season and higher levels of carbon dioxide. And disease-carrying insects like mosquitoes can survive warmer winters and thrive in most locations during the summer.

As the concentration of greenhouse gases rises and the planet warms further, there will continue to be a decrease in the average number nights below freezing. Without any change in the rate of greenhouse gas emissions, most of the U.S. is projected to have an extra month or more of nighttime lows above freezing by the end of the century compared to the end of the 20th century.

Which state sends most taxes to DC?


Washington, that swampy den of iniquity that politicians love to scorn, sends the most tax dollars per person to the U.S. government.

By a lot.

Last year, the District of Columbia paid Uncle Sam $37,000 per person in federal income, payroll and estate taxes. The next closest was Delaware, at $16,000 per person.

“It’s where the money is,” said Roberton Williams, a fellow at the Tax Policy Center. “The reason the District pays so much in taxes is that there are a lot of high-income people there.”

Washington is an outlier because, despite years of lobbying, it is not a state. It doesn’t even have a vote in Congress. It is, however, a city with a relatively high cost of living.

West Virginia, Mississippi and New Mexico have low median household incomes, which helps explain why they their residents pay far less in federal taxes. West Virginia paid $3,600 per person last year, while Mississippi paid $3,900 per person and New Mexico residents paid a little more than $4,000.


For years, the late Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan, D-N.Y., would document that New York paid more to the federal government than it got back. In 2015, the state’s comptroller took up the cause.

Washington’s rate of return is higher than any state — most of it comes from wages for federal employees. The closest state is Mississippi, which gets back $2.57 in federal spending for every dollar it sends to Washington. New Mexico, West Virginia and Alabama are also big winners when it comes to federal taxes and spending.

These states are big takers because they have a lot of residents who get federal benefits, including Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, disability benefits and food stamps.

“They have lower incomes so they pay less in taxes and, because they have lower incomes, they get more federal aid,” said Morgan Scarboro, a policy analyst at the Tax Foundation.

So why do so many of these states that benefit from the federal government produce conservative politicians who complain that the government is too big?

“There is this perception that so much money is being spent on things that don’t benefit them,” Williams said. “They ignore the things that do benefit them.”

Williams cited foreign aid as a favorite target, even though it makes up only 1 percent of the federal budget, if you count military assistance.

“People view the world as cut my taxes and cut his spending,” Williams said. “His spending is wasteful and my taxes are hurting me badly.”

Most states are winners when it comes to getting more money from the federal government than they pay in taxes. On average, Americans get $1.22 for every dollar they send to Washington, according to the New York study.

That’s why the federal government has a budget deficit.

The federal spending comes from social programs such as Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, as well as grants to state and local governments and spending on infrastructure.

States such as South Carolina, North Carolina and Virginia benefit from having large military bases.

The biggest losers when it comes to taxes and spending are New Jersey, Wyoming and Connecticut. New Jersey gets back just 77 cents for every dollar it pays, while Wyoming gets back 81 cents and Connecticut gets 83 cents.

New York gets 91 cents for every dollar it sends to Washington, according to the comptroller’s report.

All these states have incomes above the national average.

“It’s a good example of a progressive tax code,” Scarboro said. “That is how it is designed to work.”

With Trump Appointees, a Raft of Potential Conflicts and ‘No Transparency’


President Trump is populating the White House and federal agencies with former lobbyists, lawyers and consultants who in many cases are helping to craft new policies for the same industries in which they recently earned a paycheck.

The potential conflicts are arising across the executive branch, according to an analysis of recently released financial disclosures, lobbying records and interviews with current and former ethics officials by The New York Times in collaboration with ProPublica.

In at least two cases, the appointments may have already led to violations of the administration’s own ethics rules. But evaluating if and when such violations have occurred has become almost impossible because the Trump administration is secretly issuing waivers to the rules.

One such case involves Michael Catanzaro, who serves as the top White House energy adviser. Until late last year, he was working as a lobbyist for major industry clients such as Devon Energy of Oklahoma, an oil and gas company, and Talen Energy of Pennsylvania, a coal-burning electric utility, as they fought Obama-era environmental regulations, including the landmark Clean Power Plan. Now, he is handling some of the same matters on behalf of the federal government.


This revolving door of lobbyists and government officials is not new in Washington. Both parties make a habit of it.

But the Trump administration is more vulnerable to conflicts than the prior administration, particularly after the president eliminated an ethics provision that prohibits lobbyists from joining agencies they lobbied in the prior two years. The White House also announced on Friday that it would keep its visitors’ logs secret, discontinuing the release of information on corporate executives, lobbyists and others who enter the complex, often to try to influence federal policy. The changes have drawn intense criticism from government ethics advocates across the city.

Mr. Trump’s appointees are also far wealthier and have more complex financial holdings and private-sector ties than officials hired at the start of the Obama administration, according to an Office of Government Ethics analysis that the White House has made public. This creates a greater chance that they might have conflicts related to investments or former clients, which could force them to sell off assets, recuse themselves or seek a waiver.


Letter Written Down By A Teacher Goes Viral!

Please read the whole letter.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Innocents have gone to jail, say NOLA public defenders

April 13, 2017

Past and current attorneys of the New Orleans Public Defenders Office tell Anderson Cooper they believe innocent clients have gone to jail because they lacked the time and resources to defend them properly. The system is so overburdened that in 2016 New Orleans Chief Public Defender Derwyn Bunton began ordering his staff to refuse to take on clients facing the most serious felonies. Cooper’s report on the New Orleans justice system will be broadcast on 60 Minutes Sunday, April 16 at 7 p.m. ET/PT.

All nine of the attorneys agreed when asked by Cooper if they believed an innocent client went to jail because they didn’t have enough time to spend on their case.

When 52 attorneys are responsible for 20,000 criminal cases a year, as in New Orleans, they do their best says Bunton. But often, indigent defendants will not get the quality defense they are entitled to. “You can’t provide the kind of representation that the Constitution, our code of ethics and professional standards would have you provide,” says Bunton. Asked if it’s not better to have a busy lawyer than no lawyer, Bunton does not hesitate, “No. A lawyer poorly resourced can cause irreparable harm to a client.”

Cooper follows one case of a man arrested in New Orleans who sat in jail for more than a year before an attorney presented evidence to the court showing he did not even match the suspect’s description. He also speaks to the man’s original public defender who got so fed up with not having the time to provide quality defense, she quit.


Facebook purges thousands of fake accounts that targeted publishers

By Graham Kates, Shanika Gunaratna, Irina Ivanova CBS News April 14, 2017, 1:30 PM

Facebook announced Friday that it had begun to purge “a substantial number” of accounts that it says were fake or spam. The fake accounts, created largely in Bangladesh, Indonesia, Saudi Arabia and a handful of other countries, attempted to accumulate likes as part of a sophisticated campaign. They did so by “liking” publishers’ pages in order to target their followers with spam.

Facebook issued a statement on Friday warning that as it began to clear out the fake accounts, publishers could expect to see a drop in the likes on their pages. The statement said that most affected pages with more than 10,000 likes would lose a maximum of 3 percent of their likes. Some major news accounts began to see dips in their numbers take effect around Friday lunchtime, with at least one major news account losing tens of thousands of likes.

Facebook said in the statement that the organization had been combating this fake account operation for six months, and that most of the fake accounts had “not been mobilized yet to actually make connections and send spam.”

The announcement came after Facebook said on Thursday that it had taken action against another 30,000 fake accounts in France ahead of upcoming presidential elections there.


Informative links

Friday, April 14, 2017

The Trump transition team seems to have asked NASA about mining on the moon

Making a significant change in the mass of the moon would be foolhardy. Living things on earth have adapted to the cycles of the moon, including human fertility.

Since he is unconcerned with the devastation from global warming, I guess this should be no surprise.

Rafi Letzter
April 14, 2017

Donald Trump's transition team asked NASA for details on its for-profit partnerships, and sought information about the potential to mine resources on the moon, according to a trove of internal documents obtained by Motherboard.

According to the documents, the questions from Trump's Agency Review Team (ART) largely focused on the interests of commercial space companies and NASA's potential help them turn profits.


The documents also included a slideshow with details about the potential for mining operations on the moon. One of the challenges of lunar mining, NASA pointed out, is that it's difficult to locate deposits of useful minerals from space. A ground-based prospecting mission would likely be necessary.

NASA explained that the US, along with Taiwan, is developing a concept for a lunar "prospector" mission.


There are a number of other resources on the moon, including rare earth metals, that could be of interest to commercial companies. But, as Motherboard points out, strip-mining the moon for profit could put the US at risk of violating the 1967 Outer Space Treaty, which forbids unilateral private use of space resources.

Whether Trump will actually push for mining on the moon remains to be seen, of course. But the arm of NASA that deals with human spaceflight is one of the few scientific sectors of the non-military government that isn't facing major cuts in the White House's budget proposal.


Target Recalls Easter Egg Toys: May Be Fatal If Ingested

Written by William Bornhoft (Patch Staff)

"Hatch & Grow Easter Eggs," two other toys should be returned for a refund.
By Shannon Antinori (Patch National Staff) - April 14, 2017

Target Corp. on Thursday issued a voluntarily recall of several potentially hazardous products. The recall includes toys Hatch & Grow Easter Eggs, Easter Grow Toys and Hatch Your Own Dino. A manager at one Target store told Patch that customers should bring the toys to guest services for a refund.

The toys were sold at Target stores across the United States from February 2017 through March 2017 for about $1. Consumers should immediately take this recalled toy away from children and return it to any Target store for a full refund.

If any of the small toys are ingested, they can expand inside a child's body and cause intestinal obstructions, resulting in severe discomfort, vomiting and dehydration, and the symptoms could be life-threatening, a report from the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission states. Surgery is required to remove the toy from the body, if ingested, according to a news release. Medical professionals and parents should be aware that there is a possibility that the toys might not show up on an X-ray.

The Hatch & Grow Easter Eggs and Easter Grow Toys have model number 234-25-1200 on the back of the product’s packaging. Hatch Your Own Dino Egg has model number 234-09-0016 on the label inserted in the product’s packaging.

The pink, blue or purple Hatch & Grow Easter Eggs include a white bunny, brown bunny or butterfly. The Easter Grow Toys include a yellow chick, brown bunny or white bunny. The Hatch Your Own Dino Eggs are purple or yellow/green and contains one of 11 dinosaurs.

Hyland's homeopathic teething tablets recalled nationwide

By Jacqueline Howard, CNN
Updated 6:11 PM ET, Fri April 14, 2017

Any remaining Hyland's homeopathic teething products are now being removed from store shelves under a major recall.
Two types of the teething products, which previously were linked to the deaths of 10 children, have been recalled, the Food and Drug Administration announced on Thursday.
Standard Homeopathic Company, the Los Angeles-based maker of Hyland's homeopathic teething products, recalled all of its teething tablets and nighttime teething tablets, the announcement said. The FDA concluded that the products have mislabeled the amounts of belladonna alkaloids they contain.


In January, the FDA urged parents not to use Hyland's homeopathic teething products after finding that the products contain varying amounts of belladonna, a toxic substance, commonly known as deadly nightshare, that can be harmful to children.
Ten deaths and other adverse events, such as seizures and vomiting, previously were reported to the FDA and the agency investigated those reports last year.
As part of the recall, parents are encouraged to throw away any teething products they may still have.


"Teething is not a medical problem. Teething is natural, it's important, and the vast majority of kids really do great," said Burgert, who is also a spokesperson for the American Academy of Pediatrics.
"So, teething isn't something that parents should be worried about or something that need tremendous action plans, however, if they do notice their kids are fussy and biting on things we can address them in many ways," she said.
To ease your baby's teething discomfort, the American Academy of Pediatrics has some suggestions:

Try gently rubbing or massaging the gums with one of your fingers.
Teething rings can be helpful, but they should be made of firm rubber.
Pain relievers that you rub on the gums are not recommended since they wash out of the baby's mouth within minutes.
If your child seems unusually irritable or has a fever, consult your pediatrician.
Avoid teething tablets that contain belladonna and gels with benzocaine.

Tax Cuts for the Rich Aren’t an Economic Panacea — and Could Hurt Growth

April 13, 2017

President Trump’s campaign tax plan and the House GOP “Better Way” tax plan would provide massive tax cuts that would overwhelmingly benefit high-income and high-wealth individuals. Conservatives defend these tax cuts by claiming that they will boost economic growth.


History shows tax cuts for the rich are far from a surefire way to boost growth — and that higher taxes don’t preclude robust economic and job growth.

Job growth, economic growth, and small business job creation were much weaker following the George W. Bush tax cuts, which gave the biggest boosts to high-income households, than after the Clinton tax increases on high-income households. (See graph.)
After the Bush tax cuts for the very highest-income households expired at the end of 2012, the economy continued to grow and add jobs steadily.


When Kansas enacted large tax cuts overwhelmingly for the wealthy, Gov. Sam Brownback claimed the tax cuts would act “like a shot of adrenaline into the heart of the Kansas economy.” But rather than seeing an economic boom since the tax cuts, Kansas’ job growth, economic growth, and growth in small business formation have lagged behind the country as a whole.

These simple relationships aren’t proof that tax cuts are bad for growth, or that tax increases cause growth — many other factors affect the economy at the same time. But they dispel claims that large tax cuts are a silver bullet for the economy.


Careful empirical research finds that tax cuts on high-income people’s earnings or their income from wealth (such as capital gains and dividends) don’t substantially boost work, saving, and investment — contrary to overstated “supply side” predictions.

High-income people are unlikely to increase their work hours due to cuts in their tax rates, research shows. “Overall, evidence suggests [high-income Americans’] labor supply is insensitive to tax rates,” Leonard Burman, co-founder of the Tax Policy Center (TPC), notes.
Tax cuts on capital gains and dividends flow overwhelmingly to the wealthiest filers in the country, but do little to boost saving and investment. The non-partisan Congressional Research Service (CRS) concludes that capital gains tax rate changes appear to have “little or no effect” on private saving.


The Bush tax cuts included sharp tax cuts on capital gains and dividends that proponents said would spur immediate business growth, but a recent study found “empirical evidence that the 2003 tax cuts had little impact on investment or employment.” And, in the words of The Wall Street Journal, Federal Reserve economists found the 2003 tax cut "was a dud when it came to boosting the stock market.”
Tax cuts for high-income people also aren’t an effective way to encourage entrepreneurship. In fact, on balance, research suggests that “higher tax rates are more likely to encourage, rather than discourage, self-employment,” CRS concludes. One reason why: taxes may reduce earnings volatility. The government bears some of the risk of a new venture by allowing tax deductions for losses and, in return, it taxes the profits of successful businesses.

These research findings also square with renowned investor Warren Buffett’s observation:

“I have worked with investors for 60 years and I have yet to see anyone — not even when capital gains rates were 39.9 percent in 1976-77 [they are now 15 percent] — shy away from a sensible investment because of the tax rate on the potential gain. People invest to make money, and potential taxes have never scared them off.”


Tax cuts for the rich are likely to hurt growth if they increase deficits or are paired with cuts to investments that help working families and the economy.

Most economists conclude, based on empirical studies, that large increases in deficits reduce national saving, meaning less capital would be available for investment in the economy and interest rates would rise.


A growing body of research suggests that investments in children in low-income families not only reduce poverty and hardship in the near term, but can have long-lasting positive effects on their health, education, and earnings as adults. Cutting programs that support low-income families to fund tax cuts for the rich could therefore also have negative long-run economic impacts.


Tax Reforms and Top Incomes

Enrico Rubolino, Daniel Waldenström 13 April 2017


Our main finding is shown in Figure 1. It depicts the top percentile income share around the time of the reform in the countries in which the reform occurred, compared to the same income share in their respective ‘synthetic’ controls. While pre-reform top shares are almost identical, there is a notable divergence after the tax reform. Top shares in treated countries increased by between 15% and 30% more than in the synthetic controls. The effects were not short-lived – the gap remains for at least ten years in all cases.


We also find that the progressivity effect differs among top groups. Figure 2 shows that earners in the top income decile that are below the top percentile were almost not affected by the progressivity reforms. By contrast, looking within the top percentile, the effects increase in size. The top 0.1 percentile share did twice as well from the reforms as the top percentile share did, taken as a whole.


Tax reforms did not increase the size of the cake


GDP per capita was not significantly affected by the tax reform treatments in any of the three countries that we studied. Likewise, we do not find any significant effect on the number of patents or tax revenues. Although these variables are aggregate, and therefore only offer a coarse estimate of the true effect, this analysis does not show large real income responses to reductions in progressivity.


Delaying middle school, high school start times is beneficial to students

Public Release: 14-Apr-2017
AASM position: Delaying middle school, high school start times is beneficial to students
Middle schools and high schools should start classes at 8:30 a.m. or later
American Academy of Sleep Medicine

A new position statement from the American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM) asserts that the school day should begin at 8:30 a.m. or later for middle school and high school students.

Data show that later start times provide adolescents the opportunity to get sufficient sleep on school nights, which optimizes daytime alertness, reduces tardiness and improves school attendance. A later school start time supports peak academic performance, more opportunities for learning, better mental health, and enhanced driving safety.

"Early school start times make it difficult for adolescents to get sufficient sleep on school nights, and chronic sleep loss among teens is associated with a host of problems, including poor school performance, increased depressive symptoms, and motor vehicle accidents," said lead author and AASM Past President Dr. Nathaniel Watson. "Starting school at 8:30 a.m. or later gives teens a better opportunity to get the sufficient sleep they need to learn and function at their highest level."

The position statement is published in the April 15 issue of the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine.

The AASM recommends that teenagers 13 to 18 years of age should sleep 8 to 10 hours on a regular basis to promote optimal health. However, CDC data show that 68.4 percent of high school students report sleeping 7 hours or less on school nights. Early middle school and high school start times work contrary to adolescent circadian physiology and truncate students' sleep opportunity, resulting in chronic sleep loss.

Studies show that short sleep in adolescents is associated with the following:

Rates of new diagnosed cases of type 1 and 2 diabetes on the rise among children, teens

Public Release: 14-Apr-2017
Rates of new diagnosed cases of type 1 and 2 diabetes on the rise among children, teens
Fastest rise seen among racial/ethnic minority groups.
NIH/National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases

Rates of new diagnosed cases of type 1 and type 2 diabetes are increasing among youth in the United States, according to a report, Incidence Trends of Type 1 and Type 2 Diabetes among Youths, 2002-2012, published today in the New England Journal of Medicine.

In the United States, 29.1 million people are living with diagnosed or undiagnosed diabetes, and about 208,000 people younger than 20 years are living with diagnosed diabetes.


Across all racial/ethnic groups, the rate of new diagnosed cases of type 1 diabetes increased more annually from 2003-2012 in males (2.2 percent) than in females (1.4 percent) ages 0-19.

Among youth ages 0-19, the rate of new diagnosed cases of type 1 diabetes increased most sharply in Hispanic youth, a 4.2 percent annual increase. In non-Hispanic blacks, the rate of new diagnosed cases of type 1 diabetes increased by 2.2 percent and in non-Hispanic whites by 1.2 percent per year.

Among youth ages 10-19, the rate of new diagnosed cases of type 2 diabetes rose most sharply in Native Americans (8.9 percent), Asian Americans/Pacific Islanders (8.5 percent) and non-Hispanic blacks (6.3 percent). Note: The rates for Native Americans cannot be generalized to all Native American youth nationwide.

Among youth ages 10-19, the rate of new diagnosed cases of type 2 diabetes increased 3.1 percent among Hispanics. The smallest increase was seen in whites (0.6 percent).

The rate of new diagnosed cases of type 2 diabetes rose much more sharply in females (6.2 percent) than in males (3.7 percent) ages 10-19.


Type 1 diabetes, the most common form of diabetes in young people, is a condition in which the body fails to make insulin. Causes of type 1 diabetes are still unknown. However, disease development is suspected to follow exposure of genetically predisposed people to an "environmental trigger," stimulating an immune attack against the insulin-producing beta cells of the pancreas.

In type 2 diabetes, the body does not make or use insulin well. In the past, type 2 diabetes was extremely rare in youth, but it has become more common in recent years. Several NIH-funded studies are directly examining how to delay, prevent, and treat diabetes:


Low-income children missing out on language learning both at home and at school

Public Release: 14-Apr-2017
Low-income children missing out on language learning both at home and at school
A double dose of disadvantage
New York University

Children from poor neighborhoods are less likely to have complex language building opportunities both in home and at school, putting them at a disadvantage in their kindergarten year, finds a new study led by NYU Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development.

The findings, published in the Journal of Educational Psychology, suggest that language learning should involve both families and teachers in order to overcome these early disadvantages and ensure learning opportunities for vulnerable students.

"Children may go from a home with limited physical and psychological resources for learning and language to a school with similar constraints, resulting in a double dose of disadvantage," said Susan B. Neuman, professor of childhood and literacy education at NYU Steinhardt and the study's lead author. "Our study suggests that neighborhoods matter and can have a powerful influence on nurturing success or failure."

Research shows that children's academic achievement is predicted not only by their family's socioeconomic status, but also by the socioeconomic status of their school. These two factors together have an impact on children's access to learning resources, including adults who create language-rich opportunities when they speak with children.

"Children's early exposure to a rich set of language practices can set in motion the processes that they use for learning to read, including the vocabulary and background knowledge necessary for language and reading comprehension," Neuman said. "Consequently, children who have limited experience with these kinds of linguistic interactions may have fewer opportunities to engage in the higher-order exchanges valued in school."


Opioid use disorder in pregnancy -- medication treatment improves outcomes for mothers and infants

Public Release: 14-Apr-2017
Opioid use disorder in pregnancy -- medication treatment improves outcomes for mothers and infants
Holters Kluwer Health

Medication for addiction treatment (MAT) with buprenorphine or methadone is an appropriate and accepted treatment for pregnant women with opioid use disorder (OUD), according to a research review and update in the Journal of Addiction Medicine, the official journal of the American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM). The journal is published by Wolters Kluwer.


US rates of prescription opioid use and misuse continue to increase, including among women of childbearing age. Infants born to mothers with OUD are at risk of neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS), developing signs and symptoms of opioid withdrawal after birth. Because of the growing number of pregnant women with OUD and the health risks to mother and child, there is an urgent need for evidence on effective treatment approaches.


Research suggests bans on trans fats linked to healthier communities

Public Release: 14-Apr-2017
Research suggests bans on trans fats linked to healthier communities
University of Chicago Medical Center

People living in areas that restrict trans fats in foods had fewer hospitalizations for heart attack and stroke compared to residents in areas without restrictions, according to a new study conducted by researchers at the University of Chicago Medicine and Yale School of Medicine.

"The results are impressive, given that the study focused on trans fatty acid bans in restaurants, as opposed to complete bans that included food bought in stores," said senior author Tamar S. Polonsky, MD, MSCI, a general cardiologist and assistant professor of medicine at the University of Chicago. "If we enact a more complete restriction on trans fatty acids, it could mean even more widespread benefits for people long term."

Trans fatty acids, or trans fats, are commonly found in fried foods, chips, crackers and baked goods. Eating even minimal amounts are linked to greater risk of cardiovascular disease, the leading cause of death worldwide. Some communities -- most notably New York City -- have eliminated the use of trans fats in restaurants and eateries in recent years.


They found that three or more years after the restrictions were implemented, people living in areas with the bans had significantly fewer hospitalizations for heart attack and stroke when compared to similar urban areas where no limits existed. The decline for the combined conditions was 6.2 percent.


The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved a nationwide ban on partially hydrogenated oil in foods, which effectively will eliminate dietary trans fat when it goes into effect in 2018.

Current FDA labeling guidelines allow up to 0.49 grams of trans fat per serving to be labeled as 0 grams. According to lead author Brandt, this leaves consumers with the burden to scour labels for hidden trans fats.

"With the upcoming FDA regulation, people need not be so vigilant," he said.

March Was Second Hottest on Record Globally

By Andrea Thompson
April 14, 2017

The exceptional global heat of the past few years continued last month, with March ranking as the second hottest on record for the planet. It followed the second hottest February and third hottest January, showing just how much Earth has warmed from the continued buildup of heat-trapping greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.

March was 2.02°F (1.12°C) warmer than the 1951-1980 average, according to NASA data released Friday. It ranks behind only March 2016, which was 2.29°F (1.27°C) above that same average. NASA’s global temperature records extend back 137 years.

While global temperatures in 2016 received a small boost from an exceptionally strong El Niño — which features warmer-than normal ocean waters in the eastern tropical Pacific — the majority of the temperature rise is due to human-caused global warming.

Current levels of carbon dioxide — the main greenhouse gas driving up global temperatures — are unprecedented in human history, and if they continued unabated, could reach a level not seen in the atmosphere in 50 million years, according to a recent study.

Since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, carbon dioxide levels have risen from about 280 parts per million to more than 400 ppm. Those levels are expected to top 410 ppm in the next few weeks.

While 2017 isn’t expected to top 2016 as the hottest year on record globally, in part because El Niño has dissipated (though there are some signs it could return later this year), it is still likely to rank among the hottest years, according to projections from the U.K. Met Office.

So far, global temperatures this year are on track with those projections, Adam Scaife, head of long-range prediction at the Met Office, said.

“We have said a number of times now that we would likely see three record years in a row and then another very warm, but perhaps not record year, in 2017, so the small number of data we have so far for 2017 also concur with that,” he said in an email last month.

Of the 17 hottest years on record, 16 have occurred in the 21st century (the exception was the strong El Niño year of 1998), according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The five warmest years have all occurred since 2010, according to NOAA, which will release its own global temperature data for March on April 19.

So far this year NOAA’s rankings have agreed with NASA’s.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Historian who predicted Trump's win says he'll be impeached

Impeachment is the process by which a legislative body formally levels charges against a high official of Government. Impeachment does not necessarily mean removal from office; it is only a formal statement of charges, akin to an indictment in criminal law, and is thus only the first step towards removal. Once an individual is impeached, he or she must then face the possibility of conviction via legislative vote, which then entails the removal of the individual from office.

A political historian and professor who predicted that Donald Trump would win the presidency has a new bet: Trump will be impeached.

“I'm going to make another prediction,” Allan Lichtman told The Washington Post Friday. “This one is not based on a system; it's just my gut. They don't want Trump as president, because they can't control him. He's unpredictable. They'd love to have Pence — an absolutely down-the-line, conservative, controllable Republican. And I'm quite certain Trump will give someone grounds for impeachment, either by doing something that endangers national security or because it helps his pocketbook.”

Lichtman isn't the first to predict that Trump could be impeached. University of Utah Law Professor Christopher Lewis Peterson wrote a 23-page article explaining the legal reasons Congress should impeach Trump. And on Friday, documentary filmmaker Michael Moore told MSNBC reporters he predicts Trump will either be impeached or resign before his term is up.

To date, no U.S. President has been removed from office by impeachment and conviction. Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton were successfully impeached but acquitted by the Senate, and Richard Nixon resigned before he could be impeached.

British spies were first to spot Trump team's links with Russia

Luke Harding, Stephanie Kirchgaessner and Nick Hopkins
Thursday 13 April 2017

Britain’s spy agencies played a crucial role in alerting their counterparts in Washington to contacts between members of Donald Trump’s campaign team and Russian intelligence operatives, the Guardian has been told.

GCHQ first became aware in late 2015 of suspicious “interactions” between figures connected to Trump and known or suspected Russian agents, a source close to UK intelligence said. This intelligence was passed to the US as part of a routine exchange of information, they added.


It is understood that GCHQ was at no point carrying out a targeted operation against Trump or his team or proactively seeking information. The alleged conversations were picked up by chance as part of routine surveillance of Russian intelligence assets. Over several months, different agencies targeting the same people began to see a pattern of connections that were flagged to intelligence officials in the US.


The Guardian has been told the FBI and the CIA were slow to appreciate the extensive nature of contacts between Trump’s team and Moscow ahead of the US election. This was in part due to US law that prohibits US agencies from examining the private communications of American citizens without warrants. “They are trained not to do this,” the source stressed.

“It looks like the [US] agencies were asleep,” the source added. “They [the European agencies] were saying: ‘There are contacts going on between people close to Mr Trump and people we believe are Russian intelligence agents. You should be wary of this.’


Informative links

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

The Russia story just keeps getting worse for President Trump

Analysis by Chris Cillizza, CNN Editor-at-Large
Updated 1:16 PM ET, Wed April 12, 2017

Two stories dealing with Russia's meddling in the election broke Tuesday night. And both were full of bad news for President Donald Trump.
The first, an exclusive to CNN, revealed that a number of Democratic and Republican lawmakers on the House and Senate intelligence committees who have seen classified documents see no evidence that Obama administration officials did anything unusual or illegal, further suggesting Rep. Devin Nunes, R-California, misled Trump (and the public) when he described documents relating to the unmasking of Trump campaign officials caught up in an incidental collection operation by the intelligence community.


The second, broken by The Washington Post, reveals that the FBI obtained a secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court court warrant in August 2016 aimed at monitoring the communications of one-time Trump foreign policy adviser Carter Page. The key paragraph:
"The FBI and the Justice Department obtained the warrant targeting Carter Page's communications after convincing a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court judge that there was probable cause to believe Page was acting as an agent of a foreign power, in this case Russia, according to the officials."


As FBI probe continues, Trump says it’s ‘not too late’ to fire Comey

04/12/17 04:20 PM—Updated 04/12/17 04:23 PM
By Steve Benen

In an interview with Fox Business’ Maria Bartiromo, Donald Trump was asked about “Obama-era staffers” that continue to serve in the executive branch. As the Washington Post reported, one official in particular stood out as important.

President Trump said in an interview aired Wednesday morning that he has “confidence” in FBI Director James B. Comey, but it was “not too late” to fire him.

Trump has long sent mixed signals on Comey and the bureau director’s future in government, though his comments to Fox Business Network’s Maria Bartiromo are especially important because Comey has now confirmed that the bureau is investigating possible coordination between the Russian government and the Trump campaign to influence the presidential election.

This was all rather odd. For example, Bartiromo characterized Comey as an Obama-era “staffer,” but that’s not quite right. FBI directors are appointed to serve fixed 10-year terms – in large part to help shield directors from overt political influence and pressures – and in this case, the Democratic president chose a Republican to fill the post. That didn’t mean Comey was part of Obama’s “staff.”


In the same Fox interview, Trump went on and on about his strange belief that Comey helped Hillary Clinton last year:


In fact, Comey intervened in the election in such a way that almost certainly cost Clinton the presidential race, all while hiding information from the public about the Trump campaign being under investigation for possibly cooperating with a foreign adversary. To say that Comey was “very, very good to Hillary Clinton” is hopelessly ridiculous and completely at odds with the real-world events of 2016.

So why on earth would Trump make such absurd, demonstrably false claims about Comey now? Probably because the president wants to lay the groundwork for future complaints: if the FBI finds evidence of collusion between Team Trump and Moscow, the president wants to be able to tell his partisan allies, “I told you Comey was on Clinton’s side.”

That wouldn’t be at all true, but Trump’s laying down a marker now, just in case.

The U.S. has caused more global warming than any other country.

Also, much of the carbon emission in China come from producing stuff for the U.S. And transporting it a long distance adds to the problem.

By Chris Mooney January 22, 2015


You may have heard that China has recently surpassed the United States in annual greenhouse gas emissions — becoming the largest emitter. That’s true, but it’s a relatively recent occurrence (within the last decade). Looking back over time, the United States is far and away the number one emitter.

This analysis from the World Resources Institute shows that from 1850 to the year 2011, the United States, a single country, produced 27 percent of the total carbon dioxide emissions of the world. No other single country was close — indeed, the U.S. even outdistanced all the nations of the European Union combined:

And the thing about carbon dioxide is, it stays up in the atmosphere for a very, very long time. A recent study by geoscientist Raymond Pierrehumbert of the University of Chicago found that, for a sudden pulse of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere that raises the concentration to 1,250 parts per million over pre-industrial levels (which were about 280 parts per million), about 900 parts per million of carbon dioxide will still be up there after 100 years. Indeed, concentrations will only decline to 675 parts per million over another 900 years.

Thus, much of the carbon pollution emitted over the last 150 or 160 years is very much still with us. It’s still determining our future even today. Which means that for the global warming that the world is currently experiencing and will experience, the United States remains more responsible than any other single country.

And now the comeuppance: In the event of a collapse of the West Antarctic ice sheet, scientists have determined that the United States will receive more sea level rise than almost any other part of the world. (Granted, so will other countries in North America, like Canada and Mexico, which have considerably less global warming responsibility.)


West Antarctica is so large that it pulls the global ocean toward it, which slopes upward toward the ice sheet and the Antarctic continent in general. But if West Antarctica were to lose a substantial part of its ice, then the gravitational pull would relax, and sea level would actually decrease near the ice sheet even as it spreads and increases across the global ocean.

But not evenly. Instead, areas farther from West Antarctica would get more sea level rise, and North America and the United States might get more than any other inhabited place on Earth.


So why does the United States get extra sea level rise? It turns out to be a geophysical “triple whammy,” in Mitrovica’s words.

The first and largest part of the effect is simply gravity. But that’s not the only effect.

In addition, explains Mitrovica, taking a gigantic amount of ice off of the land of West Antarctica leads the crust of the Earth to rebound and thrust upward — pushing the ocean away from it. “That Jack in the Box will be pushing water out of the Antarctic,” says Mitrovica. Some of that pushed water also comes all the way to the northern hemisphere and adds additional sea level rise.

And then, there’s the most mind-boggling effect of all — what Bamber calls “true polar wander.” Basically, moving this massive amount of ice off of West Antarctica also shifts the planet’s axis of rotation slightly. Bamber likens it to how a spinning wheel with gum stuck to it will change its spin somewhat if you stick the gum somewhere closer to the center of the wheel, where the axis of rotation is.

For this reason, says Bamber, “the water sloshes about a little bit in the east-west direction,” and North America gets more of it than Europe does. Triple whammy indeed.


What will never be equitable, though, is this: The U.S. is a rich country. It can pay a lot more to adapt to climate change and to rising sea levels. Poorer countries might get a little less sea level rise in scenarios like the one discussed here — but they’re radically less able to cope with it.

And gravity can’t do anything about that.

NPR earns it's corporate donations

April 12, 2017

NPR is earning their corporate donations from the Koch brothers and other fossil fuel global warming denialists. In reporting on the role of atmospheric waves, they started out saying that while come have believed global warming had a hand in the recent severe California drought, that instead it was cause by atmospheric waves. This ignore that (1) whatever the basic cause, global warming is making such event more severe, and (2) global warming will affect the timing and severity of these atmospheric waves.
And they encourage the simplistic thinking that attributes a single cause to an event, when it should be automatic that we realize that most complex events have more than one cause.

Tips to Spot False News[randomization_seed]=1492030607&qp_instance_log_data[os_type]=Windows&qp_instance_log_data[browser_name]=Firefox&qp_instance_log_data[browser_ver]=52

here are some tips on what to look out for:

  1. Be skeptical of headlines. False news stories often have catchy headlines in all caps with exclamation points. If shocking claims in the headline sound unbelievable, they probably are.
  2. Look closely at the URL. A phony or look-alike URL may be a warning sign of false news. Many false news sites mimic authentic news sources by making small changes to the URL. You can go to the site to compare the URL to established sources.
  3. Investigate the source. Ensure that the story is written by a source that you trust with a reputation for accuracy. If the story comes from an unfamiliar organization, check their "About" section to learn more.
  4. Watch for unusual formatting. Many false news sites have misspellings or awkward layouts. Read carefully if you see these signs.
  5. Consider the photos. False news stories often contain manipulated images or videos. Sometimes the photo may be authentic, but taken out of context. You can search for the photo or image to verify where it came from.
  6. Inspect the dates. False news stories may contain timelines that make no sense, or event dates that have been altered.
  7. Check the evidence. Check the author's sources to confirm that they are accurate. Lack of evidence or reliance on unnamed experts may indicate a false news story.
  8. Look at other reports. If no other news source is reporting the same story, it may indicate that the story is false. If the story is reported by multiple sources you trust, it's more likely to be true.
  9. Is the story a joke? Sometimes false news stories can be hard to distinguish from humor or satire. Check whether the source is known for parody, and whether the story's details and tone suggest it may be just for fun.
  10. Some stories are intentionally false. Think critically about the stories you read, and only share news that you know to be credible.