Thursday, December 20, 2007

Designs for the poor

Very inspiring. A good thing to read when you're feeling repulsed by being a human being.

updated 9:12 a.m. EST, Thu December 20, 2007
By Steve Mollman, CNN

But for an increasing number of designers, the stakes are even higher elsewhere: global poverty.

Imagine taking the industrial design smarts behind the iPod and applying it to the far more basic technology needs of the extremely poor. In the past, few top designers would have bothered. But that's changing.

At MIT, Stanford, and other universities, young design and engineering talents are eagerly enrolling in courses that teach them how to meet the technology needs of the developing world. Stanford offers a course called "Entrepreneurial Design for Extreme Affordability." One of the teachers, David Kelley, is the founder of IDEO, the industrial design firm behind such tech classics as the Palm V PDA and the first production mouse for the Lisa and Macintosh computers from Apple.

Amy B. Smith, an inventor who lectures at MIT, said her course on design for the developing world gets about a hundred applicants, but she can only take 30.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Cat Fleas' Journey Into The Vacuum Is A 'One-way Trip'

ScienceDaily (Dec. 17, 2007) — Homeowners dogged by household fleas need look no farther than the broom closet to solve their problem. Scientists have determined that vacuuming kills fleas in all stages of their lives, with an average of 96 percent success in adult fleas and 100 percent destruction of younger fleas.

There are over 2,000 described species of fleas in the world. The most common domestic flea is the cat flea (Ctenocephalides felis felis). The dog flea (Ctenocephalides canis) appears similar to the cat flea, but is rare in the United States. The sticktight flea (Echidnophaga gallinacea) can become a problem if pets frequent areas associated with poultry.

Girl born with 8 limbs goes home after surgery

updated 11:11 p.m. ET, Sat., Dec. 15, 2007
BANGALORE, India - A 2-year-old girl who was born with four arms and four legs left a hospital in southern India on Saturday little more than a month after surgeons there successfully removed her extra limbs.

The surgeon who led more than 30 doctors in the marathon surgery said Lakshmi was making good progress and should be mobile soon.

"Lakshmi is fine and stable," chief surgeon Dr. Sharan Patil told The Associated Press. "She should face no problem in walking."

U.S. childhood cancer death rate drops sharply

updated 1:48 p.m. ET, Thurs., Dec. 6, 2007
WASHINGTON - The cancer death rate for children in the United States has declined sharply — down 20 percent from 1990 to 2004 — thanks to better treatment of leukemia and other cancers, health officials said on Thursday.

Cancer stands as the leading disease-related cause of death for U.S. children, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in a report. Better treatments are improving survival rates, the CDC said.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Top 11 Warmest Years On Record Have All Been In Last 13 Years

ScienceDaily (Dec. 13, 2007) — The decade of 1998-2007 is the warmest on record, according to data sources obtained by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO). The global mean surface temperature for 2007 is currently estimated at 0.41°C/0.74°F above the 1961-1990 annual average of 14.00°C/57.20°F.
The provisional global figure for 2007 using data from January to November, currently places the year as the seventh warmest on records dating back to 1850.

Other remarkable global climatic events recorded so far in 2007 include record-low Arctic sea ice extent, which led to first recorded opening of the Canadian Northwest Passage; the relatively small Antarctic Ozone Hole; development of La NiƱa in the central and eastern Equatorial Pacific; and devastating floods, drought and storms in many places around the world.


the dog diverged from our ancient common ancestor earlier than the mouse

So we're more closely related to mice than to dogs.

Giving a squirrel a personality test

It takes all kinds, even for squirrles.

Mom's Personality Means Survival For Her Squirrel Pups
ScienceDaily (Dec. 14, 2007) — A recent study indicates that mother squirrels have personalities, and they are essential for the growth rate and survival of her pups.

Researchers at the Kluane Red Squirrel Project found that red squirrels have a range of personalities, from exploratory and aggressive to careful and passive. Both kinds of squirrels persist in the population because neither personality type offers an exclusive advantage for survival.
In years with abundant food, McAdam said, more active squirrels use their extra energy to their advantage and the pups grow faster. When food is sparse, their high-energy lifestyle is costly and the offspring of passive squirrel mothers have the advantage.

“There is a range of personalities in squirrels because the personality that is better for fitness depends on the year,” McAdam said.

Mother squirrel personalities also affected pup survival rates. Pups from aggressive mothers had lower survival rates when they were in their mother’s nest, but it wasn’t clear if it was a result of maternal style or other environmental effects. Once they left the nest, they had better survival rates through the first winter. McAdam said it’s likely that this is because they are better at competing for territories than other pups.

Pre-natal alcohol exposure shapes sensory preference, upping odds of later alcohol use and abuse

Public release date: 12-Dec-2007
Contact: Pam Willenz
American Psychological Association

Pre-natal alcohol exposure shapes sensory preference, upping odds of later alcohol use and abuse
2 studies help explain why teens exposed to fetal alcohol are at high risk for heavy drinking and perpetuating a family cycle of alcohol addiction
WASHINGTON – Young people whose mothers drank when pregnant may be more likely to abuse alcohol because, in the womb, their developing senses came to prefer its taste and smell. Researchers with the State University of New York Developmental Ethanol Research Center have found that because the developing nervous system adapts to whatever mothers eat and drink, young rats exposed to alcohol (ethanol) in the womb drank significantly more alcohol than non-exposed rats.

These findings, covered in two related studies, appear in the December issue of Behavioral Neuroscience, published by the American Psychological Association (APA). The studies contribute a critical biological piece to the complex puzzle of why teens with a family history of drinking may themselves drink more. Lead author Steven Youngentob, PhD, observes that a biologically instilled preference for alcohol’s taste and smell can make young people much more likely to abuse alcohol, especially in light of social pressures, risk-taking tendencies and alcohol’s addicting qualities.

These more subtle consequences of fetal alcohol exposure come on top of the potential for Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, which leads to profound neurodevelopmental problems including mental retardation.

Shooting ourselves in the foot

Public release date: 13-Dec-2007
Contact: Christian Basi
University of Missouri-Columbia

New study suggests why vaccines directed against cancer, HIV don't work
Mizzou, Imperial College London researchers found that chemical markers prevalent on cancer and HIV-infected cells can fool the body and make immune cells and antibodies leave them untouched
COLUMBIA, Mo. ¬— Researchers from the University of Missouri and Imperial College London have found evidence suggesting why vaccines directed against the virus that causes AIDS and many cancers do not work. This research is being published in the Dec. 14 edition of The Journal of Biological Chemistry.

In research spanning more than a decade, Gary Clark, associate professor of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Women’s Health in the MU School of Medicine, and Anne Dell, an investigator at Imperial College London, found that HIV, aggressive cancer cells, H. pylori, and parasitic worms known as schistosomes carry the same carbohydrate sequences as many proteins produced in human sperm.

“It’s our major Achilles heel,” Clark said. “Reproduction is required for the survival of our species. Therefore we are ‘hard-wired’ to protect our sperm and eggs as well as our unborn babies from any type of immune response. Unfortunately, our results suggest that many pathogens and tumor cells also have integrated themselves into this protective system, thus enabling them to resist the human immune response.”

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Antibacterial Chemical Disrupts Hormone Activities

ScienceDaily (Dec. 8, 2007) — A new UC Davis study shows that a common antibacterial chemical added to bath soaps can alter hormonal activity in rats and in human cells in the laboratory--and does so by a previously unreported mechanism.

The findings come as an increasing number of studies -- of both lab animals and humans -- are revealing that some synthetic chemicals in household products can cause health problems by interfering with normal hormone action.

Called endocrine disruptors, or endocrine disrupting substances (EDS), such chemicals have been linked in animal studies to a variety of problems, including cancer, reproductive failure and developmental anomalies.

That's on top of the problem of anti-bacterial soap encouraging the spread of resistant bacteria.

Friday, December 07, 2007

Smaller babies more prone to depression, anxiety later on

Turns out there might be some truth to the popular wisdom that plump babies are happy babies. A landmark public health study has found that people who had a low birth weight are more likely to experience depression and anxiety later in life.

“We found that even people who had just mild or moderate symptoms of depression or anxiety over their life course were smaller babies than those who had better mental health,” said lead author Ian Colman of the University of Alberta’s School of Public Health. “It suggests a dose-response relationship. As birth weight progressively decreases, it’s more likely that an individual will suffer from mood disorders later in life.”

The study, published in the December 2007 issue of Biological Psychiatry, analyzes information drawn from the Medical Research Council National Survey of Health and Development, one of the longest-running cohort studies in the world. The survey tracked more than 4,600 people born in Great Britain in 1946 for symptoms of anxiety and depression over a 40-year period.
The researchers emphasize they are not saying all small babies will experience poor mental health in the future. They also say this study is not about babies born full-term versus babies born premature, since the data collected back in 1946 made no mention of gestational age at birth.

“Being born small isn’t necessarily a problem. It is a problem if you were born small because of adverse conditions in the womb—and low birth weight is what we looked at in this study because it is considered a marker of stress in the womb. When a mother is really stressed, blood flow to the uterus is restricted and the fetus gets fewer nutrients, which tends to lead to lower birth weight,” explained Colman.

At the same time, because the mother is stressed, stress hormones are passing through the placenta to the fetus and may affect the fetus’s neurodevelopment and stress response. “Under these conditions, the part of the child’s brain that deals with stress could be programmed incorrectly in utero—the brain doesn’t develop as it would under ideal circumstances. If this theory is correct, you would find that when stressful events occur, the people who were smaller babies would be more likely to become depressed or anxious,” said Colman.

The hypothesized causes for the correlation are reasonable, and I expect are at least partly responsible. A factor not mentioned is that small babies are more likely to be born to poor mothers. Being poor can make a person more depressed and anxious.

'tween a rock and a hard place

Calcium level may signal risk of mental decline
Those with higher amounts have more cognitive problems, study says

updated 1:49 p.m. ET, Tues., Dec. 4, 2007
NEW YORK - In elderly people, higher levels of calcium in the blood are associated with poorer mental function and faster decline in cognitive ability, Dutch researchers have shown.

Some diseases that increase blood calcium — such as kidney failure, cancer and excessive parathyroid gland activity — could be a factor in the relationship, although it’s also possible that an individual’s calcium “set point” plays a role in cognitive decline with age, note Dr. Miranda D. Schram and colleagues in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.

Several studies have shown that small but long-term elevations of calcium within nerves and brain cells can kill them, Schram of Leiden University Medical Center and her team point out. Calcium can pass from the blood stream into the brain, they add, but it has not been clear whether blood calcium levels have any relationship to cognitive function.

I take extra calcium/magnesium/D3 because I am a small Caucasian female of a certain age, at risk for osteoporosis. My mother broke her hip and had to have it replaced. Fortunately for my risk factors, I'm not a smoker, which is associated with a higer risk of osteoporosis. Since extra calcium increases the need for magnesium and zinc, both of which I take, perhaps that will lessen the chance of a bad effect on cognitive ability. I sure hope so!

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Caffeine Cream Tones Thighs

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil – December 5, 2007 -- A new study recently published in the Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology reports on the discovery of caffeine’s novel benefit in slenderizing thighs.

The Brazilian researchers studied 99 women treated with a cream consisting mostly of a 7 percent caffeine solution. The women used the cream twice daily for 30 days.

When the researchers took their subjects’ measurements at the end of the study, the slimming effect was clear. More than 80 percent of the women had a reduction in the circumference of their upper and lower thighs. Nearly 68 percent also reduced their hip measurements.

If this is a true effect, how does it relate to finding of increased IQ in curvy women and their babies?

Nuclear Medicine Procedures Can Trigger Radiation Alarms

RESTON, Va.—Twenty million nuclear medicine procedures that detect and evaluate heart disease, brain disorders and cancer—and that use radiopharmaceuticals to treat overactive thyroids and some cancers—are performed each year.
"Patients undergoing diagnostic procedures are less likely than patients undergoing therapeutic procedures to be informed that they could activate radiation alarms in public places," said Armin Ansari, a health physicist in the radiation studies branch of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, Ga.
Some are even unaware that their procedure involved trace amounts of radioactive materials and that they could indeed trigger radiation detection equipment in public places," said Ansari.

It sounds humorous, but could also lead to a scary situation if they are mistaken for a terrorist.

More Babies Born Prematurely, New Report Shows

WHITE PLAINS, N.Y., DECEMBER 5, 2007 – The preterm birth rate rose again in 2005 and preliminary data for 2006 show a continued increase
The preterm birth rate has increased more than 20 percent since 1990. The data can be found at

Prematurity is the leading cause of death in the first month of life, and even late preterm infants have a greater risk of respiratory distress syndrome (RDS), feeding difficulties, temperature instability (hypothermia), jaundice and delayed brain development.

In 2005, preterm birth costs the nation more than $26.2 billion in medical and educational costs and lost productivity. Average first year medical costs were about 10 times greater for preterm than for term infants.

Hiring Practices Influenced by Beauty

Birmingham, U.K. – December 06, 2007 – A new study published in Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences finds that the attractiveness of interviewees can significantly bias outcome in hiring practices, showing a clear distinction between the attractive and average looking interviewees in terms of high and low status job packages offered.
Female interviewers were found to allocate attractive looking male interviewees more high status job packages than the average looking men. Female interviewers also gave more high status job packages to attractive men than to attractive women. Average looking men also received more low status job packages than average looking women. Male interviewers did not differ in the number of high or low status job packages that were given to attractive looking interviewees of either sex, though the male interviewers gave out more low status job packages overall, irrespective of the sex of the interviewee.

I admit I'm surprised that the "Male interviewers did not differ in the number of high or low status job packages that were given to attractive looking interviewees of either sex", although males tending to be more competitive, it's not surprising that "the male interviewers gave out more low status job packages overall, irrespective of the sex of the interviewee", although I can't claim I had ever thought about that aspect of the situation.

However, since the article also sited an increased electrodermal response (EDR), showing increased emotion, when a male interviewer assigned the low status job packages to the attractive female candidates, it wouldn't be interesting to know whether things might be different if the males were in a natural setting, and not being part of an experiment.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Bioclocks Work By Controlling Chromosome Coiling

ScienceDaily (Nov. 23, 2007) — There is a new twist on the question of how biological clocks work.

In recent years, scientists have discovered that biological clocks help organize a dizzying array of biochemical processes in the body. Despite a number of hypotheses, exactly how the microscopic pacemakers in every cell in the body exert such a widespread influence has remained a mystery.

Now, a new study provides direct evidence that biological clocks can influence the activity of a large number of different genes in an ingenious fashion, simply by causing chromosomes to coil more tightly during the day and to relax at night.

"The idea that the whole genome is oscillating is really cool," enthuses Vanderbilt Professor of Biological Sciences Carl Johnson, who headed the research that was published online Nov. 13 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Research Links Diet to Cognitive Decline and Dementia

Toronto, Ontario – November 06, 2007 – Research has shown convincing evidence that dietary patterns practiced during adulthood are important contributors to age-related cognitive decline and dementia risk. An article published in Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences highlights information on the benefits of diets high in fruit, vegetables, cereals and fish and low in saturated fats in reducing dementia risk.

Adults with diabetes are especially sensitive to the foods they eat with respect to cognitive function. Specifically, an adult with diabetes will experience a decline in memory function after a meal, especially if simple carbohydrate foods are consumed. While the precise physiological mechanisms underlying these dietary influences are not completely understood, the modulation of brain insulin levels likely contributes.

This deficit can be prevented through healthful food choices at meals. The findings suggest that weight maintenance reduces the risk of developing obesity-associated disorders, such as high blood pressure and high cholesterol, and is an important component of preserving cognitive health.

The work shows another benefit of maintaining healthful eating practices with aging – the same ones proposed by most diabetes and heart & stroke foundations. “This type of information should be able to empower the individual, knowing that he/she can be actively engaged in activities and lifestyles that should support cognitive health with aging,” says Carol Greenwood, author of the study.

curvy reigns!

New research finds an apparent, direct correlation between women's body fat and intelligence.

As CBS News correspondent Susan McGinnis reported on The Early Show Tuesday, the study shows women with fuller, "hourglass" figures seem to be smarter, and give birth to brighter children.

The research, published this week in the journal "Evolution and Human Behavior," indicates hips don't lie. In effect, says the study of some 16,000 women, the smaller your waist and bigger your hips, the smarter you are.

And, McGinnis points out, there's a formula: Divide waist circumference by hip circumference. The lower the result, the better.
The researchers say it has to do with omega-3 fatty acids, which gather around fuller hips and thighs, and are important for the growth of the brain during pregnancy. The curvier the hips, the higher the level of omega-3s.

It may also explain other studies that show men prefer women with a low waist-to-hip ratio.

Not only that but, according to the research, women with smaller waists and larger hips live longer!

Monday, November 26, 2007

violent video games are exemplary aggression teachers

AMES, Iowa -- Like other fathers and sons, Douglas Gentile and his father have spent many hours arguing about video games. What makes them different is that Douglas, an Iowa State University assistant professor of psychology, is one of the country's top researchers on the effects of media on children. His father, J. Ronald Gentile, is a leading researcher on effective teaching and a distinguished teaching professor emeritus of educational psychology at the University of Buffalo, State University of New York.

Through their discussions, they realized that video games use the same techniques that really great teachers use.

The Gentiles decided to test that hypothesis. Through a study of nearly 2,500 youths, they found that video games are indeed effective teaching tools. Students who played multiple violent video games actually learned through those games to produce greater hostile actions and aggressive behaviors over a span of six months.


TORONTO, ON. – New research shows that how people view their abilities in the workplace impacts how they respond to success. Dr. Jason Plaks, a social psychologist at the University of Toronto and Kristin Stecher, a research scientist at the University of Washington, found that those who thought of their capabilities as fixed were more likely to become anxious and disoriented when faced with dramatic success, causing their subsequent performance to plummet, compared to those who thought of their abilities as changeable.

“People are driven to feel that they can predict and control their outcomes. So when their performance turns out to violate their predictions, this can be unnerving – even if the outcome is, objectively speaking, good news,” says Plaks. He points out that the notion that people often sacrifice their success in the name of greater certainty has some intuitive appeal but it has never been put to a rigorous test.

In one representative study, Plaks and Stecher used a questionnaire to classify participants into those who endorsed a fixed view of intelligence and those who endorsed a malleable view. Then participants took three versions of what was purported to be an intelligence test. After the first test, all participants were given a lesson on how to improve their score. After the second test, participants were randomly assigned to be told that their performance had improved, stayed constant, or declined. Among those who believed they had improved, those with the fixed view became more anxious and performed worse on the third test than those with the malleable view. However, among participants who believed that their performance had failed to improve, it was the malleable view participants who grew anxious and underperformed compared to their fixed view counterparts.

Since various studies have shown that people can improve their capabilities, including on IQ tests, I would have expected that, if taught valid ways of improving, most would improve. So I would think that people with a realistic view of themselves would be best off.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Memory Can Be Manipulated By Photos

ScienceDaily (Nov. 21, 2007) — The camera may not lie, but doctored photos do according to new research into digitally altered photos and how they influence our memories and attitudes toward public events.

When presented with digitally altered images depicting the 1989 Tiananmen Square protest in Beijing and a 2003 anti-war protest in Rome, participants in a new study by American and Italian researchers recalled the events as being bigger and more violent than they really were, suggesting that viewing doctored photographs might affect people’s

Internet photo hoaxes are well known, but reputable media outlets such as the LA Times and USA Today recently published digitally altered photos, and subsequently issued retractions and apologies. When media use digitally doctored photographs, they may ultimately change the way we recall history, Loftus said.

“It shows the power of anyone to tamper with people’s recollection, and it gives the media another reason to regulate such doctoring, besides ethical reasons,” Loftus said.

It would be interesting to see if the difference in brain activity found when people "remember" false memories, as compared with real memories, apply here.

Even Very Low Levels Of Lead Cause Brain Damage In Children

ScienceDaily (Nov. 21, 2007) — Even very small amounts of lead in children's blood -- amounts well below the current federal standard -- are associated with reduced IQ scores, finds a new, six-year Cornell study.

The study examined the effect of lead exposure on cognitive function in children whose blood-lead levels (BLLs) were below the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) standard of 10 micrograms per deciliter (mcg/dl) -- about 100 parts per billion. The researchers compared children whose BLLs were between 0 and 5 mcg/dl with children in the 5-10 mcg/dl range.

"Even after taking into consideration family and environmental factors known to affect a child's cognitive performance, blood lead played a significant role in predicting nonverbal IQ scores," said Richard Canfield, a senior researcher in Cornell's Division of Nutritional Sciences and senior author of the study in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives.

"We found that the average IQ scores of children with BLLs of only 5 to 10 mcg/dl were about 5 points lower than the IQ scores of children with BLLs less than 5 mcg/dl. This indicates an adverse effect on children who have a BLL substantially below the CDC standard, suggesting the need for more stringent regulations," he said.

In the United States over the last several months, nearly 50 specific products, including millions of toys for young children, have been recalled due to excessive lead in the paint, plastics and metal. "Our findings emphasize the very real dangers associated with low-level exposures, to which lead in toys can contribute," Canfield said.
"Children living in poverty disproportionately suffer from elevated BLLs," said statistician and co-author Charles Henderson, a Cornell senior researcher in human development. He also noted that "even a small decline in an IQ score is likely to be reflected in aptitude test scores such as the SAT."

Monday, November 19, 2007


By Ken Foskett, Margaret Newkirk, Stacy Shelton
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Published on: 11/18/07

As the historic drought worsens and the tri-state water battle escalates, Georgia policymakers are all but ignoring the region's biggest water guzzler.

Electric utilities are the single largest users of the region's freshwater. A family of four can use three times more water to power their home than they use to drink, bathe and water their lawn.

In Georgia, electric utilities use 68 percent of all surface water, the single largest user in the state, according to 2000 data from the U.S. Geological Survey, the latest year available.

If everybody turned off their computers and cubicle lights when they go home at night, that alone would save a lot.

Out of uniform and on the street

updated 8:37 p.m. ET, Wed., Nov. 7, 2007
WASHINGTON - Veterans make up one in four homeless people in the United States, though they are only 11 percent of the general adult population, according to a report to be released Thursday.

And homelessness is not just a problem among middle-age and elderly veterans. Younger veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan are trickling into shelters and soup kitchens seeking services, treatment or help with finding a job.
One vet's story
After being discharged from the military, Jason Kelley, 23, of Tomahawk, Wis., who served in Iraq with the Wisconsin National Guard, took a bus to Los Angeles looking for better job prospects and a new life.

Kelley said he couldn’t find a job because he didn’t have an apartment, and he couldn’t get an apartment because he didn’t have a job. He stayed in a $300-a-week motel until his money ran out, then moved into a shelter run by the group U.S. VETS in Inglewood, Calif. He’s since been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, he said.

“The only training I have is infantry training, and there’s not really a need for that in the civilian world,” Kelley said in a phone interview. He has enrolled in college and hopes to move out of the shelter soon.

We should treat these people better.

Friday, November 16, 2007

In Children And Adolescents, Low Self-esteem Increases Materialism

ScienceDaily (Nov. 16, 2007) — One of the first studies to focus on materialism among children and its development reveals a strong connection between an increase in materialism during adolescence and a decline in self-esteem.

Indeed, Lan Nguyen Chaplin (University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign) and Deborah Roedder John (University of Minnesota) show that the relationship appears to more than just a correlation, but a causal relationship -- low self esteem causes increased materialism and raising self esteem decreases materialism.

Monday, November 12, 2007

What makes a hero

Yesterday was Veteran's Day.
My grandfather fought in WWI, got gassed, and was given 6 months to live. He died in 1970 at age 70.
My father fought in WWII. My mother was in the WACS in WWII.

updated 2:54 p.m. ET, Mon., Nov. 12, 2007
“We often think of the gung-ho, John Wayne ‘Sands of Iwo Jima’ kind of hero driven to combat,” said researcher Brian Wansink of Cornell University. “But there’s a whole lot of these heroes that are much more along the lines of that Captain Miller character Tom Hanks played in ‘Saving Private Ryan’ — the reluctant high school English teacher.”

Unsurprisingly, veterans who had been awarded medals tended to rate themselves higher for qualities like leadership, adventurousness and adaptability. Results became more intriguing when researchers divided medal earners into two groups: those who enlisted (“eager heroes”) and those who were drafted (“reluctant heroes”). The reluctant heroes scored higher than any other group in selflessness and working well with others.

The study suggests that quiet heroes rely on a deep sense of duty and esprit de corps as opposed to derring-do. That sentiment was echoed by several of the medal-earning veterans interviewed separately for this story.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Weight vs. death

Study examines association between weight amount and cause of death
The association between weight and causes of death can vary considerably, with obesity associated with a significantly increased mortality from cardiovascular disease (CVD), underweight associated with increased mortality from primarily non-cancer, non-CVD causes, and overweight associated with increased mortality from diabetes and kidney disease combined, but with reduced mortality from other non-cancer non-CVD causes of death, according to a study in the November 7 issue of JAMA.
“Some evidence suggests that modestly higher weights may improve survival in a number of circumstances, which may partly explain our findings regarding overweight. Overweight is not strongly associated with increased cancer or CVD risk, but may be associated with improved survival during recovery from adverse conditions, such as infections or medical procedures, and with improved prognosis for some diseases. Such findings may be due to greater nutritional reserves or higher lean body mass associated with overweight,” the authors write.

Extra weight may very well be helpful in some diseases for the stated reasons. But another aspect which has been commented on in previous similar studies, is that an undiagnosed disease, such as cancer, may cause weight loss. So we cannot tell from the statistics how much, if any, protection there may be from extra weight. I guess researchers don't have time to read the results of other studies.

which is higher?
Dolphins save surfer from becoming shark’s bait

By Mike Celizic contributor
updated 9:57 a.m. ET, Thurs., Nov. 8, 2007
Surfer Todd Endris needed a miracle. The shark — a monster great white that came out of nowhere — had hit him three times, peeling the skin off his back and mauling his right leg to the bone.

That’s when a pod of bottlenose dolphins intervened, forming a protective ring around Endris, allowing him to get to shore, where quick first aid provided by a friend saved his life.

“Truly a miracle,” Endris told TODAY’s Natalie Morales on Thursday.
No one knows why dolphins protect humans, but stories of the marine mammals rescuing humans go back to ancient Greece, according to the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society.

A year ago in New Zealand, the group reports, four lifeguards were saved from sharks in the same way Endris was — by dolphins forming a protective ring.

It is hilarious when people claim we're so superior to other animals.

The reference to a "miracle" is interesting. If taken literally, would that mean that dolphins are actually angels?

Governor of parched Georgia to pray for rain

11:44 p.m. ET, Wed., Nov. 7, 2007
ATLANTA - What to do when the rain won’t come? If you’re Georgia Gov. Sonny
Perdue, you pray.

The governor will host a prayer service next week to ask for relief from the drought gripping the Southeast.

“The only solution is rain, and the only place we get that is from a higher power,” Perdue spokesman Bert Brantley said on Wednesday.
Perdue has several times mentioned the need for prayer — along with water conservation — as the state’s drought crisis has worsened. Over the summer, he participated in day of prayer for agriculture at a gathering of the Georgia Farm Bureau in Macon, Ga.

Since it has been known for years that we needed to prepare for drought, and Perdue has been governor for almost 5 years, he should have had time to do something besides pray.

Shrinking ice means Greenland is rising fast

18:06 02 November 2007 news service

Greenland appears to be floating upwards – its landmass is rising up to 4 centimetres each year, scientists reveal.

And the large country's new-found buoyancy is a symptom of Greenland's shrinking ice cap, they add.

Since the melting ice is causing the oceans to rise, it will be interesting to see the overall effect on Greenland.

If Greenland is rising, I wonder if that will mean a larger area, with higher global sea levels?

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Infections, Bacteria 'Critical For Healthy Life

ScienceDaily (Nov. 7, 2007) — Mothers around the world are armed with anti-bacterial gels, sprays and baby blankets, diligently protecting their children from nasty forms of bacteria. But recent research shows that society's anti-bacterial and anti-infection crusade makes children and adults more likely to develop asthma and allergies - and perhaps even mental illnesses.

Dr. Gerald Callahan, who studies bacteria and infectious diseases at Colorado State University, argues that all living things on earth must have infections to thrive, and society's challenge is to sort the good infections from the bad infections. People's love affair with anti-bacterial products is changing - and not necessarily for the better - how immune systems, gastrointestinal systems and even nervous systems develop and function.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

difference between Iraq and Iran

Recently I heard Alan Jackson's beautiful song "Where were you when the world stopped turning (on that September day)?" Last weekend, it went thru my mind several times. Of course the line "I watch CNN, but I don't know if I can tell you the difference 'tween Iraq and Iran" brought to mind the obvious punny definitions. Then I got a brainstorm (maybe I had a transient stroke?).

Iran is what I did when someone threw Iraq at me.
- Patricia shannon

how many souls? - update

BANGALORE, India - Doctors began operating Tuesday on a 2-year-old girl born with four arms and four legs in an extensive surgery that they hope will leave the girl with a normal body, a hospital official said.

The girl named Lakshmi is joined to a “parasitic twin” that stopped developing in the mother’s womb. The surviving fetus absorbed the limbs, kidneys and other body parts of the undeveloped fetus.

If the soul comes into being at the moment of conception, where is the soul of the absorbed twin? Would Christian fundamentalists regard this operation as abortion? If not, why not?

BANGALORE, India, Nov. 13, 2007
(CBS/AP) Nearly a week after surgeons removed the extra limbs from an Indian girl born with four arms and four legs, the bright-eyed 2-year-old made her first public appearance Tuesday after leaving the hospital's intensive care unit.

Swathed in blankets and lying on her father's lap, the girl, named Lakshmi, appeared before reporters without the extra limbs which had led some people in her rural village to revere her as an incarnation of the four-armed goddess she was named after.

Looking healthy and alert, Lakshmi had both of her legs in casts while her arms were free. After sitting for photographs, her parents quickly ushered her off the stage without speaking to reporters.

Lakshmi's doctors were encouraged by her progress and said she was responding well enough to treatment to leave the hospital's intensive care unit.

Everything seems to be working right -- cardiac, the nervous system, respiratory system, and her G.I. system, reports Dave Price of CBS' The Early Show.

"She is coping very well and she is stable," said chief surgeon Dr. Sharan Patil. "Lakshmi is safe at the moment."

Lakshmi had a 25 percent chance of not even surviving the surgery, reports Price.

Friday, November 02, 2007

The economic power -- and pitfalls -- of positive thinking

Public release date: 29-Oct-2007
Contact: Laura Brinn
Duke University

DURHAM, N.C. – People who are optimistic are more likely than others to display prudent financial behaviors, according to new research from Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business.

But too much optimism can be a problem: people who are extremely optimistic tend to have short planning horizons and act in ways that are generally not considered wise.

Optimism indeed relates to a large number of behaviors, they found. In small doses optimism can lead to wise decision making, but extreme optimists “display financial habits and behavior that are generally not considered prudent,” the authors wrote.

Puri and Robinson find that optimists:

Work longer hours;
Invest in individual stocks;
Save more money;
Are more likely to pay their credit card balances on time;
Believe their income will grow over the next five years;
Plan to retire later (or not at all);
Are more likely to remarry (if divorced).

In comparison, extreme optimists:

Work significantly fewer hours;
Hold a higher proportion of individual stocks in their portfolios, and are more likely to be day traders;
Save less money;
Are less likely to pay off their credit card balances on a regular basis;
Are more likely to smoke.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Lead poisons kids at lower levels than standard

Children with blood lead levels lower than the U.S. standard may still suffer lower IQs or other problems, a government advisory panel said Thursday as it urged doctors to be more alert to signs of lead poisoning.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Cause Of Great Dying 250 Million Years Ago

The greatest mass extinction in Earth's history also may have been one of the slowest, according to a study that casts further doubt on the extinction-by-meteor theory.

Creeping environmental stress fueled by volcanic eruptions and global warming was the likely cause of the Great Dying 250 million years ago, said USC doctoral student Catherine Powers.

So what caused the increased volcanic action? They never say. Could it have been triggered by a meteor? They never say one way or the other. Maybe plate tectonics?

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Iron Fertilization Of Oceans

ScienceDaily (Sep. 26, 2007) — Several times over the past century, scientists and environmental engineers have proposed spreading slurries of dissolved iron into the oceans in order to “fertilize” the waters and promote vast blooms of marine plants (phytoplankton). Phytoplankton consume carbon dioxide as they grow, and this growth can be stimulated in certain ocean basins by the addition of iron, a necessary micronutrient.

New 'Dead Zone' Study May Have Far-ranging Effects On Midwest Agriculture

ScienceDaily (Oct. 5, 2006) — A new scientific review of the Gulf of Mexico's "Dead Zone" could have far-ranging implications for farming over millions of acres of the Midwest and for fertilizer sales, according to an article scheduled for the Oct. 2 issue of Chemical & Engineering News, the ACS' weekly newsmagazine.

The Dead Zone is a vast expanse of water off the Gulf's northern shore that becomes depleted in oxygen from spring to early autumn each year.

C&EN senior editor Cheryl Hogue explains that oxygen depletion creates a biological dead zone, where fish and other marine creatures cannot survive. The Dead Zone has been growing in size since the 1980s. In recent years it has involved an area larger than the state of Connecticut.

Excessive amounts of plant nutrients - primarily nitrate fertilizer that runs off agricultural land into the Mississippi River - causes the zone by fostering blooms of phytoplankton that die and decay in a process that removes dissolved oxygen from the Gulf waters.

The first article talks about a conference on the topic of iron fertilization of the ocean, with one of the topis being "Consequence: What will be the intended and unintended impacts?"

Excess Female To Male Births In Canada Linked To Chronic Dioxin Exposure

ScienceDaily (Oct. 23, 2007) — Almost 90 Canadian communities have experienced a shift in the normal 51:49 ratio of male to female births, so that more girls than boys are being born, according to two new studies.

James Argo, who headed the research, attributes this so-called "inverted sex ratio" of the residents in those communities to dioxin air pollutants from oil refineries, paper mills, metal smelters and other sources.

Male Births: Decline In The US And Japan

ScienceDaily (Apr. 10, 2007) — A study published in this week's online edition of Environmental Health Perspectives reports that during the past thirty years, the number of male births has decreased each year in the U.S. and Japan. In a review of all births in both countries, the University of Pittsburgh-led study found significantly fewer boys being born relative to girls in the U.S. and Japan, and that an increasing proportion of fetuses that die are male. They note that the decline in births is equivalent to 135,000 fewer white males in the U.S. and 127,000 fewer males in Japan over the past three decades and suggest that environmental factors are one explanation for these trends.

Take Care of Our Planet
copyright 2001 Patricia M. Shannon

Walking in the early sunlight, with the calling birds,
I see the trees against the newborn sky;
listening to the breeze, I hear God's voice
saying "Take care of this planet, don't make it die!"
We must


take care of our planet,
it's the only home we have;
it will give us what we need,
if we treat it repectfully.

He did not make the earth to be just a toy,
or an enemy with which we are at war;
remember that we were just an afterthought,
stewards and not owners are what we are.

Now some say the end is coming,
so we'll need the earth no more;
who are they to think they're privy to
what he said none of us can know?


He did not mean for us to be parasites,
always taking destruction to new heights,
killing off the species He so carefully planned,
in the interdependent web of life.

He said "Don't depend on some angels,
or a space ship from on high
to save you from your own folly,
if you do, you're sure to die."


Extinctions linked to hotter temperatures;_ylt=AuXIVpx_CowKyAdicYf0bPgPLBIF

Whenever the world's tropical seas warm several degrees, Earth has experienced mass extinctions over millions of years, according to a first-of-its-kind statistical study of fossil records.

And scientists fear it may be about to happen again — but in a matter of several decades, not tens of millions of years.

Four of the five major extinctions over 520 million years of Earth history have been linked to warmer tropical seas, something that indicates a warmer world overall, according to the new study published Wednesday.

"We found that over the fossil record as a whole, the higher the temperatures have been, the higher the extinctions have been," said University of York ecologist Peter Mayhew, the co-author of the peer-reviewed research published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B, a British journal.

Earth is on track to hit that same level of extinction-connected warming in about 100 years, unless greenhouse gas emissions are curbed, according to top scientists.

A second study, to be presented at a scientific convention Sunday, links high carbon dioxide levels, the chief man-made gas responsible for global warming, to past extinctions.;_ylt=Assb4Kg.MTy7yAfuxpdgaosPLBIF

Each of five major eras of declining biodiversity -- including one in which 95 percent of the Earth's species disappeared -- correspond to cycles of severe warming over the 520-million-year period for which there are fossil records.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

White House edits CDC climate testimony;_ylt=A0WTcUxclR5HPH0AJSCs0NUE

The White House severely edited congressional testimony given Tuesday by the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on the impact of climate change on health, removing specific scientific references to potential health risks, according to two sources familiar with the documents.
The deletions directed by the White House included details on how many people might be adversely affected because of increased warming and the scientific basis for some of the CDC's analysis on what kinds of diseases might be spread in a warmer climate and rising sea levels, according to one official who has seen the original version.
Boxer produced a CDC chart listing the broad range of health problems that could emerge from a significant temperature increase and sea level rise

They include fatalities from heat stress and heart failure, increased injuries and deaths from severe weather such as hurricanes; more respiratory problems from drought-driven air pollution; an increase in waterborne diseases including cholera, and increases vector-borne diseases including malaria and hantavirus; and mental health problems such as depression and post-traumatic stress.

"These are the potential things you can expect," replied Gerberding when asked about the items listed. "... In some of these areas its not a question of if, it's a question of who, what, how and when."

Monday, October 22, 2007

Carbon dioxide in atmosphere increasing;_ylt=AvQ_GTonnw2vXiE6aOWJe6kPLBIF

Just days after the Nobel prize was awarded for global warming work, an alarming new study finds that carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is increasing faster than expected.

Carbon dioxide emissions were 35 percent higher in 2006 than in 1990, a much faster growth rate than anticipated, researchers led by Josep G. Canadell, of Australia's Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, report in Tuesday's edition of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Increased industrial use of fossil fuels coupled with a decline in the gas absorbed by the oceans and land were listed as causes of the increase.

"It turns out that global warming critics were right when they said that global climate models did not do a good job at predicting climate change," Robock commented. "But what has been wrong recently is that the climate is changing even faster than the models said. In fact, Arctic sea ice is melting much faster than any models predicted, and sea level is rising much faster than IPCC previously predicted."

Trenberth noted that carbon dioxide is not the whole story — methane emissions have declined, so total greenhouse gases are not increasing as much as carbon dioxide alone. Also, he added, other pollution plays a role by cooling.;

The world's oceans may be losing their ability to soak up extra carbon dioxide (CO2) from the atmosphere, with the risk that this will help stoke global warming, two new studies say.

Absorption of atmospheric CO2 by the North Atlantic plunged by half between the mid-1990s and 2002-5, British researchers say in a paper published in the November issue of the Journal of Geophysical Research.

Ute Schuster, who led the research with Professor Andrew Watson of the University of East Anglia's School of Environmental Sciences, admitted she was astonished by the data.

"Such large changes are a tremendous surprise. We expected that the uptake would change only slowly because of the ocean's great mass," Schuster was quoted by the university in a press release Monday as saying.

Research last year pointed to rising acidification of the oceans as a result of CO2 uptake, highlighting the risk of carbon saturation as well as a looming peril for biodiversity.

NASA Mum, But Airline Mishaps More Common

Anxious to avoid upsetting air travelers, NASA is withholding results from an unprecedented national survey of pilots that found safety problems like near collisions and runway interference occur far more frequently than the government previously recognized.

NASA gathered the information under an $8.5 million safety project, through telephone interviews with roughly 24,000 commercial and general aviation pilots over nearly four years. Since ending the interviews at the beginning of 2005 and shutting down the project completely more than one year ago, the space agency has refused to divulge the results publicly.

Just last week, NASA ordered the contractor that conducted the survey to purge all related data from its computers.

The Associated Press learned about the NASA results from one person familiar with the survey who spoke on condition of anonymity because this person was not authorized to discuss them.

A senior NASA official, associate administrator Thomas S. Luedtke, said revealing the findings could damage the public's confidence in airlines and affect airline profits. Luedtke acknowledged that the survey results "present a comprehensive picture of certain aspects of the U.S. commercial aviation industry."

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Children of War

You can listen to Kemp Jones great song "Children of War" at

He wrote it after seeing a news story that showed a child who said "We children don't need war, we need chocolate".

Monday, October 15, 2007

Allergies Linked To Lower Risk Of Brain Cancer

People with a history of allergies and related diseases have nearly a third lower risk of developing a certain brain cancer than those without the condition.

Atopic diseases, which include asthma, eczema, hay fever, and other allergies, have been linked to a lower risk of glioma, a type of brain cancer that affects glial cells. This association has not been seen with meningioma, a tumor that develops in the membrane that covers the brain.

Air pollution shortening life expectancies

Despite some success with air pollution, current levels — mainly nitrogen oxide, fine particles and ground-level ozone — are estimated to shorten average life expectancy in Western and Central European countries by almost a year and to threaten the healthy development of children.

And they still have a longer life expectancy than the U.S.

Why It Is Impossible For Some To 'Just Say No'

Drug abuse, crime and obesity are but a few of the problems our nation faces, but they all have one thing in common--people’s failure to control their behavior in the face of temptation. While the ability to control and restrain our impulses is one of the defining features of the human animal, its failure is one of the central problems of human society. So, why do we so often lack this crucial ability?

As human beings, we have limited resources to control ourselves, and all acts of control draw from this same source. Therefore, when using this resource in one domain, for example, keeping to a diet, we are more likely to run out of this resource in a different domain, like studying hard. Once these resources are exhausted, our ability to control ourselves is diminished. In this depleted state, the dieter is more likely to eat chocolate, the student to watch TV, and the politician to accept a bribe.

So that is why a person can be so in-ontrol in some areas, and not in others.

Humans Unknowing Midwives For Pregnant Moose
When it's time for moose to give birth in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, they head to where it is safest from predators -- namely closer to people, according to a new study by the Wildlife Conservation Society. Published in the Royal Society's journal Biology Letters, the study says that moose avoid predation of their calves by grizzly bears by moving closer to roads and other infrastructure prior to giving birth.
Berger also cited similar examples where prey species tend to use humans as cover from predation, including vervet monkeys in Kenya and axis deer in Nepal that avoiding big cats by staying close to ranger stations.

"The study's results indicate that moose and other prey species find humans more benign and hence move to humans for safety whereas predators do not because we humans tend to be less kind to predators," Berger added.

Even Occasional Use Of Spray Cleaners May Cause Asthma In Adults

Using household cleaning sprays and air fresheners as little as once a week can raise the risk of developing asthma in adults, say researchers in Europe. Such products have been associated with increased asthma rates in cleaning professionals, but a similar effect in nonprofessional users has never before been shown.

Feminism And Romance

Contrary to popular opinion, feminism and romance are not incompatible and feminism may actually improve the quality of heterosexual relationships, according to Laurie Rudman and Julie Phelan, from Rutgers University in the US. Their study* also shows that unflattering feminist stereotypes, that tend to stigmatize feminists as unattractive and sexually unappealing, are unsupported.

Poor priorities

Turkey is outraged over a resolution passed by the House Foreign Affairs Committee on Wednesday, which declares that the deportation of nearly 2 million Armenians from the Ottoman Empire between 1915 and 1923 -- resulting in the deaths of 1.5 million people -- was "systematic" and "deliberate," amounting to "genocide."

With all the problems in the and other countries, why is the U.S. Congress spending time on something that happened almost 100 years ago?

Friday, October 12, 2007

Compassionate Conservatism at work

Two weeks ago, the Democratic response to President Bush’s weekly radio address was delivered by a 12-year-old, Graeme Frost. Graeme, who along with his sister received severe brain injuries in a 2004 car crash and continues to need physical therapy, is a beneficiary of the State Children’s Health Insurance Program. Mr. Bush has vetoed a bipartisan bill that would have expanded that program to cover millions of children who would otherwise have been uninsured.

The parents have a combined income of about $45,000, and don’t receive health insurance from employers. When they looked into buying insurance on their own before the accident, they found that it would cost $1,200 a month — a prohibitive sum given their income. After the accident, when their children needed expensive care, they couldn’t get insurance at any price.

Fortunately, they received help from Maryland’s S-chip program. The state has relatively restrictive rules for eligibility: children must come from a family with an income under 200 percent of the poverty line. For families with four children that’s $55,220, so the Frosts clearly qualified.

Soon after the radio address, right-wing bloggers began insisting that the Frosts must be affluent because Graeme and his sister attend private schools (they’re on scholarship), because they have a house in a neighborhood where some houses are now expensive (the Frosts bought their house for $55,000 in 1990 when the neighborhood was rundown and considered dangerous) and because Mr. Frost owns a business (it was dissolved in 1999).

The charge was led by Michelle Malkin, who according to Technorati has the most-trafficked right-wing blog on the Internet, and in addition to blogging has a nationally syndicated column, writes for National Review and is a frequent guest on Fox News.

The attack on Graeme’s family was also quickly picked up by Rush Limbaugh, who is so important a player in the right-wing universe that he has had multiple exclusive interviews with Vice President Dick Cheney.

And G.O.P. politicians were eager to join in the smear. The New York Times reported that Republicans in Congress “were gearing up to use Graeme as evidence that Democrats have overexpanded the health program to include families wealthy enough to afford private insurance” but had “backed off” as the case fell apart.

In fact, however, Republicans had already made their first move: an e-mail message from the office of Mitch McConnell, the Senate minority leader, sent to reporters and obtained by the Web site Think Progress, repeated the smears against the Frosts and asked: “Could the Dems really have done that bad of a job vetting this family?”

And the attempt to spin the media worked, to some extent: despite reporting that has thoroughly debunked the smears, a CNN report yesterday suggested that the Democrats had made “a tactical error in holding up Graeme as their poster child,” and closely echoed the language of the e-mail from Mr. McConnell’s office.

All in all, the Graeme Frost case is a perfect illustration of the modern right-wing political machine at work, and in particular its routine reliance on character assassination in place of honest debate.

Monday, October 08, 2007

Children of War

Click on "Living With War Doc"
which goes to the following page :

Near the top of the left column, click on LWW Top 2,180 Songs - Listen Here

Ctrl+f and search for "kemp"
His "Top Ten Stories" is currently numbered 1156
Click on "Top Ten Stories"

This takes you to the MySpace blog of singer/songwriter Kemp Jones :

All of his songs are good. I would say that "Children of War" is great, and deserves to become a classic. Kemp wrote it after seeing a documentary where a child in a war zone said "We children don't need war, we need chocolate".

Friday, October 05, 2007

Job creation picked up in September but not enough to stop the unemployment rate from rising to 4.7 percent, the highest in just over a year.

The bump up in the unemployment rate from 4.6 percent in August came as hundreds of thousands of people streamed back into the labor market.

That illustrates a problem with the official "unemployment rate". Many of these people who "streamed back into the labor market" wanted jobs, but weren't included in the unemployment statistics.

Friday, September 21, 2007

limits of intuition - mosquitos

There are books out lauding intuition. But while intuition is a factor we should be aware of, it can also be misleading.

Eg., I expect that many people's intuition would tell them the same as mine - drought will decrease mosquitos, abundant rain will increase them. But not so.

I live in the Atlanta, Georgia metro area. A few years ago, one month in the spring it rained almost every day. At first I expected that would result in a heavy mosquito population. But the scientists foretold that we would have a lighter than usual mosquito problem, because the heavy rains would wash away the mosquitos, and that's what happened. And not just to mosquitos. I control fleas on my cats with a flea comb. With the combination of heavy rains one month washing away fleas and their eggs, followed by (?four) months of almost no rain, there was a period of more than a year where I did not find a single flea on any of my four cats! Unfortunately, the flea population seems to be back to normal.

Atlanta has been experiencing drought since last year. One would hope that it would have at least a positive side effect of fewer mosquitos. But alas, no.

into next month, public health experts said Tuesday.

Experts said the persistently dry weather, favored by these bugs that breed in stagnant water, may extend an already active peak season of West Nile.

"It may drag on a little bit into the fall, because there have not been significant rains," said Elmer Gray, a University of Georgia Extension Service public health specialist.

Heavy rains, he said, flush out the stagnant water in storm drains, ponds and bird baths.

The peak transmission period typically lasts from mid-August to mid-September, but Gray said he expects the peak to continue until as late as mid-October.

good links

On-going coverage of how the media misreports political news.

Paul Krugman's blog. Krugman is a columnist for the NY Times.

Map of most of the world, showing tropical storm activity, with Dr. Jeff Master's commentary about what to expect next.

On-line book of studies of authoritarian personalities, and how it relates to recent U.S. government doings

great screen savers :

Author of "Nickel and Dimed" and other books and commentary on the reality of life in the U.S. for many people

Monday, September 17, 2007

Cancer kills uninsured

When Fannie Geiger's sore throat wouldn't heal last year, she had a feeling it was a sign of something serious. Fannie says learning the news was hard. She had stage four throat cancer, the most advanced. Even worse, her free county health insurance did not cover treatment. "I've worked all my life and now, when I need help, it didn't seem to be there,” she tells Like Fannie, an estimated 57,000 uninsured Americans are expected to be diagnosed with cancer this year, faced with the prospect that they will not get better because they cannot afford treatment.

By the time an uninsured cancer patient reaches the hospital, it's often by way of an emergency room where they cannot be denied care. As CBS News correspondent Kelly Cobiella reports, many times their cancer is so advanced, the cost of treatment can top $200,000 and the chances of survival are much lower. If Fannie’s cancer had been caught earlier, at stage one instead of stage four, the cost to treat her would have dropped by about $50,000.

Friday, September 07, 2007

Media Double Standard

Every day, the "mainstream" press gives us another long story about what is happening with the big donor to the Democrats who turned out to have been accused of fraud, and reminding us of which Democratic candidates received money form him.

But they ignore the equivalent problems with big donors to the Republicans.
For details. see:

NEW YORK TIMES (8/12/07):
Indicted Fund-Raiser Resigns

AMES, Iowa, Aug. 11—A top fund-raiser for Mitt Romney who was indicted this week in Maryland over a $32 million fraud scheme has resigned from the campaign, a Romney spokesman said Saturday.A federal grand jury in Maryland unsealed a 23-count indictment of the fund-raiser, Alan B. Fabian, 43, on Thursday on charges of money laundering, mail fraud, bankruptcy fraud, perjury and obstruction of justice. Mr. Fabian, who was one of 35 co-chairmen on Mr. Romney's national finance committee, ran up $32 million in fake purchases with his consulting company, Maximus Inc., based in Northern Virginia, and pocketed the money, according to the indictment.

This was the complete report! And where have been followup reports? Not to be seen.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

National Debt
for the first time in U.S. history last Friday, the national debt hit an all-time high of $9 trillion. To be exact, the total liabilities of the U.S. Government hit $9,005,648,561,262.70, according to the Bureau of the Public Debt at the Treasury Department.
Mr. Bush often boasts about his commitment to fiscal restraint, and trumpets his efforts to bring down the annual federal deficit from its all-time high of $413 billion in 2004. The Administration forecasts a deficit this year of $205 billion. The forecast from the Congressional Budget Office is lower still at $158 billion.
But Mr. Bush almost never mentions the national debt. On the day he took office, the debt stood at $5.727 trillion. That means it has increased by 57 percent on his watch. So far.
And it’s not just the size of the debt that’s historic. So too is the amount taxpayers must pay annually in interest payments on $9 trillion in borrowed funds. Last year, the interest on the debt exceeded $405 billion dollars. This year’s interest payments will be even greater.

Since there are about 300,000,000 (300 million) people in the U.S., per person that comes to about
$30,000 for the national debt
$ 683 for the expected deficit
$ 1350 for the interest last year

Friday, August 31, 2007

AMERICA LOSES Two-thirds of its Professional Songwriters

> America has LOST TWO-THIRDS of its PROFESSIONAL SONGWRITERS over the past decade due to illegal downloading, piracy, radio deregulation and corporate mergers.
> Radio Deregulation has resulted in dramatically fewer spots on radio playlists. A few companies program the majority of country music reporting stations.
> Mergers and consolidations have resulted in fewer and fewer staff songwriter positions.

> MORE THAN 1 BILLION files are illegally downloaded EACH MONTH!
> Copyrights are the #1 BALANCE OF TRADE EXPORT item for the United States.
> When someone steals a song on the Internet it is not a victimless crime. Songwriters pay their rent, medical bills and children’s educational expenses with royalty income. That income has been dramatically impacted by illegal downloading, so many have reassessed their careers as songwriters. Songwriters are choosing other professions because they cannot earn a living- in great part due to illegal downloading.

We're not What We Say We Are

Some more on cheap grace:

copyright 1991 Patricia M. Shannon

We say that we're just below angels,
but we sit on our butts all day,
watching the boob tube and killing
our souls a little more each day.

We say we're the peak of creation,
master's of all we survey,
but we're killing our rivers and forests,
and expecting our children to pay.

When will we learn, will we ever learn
to be what we say we are?
Is it too much to expect us to try
to be what we say we are.

We say that we're rational creatures,
not animals, no not we;
but we think that the purpose of college
is to support the football team.

We say we're a Christian nation,
leaders of the free world we are;
but we're spending our money on weapons,
and allowing our children to starve.


Monday, August 27, 2007

why overeating?

Most people are aware that the U.S. has a weight problem. There is much discussion of why, and of course, the obligatory casting of blame on the overweight individuals. True, many people eat too much and exercise too little. Bu why now. Is it really due to some moral decline that we are more overweight than previous generations. I don't think so. And I don't say this out of self-interest, because I have kept my weight down pretty well. I am within the suggested guidelines for my height.
A society-wide change suggests changes in social conditions. have changed. And of course, some are obvious - sedentary jobs, cheap food is fattening, even a possibility that a virus causes some cases of obesity, lack of sufficient food before birth and in the early years causing the body to be more efficient at storing fat.

True, many people eat very large amounts of food. I assume they are eating because they are hungry. But why are they so hungry?

Some possibilities I haven't seen discussed:
I know from personal experience that stress can increase the appetite.
I also know from experience, and studies I have read, that lack of micronutrients (vitamins & minerals) can cause a craving for certain foods. I expect that part of the obesity epidemic is due to a deficiency of micronutrients in our food, causing a craving for enough food to provide the necessary nutrients.

Friday, August 24, 2007

high-tech visas

Business claims they really, really need to import large numbers of high-tech workers.
I can see their point. They're actually having to hire people over 50 as programmer/analysts. The horror of it. The next thing you know, they will be hiring new graduates, if there are any who are still willing to get a degree in IT nowadays. Just think, if they can't import workers from overseas, they might actually be forced to take effective steps to stop our habit of throwing away large numbers of our own people, who happen to have been born in deprived circumstances, but who have the potential to succeed.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Worship of country

Where did the silly idea come from that loving our country means worshipping it, being convinced that it is better in every way than every other country? Then the citizens of all other countries would have to either not love their own county, or would have to believe a lie. But then, maybe we are the ones who are deluded?

Of course, no country can be the best in every thing, any more than any person is the best at everything. Narcissists are not people to be admired. But to believe your country is better than all others in every respect appears to me to be a form of narcissism. If you don't think your loved ones are perfect, does that mean we don't love them. Of course not. If we have to believe someone is perfect in order to love them, that shows that we do not love them.

Where does this idea come from, anyway? It has several roots that I can discern.
One is the apparently genetic tendency to consider one's own group as better than others, and to regard other groups with suspicion and fear.

Another is that the belief that one is a member of a perfect nation boosts one's ego.

Another is that if our country is perfect, we don't have to spend our time and energy improving it, a motivation the opposite of love.

This tendency may be particularly strong in the U.S., which is mostly populated by voluntary immigrants, and their children. Many find life much better here than the place they came from. Also, if their expectations were not fulfilled as they expected, the fact that they sacrificed to come here can cause them to value their new country all the more, because the belief that they had made a great sacrifice for nothing is unbearable. (When groups who believe the world is going to end on a certain day, and it doesn't happen, some of the members of the group will believe in their leader or teachings even more strongly, if they have made large sacrifices because of their beliefs).

And the power elite indoctrinates us with this idea for their own benefit. If the we believe that our country is better than all others, it keeps us from rebelling and changing things.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Religious Doctors No More Likely To Care For Underserved Patients

An example of "Cheap Grace".

Although most religious traditions call on the faithful to serve the poor, a large cross-sectional survey of U.S. physicians found that physicians who are more religious are slightly less likely to practice medicine among the under-served than physicians with no religious affiliation.
I'm posting a comment posted to the following article, since their archived articles don't include comments. This is understandable, because it would greatly increase the amount of storage space they would have to pay for, and many/most of the comments are at best worthless.

I actually have 2 medical insurance plans that I pay premiums for: United Healthcare (which is one of the biggest scams I''ve ever encountered on the planet) and Medicare. So far this year I have had 9 claims submitted to United Healthcare (UHC) for a total of just over $10 thousand. They have processed these claims 17 times so far and still aren''t finished with them. Of this ten thousand bucks, UHC has paid a whopping $267!I have had to call UHC''s customer service line 8 times, file a written appeal with their company and file a complaint with my state Insurance Commissioner over a $352 claim for a March emergency room visit that UHC has repeatedly agreed that they should pay in full but never has.Further, this health insurance company rejected all facility charges associated with my last two hospitalizations. They claim the bills were not submitted in time. I can''t speak for one hospital but I actually visited the the other and watched as they submitted the claim for processing- the second time of three submissions!I''ve had to give up my oxygen equipment because UHC wasn''t paying for it despite the fact I was told they would. Now I struggle day for day and desaturate at night and my body is deteriorating. I need a intrathecal pain pump but I know getting them to pay would be futile.Why is our health care so expensive? Ask united Healthcare. Posted by cbsreader4 at 05:58 PM : Aug 17, 2007

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Cat Disease Linked To Flame Retardants In Furniture And To Pet Food

"Science Daily — A mysterious epidemic of thyroid disease among pet cats in the United States may be linked to exposure to dust shed from flame retardants in household carpeting, furniture, fabrics and pet food, scientists are reporting in a new study. "

"Janice A. Dye, DVM, Ph.D., at the U. S. Environmental Protection Agency in Research Triangle Park, N.C., and colleagues from there as well as Indiana University and the University of Georgia, report evidence linking the disease to exposure to environmental contaminants called polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs), which the researchers found to be elevated in blood samples of hyperthyroid cats. Their findings were based on analysis of blood samples from 23 pet cats, 11 of which had the disease, termed feline hyperthyroidism (FH). PBDE levels in the hyperthyroid cats were three times as high as those in younger, non-hyperthyroid cats."

"The epidemic of hyperthyroidism in cats began almost 30 years ago, at the same time when PBDEs were introduced into household materials as a fire-prevention measure. Although the disease was first discovered in the U.S., it has since been diagnosed in Canada, Australia, Japan and many parts of Europe. Hyperthyroid disorders have also increased in humans--former President George H. W. Bush and First Lady Barbara Bush have the disorder, and even Millie, their Springer Spaniel, had contracted it."

media distortion

Remember to check out and for daily updates on how our well-paid media is destorting the news on behalf of the special interests who fund them.

From yesterday's Daily Howler
"On Sunday, the New York Times wrote a long editorial which told one part of a two-part story (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 8/13/07). U.S. health care isn’t nearly as good as its European counterpart, the editors said. But uh-oh! The editors forgot to tell Part 2 of this story. Omigod! Because of their single-payer systems, European nations are producing superior health outcomes—while spending massively less per-person than we do in the U.S.

They get better results—at half the cost! Somehow, the editors failed to mention that second fact—the fact which makes this story so stunning. And then, the letters came pouring in. And none of the people who wrote to the Times mentioned this striking fact either!"

Monday, August 13, 2007

who will protect us from the protectors?

This year's ugly irony award has got to go to the case of 20-year-old Airman Cassandra M. Hernandez, who now faces court-martial after refusing to testify against three men she accused of raping her. Hernandez told WRAL, a CBS affiliate in North Carolina, that she'd been gang-raped by three fellow airmen after a party on May 16, 2006, but chose not to testify after feeling pressured by the Air Force and meeting with one of the defense attorneys without her victim's advocate. In a letter (quoted by addressed to Texas Gov. Rick Perry, Hernandez explained that "under enormous stress and after consultation with the legal office, I made the decision not to testify ... the pressure of the judicial process was too much for me, and I felt like no one was looking out for my interests."

And what is Hernandez's reward for succumbing to intimidation -- I mean legal advice -- from the other side? The Air Force has charged her with committing "indecent acts" with the three men, as well as underage drinking. (As Feministing notes, the definition of indecent act according to military code seems slippery at best.) But that's not even the weirdest part: The three accused officers have been granted immunity in return for their testimony against her. If Hernandez is telling the truth, she's effectively being prosecuted for her own rape.

U.S. ranks just 42nd in life expectancy

Americans are living longer than ever, but not as long as people in 41 other countries.

For decades, the United States has been slipping in international rankings of life expectancy, as other countries improve health care, nutrition and lifestyles.

Countries that surpass the U.S. include Japan and most of Europe, as well as Jordan, Guam and the Cayman Islands.

A baby born in the United States in 2004 will live an average of 77.9 years. That life expectancy ranks 42nd, down from 11th two decades earlier, according to international numbers provided by the Census Bureau and domestic numbers from the National Center for Health Statistics.

Andorra, a tiny country in the Pyrenees mountains between France and Spain, had the longest life expectancy, at 83.5 years, according to the Census Bureau. It was followed by Japan, Maucau, San Marino and Singapore.

Researchers said several factors have contributed to the United States falling behind other industrialized nations. A major one is that 45 million Americans lack health insurance, while Canada and many European countries have universal health care, they say.

Forty countries, including Cuba, Taiwan and most of Europe had lower infant mortality rates than the U.S. in 2004. The U.S. rate was 6.8 deaths for every 1,000 live births. It was 13.7 for Black Americans, the same as Saudi Arabia.

Another reason for the U.S. drop in the ranking is that the Census Bureau now tracks life expectancy for a lot more countries — 222 in 2004 — than it did in the 1980s. However, that does not explain why so many countries entered the rankings with longer life expectancies than the United States.

Just 4 days ago, I told someone that the U.S. was about 23rd. Now I found out it may have gotten even worse. Because of the increase in the number of countries for which we now track life expectancy. So we might already have been far lower than we thought.

Friday, August 10, 2007

rich get richer, poor get poorer

The rich really are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer, a new University of Michigan study shows.

Over the last 20 years, the net worth of the top two percentile of American families nearly doubled, from $1,071,000 in 1984 to $2,100,500 in 2005. But the poorest quarter of American families lost ground over the same period, with their 2005 net worth below their 1984 net worth, measured in constant 2005 dollars.

The poorest ten percent of families actually had a negative net worth---more liabilities than assets. The poorest 5 percent of American households had a negative net worth of a little more than $1,000 in 1984, compared to nearly $9,000 in 2005.

don't give up

from the on-line book "The Authoritarians"

If the people who are not social dominators and right-wing authoritarians want
to have those same rights in the future, they, you, had better do those same things too, now. You do have the right to remain silent, but you’ll do so at everyone’s peril. You can’t sit these elections out and say “Politics is dirty; I’ll not be part of it,” or
“Nothing can change the way things are done now.”The social dominators want you
to be disgusted with politics, they want you to feel hopeless, they want you out of their way. They want democracy to fail, they want your freedoms stricken, they want equality destroyed as a value, they want to control everything and everybody, they want it all. And they have an army of authoritarian followers marching with the
militancy of “that old-time religion” on a crusade that will make it happen, if you let

no thinking allowed!

Hitler is reported to have said,“What good fortune for those in power
that people do not think.”

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Bob Altemeyer's - The Authoritarians

This is an on-line book about Bob Altemeyer's research on authoritarians. Over the years, I have seen references to this research, and it is exciting to have the book available.
OK, what’s this book about? It’s about what’s happened to the American government lately. It’s about the disastrous decisions that government has made. It’s about the corruption that rotted the Congress. It’s about how traditional conservatism has nearly been destroyed by authoritarianism. It’s about how the “Religious Right” teamed up with amoral authoritarian leaders to push its un-democratic agenda onto the country. It’s about the United States standing at the crossroads as the next federal election approaches.

Monday, August 06, 2007

Norcross Coffeehouse, Thurs. Aug. 9, 2007

Catacombs Coffeehouse is 8pm, the 2nd Thursday of each month at :
Mt. Carmel United Methodist Church,
5100 South Old Peachtree Rd.,
Norcross, GA 30092

The following performers are scheduled :

08/09/07 Ron HippKnown for his rich baritone vocals and beautifully altered guitar tunings.

09/13/07 Bill KahlerWell-known folky rock singer.He even recorded a song for the Waffle House jukebox!

10/11/2007 Harmon Koetz and Harm's Way

Act 1. Buck Buckley BandAmerican roots
Act 2. Octave Atlanta's female acapella group, performing jazz, pop, and rock hits.

12/13/2007 Montana SkiesCreates a unique new sound, from finger-picking to flamenco, with the unusual pairing of cello and guitar.

The Truth About Denial

A conservative think tank long funded by ExxonMobil, she told Boxer, had offered scientists $10,000 to write articles undercutting the new report and the computer-based climate models it is based on.

...In January, nine leading corporations—including Alcoa, Caterpillar, Duke Energy, Du Pont and General Electric—called on Congress to "enact strong national legislation" to reduce greenhouse gases.

...every time the scientific case got stronger, "the American public yawned and bought bigger cars," Rep. Rush Holt, a New Jersey congressman and physicist, recently wrote in the journal Science;

...Groups that opposed greenhouse curbs ramped up. They "settled on the 'science isn't there' argument because they didn't believe they'd be able to convince the public to do nothing if climate change were real," says David Goldston, who served as Republican chief of staff for the House of Representatives science committee until 2006.

...They "settled on the 'science isn't there' argument because they didn't believe they'd be able to convince the public to do nothing if climate change were real," says David Goldston, who served as Republican chief of staff for the House of Representatives science committee until 2006.

...Look for the next round of debate to center on what Americans are willing to pay and do to stave off the worst of global warming. So far the answer seems to be, not much. The NEWSWEEK Poll finds less than half in favor of requiring high-mileage cars or energy-efficient appliances and buildings. No amount of white papers, reports and studies is likely to change that. If anything can, it will be the climate itself. This summer, Texas was hit by exactly the kind of downpours and flooding expected in a greenhouse world, and Las Vegas and other cities broiled in record triple-digit temperatures. Just last week the most accurate study to date concluded that the length of heat waves in Europe has doubled, and their frequency nearly tripled, in the past century. The frequency of Atlantic hurricanes has already doubled in the last century. Snowpack whose water is crucial to both cities and farms is diminishing. It's enough to make you wish that climate change were a hoax, rather than the reality it is.

Good article on the efforts of the oil industry to prevent action to combat global warming. People might call for other people to do something. But I fear that our spoiled citizens won't expend even modest efforts to do their part. People won't even spend a tiny bit of energy and time to turn off their cubicle lights when they go home.

Friday, August 03, 2007

Hostility Puts Men's Hearts at Risk;_ylt=AouLpYBWQZOaHVEvgNKOl8LVJRIF

Ten years of frequent hostility and depression may harm men's immune systems and put them at risk for heart disease, a U.S. study found.

These negative emotional states may also hike men's risks for related disorders such as type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure, according to research in the August issue of Brain, Behavior, and Immunity.

The relationship between the psychological scores and C3 levels remained true even when the researchers looked for the possible effects of other risk factors. Smoking, age, race, alcohol use, body mass index and Agent Orange exposure had no influence on C3 levels.

What about women? Another example of the way studies of "people" often are studies of "men".

Dietary carbs linked to vision loss;_ylt=Ao72zSTIi1f7srZw4Wnu5wPVJRIF
The carbohydrates present in a diet can influence the risk of age-related macular degeneration (AMD), the most common cause of vision loss in older adults, according to a report in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

India's tigers in crisis, less than half estimated;_ylt=Arerw7ps4Zf1as6I3epSFI8PLBIF
India's tigers are facing their severest crisis with only between 1,300 and 1,500 left in the wild, less than half the population of endangered big cats previously estimated, conservationists said on Friday.