Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Health Benefits of Dietary Fiber

Also, you'll never need a laxative!


Public release date: 26-Sep-2008
Contact: Julia Dombrowski
American Dietetic Association
News from the October 2008 Journal of the American Dietetic Association

American Dietetic Association Issues New Position Statement on "Health Implications of Dietary Fiber"

Adequate intakes of dietary fiber help protect against cardiovascular disease, obesity, diabetes and gastrointestinal disorders. Usual intakes of dietary fiber in this country are only half of the recommended levels, so there is a need to promote high-fiber foods such as whole grains, legumes, vegetables and fruits to people of all ages. Not all dietary fibers are equally effective in their physiological effects, so it is best to obtain fiber from a wide range of sources. The American Dietetic Association encourages consumers to consume adequate amounts of fiber, particularly from food sources, according to a new ADA position statement published this month on the health implications of dietary fiber:

It is the position of The American Dietetic Association that the public should consume adequate amounts of dietary fiber from a variety of plant foods.

NASA data show Arctic saw fastest August sea ice retreat on record


Public release date: 26-Sep-2008
Contact: Sarah DeWitt
NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center

Following a record-breaking season of arctic sea ice decline in 2007, NASA scientists have kept a close watch on the 2008 melt season. Although the melt season did not break the record for ice loss, NASA data are showing that for a four-week period in August 2008, sea ice melted faster during that period than ever before.

Each year at the end of summer, sea ice in the Arctic melts to reach its annual minimum. Ice that remains, or "perennial ice," has survived from year to year and contains old, thick ice. The area of arctic sea ice, including perennial and seasonal ice, has taken a hit in past years as melt has accelerated. Researchers believe that if the rate of decline continues, all arctic sea ice could be gone within the century.

device boosts gas mileage by up to 20 percent


Public release date: 29-Sep-2008
Contact: Michael Woods
American Chemical Society
American Chemical Society's Weekly PressPac -- Sept. 24, 2008
A new device could enhance fuel economy by up to 20 percent.

Evidence that inexpensive device boosts fuel economy by up to 20 percent
Energy & Fuels

Amid sticker-shock fuel prices, researchers in Pennsylvania are reporting results of laboratory tests and road tests verifying that a simple, inexpensive device attached to a car engine's fuel injector can boost gas mileage by up to 20 percent. That translates into several more precious miles per gallon, they say. Their study is scheduled for the November 19 issue of ACS' Energy & Fuels, a bi-monthly journal.

In the new study, Rongjia Tao and colleagues describe development and testing of a new fuel economy booster. The small device consists of an electrically charged tube that can be attached to the fuel line of a car's engine near the fuel injector. The device creates an electric field that thins fuel, or reduces its viscosity, so that smaller droplets are injected into the engine. That leads to more efficient and cleaner combustion than a standard fuel injector, the researchers say.

Six months of road testing in a diesel car showed that the device increased highway fuel from 33 miles per gallon (mpg) to 37 mpg. "We expect the device will have wide applications on all types of internal combustion engines, present ones and future ones," the report states, citing engines powered by gasoline, biodiesel, and kerosene. Further improvements in the device could lead to even better mileage, they suggest. — MTS

"Electrorheology Leads to Efficient Combustion"


Rongjia Tao, Ph.D.
Temple University
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19122

second-hand smoke may trigger nicotine dependence symptoms in kids


Public release date: 29-Sep-2008
Contact: Sylvain-Jacques Desjardins
University of Montreal

New study from Canadian researchers published in Addictive Behaviors

This release is available in French.

Montreal, September 29, 2008 – Parents who smoke cigarettes around their kids in cars and homes beware – second-hand smoke may trigger symptoms of nicotine dependence in children. The findings are published in the September edition of the journal Addictive Behaviors in a joint study from nine Canadian institutions.

"Increased exposure to second-hand smoke, both in cars and homes, was associated with an increased likelihood of children reporting nicotine dependence symptoms, even though these children had never smoked," says Dr. Jennifer O'Loughlin, senior author of the study, a professor at the Université de Montréal's Department of Social and Preventive Medicine and a researcher at the Centre Hospitalier de l'Université de Montréal.
Dr. O'Loughlin added that this inter-university investigation builds on previous findings: "Exposure to second-hand smoke among non-smokers may cause symptoms that seem to reflect several nicotine withdrawal symptoms: depressed mood, trouble sleeping, irritability, anxiety, restlessness, trouble concentrating and increased appetite."

Common insecticide can decimate tadpole populations

How interesting. When I first started reading the article, I expected the tadpoles were harmed because of a lack of insects to eat. Shows how little I know about the diet of tadpoles! I was assuming they eat the same things as adult frogs. You know what they say about what happens when we assume things :)


Public release date: 29-Sep-2008
Contact: Morgan Kelly
University of Pittsburgh
Common insecticide can decimate tadpole populations
Insecticide malathion initiates chain reaction that deprives tadpoles of food source, indirectly killing them at doses too small to kill them directly

PITTSBURGH—The latest findings of a University of Pittsburgh-based project to determine the environmental impact of routine pesticide use suggests that malathion—the most popular insecticide in the United States—can decimate tadpole populations by altering their food chain, according to research published in the Oct. 1 edition of Ecological Applications.

Gradual amounts of malathion that were too small to directly kill developing leopard frog tadpoles instead sparked a biological chain of events that deprived them of their primary food source. As a result, nearly half the tadpoles in the experiment did not reach maturity and would have died in nature. The research was funded by a National Science Foundation grant.

The results build on a nine-year effort by study author Rick Relyea, an associate professor of biological sciences in Pitt's School of Arts and Sciences, to investigate whether there is a link between pesticides and the global decline in amphibians, which are considered an environmental indicator species because of their sensitivity to pollutants. Their deaths may foreshadow the poisoning of other, less environmentally sensitive species—including humans. Relyea published papers in 2005 in Ecological Applications suggesting that the popular weed-killer Roundup® is "extremely lethal" to amphibians in concentrations found in the environment.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Solar Collector Could Change Asphalt Roads Into Renewable Energy Source


ScienceDaily (Aug. 14, 2008) — Anyone who has walked barefoot across a parking lot on a hot summer day knows that blacktop is exceptionally good at soaking up the sun’s warmth. Now, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has found a way to use that heat-soaking property for an alternative energy source.

Through asphalt, the researchers are developing a solar collector that could turn roads and parking lots into ubiquitous—and inexpensive–sources of electricity and hot water.

The research project, which was undertaken at the request of Michael Hulen, president of Novotech Inc. in Acton, Mass, which holds a patent on the concept of using the heat absorbed by pavements, is being directed by Rajib Mallick, associate professor of civil and environmental engineering.

Tobacco-movie Industry Ties Traced To Hollywood's Early Years

This shouldn't really be surprising to anybody. Product placement in TV and movies is well-known.


ScienceDaily (Sep. 27, 2008) — Remember the glamour days of smoking when such stars as Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall puffed their way into Hollywood legend? When images of John Wayne and Gary Cooper, cigarette in hand, symbolized virility? And Joan Crawford lighting a cigarette was the epitome of elegance?

Today's movie industry still draws on those images to justify smoking in movies - even as public health experts call for smoking to be eliminated from youth-rated films. Last month the National Cancer Institute concluded that on-screen smoking causes youth to start smoking.

"We're told smoking is part of Hollywood's history and a necessary artistic device," said Stanton Glantz, PhD, professor of medicine at the University of California-San Francisco and an author of a new study that "debunks the myth" that smoking in movies purely reflected American tastes at the time. "Our work further strengthens the case for getting smoking out of youth-rated films by rating new smoking movies 'R.'"

Glantz and Robert Jackler, MD, professor and chair of otolaryngology at the Stanford University School of Medicine, along with other researchers, used once-secret tobacco industry documents to trace Hollywood-tobacco marketing deals to the early days of movie making, including Al Jolson in the silent film era.

"Commercial arrangements between the movie industry and tobacco companies were there from the very beginning," said Glantz, director of UCSF's Center for Tobacco Control Research and Education.

In the school's Legacy Tobacco Documents Library, Kristen Lum a UCSF medical student and lead author of the study, uncovered financial contracts between tobacco companies and Hollywood stars to endorse specific cigarette brands. (Today such deals would be worth millions of dollars.) The resulting cigarette ads feature stars under contract to major film studios, usually plugging their latest films and the studios that released them. Studios controlled their stars' agreements and timed the ads to appear as films opened across the country. Cross-promotion benefited both industries, researchers observed.


But the key to uncovering the commercial link between the movie and tobacco industries was the discovery of the contracts, said Lum. "The contracts were the documents that really drove this research," Lum said. "The actual advertisements were the end product of a very well-thought-out commercial/PR endeavor for the tobacco industry. Joan Crawford, Gary Cooper, Spencer Tracy, all the big names were there."

The study was supported in part by a grant from the National Cancer Institute.

Atmospheric Concentration of CO2


Global Temperature Trends


Goddard Institute for Space Studies
Global Temperature Trends GSFC Earth Sciences Division

GISS Surface Temperature Analysis

Global Temperature Trends: 2007 Summation

The year 2007 tied for second warmest in the period of instrumental data, behind the record warmth of 2005, in the Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS) analysis. 2007 tied 1998, which had leapt a remarkable 0.2°C above the prior record with the help of the "El Niño of the century". The unusual warmth in 2007 is noteworthy because it occurs at a time when solar irradiance is at a minimum and the equatorial Pacific Ocean is in the cool phase of its natural El Niño-La Niña cycle.

Figure 1 shows 2007 temperature anomalies relative to the 1951-1980 base period mean. The global mean temperature anomaly, 0.57°C (about 1°F) warmer than the 1951-1980 mean, continues the strong warming trend of the past thirty years that has been confidently attributed to the effect of increasing human-made greenhouse gases (GHGs) (Hansen et al. 2007). The eight warmest years in the GISS record have all occurred since 1998, and the 14 warmest years in the record have all occurred since 1990.

Figure 1, showing (a) line plot of global temperatue anomaly 1880-2007 and (b) map of 2007 anomaly

Figure 1, above. (a) Annual surface temperature anomaly relative to 1951-1980 mean, based on surface air measurements at meteorological stations and ship and satellite measurements of sea surface temperature. (b) Global map of surface temperature anomalies for 2007. (Figure also available as large GIF or PDF.)

[global warming graph]

Ex-Gitmo prosecutor rips military tribunals


Associated Press
updated 8:32 p.m. ET, Fri., Sept. 26, 2008

GUANTANAMO BAY NAVAL BASE, Cuba - A former prosecutor testified Friday that breakdowns in the delivery of evidence to Guantanamo detainees could lead to wrongful convictions, saying his experience changed him from a "true believer" to feeling "truly deceived."

Testifying in the war crimes case he led before quitting this month, Army Lt. Col. Darrel Vandeveld said the government has not provided exculpatory evidence to lawyers for Mohammed Jawad, who is accused in a grenade attack that injured two American soldiers.

He said the embattled military tribunal system may not be capable of delivering justice for Jawad or the victims.

"They are not served by having someone who may be innocent be convicted of the crime," said Vandeveld, who testified by video link from Washington.

Vandeveld, the second former prosecutor to testify on behalf of a detainee this year, said the problem affects cases throughout the Pentagon's system for prosecuting alleged terrorists at this U.S. Navy base.

"This is a system that has existed for six years, and I think it is impossible for anyone in good conscience to stand up and say he or she is provided all the discovery in a case," said Vandeveld, who has blamed bureaucracy as well as ethical lapses.
Vandeveld said he become gradually disillusioned and even developed sympathy for the defendant, who was captured as a teenager and allegedly subjected to beatings and sleep-deprivation.

"My views changed," said the once hard-charging prosecutor. "I am a father, and it's not an exercise in self-pity to ask oneself how you would feel if your own son was treated in this fashion."

Vandeveld is at least the fourth prosecutor to quit in disillusionment with the tribunals. The former chief prosecutor, Air Force Col. Morris Davis, quit in October and later testified about alleged political interference.

Working environment is 1 cause of rheumatoid arthritis


Public release date: 24-Sep-2008
Contact: Sabina Bossi sabina.bossi@ki.se Karolinska Institutet

It has long been known that environmental factors play a part in the development of rheumatoid arthritis; smoking and drinking alcohol, along with heredity, are particularly instrumental in increasing the risk of the disease. Scientists at Karolinska Institutet have now produced results that suggest that working environment factors can also increase the chances of developing rheumatoid arthritis.

This is especially true of psychosocial workload, in particular what is called "low decision latitude", according to the results of a study in progress due to be published in Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics. The project is being led by Professor Lars Alfredsson of the Department of Environmental Medicine and Professor Lars Klareskog of the Department of Medicine.

"We've uncovered clear correlations between the disease and jobs in which one cannot control one's own situation," says Professor Alfredsson.

Reducing Work Commutes Not Easy In Some Cities, Study Suggests

I live in Atlanta, and I have no reason to doubt it's ranking in this study.


COLUMBUS, Ohio – Shorter work commutes are one way to reduce gasoline consumption, but a new study finds that not all cities are equal in how easy it would be to achieve that goal.

Research suggests that Atlanta and Minneapolis may be the U.S. metropolitan areas that would find it most difficult to reduce the miles that workers commute each day.
The best way to reduce commuting miles by 3 percent depended on the circumstances of individual cities, according to O’Kelly. In a few cities, a big gain came from reducing the drives of “extreme commuters” – those who commuted long distances to work, sometimes more than 100 miles.

For example, in Atlanta, 95 percent of commuters have commutes of 30 miles or less. But the remaining 5 percent drive as far as 121 miles to work.

“If you take away the 5 percent of most extreme commuters in a city like Atlanta, you can save quite a bit,” O’Kelly said. Still, in most cities the biggest savings came from making relatively small adjustments in more average commuting lengths.

O’Kelly said the results show that how cities are developed can play a key role in how easy it would be to reduce driving.

“Long average commutes are a byproduct of how our cities are laid out,” he said.

Surprise rise in warming gases worries experts


Associated Press updated 4:46 p.m. ET, Thurs., Sept. 25, 2008

WASHINGTON - Worldwide industrial emissions of carbon dioxide — the main gas tied to manmade global warming — jumped 3 percent last year, international scientists said in a new report Thursday.

That means the world is spewing more carbon dioxide than the worst case scenario forecast by U.N. experts in 2007. Scientists said if the trend does not stop, it puts the world potentially on track for the highest predicted rises in temperature and sea level.

The pollution leader was China, followed by the United States, which past data show is the leader in emissions per capita in carbon dioxide output. And while several developed countries slightly cut their CO2 output in 2007, the United States churned out more, according to the Global Carbon Project, an initiative funded government science programs around the world.
Emissions in the United States rose nearly 2 percent in 2007, after declining the previous year. The U.S. produced 1.75 billion tons of carbon.

Gregg Marland, a senior staff scientist at the U.S. Department of Energy's Oak Ridge National Laboratory, said he was surprised at the results because he thought world emissions would drop due to the economic downturn. That didn't happen.
What is "kind of scary" is that the worldwide emissions growth is beyond the highest growth in fossil fuel predicted just two years ago by the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, said Ben Santer, an atmospheric scientist at the Lawrence Livermore National Lab.

Under the panel's scenario then, temperatures would increase by somewhere between 4 and 11 degrees Fahrenheit by the year 2100.
The emissions, which are based on data from oil giant BP PLC and look at the burning of fossil fuel and production of cement, show that China has become the major driver of world trends. China emitted 2 billion tons of carbon last year, up 7.5 percent from the previous year.

"We're shipping jobs ashore from the U.S., but we're also shipping carbon dioxide emissions with them," Marland said. "China is making fertilizer and cement and steel and all of those are heavy energy-intensive industries."
Denmark's emissions dropped 8 percent. The United Kingdom and Germany reduced carbon dioxide pollution by 3 percent, while France and Australia cut it by 2 percent.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Economists opposed to bailout

I pasted the list of signatures into TextPad, with line numbers turned on, and there are currently 192 signatures.


To the Speaker of the House of Representatives and the President pro tempore of the Senate:

As economists, we want to express to Congress our great concern for the plan proposed by Treasury Secretary Paulson to deal with the financial crisis. We are well aware of the difficulty of the current financial situation and we agree with the need for bold action to ensure that the financial system continues to function. We see three fatal pitfalls in the currently proposed plan:

1) Its fairness. The plan is a subsidy to investors at taxpayers’ expense. Investors who took risks to earn profits must also bear the losses. Not every business failure carries systemic risk. The government can ensure a well-functioning financial industry, able to make new loans to creditworthy borrowers, without bailing out particular investors and institutions whose choices proved unwise.

2) Its ambiguity. Neither the mission of the new agency nor its oversight are clear. If taxpayers are to buy illiquid and opaque assets from troubled sellers, the terms, occasions, and methods of such purchases must be crystal clear ahead of time and carefully monitored afterwards.

3) Its long-term effects. If the plan is enacted, its effects will be with us for a generation. For all their recent troubles, America's dynamic and innovative private capital markets have brought the nation unparalleled prosperity. Fundamentally weakening those markets in order to calm short-run disruptions is desperately short-sighted.

For these reasons we ask Congress not to rush, to hold appropriate hearings, and to carefully consider the right course of action, and to wisely determine the future of the financial industry and the U.S. economy for years to come.

Signed (updated at 9/25/2008 8:30AM CT)

Robbing Peter to pay Paul


Billy Bob says...

Can somebody remind me again why we need to give $700B to the banks so that they can lend it back to us?

Learning From Mistakes Only Works After Age 12, Study Suggests


ScienceDaily (Sep. 25, 2008) — Eight-year-old children have a radically different learning strategy from twelve-year-olds and adults. Eight-year-olds learn primarily from positive feedback ('Well done!'), whereas negative feedback ('Got it wrong this time') scarcely causes any alarm bells to ring. Twelve-year-olds are better able to process negative feedback, and use it to learn from their mistakes. Adults do the same, but more efficiently.

Political Conservatives Fear Chaos; Liberals Fear Emptiness


ScienceDaily (Sep. 25, 2008) — Political conservatives operate out of a fear of chaos and absence of order while political liberals operate out of a fear of emptiness, a new Northwestern University study finds.

“Social scientists long have assumed that liberals are more rational and less fearful than conservatives, but we find that both groups view the world as a dangerous place,” says Dan McAdams, study co-author and professor of human development and psychology at Northwestern University. “It’s just that their fears emerge differently.”

To better understand the differences between politically conservative Christian Americans and their liberal counterparts, McAdams and Northwestern University co-author Michelle Albaugh asked 128 socially active churchgoers this question: What if there were no God?

“Social scientists -- who are generally liberals -- have for decades done research to figure out what makes conservatives tick,” says McAdams.

Like the Northwestern study, the preponderance of research finds that conservatives fear unchecked human impulses that challenge the status quo. What McAdams and Northwestern researcher Albaugh also find is an underlying, but different, fear that drives liberals as well.

“Political conservatives envision a world without God in which baser human impulses go unchecked, social institutions (marriage, government, family) fall apart and chaos ensues,” says McAdams. Liberals, on the other hand, envision a world without God as barren, lifeless, devoid of color and reasons to live.

“Liberals see their faith as something that fills them up and, without it, they conjure up metaphors of emptiness, depletion and scarcity,” McAdams said. “While conservatives worry about societal collapse, liberals worry about a world without deep feelings and intense experiences.”

The study findings may shed light on why conservatives prefer more authoritarian leaders while liberals do not, he adds.

Calorie Restriction and Longevity


ScienceDaily (Sep. 26, 2008) — Calorie restriction, a diet that is low in calories and high in nutrition, may not be as effective at extending life in people as it is in rodents, according to scientists at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis.

Previous research had shown that laboratory animals given 30 percent to 50 percent less food can live up to 50 percent longer. Because of those findings, some people have adopted calorie restriction in the hope that they can lengthen their lives. But the new research suggests the diet may not have the desired effect unless people on calorie restriction also pay attention to their protein intake.
Previous research from Fontana's group had found that a diet lower in protein might protect against some cancers. These more recent findings suggest lowering protein also might be important to longevity. Fontana admits his evidence is preliminary, but the findings suggest that when people adjust their diets to improve health and lengthen life, they should control not only calories and fat but also keep an eye on protein.

Fontana isn't proposing radical low-protein diets. Instead, he is suggesting the current recommended daily allowance (RDA) for protein, which is 0.82 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight, or about 56 grams of protein for an average, adult man and 46 grams for an average, adult woman. Most people, including CRONies, consume much more protein than the RDA recommendation.

"It's much easier to restrict protein than to restrict calories," he says. "If our research is on the right track, maybe humans don't need to be so calorie restricted. Limiting protein intake to .7 or .8 grams per kilogram per day might be more effective. That's just a hypothesis. We have to confirm it in future studies."

Until then, Fontana suggests people might want to look at protein consumption and tailor it to RDA recommendations. Traditionally, he says, nutritionists have not worried about people eating too much protein, but these findings suggest perhaps they should.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Bush's WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Environmental Protection Agency has decided there's no need to rid dEPA against limiting rocket fuel ingredient in water


WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Environmental Protection Agency has decided there's no need to rid drinking water of a toxic rocket fuel ingredient that has fouled public water supplies around the country.

EPA reached the conclusion in a draft regulatory document not yet made public but reviewed Monday by The Associated Press.

The ingredient, perchlorate, has been found in at least 395 sites in 35 states at levels high enough to interfere with thyroid function and pose developmental health risks, particularly for babies and fetuses, according to some scientists.

The Snake


The Snake
by Al Wilson

On her way to work one morning
Down the path along side the lake
A tender hearted woman saw a poor half frozen snake
His pretty colored skin had been all frosted with the dew
"Oh well," she cried, "I'll take you in and I'll take care of you"
"Take me in oh tender woman
Take me in, for heaven's sake
Take me in oh tender woman," sighed the snake

She wrapped him up all cozy in a curvature of silk
And then laid him by the fireside with some honey and some milk
Now she hurried home from work that night as soon as she arrived
She found that pretty snake she'd taking in had been revived
"Take me in, oh tender woman
Take me in, for heaven's sake
Take me in oh tender woman," sighed the snake

Now she clutched him to her bosom, "You're so beautiful," she cried
"But if I hadn't brought you in by now you might have died"
Now she stroked his pretty skin and then she kissed and held him tight
But instead of saying thanks, that snake gave her a vicious bite
"Take me in, oh tender woman
Take me in, for heaven's sake
Take me in oh tender woman," sighed the snake

"I saved you," cried that woman
"And you've bit me even, why?
You know your bite is poisonous and now I'm going to die"
"Oh shut up, silly woman," said the reptile with a grin
"You knew damn well I was a snake before you took me in
"Take me in, oh tender woman
Take me in, for heaven's sake
Take me in oh tender woman," sighed the snake

Conflict of Interest?


In making his push to administer the largest federal bailout of Wall Street in history, Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson is seeking unfettered authority. McClatchy poses the question today, “can you trust a Wall Street veteran with a Wall Street bailout?,” referring to Paulson, the former CEO of Goldman Sachs:

But the conflicts are also visible. Paulson has surrounded himself with former Goldman executives as he tries to navigate the domino-like collapse of several parts of the global financial market. And others have gone off to lead companies that could be among those that receive a bailout.

In late July, Paulson tapped Ken Wilson, one of Goldman’s most senior executives, to join him as an adviser on what to about problems in the U.S. and global banking sector. Paulson’s former assistant secretary, Robert Steel, left in July to become head of Wachovia, the Charlotte-based bank that has hundreds of millions of troubled mortgage loans on its books.

Goldman Sachs cashed in under Paulson, with earnings in 2005 of $5.6 billion; Paulson made more than $38 million that year. A 2005 annual report shows that “Goldman was still a significant player” in issuing mortgage bonds. The conflict of interest is increasingly clear today, as Bloomberg reports that “Goldman Sachs Group Inc. and Morgan Stanley may be among the biggest beneficiaries” of Paulson’s bailout plan:

Goldman Sachs Group Inc. and Morgan Stanley may be among the biggest beneficiaries of the $700 billion U.S. plan to buy assets from financial companies while many banks see limited aid, according to Bank of America Corp.

“Its benefits, in its current form, will be largely limited to investment banks and other banks that have aggressively written down the value of their holdings and have already recognized the attendant capital impairment,” Jeffrey Rosenberg, Bank of America’s head of credit strategy research, wrote in a report today, without identifying particular investment banks.”

McClatchy adds that the administration’s draft law “also would preclude court review of steps Paulson might take.” Joshua Rosner of Graham Fisher & Co. remarked that Treasury’s ability to “without oversight, determine [that] a financial institution [is] an agent of the government” could be used to mask previous illegal activities at Goldman. The Wonk Room notes six months ago, Paulson claimed, “our banks and investment banks, are strong.”

The conflict of interest provides all the more reason for the bailout legislation in Congress to have more stringent oversight that the administration opposes.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

DNA test clears Dallas man jailed for 25 years


updated 7:25 p.m. ET, Fri., Sept. 19, 2008

DALLAS - A 56-year-old man who spent 25 years behind bars for a rape he says he didn't commit walked out of court a free man Friday after a judge recommended his aggravated rape conviction be overturned.

Johnnie Earl Lindsey said he wrote six letters to a Dallas County court seeking post-conviction DNA testing that could prove his innocence. All six were ignored, he said.

"I couldn't get nobody to hear my case," said Lindsey. "Once I could get someone to pay attention to what's going on, there was no doubt in my mind I would be exonerated."

That day came Friday, about a week after testing on DNA evidence from a rape kit taken after a 1981 sexual assault of a Dallas woman excluded Lindsey as the source.

He becomes the 20th man in Dallas County proven innocent by DNA testing since 2001, although one of those men will be retried by prosecutors. Those 20 cases are a national high for one county, according to the Innocence Project, a New York-based legal center specializing in wrongful conviction cases.

State District Judge Larry Mitchell released Lindsey on a personal recognizance bond and recommended the state Court of Criminal Appeals overturn the rape conviction. Lindsey will be considered officially exonerated once the higher court accepts the recommendation or if Gov. Rick Perry grants a pardon.

Mitchell, who was credited by Lindsey for being the first court official to take an interest in his case, delivered an impassioned apology from the bench.

"I can't tell you how sorry I am this happened to you. Your freedom was taken away from you for all these years," Mitchell said. "There's a saying that justice delayed is justice denied. Justice was delayed for too long in your case."

Friday, September 19, 2008

We are facing a global pandemic of antibiotic resistance


We are facing a global pandemic of antibiotic resistance, warn experts
Analysis: Antibiotic resistance BMJ Online First

Vital components of modern medicine such as major surgery, organ transplantation, and cancer chemotherapy will be threatened if antibiotic resistance is not tackled urgently, warn experts on bmj.com today.

A concerted global response is needed to address rising rates of bacterial resistance caused by the use and abuse of antibiotics or "we will return to the pre-antibiotic era", write Professor Otto Cars and colleagues in an editorial.

All antibiotic use "uses up" some of the effectiveness of that antibiotic, diminishing the ability to use it in the future, write the authors, and antibiotics can no longer be considered as a renewable source.

They point out that existing antibiotics are losing their effect at an alarming pace, while the development of new antibiotics is declining. More than a dozen new classes of antibiotics were developed between 1930 and 1970, but only two new classes have been developed since then.

According to the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control, the most important disease threat in Europe is from micro-organisms that have become resistant to antibiotics. As far back as 2000, the World Health Organisation was calling for a massive effort to address the problem of antimicrobial resistance to prevent the "health catastrophe of tomorrow".

A Healthy Lifestyle Halves The Risk Of Premature Death In Women


ScienceDaily (Sep. 19, 2008) — Over half of deaths in women from chronic diseases such as cancer and heart disease could be avoided if they never smoke, keep their weight in check, take exercise and eat a healthy diet low in red meat and trans-fats, according to a study published on the British Medical Journal website.

Early Parenting Plays Key Role In Infants' Physiological Response To Stress


ScienceDaily (Sep. 19, 2008) — In infancy, genes are the key influence on a child's ability to deal with stress. But as early as 6 months of age, parenting plays an important role in changing the impact of genes that may put infants at risk for responding poorly to stress.
Both genes and parenting were found to be important to the infants' development of the way in which the brain helps regulate cardiac responses to stress. At 3 and 6 months old, those infants with the form of the dopamine gene associated with later risky behaviors did not display an effective cardiac response to the stressor (a decrease in vagal tone which takes the brake off the heart so it can respond appropriately), while those infants with the non-risk version of the gene did. At these early ages, the researchers found, it didn't appear to matter whether mothers were sensitive or not.

However, by the time the infants were 12 months old, the pattern changed. Infants with the risk form of the gene who also had mothers who were highly sensitive now showed the expected cardiac response while they were exposed to the stressful situation. Those infants with the risk form of the gene who had insensitive mothers continued to show the ineffective cardiac response to the stressor. These findings suggest that although genes play a role in the development of physiological responses to stress, environmental experience (such as mothers' sensitive care-giving behavior) can have a strong influence, enough to change the effect that genes have on physiology very early in life.

Arctic sea ice bottoms out at second lowest extent on record


The extent of the sea ice in the Arctic has reached its annual minimum, and is now beginning to re-freeze, according to data released by the National Snow and Ice Data Center this week. This year's minimum came on September 12, and came close to, but did not exceed, last year's record minimum set on September 16, 2007. For the second straight year, the fabled Northwest Passage explored by Roald Amundsen in 1905 opened. Explorers have been attempting to sail the Northwest Passage since 1497, and 2007 and 2008 are the only known years the passage has been ice-free. In addition, 2008 saw the simultaneous opening of the Northeast Passage along the coast of Russia. This means that for the first time in recorded history, the Arctic ice cap was an island, and one could completely circumnavigate the Arctic Ocean in ice-free waters.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

How to limit your BPA exposure


Laura Tarantino, head of the FDA’s office of food additive safety. But she acknowledged, “there are a number of things people can do to lower their exposure.”

For example, consumers can avoid plastic containers imprinted with the recycling number ’7,’ as many of those contain BPA. Or, said Tarantino, they can avoid warming food in such containers, as heat helps to release the chemical.

Mother's flu shot protects newborns


Public release date: 17-Sep-2008
Contact: Tim Parsons
Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health

Newborns can be protected from seasonal flu when their mothers are vaccinated during pregnancy, according to a study led by researchers at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. The researchers observed a 63 percent reduction in proven influenza illness among infants born to vaccinated mothers while the number of serious respiratory illnesses to both mothers and infants dropped by 36 percent. The study is the first to demonstrate that the inactivated influenza vaccine provides protection to both mother and newborn. The findings were presented during the National Vaccine Advisory Committee meeting in Washington, D.C. on September 17 and will be published in the October 9 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.

The inactivated influenza vaccine (the flu shot) is not licensed for infants younger than six months. The alternative nasal flu vaccine is not available for children under age 2. The flu shot has been recommended for pregnant women in the U.S. since 1997, although approximately 15 percent of pregnant women are vaccinated each year.

Political Views Affect Firms' Corporate Social Responsibility


Burnaby, British Columbia – September 17, 2008 – A new study in The Financial Review establishes a relationship between political beliefs of corporate stakeholders and the corporate social responsibility (CSR) of their firms. Companies with a high CSR rating tend to be located in Democratic states, while companies with a low CSR rating tend to be located in Republican states.

The self-made myth


Societal support key to much wealth creation, report says
By Thomas Kostigen, CBS.MarketWatch.com
Last update: 8:55 p.m. EDT June 28, 2004
SANTA MONICA, Calif. (CBS.MW) -- Some of the wealthiest entrepreneurs in this country say there is no such thing as the "self-made man."
With more millionaires making rather than inheriting their wealth, there is a false conceit that they haven't received outside support, a new report says.
But society's role in wealth creation is significant, therefore society has an obligation to maintain a level playing field for opportunities to create wealth, contends the report, "I Didn't Do It Alone: Society's Contribution to Individual Wealth and Success."
The idea that if government would get out of the way, then every entrepreneur would automatically succeed is wrong, the report says.
The report is published by Boston-based United for a Fair Economy, a nonprofit group that researches and raises awareness on issues related to wealth and power. It has signed more than 2,200 multimillionaires and billionaires to a petition to reform and keep the inheritance tax; the "I Didn't Do It Alone" report was gleaned from small sample of those petitioners.
"Pro-business economic policies and tax policies are often centered on the myth of the self-made man," the report says. But the myth of "self-made" wealth "is potentially destructive to the very infrastructure that enables wealth creation."
Individuals profiled believe that they prospered in large part thanks to things beyond their individual control, such as social investments in education, research, technology and infrastructure, the report says. Or as Jim Sherblom, former CFO of Genzyme, says, "We are all standing on the shoulders of those who came before us."
He and others profiled believe it's vital to give back to society so that others in the next generation can have the same opportunities they had. This giving goes beyond taxes to charity and mentoring programs.
"This is not so much a call for increased taxes as it is a highlight of society's role and claim upon us as individuals. We each have a responsibility to the common wealth upon which individual wealth is possible," says Chuck Collins, the report's co-author.
In prepared remarks, Collins was more emphatic: "How we think about wealth creation is important since policies such as large tax cuts for the wealthy often draw on the myth of the self-made man... Taxes are portrayed as onerous, unfair redistribution of privately created wealth -- not as reinvestment or giving back to society. Yet, where would many wealthy entrepreneurs be today without taxpayer investment in the Internet, transportation, public education, legal system, the human genome and so on?"
Those Collins profiled in the report say their success is attributable to many factors, among them public schools and colleges, government investment in research and small business assistance, contributions of employees, and strong legal and financial systems.
Warren Buffett, founder of Berkshire Hathaway and the second-richest man in the world, says: "I personally think that society is responsible for a very significant percentage of what I've earned."
And Eric Schmidt, CEO of Google, says, "Lots of people who are smart and work hard and play by the rules don't have a fraction of what I have. I realize I don't have my wealth because I'm so brilliant."
What shines through the report is that those profiled and interviewed have an awareness of what made them successful, and they want to pass that along to future generations in the form of public support.

U.S. National Debt



The Outstanding Public Debt as of 17 Sep 2008 at 10:23:44 PM GMT is:
$ 9,641,606,798,326.94

The estimated population of the United States is 304,746,329
so each citizen's share of this debt is $31,638.14.

The National Debt has continued to increase an average of
$1.79 billion per day since September 28, 2007!

1.79 billion = 1,079,000,000 =
for each person : $3.54/day, $1292.34/year

National Debt -- In the News

4 Feb 08 - Bush Proposes $3.1 Trillion Budget (Los Angeles Times)
4 Feb 08 - Bush Budget Would Bring Record Deficits (Associated Press)
27 Jan 08 - The State of the Union -- and its Debt (TheStreet.com)
13 Mar 07 - Wincing Dems are likely to raise the limit on Debt (The Hill)
16 Mar 06 - Congress sets new Federal Debt Limit: $9 trillion (National Public Radio)
16 Mar 06 - Senate votes Debt Limit hike to $8.965 trillion (Reuters)
16 Mar 06 - US Debt: At least it's not $1 zillion (Reuters)
16 Feb 06 - U.S. moves to miss hitting Debt Ceiling (MarketWatch)
8 Feb 06 - Big Deficit looms behind revival of 30-year bond (Reuters)
7 Feb 06 - Bush's Budget sparks bipartisan protest (CBS News)
30 Jan 06 - Federal borrowing raised to record level (CNN)
10 Jan 06 - Bush seeking to limit spending growth in '07 Budget (Bloomberg)
8 Jan 06 - U.S. hovers close to its Debt Ceiling -- Treasury boss says government business could be affected (San Francisco Chronicle)
27 Nov 05 - Deficit cracking GOP's solidarity -- party-line vote no longer assured (San Francisco Chronicle)
26 Nov 05 - Opinion: Get down to business on U.S. Deficit (The Indianapolis Star)
20 Oct 05 - Budget debate a defining moment for GOP, groups say (CNSNews)
5 Oct 05 - Editorial: Bush mismanagement worsens Deficit (The Capital Times (WI))
17 Sep 05 - Analysis: Katrina's costs will swell National Debt (Associated Press)
7 Sep 05 - Budget Deficit yet another storm victim (Los Angeles Daily News)
10 Apr 05 - Editorial: $7,782,816,546,352 in Debt (CBS News)
7 Apr 05 - Editorial: Bureau of Public Debt: Surrounded by IOUs (Seattle Post-Intelligencer)
4 Apr 05 - Bush's agenda faces opposition from election-wary Republicans (Bloomberg.com)
25 Jan 05 - $1.3 Trillion in Deficits forecast over decade (Los Angeles Times)
21 Jan 05 - Does Social Security really face an $11 trillion Deficit? (FactCheck.org)
13 Jan 05 - Critics call Bush's Deficit efforts feeble (Boston Herald)
10 Jan 05 - Editorial: Deficit deception (St. Petersburg Times)
19 Nov 04 - Bush signs [$800 Billion] Debt-limit hike (CBS News)
18 Nov 04 - Senate votes to let US borrow up to $8.18 trillion (Boston Globe)
4 Nov 04 - Why Democrats should be thankful -- at least they won't have to clean up the Bush fiscal catastrophe (Slate -- MSNBC)
3 Nov 04 - Administration pressures Congress to raise Debt Ceiling (Boston Globe)
23 Oct 04 - Where [Bush and Kerry] stand on taxes and the Budget (Detroit Free Press)
9 Jun 04 - Editorial: Reagan policies gave green light to red ink (Washinton Post)
2 Feb 04 - Bush sends $2.4 trillion budget (including record $521 billion Deficit) to Hill (CBS News)
4 Jan 04 - Bush's budget for 2005 seeks to rein in domestic costs (New York Times)
17 Dec 03 - Bush Deficit plan draws derision (CBS News)
9 Jul 03 - Home is where the National Debt is (The Providence Journal)
28 Jun 03 - Treasury official criticizes Debt ceiling (Washington Post)
19 Jun 03 - Editorial: Delusional on the Deficit, by Sen. Ernest Hollings (Dem-SC) (Washington Post)
15 Jun 03 - Aging population makes this Deficit scarier (USA Today)
10 Jun 03 - Congressional analyst now sees this year's Deficit exceeding $400 billion (San Francisco Chronicle)
31 May 03 - Democrats expect record Debts -- Federal Deficit is forecast to approach $500 billion next year (Washington Post)
20 May 03 - White House urges Senate to raise Debt ceiling soon (Washington Post)
14 Mar 03 - GOP senators oppose size of Bush tax cut (NY Times)
20 Feb 03 - U.S. Government hits national debt ceiling -- Treasury begins taking evasive actions (CNN)
29 Aug 01 - Congressional Budge Office: "Social Security funds needed to balance books" (CNN)
22 Feb 01 - Bush unveils 'fiscally responsible' budget--reduces Deficit, but not Debt (CNN)
27 Sep 00 - President Clinton Announces Another Record Budget Surplus (CNN)
7 Sep 00 - National Debt Clock Stops, Despite Trillions of Dollars of Red Ink (CNN)
26 Jun 00 - Concord Coalition Warns that the new "Surplus" is not new money, it's simply a new projection (Concord Coalition)
1 May 00 - Clinton Announces Record Payment on National Debt (CNN)
4 Aug 99 - US to buy back National Debt, first time in 25 years (BBC)

It's The Wages


As the presidential candidates debate how "fundamentally sound" our economy is, Scott Lilly points to a bigger problem that is getting buried under the mess on Wall Street:

It is clear to any detached observer that the travails on Wall Street are not simply a superficial kink in the circulation of the nation’s money supply. There are deep-seated problems here that will impede growth, and accelerate business failures and job losses if not objectively identified and forcefully addressed. While we have recklessly disregarded the need for prudent supervision of our banking and financial systems, the real problem is even deeper.

For eight years we have papered over the fact that American consumers do not have the purchasing power to sustain economic expansion. As a report I authored a little more than a month ago details, the wage and salary increases that have occurred since 2000 have not been sufficient to even maintain the level of income that most families enjoyed at the beginning of this decade. Employment has not kept pace with population growth. And even though worker productivity has increased by nearly 20 percent over this period, weekly wages are barely higher than they were on the day the current president took office.

Under normal circumstances, we would have seen the effects of slow wage and job growth much sooner in the economic cycle. But the Bush administration and their enablers at the Federal Reserve Board found a way to inoculate the economy temporarily from the fact that the paychecks which Americans were taking home were insufficient to buy the goods and services the economy was capable of producing. The prescription was easy credit—car loans, credit cards, and most importantly, mortgages.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Prenatal stress may form a component of the inherent desire for physical activity.

With all the negative effects on a child from pre-natal stress, maybe this is a good effect.


Public release date: 16-Sep-2008
Contact: Jamie Hanlon
Public Library of Science
Research supports correlation between finger lengths and stress hormones

Edmonton—If you find yourself lacking in motivation to go for a run or hit the gym, you may want to check your fingers. According to a joint University of Alberta/ University of California- Riverside research study to be published by PLoS ONE, the online, open-access journal from the Public Library of Science, there is a direct correlation between digit length and voluntary exercise.

The study also casts some doubt on a previously released study which linked digit length and male aggression.

While both situations were first thought to have been caused by exposure to elevated levels of prenatal testosterone in the womb, research conducted using lab mice yielded no concrete evidence to support that original hypothesis. The new study, conducted using 1,000 white mice, seems to support a stronger connection between digit length, voluntary exercise and high levels of prenatal stress hormones, which was indicated by the difference in activity level between the control mice and the selectively-bred active mice. Given the results, the findings suggest that prenatal stress rather than prenatal testosterone levels in the womb, forms a component of the inherent desire for physical activity.

"The research shows a link, or relationship, between the brain, behaviour and personality traits and the shape of the hand," said Peter Hurd, University of Alberta psychology professor and one of the lead researchers. "It opens the door to the notion that aspects of one's personality, in this case the desire to exercise, are fixed very early in life."


Peter Hurd
University of Alberta

Citation: Yan RHY, Malisch JL, Hannon RM, Hurd PL, Garland T Jr. (2008) Selective Breeding for a Behavioral Trait Changes Digit Ratio. PLoS ONE 3(9): e3216. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0003216

PLEASE ADD THE LINK TO THE PUBLISHED ARTICLE IN ONLINE VERSIONS OF YOUR REPORT (URL live from Sep 17): http://dx.plos.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0003216

Expert urges FDA to take action to reduce BPA exposure


Public release date: 16-Sep-2008
Contact: Kelsey Jackson
University of Missouri-Columbia
Expert urges FDA to take action to reduce BPA exposure
MU studies have shown dangerous health effects with BPA exposure since 1997

COLUMBIA, Mo. – In the current issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), researchers report a significant relationship between urine concentrations of the environmental estrogen bisphenol A (BPA) and cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes and liver-enzyme abnormalities. In an accompanying editorial, Frederick vom Saal, a University of Missouri scientist, urges the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to follow recent action by Canadian regulatory agencies, which have taken significant steps to limit human and environmental exposures to BPA. Since 1997, research from vom Saal and other MU colleagues have shown adverse health effects of BPA at exposure levels below those currently considered safe by the FDA.

"Despite growing research that confirms BPA is dangerous to our health, the FDA and the European Food Safety Authority have chosen to ignore warnings from expert panels and other government agencies and have continued to declare BPA as 'safe,'" wrote vom Saal, who is a Curator's professor of biological sciences in MU's College of Arts and Science. "Further evidence of harm should not be required for regulatory action to begin the process of reducing exposure to BPA."

BPA is a one of the world's highest production-volume chemicals and is used to make hard plastic items such as: drinking glasses, baby bottles, food-storage containers, the lining of food and beverage containers, and dental sealants. Previous studies have shown adverse health effects of BPA on the brain and reproductive system, as well as metabolic diseases in laboratory animals. After a two-year review, the United States National Toxicology Program stated its concern that, at current levels of exposure, BPA posed a risk to human infants. The research published in JAMA is based on data from more than 1,450 Americans examined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey and is the first major study linking BPA to diseases in humans, vom Saal said.

"The good news is that government action to reduce exposures may offer an effective intervention for improving health and reducing the burden of some of the most consequential human health problems," vom Saal said.


Vom Saal's editorial "Bisphenol A and Risk of Metabolic Disorders" is published in the Sept. 17 issue of JAMA and co-authored by John Peterson Myers. Vom Saal is a leading researcher in the effects of BPA exposure. He has written more than 20 articles on BPA.

see also http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2008-09/jaaj-hul091108.php

Arctic sea ice reaches lowest extent in 2008, second lowest ever recorded


Public release date: 16-Sep-2008
Contact: Stephanie Renfrow
University of Colorado at Boulder
Arctic sea ice reaches lowest extent in 2008, second lowest ever recorded

The Arctic sea ice cover appears to have reached its minimum extent for the year, the second-lowest extent recorded since satellite record-keeping began in 1979, according to the University of Colorado at Boulder's National Snow and Ice Data Center, or NSIDC.

While slightly above the record-low minimum set on Sept. 16, 2007, this season further reinforces the strong negative trend in summertime sea ice extent observed over the past 30 years, according to NSIDC researchers.

NSIDC will issue a press release at the beginning of October with full analysis of the possible causes behind this year's low ice conditions, particularly interesting aspects of the melt season, the conditions going into the winter growth season ahead, and graphics comparing this year to the long-term record.


Full text and graphics on this season's sea ice conditions are available at http://nsidc.org/arcticseaicenews/.

NSIDC is part of the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences, a joint center of CU-Boulder and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. NSIDC scientists provide Arctic sea ice news and analysis with partial support from NASA.

Higher or lower than other animals?

I've been a vegetarian since 1978 because of things like this.


Video shows workers abusing pigs

By FREDERIC J. FROMMER, Associated Press Writer 47 minutes ago

WASHINGTON - An undercover video shot at an Iowa pig farm shows workers hitting sows with metal rods, slamming piglets on a concrete floor and bragging about jamming rods up into sows' hindquarters.

No escape from Ike


Cheryl Stanley said she and her husband, Tom, wanted to evacuate their Galveston apartment before the hurricane hit but couldn't. Their son, Casey, has cerebral palsy, and the three live on the third floor. When they tried to leave, the elevators were turned off, and they couldn't carry Casey down the stairs.

"It was horrible," Cheryl said. "The building was shaking all night."

A few hours into the storm, Casey said he didn't feel safe in the bedroom, so they moved him to the living room. About three hours later, the ceiling in his bedroom collapsed.

"Thank God, we got Casey out of there," his mother said.

After the storm passed, paramedics carried Casey downstairs. And neighbors carried the wheelchair.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Robert F. Kennedy challenges Gross Domestic Product

Why we are falling behind when GDP looks good.


Redistribution of wealth upward

Well, don't those financial wizards deserve to be well compensated? (Sarcasm alert.)

In case anybody reading this is not aware, our economy is going downhill fast. Remember what happened the last time we had such a large concentration of income and wealth - the great depression.


The top one percent of households received 21.8 percent of all pre-tax income in 2005, more than double what that figure was in the 1970s. (The top one percent's share of total income bottomed out at 8.9 percent in 1976.) This is the greatest concentration of income since 1928, when 23.9 percent of all income went to the richest one percent. (Piketty and Saez)

The above figures include capital gains, which are strongly affected by the ups and downs of the financial markets. Excluding capital gains, the richest one percent claimed 17.4 percent of all pre-tax income in 2005, more than double what that figure was in the 1970s. (It bottomed out at 7.8 percent in 1973.) This is the greatest concentration of income since 1936, when the richest one percent received 17.6 percent of total income. (Piketty and Saez)

Between 1979 and 2005, the top five percent of American families saw their real incomes increase 81 percent. Over the same period, the lowest-income fifth saw their real incomes decline 1 percent. (Census Bureau)

In 1979, the average income of the top 5 percent of families was 11.4 times as large as the average income of the bottom 20 percent. In 2005, the ratio was 20.9 times. (EPI, State of Working America 2006-07, Figure 1J)

All of the income gains in 2005 went to the top 10 percent of households, while the bottom 90 percent of households saw income declines. (EPI Snapshot, March 28, 2007)

Unprecedented levels of capital income are fueling inequality in the current business cycle. In the third quarter of 2006, the share of corporate income going to capital (profits and interest) hit an all-time high of 23 percent, with the remaining 77 percent going to employee compensation. Since capital income disproportionately goes to the top of the income scale, this shift towards capital income increases the income gap. (EPI Snapshot, Jan. 17, 2007)

Earmarks in the Federal Budget


John McCain's "Big" Economic Plans

Here's John McCain's big plan for the budget: make a whole lot of noise about eliminating of the piece of the budget pie representing earmarks (and remember that most earmarks simply mandate where monies will be spent, they don't create any new spending):

[Note: The OMB estimates earmarks to be 16.9 billion in 2008. Current federal expenditures for 2008 are not yet available, so the chart uses the 2007 value of 2880.5 billion from the BEA (the ratio is approximately one half percent, i.e. 0.59%). Since federal expenditures for 2008 will exceed those of 2007, this means that the area for earmarks shown in the diagram is overestimated, i.e. it is larger than the true value. The NY Times also notes that "earmarks ... make up less than 1% of the federal budget."].

All the recent controversy over McCain lying about Palin's earmark requests, as he did most recently on The View, is noteworthy for what is says about McCain's (lack of) character, but more generally it is misdirecting us from more important issues. Earmarks are only a minor part of the overall budget, and issues such as health care reform are much more important since rising health care costs will absolutely dwarf any savings from earmarks.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Hurricanes deplete Red Cross relief fund


Agency plunges deep in debt as it prepares for latest in string of storms
Associated Press updated 5:46 p.m. ET, Thurs., Sept. 11, 2008

NEW YORK - The wave of storms battering the U.S. has plunged the American Red Cross deep into debt as it rushes to prepare for Hurricane Ike, prompting a searching look at how to stabilize its finances.

Gail McGovern, who became the embattled charity's president in June, said even a request for federal funding is under consideration as the Red Cross seeks to become less dependent on spontaneous donations that arrive only in the wake of huge disasters.

"We are going to explore every avenue we can to ensure we have a healthy Red Cross," McGovern said in an interview Thursday as her organization deployed 1,000 out-of-state volunteers to Texas to await menacing Ike.

As of last week, when Ike was still a distant threat, the Red Cross said it has raised only $5 million to cover costs from Hurricane Gustav that will total at least $40 million, possibly more than $70 million. It has borrowed money to meet those bills, and now is incurring more expenses as it shifts response teams to Texas and readies its shelters.
McGovern said Red Cross officials were calling Gustav a "silent disaster" because it entailed sizable costs for sheltering displaced people, yet did not trigger the flood of donations that often follows more deadly and destructive storms.

Please donate

I think it's better not to specify donations to a specific disaster.
Usually big disasters, like Ike, get more donations than are needed, while less known ones don't get enough.

Red Cross donations can be made at:


By mail:

American Red Cross
PO Box 4002018
Des Moines, IA 50340-2018

When mailing a check, please indicate your designation on the check's memo line.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Calcium during pregnancy reduces harmful blood lead levels


Public release date: 9-Sep-2008
Contact: Laura Bailey
University of Michigan

ANN ARBOR, Mich.---Pregnant women who take high levels of daily calcium supplements show a marked reduction in lead levels in their blood, suggesting calcium could play a critical role in reducing fetal and infant exposure.

A new study at the University of Michigan shows that women who take 1,200 milligrams of calcium daily have up to a 31 percent reduction in lead levels.

Women who used lead-glazed ceramics and those with high bone lead levels showed the largest reductions; the average reduction was about 11 percent, said Howard Hu, chair of the Department of Environmental Health Sciences at the School of Public Health.
"We and others have previously shown that during pregnancy, mothers can transfer lead from their bones to their unborn -- with significant adverse consequences--making maternal bone lead stores a threat even if current environmental lead exposures are low," Hu said. "This study demonstrates that dietary calcium supplementation during pregnancy may constitute a low-cost and low-risk approach for reducing this threat."
Lead exposure during fetal development and infancy can cause low birth weight or slow weight gain after birth, cognitive defects such as lower intelligence scores, lower motor and visual skills, or even miscarriage. Damage from lead exposure and poisoning is usually permanent.
This recent study corresponds with a previous study performed by the same group of investigators showing that 1,200-milligram daily calcium supplementation during lactation reduced maternal blood lead by 15-20 percent, and breast milk lead by 5-10 percent.

A happy ending


One of my favorite local singer/songwriters, Cyndi Craven, has added my favorite song of hers to her and her cat's myspace pages.

Listen to Pippy the Schmoo, and you might want to buy a download!

18,000 deaths blamed on lack of insurance


05/22/2002 - Updated 04:54 AM ET

18,000 deaths blamed on lack of insurance
By Steve Sternberg, USA TODAY

WASHINGTON — More than 18,000 adults in the USA die each year because they are uninsured and can't get proper health care, researchers report in a landmark study released Tuesday.

The 193-page report, "Care Without Coverage: Too Little, Too Late," examines the plight of 30 million — one in seven — working-age Americans whose employers don't provide insurance and who don't qualify for government medical care.

About 10 million children lack insurance; elderly Americans are covered by Medicare.
Overall, the researchers say, 18,314 people die in the USA each year because they lack preventive services, a timely diagnosis or appropriate care.

The estimated death toll includes about 1,400 people with high blood pressure, 400 to 600 with breast cancer and 1,500 diagnosed with HIV.
Among the study's findings is a comparison of the uninsured with the insured:

* Uninsured people with colon or breast cancer face a 50% higher risk of death.
* Uninsured trauma victims are less likely to be admitted to the hospital, receive the full range of needed services, and are 37% more likely to die of their injuries.
* About 25% of adult diabetics without insurance for a year or more went without a checkup for two years. That boosts their risk of death, blindness and amputations resulting from poor circulation.

Being uninsured also magnifies the risk of death and disability for chronically sick and mentally ill patients, poor people and minorities, who disproportionately lack access to medical care, the landmark study states.

Falling wages for most


The Wall Street Journal

September 10, 2008; Page A3

Workers with professional degrees, such as doctors and lawyers, were the only educational group to see their inflation-adjusted earnings increase over the most recent economic expansion, adding to the concern that the economy has benefited higher-earning Americans at the expense of others.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Women In Crowded Homes Are More Likely To Be Depressed Than Men

How amazing. On average, men and women react to the stress of crowded living situations the way men and women react to stress in general. Who would of guessed. ;) (sarcasm alert)

ScienceDaily (Sep. 8, 2008) — Seeking to determine whether gender-specific responses to the stress of crowded living situations exist, sociologist Wendy Regoeczi of Cleveland State University examined data from a survey of Toronto residents and analyzed levels of depression, aggression and withdrawal among men and women.

Regoeczi found that women in crowded homes were more likely to be depressed than men, yet men reported higher levels of withdrawal than women. Some males in the survey responded to high-density living environments with both aggression and withdrawal.

Regoeczi theorizes that women may not be able to withdrawal from crowded living situations due to their relationship obligations and social roles, while men may be at greater liberty to evade others and may be able to do so through their jobs.

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure

This may be at least part of the reason that the U.S. life expectancy is shorter, and per capita medical costs higher, than in countries with universal health care.


Better Care Of Sickest Patients Can Actually Save Hospitals Money, Says Largest Study Of Its Kind

ScienceDaily (Sep. 8, 2008) — A new study finds hospitals can save more than $300 a day taking care of seriously ill patients while giving them even better care.

"Americans are aging with serious, chronic illnesses," said Dr. R. Sean Morrison, director of the National Palliative Care Research Center and the study's lead author. "But despite enormous expenditures, they still get uncoordinated care, extreme burdens on their families and poorly managed pain."

* According to the study of eight very different hospitals:
* Hospitals saved from $279 to $374 per day on patients in palliative care programs.
* Hospitals saved $1700 to $4900 on each admission of a palliative care patient.

Savings included significant reductions in pharmacy, laboratory and intensive care costs. This means savings of more than $1.3 million for a 300-bed community hospital and more than $2.5 million for the average academic medical center.

"The potential to reduce the suffering of millions of Americans is enormous," said Diane Meier, MD, director of the Center to Advance Palliative Care, a national organization based at Mount Sinai School of Medicine. "This study proves that better care can go hand in hand with a better bottom line."

Until a decade ago, palliative care in the U.S. was typically available only to patients living at home and enrolled in a hospice program. By 2006, more than 41% of U.S hospitals reported having a program.

Early Palliative Care Linked To Shorter Stays In Intensive Care
ScienceDaily (June 14, 2007) — Researchers at the University of Rochester Medical Center have found that early palliative care interventions can reduce the length of stay for seriously ill patients in the medical intensive care unit (MICU) by more than seven days without having an impact on mortality rates.
In addition to improving quality of care, proactive palliative care consultation in the MICU has an unintended, yet relevant, benefit of financial savings. Extrapolating from the study's findings, the intervention potentially saved approximately 1,400 MICU patient days at a savings of around $450 per day.

Water Bears survive vacuum of space


ScienceDaily (Sep. 9, 2008) — Of all environments, space must be the most hostile: It is freezing cold, close to absolute zero, there is a vacuum, so no oxygen, and the amount of lethal radiation from stars is very high. This is why humans need to be carefully protected when they enter this environment.

New research by Ingemar Jönsson and colleagues published in the September 9 issue of Current Biology, a Cell Press journal, shows that some animals —the so-called tardigrades or 'water-bears'— are able to do away with space suits and can survive exposure to open-space vacuum, cold and radiation.

The dogs and cats do, let us humans do it


Dogs And Cats Can Live In Perfect Harmony In The Home, If Introduced The Right Way
ScienceDaily (Sep. 9, 2008) — Thinking about adopting a perky little puppy as a friend for your fluffy cat, but worried that they’ll fight -- well, like cats and dogs?

Think again. New research at Tel Aviv University, the first of its kind in the world, has found a new recipe for success. According to the study, if the cat is adopted before the dog and if they are introduced when still young (less than 6 months for kittens, a year for dogs), there is a high probability that your two pets will get along swimmingly.
One reason for the fighting might have been crossed inter-species signals. Cats and dogs may not have been able to read each other’s body cues. For instance, cats tend to lash their tails about when mad, while dogs growl and arch their backs. A cat purrs when happy, while a dog wags its tail. A cat’s averted head signals aggression, while in a dog the same head position signals submission.

In homes where cat/dog détente existed, Prof. Terkel observed a surprising behavior. “We found that cats and dogs are learning how to talk each other’s language. It was a surprise that cats can learn how to talk ‘Dog’ and vice versa.”
Once familiar with each others’ presence and body language, cats and dogs can play together, greet each other nose-to-nose, and enjoy sleeping together on the couch. They can easily share the same water bowl and in some cases groom each other. The far-reaching implications of this Tel Aviv University research on cats and dogs may extend beyond pets -- to people who don’t get along, including neighbours, colleagues at work, and even world superpowers.

“If cats and dogs can learn to get along,” concludes Prof. Terkel, “surely people have a good chance.”

Monday, September 08, 2008

Corporate Whiners


There is an old myth developed by rich people at some point in the distant past that paying taxes on dividends amounts to "double-taxation." The argument is that profits are already taxed at the corporate level, so taxing money when it is paid out as dividends to shareholders is taxing the same profit a second time. Gregory Mankiw, a Harvard University professor and former top economist in the Bush administration, pushes this line in a column in the NYT.

The trick in this argument is that it ignores the enormous benefits that the government is granting by allowing a corporation to exist as a free standing legal entity. The most important of these advantages is limited liability. If a corporation produces dangerous products or emits dangerous substances that result in thousands of deaths, shareholders in the corporation cannot be held personally responsible for the damage. The corporation can go bankrupt, but beyond that point, all the shareholders are off the hook, the victims of the damage are just out of luck.

By granting corporate status, the government has allowed investors to shift risk to society as a whole. In exchange for this and other privileges of corporate status, the corporation must pay income tax on its earnings. We know that investors consider the benefits of corporate status to be worth the price in the form of the corporate income tax, because they voluntarily choose to form corporations. If investors did not consider the benefits of corporate status to outweigh the cost of the income tax, then they are free to form partnerships which are not subject to corporate income tax. In this way, the corporate income tax is a completely voluntary tax. Anyone can avoid the tax by investing in a partnership, or alternatively, any corporation can be restructured as a partnership.

The complaint about double taxation is an effort to get the benefits of corporate status for free. It is understandable that rich people would want to get benefits from the government at no cost, just like most of us would prefer not to pay our mortgage or electric bill. But, there is no reason for government to be handing out something of great value (corporate status) for free. If rich people don't like the corporate income tax, they have a very simple way to avoid it -- don't invest in corporations. The problem is that the rich are just a bunch of whiners.

--Dean Baker

Posted by Dean Baker on September 7, 2008 10:18 AM

Rewarded for failure

"Dan Mudd, the CEO of Fannie Mae, is getting $9.3 million of severance for destroying his company. Richard Syron, the CEO of Freddie Mac, is getting $14.1 million--in part because of a clause he added to his employment contract two months ago, when it was clear the company was headed for disaster."

Saturday, September 06, 2008

The Truth About Crude Oil Production in ANWR


U.S. Congress Joint Economic Committee
June 10, 2008

The recent run-up in the price of crude oil has prompted new calls for the Federal government to increase its petroleum production by allowing exploration and drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) along the northern coast of Alaska. While there is a strong incentive to provide much needed relief to American families who are currently struggling with high gasoline prices, analysis of ANWR’s projected contribution to crude oil markets suggests that relief will be neither substantial nor timely in its effect. Based on Energy Information Administration (EIA) projections of the effect of ANWR on crude oil prices, we estimate that opening up ANWR will reduce gasoline prices by just one cent, starting in 2018.

Friday, September 05, 2008

Who's winning "class warfare"?


In Class Warfare, Guess Which Class Is Winning
Published: November 26, 2006

NOT long ago, I had the pleasure of a lengthy meeting with one of the smartest men on the planet, Warren E. Buffett, the chief executive of Berkshire Hathaway, in his unpretentious offices in Omaha. We talked of many things that, I hope, will inspire me for years to come. But one of the main subjects was taxes. Mr. Buffett, who probably does not feel sick when he sees his MasterCard bill in his mailbox the way I do, is at least as exercised about the tax system as I am.

Put simply, the rich pay a lot of taxes as a total percentage of taxes collected, but they don’t pay a lot of taxes as a percentage of what they can afford to pay, or as a percentage of what the government needs to close the deficit gap.

Mr. Buffett compiled a data sheet of the men and women who work in his office. He had each of them make a fraction; the numerator was how much they paid in federal income tax and in payroll taxes for Social Security and Medicare, and the denominator was their taxable income. The people in his office were mostly secretaries and clerks, though not all.

It turned out that Mr. Buffett, with immense income from dividends and capital gains, paid far, far less as a fraction of his income than the secretaries or the clerks or anyone else in his office. Further, in conversation it came up that Mr. Buffett doesn’t use any tax planning at all. He just pays as the Internal Revenue Code requires. “How can this be fair?” he asked of how little he pays relative to his employees. “How can this be right?”

Even though I agreed with him, I warned that whenever someone tried to raise the issue, he or she was accused of fomenting class warfare.

“There’s class warfare, all right,” Mr. Buffett said, “but it’s my class, the rich class, that’s making war, and we’re winning.”

Jobs Picture

Our high prison incarceration rates also hide some of the unemployment. Also, as the housing market has declined, many contractors from Mexico have returned to their homes.


Economic Policy Institute
Payrolls contract for eighth month in a row

by Jared Bernstein and Heidi Shierholz with research assistance from Tobin Marcus

The unemployment rate jumped to 6.1% last month, the highest jobless rate since September 2003, and payrolls fell by 84,000 jobs, the eighth month in row of consecutive declines, according to today’s report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. In every period since 1948 when payrolls have declined this consistently, the economy has been in an official recession.

Both rising unemployment and declining payrolls show some signs of acceleration. Revisions to June and July subtracted another 58,000 from payrolls, such that over the past three months, the average job loss has been 81,000, compared to 67,000 over the prior three months. Since April, the jobless rate is up by 1.1 percentage points, from 5.0% to 6.1%, the largest four-month jump since 1981. Since unemployment bottomed out in March of last year, over 2 million have joined the jobless rolls.

Since January, payrolls are down by 605,000, and private-sector payrolls are down by 772,000 since November 2007 (their prior peak). Since government employment is less sensitive to the business cycle, often adding jobs while other industries are shedding workers, private-sector losses are more indicative of the extent of weakness in the job market.

Notably, the jump in unemployment occurred exclusively among adults, mostly concentrated among persons 25 years and over (teenage unemployment fell slightly in August). The increases for these adults occurred in every education group. Even college graduates had a more difficult time finding work in August, as their jobless rate rose from 2.4% to 2.7%, the highest college unemployment rate since August 2004. At the other end of the educational spectrum, the jobless rate for adults with less than a high school degree jumped to 9.6%, their highest rate since May 1996.
Other signs of deepening weakness in the job market include the underemployment rate of 10.7% in August and the decline in the employment rate, from 62.4% to 62.1%. Underemployment includes part-timers who would prefer full-time jobs, and while this group did not grow in August, there are 5.7 million workers in this category, a recessionary level. The decline in the employment rate is a clear recessionary signal as well, and was driven last month by large job losses in the household survey. Taken together, these indicators show that employers are responding to weak consumer demand both by cutting workers and cutting hours.
Given the weakness in job creation, large numbers of job seekers are stuck in unemployment. The number of those who have been jobless for more than six months increased by over half a million over the last year, including 160,000 from July to August. In August, almost one in five unemployed workers (19.5%) had been unemployed for more than six months, the highest level in over three years.

Intellectual work induces excessive calorie intake

I can really believe this. I get much hungrier when I'm working at an IT job, even though I'm just sitting down most of the day, than when I'm at home or working at a more physical job. Years ago, I read of a study that said mental work causes a person to require more sleep than physical work. Since a major function of sleep appears to be processing experiences we had while we were awake, this makes sense.

Quebec City, September 4, 2008—A Université Laval research team has demonstrated that intellectual work induces a substantial increase in calorie intake. The details of this discovery, which could go some way to explaining the current obesity epidemic, are published in the most recent issue of Psychosomatic Medicine.

The research team, supervised by Dr. Angelo Tremblay, measured the spontaneous food intake of 14 students after each of three tasks: relaxing in a sitting position, reading and summarizing a text, and completing a series of memory, attention, and vigilance tests on the computer. After 45 minutes at each activity, participants were invited to eat as much as they wanted from a buffet.

The researchers had already shown that each session of intellectual work requires only three calories more than the rest period. However, despite the low energy cost of mental work, the students spontaneously consumed 203 more calories after summarizing a text and 253 more calories after the computer tests. This represents a 23.6% and 29.4 % increase, respectively, compared with the rest period.

Blood samples taken before, during, and after each session revealed that intellectual work causes much bigger fluctuations in glucose and insulin levels than rest periods. "These fluctuations may be caused by the stress of intellectual work, or also reflect a biological adaptation during glucose combustion," hypothesized Jean-Philippe Chaput, the study's main author. The body could be reacting to these fluctuations by spurring food intake in order to restore its glucose balance, the only fuel used by the brain.

"Caloric overcompensation following intellectual work, combined with the fact that we are less physically active when doing intellectual tasks, could contribute to the obesity epidemic currently observed in industrialized countries," said Mr. Chaput. "This is a factor that should not be ignored, considering that more and more people hold jobs of an intellectual nature," the researcher concluded.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

19-square-mile ice sheet breaks loose in Canada


By CHARMAINE NORONHA, Associated Press Writer 1 hour, 21 minutes ago

TORONTO - A chunk of ice shelf nearly the size of Manhattan has broken away from Ellesmere Island in Canada's northern Arctic, another dramatic indication of how warmer temperatures are changing the polar frontier, scientists said Wednesday.

Derek Mueller, an Arctic ice shelf specialist at Trent University in Ontario, told The Associated Press that the 4,500-year-old Markham Ice Shelf separated in early August and the 19-square-mile shelf is now adrift in the Arctic Ocean.

"The Markham Ice Shelf was a big surprise because it suddenly disappeared. We went under cloud for a bit during our research and when the weather cleared up, all of a sudden there was no more ice shelf. It was a shocking event that underscores the rapidity of changes taking place in the Arctic," said Mueller.

Mueller also said that two large sections of ice detached from the Serson Ice Shelf, shrinking that ice feature by 47 square miles — or 60 percent — and that the Ward Hunt Ice Shelf has also continued to break up, losing an additional eight square miles.

Mueller reported last month that seven square miles of the 170-square-mile and 130-feet-thick Ward Hunt shelf had broken off.

This comes on the heels of unusual cracks in a northern Greenland glacier, rapid melting of a southern Greenland glacier, and a near record loss for Arctic sea ice this summer. And earlier this year a 160-square mile chunk of an Antarctic ice shelf disintegrated.
Martin Jeffries of the U.S. National Science Foundation and University of Alaska Fairbanks said in a statement Tuesday that the summer's ice shelf loss is equivalent to over three times the area of Manhattan, totaling 82 square miles — losses that have reduced Arctic Ocean ice cover to its second-biggest retreat since satellite measurements began 30 years ago.

"These changes are irreversible under the present climate and indicate that the environmental conditions that have kept these ice shelves in balance for thousands of years are no longer present," said Mueller.

During the last century, when ice shelves would break off, thick sea ice would eventually reform in their place.

"But today, warmer temperatures and a changing climate means there's no hope for regrowth. A scary scenario," said Mueller.

The loss of these ice shelves means that rare ecosystems that depend on them are on the brink of extinction, said Warwick Vincent, director of Laval University's Centre for Northern Studies and a researcher in the program ArcticNet.

Children Of Older Fathers More Likely To Have Bipolar Disorder

Older paternal, not just older maternal, age is also associated with Down's syndrome in the offspring.
Kind of a Catch-22, that if you are a responsible person who puts off having children until you are more mature, you increase your chances of having a child with severe problems.


ScienceDaily (Sep. 1, 2008) — Older age among fathers may be associated with an increased risk for bipolar disorder in their offspring, according to a new report.

Bipolar disorder is a common, severe mood disorder involving episodes of mania and depression, according to background information in the article. Other than a family history of psychotic disorders, few risk factors for the condition have been identified. Older paternal age has previously been associated with a higher risk of complex neurodevelopmental disorders, including schizophrenia and autism.

Emma M. Frans, M.Med.Sc., of the Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm, Sweden, and colleagues identified 13,428 patients in Swedish registers with a diagnosis of bipolar disorder. For each one, they randomly selected from the registers five controls who were the same sex and born the same year but did not have bipolar disorder.

When comparing the two groups, the older an individual's father, the more likely he or she was to have bipolar disorder. After adjusting for the age of the mother, participants with fathers older than 29 years had an increased risk. "After controlling for parity [number of children], maternal age, socioeconomic status and family history of psychotic disorders, the offspring of men 55 years and older were 1.37 times more likely to be diagnosed as having bipolar disorder than the offspring of men aged 20 to 24 years," the authors write.

The offspring of older mothers also had an increased risk, but it was less pronounced than the paternal effect, the authors note. For early-onset bipolar disorder (diagnosed before age 20), the effect of the father's age was much stronger and there was no association with the mother's age.

"Personality of older fathers has been suggested to explain the association between mental disorders and advancing paternal age," the authors write. "However, the mental disorders associated with increasing paternal age are under considerable genetic influence." Therefore, there may be a genetic link between advancing age of the father and bipolar and other disorders in offspring.

"As men age, successive germ cell replications occur, and de novo [new, not passed from parent to offspring] mutations accumulate monotonously as a result of DNA copy errors," the authors continue. "Women are born with their full supply of eggs that have gone through only 23 replications, a number that does not change as they age. Therefore, DNA copy errors should not increase in number with maternal age. Consistent with this notion, we found smaller effects of increased maternal age on the risk of bipolar disorder in the offspring."