Wednesday, November 26, 2008

turkey abuse;_ylt=Aj4MNEOM1V4RjQo3trST5h54hMgF

Animal rights video shows turkey abuse in W.Va.
Wed Nov 19, 10:00 am ET

LEWISBURG, W.Va. – A video released by an animal rights group on Tuesday claims to show horrific abuse of turkeys at West Virginia farms operated by major global poultry grower Aviagen Inc.

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals said the video, which includes workers stomping on turkeys' heads and twisting their necks to kill them, was shot by an undercover investigator who worked on the companies' farms for more than two months.

The undercover worker, who was not identified, described stifling, dusty barns where the animals were kept and caught video of several workers killing turkeys, slamming them into metal cages and bragging about previous abuse of the animals.

Polar bear puzzler: Why won't they mate?

By Yoko Kubota
updated 9:19 a.m. ET, Wed., Nov. 26, 2008

TOKYO - Handlers of a popular polar bear, brought to mate with a female in a zoo in northern Japan, found their breeding plan was doomed when they noticed that he, in fact, was a she.

Tsuyoshi, a four-year-old, 441 lb cream-colored polar bear, had been living in harmony with a female polar bear since June, the two often playing together, Masako Inoue, a zookeeper at the Kushiro Municipal Zoo, said on Wednesday.

"We thought he was a male, so we never had any doubts as we took care of him," she said.

"But one day we realized that the two bears urinate in the same way, and we thought, is that how males do it? And once we started to look at things that way, we weren't quite so sure."

After two DNA examinations of Tsuyoshi's hair and a manual exam, the Kushiro Municipal Zoo found Tsuyoshi to be a female.

"We do have mixed feelings," said Inoue.

"But because Tsuyoshi was supposed to be a male, she came here, and because she came here, we were able to take care of her since she was very small."

It is not uncommon for the sex of polar bears to be misread, Inoue said, as their long hair makes it difficult to distinguish, especially when the bears are young. Tsuyoshi was pegged as a male three months after birth, Inoue said.

The Kushiro Municipal Zoo will talk with other zoos in the area to see what to do about their breeding plan, she added.

When it's wrong to be right

It is a safe prediction that environmental problems will be more severe 20 years from now. Even if we immediately stopped adding greenhouse gases to our atmosphere, what we have already put there will have effects for a long time.

It is also safe to predict that we will continue to learn of ill effects on our health, and the health of other living beings on earth, from the chemicals we are adding to the environment.

The vision thing
By Chris Giles
Published: November 25 2008 20:24 | Last updated: November 25 2008 20:24

It has been a bad year for economic forecasters. So bad that royalty wants to know what went wrong. “Why did no one see it coming?” Britain’s Queen Elizabeth asked during a visit to the London School of Economics this month.
It is a safe prediction – and the only one I shall make – that the topics that grab our attention 20 years from now will differ from those that consume us today and, if anyone has guessed what they are, it is only by accident. The future is unknowable. As Karl Popper observed, to predict the creation of the wheel is to invent it. To anticipate a new political force or economic theory, or even a new product, is to take the main step in bringing it into being.
Still, you might think there would be large rewards for those who succeed in anticipating these events. You would be wrong. People who worried before 2000 that the “new economy” was a bubble, or warned of the terrorist threat before September 11 2001, or saw that credit expansion was out of control in 2006, were not popular. They were killjoys.

Nor were they popular after these events. If these people had been right, then others had been blind or negligent, and the latter preferred to represent themselves as victims of unforeseeable events. As John Maynard Keynes observed, it is usually better to be conventionally wrong than unconventionally right.

WSJ - Government by Contractor Is a Disgrace

Amazing that the Wall Street Journal would print this, esp. since being taken over by Murdoch.

* NOVEMBER 26, 2008
Many jobs are best left to federal workers.

Back in 1984, the conservative industrialist J. Peter Grace was telling whoever would listen why government was such a wasteful institution.

One reason, which he spelled out in a book chapter on privatization, was that "government-run enterprises lack the driving forces of marketplace competition, which promote tight, efficient operations. This bears repetition," he wrote, "because it is such a profound and important truth."

And repetition is what this truth got. Grace trumpeted it in the recommendations of his famous Grace Commission, set up by President Ronald Reagan to scrutinize government operations looking for ways to save money. It was repeated by leading figures of both political parties, repeated by everyone who understood the godlike omniscience of markets, repeated until its veracity was beyond question. Turn government operations over to the private sector and you get innovation, efficiency, flexibility.

What bears repetition today, however, is the tragic irony of it all. To think that our contractor welfare binge was once rationalized as part of an efficiency crusade. To think that it was supposed to make government smaller.

As the George W. Bush presidency grinds to its close, we can say with some finality that the opposite is closer to the truth. The MBA president came to Washington determined to enshrine the truths of "market-based" government. He gave federal agencies grades that were determined, in part, on how abjectly the outfits abased themselves before the doctrine of "competitive sourcing." And, as the world knows, he puffed federal spending to unprecedented levels without increasing the number of people directly employed by the government.

Instead the expansion went, largely, to private contractors, whose employees by 2005 outnumbered traditional civil servants by four to one, according to estimates by Paul Light of New York University. Consider that in just one category of the federal budget -- spending on intelligence -- apparently 70% now goes to private contractors, according to investigative reporter Tim Shorrock, author of "Spies for Hire: The Secret World of Intelligence Outsourcing."

Today contractors work alongside government employees all across Washington, often for much better pay. There are seminars you can attend where you will learn how to game the contracting system, reduce your competition, and maximize your haul from good ol' open-handed Uncle Sam. ("Why not become an insider and share in this huge pot of gold?" asks an email ad for one that I got yesterday.) There are even, as Danielle Brian of the Project on Government Oversight, a nonpartisan watchdog group in Washington, D.C., told me, "contractor employees -- lots of them -- whose sole responsibility is to dream up things the government needs to buy from them. The pathetic part is that often the government listens -- kind of like a kid watching a cereal commercial."

Some federal contracting, surely, is unobjectionable stuff. But over the past few years it has become almost impossible to open a newspaper and not read of some well-connected and obscenely compensated contractor foisting a colossal botch on the taxpayer. Contractors bungling the occupation of Iraq; contractors spinning the revolving door at the Department of Homeland Security; contractors reveling publicly in their good fortune after Hurricane Katrina.

At its grandest, government by contractor gives us episodes like the Coast Guard's Deepwater program, in which contractors were hired not only to build a new fleet for that service, but also to manage the entire construction process. One of the reasons for this inflated role, according to the New York Times, was the contractors' standing armies of lobbyists, who could persuade Congress to part with more money than the Coast Guard could ever get on its own. Then, with the billions secured, came the inevitable final chapter in 2006, with the contractors delivering radios that were not waterproof and ships that were not seaworthy.

Government by contractor also makes government less accountable to the public. Recall, for example, the insolent response of Erik Prince, CEO of Blackwater, when asked about his company's profits during his celebrated 2007 encounter with the House Oversight Committee: "We're a private company," quoth he, "and there's a key word there -- private."

So you and I don't get to know. We don't get to know about Blackwater's profits, we don't get to know about the effects all this has had on the traditional federal workforce, and we don't really get to know about what goes on elsewhere in the vast private industries to which we have entrusted the people's business.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008


Here in the Atlanta metro region, we are in a severe drought.
So when it drizzled yesterday, I felt thankful.
That reminded me that I'm often thankful for clouds.
In the summer, they keep us cooler.
In the winter, the tend to keep us warmer.
(Not that I would want it to be cloudy all the time.)

Having a Bad Boss Is Bad for the Heart

Study Shows Working for an Incompetent Boss Can Raise Risk of Heart Disease
By Bill Hendrick
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

Nov. 24, 2008 -- People who consider their bosses to be unfair, arbitrary, inconsiderate, and generally deficient in managerial skills are at greater risk for having a heart disease event such as a heart attack, a new Swedish study shows.

And stress that workers think is caused by bad managers adds up, increasing risk of heart problems over time, the researchers report in the Nov. 24 issue of Occupational and Environmental Medicine.

Swedish scientists tracked the heart health of more than 3,000 male workers between 1992 and 1995. Their occupational health records then were matched with national registry data on hospital admissions and death from ischemic heart disease up to 2003.

During the monitoring period of almost a decade, 74 cases of fatal and non-fatal heart disease events such as heart attack, unstable angina, or cardiac arrest occurred. The more competent that workers ranked their managers, the lower their risk of serious heart problems.

The association between perceived leadership of managers and the risk of serious heart problems among workers increased the longer an employee worked for the same company, the study showed, suggesting that stress caused by bad bosses may increase over time.
Participants used a rating system for their senior managers, grading them on such things as how good they were at communicating and offering feedback, their success at managing change, their ability to set goals, and how much they delegated.

Higher leadership scores were found to be associated with lower risk for heart disease, and the association was "robust to adjustments for education, social class, income, supervisory status, perceived physical load at work, smoking, physical exercise, [body mass index], lipids, fibrinogen, and diabetes."

In short, the study shows that bad bosses can be hazardous to the health, and even to long life, of the people who work for them.

In another recent study, the researchers say, employees who were exposed to what they perceive as an adverse psychological work environment were found to be at a 50% excess risk of cardiovascular disease. The results from that study, the researchers write, "have considerable clinical implications, especially since psychosocial stressors at work are relatively common."

The researchers say evidence is mounting that the perceived quality of managerial behavior affects worker health. Workers are concerned about "considerate behavior" of bosses, how well managers are able to stimulate employees intellectually, and their ability to communicate with those who work under their supervision.

Questions used to rate bosses included such statements as "I am criticized by my boss if I have done something that is not good" and others about how well managers communicate their expectations.

What was clear was that workers who felt their bosses had trouble communicating information -- not just negative thoughts -- were at increased risk of developing heart problems. Training of managers about how to do their jobs better might be a good start, the researchers suggest.

Japanese CEO sets a good example

SOURCE:Airline Business
Sink or swim: Haruka Nishimatsu, chief executive Japan Airlines
By Nicholas Ionides

Photography by Kevin Phillips

Haruka Nishimatsu is challenging the corporate culture at Japan Airlines, as he attempts to bring the troubled carrier back from the brink

A recent restructuring document issued by Japan Airlines (JAL) contained the revelation that chief executive Haruka Nishimatsu had taken a 60% pay cut, giving him a base annual salary of just ¥9.6 million (or $80,000).

Sceptics may call it a public relations move, but in a country where sizeable bonuses are not a major part of the culture, it is more than that. JAL's pilots make far more, for example, and for Nishimatsu the pay cut is intended to send a clear message to his staff.

A current video about this is at
November 25th, 2008 by James

CNN reports on JAL CEO Haruka Nishimatsu, who responded to times of trouble by cutting his own salary and benefits:

$672 a month gets little help from food stamps

Amusing headlines
The Tooth Whisperers

When I read this, Jar Jar comes to mind :)
Floppy-footed Gibbons Help Us Understand How Early Humans May Have Walked
What The Social Lives Of Brewer’s Yeast Say About Evolution

Individualists More Likely To Be Problem Drinkers

ScienceDaily (Nov. 21, 2008) — What makes residents of certain states or countries more likely to consume more alcohol? According to a new study in the Journal of Consumer Research, high levels of individualism lead to more problem drinking.

"We looked at the extent to which consumer levels of individualism (vs. collectivism) were related to their beer and problem alcohol consumption," write authors Yinlong Zhang and L.J. Shrum (both University of Texas-San Antonio).

"We found that the higher a region scored on valuing individualism, the greater their beer and alcohol consumption, and this was true even when taking into account the effects of other variables such as income, climate, gender, and religion."

Potassium Loss From Blood Pressure Drugs May Explain Higher Risk Of Adult Diabetes

ScienceDaily (Nov. 24, 2008) — Johns Hopkins researchers have discovered that a drop in blood potassium levels caused by diuretics commonly prescribed for high blood pressure could be the reason why people on those drugs are at risk for developing type 2 diabetes. The drugs helpfully accelerate loss of fluids, but also deplete important chemicals, including potassium, so that those who take them are generally advised to eat bananas and other potassium-rich foods to counteract the effect.

"Previous studies have told us that when patients take diuretic thiazides, potassium levels drop and the risk of diabetes climbs to 50 percent," says lead researcher Tariq Shafi, M.D., M.H.S., of the Department of Nephrology at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. "Now, for the first time, we think we have concrete information connecting the dots."

Thiazides, such as chlorthalidone, are an inexpensive and highly effective way to treat high blood pressure and have been used widely for decades. However, their association with diabetes has forced many hypertension suffers to use other medications that can be several times as expensive, says Shafi.

"This study shows us that as long as physicians monitor and regulate potassium levels, thiazides could be used safely, saving patients thousands of dollars a year," says Shafi. "It could be as simple as increasing the consumption of potassium-rich foods like bananas and oranges and/or reducing salt intake, both of which will keep potassium from dropping."

Two Antidepressants Taken During Pregnancy Linked To Heart Anomalies In Babies

ScienceDaily (Nov. 26, 2008) — Women who took the antidepressant fluoxetine during the first three months of pregnancy gave birth to four times as many babies with heart problems as women who did not and the levels were three times higher in women taking paroxetine.

Although some of the conditions were serious, others were not severe and resolved themselves without the need for medical intervention, according to a three-country study in the November issue of the British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology.

Researchers have advised women taking the drugs to continue unless they are advised to stop by their doctor or consultant. But they are being urged to give up smoking, as the study also found that more than ten cigarettes a day was associated with a five-fold increase in babies with major heart problems.

Overuse Of Narcotics And Barbiturates May Make Migraine Attacks More Frequent

Not that surprising, since we've know for years about rebound headaches caused by over-use of aspirin and related pain relievers.

ScienceDaily (Nov. 25, 2008) — A team of researchers led by investigators at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University has determined that certain commonly-prescribed medications may have the unintended consequence of increasing the frequency of migraine attacks. This important finding could alter the way doctors prescribe migraine medicines.

In a recent article published in the journal Headache, the Einstein-led study of more than 8,000 migraine sufferers nationwide, found that the use of medications containing barbiturates or narcotics — which relieve migraine short-term — may make migraine worse if these medications are overused. Treatment with these classes of medicines was associated with an increased risk of transformed migraine (TM) headaches, a form of migraine characterized by 15 or more days of headache per month.

The finding is significant because 35 million Americans suffer from migraine headaches and an additional 5 million suffer from transformed migraine. Migraine symptoms include throbbing head pain, most commonly on one side. The pain can worsen with physical activity. Attacks most commonly last from 4 to 72 hours, but may persist for longer. More severe attacks are overwhelming and hinder daily activities. In addition to personal suffering, lost labor costs in the U.S. due to migraine are in excess of $13 billion per year according to an earlier study from the Einstein team.

Household Exposure To Toxic Chemicals Lurks Unrecognized, Researchers Find

This is so true. Many people assume that chemicals for sale at the grocery store are safe, that "the government" would keep them off the shelf if they weren't, which is not the case. For one thing, government agencies don't have the funding they need to test all such products. This is partly from design, because the big companies that make and profit from this stuff use some of the profits to make hefty campaign contributions to politicians. Of course, the lack of funding is even worse under the Bush administration, with the addition of censorship of government scientists.

ScienceDaily (Nov. 26, 2008) — Although Americans are becoming increasingly aware of toxic chemical exposure from everyday household products like bisphenol A in some baby bottles and lead in some toys, women do not readily connect typical household products with personal chemical exposure and related adverse health effects, according to research from the December issue of the Journal of Health and Social Behavior. Brown University sociologist Phil Brown is a co-author of the study.

“People more readily equate pollution with large-scale contamination and environmental disasters, yet the products and activities that form the backdrop to our everyday lives — electronics, cleaners, beauty products, food packaging — are a significant source of daily personal chemical exposure that accumulates over time,” said sociologist Rebecca Gasior Altman, lead author of the study, “Pollution Comes Home and Gets Personal: Women’s Experience of Household Chemical Exposure.” Altman received a Ph.D. from Brown in 2008.

Altman and the team examined how women interpreted and reacted to information about chemical contamination in their homes and bodies. After reviewing their personal chemical exposure data, most women were surprised and puzzled at the number of contaminants detected. They initially had difficulty relating the chemical results for their homes, located in rural and suburban communities, with their images of environmental problems, which they associated with toxic contamination originating outside the home from military or industrial activities, accidents or dumping.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Mammals Can Be Stimulated To Regrow Damaged Inner Retina Nerve Cells

God must like fish better than people :)

ScienceDaily (Nov. 24, 2008) — Researchers at the University of Washington (UW) have reported for the first time that mammals can be stimulated to regrow inner nerve cells in their damaged retinas. Located in the back of the eye, the retina's role in vision is to convert light into nerve impulses to the brain.
"This type of cell exists in all the retinas of all vertebrates," Reh said, "so the cellular source for regeneration is present in the human retina." He added that further studies of the potential of these cells to regenerate and of methods to re-generate them may lead to new treatments for vision loss from retina-damaging diseases, like macular degeneration.

The researchers pointed out the remarkable ability of cold-blooded vertebrates like fish to regenerate their retinas after damage. Birds, which are warm-blooded, have some limited ability to regenerate retinal nerve cells after exposure to nerve toxins. Fish can generate all types of retinal nerve cells, the researcher said, but chicks produce only a few types of retinal nerve cell replacements, and few, if any, receptors for detecting light.

Müller glia cells generally stop dividing after a baby's eyes pass a certain developmental stage. In both fish and birds, the researchers explained, damage to retinal cells prompts the specialized Müller glia cells to start dividing again and to increase their options by becoming a more general type of cell called a progenitor cell. These progenitor cells can then turn into any of several types of specialized nerve cells.

Compared to birds, the scientist said, mammals have an even more limited Müller glia cell response to injury. In an injured mouse or rat retina, the cells may react and become larger, but few start dividing again.

Second Warmest October For Global Temperatures, NOAA Says

ScienceDaily (Nov. 24, 2008) — The combined global land and ocean surface average temperature for October 2008 was the second warmest since records began in 1880, according to a preliminary analysis by NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center in Asheville, N.C.

Tiny giant

ScienceDaily (Nov. 21, 2008) — Groove-like tracks on the ocean floor made by giant deep-sea single-celled organisms could lead to new insights into the evolutionary origin of animals, says biologist Mikhail "Misha" Matz from The University of Texas at Austin.

Matz and his colleagues recently discovered the grape-sized protists and their complex tracks on the ocean floor near the Bahamas. This is the first time a single-celled organism has been shown to make such animal-like traces.

Hairspray Is Linked To Common Genital Birth Defect

Good and bad news.

ScienceDaily (Nov. 24, 2008) — Women who are exposed to hairspray in the workplace during pregnancy have more than double the risk of having a son with the genital birth defect hypospadias, according to a new study published November 21 in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives.

The study is the first to show a significant link between hairspray and hypospadias, one of the most common birth defects of the male genitalia, where the urinary opening is displaced to the underside of the penis. The causes of the condition are poorly understood.

Women have a two to three-fold increased risk of having a son with hypospadias if they are exposed to hairspray in the workplace in their first trimester of pregnancy, according to the new study, by researchers from Imperial College London, University College Cork and the Centre for Research in Environmental Epidemiology in Barcelona.

The study suggests that hairspray and hypospadias may be linked because of chemicals in hairspray known as phthalates. Previous studies have proposed that phthalates may disrupt the hormonal systems in the body and affect reproductive development.

It is thought that hypospadias affects around 1 in 250 boys in the UK and in the USA, although estimates about prevalence vary. Usually, hypospadias can be successfully treated with corrective surgery after a boy reaches his first birthday, but more severe cases can lead to problems with urinating, sexual relations and fertility.

The new research also reveals that taking folic acid supplements in the first three months of pregnancy is associated with a 36 percent reduced risk of bearing a child with the condition. The UK Department of Health already recommends that folic acid supplements are taken up until the twelfth week of pregnancy in order to prevent neural tube defects such as spina bifida.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Whose "gold-plated" benefits?

I thought this comment on another blog contains some good points, and some information I hadn't been aware of.
robertdfeinman says...

A concerted effort by the right to finish off what's left of the unions, especially the UAW.

Andrew Sorkin in the NY Times today calls what the GM workers have "gold-plated" benefits. The mindset has so shifted that what was once considered a decent job with a good salary and benefits is now "gold-plated".

There is no mention of the gold-plated bonuses on Wall Street which have averaged over $100K per worker in recent years.

There is no mention of the $150 billion going to keep AIG afloat which has gone through without a peep. Instead the $25 billion for the big three should be withheld so that they can be forced into bankruptcy and punish their workers and investors.

Until last year the auto industry was selling record numbers of vehicles. If they were so terrible and over priced then who was buying them? One can quarrel whether the rise of the SUV was in response to consumer demand or was pushed by the automakers, but however it got started the customers were happy buying them.

The auto makers were delivering what sold and making a big profit from this. What would Wall Street have said if GM had discontinued their biggest sellers and said "eat your spinach" to their customers?

The hypocrisy of the right never ceases to amaze me. When firms respond to the market the are criticized for not being virtuous, and when the preferences shift they are criticized for not having anticipated this and investing in speculative product development.

The heads of Exxon (at least) have been honest. They say they are in the oil business, they are making a lot of money from this, their stockholders are happy and they aren't planning to change anything. They point to the reality that the world will be running on oil for a long time to come. They don't make social policy, they make money.

Yet when it comes to the big three they are supposed to be social innovators. Finally, to cap things off, the critics fail to notice that the other firms are more similar to the big three than they are different. Toyota makes gas guzzlers and the Japanese firms in the US pay salaries and benefits similar to Detroit.

What they don't have (yet) is the legacy costs from having been here long enough to have a large number of retirees. When they start feeling the pinch the anti-worker right will suggest cutting off granny's health care and pension benefits as well.

It is amazing that workers (white collar included) don't see that the last 40 years has been a continual battle against the hard-won gains by labor. As Buffet said, there is class warfare and his class is winning.

The push to kill the UAW is just the latest round in the battle.

Bird and Fortune - Subprime Crisis

Bird and Fortune - Subprime Crisis

Part 1/2 Bird & fortune - Financial crisis - Silly Money, Nov 08

Woman gets first trachea transplant without drugs

When I saw the headline, I momentarily thought they meant she had surgery w/o anesthesia!

By Michael KahnPosted 2008/11/18 at 7:16 pm EST

LONDON, Nov. 18, 2008 (Reuters) — A Colombian woman has received the world's first tailor-made trachea transplant, grown by seeding a donor organ with her own stem cells to prevent her body rejecting it, an international research team reported on Wednesday.

The success of the operation, performed in June using tissue generated from the woman's own bone marrow, raises the prospect that transplanting other organs may be possible without drugs to dampen the immune system, they said.

Doctors work hard to match tissue type when transplanting organs so that the body does not completely reject the new organ, but patients usually have to take immunosuppressants for the rest of their lives.

"The probability this lady will have a rejection is almost zero percent," Dr. Paolo Macchiarini, head of thoracic surgery at the Hospital Clinic, Barcelona who performed the transplant, told a news conference.

"The patient is enjoying a normal life with no signs of rejection after four months."

Children Distressed By Family Fighting Have Higher Stress Hormones

Some people like relationships with a lot of drama, fighting, and making up. They should marry someone like themself, and both have themselves sterilized.

ScienceDaily (Nov. 18, 2008) — Children who become very upset when their parents fight are more likely to develop psychological problems. But little is known about what happens beyond these behavioral reactions in terms of children's biological responses. A new study has found that children who are very distressed when their parents fight also have higher levels of cortisol, a stress hormone.
"Because higher levels of cortisol have been linked to a wide range of mental and physical health difficulties, high levels of cortisol may help explain why children who experience high levels of distress when their parents argue are more likely to experience later health problems."

Scientists Self-censor In Response To Political Controversy

Sometimes, the truth does not make you free.

ScienceDaily (Nov. 18, 2008) — A survey of scientists whose studies became the focus of a public debate about NIH grant funding has found that many of them engaged in self-censorship as a result of the controversy. The study found that following the criticism of their research, scientists removed politically sensitive language from grant applications and stopped studying certain topics.

These self-censorship tactics were employed despite the fact that all of the criticised studies—most of which investigated sexual behaviour, drug-use, and other HIV-related questions—were defended in an NIH internal review and retained their funding.
Almost a quarter of the researchers had either reframed their studies to avoid research on marginalized or stigmatized populations or had chosen to drop studies that were thought to be political sensitive, such as those on sexual orientation, abortion, childhood sexual abuse, and condom use. The survey also found that four of the principal investigators had made career changes and left academia as a result of the controversy.

Joanna Kempner stresses that the controversy also galvanized sections of the research community with 10% of respondents reporting a strengthened commitment to see their research completed, including those who had reported self-censorship practices. She says that the findings are a powerful example of how the political environment can shape what scientists chose not to study.

Experts: Lack of playtime is hurting children

Several years ago, when I was between IT jobs, I worked at a pre-school, teaching two-year olds. I was fired after two weeks because I couldn't keep them on schedule. They were all supposed to color at the same time, on the same subject, play with blocks at the same time, etc.

Associated Press updated 3:13 p.m. ET, Tues., Nov. 18, 2008

Among the speakers at last week’s Wonderplay conference Y was Kathy Hirsh-Pasek, a Temple University psychologist who contends that lack of play in early childhood education “could be the next global warming.”

Without ample opportunity for forms of play that foster innovation and creative thinking, she argues, America’s children will be at a disadvantage in the global economy.

“Play equals learning,” she said. “For too long we have divorced the two.”

Some of the factors behind diminished play time have been evolving for decades, others are more recent. Added together, they have resulted in eight to 12 fewer hours of free play time per week for the average American child since the 1980s, experts say.

Among the key factors, according to Thompson:

* Parents’ reluctance to let their kids play outside on their own, for fear of abduction or injury, and the companion trend of scheduling lessons, supervised sports and other structured activities that consume a large chunk of a child’s non-school hours.
* More hours per week spent by kids watching TV, playing video games, using the Internet, communicating on cell phones.
* Shortening or eliminating recess at many schools — a trend so pronounced that the National PTA has launched a “Rescuing Recess” campaign.
* More emphasis on formal learning in preschool, more homework for elementary school students and more pressure from parents on young children to quickly acquire academic skills.

“Parents are more self-conscious and competitive than in the past,” Thompson said. “They’re pushing their kids to excel. ... Free play loses out.”

The consequences are potentially dire, according to Thompson. He contends that diminished time to play freely with other children is producing a generation of socially inept young people and is a factor behind high rates of youth obesity, anxiety, attention-deficit disorder and depression.

‘It gets them thinking’
Many families turn to organized sports as a principal non-school activity, but Thompson noted that this option doesn’t necessary breed creativity and can lead to burnout for good young athletes and frustration for the less skilled.

Vivian Paley, a former kindergarten teacher at the University of Chicago Laboratory Schools and now an author and consultant, argues that the most vital form of play for young children involves fantasy and role-playing with their peers.

“They’re inventing abstract thinking, before the world tells them what to think,” Paley said in her speech to the conference. “It gets them thinking, ‘I am intended to have my own ideas.”’

She worried that preschools, in the drive to prepare students for the academic challenges ahead, are reducing the opportunity for group fantasy play — and thus reducing children’s chances to learn on their own about fairness, kindness and other social interactions.

“The theater of the young receives the least attention from those planning the curriculum of our nation’s schools,” Paley said. “This very activity is being dismantled in our schools to make room for early phonics. ... Preschoolers are being asked to practice being first graders.”

Charitable pantries find lean times

Except for a long list of places to donate, at the end of the article, I'm posting the whole article, even though it is so long, because it will probably only be available for a limited time at its original site.

Many donors can’t afford to give during downturn, but the number of families asking for something to eat is growing faster than normal.

By Rhonda Cook

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Chad Hale and Brian Lowring run five food co-ops for the Georgia Avenue Community Ministry in the Grant Park/Summerhill area of Atlanta, serving hundreds of people every month.

Lately though, the ministry is finding it harder to get an essential resource: food.

Lowring said there is less and less available when he places orders with the Atlanta Community Food Bank, a 30-year-old organization that supplies 800 charities and churches in 38 counties throughout metro Atlanta and Georgia.

“And what they do have disappears real quick, which means lots of people are looking for those items,” Lowring said.

About an hour outside of Atlanta, Jack Howell depends on a hodgepodge of food drives to supply the Cartersville Church of God pantry.

Howell, too, says he just cannot get enough from the community food bank that normally serves his agency. The church is underwriting much of the operation.

The cupboards that feed those who need assistance are bare all over metro Atlanta.

Demand has increased significantly as unemployment has risen and the economy has slammed those barely getting by already. But the charity food pantries —- and the massive food bank that supplies those pantries —- are looking at empty shelves.

“There is a lot more food going out the door than is coming in, and that’s not sustainable,” said Bill Bolling, executive director of the Atlanta Community Food Bank, which is supported by donations, grants and the 16 cents a pound it charges member organizations for food.

Only 60 percent of the food bank’s shelves are stocked at a time the charity is usually looking for storage space for its overflow of food donations. At the same time, charities’ food orders are 40 percent more than a year ago.

Many of the groups that take care of the destitute are having to find other sources for high-demand food items, such as peanut butter, jelly and cereals.

Emptying the shelves

The demand is unprecedented.

Orders placed with the community food bank last month increased 41 percent over October last year. Just since July 1, the demand has increased 14 percent while donations during that time rose only 8 percent.

“That’s very significant for us,” Bolling said. “Everything coming in is going right out the door. We are not increasing our inventory.”

That pressure is reflected in the warehouses, freezers and refrigerators of places such as the Center for Family Resources in Marietta and Must Ministries in Cobb County, where 75 percent of the shelves are empty.

Unlike years ago, 40 percent of the people coming to the food pantries have full-time jobs.

“This is a sea change for us,” Bolling said.

Erica Wiley works two jobs —- 4:30 p.m. to 1 a.m. at a call center and as a waitress on Saturdays and Sundays at a chain restaurant that recently cut her hours. Still, she can’t afford to buy food for herself and her two sons and pay rent, utility bills and her monthly car note.

Last week, her small family emptied the cabinets with all that was left —- an 88-cent box of noodles, a can of tuna and some cheese to make a concoction she calls “oodles of noodles.”

The next day, her sons “mooched” breakfast and lunch off neighbors, and their 34-year-old mother skipped a class at Kennesaw State University so she could get to the Center for Family Resources an hour and a half before they began handing out groceries. Only the first 10 people in line would get food.

Wiley, who plans to become a nurse, was third and came away with enough canned vegetables, dried beans, chicken and peanut butter to last about a week and a half.

“I was on empty,” Wiley said after volunteering a few hours at the center in exchange for the groceries. “I needed food. And God has opened a door for me.”

‘Until the crisis breaks’

“It’s kind of scary,” said Hale, executive director of the Georgia Avenue Community Ministry, which started with one food co-op in 1991. “I wonder where it’s headed. The need out there is greater but the resources are less. The [Atlanta Community] food bank is saying ‘what comes in, goes out.’ They are the reservoir for all of us. … If it should dry up as food sources, that would be disastrous.”

“I’m getting so many calls from so many people,” said Lowring, also from the Georgia Avenue ministry.

Jack Howell saw more than 2,000 families at the Cartersville pantry last month; a year ago it was about 1,000 a month.

“It just keeps increasing,” said Howell, a retired school principal who donates his time to the pantry.

At first it was a gradual increase, he said, but last month, it “jumped up about 400” families. Earlier this month, the pantry saw 700 families in just the two hours it was open that week.

“I believe we will be able to continue until the crisis breaks,” Howell said. “But I’m having to cut back on what I buy [from the community food bank]. Once I ordered Gatorade and extra desserts and candy for the kids. I’m not doing that now. I’m just staying with the basics.”


There are hundreds of organizations that run food pantries. These organizations are trying to meet increased demand even as monetary and food donations stay flat or decline. Because the Atlanta Community Food Bank can’t meet the needs of all the food pantries it serves, the front-line groups are having to find other sources. Many of these groups are especially looking for turkeys, but they need food of all types.

To get help:

Call the United Way 24-hour help line —- 211

Monday, November 17, 2008

Republican propaganda machine

Paul Krugman
November 16, 2008, 5:36 pm
Fannie Freddie Phony

So I was listening to Arnold Schwarzenegger before doing the This Weak round table, and he was mostly making sense — except for one thing. He asserted, as a simple matter of fact, that “government created the housing bubble”, because Fannie and Freddie made all these loans to people who couldn’t afford to pay them.

This is utterly false. Fannie/Freddie did some bad things, and did, it turns out, get to some extent into subprime. But thanks to the accounting scandals, they were actually withdrawing from the market during the height of the housing bubble — the vast majority of the loans now going bad came from the private sector.

Yet it’s now clear that the phony account of the crisis — that it’s all due to Fannie, Freddie, and nasty liberals forcing poor Angelo Mozilo to make loans to Those People — is setting in as Republican orthodoxy, part of what you have to believe to be a respectable member of the party.

More American kids went hungry last year

USDA: Number jumped 50 percent in 2007, which is almost 700,000 children
Associated Press updated 54 minutes ago

WASHINGTON - New government figures show that almost 700,000 children went hungry in America at some point in 2007.

That number was up more than 50 percent from the year before and reached its highest point since 1998.

The Agriculture Department’s annual survey of food security, released Monday, also shows that more than 36 million adults and children struggled against hunger last year. That’s up by 700,000 since 2006. These are people who either didn’t have enough money for food or access to enough food aid to maintain active healthy lives.

Almost a third of these people, or nearly 12 million, had what the government calls “very low food security.” That means they had a substantial disruption in the amount of food they typically eat.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Watching Television, Channeling Unhappiness?

ScienceDaily (Nov. 14, 2008) — Are happy or unhappy people more attracted to television? This question is addressed by a new 30-year analysis1 of US national data of nearly 30,000 adults by John Robinson and Steven Martin from the University of Maryland in the US. Examining the activity patterns of happy and less happy people in the General Social Survey (GSS) between 1975 and 2006, the authors found that happy people were more socially active, attended more religious services, voted more and read more newspapers.

In contrast, unhappy people watched significantly more television in their spare time. These results also raise questions about recent and previous time-diary data, in which television rated quite highly when people were asked to rate how they felt when they engaged in various activities in "real time" in these daily diaries.

"These conflicting data suggest that TV may provide viewers with short-run pleasure, but at the expense of long-term malaise," said Professor Robinson. He also noted that earlier general satisfaction surveys also showed people rating TV below average as a significantly less satisfying free-time activity on the whole. "What viewers seem to be saying is that while TV in general is a waste of time and not particularly enjoyable, the shows I saw tonight were pretty good."

The authors also noted the many other attractions associated with TV viewing in relation to other free-time activities. Viewers don't have to go anywhere, dress up (or at all), find company, plan ahead, expend energy, do any work-or even pay anything - in order to view. This becomes an unbeatable combination when added to its being quite enjoyable in the short run. This probably accounts for TV taking up more than half of Americans' free time.

The relationship between happiness and television viewing becomes particularly noteworthy, since in theory, engaging in a highly enjoyable activity time like watching television should improve the quality of people's lives.

However, Robinson and Martin's data point in the opposite direction, with unhappy people watching an estimated 20 percent more television than very happy people, after controlling for their education, income, age and marital status - as well as other demographic predictors of both viewing and happiness.

What remains unclear is whether happiness leads to lower viewing or more viewing leads to unhappiness. Robinson and Martin recommend that given the time Americans spend watching television, the question of whether it is responsible for unhappiness needs much closer study and clarification.

Unhappy people were also more likely to have unwanted extra time on their hands (51 percent) compared to very happy people (19 percent) and to feel rushed for time (35 percent vs. 23 percent). Of the two, having extra time on their hands was the bigger burden.

Professor Martin concluded by making a comparison with addiction: "Addictive activities produce momentary pleasure but long-term misery and regret. People most vulnerable to addiction tend to be socially or personally disadvantaged, with TV becoming an opiate."

How Eating Red Meat Can Spur Cancer Progression

ScienceDaily (Nov. 14, 2008) — Researchers at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine, led by Ajit Varki, M.D., have shown a new mechanism for how human consumption of red meat and milk products could contribute to the increased risk of cancerous tumors.

The Cheater is always jealous

Well, cheaters are always jealous, because they assume the other person is doing the same thing as they are. This is not at all surprising, since it is the way they habitually operate, the only surprise is that it got out to the public.

Responding to Obama's Win, Michael (Son of) Reagan Says, Go After Dems on Sex

The Obama win is driving some conservatives crazy. On Tuesday, Michael Reagan, talk show host and son of Ronald, sent out an email announcing a new outfit called Reagan Action, which among other things, will seek to "expose" the sexual "corruption" of leading Democrats. And he was characteristically over the top:

Dear Conservative Friend,

My father wasn't afraid to call evil what it was -- and neither am I. He defeated the "Evil Empire" called the Soviet Union -- but now we face a new "Evil Empire." It's called Socialism, and it's taken over our once-free nation through the victories of Obama, Pelosi and Reid.

We MUST do this. Really -- what choice do we have, except to fight back and WIN? As my father, President Ronald Reagan, once said, "We must act today in order to preserve tomorrow."

It's official: America has its first truly Socialist president... and it's the Republican Party's fault.

No, scratch that -- it's the so-called "leaders" of the GOP who are at fault for this humiliating defeat -- and I say it's time to name names and make heads roll in our party. Because, my fellow conservatives, we have been BETRAYED by the very people who promised that, if we would just elect them, they would get into office and vote OUR conservative values.


Michael Reagan, who sure likes bold face and capital letters, notes that he is angry with President Bush and

the so-called "leaders" of our party, who promised us that if we'd just vote for who they put up for election, we'd finally get what we wanted: smaller government, lower taxes, dramatically lower spending, pro-life laws, pro-marriage constitutional amendments, pro-American economics... well, YOU AND I put them in power, and they gave us nothing but BIG GOVERNMENT, BIG DEFICITS, and LIBERAL COMPROMISES.

So what's he going to do about it? Reagan is declaring "the NEW Reagan Revolution to bring Conservatism BACK!" And how will contributing to Reagan Action--yes, this was a solicitation letter--bring back conservatism? This new group, Reagan promises, will

EXPOSE LIBERAL CORRUPTION-- With the Democrats back in power in both Congress and the White House, you KNOW that they'll be falling right back into their habits of taking lobbyists' money under the table, trading votes for campaign contributions, spying on and sabotaging Republican legislative plans, covering up their leaders' sexual "flings," and spending taxpayer money on personal expenses like never before. But this time, YOU AND I will be there every step of the way, making sure that no stone is left unturned, every dark corner is filled with light, and every illegal act is paid for with censure, impeachment, recalls, investigations, and jail time for every criminal we expose in Washington, D.C.

And Reagan will also be directing "Reagan Activists to "fill the news media with letters to the editor, guest editorials, and news articles detailing the socialistic and corrupt policies of the new liberal regime."

This is some effort he has planned--mounting an army of Reagan-loving volunteers to go up against the "evil" Obama administration and take the country back from the socialists. And Reagan is even willing to probe the sexual "flings" of Democrats.

Reality check: is the United States now a socialist state about to be headed by a socialist leader? (Let's leave aside the Wall Street bailout.) There are two explanations for Reagan's letter. (A) He's become totally unhinged by the Obama victory, and (B), he's crassly trying to squeeze whatever cash he can out of conservative donors by exploiting their ideological paranoia. Maybe the correct answer is all of the above.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Bush officials moving fast to cut environmental protections

Posted on Thursday, November 6, 2008
By Renee Schoof | McClatchy Newspapers

WASHINGTON — In the next few weeks, the Bush administration is expected to relax environmental-protection rules on power plants near national parks, uranium mining near the Grand Canyon and more mountaintop-removal coal mining in Appalachia.

The administration is widely expected to try to get some of the rules into final form by the week before Thanksgiving because, in some cases, there's a 60-day delay before new regulations take effect. And once the rules are in place, undoing them generally would be a more time-consuming job for the next Congress and administration.

The regulations already have had periods of public comment, and no further comments are being taken. The administration has proposed the rules and final approval is considered likely.

It's common for administrations to issue a spate of regulations just before leaving office. The Bush administration's changes are in keeping with President Bush's overall support of deregulation.

Go to the above link to see details on the following:
Uranium mining near the Grand Canyon

Mountain-top removal, burying streams

More air pollution

Endangering endangered species

Among the rule changes and plans that might become final are commercial oil-shale leasing, a new rule that would allow loaded, concealed weapons in some national parks, and oil and gas leasing on wild public lands in West Virginia and Utah.

FBI kept file on author David Halberstam

Associated Press updated 1 hour, 59 minutes ago

The FBI tracked the late Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and author David Halberstam for more than two decades, newly released documents show.

Students at the City University of New York's Graduate School of Journalism obtained the FBI documents by filing a Freedom of Information Act request. The university posted the documents on its Web site Thursday.

The FBI monitored Halberstam's reporting, and at times his personal life, from at least the mid-1960s until at least the late '80s, the documents show. The agency released only 62 pages of a 98-page dossier on the writer, citing security, privacy and other reasons.

Halberstam won a Pulitzer in 1964 for his coverage of the Vietnam War while working as a reporter for The New York Times. In 1972, he wrote "The Best and the Brightest," a best-selling book critical of U.S. involvement in Southeast Asia.

Agency tracked Halberstam's reporting
It's unclear when the FBI began monitoring Halberstam, though the first documents made public date from 1965, when he was a Times correspondent in Poland during the Cold War.

The agency kept tabs on Halberstam's reporting there and his first marriage, to Polish actress Elzbieta Czyzewska, the documents show.

The files include published reports of Polish officials expelling Halberstam and Czyzewska from the country because of his news stories about Poland's communist leaders. The documents also include stories written by Halberstam and telephone company records of calls to him.
Halberstam's widow, Jean, said he was never certain federal agents were watching him but assumed it was possible.

Under J. Edgar Hoover, FBI director at the time, the agency's now-defunct counterintelligence programs known as COINTELPRO monitored and disrupted groups believed to have communist and socialist ties in the 1950s and '60s.

Before it was shut down in 1971, the domestic spying operation had expanded to include civil rights groups, anti-war activists, the Ku Klux Klan, state legislators and journalists.

Jean Halberstam said her husband referred to Hoover "as our country's worst public servant."

She called the agency's monitoring of the writer "a terrible waste" of time and taxpayer money.

"David's life was very much an open book," she said. "He did not much care about what people who disagreed with him thought about him."

Halberstam left daily journalism in 1967 and turned to books. His works included "The Fifties," a chronicle of that decade's upheavals, and "Summer of '49," an account of that year's New York Yankees-Boston Red Sox rivalry.

He remained based in New York until he was killed in an April 2007 car crash in Menlo Park, Calif., near San Francisco. He was 73.

Pilot lands safely after going blind in mid-air

Associated Press updated 7:54 a.m. ET, Sat., Nov. 8, 2008

LONDON - A British pilot who was suddenly blinded by a stroke during a solo flight was talked safely down by a military pilot, the Royal Air Force said Friday.

Jim O'Neill asked for help after he was went blind 40 minutes into a flight from Scotland to southeastern England last week. The BBC reported that O'Neill, flying a small Cessna aircraft, lost his sight 5,500 feet in the air.

"It was terrifying," O'Neill said. "Suddenly, I couldn't see the dials in front of me."

The air force said in a news release that O'Neill initially believed he'd been "dazzled" by bright sunlight, and made an emergency call for help. He then realized that something more serious was happening, and said, "I want to land, ASAP."

RAF Wing Commander Paul Gerrard was just finishing a training flight nearby and was drafted in to help the stricken pilot.

Gerrard located the plane, began flying close to it and radioed directions.

"For me, I was just glad to help a fellow aviator in distress," he said.

"Landing an aircraft literally blind needs someone to be right there to say 'Left a bit, right a bit, stop, down,'" Gerrard said. "On the crucial final approach, even with radar assistance, you need to take over visually. That's when having a fellow pilot there was so important.

Blood clot
O'Neill's son, Douglas, said his father is an experienced pilot who has flown for nearly two decades. The 65-year-old is recovering in hospital where he is beginning to regain his sight.

"The doctors have confirmed that he suffered a stroke from a blood clot, but he doesn't seem to have suffered any other ill-effects apart from losing his sight," Douglas O'Neill said. "He says he went blind very suddenly and then, once he'd got over the shock, was able to distinguish a bit of darkness and light."

In a recording posted to the BBC's news Web site, Gerrard gives O'Neill instructions — "a gentle right hand turn, please," is called for at one point — and he can be heard apologizing.

"You could hear the apprehension in his voice over the radio and the frustration he was experiencing," said radar controller Richard Eggleton. "I kept saying 'Are you visual?' and he would reply 'No sir, negative, I'm sorry sir.' He kept on apologizing.

With Gerrard talking him down, O'Neill's plane hit the runway and bounced up again, the RAF said. It did the same on the second touchdown. On the third, O'Neill was able to keep his plane on the ground.

"It's one of those things you might hear about happening in some sort of all-action film but it's hard to believe what they did," Douglas O'Neill said of the RAF. "They were just tremendous."

Employers slashed 240,000 jobs in October

How convenient for the Republicans that the true results of unemployment losses in Aug. & Sept. didn't come out until after the election.

Associated Press updated 12:10 p.m. ET, Fri., Nov. 7, 2008

WASHINGTON - The nation’s unemployment rate bolted to a 14-year high of 6.5 percent in October as another 240,000 jobs were cut, far worse than economists expected and stark proof the economy is deteriorating at an alarmingly rapid pace.

The new snapshot, released Friday by the Labor Department, showed the crucial jobs market quickly eroding. The jobless rate zoomed to 6.5 percent in October from 6.1 percent in September, matching the rate in March 1994.

Unemployment has now surpassed the high seen after the last recession in 2001. The jobless rate peaked at 6.3 percent in June 2003.

October’s decline marked the 10th straight month of payroll reductions, and government revisions showed that job losses in August and September turned out to be much deeper. Employers cut 127,000 positions in August, compared with 73,000 previously reported. A whopping 284,000 jobs were axed in September, compared with the 159,000 jobs first reported.

So far this year, a staggering 1.2 million jobs have disappeared. Over half the decrease occurred in the past three months alone.
About 10.1 million people were unemployed in October, an increase of 2.8 million over the past year. A year ago, the unemployment rate stood at 4.8 percent.
Factories cut 90,000 jobs, the most since July 2003. Construction companies got rid of 49,000 jobs with heavy losses in home building. Retailers cut payrolls by 38,000. Professional and business services reduced employment by 45,000. Financial activities cut 24,000 jobs, with heavy losses in mortgage banking and at securities firms. Leisure and hospitality axed 16,000 positions.

All those losses more than swamped some gains elsewhere, including in the government, as well as in education and health care.

A new record for the hurricane season of 2008

This year is now the only hurricane season on record in the Atlantic that has featured major hurricanes in five separate months. The only year to feature major hurricanes in four separate months was 2005, and many years have had major hurricanes in three separate months. This year's record-setting five were Hurricane Bertha in July, Hurricane Gustav in August, Hurricane Ike in September, Hurricane Omar in October, and Hurricane Paloma in November.

Paloma is now the second strongest November hurricane on record in the Atlantic. Hurricane Lenny of 1999, a Category 4 hurricane with 155 mph winds, was the strongest November hurricane on record. Paloma shares second place with Hurricane Michelle of 2001 (Cat 4, 140 mph) and Hurricane Greta of 1956 (Cat 4, 140 mph).

Friday, November 07, 2008


Pregnancy Diabetes Doubles Risk Of Language Delay In Children

Sea Snakes Seek Out Freshwater To Slake Thirst

Living With Smokers May Be Associated With Inadequate Access To Healthful Food

Looming Ecological Credit Crunch

Violent Video Game Feed Aggression In Kids In Japan And U.S.
Time Invested In Practicing Pays Off For Young Musicians, Research Shows

Moms' Smoking Linked To Increased Risk Of Birth Defects

Consuming Even Small Amounts Of Caffeine When Pregnant May Affect Growth Of Unborn Child

Precipitation Levels May Be Associated With Autism

Free fun learning games

Migraines Associated With Lower Risk Of Breast Cancer

We already know that taking aspirin daily decreased the incidence of breast cancer. I would expect that people who get migraines take more aspirin than average. So this research is not astonishing.
ScienceDaily (Nov. 7, 2008) — Women who suffer from migraines may take at least some comfort in a recent, first-of-its-kind study that suggests a history of such headaches is associated with a significantly lower risk of breast cancer. Christopher I. Li, M.D., Ph.D., and colleagues at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center report these findings in the November issue of Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers and Prevention.

"We found that, overall, women who had a history of migraines had a 30 percent lower risk of breast cancer compared to women who did not have a history of such headaches," said Li, a breast-cancer epidemiologist and associate member of the Hutchinson Center's Public Health Sciences Division.

In particular, migraine history appeared to reduce the risk of the most common subtypes of breast cancer: those that are estrogen-receptor and/or progesterone-receptor positive. Such tumors have estrogen and/or progesterone receptors, or docking sites, on the surface of their cells, which makes them more responsive to hormone-blocking drugs than tumors that lack such receptors.

The biological mechanism behind the association between migraines and breast cancer is not fully known, but Li and colleagues suspect that it has to do with fluctuations in levels of circulating hormones.

"Migraines seem to have a hormonal component in that they occur more frequently in women than in men, and some of their known triggers are associated with hormones," Li said. "For example, women who take oral contraceptives – three weeks of active pills and one week of inactive pills to trigger menstruation – tend to suffer more migraines during their hormone-free week," he said. Conversely, pregnancy – a high-estrogen state – is associated with a significant decrease in migraines. "By the third trimester of pregnancy, 80 percent of migraine sufferers do not have these episodes," he said. Estrogen is known to stimulate the growth of hormonally sensitive breast cancer.

Androgynous Leaders Mean Increased Innovation

Note: Androgyny does not refer to one's sexual orientation, who one is attracted to. It refers to gender roles and activities; eg., someone who enjoys needlecrafts and also building things with wood.
ScienceDaily (Nov. 7, 2008) — Androgynous leaders, that is, leaders with both masculine and feminine traits, are the ones who best succeed at creating a good climate for innovation, concludes Anne Grethe Solberg, researcher at BI Norwegian Scool of Management in a new study.
The characteristics of a good innovation climate

If they are to succeed with innovation, the Board members must be allowed to express their individual differences and values. But at the same time they must succeed in discussing their way to consensus.

“To achieve this, it is crucial that the chairperson of the board creates a good climate for innovation,” maintains Ms. Solberg.

The BI researcher’s study shows that the optimal innovation climate is characterised by an emotional tone that is open, trusting, accepting, free of tensions and with respect for differences and disagreements.

“In a good innovation climate, everyone feels secure enough to take part in discussion, they know what the aims of the group are, they stick to the subject and support one another’s ideas,” says Ms. Solberg.

“It is not until all the members of the board, in the light of their own expertise, are ready to change the direction of the discussion that synergy effects can be achieved.”

The role of the chair

A board must function as a working party. The chair has a special responsibility to tie together and concretise the results of the discussion.

“A facilitating leadership style is best at achieving creative and innovative processes in working parties,” concludes Ms. Solberg.

According to Ms. Solberg, the facilitating chairperson has the courage to remain entirely neutral and objective and is careful not to express his or her own opinions until the rest of the group have had their say. He or she has the ability to polarise the exchange of opinions in the group.

This means that disagreement is seen as a springboard for taking better and innovative decisions. A facilitating leader entrusts the group as a whole with the full responsibility for taking decisions.

Androgynous leaders win

Ms. Solberg’s study found that leaders with both masculine and feminine traits, the androgynous leaders, were the best at facilitating and creating a good innovation climate. They were better than their masculine and feminine colleagues.

Ms. Solberg also demonstrates that the incidence of androgynous leaders is more or less equal among men and women. And this can be a comfort, and an opportunity, for both women and men.

Regional Differences In US Serial Killings
ScienceDaily (Jan. 25, 2007) — Did you know that people living in the Western region of the United States are more likely to become victims of a serial killer than people living in the Northeast? The February issue of Homicide Studies, published by SAGE, is the first to explore research looking at the considerable interstate and regional differences in serial killer activity.

The study led by University of Connecticut Emeritus Sociology Professor James DeFronzo examined male serial killers in the United States from 1970 to 1992 using sociological perspectives long used to understand other crimes.

The study found that social structural factors, such as the percentage of a state's urban population, divorced residents, one-person households and unemployed residents, all helped to explain why some states and regions are home to more male serial killers. The study also found that cultural factors, such as a high ratio of executions to homicides and classification as a southern state, correlated with a higher rate of serial killers.

When you're feeling down

The Surrealist Compliment Generator
It gives a different result each time you go to it or reload it (ctrl+r).

Examples I have gotten:

Fighting for the liberty of the fruit tree tastes nothing like the glint of sagittarius rounding itself around your uvula. I know the time will soon arrive when we will see people manufactured in crates and seives of glass.

Your eyes are like spheres of glue filled with shimmering worms.

I surmise that your basement is made of skin and is never depleted of nurses.

Conclusive Proof That Polar Warming Is Being Caused By Humans
ScienceDaily (Nov. 6, 2008) — New research by the University of East Anglia (UEA) has demonstrated for the first time that human activity is responsible for significant warming in both polar regions.

The findings by a team of scientists led by UEA's Climatic Research Unit was recently published online by the Nature Geoscience.

Previous studies have observed rises in both Arctic and Antarctic temperatures over recent decades but have not formally attributed the changes to human influence due to poor observation data and large natural variability. Moreover, the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) had concluded that Antarctica was the only continent where human-induced temperature changes had yet to be detected.

Now, a newly updated data-set of land surface temperatures and simulations from four new climate models show that temperature rises in both polar regions are not consistent with natural climate variability alone and are directly attributable to human influence.

The results demonstrate that human activity has already caused significant warming, with impacts on polar biology, indigenous communities, ice-sheet mass balance and global sea level.

"This is an important work indeed," said Dr Alexey Karpechko of UEA's Climatic Research Unit.

"Arctic warming has previously been emphasized in several publications, although not formally attributed to human activity. However in Antarctica, such detection was so far precluded by insufficient data available. Moreover circulation changes caused by stratospheric ozone depletion opposed warming over most of Antarctica and made the detection even more difficult.

"Since the ozone layer is expected to recover in the future we may expect amplifying Antarctic warming in the coming years."

Authors of the article 'Attribution of polar warming to human influence' include Nathan Gillett (UEA/Environment Canada), Phil Jones (UEA), Alexey Karpechko (UEA), Daithi Stone (University of Oxford/Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research), Peter Scott (Met Office Hadley Centre), Toru Nozawa (National Institute for Environmental Studies, Japan), Gabriele Hegerl (University of Edinburgh), and Michael Wehner (Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, California).

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Our taxes at work

November 6, 2008
Fill ’Er Up

We fear that a $1.50 drop in gas prices was all it took to blunt Detroit’s newfound fervor for energy efficiency.

Just a few weeks ago, the Big Three American automakers convinced Congress to give them $25 billion in cheap loans to retool their plants to make fuel-efficient cars. Then, with nary a blush, the Ford Motor Company introduced the new star in its line: the 2009, 3-ton, 16-miles-per-gallon, F-150 pickup.

The company has spent about $150 million to retool its Dearborn, Mich., plant to make the new truck, and it plans to restore the third shift at the plant in January to meet demand, adding about 1,000 jobs. As for that commitment to fuel economy? The new trucks should be 8 percent more fuel efficient than the 2008 models, on average — which means that they still use about 50 percent more gas per mile than, say, a Honda Accord.

Ford and other automakers are desperate to find any way they can to dig out of their deep economic pit. And old habits die hard. Ford’s sales collapsed 30 percent in October — a third of its weak sales were F-150s. Chrysler saw October sales tumble 35 percent. Sales at General Motors plummeted 45 percent.

But even if the F-150 gives Ford a temporary bounce, it is not a long-term solution in a world where energy prices will inevitably rise again. Detroit’s automakers must devote their energies and investment dollars to developing the fuel-efficient vehicles of the future rather than tweaking the gas hogs of the past.

Americans seem to get it. As gasoline soared past $4 a gallon in the summer, consumers fell out of love with trucks and sport-utility vehicles. The auto companies that only a few years before had considered switching to 100 percent truck production were suddenly talking about a complete change in strategy.

G.M. sought a buyer for its Hummer line. Ford postponed sending the 2009 F-150s to dealers while it larded on financial incentives to move thousands of 2008’s off the lots. The future, they seemed to agree, would require vehicles that sipped, not guzzled.

This is still true. Gas prices are falling now because the world is tipping into what may be the deepest recession since the 1930s. At some point that will end.

Detroit’s problems will not, unless the automakers understand that the days of cheap energy are over. The Big Three made the wrong bet in the 1990s when they decided to put all their eggs in the truck basket — ceding virtually the entire car market to their Asian rivals.

They evidently haven’t learned enough from their mistakes. Perhaps Congress, from which the automakers are lobbying for more taxpayer money, can help correct their ways — at the very least — by attaching strict fuel-economy requirements to any future aid.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Martial Law was threatened

I found this video on

Rep. Brad Sherman of California speaking on the floor of Congress, who says members of Congress were told that if the bailout didn't pass, "martial law" would be declared in the United States.

Misleading headline

The headline implies stocks fell because of the Obama victory:
Stocks dive after election; Dow down 480-plus
Investors mull what impact president will have on business and economy

The reality:
Analysts said investors were also uneasy in advance of the Labor Department’s October employment report, to be issued Friday. Economists, on average, expect a 200,000 drop in payrolls, according to Thomson/IFR.

U.S. service sector shrinks sharply in October
Drop is worse than economists had expected news services
updated 11:19 a.m. ET, Wed., Nov. 5, 2008

NEW YORK - Hotels, construction firms and retailers saw business shrink in October as slower spending and declining employment hurt the service sector, in another gloomy sign for the economy.

The Institute for Supply Management, a trade group of purchasing executives, said Wednesday its service sector index suffered a sharper-than-expected drop to 44.4 in October from 50.2 in September.

Wall Street economists surveyed by Thomson Reuters expected a reading of 47.5. A reading below 50 signals contraction.
A manufacturing report issued Monday by ISM showed the worst reading since September 1982, when the country was near the end of a 16-month recession.
Reuters updated 8:22 a.m. ET, Wed., Nov. 5, 2008

NEW YORK - Planned layoffs at U.S. firms surged to their highest in nearly five years during October, with cuts in the financial and auto sectors leading the charge as the economic outlook worsened, a report by outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas said on Wednesday.

Job cuts announced in October totaled 112,884, up 19 percent from September, the report said, citing evidence of widespread economic malaise as troubles that began in housing and banking infect the rest of the economy.

“The fact that nearly three out of four industry categories are cutting more jobs is proof of how widely the impact of this downturn has spread,” said John Challenger, chief executive officer of Challenger, Gray & Christmas.

“A year ago, job cuts were concentrated in the financial sector and home-building industries. Job cuts are now rising across the board.”

October represented the year’s worst month for job cuts for several industries, said Challenger, including industrial goods manufacturing, consumer products, pharmaceutical, food and electronics.

The report comes as the government is expected to report 200,000 jobs were lost in October, bringing the total this year to nearly 1 million.

The unemployment rate is also seen rising to 6.3 percent from 6.1 percent. Economists forecast that the jobless rate will rise to more than 8 percent before the job market recovers.

The U.S. economy shrank 0.3 percent in the third quarter after a robust, stimulus-driven second quarter. The housing market continued to exert a tremendous drag, with the decline in residential investment actually accelerating between July and September.

CEO pay

By Leo Hindery Jr.
updated 1:55 p.m. ET, Wed., Nov. 5, 2008

Confronted with the daunting array of economic failures confronting the nation, it may seem improbable for me to say that excessive executive compensation is one of the issues needing the early attention of President-elect Barack Obama and the next Congress. Yet this particular cancer — which has been growing exponentially for almost two decades — is at the core of many of our nation's economic ills.

Way back on Sept. 13, 1970, just as I was starting my second year at Stanford Business School, Milton Friedman authored his seminal opinion piece in The New York Times titled "The Social Responsibility of Business is to Increase Its Profits." But unlike many of Friedman's other writings, this particular opinion piece was only modestly embraced, and was embraced by almost no one credible.

In fact, from the end of World War II until the mid-1990s, prominent public and private company CEOs almost universally viewed their responsibilities as being equally split among shareholders, employees, customers and the nation. This broad sense of corporate responsibility was actually so widely and comfortably held that in 1981, the Business Roundtable, which is the key public policy arm of the nation's largest public companies and their CEOs, officially endorsed a policy that said that shareholder returns had to be balanced against other considerations.

However, just as the Business Roundtable was making its policy statement, the deregulation and laissez-faire era that was born in the Reagan administration was starting to chip away at the statement's core contention. And by 2004 — even after many of the myriad scandals and outright thefts that have hallmarked the last decade of American business had already come to light — the Roundtable amended its position. It said, just as Friedman did in 1970, that the job of business is only to maximize the wealth of shareholders. And at that point, because of the prevalence of stock option and restricted stock grants, shareholders included many if not most senior managers at a large number of publicly traded companies.
For most of the past century, CEOs earned roughly 20 times as much as the average employee, according to the Economic Policy Institute, as quoted in The New York Times on Dec. 18, 2005, and again on Jan. 1, 2006. And also for much of the past century, there was nothing like the excesses within the financial industry that we see today, which enable its managers to earn almost obscene levels of compensation — and then get favorable income tax treatment to boot.

Today, however, average public company CEO compensation is 400 times that of the average employee. And thousands of senior managers in addition to CEOs are drinking at the same frothy trough, especially, as we have all just seen, senior managers in the financial services industry. (By contrast, the ratio of CEO pay to that of the average employee has remained around 22 in Britain, 20 in Canada and 11 in Japan.) And with such U.S. exalted compensation, management has so elevated itself above average employees as to have become, in my opinion, a constituency unto itself — and one that, to compound the inequity, largely sets its own compensation.

(Incidentally, in 1971 my first boss out of business school, who was then easily one of the nation's top half-dozen public company CEOs, made 10 times my starting salary of $15,600 and about 15 times the salary of our average employee. And throughout the remainder of his exceptional career, I don't think that ratio ever exceeded 20 times, which was a great example to me as I started my own career. Although I have started several companies and engineered several major mergers that have rewarded me generously, my own compensation since I started my career has, with the exception of two and a half years when I received share-price increase-based bonuses, always stayed in that same range.)

The disparity in compensation today is an ethical embarrassment to our country, and it is certainly an affront to workers and to shareholders. When polled, 90 percent of institutional investors said they thought corporate executives were dramatically overpaid, and 85 percent of them said the prevalent executive compensation system hurts corporate America's image, according to a Watson Wyatt Survey published on June 20, 2006.
Third, Congress should close the loopholes that currently allow the wealthiest Americans to use offshore tax schemes that cost our Treasury $70 billion in taxes each year, and it should aggressively step up tax enforcement to capture the 30 percent or so of earnings from selling investments that currently goes unreported each year.
Leo Hindery Jr. chairs the Smart Globalization Initiative at the New America Foundation and is managing partner of a New York media industry private equity fund. Previously, he was CEO of AT&T Broadband and its predecessor, Tele-Communications Inc. He is the author of "It Takes a CEO: It's Time to Lead with Integrity."

Voter goes into labor at polls

By Michael Welles Shapiro
The (Hilton Head) Island Packet
Posted: Tuesday, Nov. 04, 2008

HILTON HEAD ISLAND The Hilton Head Island election office got a surprise -- and hurried -- visitor today, when a woman showed up ready to vote while she was going into labor.

"It was a young couple, and they were excited about voting and excited about having a baby," said Diana Nicholson, assistant town clerk for the Town of Hilton Head Island.

Election workers quickly accommodated the couple, as waiting voters gladly let them move to the head of the line. And it was a good thing -- the contractions were coming fast.

"She was 3 minutes apart," Nicholson said, "so we got them in, and they voted."

After they cast their absentee ballots, the couple were off to the hospital delivery room, Nicholson said.

Nicholson said she did not know the names of the couple or the outcome of the delivery.

verse for Obama

This is the chorus of a song I co-wrote, The Good Dream, version 2
You can hear it at

I had a good dream last night,
peace and joy had conquered might.
Brothers and sisters all were we,
living together in harmony.
The best part of it for me
was no child lived in misery.
The whole world from war was free,
love had won the victory.

Bush countdown

Monday, November 03, 2008

The Consequences of the Candidates Tax Plans

June 13th, 2008 by Ron Chusid

The graph above gives a quick look at who benefits the most from the policies of each candidate. Not surprisingly, those in the lowest quintile get the biggest breaks under Obama’s plan while those in the top one percent get the biggest tax breaks from McCain.

Those results could have been predicted easily. The more interesting question for myself was how the tax plans would affect all us more affluent “elitists” who back Obama. The Republicans will try all sorts of scare tactics to convince the upper middle class to return to voting for them even though in recent years their economic policies have not been of benefit to the upper middle class.

Hilzoy’s analysis helps answer this question, along with a review of the data on pages 22-24:

The cutoffs for these quintiles (in 2008 dollars) are as follows: “20% $19,740, 40% $38,980, 60% $69,490, 80% $117,535, 90% $169,480, 95% $237,040, 99% $619,561, 99.9% $2,832,449.” (p. 24.) It’s worth noting that if you check the table on p. 24, which has more detail than this graph, you can see that people below the top five percent (which starts at $237,040) do not lose after-tax income under Obama’s plan, and people making $237,040-$619,561 lose all of $12 a year, on average. It’s only in the top one percent that people take a sizable hit. But since so much of the Bush tax cuts went to them, that seems fair to me.

Why the economy fares much better under Democrats;_ylt=Ap9G8pSBUp5MlhM21GdsTG6s0NUE

On job and income growth, the record couldn't be clearer.
By Larry M. Bartels

from the October 21, 2008 edition (Christian Science Monitor)

Princeton, N.J. - John McCain is a maverick and Barack Obama is a postpartisan problem-solver. But you wouldn't know it by looking at their economic plans. Both candidates' proposals faithfully reflect the traditional economic priorities of their respective parties. That makes the track records of past Democratic and Republican administrations a very useful benchmark for assessing how the economy might perform under a President McCain or a President Obama. The bottom line: During the past 60 years, Democrats have presided over much less unemployment and much more robust income growth.

The $52.5 billion plan Senator McCain announced last week includes $36 billion in tax breaks for senior citizens withdrawing funds from retirement accounts and $10 billion for a reduction in the capital gains tax. Those are perks for investors, most of whom are relatively affluent. (McCain is also proposing a two-year suspension of taxes on unemployment benefits, but that's a fraction of the plan's cost.) He also favors broader tax cuts for businesses and wants to extend President Bush's massive tax cuts indefinitely, even for people earning more than $250,000 per year.

McCain's proposals reflect the traditional Republican emphasis on cutting taxes for businesses and wealthy people in hopes of stimulating investment – "trickle down" economics, as it came to be called during Ronald Reagan's administration. But will proposals of this sort really "stop and reverse the rise of unemployment" and "create millions of new jobs" as McCain has claimed? The historical record suggests not.

President Bush's multitrillion-dollar tax cuts, which were strongly tilted toward the rich, could not prevent (and may even have contributed to) significant job losses. On the other hand, when Bill Clinton raised taxes on affluent people to balance the federal budget (while significantly expanding the Earned Income Tax Credit for working poor people), unemployment declined substantially. Under Clinton's watch, 22 million jobs were created.

Prefer a broader historical comparison? In the past three decades, since the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries oil price shocks of the mid-1970s and the Republican turn toward "supply side" economics, the average unemployment rate under Republican presidents has been 6.7 percent – substantially higher than the 5.5 percent average under Democratic presidents. (The official unemployment rate takes no account of people who have given up looking for work or taken substantial pay cuts to stay in the labor force.) Over an even broader time period, since the late 1940s, unemployment has averaged 4.8 percent under Democratic presidents but 6.3 percent – almost one-third higher – under Republican presidents.

Lower unemployment under Democratic presidents has contributed substantially to the real incomes of middle-class and working poor families. Job losses hurt everyone – not just those without work. In fact, every percentage point of unemployment has the effect of reducing middle-class income growth by about $300 per family per year. And the effects are long term, unlike the temporary boost in income from a stimulus check. Compounded over an eight-year period, a persistent one-point difference in unemployment is worth about $10,000 to a middle-class family. The dollar values are smaller for working poor families, but in relative terms their incomes are even more sensitive to unemployment. In contrast, income growth for affluent people is much more sensitive to inflation, which has been a perennial target of Republican economic policies.

Although McCain portrays Senator Obama as a "job killing" tax-and-spend liberal, the new $60 billion plan Obama unveiled last week also has a tax break as its centerpiece – a tax break specifically tailored to create jobs by offering employers a $3,000 tax credit for each new hire over the next two years. Obama's proposal would also extend unemployment benefits by 13 weeks for those who remain jobless, as well as match McCain's in suspending taxes on unemployment benefits.

Obama's new proposal complements $115 billion in economic stimulus measures he had already announced, including $65 billion in direct rebates to taxpayers and $50 billion to help states jump-start spending on infrastructure projects. All of this is squarely in the tradition of Democratic presidents since John F. Kennedy, who have relied on public spending and tax breaks for working people to stimulate consumption and employment during economic downturns.

These and other policies have produced not only lower unemployment under Democratic presidents but also more economic output and income growth. In fact, over the past 60 years, the real incomes of middle-income families have grown about twice as fast under Democratic presidents as they have under Republican presidents. The partisan difference is even greater for working poor families, whose real incomes have grown six times as fast under Democratic presidents as they have under Republican presidents.

Of course, past performance is no guarantee of what will happen when the next president takes office. However, given the striking fidelity of both presidential candidates to their parties' traditional economic priorities, the profound impact of partisan politics on the economic fortunes of American families over more than half a century ought to weigh heavily in the minds of voters.

• Larry M. Bartels directs the Center for the Study of Democratic Politics in Princeton University's Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs. He is the author of "Unequal Democracy: The Political Economy of the New Gilded Age."