Saturday, January 31, 2009

GOP Lawmakers Outnumber Democratic Lawmakers 2 To 1 In Stimulus Debate On Cable News»

As Media Matters has documented, during the Bush administration, the media consistently allowed conservatives to dominate their shows, booking them as guests far more often than progressives. The rationale was that Republicans were “in power.”

It appears that old habits die hard. Even though President Obama and his team are in control of the executive branch and Democrats are in the majority in Congress, the cable networks are still turning more often to Republicans and allowing them to set the agenda on major issues, most recently on the debate over the economic recovery package.

On Sunday, conservatives began an all-out assault on President Obama’s economic recovery plan, with House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH) and Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) both announcing that they would vote against the plan as it stood. Despite Obama’s efforts at good faith outreach, congressional conservatives have continued to attack the stimulus plan with a series of false and disingenuous arguments.

The media have been aiding their efforts. In a new analysis, ThinkProgress has found that the five cable news networks — CNN, MSNBC, Fox News, Fox Business and CNBC — have hosted more Republican lawmakers to discuss the plan than Democrats by a 2 to 1 ratio this week:

In total, from 6 AM on Monday to 4 PM on Wednesday, the networks have hosted Republican lawmakers 51 times and Democratic lawmakers only 24 times. Surprisingly, Fox News came the closest to offering balance, hosting 8 Republicans and 6 Democrats. CNN had only one Democrat compared to 7 Republicans.

The drastically imbalanced coverage isn’t the first time that the news networks have effectively supported attacks on the recovery plans. As ThinkProgress reported on Monday, the cable networks, the Sunday shows and the network newscasts promoted a controversial CBO non-report 81 times before the actual CBO analysis of the stimulus plan was released.

Reducing Salt Intake Isn't The Only Way To Reduce Blood Pressure

Eat more bananas!

ScienceDaily (Jan. 28, 2009) — Most people know that too much sodium from foods can increase blood pressure. A new study suggests that people trying to lower their blood pressure should also boost their intake of potassium, which has the opposite effect to sodium.

Researchers found that the ratio of sodium-to-potassium in subjects' urine was a much stronger predictor of cardiovascular disease than sodium or potassium alone.

"There isn't as much focus on potassium, but potassium seems to be effective in lowering blood pressure and the combination of a higher intake of potassium and lower consumption of sodium seems to be more effective than either on its own in reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease," said Dr. Paul Whelton, senior author of the study in the January 2009 issue of the Archives of Internal Medicine. Whelton is an epidemiologist and president and CEO of Loyola University Health System.
To lower blood pressure and blunt the effects of salt, adults should consume 4.7 grams of potassium per day unless they have a clinical condition or medication need that is a contraindication to increased potassium intake. Most American adults aged 31-to-50 consume only about half as much as recommended in the Institute of Medicine report. Changes in diet and physical activity should be under the supervision of a health care professional.

Good potassium sources include fruits, vegetables, dairy foods and fish. Foods that are especially rich in potassium include potatoes and sweet potatoes, fat-free milk and yogurt, tuna, lima beans, bananas, tomato sauce and orange juice. Potassium also is available in supplements.

energy saving habits

Remember to turn off your computer & monitor at the end of the day.

Fewer Days Of Extreme Cold And More Days Of Extreme Heat In Europe

Freezing is 0ºC = 32ºF Boiling is 100ºC = 212ºF
The temperature conversion formula is F = 9/5C + 32
So the conversion formula for the difference is
F2 - F1 = (9/5C2 + 32) - (9/5C1 + 32) = 9/5(C2 - C1)
So a change of 0.5ºC = 9/5*0.5 = a change of 0.9ºF
So a change of 1ºC = 9/5 = a change of 1.8ºF
So a change of 2ºC = 9/5*2 = a change of 3.6ºF

ScienceDaily (Jan. 30, 2009) — Scientists from the Complutense University of Madrid (UCM) have selected 262 European observatories which analysed the series of minimum and maximum daily temperatures from 1955 to 1998 to estimate trend variations in extreme temperature events. According to the study, in Europe days of extreme cold are decreasing and days of extreme heat increasing. From 0.5ºC to 1ºC in the average minimum temperature, and from 0.5ºC to 2ºC in the average maximum temperature.
Since 1860, the planet's average temperature has increased by 0.60ºC. “In particular, in the 2003 heatwave, which affected most of Europe, the average temperature was 3°C [5.4°F] more than the normal value for the summers from 1961 to 1990 with the most significant increases being in central France, Switzerland, northern Italy and southern Germany”, stressed Marco Cony, co-author of the study and physicist at the UCM.

An example of the effects of days of extreme heat, which will increase [difference] in frequency, is the heatwave that hit Europe in 2003. That summer record maximum temperatures were recorded in monthly, weekly and daily scales. For example, in Switzerland a temperature of 41.50ºC [106.7ºF] was recorded while in Portugal, 47.30ºC [117.14ºF].

Experts warn that excessive heat can cause stress, worsening of diseases and even death, such as in the summer of 2003, when over 30,000 people died throughout Europe from the high temperatures.

Record heat scorches southern Australia
Melbourne tops 113 F on Friday; moths sizzle, die on hitting pavement

updated 12:09 p.m. ET, Fri., Jan. 30, 2009

MELBOURNE, Australia - Southern Australia suffered Friday from a record-breaking heat wave that has threatened rural towns with wildfires and sent ambulance crews after heat-stressed patients.

Melbourne, Australia's second-largest city recorded its third consecutive day of temperatures above 109 F for the first time since 1855, when record-keeping began, the Bureau of Meteorology said.


Global Warming From Carbon Dioxide Will Increase Five-fold Over The Next Millennium, Scientists Predict

ScienceDaily (Jan. 29, 2009) — Scientists at the University of Liverpool have found that heating from carbon dioxide will increase five-fold over the next millennium.

Scientists studied the impact that current carbon emissions have on the delicate balance between air and sea carbon exchange. They found that the ocean’s ability to store excessive amounts of carbon dioxide over thousands of years will affect the long-term heating of the planet.

The ocean acts as an enormous carbon sink which naturally absorbs any extra carbon dioxide added to the atmosphere. Its ability to store more carbon dioxide than both the atmosphere and land provides long-term storage for the carbon dioxide emitted by human activities.

Scientists at Liverpool, however, have found that if all conventional coal, oil and gas carbon reserves are exhausted, the excessive amounts of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere will begin to alter the ocean’s natural chemistry and hinder its ability to absorb and exchange the gas.

Professor Ric Williams, from the University’s School of Earth and Ocean Sciences, explains: “It is accepted that rising atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations lead to an increase in heating around the globe. It was, however, unclear as to how the ocean’s ability to store carbon could affect the future overall heating of the earth.

“The excessive amount of carbon in the atmosphere will make the oceans more acidic and hamper the ability of the oceans to absorb further carbon from the atmosphere. The extra carbon dioxide remaining in the atmosphere will lead to an increase in the overall heating of our planet, making sea levels rise and exacerbating the melting of the Arctic ice caps.


Glaciers Around The Globe Continue To Melt At High Rates
ScienceDaily (Jan. 29, 2009) — Glaciers around the globe continue to melt at high rates. Tentative figures for the year 2007, of the World Glacier Monitoring Service at the University of Zurich, Switzerland, indicate a further loss of average ice thickness of roughly 0.67 meter water equivalent (m w.e.). Some glaciers in the European Alps lost up to 2.5 m w.e.

Climate Change Largely Irreversible For Next 1,000 Years, NOAA Reports

It was very disturbing that when reports on this appeared on the online web sites, they were rated so low in importance. About half the rating of the article on remarks by Simon Cowell on American Idol, and that wasn't all that high. Of course we are concerned with the current economic problems, but our effects on the environment aren't going to stand still until the economy is better. And the environmental degradation will cost the econoy dearly; that is, cost even more than it is already doing.

ScienceDaily (Jan. 28, 2009) — A new scientific study led by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reaches a powerful conclusion about the climate change caused by future increases of carbon dioxide: to a large extent, there’s no going back.

The pioneering study, led by NOAA senior scientist Susan Solomon, shows how changes in surface temperature, rainfall, and sea level are largely irreversible for more than 1,000 years after carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions are completely stopped. The findings appear during the week of January 26 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

“Our study convinced us that current choices regarding carbon dioxide emissions will have legacies that will irreversibly change the planet,” said Solomon, who is based at NOAA’s Earth System Research Laboratory in Boulder, Colo.

“It has long been known that some of the carbon dioxide emitted by human activities stays in the atmosphere for thousands of years,” Solomon said. “But the new study advances the understanding of how this affects the climate system.”

The study examines the consequences of allowing CO2 to build up to several different peak levels beyond present-day concentrations of 385 parts per million and then completely halting the emissions after the peak. The authors found that the scientific evidence is strong enough to quantify some irreversible climate impacts, including rainfall changes in certain key regions, and global sea level rise.

If CO2 is allowed to peak at 450-600 parts per million, the results would include persistent decreases in dry-season rainfall that are comparable to the 1930s North American Dust Bowl in zones including southern Europe, northern Africa, southwestern North America, southern Africa and western Australia.

The study notes that decreases in rainfall that last not just for a few decades but over centuries are expected to have a range of impacts that differ by region. Such regional impacts include decreasing human water supplies, increased fire frequency, ecosystem change and expanded deserts. Dry-season wheat and maize agriculture in regions of rain-fed farming, such as Africa, would also be affected.

Climate impacts were less severe at lower peak levels. But at all levels added carbon dioxide and its climate effects linger because of the ocean.

“In the long run, both carbon dioxide loss and heat transfer depend on the same physics of deep-ocean mixing. The two work against each other to keep temperatures almost constant for more than a thousand years, and that makes carbon dioxide unique among the major climate gases,” said Solomon.

The scientists emphasize that increases in CO2 that occur in this century “lock in” sea level rise that would slowly follow in the next 1,000 years. Considering just the expansion of warming ocean waters—without melting glaciers and polar ice sheets—the authors find that the irreversible global average sea level rise by the year 3000 would be at least 1.3–3.2 feet (0.4–1.0 meter) if CO2 peaks at 600 parts per million, and double that amount if CO2 peaks at 1,000 parts per million.

“Additional contributions to sea level rise from the melting of glaciers and polar ice sheets are too uncertain to quantify in the same way,” said Solomon. “They could be even larger but we just don’t have the same level of knowledge about those terms. We presented the minimum sea level rise that we can expect from well-understood physics, and we were surprised that it was so large.”

Is Technology Producing A Decline In Critical Thinking And Analysis?

I'm not including the whole article, as it's pretty long, but I recommend it, as it is interesting. And maybe reading it will help develop your imagination, induction, reflection and critical thinking, as well as vocabulary :)

ScienceDaily (Jan. 29, 2009) — As technology has played a bigger role in our lives, our skills in critical thinking and analysis have declined, while our visual skills have improved, according to research by Patricia Greenfield, UCLA distinguished professor of psychology and director of the Children's Digital Media Center, Los Angeles.

Learners have changed as a result of their exposure to technology, says Greenfield, who analyzed more than 50 studies on learning and technology, including research on multi-tasking and the use of computers, the Internet and video games. Her research was published this month in the journal Science.

Reading for pleasure, which has declined among young people in recent decades, enhances thinking and engages the imagination in a way that visual media such as video games and television do not, Greenfield said.
More than 85 percent of video games contain violence, one study found, and multiple studies of violent media games have shown that they can produce many negative effects, including aggressive behavior and desensitization to real-life violence, Greenfield said in summarizing the findings.

Did I See What I Think I Saw?

I know I am not good at remembering visual details. In fact, when I took the test at , I tested as faceblind. No surprise. All those photos of faces looked alike to me. I can see somebody everyday at work, and have no idea who they are at the grocery store.

A big problem is that juries put such face in eye witness accounts.

ScienceDaily (Jan. 30, 2009) — Eyewitness testimony is a crucial part of many criminal trials even though research increasingly suggests that it may not be as accurate as we (and many lawyers) would like it to be. For example, if you witness a man in a blue sweater stealing something, then overhear people talking about a gray shirt, how likely are you to remember the real color of the thief's sweater?

Studies have shown that when people are told false information about an event, they become less likely to remember what actually happened - it is easy to mix up the real facts with fake ones. However, there is evidence that when people are forced to recall what they witnessed (shortly after the event), they are more likely to remember details of what really happened.

Psychologists Jason Chan of Iowa State University, Ayanna Thomas from Tufts University and John Bulevich from Rhode Island College wanted to see how providing false information following a recall test would affect volunteers' memories of an event that they witnessed. A group of volunteers watched the first episode of "24" and then either took an immediate recall test about the show or played a game. Next, all of the subjects were told false information about the episode they had seen and then took a final memory test about the show.

The results, reported in the January issue of Psychological Science, were surprising. The researchers found that the volunteers who took the test immediately after watching the show were almost twice as likely to recall false information compared to the volunteers who played the game following the episode.

The results of a follow-up experiment suggest that the first recall test may have improved subjects' ability to learn the false information - that is, the first test enhanced learning of new and erroneous information. These findings show that recently recalled information is prone to distortion. The authors conclude that "this study shows that even psychologists may have underestimated the malleability of eyewitness testimony."

Friday, January 30, 2009

Man freed 23 years after wrongful conviction

I expect by next week a Georgia legislator will introduce legislation to make executions easier. That is their standard response to proof that people have spent decades in prison, sometimes on death row, after having been wrongfully convicted.

updated 42 minutes ago

MILWAUKEE - A man sentenced to life in prison for killing a woman in 1984 had his conviction overturned and was released Friday after spending 23 years behind bars.

Robert Lee Stinson, 44, walked out of the New Lisbon Correctional Institution in street clothes and hugged his sister and members of the Wisconsin Innocence Project. A judge vacated the sentence after the Project argued that bite-mark analysis and DNA evidence didn't match evidence from the crime scene, defense attorney Byron Lichstein said.

Stinson was convicted in 1985 of first-degree murder in the death of a 63-year-old Milwaukee woman. Evidence suggested she had been raped, and her body also had eight different bite marks, Lichstein said.

At trial, two forensic odontologists testified that Stinson's teeth were a match, even though Stinson was apparently missing a tooth in a place where the bite marks indicated a tooth, Lichstein said.

Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisholm said in a statement Friday that Stinson's conviction was not wrongful, and that he was convicted based on "state-of-the-art scientific evidence available at the time of his trial."

"The question today is whether there is newly discovered evidence in this case to warrant a new trial, and we agree that such evidence exists," Chisholm said. The statement did not specify the evidence.

Milwaukee County Assistant District Attorney Norman Gahn said he has six months to decide whether to retry Stinson.

In shock
Lichstein, who last spoke to Stinson on Thursday, said his client was happy but in shock.

"I don't think it had completely sunk in," Lichstein said. "Personally, I feel a real sense of relief. It's been a long time coming for Mr. Stinson."

Stinson's conviction was based almost exclusively on evidence suggesting that bite marks matched Stinson's teeth, Lichstein said. The lawyer said he did not know why special technology was necessary if the missing tooth could have indicated there was no match.

"I wish I could tell you. I wasn't around back then," he said.

DNA taken from saliva on the victim's sweater also did not match Stinson.

For a decade, attorneys and even some forensic experts have ridiculed the bite-mark identification as sham science and glorified guesswork.

Critics say human skin changes and distorts imprints until they are nearly unrecognizable. As a result, courtroom experts end up offering competing opinions. But odontologists insist the science is sound if applied properly.

Since 2000, at least eight people in five states who were convicted largely on bite-mark identification have been exonerated, according to the Innocence Project.

Stinson attended a celebratory reception with family and other Innocence Project lawyers Friday afternoon. He previously told lawyers the first thing he wanted to do as a free man was to eat fried shrimp, which he did later at an Applebee's restaurant in Wisconsin Dells.

Laugh for the day

James J. Cramer
Citigroup's Weill Is Worth Every Cent
By James J. Cramer
RealMoney Columnist
3/17/2004 4:03 PM EST

Sandy Weill's not overpaid. There. When I think that he took Citigroup (C:NYSE) to where it is, far and away the largest bank in the world -- one that J.P. Morgan (JPM:NYSE) and Bank One (BAC:NYSE) , when they combine, still won't be able to touch; one that could buy Deutsche Bank (DB:NYSE) and it wouldn't even be important -- I laugh at the polls that question whether Weill was overpaid. I disagree that there is a "controversy" here. He's worth every penny.

My beef with execs isn't that they pay themselves excessively; it is that they pay themselves excessively regardless of whether they do well or not. Disney's (DIS:NYSE) Michael Eisner pays himself exorbitantly given how little shareholders have to show for it. Weill? Go read Monica Langley's book, Tearing Down the Walls . This guy built a company from scratch and then took it to where it could go buy Citibank. He created this institution. He's not some steward -- again, like Eisner -- he's the inventor.

Weill to End Citi Consulting Job, Giving Up Millions
By Bradley Keoun

Jan. 29 [,2009] (Bloomberg) -- Former Citigroup Inc. Chairman Sanford “Sandy” Weill will end a 10-year consulting contract with the bank that gave him millions of dollars in perks, including an office, car and driver and the use of company jets.

Weill, who retired as chairman and started the consulting job less than three years ago, told Citigroup in August 2008 that he wanted to terminate the arrangement, Shannon Bell, a spokeswoman for the New York-based bank, said today. He and the company “mutually agreed to stop” the benefits, starting in April, Bell said. Weill didn’t return a call to his Citigroup office.

Weill, 75, is distancing himself from the financial colossus he built over 17 years as Chief Executive Officer Vikram Pandit, 52, begins dismantling it following a last year’s record $18.7 billion loss. Two weeks ago, Pandit marked the bank’s CitiFinancial consumer-finance and Primerica insurance units as “non-core” and said they would eventually be sold.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

8000 Floridians ,Homeless in the Woods 2008

News video:

In 3 Counties surrounding Disney world, something like 8000 people are living in the woods, sleeping in Parking Lots, keeping away from the Police(it is against the law to sleep anywhere and not pay someone to sleep there.)If these people have children, the Children will be taken from them. Can you imagine having a job and still not making enough for a safe roof over your head? These are the FACTS that the Florida Tourism Board DOES NOT want you to know.

Unemployment situation is worse than it looks

I hate to post all of such a long article, but several times when I have gone back to an article, it has been deleted, and this has a lot of good info.

Unemployment situation is worse than it looks
Government’s number doesn’t track millions of those who need work
By Moria Herbst
updated 6:54 p.m. ET, Thurs., Dec. 18, 2008

As U.S. jobs disappear at a rapid clip, the official unemployment figure seems understated. While November's 6.7 percent rate is a full 2 percent higher than the same time last year, the rate remains well below the 10.8 percent postwar peak, reached in November 1982. One issue is that the official unemployment number captures only a slice of the total joblessness in the U.S. To be counted as unemployed in this statistic, a worker must not have a job, be currently available for work, and have actively sought employment within the last four weeks. In other words, a lot of the jobless are left out of the government's tally.

Rajeev Dhawan, director of Georgia State University's Robinson College of Business, says the official unemployment rate is "not a good measure of what is happening in the economy. It's drawn from a sample too small and filled with too many assumptions. Absolute job losses and retail sales give a better idea of what's really happening in the economy."

Fortunately, digging deeper into the labyrinth of the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics' Web site can offer a more complete, if imperfect, picture of joblessness. Since 1993, the BLS has tracked a category of unemployed called U-6, which captures the total unemployed, plus what the agency calls "marginally attached" workers and those employed part-time "for economic reasons." For November 2008, that rate was 12.5 percent, nearly double the official unemployment rate and the highest since the government started tracking this category.

Marginally attached workers are those with no job and who aren't hunting for one but who are interested in working — people who have left the workforce because the employment situation seems so bleak that they've stopped trying. This measure covers anyone who has looked for work in the past 12 months, not just the past four weeks. In November, 1.9 million workers were marginally attached, up 637,000 from a month prior. This category includes long-term unemployed, such as factory workers who can't find a job paying close to what they'd been earning before. Unemployment rates in construction and extraction jobs such as mining hit 12.1 percent in November, followed by 9.4 percent in production jobs. That means the ranks of the marginally attached will increase.

[Eg., when people go to graduate school because they can't get a job.]

Those employed part-time for economic reasons, who are counted as employed in the official statistic, want and are available for full-time work but have had to settle for a part-time schedule. As of November, the number of workers in this category rose by 621,000. There are now 7.3 million involuntary part-time workers, up 2.8 million over the past 12 months.

Contract workers, sometimes known as freelancers or independent contractors, face a special set of problems when it comes to being counted by the government. First, employers aren't required to report layoffs of contract workers to the government, so when companies say they're cutting their contractor workforce — as Google did in October — no one knows by how much. These job cuts are also not recorded in the official job-cut statistics tracked by the government. In other words, the 533,000 jobs lost in the November count don't include any of the tens of thousands of contract workers being slashed from company payrolls as the recession deepens.

Some self-employed workers are incorporated into other BLS statistics, but not all of them are counted. Those traditionally considered self-employed, such as independent real estate agents or accountants, are included in the government's household survey of the unemployed. But those working as long-term freelancers for one particular company without the benefits of being staff members—often dubbed "permalancers"—are not. That means a good portion of this group, which the Government Accountability Office says makes up 10 percent of the workforce, isn't properly tracked.

"We really don't know what is happening with the (contractor employment) numbers," says Sara Horowitz, founder of the Freelancers Union, a 93,000-member organization of contract workers. Horowitz says the government should develop better measures of contract workers, perhaps by identifying the number of contractor tax filings with the IRS each year. "An increasing part of the economy is driven by this new workforce, but government agencies haven't updated their methods for counting them," she says.

The BLS does capture other pieces of the unemployment puzzle. It breaks out such demographic categories as education levels. As of November the unemployment rate for college graduates increased less than a percentage point, to 3.1 percent, while the unemployment rate for high school dropouts rose from 7.6 percent to 10.5 percent. The BLS also tracks such categories as age and ethnicity; the unemployment rate in November was 32 percent for black teenagers, for example. Other data offer state-by-state comparisons of unemployment rates. In the most recent data, which cover the first 10 months of 2008, Rhode Island and Michigan were tied with the highest unemployment rate, at 9.3 percent, with California next at 8.2 percent. Though not officially a state, Puerto Rico's rate stands at 12 percent.

Still, calls for improving the BLS metrics continue. While Horowitz presses for better accounting of contract workers, Georgia State's Dhawan says the surveys need to account for population growth. "Fifty years ago, the (official unemployment) number had some validity," he says. "Now I have little faith in it."

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Obama to drop family-planning from stimulus as GOP concession

The GOP are truly evil. Unwanted children are more likely to be abused. Just today, there was a news item about a two-year old who was beaten to death by her 19-year old mother.;_ylt=Am90FG5CaK5Tn4NWWBlT_KKs0NUE;_ylu=X3oDMTFlN2ExOTlvBHBvcwM4NARzZWMDYWNjb3JkaW9uX3BvbGl0aWNzBHNsawNvYmFtYXRvZHJvcGY-

By Steven Thomma, McClatchy Newspapers Steven Thomma, Mcclatchy Newspapers – Tue Jan 27, 10:31 am ET

WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama has told congressional Democrats to drop a proposal to spend money on family planning from the proposed $825 billion plan to stimulate the economy, a White House aide told McClatchy .

Obama is likely to offer that concession when he meets Tuesday with congressional Republicans, who've complained bitterly that the proposal is liberal pork that has nothing to do with stimulating the economy or creating jobs.

"How can you spend hundreds of millions of dollars on contraceptives? How does that stimulate the economy?" asked an incredulous Rep. John Boehner , R- Ohio , his party's leader in the House of Representatives , after an opening meeting Friday with Obama at the White House .

Boehner was to host Obama at a follow-up lunch Tuesday at the Capitol.

Boehner was pointing to a proposal in the bill to expand Medicaid family-planning services. Republicans said the proposal would make taxpayer-financed family-planning services, including contraceptives, available to those who don't qualify for the help now under Medicaid.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Wall Street's culture of entitlement hard to shake;_ylt=AqwYHTN.1KUVw8kZZ.Cx.layBhIF

By MADLEN READ, AP Business Writer Madlen Read, Ap Business Writer – Fri Jan 23, 5:48 pm ET

NEW YORK – John Thain should have known the rules.

After all, when he became CEO of the New York Stock Exchange in 2004, he replaced Richard Grasso — a man who embodied the excesses of the times and was forced out for taking a massive annual pay package of $187.5 million. Thain at the time accepted a much smaller $4 million.

But now, the Wall Street wunderkind is gaining similar notoriety. As head of Merrill Lynch, he sped up bonuses to several executives before Bank of America Corp. bought the investment bank on Jan 1. He also spent $1.2 million decorating his Manhattan office, according to media reports, as Merrill hemorrhaged money — a decision that's invoking particular rage among Americans, including President Barack Obama. Thain left his post at Bank of America on Thursday after unexpectedly big losses at Merrill Lynch; the bonuses were a likely contributing factor in his departure.
On Friday, citing the reports "about companies that have received taxpayer assistance, then going out and renovating bathrooms or offices," Obama said the lack of accountability and transparency at financial companies "have to be part and parcel of a reform package if we're going to be responsible in dealing with this economic crisis."

The reports of Thain's expenditures follow news just a few months ago that bailed-out American International Group Inc. spent about half a million dollars for executives to attend a beach retreat in California.
The difference between wages in finance and wages in other private sector industries was "excessively high" from the mid-1990s until 2006, according to a paper by New York University's Thomas Philippon and the University of Virginia's Ariell Reshef published this month by the National Bureau of Economic Research. The last time the difference was similarly excessive was around 1930, they wrote — right after the stock market crash of 1929.

Many bank CEOs and other executives gave up their bonuses late last year as the government started limiting compensation as part of its Troubled Assets Relief Program. Thain was among them, as were four other Merrill executives — but only after Thain initially sought out a $10 million bonus, The Wall Street Journal reported.

Merrill Lynch paid Thain more than $83 million in 2007 — making him the highest paid CEO on Wall Street that year. The firm then lost more than $37 billion over the course of 15 months, and was saved from collapse in a government-brokered buyout by Charlotte, N.C.-based Bank of America Corp.
And Citigroup recently said it plans to tie executive pay more closely to performance. It spent $6.6 billion on total compensation and benefits in the fourth quarter of 2008 — down 26 percent from the same quarter in 2007.

The changes were slow-moving, though, considering that the institution's problems started escalating in late 2007. For the first three quarters of the year, compensation and benefits were actually higher than in the same period a year earlier, even though Citigroup was losing money. That was before the company received a government bailout.

For all of 2008, Citigroup's spending on compensation and benefits was down 4 percent from 2007 — although its work force shrank by a much larger 14 percent. That means the company's expenses per worker were rising as the company struggled.
David Schmidt, a senior compensation consultant at James F. Reda & Associates, agreed that in general, retention bonuses seem unnecessary in an environment where tens of thousands of financial industry jobs have disappeared.

Friday, January 23, 2009

When is it best to buy a more fuel-efficient car?

Q: Is it better to drive an older, well-maintained car that gets about 25 miles per gallon or to buy a new car that gets about 35 miles per gallon?
– Edward Peabody, via e-mail

A: It definitely makes more sense from a green perspective to keep your old car running and well-maintained as long as you can – especially if it’s getting such good mileage. There are significant environmental costs to both manufacturing a new automobile and adding your old car to the ever-growing collective junk heap.

A 2004 analysis by Toyota found that as much as 28 percent of the carbon dioxide emissions generated during the life cycle of a typical gasoline-powered car can occur during its manufacture and transportation to the dealer; the remaining emissions occur during driving once its new owner takes possession.

An earlier study by Seikei University in Japan put the prepurchase number at 12 percent.

Regardless of which result is closer to the truth, your current car has already passed its manufacture and transport stage, so the relevant comparison has to do with its remaining carbon footprint compared with that of a new car’s manufacture, transport, and driver’s footprints – not to mention the environmental impact of disposing of your old car or selling it to a new owner who will continue to drive it. There are environmental impacts even if your old car is junked, dismantled, and sold for parts and scrap.

Don’t forget that the new hybrids – despite their lower emissions and better gas mileage – actually have a much larger environmental impact in their manufacturing compared with nonhybrids.

The batteries that hybrids use to store energy for the drivetrain are no friend to the environment – and having two engines (gas and electric) under one hood increases manufacturing emissions. And all-electric vehicles are only emission-free if the outlet providing the juice is connected to a renewable energy source, rather than a coal-burning power plant, which is more likely.

You can assess your car’s fuel efficiency or emissions by using one of many services available online. The government website provides fuel efficiency figures for hundreds of different vehicles dating back to 1985.

Web­­sites like and can help you track your mileage and provide ongoing tips to improve fuel efficiency for your specific make and model vehicle. takes it a step further, making projections about annual mileage, fuel costs, and fuel efficiency based on your driving habits. If you have an iPhone, you can keep track of your car’s carbon footprint with the new Greenmeter App from Hunter Research and Technologies. The program tracks numerous variables to make its calculations as you drive, including weather conditions, cost of fuel, vehicle weight, and more.

If you simply must change your vehicle, be it for fuel efficiency or some other reason, one option is to simply buy a used car that gets better gas mileage than your existing one.

There’s much to be said, from many environmental vantage points, about postponing replacement purchases – of anything, not just cars. It’s a good idea to keep out of the waste stream anything that has already been made and to delay the additional environmental costs of making something new.

Got an environmental question? Write: EarthTalk, c/o E – The Environmental Magazine, Box 5098, Westport, CT 06881. Or e-mail:

United Nations World Food Program

There are 963 million undernourished people in the world today. That means one in nearly seven people do not get enough food to be healthy and lead an active life. Hunger and malnutrition are in fact the number one risk to the health worldwide — greater than AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis combined.

Every six seconds a child dies because she or he is hungry;

25,000 people (adults and children) die every day from hunger and related causes;
To make donations.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Pollen Tablets Alleviates Hay Fever And Asthma In Children

About 20 years ago, I had allergy shots for several years. They did help, but it would have been nice if this grass pollen method had been available then.

Immunotherapy Alleviates Hay Fever And Asthma In Children
ScienceDaily (Jan. 21, 2009) — Taking one grass pollen tablet every day can alleviate hay fever and asthma in children.

These are the results of a study by medical experts in the team led by Prof. Dr. Albrecht Bufe (Experimental Pneumology) at the Ruhr-Universität Bochum. The study was carried out jointly with national colleagues and featured 253 children. Under this particular treatment, asthma symptoms declined by 64% and hay fever symptoms by 24%. The results are published in the current issue of the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology.

Low Levels Of Vitamin D Link To Cognitive Problems In Older People

I began taking vitamin D3 last year for the sake of my bones. I'm glad to see I might also be helping my brain.

ScienceDaily (Jan. 22, 2009) — Researchers from the Peninsula Medical School, the University of Cambridge and the University of Michigan, have for the first time identified a relationship between Vitamin D, the "sunshine vitamin", and cognitive impairment in a large-scale study of older people. The importance of these findings lies in the connection between cognitive function and dementia: people who have impaired cognitive function are more likely to develop dementia.

The study was based on data on almost 2000 adults aged 65 and over who participated in the Health Survey for England in 2000 and whose levels of cognitive function were assessed. The study found that as levels of Vitamin D went down, levels of cognitive impairment went up. Compared to those with optimum levels of Vitamin D, those with the lowest levels were more than twice as likely to be cognitively impaired.

Vitamin D is important in maintaining bone health, in the absorption of calcium and phosphorus, and in helping our immune system. In humans, Vitamin D comes from three main sources – exposure to sunlight, foods such as oily fish, and foods that are fortified with vitamin D (such as milk, cereals, and soya drinks). One problem faced by older people is that the capacity of the skin to absorb Vitamin D from sunlight decreases as the body ages, so they are more reliant on obtaining Vitamin D from other sources.

What Works Better For Smokers?

ScienceDaily (Jan. 22, 2009) — A study from the University of Bath has found that smokers are twice as likely to kick the habit if they use a support group rather than trying to give up alone.

Breastfeeding May Prevent Breast Cancer

This sounds like it could be at least part of the reason African-American women have a higher rate of breast cancer than European-Americans.

ScienceDaily (Jan. 22, 2009) — Dr. Michael Lisanti and colleagues at Thomas Jefferson University found that extended lactation protects again mammary tumor development.

Women who breastfeed for greater than two years have a significantly reduced risk of developing breast cancer later in life.

Educating Criminals

In general, I believe in the spread of knowledge. But one area I have a problem with is bringing to the public information about crime-solving techniques with enough detail to help criminals do a better job of escaping detection.

And I'm not giving any specifics because I don't want to be part of the problem.

Americans Owe Five Months Of Their Lives To Cleaner Air

Maybe this will provide people incentives to clean up the horrible Atlanta air. When the air here is bad, I have a hard time breathing.

ScienceDaily (Jan. 22, 2009) — A new study by researchers at Brigham Young University and Harvard School of Public Health shows that average life expectancy in 51 U.S. cities increased nearly three years over recent decades, and approximately five months of that increase came thanks to cleaner air.

"Such a significant increase in life expectancy attributable to reducing air pollution is remarkable," said C. Arden Pope III, a BYU epidemiologist and lead author on the study in the Jan. 22 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine. "We find that we're getting a substantial return on our investments in improving our air quality. Not only are we getting cleaner air that improves our environment, but it is improving our public health."

"Such a significant increase in life expectancy attributable to reducing air pollution is remarkable," said C. Arden Pope III, a BYU epidemiologist and lead author on the study in the Jan. 22 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine. "We find that we're getting a substantial return on our investments in improving our air quality. Not only are we getting cleaner air that improves our environment, but it is improving our public health."

Growing Years Cut Short For Toddlers From Poor Families

ScienceDaily (Jan. 22, 2009) — Continuous poverty during toddler years can curb the height of children by the time they reach kindergarten, even in industrialized countries, according to new research from the Université de Montréal. Regardless of hereditary factors such as maternal height and education level, according to the finding published in the Journal of Epidemiology Community Health, children from poor families are more likely to be shorter than their peers.
"Children from families experiencing a persistent lack of money to cover their basic needs risk facing a growth delay," says Dr. Louise Séguin, noting the possibility holds true after factoring in children's health at birth, sibling rank, maternal health and maternal education. "Children who experienced consistent poverty were more likely to have delayed growth versus children whose basic needs were met."
"Although Canada is an industrialized country featuring a universal healthcare system and accessible daycare, the country still features health inequalities directly related to poverty," adds Professor Maria-Victoria Zunzunegui, stressing those inequities translate to deficient nutrition, bad housing conditions that can cause breathing illnesses such as asthma that in turn can lead to shorter stature. In addition to these environmental problems, poor children are often exposed to multiple psychosocial adversities. These hardships can lead to chronic stress that can affect their health as well as their growth.

Chinese TV Censors Part of Address by Obama

Chinese TV Censors Part of Address by Obama
Published: January 21, 2009

BEIJING — President Obama’s 18-minute Inaugural Address on Tuesday was generally lauded by Americans for its candor and conviction. But the Chinese Communist Party apparently thought the new American president’s gilded words were a little too direct.

China Central Television, or CCTV, the main state-run network, broadcast the address live until the moment Mr. Obama mentioned “communism” in a line about the defeat of ideologies considered anathema to Americans. After the translator said “communism” in Chinese, the audio fadedout even as Mr. Obama’s lips continued to move.

CCTV then showed an anchor asking an analyst about the economic challenges that President Obama faces. The analyst was clearly caught off guard by the sudden question.

The offending line in the president’s speech was this: “Recall that earlier generations faced down fascism and communism not just with missiles and tanks, but with sturdy alliances and enduring convictions.”

Later, the president went on to say: “To those who cling to power through corruption and deceit and the silencing of dissent, know that you are on the wrong side of history, but that we will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist.”

Chinese translations of the address published Wednesday by state-run news organizations here and on prominent Web portals omitted that line and the word “communism” in the earlier line. The government, however, allowed the full English text of the address to be published.

China protest decries eating cats

I saw mention of this recently on Yahoo, but that article is not longer available.
Being a vegetarian, I can't say that eating cats and dogs is (logically) worse than eating cows and pigs, but skinning and boiling animals alive is evil.

BEIJING -- A southern Chinese province must stop the “shameful” and “cruel slaughter” of cats for food, a group of more than 40 animal lovers in Beijing said Thursday as they unfurled banners in a tearful protest.

Thousands of cats across the country have been caught in the past week by traders and transported to Guangdong province to be killed for food, said the protesters gathered at the Guangdong government’s office in Beijing.

“We are very angry because the cats are being skinned and then cooked alive. We must make them correct this uncivilized behavior,” said Wang Hongyao, who represented the group in submitting a letter to the Guangdong office.

The protesters urged the provincial government to crack down on cat traders and restaurants that serve cat meat, although no law says it is illegal to eat cats.

It has long been common for cats and dogs to be eaten in some parts of China and in some other Asian countries.

The demonstrators held up banners saying “Cooking cats alive! Shame on Guangdong!” and “Resolutely oppose cruel slaughter” as they met with a representative of the Guangdong office.

Calls to the Guangdong provincial office in Beijing rang unanswered, while the government news office in the province refused to comment.

The protest was apparently in response to Chinese media reports in recent days that carried pictures of furry felines peering out through bamboo crates and metal cages, apparently en route to Guangzhou, Guangdong’s capital. Other pictures show cats being skinned in restaurant kitchens.

About 5,000 cats were sent from Nanjing to Guangzhou, while cats from Shanghai, Hangzhou and other places were also being rounded up, the Chengdu Business Daily reported last week.

The paper said people in Guangdong eat 10,000 cats a day. No reason was given for the increased media coverage, or if there has been an increase in cat meat consumption.

Many of the protesters in Beijing were retirees who said they have been caring for strays cats. The protesters said they believed that some street cats in Beijing, “especially the fat ones,” have disappeared and were likely nabbed by cat meat dealers.

“These cats, they are like our children,” said Cui Qingzhen, a 56-year-old woman who said she has been feeding street cats for six years. “We can’t let these people do this to them.”

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Frogs Are Being Eaten To Extinction

ScienceDaily (Jan. 21, 2009) — The global trade in frog legs for human consumption is threatening their extinction, according to a new study by an international team including University of Adelaide researchers.

The researchers say the global pattern of harvesting and decline of wild populations of frogs appears to be following the same path set by overexploitation of the seas and subsequent "chain reaction" of fisheries collapses around the world.

Smoking Linked To Most Male Cancer Deaths

ScienceDaily (Jan. 21, 2009) — The association between tobacco smoke and cancer deaths — beyond lung cancer deaths — has been strengthened by a recent study from a UC Davis researcher, suggesting that increased tobacco control efforts could save more lives than previously estimated.

The epidemiological analysis linked smoking to more than 70 percent of the cancer death burden among Massachusetts men in 2003. This percentage is much higher than the previous estimate of 34 percent in 2001.

"This study provides support for the growing understanding among researchers that smoking is a cause of many more cancer deaths besides lung cancer," said lead author Bruce Leistikow, a UC Davis associate adjunct professor of public health sciences. "The full impacts of tobacco smoke, including secondhand smoke, have been overlooked in the rush to examine such potential cancer factors as diet and environmental contaminants. As it turns out, much of the answer was probably smoking all along."

Leistikow used National Center for Health Statistics data to compare death rates from lung cancer to death rates from all other cancers among Massachusetts males. The assessment revealed that the two rates changed in tandem year-by-year from 1979 to 2003, with the strongest association among males aged 30-to-74 years.

Smoking is a known cause of most lung cancers, and the study authors concluded that the very close relationship over twenty-five years between lung and other cancer death rates suggests a single cause for both: tobacco smoke.

Leistikow, whose research is dedicated to uncovering the causes of premature mortality, said, "The fact that lung and non-lung cancer death rates are almost perfectly associated means that smokers and nonsmokers alike should do what they can to avoid tobacco smoke. It also suggests that increased attention should be paid to smoking prevention in health care reforms and health promotion campaigns."

The current study was funded by UC Davis, the Health Research Board (Ireland) and the National Cancer Institute.

Coauthors of the study were Zubair Kabir of the Harvard School of Public Health and the Research Institute for a Tobacco-Free Society (Ireland), Gregory Connolly and Hillel R. Alpert of the Harvard School of Public Health and Luke Clancy of the Research Institute for a Tobacco-Free Society.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009


prosecutors have accused him of mailing off millions of dollars in personal assets to family members while under house arrest in his Manhattan apartment

Earlier reports mentioned that he was also found with checks he had made out to former employees. The media keep referring to Bernard Madoff as a sociopath (aka psychopath). He certainly has behaved immorally. But a sociopath wouldn't have bothered trying to help his former employees, or even relatives.

Scientists agree human-induced global warming is real

Public release date: 19-Jan-2009
Contact: Paul Francuch 312-996-3457
University of Illinois at Chicago

Survey: Scientists agree human-induced global warming is real

While the harsh winter pounding many areas of North America and Europe seemingly contradicts the fact that global warming continues unabated, a new survey finds consensus among scientists about the reality of climate change and its likely cause.

A group of 3,146 earth scientists surveyed around the world overwhelmingly agree that in the past 200-plus years, mean global temperatures have been rising, and that human activity is a significant contributing factor in changing mean global temperatures.

Peter Doran, University of Illinois at Chicago associate professor of earth and environmental sciences, along with former graduate student Maggie Kendall Zimmerman, conducted the survey late last year.

The findings appear today in the publication Eos, Transactions, American Geophysical Union.

In trying to overcome criticism of earlier attempts to gauge the view of earth scientists on global warming and the human impact factor, Doran and Kendall Zimmerman sought the opinion of the most complete list of earth scientists they could find, contacting more than 10,200 experts around the world listed in the 2007 edition of the American Geological Institute's Directory of Geoscience Departments.

Experts in academia and government research centers were e-mailed invitations to participate in the on-line poll conducted by the website Only those invited could participate and computer IP addresses of participants were recorded and used to prevent repeat voting. Questions used were reviewed by a polling expert who checked for bias in phrasing, such as suggesting an answer by the way a question was worded. The nine-question survey was short, taking just a few minutes to complete.

Two questions were key: have mean global temperatures risen compared to pre-1800s levels, and has human activity been a significant factor in changing mean global temperatures.

About 90 percent of the scientists agreed with the first question and 82 percent the second.

In analyzing responses by sub-groups, Doran found that climatologists who are active in research showed the strongest consensus on the causes of global warming, with 97 percent agreeing humans play a role. Petroleum geologists and meteorologists were among the biggest doubters, with only 47 and 64 percent respectively believing in human involvement. Doran compared their responses to a recent poll showing only 58 percent of the public thinks human activity contributes to global warming.

"The petroleum geologist response is not too surprising, but the meteorologists' is very interesting," he said. "Most members of the public think meteorologists know climate, but most of them actually study very short-term phenomenon."

He was not surprised, however, by the near-unanimous agreement by climatologists.

"They're the ones who study and publish on climate science. So I guess the take-home message is, the more you know about the field of climate science, the more you're likely to believe in global warming and humankind's contribution to it."

Doran and Kendall Zimmerman conclude that "the debate on the authenticity of global warming and the role played by human activity is largely nonexistent among those who understand the nuances and scientific basis of long-term climate processes." The challenge now, they write, is how to effectively communicate this to policy makers and to a public that continues to mistakenly perceive debate among scientists.

An elephant never forgets

ScienceDaily (Jan. 20, 2009) — An African elephant never forgets – especially when it comes to the loss of its kin, according to researchers at the University of Washington. Their findings, published online in the journal, Molecular Ecology, reveal that the negative effects of poaching persist for decades after the killing has ended.

“Our study shows that it takes a long time – upwards of 20 years – for a family who has lost its kin to rebuild,” said lead researcher Kathleen Gobush, Ph.D., a research ecologist for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Agency and a former doctoral student at the University of Washington Center for Conservation Biology.

Eat your veggies!

ScienceDaily (Jan. 20, 2009) — Findings from a new study suggest that natural pigments found in plants may help protect against bone loss in older men and women. Researchers funded by the Agricultural Research Service (ARS) reported the findings in a paper published online by The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
Other studies have consistently shown that fruit and vegetable intake is good for bones. Biological antioxidants in fruits and vegetables, such as carotenoids, protect cells and tissues from damage caused by naturally occurring oxygen free radicals in the body. Such plant nutrients may help protect the skeleton by reducing oxidative stress and thereby inhibiting bone breakdown or resorption.

Socially Active And Not Easily Stressed? You Might Not Develop Dementia

Fortunately, I have also have some good risk factors.

ScienceDaily (Jan. 20, 2009) — A new study shows that people who are socially active and not easily stressed may be less likely to develop dementia. The research is published in the January 20, 2009, print issue of Neurology®, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology.
The study found that people who were not socially active but calm and relaxed had a 50 percent lower risk of developing dementia compared with people who were isolated and prone to distress. The dementia risk was also 50 percent lower for people who were outgoing and calm compared to those who were outgoing and prone to distress.

"In the past, studies have shown that chronic distress can affect parts of the brain, such as the hippocampus, possibly leading to dementia, but our findings suggest that having a calm and outgoing personality in combination with a socially active lifestyle may decrease the risk of developing dementia even further," says study author Hui-Xin Wang, PhD, with the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, Sweden.

"The good news is, lifestyle factors can be modified as opposed to genetic factors which cannot be controlled. But these are early results, so how exactly mental attitude influences risk for dementia is not clear," said Wang.

Mars May Still Be A Living Planet, Methane In Atmosphere Reveals

ScienceDaily (Jan. 16, 2009) — A team of NASA and university scientists has achieved the first definitive detection of methane in the atmosphere of Mars. This discovery indicates the planet is either biologically or geologically active.

The team found methane in the Martian atmosphere by carefully observing the planet throughout several Mars years with NASA's Infrared Telescope Facility and the W.M. Keck telescope, both at Mauna Kea, Hawaii. The team used spectrometers on the telescopes to spread the light into its component colors, as a prism separates white light into a rainbow. The team detected three spectral features called absorption lines that together are a definitive signature of methane.
Methane, four atoms of hydrogen bound to a carbon atom, is the main component of natural gas on Earth. Astrobiologists are interested in these data because organisms release much of Earth's methane as they digest nutrients. However, other purely geological processes, like oxidation of iron, also release methane.

"Right now, we do not have enough information to tell whether biology or geology -- or both -- is producing the methane on Mars," Mumma said. "But it does tell us the planet is still alive, at least in a geologic sense. It is as if Mars is challenging us, saying, 'hey, find out what this means.' "

If microscopic Martian life is producing the methane, it likely resides far below the surface where it is warm enough for liquid water to exist. Liquid water is necessary for all known forms of life, as are energy sources and a supply of carbon.

"On Earth, microorganisms thrive about 1.2 to 1.9 miles beneath the Witwatersrand basin of South Africa, where natural radioactivity splits water molecules into molecular hydrogen and oxygen," Mumma said. "The organisms use the hydrogen for energy. It might be possible for similar organisms to survive for billions of years below the permafrost layer on Mars, where water is liquid, radiation supplies energy, and carbon dioxide provides carbon. Gases, like methane, accumulated in such underground zones might be released into the atmosphere if pores or fissures open during the warm seasons, connecting the deep zones to the atmosphere at crater walls or canyons."

Declining Male Fertility Linked To Water Pollution

A solution to over-population?

ScienceDaily (Jan. 20, 2009) — New research strengthens the link between water pollution and rising male fertility problems. The study, by Brunel University, the Universities of Exeter and Reading and the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology, shows for the first time how a group of testosterone-blocking chemicals is finding its way into UK rivers, affecting wildlife and potentially humans.

The study identified a new group of chemicals that act as ‘anti-androgens’. This means that they inhibit the function of the male hormone, testosterone, reducing male fertility. Some of these are contained in medicines, including cancer treatments, pharmaceutical treatments, and pesticides used in agriculture. The research suggests that when they get into the water system, these chemicals may play a pivotal role in causing feminising effects in male fish.

Earlier research by Brunel University and the University of Exeter has shown how female sex hormones (estrogens), and chemicals that mimic estrogens, are leading to ‘feminisation’ of male fish. Found in some industrial chemicals and the contraceptive pill, they enter rivers via sewage treatment works. This causes reproductive problems by reducing fish breeding capability and in some cases can lead to male fish changing sex.

Other studies have also suggested that there may be a link between this phenomenon and the increase in human male fertility problems caused by testicular dysgenesis syndrome. Until now, this link lacked credence because the list of suspects causing effects in fish was limited to estrogenic chemicals whilst testicular dysgenesis is known to be caused by exposure to a range of anti-androgens.
Senior author Professor Charles Tyler of the University of Exeter said: ”Our research shows that a much wider range of chemicals than we previously thought is leading to hormone disruption in fish. This means that the pollutants causing these problems are likely to be coming from a wide variety of sources. Our findings also strengthen the argument for the cocktail of chemicals in our water leading to hormone disruption in fish, and contributing to the rise in male reproductive problems. There are likely to be many reasons behind the rise in male fertility problems in humans, but these findings could reveal one, previously unknown, factor.”

Monday, January 19, 2009

inauguration online

Tues., Jan. 20, 2009 11:30 am

Songs for the Day

Happy Martin Luther King day.

I think the following song is really appropriate.
"Reach Out in the Darkness", by Friends and Lovers

Another song appropriate to our time is "One Tin Soldier" by The Original Caste

Saturday, January 17, 2009

2008 Global Temperature Ties As Eighth Warmest On Record

ScienceDaily (Jan. 16, 2009) — The year 2008 tied with 2001 as the eighth warmest year on record for the Earth, based on the combined average of worldwide land and ocean surface temperatures through December, according to a preliminary analysis by NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center in Asheville, N.C. For December alone, the month also ranked as the eighth warmest globally, for the combined land and ocean surface temperature. The assessment is based on records dating back to 1880.

The analyses in NCDC’s global reports are based on preliminary data, which are subject to revision. Additional quality control is applied to the data when late reports are received several weeks after the end of the month and as increased scientific methods improve NCDC’s processing algorithms.

NCDC’s ranking of 2008 as the eighth warmest year compares to a ranking of ninth warmest based on an analysis by NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies. The NOAA and NASA analyses differ slightly in methodology, but both use data from NOAA's National Climatic Data Center – the federal government's official source for climate data.

Friday, January 16, 2009

New Drug Holds Out Promise Of Normal Diet For Sufferers Of Devastating PKU Genetic Disease

I usually don't show articles like this, where the results haven't been shown to work in humans. Too many end up being false hope. But I'd really like to be able to show some positive news, and this seems very promising.

ScienceDaily (Jan. 17, 2009)
PKU is described by scientists as an autosomal recessive genetic disease that is characterized by a deficiency in an enzyme called phenylalanine hydroxylase (PAH).

Without PAH, the body cannot metabolize the amino acid phenylalanine. It then builds up in the blood, crosses the blood–brain barrier and causes severe brain damage. Fortunately, PKU can be detected at birth in blood tests, and was one of the first treatable genetic diseases. From infancy, PKU sufferers are restricted to a low-protein diet to avoid the worst complications of the condition. This diet is essential during childhood to prevent damage to the brain while it is still growing; however, it is now also recommended for life to optimize school performance, concentration and the ability to think clearly.
Sarkissian is hopeful that the new injectable treatment she developed with her former supervisor and now colleague, the corresponding author Dr. Charles Scriver – Emeritus Professor of Pediatrics and their academic and industrial collaborators – will make it possible for PKU patients to eat a more normal diet.

"As we go into clinical trials, we'll see how it works in humans," she said. "Certainly in the animal models we showed that the phenylalanine levels came down to normal. The treatment itself is enzyme therapy, so patients will receive an injection once or twice a week instead of, we hope, needing to be on the diet."

New Family Of Antibacterial Agents Uncovered

ScienceDaily (Jan. 17, 2009) — As bacteria resistant to commonly used antibiotics continue to increase in number, scientists keep searching for new sources of drugs. One potential new bactericide has now been found in the tiny freshwater animal Hydra.

The protein identified by Joachim Grötzinger, Thomas Bosch and colleagues at the University of Kiel, hydramacin-1, is unusual (and also clinically valuable) as it shares virtually no similarity with any other known antibacterial proteins except for two antimicrobials found in another ancient animal, the leech.

Hydramacin proved to be extremely effective though; in a series of laboratory experiments, this protein could kill a wide range of both Gram-positive and Gram-negative bacteria, including clinically-isolated drug-resistant strains like Klebsiella oxytoca (a common cause of nosocomial infections). Hydramacin works by sticking to the bacterial surface, promoting the clumping of nearby bacteria, then disrupting the bacterial membrane.

Grötzinger and his team also determined the 3-D shape of hydramacin-1, which revealed that it most closely resembled a superfamily of proteins found in scorpion venom; within this large group, they propose that hydramacin and the two leech proteins are members of a newly designated family called the macins.

When I first saw this, I thought, great! Of course, eventually bacteria would probably become resistant to it, like they have all other antibiotics, but at least it would be useful for awhile.

Then I thought, once bacteria become resistant to it, what happens to the hydra?
What has happened to the mold that penicillin was derived from?
Besides the morality of what we are doing to the rest of life on earch, as we continue, when will we cause such devastation in other organisms that it harms us?

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Taxes of the Rich and Famous

TAXES OF THE RICH AND FAMOUS....Ezra Klein is doing tax wonkery over at his place, and I can't let him have all the fun. So just for the record, here's a look at effective federal tax rates in general:

Not very progressive! Add in state and local taxes and it would look flatter still. And just to remind everyone of exactly what that "Top 400 Taxpayers" segment at the far right looks like, here are the pinkos over at the Wall Street Journal to explain it to you:

The top 400 taxpayers have greatly increased their share of individuals' income since the mid-1990s. The group accounted for 1.15% of total income in 2005....more than twice as large as its 0.49% share a decade earlier.

....The average federal income-tax rate for the group was 18.23%....well below the average income-tax rate of nearly 30% back in 1995, when Bill Clinton was in the White House.

So there you have it. The top 400 taxpayers, a group so rich and elite that I'd need scientific notation to properly represent their proportion of the population, have doubled their share of income in the past decade or two but have decreased their tax burden by nearly half. Nice work! As you can see, Warren Buffett wasn't exaggerating when he said his secretary paid a higher tax rate than he does. If she pays more than 18% — not exactly a tough hurdle when you figure that payroll taxes already account for about 8% of that — she probably does.

UPDATE: So how do the rich do it? Jonathan Stein interviews David Cay Johnston here to find out.
Posted by Kevin Drum on 12/16/08 at 1:19 PM

Workers forced to settle for fewer hours

This is a graph to go with the earlier post on involuntary part-time workers at

Economic Snapshot for January 14, 2009

Downtime: Workers forced to settle for fewer hours

By Ross Eisenbrey with research assistance by Kathryn Edwards

The number of involuntary part-time workers has nearly doubled just in the past year, mostly driven by full-time workers accepting cutbacks in hours.

In December, an additional 715,000 workers were classified as “involuntary part time” — either their full-time job was reduced below 35 hours a week or they had to settle for a part-time job because they couldn’t find a full-time one. That brings the total number of involuntary part-time workers to over 8 million. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, of the two types of involuntary part-timers almost 90% of the increase during the past year was the result of employers reducing worker hours, a clear indication of the economy’s rapid deterioration. If these workers see their hours restored, it will be a sign of the economy’s recovery.

Differences in Executive Compensation Between U.S. Auto Producers and Transplants Are Larger Than for Production Workers

Found this at, posted by Bob

The Washington Post has repeatedly editorialized that auto workers at the Big Three companies should be forced to take pay cuts because they earn $57,000 a year, which is more than workers get at the foreign-owned plants in the United States. Consistent with this editorial position, the paper has an article today about efforts to lower the compensation packages of union workers.

The Post has virtually ignored the much larger gap between executive compensation at the Big Three and at the transplants. While top executives at Japanese manufacturers like Toyota only earn around $2 million a year, executives at the Big Three can earn 10 times this amount.This would seem to be a reasonable focus for those concerned about making the U.S. industry competitive.

--Dean Baker

Posted by Dean Baker on January 15, 2009 6:03 AM
[The following comment followed the article]

Auto-plant labor is only about 7% of the selling price of a car. In fact, about half the cost at point of sale is added after the vehicle leaves the factory. Where are the analyses in the media of salary and wages in the rest of the process? Could the fact that plant labor is unionized have something to do with it? The salaries of the three major automaker CEO's are not significant in themselves, but there are many manangement personnel and entrepreneurs who are taking a cut somewhere along the line.

Posted by: skeptonomist | January 15, 2009 9:01 AM

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

How to lie with statistics

The first chart, with the shaded background, is the bogus chart from the Minneapolis Federal Reserve Bank discussed below.
The second chart is the one Spencer at Angry Bear made, showing actual recessions.

This chart from the Minneapolis Federal Reserve Bank is starting to appear on various web sites. Among others, Alex Tabarrok of Marginal Revolution published it.

It is an interesting looking chart, very similar to many I do.

But it struck me as odd, there was something wrong with it.

I can not remember a single recession where employment did not fall as this chart shows.

So I tried to reproduce the chart and came up with something that looks like this.[obvious differences from the first chart.

Note that it shows the 2001 recession as the mildest recession and it did experience falling employment. This line as well my line for the harshest recession in 1957 are very different than the chart published by the Minneapolis Federal Reserve and referenced by several libertarian/conservative blogs. Their harshest is about a full percentage point deeper than mine.

But the Minneapolis Fed did publish their original work and I was able to determine that there chart was not of an actual recession. Rather their lines representing the mildest and harshest recessions are completely artificial creations that have little or no relation to any actual historic event.

Rather than show the 2001 recession as the mildest recession, they went through all of the first months of the 10 post WW II recession and found the smallest observation and made that the first observation of their mildest recession line. Next they went through the second month of the ten recession and found the smallest observation in the second month of recessions and made that the second month of their mildest recession. They repeated this process for 18 times, each time making the smallest observation of that particular recession month for their line of the mildest recession. So their line might take observation one from 1957, observation two from 1981, observation three from 1973, etc., etc. Their so called harshest recession line was created using the same methodology.

Here is exactly how they described the lines in their publication:

This page places the current economic downturn into historical (post-WWII) perspective. It compares output and employment changes during the present recession with the same data for the 10 previous recessions that have occurred since 1946.

This page provides a current assessment of “how bad" the recession is relative to past recessions. It will be updated as new data are released. This page does not provide forecasts, and the information should not be interpreted as such.

The following charts provide information about both the length and depth of recessions.

Minneapolis Fed

This strikes me as a major case of intellectual dishonesty. At no point is the reader shown that their mildest and harshest recessions are completely artificial creations that have no relation to any actual recession.

The other point that strikes me is how libertarian/conservatives like Alex Tabarrok uncritically accept such biased research from fellow right wing sources without any question. It strikes me that a tenured, PhD, economist should know that there was no post WW II US recession where employment did not fall and should have recognized that there was something wrong with this chart. But more than likely, this chart will now be passed around and used by libertarian/conservatives to demonstrate that there was a post WWII recession where employment did not fall and that will become one of their standard talking points.

Am I being too harsh on the Minneapolis Fed and people who uncritically accept and pass on such biased research?

P.S. This is not the first time I have caught the Minneapolis Fed or Alex Tabarrok misrepresenting data.

Since I posted this article, Alex Tabarrok responded with the following comment on Angry Bear:

Alex Tabarrok says:
Today, 9:51:21 AM [1-15-09]
“I have done some further investigation of the Fed chart and contacted the Fed for clarification.

I was wrong. Spencer was right.

The graphs in the Fed's picture are Frankenstein recessions, recessions cobbled together by taking bits of pieces of each past recession and assembling them to create a mild, median, and harsh recession - none of which ever occurred. I do not think this is a good way of looking at the data - in fact I am shocked the Fed would present data in this way - on this Spencer and I agree.

I certainly was not dishonest about the data but if it had not been the Fed I probably would have taken a closer look.

I have posted a correction and a further post, in which I present all the data, here:

Alex Tabarrok

I agree with the commenters at Angry Bear that the only reason someone would create such a graph, and label it the way it the way they did, and put in a clarifying explanation where it would be overlooked by many or most, was to deceive people. (Note: Tabarrok did not create this chart, he copied it from the Minneapolis Fed).

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Letting Infants Watch TV Can Do More Harm Than Good

ScienceDaily (Jan. 13, 2009) — A leading child expert is warning parents to limit the amount of television children watch before the age of two, after an extensive review published in the January issue of Acta Paediatrica showed that it can do more harm than good to their ongoing development.

Professor Dimitri A Christakis, from the Seattle Children’s Research Institute and the University of Washington, USA, has also expressed considerable concerns about DVDs aimed at infants that claim to be beneficial, despite a lack of scientific evidence.

And he points out that France has already taken the matter so seriously that in summer 2008 the Government introduced tough new rules to protect the health and development of children under three from the adverse effects of TV.

Professor Christakis’ extensive review looked at 78 studies published over the last 25 years and reiterates the findings of numerous studies he has carried out with colleagues into this specialist area.

He points out that as many as nine in ten children under the age of two watch TV regularly, despite ongoing warnings, and some spend as much as 40 per cent of their waking hours in front of a TV.

“No studies to date have demonstrated benefits associated with early infant TV viewing” says Professor Christakis, whose review looked at the effect that TV has on children’s language, cognitive skills and attentional capacity, as well as areas for future research.

“The weight of existing evidence suggests the potential for harm and I believe that parents should exercise due caution in exposing infants to excessive media” he says.

“For example, the American Academy of Paediatrics discourages TV viewing in the first two years of life, but only six per cent of parents are aware of this advice despite ongoing publicity.”
Watching TV programmes or DVDs aimed at infants can actually delay language development, according to a number of studies. For example, a 2008 Thai study published in Acta Paediatrica found that if children under 12 months watched TV for more than two hours a day they were six times more likely to have delayed language skills. Another study found that children who watched baby DVDs between seven and 16 months knew fewer words than children who did not.

Infants as young as 14 months will imitate what they see on a TV screen, but they learn better from live presentations. For example, one study found that children learnt Mandarin Chinese better from a native speaker than they did from a video of the same speaker.

A study of 1,300 children conducted by the author and colleagues in 2004 found a modest association between TV viewing before the age of three and attentional problems at the age of seven, after a wide range of other factors were ruled out.

In another study, the author and colleagues looked at the effects of early TV viewing on cognitive development at school age. They found that children who had watched a lot of TV in their early years did not perform as well when they underwent tests to check their reading and memory skills.

Swings In North Atlantic Oscillation Variability Linked To Climate Warming

ScienceDaily (Jan. 13, 2009) — Using a 218-year-long temperature record from a Bermuda brain coral, researchers at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) have created the first marine-based reconstruction showing the long-term behavior of one of the most important drivers of climate fluctuations in the North Atlantic.
The research team found the variability of the NAO decade-to-decade (multi-decadal scale) has been larger, swinging more wildly, during the late twentieth century than in the early 1800s, suggesting that variability is linked to the mean temperature of the Northern Hemisphere. This confirms variability previously reported in past terrestrial reconstructions.

“When the Industrial Revolution begins and atmospheric temperature becomes warmer, the NAO takes on a much stronger pattern in longer-term behavior,” said Goodkin. “That was suspected before in the instrumental records, but this is the first time it has been documented in records from both the ocean and the atmosphere.”
The North Atlantic Oscillation is described by the NAO index, calculated as a weighted difference between the polar low and the subtropical high during the winter season. (For more information about the NAO index, see animation.) In a positive phase, both the low-pressure zone over Iceland and high pressure over the Azores are intensified, resulting in changes in the strength, incidence, and pathway of winter storms crossing the Atlantic. In a negative phase, a weak subtropical high and a weak Icelandic low results in fewer and weaker winter storms crossing on a more west-east pathway.

The NAO index varies from year to year, but also exhibits a tendency to remain in one phase for intervals lasting more than a decade. An unusually long period of positive phase between 1970-2000 led to the suggestion that global warming was affecting the behavior of the NAO.

“Anthropogenic (human-related) warming does not appear to be altering whether the NAO is in a positive or negative phase at multi-decadal time scales,” said WHOI paleoclimatologist Konrad Hughen. “It does seem to be increasing variability. Clearly, this has implications for the future.”

“As temperatures get warmer, there’s potential for more violent swings of the NAO — the phases becoming even more positive and even more negative,” Hughen added. “If the NAO locks more into these patterns, intense storms will become more intense and droughts will become more severe.”

The climatic influence of the NAO extends from the eastern United States to Western Europe, impacting human activities such as shipping, oil drilling, fisheries, hydroelectric power generation and coastal management. Improving the ability to predict shifts in the phase and intensity of the NAO is a prerequisite to mitigating the economic impacts of future climate change.

Vicks® VapoRub® May Create Respiratory Distress In Young Children

ScienceDaily (Jan. 13, 2009) — New research out of Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center suggests that Vicks® VapoRub®, the popular menthol compound used to relieve symptoms of cough and congestion, may instead create respiratory distress in infants and small children. Vicks VapoRub may stimulate mucus production and airway inflammation, which can have severe effects on breathing in an infant or toddler.
"The ingredients in Vicks can be irritants, causing the body to produce more mucus to protect the airway," said Bruce K. Rubin, M.D., lead author of the study and a professor in the department of pediatrics at Brenner Children's Hospital, part of Wake Forest Baptist. "Infants and young children have airways that are much narrower than those of adults, so any increase in mucus or inflammation can narrow them more severely."
"I recommend never putting Vicks in, or under, the nose of anybody—adult or child," Rubin said. "I also would follow the directions and never use it at all on children under age 2."

Even when directions are followed, Vicks will make people with congestion more comfortable, but it does nothing to increase airflow or actually relieve congestion, Rubin added.

"Some of the ingredients in Vicks, notably the menthol, trick the brain into thinking that it is easier to breathe by triggering a cold sensation, which is processed as indicating more airflow," he said. "Vicks may make you feel better but it can't help you breathe better."

In addition to Vicks® VapoRub®, decongestants are not recommended for young children.

"Mucus is one of the most effective ways that our body protects our air passages like the nose and bronchial tubes," Rubin said. "However, lots of mucus and inflammation can cause congestion, especially in little noses. Cough and cold medicines and decongestants are dangerous and neither effective nor safe for young children. Medications to dry up nasal passages also have problems," Rubin said. "The best treatments for congestion are a bit of saline (salt water) and gentle rubber bulb suction, warm drinks or chicken soup, and, often, just letting the passage of time heal the child."

Dr. Rubin also notes that if a child is struggling to breathe, it is a medical emergency and would require the child to be seen by a doctor as quickly as possible.

Unexpected results

ScienceDaily (Jan. 13, 2009) — Removing an invasive species from sub-Antarctic Macquarie Island, a World Heritage Site, has caused environmental devastation that will cost more than A$24 million to remedy, ecologists have revealed. Writing in the new issue of the British Ecological Society's Journal of Applied Ecology, they warn that conservation agencies worldwide must learn important lessons from what happened on Macquarie Island.

Using population data, plot-scale vegetation analyses and satellite imagery, the ecologists from from the Australian Antarctic Division (AAD), the University of Tasmania, Blatant Fabrications Pty Ltd and Stellenbosch University found that after cats were eradicated from Macquarie in 2000, the island's rabbit population increased so much that its vegetation has been devastated.

According to the study's lead author, Dr Dana Bergstrom of the Australian Antarctic Division: “Satellite images show substantial island-wide rabbit-induced vegetation change. By 2007, impacts on some protected valleys and slopes had become acute. We estimate that nearly 40% of the whole island area had changed, with almost 20% having moderate to severe change.”

Rabbits were introduced to Macquarie Island in 1878 by sealing gangs. After reaching large numbers, the rabbits became the main prey of cats, which had been introduced 60 years earlier. Because the rabbits were causing catastrophic damage to the island's vegetation, Myxomatosis and the European rabbit flea (which spreads the Myxoma virus) were introduced in 1968. As a result, rabbit numbers fell from a peak of 130,000 in 1978 to less than 20,000 in the 1980s and vegetation recovered. However, with fewer rabbits as food, the cats began to eat the island's native burrowing birds, so a cat eradication programme began in 1985. Since the last cat was killed in 2000, Myxomatosis failed to keep rabbit numbers in check; their numbers bounced back and in little over six years rabbits substantially altered large areas of the island.

According to Bergstrom: “Increased rabbit herbivory has caused substantial damage at both local and landscape scales including changes from complex vegetation communities, to short, grazed lawns or bare ground.”