Friday, December 31, 2010

Floods in Egypt

updated 12/31/2010 6:48:45 AM ET 2010-12-31T11:48:45

CAIRO — Egyptian police say flood waters caused by torrential rains earlier this week swept a bus packed with 77 schoolgirls and their teachers off a highway in the country's south, ending in the tragic death of 15 people, most of them students.

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Australia floodwaters cover area bigger than Texas

More flooding. How long will it be before there is a terrorist attack on our country because of our contribution to global warming?

updated 12/31/2010 10:22:48 AM ET 2010-12-31T15:22:48

BRISBANE, Australia — Military aircraft dropped supplies to towns cut off by floods in northeastern Australia as the prime minister promised new assistance Friday to the 200,000 people affected by waters. Southern Australia, meanwhile, soaring temperatures and tinder dry conditions have sparked wildfires.

Residents were stocking up on food or evacuating their homes as rising rivers inundated or isolated 22 towns in the state of Queensland.

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The worst flooding in about 50 years has been caused by a "La Nina" weather pattern

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As usual, no mention of the affects of global warming on the El Niño/La Niña cycle, or the fact that the amount of moisture in the air has increased because of GW, leading to heavier precipitation.

How is Global Warming Related to El Niño and La Niña?
Some scientists believe that the increased intensity and frequency—now every two to three years—of El Niño and La Niña events in recent decades is due to warmer ocean temperatures resulting from global warming. In a 1998 report, scientists from NOAA explained that higher global temperatures might be increasing evaporation from land and adding moisture to the air, thus intensifying the storms and floods associated with El Niño.

Another take on what’s happening is from Kevin Trenberth, a climatologist at the Colorado-based National Center for Atmospheric Research. Trenberth believes that the Southern Oscillation may be functioning like a pressure release valve for the tropics. With global warming driving temperatures higher, ocean currents and weather systems might not be able to release all the extra heat getting pumped into the tropical seas; as such an El Niño occurs to help expel the excess heat.


You Are What Your Father Ate, Too

ScienceDaily (Dec. 24, 2010) — We aren't just what we eat; we are what our parents ate too. That's an emerging idea that is bolstered by a new study showing that mice sired by fathers fed on a low-protein diet show distinct and reproducible changes in the activity of key metabolic genes in their livers. Those changes occurred despite the fact that the fathers never saw their offspring and spent minimal time with their mothers, the researchers say, suggesting that the nutritional information is passed on to the next generation via the sperm not through some sort of social influence.

The new findings reported in the Dec. 23 issue of Cell, a Cell Press publication, add to evidence that epigenetic reprogramming of genes may be an important mechanism for passing information about the environment, and in this case the nutritional environment, from one generation to the next. Epigenetics refers to heritable chemical modifications to DNA that can alter the way genes are expressed without changing the underlying sequence of their As, Gs, Ts and Cs.

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Treating Women’s Depression Might Help Them Lose Weight

ScienceDaily (Dec. 27, 2010) — For many women coping with obesity and depression, new research finds that improving your mood might be the link to losing weight.

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Thursday, December 30, 2010

All new first-class stamps to be 'Forever Stamps'

By Hibah Yousuf, staff reporterDecember 29, 2010: 11:14 AM ET

NEW YORK ( -- Good news for snail-mailers: No need to keep digging for one- and two-cent stamps because all new first-class stamps will be "Forever Stamps" beginning next month.

The U.S. Postal Service has been raising postage rates more frequently in recent years as it tries to dig out a deep financial hole and is hoping to hike the current 44-cent rate in 2011. But under its new policy, which will be formally announced in mid-January, those mailing typical letters won't have to keep up with postage increases.

All new stamps good for one ounce of first-class mail will be marked with the "Forever" designation instead of a postage rate and will therefore retain their value, the Postal Service said as it unveiled its 2011 commemorative first-class stamp collection.

"Regardless of when the stamps are purchased or used in the new year, no matter how prices may change in the future, these stamps will always be equal to the current First-Class Mail one-ounce price," the service said in a statement.

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Green Living

A good source of info for green living is at


Brain thickness determines political leaning

December 29, 2010 - 9:46AM

Neuroscientists are examining whether political allegiances are hard-wired into people after finding evidence that the brains of conservatives are a different shape to those of left-wingers.

Scans of 90 students' brains at University College London (UCL) uncovered a "strong correlation" between the thickness of two particular areas of grey matter and an individual's views.

Self-proclaimed right-wingers had a more pronounced amygdala - a primitive part of the brain associated with emotion while their political opponents from the opposite end of the spectrum had thicker anterior cingulates.

The research was carried out by Geraint Rees director of the UCL Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience who said he was "very surprised" by the finding, which is being peer reviewed before publication next year.

It was commissioned as a light-hearted experiment by actor Colin Firth as part of his turn guest editing BBC Radio's Today program but has now developed into a serious effort to discover whether we are programmed with a particular political view.

Professor Rees said that although it was not precise enough to be able to predict someone's stance simply from a scan, there was "a strong correlation that reaches all our scientific tests of significance".

"The anterior cingulate is a part of the brain that is on the middle surface of the brain at the front and we found that the thickness of the grey matter, where the nerve cells of neurons are, was thicker the more people described themselves as liberal or left wing and thinner the more they described themselves as conservative or right wing," he told the program.

"The amygdala is a part of the brain which is very old and very ancient and thought to be very primitive and to do with the detection of emotions. The right amygdala was larger in those people who described themselves as conservative.

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Where are the Jobs? For Many Companies, Overseas

NEW YORK, Dec. 28, 2010

Corporate profits are up. Stock prices are up. So why isn't anyone hiring?

Actually, many American companies are just maybe not in your town. They're hiring overseas, where sales are surging and the pipeline of orders is fat.

More than half of the 15,000 people that Caterpillar Inc. has hired this year were outside the U.S. UPS is also hiring at a faster clip overseas. For both companies, sales in international markets are growing at least twice as fast as domestically.

The trend helps explain why unemployment remains high in the United States, edging up to 9.8 percent last month, even though companies are performing well: All but 4 percent of the top 500 U.S. corporations reported profits this year, and the stock market is close to its highest point since the 2008 financial meltdown.

But the jobs are going elsewhere. The Economic Policy Institute, a Washington think tank, says American companies have created 1.4 million jobs overseas this year, compared with less than 1 million in the U.S. The additional 1.4 million jobs would have lowered the U.S. unemployment rate to 8.9 percent, says Robert Scott, the institute's senior international economist.

"There's a huge difference between what is good for American companies versus what is good for the American economy," says Scott.

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Sachs points out that the U.S. is falling in most global rankings for higher education while others are rising.

"We are not fulfilling the educational needs of our young people," says Sachs. "In a globalized world, there are serious consequences to that."


Wednesday, December 29, 2010

'Un-Growth Hormone' Increases Longevity

ScienceDaily (Dec. 23, 2010) — A compound which acts in the opposite way as growth hormone can reverse some of the signs of aging, a research team that includes a Saint Louis University physician has shown. The finding may be counter-intuitive to some older adults who take growth hormone, thinking it will help revitalize them.

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Banned insecticide has been linked to autism, other problems

Journal Star
Posted Jun 14, 2010 @ 11:00 PM


A local environmental advocate applauded the decision last week by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to ban endosulfan but said details remain unclear.

Endosulfan, an insecticide used in central Illinois, is volatile, has the potential to migrate long distances and persists in the environment. It was already banned in more than 60 countries because of its extreme toxicity before the EPA took action to terminate use of the chemical.

Endosulfan has been linked to autism, birth defects and delayed puberty in humans.

Terra Brockman, founder of The Land Connection, said EPA chemical bans are often phased in and even at the cutoff date, "critical use" exemptions might be allowed.

Brockman cited the EPA ban of methyl bromide, which was announced in 1993 and not phased in completely until 2005, but the chemical can still be used in "critical use" cases such as commercial strawberry production.

Determining precisely how much endosulfan is used in central Illinois is difficult, she said, because the chemical may not be sold under an endosulfan label. Even examining a list of ingredients on a brand name formulation may not be an indicator because rather than listing endosulfan by name, the chemical composition might be indicated.

"Unless you're a chemist, you won't know," Brockman said, indicating many farmers may be unaware they are using it.

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Northeast U.S. digs out from yet another history-making snowstorm

Posted by: JeffMasters, 4:53 PM GMT on December 28, 2010

The remarkable Post-Christmas blizzard of 2010 has ended for the United States, as the storm has trekked northeastward into Canada. The blizzard dropped epic amounts of snow during its rampage up the U.S. Northeast coast Sunday and Monday, with an incredible 32" falling in Rahway, New Jersey, about 15 miles southwest of New York City. The highest populated areas of New Jersey received over two feet of snow, including the Newark Airport, which received 24.1". Snowfall amounts were slightly lower across New York City. The blizzard of 2010 dumped 20.0" inches on New York City's Central Park, making it the 6th largest snowstorm for the city in recorded history, and the second top-ten snowstorm this year.

Remarkably, New York City has had four of its top-ten snowfalls in the past

Newark's 24.2" was one of that city's top-ten snowstorms of all-time, and the 20.1" that fell on Atlantic City, NJ was the city's second largest snowfall in history. Atlantic City's three biggest snowstorms have all occurred in the past ten years:

Philadelphia, PA picked up 12.4", the city's fourth one-foot plus snowstorm in just over a year--a remarkable string of storms, considering the city has had just 24 such snowfalls in history, since 1884. According to, the latest snowstorm brought Philadelphia's 2010 snowfall for the calendar year to 67.3", breaking the mark for snowiest year ever (previous record: 57.0" in 1978.)

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bigger snowstorms are not an indication that global warming is not occurring. The old adage, "it's too cold to snow", has some truth to it, and there is research supporting the idea that the average climate in the U.S. is colder than optimal to support the heaviest snowstorms. For example, Changnon et al. (2006) found that for the contiguous U.S. between 1900 - 2001, 61% - 80% of all heavy snowstorms of 6+ inches occurred during winters with above normal temperatures. The authors also found that 61% - 85% of all heavy snowstorms of 6+ inches occurred during winters that were wetter than average. The authors conclude, "a future with wetter and warmer winters, which is one outcome expected (National Assessment Synthesis Team 2001), will bring more heavy snowstorms of 6+ inches than in 1901 - 2000." The authors found that over the U.S. as a whole, there had been a slight but significant increase in heavy snowstorms of 6+ inches than in 1901 - 2000. If the climate continues to warm, we should expect an increase in heavy snow events for a few decades, until the climate grows so warm that we pass the point where winter temperatures are at the optimum for heavy snow events.


Also, warmer air holds more moisture. When it hits colder air, more precipitation will fall.


What's in Fast Food?

Dr. Joseph Mercola
Physician and author
Posted: December 29, 2010 08:34 AM

A new study shows that toxicperfluoroalkyls, which are used in surface protection treatments and coatings to keep grease from leaking through fast food wrappers, are being ingested by people through their food and showing up as contaminants in blood.

Perfluoroalkyls are a hazardous class of stable, synthetic chemicals that repel oil, grease and water.

As reported by University of Toronto researchers, the chemicals studied in human blood, urine and feces were polyfluoroalkyl phosphate esters (PAPs), which are the breakdown products of the perfluorinated carboxylic acids (PFCAs) used in coating the food wrappers. Scientists said the exposure to humans through this means "should be considered as a significant indirect source of PFCA."

That means you now have a new reason to avoid fast foods.

You may not realize it, but you and your family are continually exposed to perfluoroalkyls, which include perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), and perfluorooctanesulfonate (PFOS). And these chemicals can be detected in nearly everyone in the U.S.!

Besides food packaging and fast food wrappers, everyday sources of this exposure include: drinking water, dust, air, carpet and fabric protectors, flame retardants, non-stick pots and pans, stain-proof clothing, and even cord blood and breast milk.

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Contrary to the regulators' findings, we now know PFCs have many health dangers, including being part of a group of chemicals referred to as"gender-bending," because they can disrupt your endocrine system and sex hormones.

In animal studies, PFOA has also been associated with other health dangers such as:

* "Significant increases in treatment related deaths" in rat offspring at doses that did not affect the mothers.

* Serious changes in the weight of various organs, including brain, prostate, liver, thymus and kidneys.

* Deaths of a significant number of rat pups of mothers exposed to PFOA.

* Damage to the pituitary at all doses in female rat offspring (The pituitary secretes hormones that regulate growth, reproduction, and many metabolic processes. Change in pituitary size is associated with toxicity.)

* Tumor development after prolonged exposure.

Other studies have linked PFC's to:

* Infertility:

* Thyroid disease:

* Cancer:

* Immune system problems:

* Increased LDL cholesterol levels:


Palin Crossed Border For Canadian Health Care

First Posted: 03- 8-10 11:59 AM | Updated: 05- 8-10 05:12 AM

Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin -- who has gone to great lengths to hype the supposed dangers of a big government takeover of American health care -- admitted over the weekend that she used to get her treatment in Canada's single-payer system.

"We used to hustle over the border for health care we received in Canada," Palin said in her first Canadian appearance since stepping down as governor of Alaska. "And I think now, isn't that ironic?"

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The Humbug Express

Published: December 23, 2010

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If you listen to the recent speeches of Republican presidential hopefuls, you’ll find several of them talking at length about the harm done by unionized government workers, who have, they say, multiplied under the Obama administration. A recent example was an op-ed article by the outgoing Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty, who declared that “thanks to President Obama,” government is the only booming sector in our economy: “Since January 2008” — silly me, I thought Mr. Obama wasn’t inaugurated until 2009 — “the private sector has lost nearly eight million jobs, while local, state and federal governments added 590,000.”

Horrors! Except that according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, government employment has fallen, not risen, since January 2008. And since January 2009, when Mr. Obama actually did take office, government employment has fallen by more than 300,000 as hard-pressed state and local governments have been forced to lay off teachers, police officers, firefighters and other workers.

So how did the notion of a surge in government payrolls under Mr. Obama take hold?

It turns out that last spring there was, in fact, a bulge in government employment. And both politicians and researchers at humbug factories — I mean, conservative think tanks — quickly seized on this bulge as evidence of an exploding public sector. Over the summer, articles and speeches began to appear highlighting the rise in government employment and issuing dire warnings about what it portended for America’s future.

But anyone paying attention knew why public employment had risen — and it had nothing to do with Big Government. It was, instead, the fact that the federal government had to hire a lot of temporary workers to carry out the 2010 Census — workers who have almost all left the payroll now that the Census is done.

Is it really possible that the authors of those articles and speeches about soaring public employment didn’t know what was going on? Well, I guess we should never assume malice when ignorance remains a possibility.

There has not, however, been any visible effort to retract those erroneous claims. And this isn’t the only case of a claimed huge expansion in government that turns out to be nothing of the kind. Have you heard the one about how there’s been an explosion in the number of federal regulators? Mike Konczal of the Roosevelt Institute looked into the numbers behind that claim, and it turns out that almost all of those additional “regulators” work for the Department of Homeland Security, protecting us against terrorists.

Still, why does it matter what some politicians and think tanks say? The answer is that there’s a well-developed right-wing media infrastructure in place to catapult the propaganda, as former President George W. Bush put it, to rapidly disseminate bogus analysis to a wide audience where it becomes part of what “everyone knows.” (There’s nothing comparable on the left, which has fallen far behind in the humbug race.)

And it’s a very effective process. When discussing the alleged huge expansion of government under Mr. Obama, I’ve repeatedly found that people just won’t believe me when I try to point out that it never happened. They assume that I’m lying, or somehow cherry-picking the data. After all, they’ve heard over and over again about that surge in government spending and employment, and they don’t realize that everything they’ve heard was a special delivery from the Humbug Express.

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The conservatives are skilled at using psychological factors to influence people opinions. Liberals tend to think they can influence people by being rational.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Incompetent Economists, Not Pensions, Push Property Taxes Higher

Friday, 24 December 2010 08:10

The Wall Street Journal told readers today that "pensions push property taxes higher," in a headline of a news article. The article notes that large pension shortfalls, together with a loss of other tax revenue, are causing many local and county governments to raise property taxes.

Of course the reason that pensions face large shortfalls is that economists like Alan Greenspan and Ben Bernanke were not able to see the $8 trillion housing bubble, the collapse of which wrecked the economy. These pension funds also suffered because they listened to highly paid investment advisers who had no idea what they were doing. It is worth noting that almost all of these highly paid investment advisers still hold their high paying jobs.

Tuesday, 21 December 2010 05:53

Way back in the last decade the United States had a huge housing bubble. The Wall Street banks made money hand over fist making and selling the loans that fueled this bubble. The economic policymakers and regulators who were supposed to prevent the growth of such dangerous bubbles, people with names like Greenspan, Bernanke, Paulson, and Geithner, assured the public that everything was just fine. When they were proved horribly wrong, they then congratulated themselves for avoiding a second Great Depression.

This background is important to any story on the financial problems facing state and local governments, since it is 90 percent of the picture. It also would be good if the public remembered this history, since many of the people who either profited from the bubble or failed to take measures to counter its growth are now at the forefront in demanding that state and local governments sharply reduce their budgets and that public sector employees take big cuts in pay and benefits.

On Sunday night, the CBS News show 60 Minutes joined this campaign. The piece begins by telling viewers that:

"in the two years, since the "great recession" wrecked their economies and shriveled their income, the states have collectively spent nearly a half a trillion dollars more than they collected in taxes."

That's not what the data show. If we look to the Commerce Department's National Income and Product Accounts we find that in total state and local government spent $45 billion more than they took in (line 27). CBS does not give a source for the "nearly half a trillion" number.

It is also worth noting that any shortfall is due almost entirely to the recession caused by the collapse of the housing bubble. If revenue had increased in step with normal growth (2.4 percent real growth, plus inflation), state and local governments would have had an additional $290 billion since the start of the downturn.

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Curses, Foiled Again!


Monday, December 27, 2010

Reindeers in the Sky

I prefer this to the REM version I have heard on the radio this winter. The REM version is richer musically, but not much in the way of lyrics. This version is a fully developed song.


Class Warfare Begins: Conservatives Want To Tax The Poor

Published by Anomaly100 at 1:55 pm under The Economy

Now that tax cuts for the wealthy are in place, the Conservatives who demanded them, hostage-style, now want to escalate them on the poor. This was already prophesied by those of us who denounced the wealthiest getting the bigger piece of the proverbial pie, which unnecessarily puts this country more in debt.

Via Harold Pollack. George Will and incoming House Ways & Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp are eager to tackle the problem of poor people having too much money:

Many conservatives, including Camp, believe that although most Americans should be paying lower taxes, more Americans should be paying taxes. The fact that 46.7 million earners pay no income tax creates moral hazard — incentives for perverse behavior: Free-riding people have scant incentive to restrain the growth of government they are not paying for with income taxes.

“I believe,” Camp says, “you’ve got to have some responsibility for the government you have.” People have co-payments under Medicare, and everyone should similarly have some “skin in the game” under the income tax system.


As usual, this is based on the clever magic trick of pretending that poor people don’t pay state and local taxes. But whatever the merits of the position, it’s tactical important to keep in mind that this is the position. Lurking behind conservative rhetoric about the evils of government spending, is the reality of conservative hostility to taxes. And lurking behind conservative rhetoric about the evils of taxes is the reality of conservative hostility to taxing rich people. Which means that Republicans are likely to insist that any revenue-enhancing deficit-control package rely heavily on regressive measures.

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Let Us All Smile for Christmas

A beautiful song by Bruce Gilbert.


Sunday, December 26, 2010

Biting Winters Driven by Global Warming: Scientists

Published on Wednesday, December 22, 2010 by Agence France-Presse

by Marlowe Hood

PARIS - Counter-intuitive but true, say scientists: a string of freezing European winters scattered over the last decade has been driven in large part by global warming.

[A snow covered Stormont estate is pictured in Belfast, Ireland. Climate sceptics who question the gravity of global warming or that humans are to blame point to the deep chills as confirmation of their doubts. Such assertions, counter scientists, mistakenly conflate the long-term patterns of climate with the short-term vagaries of weather, and ignore regional variation in climate change impacts.(AFP)]A snow covered Stormont estate is pictured in Belfast, Ireland. Climate sceptics who question the gravity of global warming or that humans are to blame point to the deep chills as confirmation of their doubts. Such assertions, counter scientists, mistakenly conflate the long-term patterns of climate with the short-term vagaries of weather, and ignore regional variation in climate change impacts.(AFP)
The culprit, according to a new study, is the Arctic's receding surface ice, which at current rates of decline could to disappear entirely during summer months by century's end.

The mechanism uncovered triples the chances that future winters in Europe and north Asia will be similarly inclement, the study reports.

Bitingly cold weather wreaked havoc across Europe in the winter months of 2005-2006, dumping snow in southern Spain and plunging eastern Europe and Russia into an unusually -- and deadly -- deep freeze.

Another sustained cold streak in 2009-2010, gave Britain its coldest winter in 14 years, and wreaked transportation havoc across the continent. This year seems poised to deliver a repeat performance.

At first glance, this flurry of frostiness would seem to be at odds with standard climate change scenarios in which Earth's temperature steadily rises, possibly by as much as five or six degrees Celsius (9.0 to 10.8 degrees Fahrenheit) by 2100.

Climate sceptics who question the gravity of global warming or that humans are to blame point to the deep chills as confirmation of their doubts.

Such assertions, counter scientists, mistakenly conflate the long-term patterns of climate with the short-term vagaries of weather, and ignore regional variation in climate change impacts.

New research, however, goes further, showing that global warming has actually contributed to Europe's winter blues.

Rising temperatures in the Arctic -- increasing at two to three times the global average -- have peeled back the region's floating ice cover by 20 percent over the last three decades.

This has allowed more of the Sun's radiative force to be absorbed by dark-blue sea rather than bounced back into space by reflective ice and snow, accelerating the warming process.

More critically for weather patterns, it has also created a massive source of heat during the winter months.

"Say the ocean is at zero degrees Celsius (32 degrees Fahrenheit)," said Stefan Rahmstorf, a climate scientist at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research in Germany.

"That is a lot warmer than the overlying air in the polar area in winter, so you get a major heat flow heating up the atmosphere from below which you don't have when it is covered by ice. That's a massive change," he told AFP in an interview.

The result, according to a modelling study published earlier this month the Journal of Geophysical Research, is a strong high-pressure system over the newly-exposed sea which brings cold polar air, swirling counter-clockwise, into Europe.

"Recent severe winters like last year's or the one of 2005-2006 do not conflict with the global warming picture, but rather supplement it," explained Vladimir Petoukhov, lead author of the study and a physicist at the Potsdam Institute.

"These anomalies could triple the probability of cold winter extremes in Europe and north Asia," he said.

The researchers created a computer model simulating the impact on weather patterns of a gradual reduction of winter ice cover in the Barents-Kara Sea, north of Scandinavia.

Other possible explanations for uncommonly cold winters -- reduced Sun activity or changes in the Gulf Stream -- "tend to exaggerate their effect," Petoukhov said.

He also points out that during the freezing 2005-2006 winter, when temperatures averaged 10 C below normal in Siberia, there were no unusual variations in the north Atlantic oscillation, another putative cause.

Colder European winters do not indicate a slowing of global warming trends, only an uneven distribution, researchers say.


Friday, December 24, 2010

Arsonists Prosecuting Firefighters

Paul Krugman
December 22, 2010, 10:09 am
Arsonists Prosecuting Firefighters

Via Mark Thoma, Jean-Paul Fitoussi:

Indeed, today the global economy’s arsonists have become prosecutors, and accuse the fire fighters of having provoked flooding.
I think that’s basically a reference to the rating agencies — it’s not the most clearly written piece, though it makes up for that with passion. Anyway, he’s right: the rating agencies, and in general the poo-bahs of finance, brought this crisis on the world — and are now solemnly lecturing nations about the evils of the deficits incurred mainly to fight the crisis.

What’s particularly striking is the way the story of our crisis has been Hellenized. Listen to Very Serious Europeans, in particular, and you hear entire discussions framed by the assumption that irresponsible budgets paved the way to crisis. Yet that was true only for Greece; it wasn’t at all true of Spain or Ireland, which was, remember, hailed by George Osborne as a “shining example” of long-run fiscal responsibility.

A lot of this is self-serving, of course. But there’s also a strong element of trying to shoehorn whatever happens into an ideological frame; it must have been about fiscal irresponsibility, because isn’t everything?

Gary Younge reminds us of another great Orwell essay, In Front of Your Nose:

The point is that we are all capable of believing things which we know to be untrue, and then, when we are finally proved wrong, impudently twisting the facts so as to show that we were right. Intellectually, it is possible to carry on this process for an indefinite time: the only check on it is that sooner or later a false belief bumps up against solid reality, usually on a battlefield.



Was the 2010 Haiti Earthquake triggered by deforestation and the 2008 hurricanes?

Posted by: JeffMasters, 2:57 PM GMT on December 20, 2010
Major earthquakes occur when the stress on rocks between two tectonic plates reaches a critical breaking point, allowing the earth to move along the connecting fault. While the slow creep of the tectonic plates makes earthquakes inevitable along major faults, the timing and exact location of the quake epicenter can be influenced by outside forces pushing down on Earth's crust. For example, the sloshing of water into the Eastern Pacific during El Niño events has been linked to magnitude 4, 5, and 6 earthquakes on the seafloor below, due to the extra weight of water caused by local sea level rise. Sea level rise due to rapid melting of Earth's ice sheets could also potentially trigger earthquakes, though it is unknown at what melting rate such an effect might become significant.

Posted by: JeffMasters, 2:57 PM GMT on December 20, 2010
Major earthquakes occur when the stress on rocks between two tectonic plates reaches a critical breaking point, allowing the earth to move along the connecting fault. While the slow creep of the tectonic plates makes earthquakes inevitable along major faults, the timing and exact location of the quake epicenter can be influenced by outside forces pushing down on Earth's crust. For example, the sloshing of water into the Eastern Pacific during El Niño events has been linked to magnitude 4, 5, and 6 earthquakes on the seafloor below, due to the extra weight of water caused by local sea level rise. Sea level rise due to rapid melting of Earth's ice sheets could also potentially trigger earthquakes, though it is unknown at what melting rate such an effect might become significant.


Thursday, December 23, 2010

L.A.-area storm

Another deluge. Climate scientists warned us at least 20 years ago that global warming would cause increased severe weather, including heavier precipitation. It was the choice of most people in our country to ignore the problem.

updated 1 hour 9 minutes ago 2010-12-24T00:01:02

LOS ANGELES — As damage estimates ranging from $17 million in one neighborhood to $60 million in a farm area started to roll in, many victims of the California flooding and mudslides faced the prospect of not being able to spend Christmas at home.

The storm's push across the West left a muddy mess across Southern California and the threat of avalanches in Nevada, where Clark County officials urged residents of Mount Charleston, near Las Vegas, to leave after snow slides near two mountain hamlets.

The inland region of Southern California east of Los Angeles was emerging as among the hardest-hit areas, especially San Bernardino County, where a sea of mud destroyed five homes and damaged 70 in the community of Highland.

People were literally chased from their homes by walls of mud and water in Highland, leaving behind dwellings strung with holiday lights.

They returned Thursday to find some homes with Christmas presents under the tree, inundated with mud several feet deep.

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Reasons for the cold weather in Europe

Posted by: JeffMasters, 5:25 PM GMT on December 23, 2010

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The exceptionally cold weather in Europe is due to a very unusual shift in the atmospheric circulation over the Northern Hemisphere in recent weeks that has allowed cold air to spill out of the Arctic into the mid-latitudes, and warm air to surge northwards into the Arctic. I discussed this Hot Arctic-Cold Continents pattern last week. The Arctic is usually dominated by low pressure and counter-clockwise circulating winds, and this "Arctic Vortex" has broken down and reversed its flow direction to clockwise, as high pressure is now in place over the Pole. Natural variability in the weather can cause this pattern, though significant loss of Arctic sea ice, such as occurred this fall, can also be a contributing factor. The extreme conditions in the Arctic this December has led to a rather remarkable event--sea ice decreased this week, during a period when we normally see some of the fastest rates of ice formation in the Arctic. Arctic sea ice extent is now at its lowest extent ever recorded for this time of year, due to the combined effects of unusual wind patterns and temperatures in excess of 10°C (18°F) above average over most of the Arctic.

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Monday, December 20, 2010

Springtime for Hypocrites

Paul Krugman
December 18, 2010, 11:45 am

It has been a great week on the hypocrisy front. A couple of high points:

The hypocrisy of the apparatchiks: Joe Nocera amplifies some of the points I made in my column. The determination of the Republicans on the crisis commission to lay the blame on Fannie and Freddie flies right in the face of the evidence; and Nocera also adds some information on the curious switch of positions taking place. A few years ago the same people now attacking F&F for promoting loans to low-income borrowers were attacking F&F for … not promoting loans to low-income borrowers. Back then they castigated F&F by pointing to the fact that private lenders were making loans where the agencies refused to tread, now they say that it was F&F that lured the private sector into making those very same loans.

Whatever. It must be the government’s fault, because, you know, because.

The hypocrisy of the centrists: Just two weeks ago, the deficit was the great evil, and all the VSPs insisted that we needed fiscal austerity now now now. Then, magically, a big tax cut — increasing federal debt by more than the original Obama stimulus, and substantially raising the probability of making unaffordable tax cuts permanent — was the greatest thing since sliced bread.

Why, it’s almost as if all the concern about the deficit was a front for opposing anything progressives might want, to be dropped as soon as debt was being run up on behalf of conservative goals. But that can’t be true, can it?

In a way, I almost welcome the frankness of someone like Ron Paul, who tells us that there’s no need for any kind of bank regulations. It’s crazy, of course — even Adam Smith called for bank regulations, comparing them to building regulations designed to prevent the spread of fires. But at least the guy’s consistent.


Political Whoppers of 2010

Our friends at the nonpartisan Politifact watch American politics in the way that would make most people’s stomachs churn. All year, they chronicle every bit of political discourse, every hysterical pundit and every government vow or rally cry in a sometimes quixotic effort to separate truth from fiction.

Now, in the traditional end-of-year retrospective, all the lies have been tabulated. And during a year of enormous whoppers, the site’s editors have identified the biggest deception of all:

The so-called government takeover of health care.

It’s possible to say that the Democrats’ 2010 health-care reform will increase government regulation, which it will. It’s legitimate to say that it may cost more than President Obama vowed, because it might. And it’s possible to have a constitutional argument, which several federal courts have done, about the legal mandate to purchase insurance.

But government takeover, according to the site’s scribes, is wholly inaccurate. It carries the implication that the U.S. health care system will begin to mirror those in the U.K. and Canada, where the government literally runs hospitals and employs doctors. That, ironically, is what the most liberal Democrats had wanted. But the law they got fell far short, thus making the “government takeover” meme a pretty big stretch.

Instead, it was used as an obvious scare tactic.

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Politifact has the whole list of half-truths and untruths on its site.


Sunday, December 19, 2010

Polar Bears Still on Thin Ice, but Cutting Greenhouse Gases Now Can Avert Extinction

ScienceDaily (Dec. 15, 2010) — Polar bears were added to the threatened species list nearly three years ago as their icy habitat showed steady, precipitous decline because of a warming climate. But it appears the Arctic icons aren't necessarily doomed after all.

Scientists from several institutions, including the U.S. Geological Survey and the University of Washington, have found that if humans reduce greenhouse gas emissions significantly in the next decade or two, enough Arctic ice is likely to remain intact during late summer and early autumn for polar bears to survive.

"What we projected in 2007 was based solely on the business-as-usual greenhouse gas scenario," said Steven Amstrup, an emeritus researcher with the U.S. Geological Survey and the senior scientist with the Montana-based conservation organization Polar Bears International. "That was a pretty dire outlook, but it didn't consider the possibility of greenhouse gas mitigation."

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Similarities in the Embryonic Development of Various Animal Species Are Also Found at Molecular Level

ScienceDaily (Dec. 15, 2010) — The astonishing similarity in the appearance of embryos from different animal species was observed as far back as the 19th century by scientists such as Karl von Baer, Charles Darwin and Ernst Haeckel. Such observations prompted the hypothesis that the individual development of an organism reflects its evolutionary history or phylogeny. Two groups of scientists, including researchers at the Max Planck Institute of Molecular Genetics in Dresden and the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Biology in Plön, have now succeeded in demonstrating, for the first time, that parallels exist between individual development and phylogeny on the level of gene expression.

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Caffeine Negatively Affects Children: Most Consume Caffeine Daily

ScienceDaily (Dec. 16, 2010) — Caffeine consumption in children is often blamed for sleep problems and bedwetting. Information on childhood caffeine consumption is limited, and many parents may not know the amount or effects of their child's caffeine consumption. In a study published in The Journal of Pediatrics, researchers found that 75% of children surveyed consumed caffeine on a daily basis, and the more caffeine the children consumed, the less they slept.

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Researchers found, however, that caffeine was not linked to bedwetting in these children. "Contrary to popular belief," Dr. Evans, coauthor and statistician, clarifies, "children were not more likely to wet the bed if they consumed caffeine, despite the fact that caffeine is a diuretic."

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Teacher Effort Is Linked to Difficult Students' Inherited Traits

As most often, not an either/or situation. I tried teaching, and was not able to control the classroom, although I like the young people. Some people have a more effective personality for such things.

ScienceDaily (Dec. 16, 2010) — Challenging students take up more of their teachers' time -- and the difference between a tougher student and an easier one appears to be genetic, according to a new study published in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science. The study looked at young twins in the U.K. and asked their teachers how much of a handful they are.

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The researchers found that children who were more challenging at age five required more teacher effort at age 12. They also found that it's something about the children that makes it that way -- something heritable. They can't tell what it is, but they can tell it's there, and that their challenging behavior isn't, for example, the teacher's fault.

"What happens in the classroom isn't just a function of the teacher. It's also the kids who are in the classroom," says Houts. And it's possible to make life easier on teachers. It might be smart to spread the challenging students evenly between classes, for example.

Also, parents and teachers should consider working with children early on their challenging behaviors, so they don't cause as much trouble for teachers later. "If a teacher has to take time out to give individual attention to five challenging kids in her classroom, she can't focus on the whole classroom," Houts says.


Saturday, December 18, 2010

Policies to Spur Renewable Energy Can Lower Energy Costs

ScienceDaily (Dec. 16, 2010) — Southern USA could pay less for its electricity in 20 years than is currently projected if strong public policies are enacted to spur renewable energy production and use, according to a report released December 16 by researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology and Duke University.

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keptics of renewable energy production often cite the South as lacking renewable resources. However, the new report confirms that the right mix of public policies could drive the region to produce as much as 30 percent -- up from less than 4 percent -- of its electricity from renewable sources by 2030. Wind, biomass, hydro power and customer-owned renewables stand out as cost savers and are detailed for both utility-scale and customer-owned renewable, based on their cost-competitiveness.

"While the South enjoys some of the lowest electricity rates in the country, there is resistance to developing new technologies that seem much more costly than coal based electricity," said Etan Gumerman of Duke University's Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions and a co-lead researcher on the study. "In reality, that's not the case."

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Increased BPA Exposure Linked to Reduced Egg Quality in Women

ScienceDaily (Dec. 15, 2010) — A small-scale University of California, San Francisco-led study has identified the first evidence in humans that exposure to bisphenol A (BPA) may compromise the quality of a woman's eggs retrieved for in vitro fertilization (IVF). As blood levels of BPA in the women studied doubled, the percentage of eggs that fertilized normally declined by 50 percent, according to the research team.

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Positive Mood Allows Human Brain to Think More Creatively

Makes sense to me. Also, I have found that I am much more likely to write songs when I am happy.

ScienceDaily (Dec. 15, 2010) — People who watch funny videos on the internet at work aren't necessarily wasting time. They may be taking advantage of the latest psychological science -- putting themselves in a good mood so they can think more creatively.

"Generally, positive mood has been found to enhance creative problem solving and flexible yet careful thinking," says Ruby Nadler, a graduate student at the University of Western Ontario.

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"If you have a project where you want to think innovatively, or you have a problem to carefully consider, being in a positive mood can help you to do that," Nadler says. And music is an easy way to get into a good mood. Everyone has a different type of music that works for them -- don't feel like you have to switch to Mozart, she says.

Nadler also thinks this may be a reason why people like to watch funny videos at work. "I think people are unconsciously trying to put themselves in a positive mood" -- so that apparent time-wasting may actually be good news for employers.


I Hate Math! (Not After This, You Won't)

by Robert Krulwich

Vi Hart calls herself "a recreational mathemusician currently living on Long Island." She talks faster than a machine gun, loves math, and draws like a dream. Her newest video: "Doodling in Math Class: Snakes + Graphs" is eye-popping.

[See link above for video]
Also, on, she has several videos on recreational mathematics.

You may have noticed she's a touch angry about how math is taught in America. She thinks it can be done better — more intuitively, joyously.

So does Paul Lockhart, a math teacher at Saint Ann's School in Brooklyn, NY. A few years ago, he wrote an essay, "A Mathematician's Lament," that's been all over the internet. I just discovered it. Here's how it starts:

A musician wakes from a terrible nightmare. In his dream he finds himself in a society where music education has been made mandatory. "We are helping our students become more competitive in an increasingly sound-filled world." Educators, school systems, and the state are put in charge of this vital project. Studies are commissioned, committees are formed, and decisions are made — all without the advice or participation of a single working musician or composer.

Since musicians are known to set down their ideas in the form of sheet music, these curious black dots and lines must constitute the "language of music." It is imperative that students become fluent in this language if they are to attain any degree of musical competence; indeed, it would be ludicrous to expect a child to sing a song or play an instrument without having a thorough grounding in music notation and theory. Playing and listening to music, let alone composing an original piece, are considered very advanced topics and are generally put off until college, and more often graduate school.

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The Adolescent Brain

In additions, young people have had less life experience, less time to think and develop their ethics.

by Russ Juskalian
December 16, 2010

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One of the most important discoveries in this area of study, says Dr. Frances Jensen, a neuroscientist at Harvard, is that our brains are not finished maturing by adolescence, as was previously thought. Adolescent brains “are only about 80 percent of the way to maturity,” she said at the annual meeting of the Society for Neuroscience in November. It takes until the mid-20s, and possibly later, for a brain to become fully developed.

An excess of gray matter (the stuff that does the processing) at the beginning of adolescence makes us particularly brilliant at learning—the reason we’re so good at picking up new languages starting in early childhood—but also particularly sensitive to the influences of our environment, both emotional and physical. Our brains’ processing centers haven’t been fully linked yet, particularly the parts responsible for helping to check our impulses and considering the long-term repercussions of our actions. “It’s like a brain that’s all revved up not knowing where it needs to go,” says Jensen.

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Friday, December 17, 2010

Total Lunar Eclipse Overnight Monday

ATLANTA -- The first total lunar eclipse in nearly three years will help usher in the Winter Solstice during the early hours of Tuesday.

The eclipse, which is being called the Christmas Lunar Eclipse by some scientists, will be visible over all of North America, beginning locally at 12:27 a.m. Tuesday. The last total lunar eclipse -- which was also visible from Atlanta -- was on the evening of February 20, 2008.

The "total phase" -- which is the most visible portion of the eclipse -- will be visible from 2:40 a.m. to 3:53 a.m. The end of the eclipse will be at 6:06 a.m.

Unlike a solar eclipse, it is safe to look at a lunar eclipse -- which is when the moon passes through the earth's shadow as cast by the sun. During the total phase, the moon appears to have a dark reddish cast.

The Winter Solstice, which marks the official beginning of Winter, is Monday night at 6:38 p.m. Eastern Time.

For a few hours on the night of Dec. 20 to Dec. 21, the attention of tens of millions of people will be drawn skyward, where the mottled, coppery globe of our moon will hang completely immersed in the long, tapering cone of shadow cast out into space by our Earth. If the weather is clear, favorably placed skywatchers will have a view of one of nature's most beautiful spectacles: a total eclipse of the moon.

Unlike a total eclipse of the sun, which is only visible to those in the path of totality, eclipses of the moon can usually be observed from one's own backyard. The passage of the moon through the Earth's shadow is equally visible from all places within the hemisphere where the moon is above the horizon.

The total phase of the upcoming event will be visible across all of North and South America, as well as the northern and western part of Europe, and a small part of northeast Asia, including Korea and much of Japan. Totality will also be visible in its entirety from the North Island of New Zealand and Hawaii — a potential viewing audience of about 1.5 billion people. This will be the first opportunity from any place on earth to see the moon undergo a total eclipse in 34 months. [ Amazing photos of a total lunar eclipse]

This star chart shows where in the sky the upcoming lunar eclipse will appear. And check this NASA lunar eclipse chart to see how visible the eclipse will be from different regions around the world. [See the article for these links]

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Higher Co-Payments Increase Chance of Early Discontinuation of Breast Cancer Therapy

ScienceDaily (Dec. 11, 2010) — A higher prescription co-payment, especially among older women, is associated with both early discontinuation and incomplete use of adjuvant aromatase inhibitor therapy, a life-saving therapy for women with hormone sensitive early stage breast cancer.

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When to End a Run to Avoid Injury: Runners Change Form When Running Exhausted

ScienceDaily (Dec. 11, 2010) — Runners who continue running when they are exhausted unknowingly change their running form, which could be related to an increased risk for injury. A study by Tracy Dierks, assistant professor of physical therapy at Indiana University, found that toward the end of a normal running session, runners generally displayed an increase in motion in their hips, knees and ankles.

"Our study showed that at the end of a normal run, when they were getting tired, their mechanics were beginning to change," Dierks said. "When you notice fatigue, you're most likely putting yourself at increased risk for injuries if you continue because it's more difficult to control the motion ranges." Dierks said an excessive range of motion in the joints generally is associated with overuse injuries. The extra motion makes it harder for the muscles, tendons and ligaments to handle the strain forces related to running.

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Smoking Behind More Than a Third of Severe Rheumatoid Arthritis Cases

ScienceDaily (Dec. 13, 2010) — Smoking accounts for more than a third of cases of the most severe and common form of rheumatoid arthritis, indicates research published online in the Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases.

And it accounts for more than half of cases in people who are genetically susceptible to development of the disease, finds the study.

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Want to look hotter? Hit the sack

JoNel Aleccia writes:Everyone knows that getting too little sleep makes you feel terrible, but new research suggests that cutting back on Zzzs actually makes you look noticeably worse as well.

Turns out, there’s a reason they call it beauty sleep.

That’s the bottom line of a Swedish study that finds that people are perceived as less attractive -- as well as less healthy and more tired -- when they’re sleep-deprived than when they’re well-rested.

And it should be a wake-up call to the 1 in 5 Americans who routinely get less than six hours of sleep a night, said John Axelsson, the researcher who led the study conducted at the Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm.

“A good night’s sleep does not only improve your physiological health, it will also make you look healthier and more attractive, which in turn improves the chance of better treatments in a wide range of social situations,” said Axelsson, an associate professor in the clinical neuroscience department. His work was published online this week in the British Medical Journal.

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Thursday, December 16, 2010

Want to have our cake and eat it too

On Dec. 3, NPR reported on a big storm in NY, where people were trapped in their cars for hours. Some asked why the government didn't rescue everybody. From my experience, I have no doubt that many of the people who complained that the government wasn't able to rescue everybody, also complain about paying taxes, and vote against them.


Childhood trauma stays with you

I saw this in the print edition of USA Today on Aug. 16, 2010

By Sharon Jayson

SAN DIEGO — Growing up in a troubled home can cut your life short or lead to a host of health problems later on, according to studies presented over the weekend at the American Psychological Association meeting.

In several major presentations, researchers outlined evidence that weathering difficulties as a child can set your health on the wrong course decades later.

"Our latest research shows that those reporting multiple adversities could shorten their life span by seven to 15 years," says Janice Kiecolt-Glaser, a health psychologist at the Ohio State University College of Medicine. "What we have is clear evidence that adverse childhood experience may have lasting, measurable consequences." Such events include losing a parent, being abused or witnessing parental marital strife, which can lead to inflammation and cell aging much earlier than those who haven't had such strife, she says.

Researchers analyzed depression and childhood trauma in a sample of 132 healthy older adults to see how negative emotions and stressful experiences affect biochemical markers of stress such as telomeres — the ends of strands of DNA. Shorter telomeres have been linked with aging, age-related diseases and death.

Participants completed questionnaires on depression; past child abuse or neglect; a parent's death during childhood; witnessing severe marital problems; growing up with a family member suffering from mental illness or alcohol abuse; or lacking a close relationship with at least one adult.

"We found that childhood adversity was associated with shorter telomeres and increased levels of inflammation," Kiecolt-Glaser says. "Inflammation over time can lead to cardiovascular disease, osteoporosis, arthritis, type 2 diabetes and certain cancers."

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In her latest study, 212 teens ages 14-16 were monitored over three years to gauge the effect of poverty on sensitivity to stress and early signs of heart disease. Findings showed that years later, those from poor economic households had stiffer arteries and higher blood pressure as well as more thickening of their carotid artery walls.

The adolescent years are a critical time when stress has more impact, Matthews says, perhaps "because of their hormonal changes and their sensitivity to peer rejection, acceptance and how they interpret others' attitudes toward themselves," she says.


Imagining Food Consumption Reduces Actual Consumption

I would say try different things and see what works for you.

ScienceDaily (Dec. 11, 2010) — If you're looking to lose weight, it's okay to think about eating your favorite candy bar. In fact, go ahead and imagine devouring every last bite -- all in the name of your diet.

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Catnip Oil Repels Bloodsucking Flies

ScienceDaily (Dec. 13, 2010) — Catnip, the plant that attracts domestic cats like an irresistible force, has proven 99 percent effective in repelling the blood-sucking flies that attack horses and cows, causing $2 billion in annual loses to the cattle industry. That's the word from a report published in ACS' Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry.

Junwei Zhu and colleagues note that stable flies not only inflict painful bites, but also transmit multiple diseases. Cattle harried by these bloodsuckers may produce less meat and milk, have trouble reproducing, and develop diseases that can be fatal. All traditional methods for controlling stable flies -- even heavy applications of powerful insecticides -- have proven less than effective. The scientists thus turned to catnip oil, already known to repel more than a dozen families of insects, including house flies, mosquitoes and cockroaches.

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Wal-Mart is recalling more than two million electric heaters

By Aaron Smith, staff writerDecember 16, 2010: 12:53 PM ET

NEW YORK ( -- Wal-Mart is recalling more than two million electric heaters because of a "fire and burn hazard," the company said Thursday.

The retailer, in a joint statement with the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, said it was recalling 2.2 million heaters of the following brands: Flow Pro, Airtech, Aloha Breeze and Comfort Essentials.

"The heaters can malfunction resulting in overheating, smoking, burning, melting and fire," said Wal-Mart and the commission.

So far, Wal-Mart said it has received four reports of injuries for "minor burns and smoke inhalation" and 11 reports of property damage. The company said that consumers should stop using the heaters and bring them to a Walmart store for a refund.

Wal-Mart (WMT, Fortune 500) said the Chinese-made heaters were sold between 2001 and 2009.


Real revenge of the nerds? Better health

Kristin Kalning writes: High school nerds may not get the chicks , but they get better health as adults, says a new study from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

The findings are based on a study that followed 10,000 graduates from Wisconsin’s high school class of 1957. Researchers have gone back and asked the graduates various questions over the years, and for this report, participants were queried on their health.

UW Sociology professor Pamela Herd found that the better a study participant did in high school, the less likely he or she was to experience poor health as they reached retirement age.

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High Activity Staves Off Pounds, Especially for Women

ScienceDaily (Dec. 14, 2010) — People will gain significantly less weight by middle age -- especially women -- if they engage in moderate to vigorous activity nearly every day of the week starting as young adults, according to new Northwestern Medicine research.

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What Child is This?

This is a beautiful instrumental
The intro is a little long, but worth waiting thru.


Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Women Smokers Shocked Into Giving Up Habit by Seeing Effect on Their Faces

ScienceDaily (Dec. 13, 2010) — Seeing the effect smoking will have on their faces shocks women into giving up the habit, research from Staffordshire University has revealed.

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Three-Quarters of Hip Fracture Patients Are Vitamin D Deficient

ScienceDaily (Dec. 13, 2010) — New Delhi researchers show that vitamin D levels may be a useful index for the assessment of hip fracture risk in elderly people.

A study in New Delhi India has revealed high rates of vitamin D deficiency among hip fracture patients, confirming the conclusions of similar international studies which point to vitamin D deficiency as a risk factor for hip fracture.

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A Benefit of Flu: Protection from Asthma?

ScienceDaily (Dec. 14, 2010) — In a paper that suggests a new strategy to prevent asthma, scientists at Children's Hospital Boston and their colleagues report that the influenza virus infection in young mice protected the mice as adults against the development of allergic asthma. The same protective effect was achieved by treating young mice with compound isolated from the bacterium Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori), a bacterium that colonizes the stomach and is best known for causing ulcers and increasing the risk of gastric cancers.

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Tuesday, December 14, 2010

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The Economy is so bad....

The economy is so bad, if the bank returns your check marked "Insufficient Funds", you call and ask if they meant you or them.

The economy is so bad, Exxon-Mobil laid off 25 congressmen.

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Fire Disaster in Israel Is a Typical Example of Expected Climate Change Effects in the Mediterranean

ScienceDaily (Dec. 13, 2010) — The fire disaster in the Carmel Mountains near Haifa is a typical example of climate change effect and a taste of the future, says Dr. Guy Pe'er, one of the authors of Israel's first report to the UN on climate change. Ten years ago, Dr. Pe'er and other Israeli scientists collated knowledge about the effects of climate change for Israel. They warned in the year 2000 of expected climatic fluctuations, heat events, decreased rainfall and delayed late winter rainfall, all of which would lead to increased risk of intense forest fires.

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18.3 Million Baby Boomers Could Benefit from the Affordable Care Act

ScienceDaily (Dec. 14, 2010) — 18.3 million men and women ages 50 to 64 stand to benefit from provisions in the Affordable Care Act that expand access to affordable health insurance, assure that all health insurance provides a standard comprehensive benefit, prevent insurers from denying coverage or charging higher premiums to people with pre-existing conditions, and eliminate lifetime and annual limits in health insurance policies, according to a new Commonwealth Fund report released December 14.

Adults ages 50-64 are currently suffering the highest rates of longtime unemployment among working-age adults, and millions are without health benefits. Of the 8.6 million currently uninsured in this age group -- 4.3 million men and 4.2 million women -- 3.3 million with incomes under $29,000 for a family of four will gain Medicaid coverage, 3.5 million with incomes up to $88,000 for a family of four will be able to gain subsidized private coverage through the new health insurance exchanges, and 1.4 million with higher incomes will gain new coverage with consumer protections.

In addition, an estimated 9.7 million older adults who have health insurance but have such high out-of-pocket costs relative to their income that they are effectively underinsured, will gain improved coverage through the implementation of essential benefit standards, limits on out-of-pocket spending, and elimination of lifetime benefit limits.

Uninsured adults in this age group face serious difficulty with access to needed care: three-quarters (75 %) report forgoing needed health care and medications because of costs and nearly half (46%) report not getting recommended preventive care. More than half of uninsured women in this age group had not had a mammogram within the past two years. Nearly 70 percent of uninsured and underinsured baby boomers report that they have problems paying medical bills or are paying off medical debt.

"A loss of employer health benefits can be devastating to men and women in this age group since their older age and higher rates of chronic health problems places them at risk of facing exorbitant premiums, having a condition excluded from their coverage, or being denied insurance altogether if they try to buy it on their own," said Commonwealth Fund Vice President Sara Collins, lead author of the report. "The Affordable Care Act will change all of that. Once its provisions are in full effect, older adults who lose their employer health insurance will have access to affordable and comprehensive health benefits regardless of their age or health."

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Children Who Don’t Like Fruit and Vegetables Are 13 Times More Likely to Be Constipated

ScienceDaily (Dec. 13, 2010) — Primary school children who don't like eating fruit and vegetables are 13 times more likely to develop functional constipation than children who do, according to a study in the December issue of the Journal of Clinical Nursing. Drinking less than 400ml of fluid a day also significantly increases the risk.

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Monday, December 13, 2010

Right or Left Handling at Birth: What Impact Does It Have on Development?

Maybe the thing that made the difference was not which side was "rubbed vigorously". Those who did the rubbing were probably mostly right-handed. So rubbing on one side may have been against the lay of the hair, and been uncomfortable.

ScienceDaily (Dec. 13, 2010) — Certain events experienced at the moment of birth have consequences on the emotional reactions of animals at an adult age. Researchers from the Laboratoire d'Ethologie Animale et Humaine (CNRS/Université de Rennes 1) have tested the effects of unilateral tactile stimulation on newborn foals. Their results show that animals handled on their right side at birth avoid contact with humans more often than those stimulated on their left side or not at all. Published in Biology Letters, this work raises questions on the organization of neonatal care in animals and humans.

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The ethologists tested the consequences of unilateral tactile stimulations on 28 newborn foals: 10 of them were handled just after birth on their right side (the newborn foals were "rubbed" vigorously for one hour on a single side), 9 others on their left side, while the remaining 9 were not handled at all. The researchers then observed medium-term effects: the reactions of foals to a human approach, when they were 10 days old, differed according to the side stimulated at birth. The right-handled animals fled at the approach of humans more often than the left-handled or unhandled foals.

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Tony Porter : A Call to Men


Friday, December 10, 2010

Top Chimps Tend to Suffer from More Parasites

ScienceDaily (Dec. 9, 2010) — A study of chimpanzees has revealed that dominant animals with higher testosterone levels tend to suffer from an increased burden of parasites.

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"Acquisition and maintenance of high dominance rank often involves frequent aggression, and testosterone has been considered the quintessential physiological moderator of such behavior. However, testosterone also causes suppression of the immune system."

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Living in Certain Neighborhoods Increases the Chances Older Men and Women Will Develop Cancer

ScienceDaily (Dec. 9, 2010) — Older people who live in racially segregated neighborhoods with high crime rates have a much higher chance of developing cancer than do older people with similar health histories and income levels who live in safer, less segregated neighborhoods.

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One of a growing number of studies documenting the connection between neighborhood characteristics and chronic health conditions, it is the first to show that living in more highly segregated areas with higher crime rates is linked with an increased risk of developing cancers of all kinds -- for whites as well as Blacks.

The chance of developing cancer is 31 percent higher for older men living in these kinds of neighborhoods, and 25 percent higher for older women.

The study also found that living in low-income neighborhoods increased the chances that older women would develop heart problems by 20 percent. They found no impact on older men.

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we found that segregation and crime increased the chances of developing cancer even after we controlled for socioeconomic resources at both the individual and the neighborhood level," Freedman said.

The researchers also examined levels of exposure to air pollution and other environmental toxins, but found that crime rates and racial segregation levels independently predicted cancer onset.

"The remarkable similarity in the size and strength of this relationship for both men and women is quite surprising given differences in the types of cancer each gender develops," she said. "This suggests that a nonspecific biological mechanism may be involved, possibly a stress response that interrupts the body's ability to fight the development of cancer cells."

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Tax deals

If the tax cuts for the top 1% are continued, they will continue to drive up the deficit. Then the deficit will be used to justify cuts in Social Security.

When the Republicans enacted these tax cuts, they made them time-limited, so that they would appear to have a smaller effect on future deficits.

They claim they that they stimulate the economy by helping big business add jobs and enlarge their businesses. But they have been in effect for years, and this hasn't happened. What happened is that big business increased jobs in other countries, where pay is lower. And they invested in scams that helped bring down the economy.


Bruce Gilbert

Bruce Gilbert is a very talented singer/songwriter.


Thursday, December 09, 2010

Why Married Men Tend to Behave Better

ScienceDaily (Dec. 6, 2010) — Researchers have long argued that marriage generally reduces illegal and aggressive behaviors in men. It remained unclear, however, if that association was a function of matrimony itself or whether less "antisocial" men were simply more likely to get married.

The answer, according to a new study led by a Michigan State University behavior geneticist, appears to be both.

In the December issue of the Archives of General Psychiatry, online December 6, S. Alexandra Burt and colleagues found that less antisocial men were more likely to get married. Once they were wed, however, the marriage itself appeared to further inhibit antisocial behavior.

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The study found that men with lower levels of antisocial behavior at ages 17 and 20 were more likely to have married by age 29 (researchers refer to the act of entering into marriage as a selection process). This is noteworthy since previous studies found little support that selection process influenced reduced rates of antisocial behavior among married men.

Burt said her finding may differ from past studies because marital rates have declined significantly in recent years, whereas marriage was more of the norm in the 1950s, meaning selection likely wasn't much of a factor.

Once the men were married, rates of antisocial behavior declined even more. When comparing identical twins in which one twin had married while the other had not, Burt said, the married twin generally engaged in lower levels of antisocial behavior than did the unmarried twin.

Burt said it's unlikely that marriage inhibits men's antisocial behavior directly, but rather that marriage is a marker for other factors such as social bonding or less time spent with delinquent peers. Another factor that seems to be important is marriage quality; the effect of marriage on antisocial behavior tends to be stronger in better marriages.


A Team With a Shared Lousy Temper Is Better at Mental Tasks

ScienceDaily (Dec. 6, 2010) — Managers who want their team to perform better should let employees express negative emotions. Teams who share bad feelings solve complicated problems better, share more information with each other and have a greater solidarity, concludes Dutch researcher Annefloor Klep.

Many organisations want their employees to regulate negative emotions and only show positive ones. However, from the experiments of Annefloor Klep it has become apparent that this isn't always the right strategy. She found out that teams which share positive emotions are better at creative tasks; however, analytical tasks are handled better if a team shares negative emotions.

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Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Butter Contaminated by PBDE Flame Retardant

This chemical is suspected of being the cause of the big increase of hyper-thyroidism. I have two cats with hyper-thyroidism, and another one who is dead who had it. The fact that there seems to be especially high concentrations of this chemical is significant to me, because cats need a high-fat diet.

ScienceDaily (Dec. 7, 2010) — A new study reports what scientists believe is the worst documented U.S. case of food contamination with polybrominated diphenyl ether (PBDE) flame retardants. The incident also marks the first time food contamination has been thought to result from PBDEs in a food’s packaging.

One of ten samples of butter purchased at five Dallas grocery stores contained high concentrations of deca-BDE, a PBDE compound widely used in electronics as well as in textiles, wire and cable insulation, and automobile and airplane components. Animal studies have linked consumption of deca-BDE with thyroid hormone changes in adult rodents and neurobehavioral changes in young rodents.

PBDE levels in the contaminated butter were more than 135 times higher than the average of the other nine samples; levels of BDE-209, the main component of deca-BDE, were more than 900 times higher.

The contamination came to light during a routine investigation intended to help scientists improve estimates of the amount of PBDEs and other persistent organic pollutants people inadvertently consume in food. Scientists have detected low levels of these compounds in many fat-rich foods including fish such as salmon, meat, poultry, eggs, and dairy products.

Further investigation revealed the butter’s paper wrapper had PBDE levels more than 16 times greater than levels in the butter itself. It is unclear whether the paper was contaminated before or after it reached the butter packaging plant, according to lead author Arnold Schecter of the University of Texas School of Public Health, Dallas Campus. The source of the contamination also is unclear.

U.S. manufacturers have agreed to end all uses of deca-BDE by 2014, and the European Union phased it out in 2008. However, chemicals don’t vanish from the environment just because they’re phased out, Schecter says, and products containing deca-BDE often are used for many years. The authors of the paper agree their research underscores the need for a regulatory program that samples American food for persistent organic pollutants such as PBDEs.

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Head Lice Shrivel With Chemical-Free Warm-Air Device

ScienceDaily (Dec. 5, 2010) — Four years after the LouseBuster prototype made headlines when research showed the chemical-free, warm-air device wiped out head lice on children, a new study reveals that a revamped, government-cleared model is highly effective.

"For a louse, it's like sticking your head out a window at 100 miles an hour; they're going to get dried out," says University of Utah biology Professor Dale Clayton, senior author of the study and a founder of Larada Sciences, a university spinoff company that sells or leases the LouseBuster to schools, camps, medical clinics and delousing businesses.

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Over-Reactive Immune System Kills Young Adults During Pandemic Flu

ScienceDaily (Dec. 5, 2010) — A hallmark of pandemic flu throughout history, including the 2009 H1N1 pandemic, has been its ability to make healthy young and middle-aged adults seriously ill and even kill this population in disproportionate numbers. In a paper published Dec. 5 in Nature Medicine, Vanderbilt University Medical Center researchers provide a possible explanation for this alarming phenomenon of pandemic flu. The study's findings suggest people are made critically ill, or even killed, by their own immune response.

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But why did infants and the frail elderly escape this mechanism of death in the H1N1 pandemic?

"We found in 2009, the elderly had good immunity because they had seen a very similar virus sometime before 1957. Babies hadn't seen many viruses at all so there was no trigger. It came down to the young adults -- primed with an ineffective response. Their bodies already had defenses against previous influenza viruses that look like this one but weren't close enough," Polack said.

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Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Lower Occurrence of Atopic Dermatitis in Children Whose Mothers Were Exposed to Farm Animals and Cats During Pregnancy

ScienceDaily (Dec. 5, 2010) — Atopic dermatitis (also known as atopic eczema) is a chronic and extremely painful inflammation of the skin that frequently occurs in early childhood, generally starting in infancy. Up to 20 percent of all children in industrialized countries are affected, making it one of the most common childhood skin diseases.

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Earlier research has already indicated that allergies are less common in children who grow up on farms and whose mothers live on farms during their pregnancy. Exposure to farm animals and bacteria frequently found in farms as well as drinking milk from the dairy offer the immune system protection.

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The researchers were able to demonstrate that women who spend their pregnancy in the proximity of farm animals and cats have children with a reduced risk of developing atopic dermatitis in their first two years of life. The research team also identified two genes in these children that are of vital importance for innate immunity and was able to link the expression of these genes to a lower likelihood of a doctor diagnosis of an allergic condition.


Carbon Dioxide-Free Energy Can Meet the World’s Energy Needs in 2050

ScienceDaily (Dec. 6, 2010) — Taken as a whole, energy sources with low or no carbon emissions could easily cover the global energy supply in 2050, according to a new report from Denmark's Risø National Laboratory for Sustainable Energy. The challenge for a sustainable global energy system with low carbon emissions will be to use this potential in the energy system the best way possible seen from an economic point of view.

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Day care babies: More infections now, fewer later

By Denise Mann,
December 6, 2010 4:35 p.m. EST

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Babies who attend large-group child-care centers before they are 2 ½ years of age do get more respiratory and ear infections than those cared for at home, but they are less likely to come down with these ailments once they start elementary school, according to the study.

"Children have infections at the time they initiate large-group activities, whether they do it earlier or later," says study author Sylvana M. Côté, Ph.D., of Ste-Justine Hospital and the University of Montreal, Quebec, in an email. "I argue earlier is better to have infections because then kids do not miss school at a crucial time -- when learning to read and write."

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Exposure to Mobile Phones Before and After Birth Linked to Kids' Behavioral Problems

ScienceDaily (Dec. 6, 2010) — Pregnant mums who regularly use mobile phones may be more likely to have kids with behavioural problems, particularly if those children start using mobile phones early themselves, suggests research published online in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health.

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Children in both groups exposed to mobile phones before and after birth were 50% more likely to have behavioural problems, after taking account of a wide range of influential factors.

Those exposed to mobile phones before birth only were 40% more likely to have behavioural problems, while those with no prenatal exposure but with access to them by the age of 7 were 20% more likely to exhibit abnormal behaviours.

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