Friday, January 29, 2010

Biggest and Brightest Full Moon of 2010 Tonight (Fri. Jan. 29, 2009);_ylt=As_f5nVsuliT1QIR0bLom8qs0NUE;_ylu=X3oDMTFpZmp0Ymw1BHBvcwMzNQRzZWMDYWNjb3JkaW9uX21vc3RfcG9wdWxhcgRzbGsDYmlnZ2VzdGFuZGJy

As a bonus, Mars will be just to the left of the moon tonight. Look for the reddish, star-like object.

Finally, be sure to get out and see the full moon as it rises, right around sunset. Along the horizon, the moon tends to seem even bigger. This is just an illusion.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Misheard Lyrics

Misunderstood lyrics. Hilarious.

I found out it's "I'm not talking 'bout moving in", not "I'm not talking about millenium" in the song "I'd really love to see you tonight" by England Dan

We Are the World - Pavarotti and Friends

updated 9:53 a.m. ET, Thurs., Jan. 28, 2010

LOS ANGELES - Quincy Jones is re-recording the charity song "We Are the World" and sending the proceeds to Haiti.

The 76-year-old music legend says musicians are gathering Monday at a Los Angeles recording studio to redo the 25-year-old hit song.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Increased patient cost-sharing may hurt elderly;_ylt=AkKgc5D7CYtxQunOZKOK2Vqs0NUE;_ylu=X3oDMTFkcmZnZmZlBHBvcwMxNDgEc2VjA2FjY29yZGlvbl9oZWFsdGgEc2xrA2luY3JlYXNlZHBhdA--

By ALICIA CHANG, AP Science Writer Alicia Chang, Ap Science Writer – Wed Jan 27, 5:00 pm ET

LOS ANGELES – Higher Medicare copays, sometimes just a few dollars more, led to fewer doctors visits and to more and longer hospital stays, a large new study reveals.

With health care costs skyrocketing, many public and private insurers have required patients to pay more out-of-pocket when they seek care. The new study confirms what many policymakers had feared: cost-shifting moves can backfire.

"Patients may defer needed care and may wind up with a serious health event that might put them in the hospital. That's not good for the patients, not good for society, not good for anybody," said Dr. Tim Carey, who heads the University of North Carolina's Sheps Center for Health Services Research.

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For every 100 people enrolled in plans that raised copays, there were 20 fewer doctor visits, 2 additional hospital admissions and 13 more days spent in the hospital in the year after the increase compared to those in plans whose copays did not change, researchers found.

The trend was most pronounced among blacks, people living in lower-income neighborhoods and those with chronic illnesses such as diabetes, high blood pressure or heart disease.

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The findings echo previous studies on increased patient cost-sharing. When California's Medicaid program introduced a $1 copay in 1972, it led to an 8 percent decline in doctor visits and a 17 percent increase in hospital days.

Elementary School Women Teachers Transfer Their Fear of Doing Math to Girls

ScienceDaily (Jan. 26, 2010) — Female elementary school teachers who are anxious about math pass on to female students the stereotype that boys, not girls, are good at math. Girls who endorse this belief then do worse at math, research at the University of Chicago shows.

These findings are the product of a year-long study on 17 first- and second-grade teachers and 52 boys and 65 girls who were their students. The researchers found that boys' math performance was not related to their teacher's math anxiety while girls' math achievement was affected.

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More than 90 percent of elementary school teachers in the country are women and they are able to get their teaching certificates with very little mathematics preparation, according to the National Survey of Science and Mathematics Education. Other research shows that elementary education majors have the highest rate of mathematics anxiety of any college major.

The potential of these teachers to impact girls' performance by transmitting their own anxiety about mathematics has important consequences. Teachers' anxiety might undermine female students' confidence in learning mathematics throughout their years of schooling and also decrease their performance in other subjects, such as science and engineering, which are dependent on mathematical understanding.

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Other research has shown that elementary school children are highly influenced by the attitudes of adults and that this relationship is strongest for students and adults of the same gender.

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Zicam warning

I don't know if these products are still available

For Immediate Release: June 16, 2009

FDA Advises Consumers Not To Use Certain Zicam Cold Remedies
Intranasal Zinc Product Linked to Loss of Sense of Smell

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration today advised consumers to stop using three products marketed over-the-counter as cold remedies because they are associated with the loss of sense of smell (anosmia). Anosmia may be long-lasting or permanent.

The products are:
--Zicam Cold Remedy Nasal Gel
--Zicam Cold Remedy Nasal Swabs
--Zicam Cold Remedy Swabs, Kids Size (a discontinued product)

The FDA has received more than 130 reports of loss of sense of smell associated with the use of these three Zicam products. In these reports, many people who experienced a loss of smell said the condition occurred with the first dose; others reported a loss of the sense of smell after multiple uses of the products.

“Loss of sense of smell is a serious risk for people who use these products for relief from cold symptoms,” said Janet Woodcock, M.D., director of the FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research (CDER). “We are concerned that consumers may unknowingly use a product that could cause serious harm, and therefore we are advising them not to use these products for any reason.”

People who have experienced a loss of sense of smell or other problems after use of the affected Zicam products should contact their health care professional. The loss of sense of smell can adversely affect a person’s quality of life, and can limit the ability to detect the smell of gas or smoke or other signs of danger in the environment.

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Health care professionals and consumers are encouraged to report adverse events (side effects) that may be related to the use of these products to the FDA's MedWatch Adverse Event Reporting program online, by regular mail, fax or phone.
--Regular Mail: use FDA postage paid form 3500 and mail to MedWatch, 5600 Fishers Lane, Rockville, MD 20852-9787
--Fax: 800-FDA-0178
--Phone: 800-FDA-1088

TSA Officers Among Lowest Paid Of Federal Workers

by Brian Naylor
January 26, 2010

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If you are one of the 2 million people who fly commercially each day in the U.S., you've gone through airport security administered by the Transportation Security Administration.

But as painful as the screening process can be for travelers, it's no picnic for transportation security officers, or TSOs. The men and women at the front lines of the battle to keep the skies safe are among the lowest paid of all federal employees, and they have one of the highest injury rates.

It's a stressful job, and TSOs must deal with sometimes uncooperative travelers while watching for what the TSA calls "anomalies."

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TSOs rotate through the positions on the security line throughout the course of their shifts. There is a lot of standing, staring intently at screening monitors and lifting heavy bags, which has contributed to the agency's high employee injury rate.

Then there are the salaries, which start at about $25,000 a year, one of the lowest rates in the federal government. Anthony Hutchinson, a 29-year-old father of two, says not only is it not easy raising a family on what he earns, but it also affects what he sees as the mission of transportation security officers.

"This is a very, very important job. You're dealing with people's lives every single day, and if you have an officer sitting there worrying about how they're going to pay their rent, or whether their car is going to be taken from them because they can't pay their car note, or how their children are going to eat ... then you're not going to have a happy officer there thinking about the mission," Hutchinson says. "The mission comes first."

Hutchinson has joined the National Treasury Employees Union, one of two unions that hope to organize TSOs and eventually bargain for a contract with the TSA.

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Right now, what everyone at TSA would like is the nomination of a new administrator. The agency has been without a permanent chief since President Obama took office a year ago. His nominee, Erroll Southers, withdrew last week, in part because he was blocked by some Senate Republicans who object to giving transportation security officers the right to bargain for a contract.

Louisiana's Watergate

With the right it really is deja vu all over again. Tuesday federal officials charged four men with plotting to tamper with the phone system of Louisiana Democratic Senator Mary Landrieu. Conservative filmmaker James O'Keefe was one of the men charged in the break-in.

You may remember O'Keefe. He reached a level of notoriety after dressing as a pimp and secretly recording members of the community group ACORN as he asked for advice on how to set up a brothel. While some employees took the bait (and were promptly fired by ACORN once the incident was brought to their attention), despite the public fury the group was ultimately cleared of any wrongdoing. However, that didn't stop 31 House Republicans from signing a resolution in O'Keefe's honor in connection with the ACORN stunt stating that O'Keefe and his partner "displayed exemplary actions as government watchdogs and young journalists" and "are owed a debt of gratitude by the people of the United States. Seriously.

If this sounds familiar, it should. The Watergate scandal was the result of a break-in into the Democratic National Committee headquarters at the Watergate office complex in Washington D.C. As news of the scandal broke, Watergate veteran and MSNBC contributor Pat Buchanan brushed the incident off as a youthful prank.

No, Buchanan. This is not a youthful prank. It's a felony. A couple of them, actually.

Buchanan's response, and the O'Keefe's earlier embrace by Republican lawmakers illustrates a disturbing and dangerous trend by the right-- the use and defense of blatant lawlessness as a means to a political ends.

As of yet those 31 Republicans have yet condemn this crime or pull their support for their resolution lauding O'Keefe. This is simply unacceptable, unless of course they stand by those kinds of actions and in fact endorse this kind of behavior. Let's find out for sure. Sign the Care2 petition and demand they withdraw their support for their resolution and condemn the crimes in no uncertain terms.


Republicans would be screaming out loud if the shoe were on the other foot.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Haiti awash in doctors; nurses in short supply

I expect more doctors than nurses can afford to go to Haiti to help.

By Lisa Desjardins and Danielle Dellorto, CNN
January 25, 2010 9:30 a.m. EST

Port-au-Prince, Haiti (CNN) -- So many doctors are answering Haiti's call for medical aid that the largest hospital in Port-au-Prince has a new problem: organizing and finding good use for them all.

"I think there is a lot of confusion," said Marivittoria Rava, a longtime volunteer with the charity Friends of the Orphans, which runs a children's hospital caring for some post-operative patients from the general hospital.

Rava said that medical supplies and resources have improved, but the crush of volunteer doctors in Port-au-Prince can complicate treatment in the city while there is great need for help in other places hit by the earthquake.

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Nurses are in short supply. A nursing school on the grounds of the general hospital was crushed in the earthquake, killing some of the people who would be giving care now. The flood of outside volunteers is mostly doctors, not nurses.

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Even as they juggle an abundance of doctors, many volunteers said they worry the general hospital in Port-au-Prince could again face dire need after this first wave of medical staff rotates out of Haiti over the next two weeks.

Those on the ground advise doctors who want to help Haiti to wait and volunteer in a few weeks or months.

Experts say U.S. must do more about asteroids

updated 2:25 a.m. ET, Sat., Jan. 23, 2010

The United States must do more to safeguard Earth against destruction by an asteroid than merely prepping nuclear missiles, a new report has found.

The 134-page report, released Friday by the National Academy of Sciences, states that the $4 million spent by the United States annually to identify all potentially dangerous asteroids near Earth is not enough to do the job mandated by Congress in 2005.

NASA is in dire need of more funding to meet the challenge, and less than $1 million is currently set aside to research ways to counter space rocks that do endanger the Earth — measures like developing the spacecraft and technology to deflect incoming asteroids — the report states.

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The final report, written by a committee of expert scientists, says NASA is ill-equipped to catalog 90 percent of the nearby asteroids that are 460 feet (140 meters) across or larger, as directed by Congress.

The United States should also be planning more methods of defending Earth against an asteroid threat in the near-term. Nuclear weapons should be a last resort — but they're also only useful if the world has years of advance notice of a large, incoming space rock, the report states.

Likewise, decades of notice are required to build and launch spacecraft to push an asteroid clear of Earth or smash it with a forceful but non-nuclear, projectile, the committee wrote in the report. Organized evacuations and other civil defense efforts would only be useful in the event a smaller threatening object is found with limited advance notice, it added.

NASA's asteroid and near-Earth object experts say the agency has found about 85 percent of the largest nearby asteroids, ones that are a half-mile (1 kilometer) wide or larger. But only 15 percent of the 460-foot-wide asteroids near Earth have been discovered and tracked to date, and just 5 percent of nearby space rocks about 164 feet (50 meters) across have been found.

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Still, "this presents the classic problem of the conflict between extremely important and extremely rare," the report stated. "The committee considers work on this problem as insurance, with the premiums devoted wholly towards preventing the tragedy."

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Hi, I may be posting fewer items because I'm so busy at work, in case any one wonders :)
Good job security, to be needed :-D

Sunday, January 24, 2010

asteroid 2010 AL30 close approach

So we sight asteroids a few hours or a couple of days before they go by. If we found that one large enough to do damage was going to impact, how could we have time to do anything with current technology?

updated 8:50 p.m. ET, Wed., Jan. 13, 2010

A near-Earth object hurtled past us on Wednesday, just two days after its discovery was announced.

Orbital projections indicated that the object called 2010 AL30 flew by Earth at a distance of just 80,000 miles (130,000 kilometers). That's only one-third of the way from here to the moon.

If the object had been on a collision course with Earth, it wouldn't have done any damage anyway. But planetary scientists said the asteroid, or whatever it was, set a new standard: A 10-meter-wide (33-foot-wide) asteroid can be detected two days before it potentially hits Earth.

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"Probably 2010 AL30 is of natural origin. However, the possibility that it is man-made cannot be completely excluded," Khan said in an article on his blog. "If so, it might be the upper stage of a rocket used in an earlier planetary mission, possibly to Venus. The current orbit would have been acquired through a Venus swingby and other orbital perturbations."

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Andrea Boattini of the Catalina Sky Survey made the interesting point that 2010 AL30 is a great example of how much of a warning we'd have for an object of this size that's headed for Earth. After all, the discovery was announced only on Monday.

It is worth noting that even if 2010 AL30 did hit Earth, it would most likely explode high in the atmosphere (with the energy of a small nuclear bomb), posing little danger to anyone on the ground. Impacts of this size happen every year.

Small Asteroid Whizzes By Earth

ScienceDaily (Nov. 12, 2009) — A newly discovered asteroid designated 2009 VA, which is only about 7 meters in size, passed about 2 Earth radii (14,000 km) from Earth's surface Nov. 6 at around 16:30 EST. This is the third-closest known (non-impacting) Earth approach on record for a cataloged asteroid.

The two closer approaches include the 1-meter sized asteroid 2008 TS26, which passed within 6,150 km of Earth's surface on October 9, 2008, and the 7-meter sized asteroid 2004 FU162 that passed within 6,535 km on March 31, 2004. On average, objects the size of 2009 VA pass this close about twice per year and impact Earth about once every 5 years.

Asteroid 2009 VA was discovered by the Catalina Sky Survey about 15 hours before the close approach, and was quickly identified by the Minor Planet Center in Cambridge MA as an object that would soon pass very close to the Earth.

JPL's Near-Earth Object Program Office also computed an orbit solution for this object, and determined that it was not headed for an impact.

Only thirteen months ago, the somewhat smaller object 2008 TC3 was discovered under similar circumstances, but that one was found to be on a trajectory headed for Earth, with impact only about 11 hours away.

Detecting and Countering Near-Earth Objects That Could Threaten Earth Underfunded

ScienceDaily (Jan. 22, 2010) — A new report from the National Research Council lays out options NASA could follow to detect more near-Earth objects (NEOs) -- asteroids and comets that could pose a hazard if they cross Earth's orbit. The report says the $4 million the U.S. spends annually to search for NEOs is insufficient to meet a congressionally mandated requirement to detect NEOs that could threaten Earth.

Congress mandated in 2005 that NASA discover 90 percent of NEOs whose diameter is 140 meters or greater by 2020, and asked the National Research Council in 2008 to form a committee to determine the optimum approach to doing so. In an interim report released last year, the committee concluded that it was impossible for NASA to meet that goal, since Congress has not appropriated new funds for the survey nor has the administration asked for them.

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The report also recommends that NASA monitor for smaller objects -- those down to 30 to 50 meters in diameter -- which recent research suggests can be highly destructive. However, the report stresses that searching for smaller objects should not interfere with first fulfilling the mandate from Congress.

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High Vitamin D Levels Linked to Lower Risk of Colon Cancer

Too much vitamin D is damaging to the body.

ScienceDaily (Jan. 22, 2010) — High blood levels of vitamin D are associated with a lower risk of colon cancer, finds a large European study published online in the British Medical Journal. The risk was cut by as much as 40% in people with the highest levels compared with those in the lowest.

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Participants with the highest levels of blood vitamin D concentration had a nearly 40% decrease in colorectal cancer risk when compared to those with the lowest levels.

However, some recent publications have suggested maintenance of blood vitamin D levels at 50 nmol/l or higher for colorectal cancer prevention. Thus, the authors also compared low and high levels of blood vitamin D concentration to a mid-level of 50-75 nmol/l. This comparison showed that while levels below the mid-level were associated with increased risk, those above 75 nmol/l were not associated with any additional reduction in colon cancer risk compared to the mid-level.

Although the results support a role for vitamin D in the etiology of colorectal cancer, the authors caution that very little is known about the association of vitamin D with other cancers and that the long term health effects of very high circulating vitamin D concentrations, potentially obtained by taking supplements and/or widespread fortification of some food products, have not been well studied.

With respect to colorectal cancer protection, it is still unclear whether inducing higher blood vitamin D concentration by supplementation is better than average levels that can be achieved with a balanced diet combined with regular and moderate exposure to outdoor sunlight, they say.

Even Small Dietary Reductions in Salt Could Mean Fewer Heart Attacks, Strokes and Deaths

From personal experience, I have found that if you reduce your consumption of salt, you get used to it, and you become able to enjoy flavors you could not taste before.

ScienceDaily (Jan. 21, 2010) — Reducing salt in the American diet by as little as one-half teaspoon (or three grams) per day could prevent nearly 100,000 heart attacks and 92,000 deaths each year, according to a new study. Such benefits are on par with the benefits from reductions in smoking and could save the United States about $24 billion in healthcare costs, the researchers add.

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"A very modest decrease in the amount of salt, hardly detectable in the taste of food, can have dramatic health benefits for the U.S.," said Kirsten Bibbins-Domingo, PhD, MD, lead author of the study, UCSF associate professor of medicine and epidemiology and the co-director of the UCSF Center for Vulnerable Populations at San Francisco General Hospital.

"It was a surprise to see the magnitude of the impact on the population, given the small reductions in salt that we were modeling," Bibbins-Domingo added.

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The CHD Policy Model found that reducing dietary salt by three grams per day (about 1200 mg of sodium) would result in 11 percent fewer cases of new heart disease, 13 percent fewer heart attacks, 8 percent fewer strokes, and 4 percent fewer deaths. For African Americans, who researchers believe are more likely to have high blood pressure and may be more sensitive to salt, this degree of salt reduction could reduce new cases of heart disease by 16 percent and heart attacks by 19 percent.

"Reducing dietary salt is one of those rare interventions that has a huge health benefit and actually saves large amounts of money. At a time when so much public debate has focused on the costs of health care for the sick, here is a simple remedy, already proven to be feasible in other countries," said Lee Goldman, MD, MPH, senior author, executive vice president for health and biomedical sciences and dean of the faculties of health sciences and medicine at Columbia University.

The American Heart Association reports that salt consumption among Americans has risen by 50 percent and blood pressure has risen by nearly the same amount since the 1970s -- despite evidence linking salt intake to high blood pressure and heart disease.

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Saturday, January 23, 2010

A malfunction of evolution

A realization came to me a few minutes ago. I (and others) have long realized that evolution can lead to short-term success that breeds long-term failure. I realized that it could be seen in the short-term in a single organism, including a human, by considering cancer. When our cells divide, there will sometimes be mutations that cause a cell to become cancers. As the cancer cells continue to divide, they can develop additional mutations that make them immune to chemotherapy. They are more "successful" than normal cells, in the short term. However, eventually they kill so many of the normal cells, that the person dies, including the cancer cells.

Humans are a cancer of the earth.

I know I'm not the only one to see humans as a cancer/parasite/disease of the planet.
And I'm probably not the only person to see cancer as a small-scale example of this kind of back-firing evolutionary "success". Once I saw it, it seems so obvious.

I would say the same thing can happen with social evolution in society.

Urban 'Green' Spaces May Contribute to Global Warming

ScienceDaily (Jan. 22, 2010) — Dispelling the notion that urban "green" spaces help counteract greenhouse gas emissions, new research has found -- in Southern California at least -- that total emissions would be lower if lawns did not exist.

Turfgrass lawns help remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere through photosynthesis and store it as organic carbon in soil, making them important "carbon sinks." However, greenhouse gas emissions from fertilizer production, mowing, leaf blowing and other lawn management practices are four times greater than the amount of carbon stored by ornamental grass in parks, a UC Irvine study shows. These emissions include nitrous oxide released from soil after fertilization. Nitrous oxide is a greenhouse gas that's 300 times more powerful than carbon dioxide, the Earth's most problematic climate warmer.

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"It's impossible for these lawns to be net greenhouse gas sinks because too much fuel is used to maintain them," Townsend-Small concluded.

Last Decade Was Warmest on Record, 2009 One of Warmest Years

ScienceDaily (Jan. 22, 2010) — A new analysis of global surface temperatures by NASA scientists finds the past year was tied for the second warmest since 1880. In the Southern Hemisphere, 2009 was the warmest year on record.

Although 2008 was the coolest year of the decade because of a strong La Nina that cooled the tropical Pacific Ocean, 2009 saw a return to a near-record global temperatures as the La Nina diminished, according to the new analysis by NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS) in New York. The past year was a small fraction of a degree cooler than 2005, the warmest on record, putting 2009 in a virtual tie with a cluster of other years --1998, 2002, 2003, 2006, and 2007 -- for the second warmest on record.

"There's always interest in the annual temperature numbers and a given year's ranking, but the ranking often misses the point," said James Hansen, GISS director. "There's substantial year-to-year variability of global temperature caused by the tropical El Nino-La Nina cycle. When we average temperature over five or ten years to minimize that variability, we find global warming is continuing unabated."

January 2000 to December 2009 was the warmest decade on record. Looking back to 1880, when modern scientific instrumentation became available to monitor temperatures precisely, a clear warming trend is present, although there was a leveling off between the 1940s and 1970s.

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Friday, January 22, 2010

Consumers Over Age 50 Should Consider Cutting Copper and Iron Intake

ScienceDaily (Jan. 22, 2010) — With scientific evidence linking high levels of copper and iron to Alzheimer's disease, heart disease, and other age-related disorders, a new report in ACS' Chemical Research in Toxicology suggests specific steps that older consumers can take to avoid build up of unhealthy amounts of these metals in their bodies.

"This story of copper and iron toxicity, which I think is reaching the level of public health significance, is virtually unknown to the general medical community, to say nothing of complete unawareness of the public," George Brewer states in the report.

The article points out that copper and iron are essential nutrients for life, with high levels actually beneficial to the reproductive health of younger people. After age 50, however, high levels of these metals can damage cells in ways that may contribute to a range of age-related diseases.

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Prenatal Exposure to Flame-Retardant Compounds Affects Neurodevelopment of Young Children

ScienceDaily (Jan. 20, 2010) — Prenatal exposure to ambient levels of flame retardant compounds called polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) is associated with adverse neurodevelopmental effects in young children, according to researchers at the Columbia Center for Children's Environmental Health (CCCEH) at Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health.

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PBDEs are endocrine-disrupting chemicals and widely used flame-retardant compounds that are applied to a broad array of textiles and consumer products, including mattresses, upholstery, building materials, and electronic equipment. Because the compounds are additives rather than chemically bound to consumer products, they can be released into the environment. Human exposure may occur through dietary ingestion or through inhalation of dust containing PBDEs.

The researchers found that children with higher concentrations of PBDEs in their umbilical cord blood at birth scored lower on tests of mental and physical development between the ages of one and six. Developmental effects were particularly evident at four years of age, when verbal and full IQ scores were reduced 5.5 to 8.0 points for those with the highest prenatal exposures.

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"These findings are of potential concern, because IQ is a predictor of future educational performance; and the observed reductions in IQ scores are in the range seen with low level lead exposure."

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Lung Cancer Patients Who Quit Smoking Double Their Survival Chances

ScienceDaily (Jan. 22, 2010) — People diagnosed with early stage lung cancer can double their chances of survival over five years if they stop smoking compared with those who continue to smoke, finds a study published online in the British Medical Journal.

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They found that people who continued to smoke after a diagnosis of early stage lung cancer had a substantially higher risk of death and a greater risk of the tumour returning compared with those who stopped smoking at that time. Data suggested that most of the increased risk of death was due to cancer progression.

Further analysis found a five year survival rate of 63-70% among quitters compared with 29-33% among those who continued to smoke. In other words, about twice as many quitters would survive for five years compared with continuing smokers.

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Stain Repellent Chemical Linked to Thyroid Disease in Adults

ScienceDaily (Jan. 21, 2010) — A study by the University of Exeter and the Peninsula Medical School for the first time links thyroid disease with human exposure to perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA). PFOA is a persistent organic chemical used in industrial and consumer goods including nonstick cookware and stain- and water-resistant coatings for carpets and fabrics.

Published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives, the study revealed that people with higher concentrations of PFOA in their blood have higher rates of thyroid disease.

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PFOA is a very stable man-made chemical that excels at repelling heat, water, grease, and stains. It is used during the process of making common household and industrial items including nonstick pots and pans, flame-resistant and waterproof clothing, wire coatings, and chemical-resistant tubing. PFOA can also be formed by the break-down of certain other highly fluorinated chemicals used in oil and grease-resistant coatings on fast-food containers and wrappers and in stain-resistant carpets, fabrics, and paints.

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The researchers found that the individuals with the highest 25% of PFOA concentrations (above 5.7ng/ml) were more than twice as likely to report current thyroid disease than individuals with the lowest 50% of PFOA concentrations (below 4.0ng/ml).

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Previous animal studies carried out by other scientists have shown that the compounds can affect the function of the mammalian thyroid hormone system. This is essential for maintaining heart rate, regulating body temperature and supporting many other body functions, including metabolism, reproduction, digestion and mental health.

The findings are important because research has shown that PFAAs are found in water, air and soil throughout the world, even in remote polar regions. PFOA and PFOS have also been detected in the blood of people from across the globe, as well as in wildlife including birds, fish, and polar bears.

The main source of human exposure to PFOA and PFOS remains uncertain but is believed to be through diet. However, people may also be exposed through the PFAAs used in consumer goods such as textiles, footwear, furniture, and carpets, which can contaminate indoor air and dust.

Although more research is needed to understand the mechanism by which PFOA and PFOS may affect human thyroid functioning, it is plausible that the compounds could disrupt binding of thyroid hormones in the blood or alter their metabolism in the liver. However, this new evidence does not rule out the possibility that having thyroid disease changes the way the body handles PFOA and/or PFOS. The presence of the compounds might also prove to be simply a marker for some other factor associated with thyroid disease.

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ATL billboard outing cheating Oracle exec taken down

Phillips is a co-president of Oracle.

12:43 p.m. Friday, January 22, 2010
By Marcus K. Garner

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

The billboard at the corner of North Avenue and Piedmont Road [in Atlanta] called an Oracle exec the eternal soul mate -- of a woman who is not his wife.

And it is one of many in New York City -- including Times Square -- and San Francisco put up by scorned mistress outing her philandering boyfriend Charles Phillips, who reportedly is returning to his wife.

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“I had an 8½ year serious relationship with YaVaughnie Wilkins," the statement said. "My divorce proceedings began in 2008. The relationship with Ms. Wilkins has since ended and we both wish each other well."

Several media outlets reported that Wilkins paid for the billboards after she became angry over Phillips' decision to reconcile with his wife. The New York Post put the story on its cover with the headline "Ad As Hell."

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Mother’s gum disease linked to infant's death

By Linda Carroll contributor
updated 8:43 a.m. ET, Fri., Jan. 22, 2010

Pregnant women with untreated gum disease may have more at stake than just their teeth. They may also be risking the lives of their babies, a new study shows.

Expectant mothers have long been warned that gum disease can cause a baby to be born prematurely or too small. But for the first time scientists have linked bacteria from a mother’s gums to an infection in a baby that was full-term but stillborn, according to the study which was published Thursday in Obstetrics and Gynecology.

Scientists from Case Western University made the discovery after a 35-year-old California woman contacted them to help investigate the death of her baby. Earlier studies by the same researchers showed that an oral bacteria called Fusobacterium nucleatum could spread from the bloodstream to the placenta in mice. The woman wanted to know if it was possible in humans.

Bacteria from the mouth can easily get into the bloodstream once a woman's gums are bleeding, explains the study’s lead author Yiping Han, an associate professor of periodontics and pathology at Case Western University. Generally, this type of bacteria can be easily combated by the immune system of the mom-to-be, whether mouse or human. But because of special conditions that exist in the womb, the fetus can be more susceptible, Han suspects.

“Once the bacteria are in the blood, they can go almost anywhere,” Han says. “The placenta is an immuno-suppressed organ, compared to other organs like the liver and the spleen. And that makes it easy for the bacteria to colonize the placenta.”

The California woman told researchers that she had experienced heavy bleeding from her gums — a sign of gum disease — during her pregnancy. Bleeding gums aren’t unusual in pregnant women, with about 75 percent developing the condition due to normal hormonal changes. Mild gum disease can be treated simply by brushing and flossing more often. Pregnant women with more serious cases may need dental surgery.

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“This is just one case,” he explained. “Most pregnant women have bleeding gums and most don’t have dead babies. This can happen, but it’s rare. And this finding doesn’t mean that it’s increasing.”

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Tech Community Steps Up For Haiti; More Volunteers Needed Saturday - Tradui is up

See comment. Tradui is up

Original post 1/21/2010

4:12 pm January 20, 2010
By Andy Carvin (@acarvin)

It's been just over one week since a devastating earthquake struck Haiti. As relief organizations rushed to the scene and ordinary people opened their wallets to support the disaster response, hundreds of techies from around the world have also stepped up to offer their unique skills to these efforts.

In the five years since the 2004 Boxing Day tsunami, more and more software developers, designers and bloggers have offered their services to a wide range of relief projects. I've been involved with many of them, and am helping out with Haiti efforts as well. This time around, much of the activity has come together around a virtual project known as CrisisCommons, which last year held an Barcamp-like event called CrisisCamp, challenging techies to brainstorm ways to build digital tools that support relief efforts. The CrisisCommons volunteers kicked into high gear last week, wasting no time in organizing a series of CrisisCamps last Saturday in half a dozen cities around the US.

I participated in the DC CrisisCamp, hosted by the Sunlight Foundation, and it was a remarkable event. Nearly 200 of us gathered over the course of nine hours to work on a variety of projects, such as GPS-powered mobile maps of Haiti with the latest satellite imagery and incident reports, to an English-Creole dictionary that can be downloaded to iPhones and Android phones. The app, called Tradui (translate in Creole), is currently available in the Android Market and is waiting to be approved for the iPhone app store.

Meanwhile, I've pulled together a team of information architects and researchers to start creating a wiki that serves as a sort of Yellow Pages for disaster and emergency preparedness resources that can be deployed for any disaster. We did something similar for the 2008 hurricane season on a wiki called This new wiki will allow us to document resources related to Haiti, but also allow us to add new sections easily if a tornado were to strike Kansas, for example, or if dengue fever broke out in Southeast Asia.

The crisis response team at Google has taken the lead in unifying all the various collections of missing persons lists, from Facebook and news Web sites to the Red Cross. And it's already getting use - the Haitian embassy is utilizing this database as a tool for coordinating their efforts back home. A list of the various projects can be found at

Despite all the work that's been done already, there's still a lot left for us to do -- so much so that we're organizing another round of CrisisCamps this coming Saturday. NPR will host CrisisCamp DC, and we'll also have events in Boston, Denver, LA, Miami, New York, Portland and Silicon Valley. Even more cities may organize their own camps -- I'll post updates as they happen.

It's not just techies who are coming to these events -- we're also looking for people who are really good at doing online research, for example, or anyone who speaks either French or Creole. Even if you don't have any specific skills and want to help out with event logistics, we can probably put you to work. So if you're free this Saturday and live in a city hosting a camp, please consider participating. Even if you can't attend, there may be ways you can volunteer online. Visit to learn more about the projects.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Global warming opens up Arctic for undersea cable

By Dan Joling, Associated Press Writer
ANCHORAGE — Global warming has melted so much Arctic ice that a telecommunication group is moving forward with a project that was unthinkable just a few years ago: laying underwater fiber optic cable between Tokyo and London by way of the Northwest Passage.

The proposed system would nearly cut in half the time it takes to send messages from the United Kingdom to Asia, said Walt Ebell, CEO of Kodiak-Kenai Cable Co. The route is the shortest underwater path between Tokyo and London.

The quicker transmission time is important in the financial world where milliseconds can count in executing profitable trades and transactions. "Speed is the crux," Ebell said. "You're cutting the delay from 140 milliseconds to 88 milliseconds."

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Why climate change spurs whining about cold snaps

I've noticed that myself. It used to get down to 3F or so every few years. It hasn't done that for a long time. Now, if we have a mostly mild winter, with a couple of weeks of pretty cold weather (for around here), the only thing people can talk about is how cold it is, and how cold the winter was.

By Patrick J. Michaels

Global warming has many good and bad effects, but one that is becoming especially clear is that it makes us all weenies when it comes to colder weather.

You might have noticed that this winter is cold. OK. But it's not nearly as nasty as, say, the late 1970s, which brought the three coldest consecutive U.S. winters in the entire record (which started in 1895). The last winter of any consequence was 2000-01, but that was only the 26th coldest. Where this one will wind up no one can say, but I would be surprised if it even gets to the bottom 20.

So why all the bellyaching? Well, it turns out you can blame your current discomfort on global warming. Greenhouse gases, like carbon dioxide and methane, warm up winters more than summers. In other words, since the second warming of the 20th century began more than 30 years ago, it's the coldest days of the winter that have warmed up more than any others — and our bodies adapted. So when a truly cold winter shows up, people are physiologically and psychologically shocked.

The coldest temperatures in the Lower 48 are caused by big high pressure systems that form in northwestern North America or (rarely) Siberia. They are blown southward by unusual waves in the jet stream that should become less common in a warmer world. As these are the systems most susceptible to greenhouse warming, extreme cold "outbreaks," like the two we have seen this January, should become more moderate and less frequent.

There are real consequences when certain extreme types of weather become rarer, or when they visit places where they are very uncommon: Besides making people uncomfortable, they tend to kill. But as luck would have it, this effect has been studied more for heat waves than it has for cold.

The U.N.'s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which purports to be the prime authority on all things climatic, has maintained for years that global warming's more frequent heat waves will kill increasing numbers of city dwellers. If so, we should be seeing more headlines of heat-related deaths in urban areas. Indeed, cities laden with brick and concrete warm up on their own, global warming or not.

In reality, as heat waves become more frequent, fewer people die in them because they adapt. There's hardly any heat-related mortality in Tampa or Phoenix (despite large populations of retirees) because heat waves are common. The only large U.S. city that shows a recent spike in heat-related mortality is Seattle, because heat is rare there.

But virtually nowhere is the U.N. on record that the same phenomenon holds true for cold. The great cold wave of Christmas 1983 killed dozens in South Carolina, where cold is rare, but hardly anyone in Chicago, where everyone expects minus-20 wind chills. This winter in northern India, more than 300 deaths have been attributed to "intense cold" — even though the lowest recorded temperature in the state having the most deaths was 39 degrees.

All this underscores the reality that "heat" and "cold," while having real and sometimes dire consequences, are largely a matter of perception. For those of us fortunate enough to have access to adequate clothing and shelter, this winter merely holds the lesson that sometimes, we need to stop complaining about the weather and just deal with it.

Air America radio ending

And we need it even more because of the supreme court ruling allowing unlimited corporation political contributions.

Low Socioeconomic Status Affects Cortisol Levels in Children Over Time

ScienceDaily (Jan. 21, 2010) — It's no surprise that children from low socioeconomic backgrounds may be at risk for numerous health problems in the future. Scientists speculate that these health problems, including increased risk for depression, anxiety and substance abuse, arise from the physiological toll that the environment has on the children's bodies.

Previous research demonstrates a clear link between low socioeconomic status (SES) and body systems that regulate stress, specifically the HPA-axis, which produces the hormone cortisol. Overtime, higher and more prolonged levels of cortisol can lead to a number of psychiatric disorders and physical ailments, including, but not limited to, depression, PTSD, diabetes, and obesity.

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Edith Chen from the University of British Columbia and colleagues measured cortisol in a group of children every 6 months for 2 years. They found that cortisol levels nearly doubled in low-SES compared with high-SES children over 2 years. "To the extent that cortisol plays a role in psychiatric and physical illnesses, these findings suggest a biological explanation for why low-SES children may be more vulnerable to developing these conditions later in life," says Chen. Furthermore, the rearchers found that the associations between SES and cortisol trajectories were most pronounced in postpubertal children as well as in girls.

Why would a child's socioeconomic status affect his or her cortisol profile over time? The researchers explain two psychosocial factors that account for the SES-biology links: Children from lower-SES backgrounds reported greater perceptions of threat and more family chaos, both of which may raise cortisol levels.

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Promising Probiotic Treatment for Inflammatory Bowel Disease

ScienceDaily (Jan. 21, 2010) — Bacteria that produce compounds to reduce inflammation and strengthen host defences could be used to treat inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). Such probiotic microbes could be the most successful treatment for IBD to date, as explained in a review published in the February issue of the Journal of Medical Microbiology.

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The most common manifestations of IBD are Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis. While the exact causes are unclear, IBD is known to be the result of an overactive immune response that is linked to an imbalance of the normal types of bacteria found in the gut.

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Prof. Filip Van Immerseel, a medical microbiologist from Ghent University in Belgium said that a new treatment for IBD would be welcomed. "Conventional drug therapy has limited effectiveness and considerable side effects. Probiotics are live bacterial supplements or food ingredients, which when taken in sufficient numbers confer health benefits to the host," he said. Previous trials of probiotics to treat IBD using mainly lactic acid bacteria have given mixed results. "Now we realise that lactic acid is used for growth by a certain population of bacteria that produce butyric acid, which could explain why some of the older studies had a positive outcome. Recent trials focussing on butyric acid-producing bacterial strains have been extremely promising and could lead to a new treatment for IBD."

Gene Linked to Schizophrenia May Reduce Cancer Risk

There has long been a hypothesis that some genes that increase a person's risk of developing schizophrenia must have some kind of beneficial effect, because schizophrenia occurs so often even though it is so devastating, and even though people with it have reduced fertility. One might expect it to mostly die out. One possible positive effect is increased creativity. As mentioned here, another is decreased risk of cancer.

ScienceDaily (Jan. 20, 2010) — People who inherit a specific form of a gene that puts them on a road to schizophrenia may be protected against some forms of cancer, according to a new study by scientists at The Feinstein Institute for Medical Research.

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Such an association may help explain the family-based data that suggest that inheriting an enhanced risk for schizophrenia reduces one's chances of developing cancer.

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New jobless claims rise unexpectedly

updated 1 hour, 46 minutes ago

WASHINGTON - A surprising jump in first-time claims for unemployment aid sent a painful reminder Thursday that jobs remain scarce six months into the economic recovery.

The surge in last week's claims deflated hopes among some analysts that the economy would produce a net gain in jobs in January and help fuel the recovery.

A Labor Department analyst said much of the increase was due to holiday-season-related administrative backlogs at the state agencies that process the claims. Still, economists noted that that would mean claims in previous weeks had been artificially low. Those earlier declines had sparked optimism that layoffs were tapering and that employers would add a modest number of jobs in January.

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The Labor Department report said the number of people continuing to claim regular benefits dropped slightly to just under 4.6 million. The continuing claims data lags behind initial claims by a week.

But the so-called continuing claims do not include millions of people who have used up the regular 26 weeks of benefits customarily provided by states and are now receiving extended benefits for up to 73 additional weeks, paid for by the federal government.

More than 5.9 million people received extended benefits in the week that ended Jan. 2, the latest period for which data are available. That's an increase of more than 600,000 from the previous week. The data for emergency benefits lags behind initial claims by two weeks.

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Among the states, California saw the largest increase in claims, with 16,160. Texas, Florida, Pennsylvania and Georgia saw the next largest increases. The state data lags the initial claims data by a week.

Oregon saw the biggest drop in claims, of 5,784, followed by Iowa, Kentucky, Michigan and Massachusetts.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Massachusetts Voter Poll

First Posted: 01-20-10 11:07 AM | Updated: 01-20-10 05:16 PM

Massachusetts voters who backed Barack Obama in the presidential election a year ago and either switched support to Republican Senate candidate Scott Brown or simply stayed home, said in a poll conducted after the election Tuesday night that if Democrats enact tougher policies on Wall Street, they'll be more likely to come back to the party in the next election.

A majority of Obama voters who switched to Brown said that "Democratic policies were doing more to help Wall Street than Main Street." A full 95 percent said the economy was important or very important when it came to deciding their vote.

In a somewhat paradoxical finding, a plurality of voters who switched to the Republican -- 37 percent -- said that Democrats were not being "hard enough" in challenging Republican policies.

It would be hard to find a clearer indication, it seems, that Tuesday's vote was cast in protest.

The poll also upends the conventional understanding of health care's role in the election. A plurality of people who switched -- 48 -- or didn't vote -- 43 -- said that they opposed the Senate health care bill. But the poll dug deeper and asked people why they opposed it. Among those Brown voters, 23 percent thought it went "too far" -- but 36 percent thought it didn't go far enough and 41 percent said they weren't sure why they opposed it.

Among voters who stayed home and opposed health care, a full 53 percent said they opposed the Senate bill because it didn't go far enough; 39 percent weren't sure and only eight percent thought it went too far.

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Earthquake Magnitude

The news articles I have seen about the Haitian earthquakes give a "magnitude" number. I had assumed it was according to the Richter scale, but according to Wikipedia:

The Richter magnitude scale, also known as the local magnitude (ML) scale, assigns a single number to quantify the amount of seismic energy released by an earthquake. It is a base-10 logarithmic scale obtained by calculating the logarithm of the combined horizontal amplitude of the largest displacement from zero on a Wood–Anderson torsion seismometer output. So, for example, an earthquake that measures 5.0 on the Richter scale has a shaking amplitude 10 times larger than one that measures 4.0. The effective limit of measurement for local magnitude ML is about 6.8.

Though still widely used, the Richter scale has been superseded by the moment magnitude scale, which gives generally similar values.

The energy release of an earthquake, which closely correlates to its destructive power, scales with the 3⁄2 power of the shaking amplitude. Thus, a difference in magnitude of 1.0 is equivalent to a factor of 31.6 ( = (101.0)(3 / 2)) in the energy released; a difference of magnitude of 2.0 is equivalent to a factor of 1000 ( = (102.0)(3 / 2) ) in the energy released.


The media reports the Haitian earthquake of last week was 7.0, the one most recent aftershock, today, was 5.9
So by the Richter scale, the original earthquake was more than 10 times as strong as the one today.
More exactly [10^7.0 - 10^5.9]/10^5.9 = about 11.6 times as strong
where 10^7.0 is 10 to the 7.0 power.

By the moment magnitude scale, the original earthquake was [10^(7.0-5.9)]^(3/2) = 44.7 times as stong

Solar salvation for Haiti?

Posted: Tuesday, January 19, 2010 6:33 PM by Alan Boyle

Donors are gearing up to send cell phones, streetlights, water purification systems and even audio Bibles to earthquake-hit Haiti. The bad news is that the country’s power infrastructure is on the ropes, but the good news is that these particular gadgets are solar-powered. Haiti happens to be one of the countries in the world best-suited for solar power.

In the long run, that just might help the country survive. But in the short run, even solar power isn't immune to earthquakes. Over the past week, the people and the pieces of equipment that make the technology work have literally been pulled out of the rubble in Port-au-Prince and its environs.

Sometimes the news is terrible. Paul Munsen, president of Sun Ovens International, is struggling to get hundreds of stand-alone solar-powered ovens from the company's factory in northern Haiti to Port-au-Prince.

"Unfortunately, the people we were working with [in Port-au-Prince] are trapped in the rubble and presumed dead," Munsen told me. "Some of the infrastructure we had in place that would have been ideal for us to get the ovens into people's hands is severely damaged."

Sometimes the news is more hopeful.

"It's been quite an emotional roller coaster over the last few days," said Mickey Ingles, the vice president of operations for New Jersey-based Worldwater & Solar Technologies as well as the solar-power consultant for the nonprofit Haitian Project. The project operates Louverture Cleary School, a Catholic boarding school for more than 350 Haitians in a poverty-stricken suburb of Port-au-Prince known as Croix-des-Bouquets.

The quake caused structural damage on campus. Several students were injured. But today, the school's 22-kilowatt solar-power array is back in working order, and classes have resumed. Louverture Cleary can supply all its own power needs and is even serving as an aid center for the devastated neighborhood. "We have opened up our school to let neighbors in for food, shelter and water," said Tim Scordato, the Haitian Project's office manager in Rockford, Ill.

A solar-powered mobile water purification system, donated last year by the Haitian Project, was pulled from the rubble and put into service at a Red Cross aid station. Every day, the Mobile MaxPure rig is turning 30,000 gallons of contaminated city water into drinkable water, Ingles said.

"There are many water purification systems there, but they operate on diesel," Ingles told me. "Right now, diesel is in extremely short supply."

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In the long run, the idea is to get Haitians using solar power instead of charcoal for cooking. "We find that people realize they have money to buy their kids shoes because they're not buying as much charcoal," Munsen said.

"Even prior to this, in Port-au-Prince, the majority of families spent 55 percent of their income just buying charcoal," he explained. "So the issue of having fuel to cook with has been a major problem for Haiti for years before this earthquake. I can't imagine what it's like now. We think that using the sun is going to make a great deal of sense."

Here comes the sun

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A child saved, but family crushed by doctor bills

By Jordan Rau
updated 4:03 p.m. ET, Tues., Jan. 19, 2010

RICHMOND, VA - Five months into pregnancy, Jodi Lemacks discovered that her unborn son had a severe heart defect and would require a complex operation as soon as he was born. But the local pediatric heart surgeons didn't inspire confidence.

One surgeon "had just lost a baby with the same defects," Lemacks says, "and he only did six of these surgeries a year, which is not a really good number."

So Lemacks and her husband, Mark, selected a Philadelphia surgeon who was one of the most experienced in the nation at performing the challenging operation. It involved draining the heart of blood while the surgeon reconstructed the aorta, which in a newborn is thin as a string. Even in the best of hands, Joshua had only a 5 percent chance of surviving to the second surgery he would need six months later, several specialists told the Lemackses.

The initial surgery in 2003 was a success. But what the relieved parents didn't realize was that their financial life would be drastically impaired. They ended up with $70,000 in doctors' bills that their insurer, Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Virginia, refused to pay — even though it had approved the couple's choice of surgeons. After the second surgery, they were responsible for $15,000 more. Debt collectors have been calling ever since.

"We'll be in collections forever," says Mark Lemacks, who runs his own office-supply business. The family's credit rating is so low that when they tried to buy a mattress recently, the store would not provide financing.

What ensnared the Lemackses was something called "balance billing," which occurs when doctors, hospitals or medical labs bill their patients the difference between what they charge and what insurers pay for their services. It comes into play when patients use providers who aren't part of their insurers' networks and thus haven't agreed to prearranged payment rates.

For patients who voluntarily chose an independent caregiver over in-network options, the additional bills, while often unwelcome, are generally considered justifiable. But consumer advocates want the government to protect people who unwittingly end up out of network because of an emergency, such as when they are taken to the nearest hospital after a car crash; or who get an insurer's permission to see a specialist out of network; or who were unknowingly treated by out-of-network doctors while at an in-network facility. The Lemackses fell into the last two of those three categories.

To these advocates' dismay, both the House and Senate health-care reform bills explicitly permit balance billing, even though it's a major contributor to health-related bankruptcies.

Congressional aides say there's no need to limit the practice, because the pending legislation would require insurers to have enough specialists to ensure patients could get care within their insurers' networks. Both bills cap out-of-pocket costs for patients seeing in-network providers, and the House version recognizes the financial threat from out-of-network costs by counting a portion of out-of-network costs toward the cap.

Health-policy experts and advocates for people with chronic conditions say Congress could intervene in several ways, as some states have done. Maryland bans providers from balance billing a member of a health maintenance organization for a "covered service" such as emergency care. The state sets rates for how much HMOs must reimburse those providers.

Colorado requires both HMOs and preferred provider organizations to "hold harmless" patients if they are cared for in a network medical facility, as Joshua Lemacks was. As a result, Colorado insurers end up paying the full amount that providers bill or negotiate a compromise rate, according to Kevin Lucia, a researcher at Georgetown University's Health Policy Institute.

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Note that various studies have found that people are much more likely to survive such surgeries when the doctor does a lot of them.

Prescription for getting elected

How to get elected?
Be a member of a political party that
a. Flushes your country down the toilet in every way possible.
b. When another party gets into power, announce that you want them to fail at solving the problems your own party caused.
c. Do all in your power to obstruct the other party from solving the problems you solved.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Tech job cuts hit 4-year high

calcium and vitamin D prevent fractures

I am happy about this, because I have been taking calcium/magnesium and vitamin D for this reason.

January 14, 2010
(SACRAMENTO, Calif.) — Taking both calcium and vitamin D supplements on a daily basis reduces the risk of bone fractures, regardless of whether a person is young or old, male or female, or has had fractures in the past, a large study of nearly 70,000 patients from throughout the United States and Europe has found.

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Fractures are a major cause of disability, loss of independence and death for older people. The injuries are often the result of osteoporosis, or porous bone, a disease characterized by low bone mass and bone fragility.

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Industry corruption, shoddy construction likely contributed to Haiti quake devastation

The wonderful results of lack of government regulation (sarcasm alert).
Of course, for good regulation, one needs good government.

Public release date: 14-Jan-2010
Contact: Roger Bilham
University of Colorado at Boulder
Industry corruption, shoddy construction likely contributed to Haiti quake devastation

The death toll in the massive 7.0 magnitude earthquake in Haiti Jan. 12 is expected to continue to rise in the coming days, likely in large part because of corruption and resulting shoddy construction practices in the poor Caribbean nation, according to a University of Colorado at Boulder seismologist.

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The International Red Cross estimated today that 45,000 to 50,000 people were killed in Tuesday's massive earthquake.

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Parks and recreation programs declining as obesity, health concerns rise


CORVALLIS, Ore. – One way to help address the epidemic of obesity in the United States is improved access to pleasant hiking trails and an ambitious parks and recreation program, a recent study suggests, but programs such as this are increasingly being reduced in many states due to budget shortfalls.

The analysis, done by researchers in Oregon, found that some of the health issues that plague overweight and obese people can be aided by a stronger commitment to recreational opportunities. Cutting such programs to save money may be counterproductive to community health, scientists said.

“Research is now showing there’s a close correlation between public health and recreational opportunities, both close to home and in state parks,” said Randy Rosenberger, an associate professor in the Department of Forest Ecosystems and Society at Oregon State University. “And it’s not just about losing weight. It’s been found that active obese individuals have lower morbidity and mortality than normal weight individuals who are sedentary.”

What’s badly needed, the researchers said, are more recreation facilities and non-motorized trails, with information about them made readily available to the public, and more education about the value of physical activity. But even as more findings about these issues are being made, parks and recreation budgets are often under attack.

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41 percent of adults go without needed health care because of cost

Public release date: 15-Jan-2010
Contact: Mary Mahon
Commonwealth Fund
Post-Katrina New Orleans safety-net clinic patients report more efficient, affordable health care
Commonwealth Fund patient survey finds few barriers to affordable health care, high patient satisfaction, and efficient care in post-Katrina primary care clinics

New York, NY, January 15, 2010—A new Commonwealth Fund survey of safety-net clinic patients in New Orleans finds that, despite being disproportionately low-income and uninsured, these patients had fewer problems affording care and fewer instances of medical debt and inefficient care than most U.S. adults. In fact, the report, Coming Out of Crisis: Patient Experiences In Primary Care In New Orleans, Four Years Post Katrina, finds that, among the clinic patients surveyed, only 27 percent went without needed health care because of cost, compared with 41 percent of adults across the country.

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27 percent is a lot better than 41 percent, but is still a lot.

Monday, January 18, 2010

After Medicare rule change, fewer facilities performed bariatric surgeries but outcomes improved

Public release date: 18-Jan-2010
Contact: John Murray
JAMA and Archives Journals
After Medicare rule change, fewer facilities performed bariatric surgeries but outcomes improved

Following a rule expanding coverage of weight-loss surgery under Medicare, bariatric procedures in the Medicare population were centralized to a smaller number of certified centers, were more likely to be minimally invasive and were associated with improved outcomes, according to a report in the January issue of Archives of Surgery, one of the JAMA/Archives journals.

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Although the number of bariatric surgeries performed remained approximately the same, the number of facilities performing them decreased from 60 to 45, reflecting a shift to high-volume, certified centers. Patients tend to do better when their procedures are performed at high-volume centers or when they receive laparoscopic bariatric surgery, which can only be performed at facilities certified by the ACS or ASMBS, the authors note.

"Although we only examined the Medicare beneficiaries population in this analysis, we suspect that the improvement in outcomes will also be extrapolated to the population that is not eligible for Medicare," they conclude.


Various studies of different kinds of surgeries have found the same thing. Doctors and facilities who do more surgeries of a specific kind tend to have better outcomes.

Childhood harms can lead to lung cancer

Public release date: 18-Jan-2010
Contact: Graeme Baldwin
BioMed Central
Childhood harms can lead to lung cancer

Adverse events in childhood have been linked to an increase in the likelihood of developing lung cancer in later life. Researchers writing in the open access journal BMC Public Health describe how the link is partly explained by raised rates of cigarette smoking in victims of childhood trauma, but note that other factors may also be to blame.

David Brown and Robert Anda, from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta, USA, worked with a team of researchers to study the effects of abuse (emotional, physical, sexual), witnessing domestic violence, parental separation, or growing up in a household where people were mentally ill, substance abusers, or sent to prison. He said, "Adverse childhood experiences were associated with an increased risk of lung cancer, particularly premature death from lung cancer. Although smoking behaviours, including early smoking initiation and heavy smoking, account for the greater part of this risk, other mechanisms or pathophysiologic pathways may be involved".

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Self-Control, and Lack of Self-Control, Is Contagious

ScienceDaily (Jan. 18, 2010) — Before patting yourself on the back for resisting that cookie or kicking yourself for giving in to temptation, look around. A new University of Georgia study has revealed that self-control -- or the lack thereof -- is contagious.

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People tend to mimic the behavior of those around them, and characteristics such as smoking, drug use and obesity tend to spread through social networks. But vanDellen's study is thought to be the first to show that self-control is contagious across behaviors. That means that thinking about someone who exercises self-control by regularly exercising, for example, can make your more likely to stick with your financial goals, career goals or anything else that takes self-control on your part.

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2009 the second or fifth warmest year on record

Posted by: JeffMasters, 2:38 AM GMT on January 17, 2010
The globe recorded its eighth warmest December since record keeping began in 1880, and 2009 tied with 2006 as the fifth warmest year on record, according to NOAA's National Climatic Data Center. NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies rated December 2009 as the 4th warmest December on record, and the year 2009 tied with 2007 as the second warmest year on record. NOAA rated December 2009 ocean temperatures as the 2nd warmest on record, next to 1997, and land temperatures as the 31st warmest on record. The anomalously cool conditions over much of northern Asian and North American land areas may be associated with the near record December snow cover extent over Northern Hemisphere land areas--2nd most on record, behind 1985. Snow cover records go back to 1967. The December global satellite-measured temperatures for the lowest 8 km of the atmosphere were the 7th warmest on record, according to the University of Alabama Huntsville and RSS data sets.

Brain Activity Levels Affect Self-Perception

Brain Activity Levels Affect Self-Perception: 'Rose-Colored Glasses' Correlate With Less Frontal Lobe Use

ScienceDaily (Jan. 11, 2010) — The less you use your brain's frontal lobes, the more you see yourself through rose-colored glasses, a University of Texas at Austin researcher says.

Those findings are being published in the February edition of the journal NeuroImage.

"In healthy people, the more you activate a portion of your frontal lobes, the more accurate your view of yourself is," says Jennifer Beer, an assistant professor of psychology, who conducted the research with graduate student Brent L. Hughes. "And the more you view yourself as desirable or better than your peers, the less you use those lobes."

The natural human tendency to see oneself in a positive light can be helpful and motivating in some situations but detrimental in others, Beer says.

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As part of the study, 20 subjects answered questions about how they compared to their peers on such positive traits as tact, modesty, likability and maturity and such negative traits as materialism, messiness, unreliability and narrow-mindedness. As the subjects answered those questions, a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) machine scanned their brains.

The subjects who viewed themselves in a very positive light across those disparate areas used their orbitofrontal cortex less than the other subjects. This region of the frontal lobe is generally associated with reasoning, planning, decision-making and problem-solving.

Some subjects who had accurate views of themselves showed four times more frontal lobe activation than the most extreme "rose-colored glasses" wearer in the study.

Among a separate set of subjects who were asked the same questions, those who were required to answer quickly saw themselves in a far more positive light than those who had unlimited time to answer. Those findings suggest that processing information in a more deliberate manner may be the way in which frontal lobe activation permits people to come to more realistic conclusions.

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Country Without a Net

Published: January 13, 2010

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Haiti is a country created by former slaves, kidnapped West Africans, who, in 1804, when slavery still flourished in the United States and the Caribbean, threw off their cruel French masters and created their own republic. Haitians have been punished ever since for claiming their freedom: by the French who, in the 1820s, demanded and received payment from the Haitians for the slave colony, impoverishing the country for years to come; by an often brutal American occupation from 1915 to 1934; by indigenous misrule that the American government aided and abetted. (In more recent years American administrations fell into a pattern of promoting and then undermining Haitian constitutional democracy.)

Hence the current state of affairs: at least 10,000 private organizations perform supposedly humanitarian missions in Haiti, yet it remains one of the world’s poorest countries. Some of the money that private aid organizations rely on comes from the United States government, which has insisted that a great deal of the aid return to American pockets — a larger percentage than that of any other industrialized country.

But that is only part of the problem. In the arena of international aid, a great many efforts, past and present, appear to have been doomed from the start. There are the many projects that seem designed to serve not impoverished Haitians but the interests of the people administering the projects. Most important, a lot of organizations seem to be unable — and some appear to be unwilling — to create partnerships with each other or, and this is crucial, with the public sector of the society they’re supposed to serve.

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anne said...

There is a selective conservative theme that has quickly emerged on the Haitian tragedy that blames Haitians for the tragedy, not the tragedy occurrence but the severity of the tragedy. The blame is and will be increasingly on Haitian culture.


I saw a link on last week, that Haitians "had been warned" about the possibility of an earthquake. I I am not surprised that some conservative scum are blaming Haitians for their tragedy. I would be extremely surprised if it were otherwise.

Of course, scientists have been warning us for more than 20 years of the dangers of global warning. And what are we doing about it? Very little. The difference is, we have the resources to do something. We have been warned for years that California is overdue for a severe earthquake, but people continued to move there. If I mention it to people I know (who are conservatives) who moved there, they respond to me scornfully.

Scientists have warned us that the New Madrid is likely to be the cause of a devastating earthquake for several states, but I haven't heard that this has resulted in changes in building codes.

We were warned years ago that our fishing was unsustainable and that we were damaging the oceans with pollution, but we ignored that.

etc, etc, etc,


By Rick Callahan
updated 6:06 p.m. ET, Fri., Jan. 15, 2010

INDIANAPOLIS - Scientists who detected worrisome signs of growing stresses in the fault that unleashed this week's devastating earthquake in Haiti said they warned officials there two years ago that their country was ripe for a major earthquake.

Their sobering findings, presented during a geological conference in March 2008 and at meetings two months later, showed that the fault was capable of causing a 7.2-magnitude earthquake — slightly stronger than Tuesday's 7.0 quake that rocked the impoverished country.

Though Haitian officials listened intently to the research, the nearly two years between the presentation and the devastating quake was not enough time for Haiti to have done much to have prevented the massive destruction.

"It's too short of a timeframe to really do something, particularly for a country like Haiti, but even in a developed country it's very difficult to start very big operations in two years," Eric Calais, a professor of geophysics at Purdue University, said Thursday.

Their conclusions also lacked a specific timeframe that could have prodded quick action to shore up the hospitals, schools and other buildings that collapsed and crumbled Tuesday, said Paul Mann, a senior research scientist at the University of Texas' Institute for Geophysics.

At the time of the earthquake, which the international Red Cross estimates killed 45,000 to 50,000 people, Haiti was still trying to recover from a string catastrophes. In 2008 alone, it was hit four times by tropical storms and hurricanes. The country also suffers from a string of social ills including poverty, unstable governments and poor building standards that make buildings vulnerable in earthquakes.

"Haiti's government has so many other problems that when you give sort of an unspecific prediction about an earthquake threat they just don't have the resources to deal with that sort of thing," Mann said.


The blog concerned "David Brooks selectively quoting the development literature."
Brooks calls for Intrusive Paternalism in Haiti.

A comment to this blog included some letters to the editor in reply to Brooks article, including the following:

To the Editor:

David Brooks’s analysis of what went wrong in Haiti misses the mark. Blaming cultural forces before financial forces is absurd.

Haiti spent its early existence handcuffed by crippling reparations to France — a penalty for rejecting the shackles of slavery.

At the peak of this debt, Haiti was paying 80 percent of its national budget to foreign creditors. After the debt was “paid off,” a string of brutal dictators — many propped up by the United States — ransacked the country’s coffers.

Haiti never had a chance, and blaming cultural factors, like vodou, is counterproductive.

Michael Falco
New York, Jan. 15, 2010

Sunday, January 17, 2010

He Ain't Heavy, He's my Brother

Might Not Be a Tomorrow: Youth Anticipate Early Death

ScienceDaily (Jan. 13, 2010) — As Atlanta officials aim to tackle the city's safety problems this year, some of their toughest criminals to stop maybe young offenders whose desires to commit crimes are being fueled by an anticipation of dying early.

Georgia State University Criminal Justice experts Timothy Brezina, Volkan Topalli and economist Erdal Tekin, have released a unique study that indicates that although young criminals are aware of the risks of violent injury, death or punishment, the possibility of a shorter life span encourages them to focus more on the "here and now."

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The bleak outlook on life and sense of "futurelessness" of young offenders has been shaped by some of their earliest memories and reinforced by other people in their lives and the witnessing of violence, Topalli said. Prior research has found that when young people believe they have no future, it is argued, they have little to lose by engaging in crime or violence.

"They live in neighborhoods that are kind of like war zones," Topalli said. "They grew up hearing gun shots, seeing people die and hearing ambulances and police cars. Just about every young person we talked to had seen a dead body, and either has fired a weapon or has been fired upon in some context. Over 70 percent of them have been victimized themselves, which is far greater than the larger population. The majority of them won't die early, but the illusion is that you will and it's reinforced by the culture."

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"It seems unlikely that threats of harsher criminal justice penalties will deter these fearless offenders. They assume life is short anyway and willingly accept the risks associated with a criminal lifestyle -- even death," Brezina said. "An alternative approach is to confront the pervasive violence and other social ills that so many inner-city children confront in their daily lives -- conditions that deflate hope and breed crime in the first place."

Disadvantaged Neighborhoods Set Children's Reading Skills on Negative Course

ScienceDaily (Jan. 14, 2010) — A landmark study from the University of British Columbia finds that the neighbourhoods in which children reside at kindergarten predict their reading comprehension skills seven years later.

The study, published this week in the journal Health & Place, finds children who live in neighbourhoods with higher rates of poverty show reduced scores on standardized tests seven years later -- regardless of the child's place of residence in Grade 7. The study is the first of its kind to compare the relative effects of neighbourhood poverty at early childhood and early adolescence.

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The researchers say it's possible that the socioeconomic conditions of children's early residential neighbourhoods exert a strong effect later because acquiring reading skills involves the collective efforts of parents, educators, family friends and community members, as well as access to good schools, libraries, after-school programs and bookstores.

Environment Plays Key Role in Developing Reading Skills

ScienceDaily (Jan. 14, 2010) — While genetics play a key role in children's initial reading skills, a new study of twins is the first to demonstrate that environment plays an important role in reading growth over time.

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The findings showed that when children start out reading, both genetics and environment play a role in readings skills, depending on the skills assessed. For word and letter identification, genetics explained about one-third of the test results, while environment explained two-thirds. For vocabulary and sound awareness, it was equally split between genetics and environment. For the speed tests, it was three-quarters genetic.

But when the researchers measured growth in reading skills, environment became much more important, Petrill said.

For reading skills that are taught, such as words and letters, the environment is almost completely responsible for growth. For awareness of sounds in reading, about 80 percent of growth was explained by the environment. Speed measures were the only ones where genetics still played a large role.

"Regardless of where children start as far as reading skills, and the impact that genetics and environment had on their initial skills, we found that their environment had an impact in how fast or how slowly those reading skills developed," Petrill said.

Petrill emphasized that a child's environment is much more than just the instruction he or she receives in school. However, instruction is likely a key part of how reading skills grow over time.

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Saturday, January 16, 2010

From the Ancient Amazonian Indians: 'Biochar' as a Modern Weapon Against Global Warming

ScienceDaily (Jan. 14, 2010) — Scientists are reporting that "biochar" -- a material that the Amazonian Indians used to enhance soil fertility centuries ago -- has potential in the modern world to help slow global climate change. Mass production of biochar could capture and sock away carbon that otherwise would wind up in the atmosphere as carbon dioxide, the main greenhouse gas.

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The study involved a "life-cycle analysis" of biochar production, a comprehensive cradle-to-grave look at its potential in fighting global climate change and all the possible consequences of using the material. It concludes that several biochar production systems have the potential for being an economically viable way of sequestering carbon -- permanently storing it -- while producing renewable energy and enhancing soil fertility.

Obama Urges U.S. to Regain World Lead in College Graduates

Feb. 25 (Bloomberg) -- President Barack Obama pledged U.S. government support to make sure the U.S. has the world’s highest graduation rate by 2020, instead of one of the top high-school dropout rates in the industrialized world.

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Data from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development show that the U.S. was ranked seventh among nations in the proportion of adults 18 to 34 enrolled in college. The rate was 34 percent, compared with 53 percent for top-ranked Korea, according to the data, cited by the National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education, a nonpartisan group in San Jose, California.

Just 39 percent of U.S. adults had an associate’s degree or higher, compared with 55 percent for Canada and 54 percent for Japan.

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gross federal debt as a percent of GDP

This link has a chart of Presidents since 1945, with their beginning public debt to GDP ratio, ending debt to GDP ratio, increase in debt (in trillions of dollars), and percentage of increase in debt to GDP ratio.

Since 1973, we have had an increase in the ratio of public debt to GDP ration for every Republican president, and a decrease for every Democratic president.

Almost 6.4 jobless workers chase 1 opening

updated 2:29 p.m. ET, Tues., Jan. 12, 2010

WASHINGTON - The competition for jobs is intensifying as companies are reluctant to hire new workers, leaving millions of unemployed Americans chasing fewer job openings.

There were nearly 6.4 unemployed workers, on average, for each available job at the end of November, according to Labor Department data released Tuesday. That's up from 6.1 in October and a record high.

There were 1.7 jobless people for each opening in December 2007, when the recession began.

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Friday, January 15, 2010

it is very likely the fish can feel painat

It seems to me the surprise would be if fish couldn't feel pain. They have a nervous system, can see and think. Why in the world would we expect they couldn't feel pain?

ScienceDaily (Jan. 15, 2010) — Norwegian School of Veterinary Science doctoral student Janicke Nordgreen has studied nociception and pain in teleost fish. Her conclusion is that it is very likely the fish can feel pain.

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French Family Values

Published: July 29, 2005

Americans tend to believe that we do everything better than anyone else. That belief makes it hard for us to learn from others. For example, I've found that many people refuse to believe that Europe has anything to teach us about health care policy. After all, they say, how can Europeans be good at health care when their economies are such failures?

Now, there's no reason a country can't have both an excellent health care system and a troubled economy (or vice versa). But are European economies really doing that badly?

The answer is no. Americans are doing a lot of strutting these days, but a head-to-head comparison between the economies of the United States and Europe - France, in particular - shows that the big difference is in priorities, not performance. We're talking about two highly productive societies that have made a different tradeoff between work and family time. And there's a lot to be said for the French choice.

First things first: given all the bad-mouthing the French receive, you may be surprised that I describe their society as "productive." Yet according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, productivity in France - G.D.P. per hour worked - is actually a bit higher than in the United States.

It's true that France's G.D.P. per person is well below that of the United States. But that's because French workers spend more time with their families.

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The French family, without question, has lower disposable income. This translates into lower personal consumption: a smaller car, a smaller house, less eating out.

But there are compensations for this lower level of consumption. Because French schools are good across the country, the French family doesn't have to worry as much about getting its children into a good school district. Nor does the French family, with guaranteed access to excellent health care, have to worry about losing health insurance or being driven into bankruptcy by medical bills.

Perhaps even more important, however, the members of that French family are compensated for their lower income with much more time together. Fully employed French workers average about seven weeks of paid vacation a year. In America, that figure is less than four.

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American conservatives despise European welfare states like France. Yet many of them stress the importance of "family values." And whatever else you may say about French economic policies, they seem extremely supportive of the family as an institution.