Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Armed With Information, People Make Poor Choices, Study Finds

ScienceDaily (Mar. 31, 2010) — When faced with a choice that could yield either short-term satisfaction or longer-term benefits, people with complete information about the options generally go for the quick reward, according to new research from University of Texas at Austin psychologists.

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However, subjects who were given full and accurate information about what they would have to give up in the short term to rack up points in the long term, chose the quick payoff more than twice as often as those who were given false information or no information about the rewards they would be giving up.

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Uterine Fibroid Embolization Shows Fertility Rates Comparable to Myomectomy

ScienceDaily (Mar. 15, 2010) — Uterine fibroid embolization, a minimally invasive interventional radiology procedure that blocks blood supply to treat painful uterine fibroids, has a comparable fertility rate to myomectomy, the surgical removal of uterine fibroids, for women who want to conceive, according to the first study on the subject released at the Society of Interventional Radiology's 35th Annual Scientific Meeting in Tampa, Fla.

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An increasing number of women are delaying pregnancy until their late thirties, which is also the most likely time for fibroids to develop, said Pisco. There is conflicting evidence in the medical literature regarding the impact of fibroids on pregnancy; however, the risk and type of complication appear to be related to the size, number and location. Women may not know they have fibroids (asymptomatic) and undergo in vitro fertilization treatments -- rather than getting treatment for fibroids. "We want women to know that uterine fibroids may be a cause of infertility, that their treatment is mandatory and that UFE may be the only effective treatment for some women," said Pisco.

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Asking “what would nature do?” leads to a way to break down a greenhouse gas

Mar. 5, 2010

ANN ARBOR, Mich. – A recent discovery in understanding how to chemically break down the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide into a useful form opens the doors for scientists to wonder what organism is out there – or could be created – to accomplish the task.

University of Michigan biological chemist Steve Ragsdale, along with research assistant Elizabeth Pierce and scientists led by Fraser Armstrong from the University of Oxford in the U.K., have figured out a way to efficiently turn carbon dioxide into carbon monoxide using visible light, like sunlight.

The results are reported in the recent online edition of the Journal of the American Chemical Society.

Not only is it a demonstration that an abundant compound can be converted into a commercially useful compound with considerably less energy input than current methods, it also is a method not so different from what organisms regularly do.

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Employment report probably understates unemployment

By Mark Thoma | Mar 31, 2010

The ADP released a report today showing that private employment in the US fell by 23,000 in March. I do not pay a lot of attention to this report due to concerns over its accuracy, but it does open up the discussion of what to expect when the BLS Employment Report is released on Friday.

There are two things to be wary of when interpreting Friday’s report. First, hiring for the census will push employment numbers up, but these jobs are temporary so this will make the underlying trend for employment look better than it actually is. Second, the March numbers could also be affected by a rebound from the snowstorms in February, and this too could make the numbers look better than the actual underlying permanent trend.

The ADP numbers do not contain census jobs — these are estimates for the private sector only — and there is no adjustment for the snowstorms, so the 23,000 loss reported today could have been even larger without the rebound from the storms.

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Private sector cut 23,000 jobs in March

By Caroline Valetkevitch

updated 9:27 a.m. ET, Wed., March. 31, 2010
NEW YORK - Private employers unexpectedly shed more jobs in March, dimming hopes for job growth ahead of Friday's key employment report, while business conditions in New York City slipped.

Private employers cut 23,000 jobs in March, missing expectations for an increase in jobs although fewer than the adjusted 24,000 jobs lost in February, a report by a private employment service said on Wednesday.

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In other data, mortgage applications rose in the latest week for the first time in three weeks as demand for home purchase loans reached the highest level since October.


Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Underpriveleged Patients Not as Likely to Be Referred to Specialty Hospitals for Brain Tumors

ScienceDaily (Mar. 17, 2010) — African-American, Hispanic, and economically disadvantaged patients with brain tumors are significantly less likely to be referred to high-volume hospitals that specialize in neurosurgery than other patients of similar age, the same gender, and with similar comorbidities, according to new research by Johns Hopkins doctors.

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Researchers have long known that patients who receive treatment for specialized procedures at hospitals that perform more of those procedures usually have better outcomes than patients who are treated at lower-volume hospitals. Consequently, in recent years, more patients have been shuttled to these high-volume hospitals than ever before. However, the new study's findings suggest that, for brain tumors, referrals are skewed to favor white, high-income patients.

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Over the entire study period, Hispanic patients were about 30 percent less likely to be seen at high-volume centers, though there was no significant difference between African-American and white patients. However, when the researchers looked at yearly figures, they found a steady decline over time in the odds that African-American and Hispanic patients would be admitted to high-volume centers. In the last five years of the study, African-Americans were a third less likely to be admitted to these specialty centers, and Hispanics were half as likely as white counterparts.

The researchers found similar disparities among low-income patients, with those under the poverty line 43 percent less likely to be admitted as those making $60,000 per year or more.

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Trauma of War Doubles Asthma Risk Among Civilians

ScienceDaily (Mar. 16, 2010) — Living through the trauma of war seems to increase the risk of developing asthma, suggests research published ahead of print in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health.

Those who are most traumatised are twice as likely to develop the condition as those who are least traumatised by their experiences of war, the research suggests.

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These findings are backed up by a growing body of evidence, which links the physiological impact of stress on the body and inflammatory conditions, such as asthma, say the authors.


Pesticide Chlorpyrifos Linked to Childhood Developmental Delays

ScienceDaily (Mar. 25, 2010) — Exposure to the pesticide chlorpyrifos -- which is banned for use in U.S. households but is still widely used throughout the agricultural industry -- is associated with early childhood developmental delays, according to a study by researchers at Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health.

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As in previous research in the same study population, published in Pediatrics in 2006, this study controlled for gender, gestational age at birth, ethnicity, maternal education, maternal intelligence quotient, and exposure to secondhand smoke during pregnancy. What this study adds is that building dilapidation and community-level factors such as percentage of residents living in poverty do not explain the association. After controlling for these factors, the research indicates that high chlorpyrifos exposure (greater than 6.17 pg/g in umbilical cord blood at the time of birth) was associated with a 6.5-point decrease in the Psychomotor Development Index score and a 3.3-point decrease in the Mental Development Index score in 3-year-olds. "These associations remained statistically significant and similar in magnitude after accounting for dilapidated housing and neighborhood characteristics," noted Dr. Lovasi.

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Friday, March 26, 2010

Who Pays the Taxes?

The rich like to complain about the percentage of taxes paid by those at the top, while avoiding mentioning what percentage of income and wealth they have.

Has the following comment:

Devin said in reply to ilsm...
"The 15% that gets 85% of the income is paying less than 70%"

Oh, but it's worse than that. We all know that social security receipts are treated just like any other revenue, and have been financing govt operations since at least the 80s. Currently SS receipts are more than income tax receipts. And since SS is capped at ~$106k, that means the top 15% cannot mathematically be paying more than about 30% of SS taxes. Which means the top 15%, earning 85% of the income, is only paying about 50% of the taxes.

I so rarely see it mentioned that our tax code actually becomes regressive once income gets up to the SS cap (currently ~$106k). The increase in tax rates above $106k never makes up for the tax savings that are enjoyed by exceeding the cap. No wonder upper-middle class people are so pissed. Individuals earning between about $50k and $100k actually pay the highest marginal tax rates of anybody in the country, and those at the upper end of that range pay the highest effective tax rates.

Reply Mar 26, 2010 at 08:43 AM


Thursday, March 25, 2010

Cantor's Creative Definition of 'Threat'

This week, we've seen an unacceptable number of incidents involving right-wing activists. To protest their rage about what they think the new health care law is, they're engaging in acts of political vandalism, assault, and harassment.

House Minority Whip Eric Cantor (R-Va.) seemed rather desperate today to characterize this as a bipartisan problem. During a bizarre press conference this morning, Cantor told reporters:

"I've received threats since I assumed elected office -- not only because of my position, but also because I'm Jewish. I've never blamed anyone in this body for that.

"Just recently I have been directly threatened: A bullet was shot through the window of my campaign office in Richmond this week."

Well, that sounds pretty serious. We've heard about plenty of vandalism at district congressional offices this week -- all of the cases involve Democrats as targets -- but this would be the first reported shooting.

The problem is, what Cantor told reporters wasn't true. When he said he was "directly threatened," Cantor was either shamelessly, blatantly lying, or he was popping off to the press about politically-motivated violence without getting his facts straight.

Here's what happened: early Tuesday morning, someone in the Richmond area fired a bullet into the air. It eventually came down and hit a building -- named, of course, the Reagan Building -- on the first floor. According to a report from the Richmond Police Department statement, "The round struck with enough force to break the windowpane but did not penetrate the window blinds. There was no other damage to the room, which is used occasionally for meetings by the congressman."


CEOs Defy Obama With More Cash Instead of Pay for Performance

I think that saying compensation shrank is misleading. It depends on what happens with the stock prices. If the CEO's want cash instead of stock in their own compapny, what does that say? Obama and others would like company executives income to better reflect the longterm results of those executives decisions.

March 25 (Bloomberg) -- Total compensation for U.S. chief executive officers shrank by 8.6 percent last year, according to data compiled by Bloomberg BusinessWeek.

Boards offset some cuts in stock awards and options by boosting CEO salaries and bonuses, the data show.

With pay packages under pressure from President Barack Obama and shareholder activists, average compensation fell by 8.6 percent to $9.81 million for the 81 CEOs whose companies’ proxy statements were examined. While option awards were slashed by 30 percent, cash earnings, including non-equity incentive rewards, rose 8.3 percent.

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Pension plans gained an average of 15.4 percent or $1.27 million. One reason: the 8.3 percent rise in salary and bonus drove up the current value of what companies promised to pay CEOs in retirement, typically calculated as a percentage of their annual income.

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Obesity and Passive Smoking Reduce Oxygen Supply to Unborn Baby

ScienceDaily (Mar. 18, 2010) — Babies born to mothers with obesity and/or exposed to passive smoking are more likely to have health problems than others. This conclusion is based on evidence of elevated levels of nucleated red blood cells in the umbilical cord reported in the International Journal of Food Safety, Nutrition and Public Health.

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I changed the "and" to "and/or" because it sounded like both factors needed to be present, which was not the case.


Supermarket Lighting Enhances Nutrient Level of Fresh Spinach

ScienceDaily (Mar. 19, 2010) — Far from being a food spoiler, the fluorescent lighting in supermarkets actually can boost the nutritional value of fresh spinach, scientists are reporting. The finding could lead to improved ways of preserving and enhancing the nutritional value of spinach and perhaps other veggies, they suggest in a study in ACS' Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry.

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During continuous light exposure after nine days, levels of folate increased between 84 and 100 percent, for instance. Levels of vitamin K increased between 50 and 100 percent, depending on the spinach variety tested. By contrast, spinach leaves stored under continuous darkness tended to have declining or unchanged levels of nutrients, the scientists say.


Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Study says money only makes you happy if it makes you richer than your neighbors

Public release date: 21-Mar-2010
Contact: Peter Dunn
University of Warwick

A study by researchers at the University of Warwick and Cardiff University has found that money only makes people happier if it improves their social rank. The researchers found that simply being highly paid wasn't enough – to be happy, people must perceive themselves as being more highly paid than their friends and work colleagues.

The researchers were seeking to explain why people in rich nations have not become any happier on average over the last 40 years even though economic growth has led to substantial increases in average incomes.

Lead researcher on the paper Chris Boyce from the University of Warwick's Department of Psychology said:

"Our study found that the ranked position of an individual's income best predicted general life satisfaction, while the actual amount of income and the average income of others appear to have no significant effect. Earning a million pounds a year appears to be not enough to make you happy if you know your friends all earn 2 million a year"


Of course, this is not true for everybody.


Internet threatens rare species, conservationists warn

This is simply immoral. It is up to all of us to create a culture in which this is not acceptable. And it can be done. Racism has not disappeared, but it has become unacceptable to be open about it, which is helping to diminish it.

Page last updated at 23:56 GMT, Sunday, 21 March 2010

Campaigners say it is easier than ever before to buy and sell anything from live baby lions to polar bear pelts on online auction sites and chatrooms.

The findings were presented at the 175-nation Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (Cites), which is meeting in Doha, Qatar.

Several proposals to give endangered species more protection were defeated.

Delegates will vote on changes to the trade in ivory later this week.

"The internet is becoming the dominant factor overall in the global trade in protected species," said Paul Todd of the International Fund for Animal Welfare.

He said thousands of endangered species are regularly traded on the internet, as buyers and sellers take advantage of the anonymity - and vast global market - the world wide web can offer.

Those trying to police illegal sales say the size of problem is almost impossible to estimate. They say the US is the biggest market, but that Europe, China, Russia and Australia also play a large part.

On Sunday, delegates voted to ban all international trade in a rare type of Iranian salamander, the Kaiser's Spotted Newt, which the World Wildlife Fund says has been devastated by the internet trade.

However, more high-profile attempts to ban trade in polar bears, bluefin tuna and rare corals have all failed, leaving environmental activists dismayed, the BBC's Stephanie Hancock reports from Doha.

A proposal from the US and Sweden to regulate the trade in red and pink coral - which is crafted into expensive jewellery and sold extensively on the web - was defeated.

Delegates voted the idea down mostly over concerns the increased regulations might impact poor fishing communities.


Flat-headed cat of southeast Asia is now endangered

This is an example of why I recently likened humans to cancer. A commenter objected that most people are not evil. That was not what I meant. I was talking about our success that leads to large population increases that crowd out other species. People are not going out trying to exterminate this species of cat. Few people even know it exists. But we are crowding it out simply by our numbers.

By Matt Walker
Page last updated at 10:27 GMT, Friday, 19 March 2010

According to a new study, habitat loss and deforestation are endangering the survival of Asia's flat-headed cat, a diminutive and little studied species.

Over 70% of the cat's habitat has been converted to plantations, and just 16% of its range is now protected.

The cat, which has webbed feet to help hunt crabs and fish, lives among wetland habitats in southeast Asia.

Details on the decline of the cat's range are published in the journal PLoS ONE.

The flat-headed cat is among the least known of all wild cat species, having never been intensively studied in its natural habitat.

Weighing just 1.5 to 2kg, the cat is thought to be nocturnal, adapted to hunting small prey in shallow water and along muddy shores.

Now restricted to a handful of tropical rainforests within Thailand, Malaysia, Brunei and Indonesia, nothing is known about the size of each cat's home range or the density of the remaining population.

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Crucially for the species's survival though, the researchers found that just 16% of its historical range is fully protected according to criteria laid down by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature.

Other areas are also protected, but these are large national parks, which in southeast Asia tend to be located at higher elevations where the flat-headed cat is not thought to roam.

Around 70% of its former range may already have been converted to plantations to grow crops such as palm oil.

Also, two-thirds of all the locations the cat has been recorded in are now surrounded by areas in which high densities of people live.

The cat's scarcity is underlined by the fact that it has been photographed just 17 times by camera traps.

In comparison, other felids in the region, such as tigers, leopard cats, marbled cats and Asian golden cats are regularly photographed this way.


Omega 3 Curbs Precancerous Growths in Those Prone to Bowel Cancer, Study Suggests

ScienceDaily (Mar. 21, 2010) — A purified form of an omega 3 cuts the number and size of precancerous bowel growths (polyps) in people whose genetic make-up predisposes them to bowel cancer, finds research published ahead of print in the journal Gut. Furthermore, this particular omega 3 (eicosapentaenoic acid or EPA) seems to be as effective as the prescription medicine used to treat familial bowel polyps, but without the associated cardiovascular side effects.

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Twenty eight of the patients were randomly assigned to six months of treatment with 2 g daily of a new highly purified form of the omega 3 polyunsaturated fatty acid (PUFA) EPA. The other 27 were given the same amount of a dummy treatment (placebo).

The EPA capsules were enteric coated to prevent the indigestion that can sometimes be associated with omega 3 supplements. Dietary omega 3 PUFA mainly comes from oily fish, such as salmon, mackerel, and herring.

An assessment of the number and size of polyps at the beginning and end of the six month study period revealed significant differences between the two groups of patients. The number of polyps increased by almost 10% among those treated with the placebo, but fell by more than 12% among those treated with the EPA capsules, representing a difference of almost 22.5%.

This was still clinically significant, even after taking account of influential factors, such as age and sex.

Similarly, polyp size increased by more than 17% among those in the placebo group but fell by more than 12.5% in those taking the EPA capsules, representing a difference of just under 30%.

The authors note that the effects of EPA were similar to those produced by celecoxib, which is used to help curb the growth of new and existing polyps in patients with FAP.

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Evolution of Fairness and Punishment

ScienceDaily (Mar. 21, 2010) — Researchers have long been puzzled by large societies in which strangers routinely engage in voluntary acts of kindness, respect and mutual benefit even though there is often an individual cost involved.

Staples Lead to Higher Risk of Infection After Joint Surgery Than Traditional Stitches

ScienceDaily (Mar. 18, 2010) — Using metal staples to close wounds after orthopaedic (joint) surgery can lead to a greater risk of infection than using traditional nylon sutures, concludes a study published on the British Medical Journal website.

Orthopaedic surgeons are therefore advised to reconsider their use of staples to close wounds after hip or knee surgery while further trials are carried out to confirm these findings.

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The trials involved 683 wounds; 322 patients underwent suture closure and 351 staple closure. Overall, the risk of developing a superficial wound infection was over three times greater after staple closure than suture closure.

For hip surgery only, the risk of developing a wound infection was four times greater after staple closure than suture closure

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The authors point out that the quality of evidence was generally poor and they call for high quality, well designed trials to confirm their findings. However, based on the current evidence, they suggest that patients and doctors should think more carefully about the use of staples for wound closure after hip and knee surgery.

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Researchers find further evidence linking Epstein-Barr virus and risk of multiple sclerosis

Public release date: 4-Mar-2010
Contact: Todd Datz
Harvard School of Public Health

First long-term study among individuals not infected with EBV suggests EBV infection likely to be a cause of MS, not a consequence
Boston, MA – Researchers from the Harvard School of Public Health, Walter Reed Army Institute of Research, and a team of collaborators have observed for the first time that the risk of multiple sclerosis (MS) increases by many folds following infection with the Epstein-Barr virus (EBV). This finding implicates EBV as a contributory cause to multiple sclerosis. The study appears in an advance online edition of the journal Annals of Neurology and will appear in a later print edition.

Hundred of thousands of individuals not infected with EBV were followed up for several years through repeated blood samples collections. Researchers were then able to determine the time when individuals developed an EBV infection and its relation to MS onset. "The recruitment of individuals before they were infected with EBV and following up with them for several years is the critical methodological aspect that makes this study qualitatively different from all previous work," said Alberto Ascherio, senior author of the study and professor of epidemiology and nutrition at Harvard School of Public Health and professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School.

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"The observation that MS occurred only after EBV is a big step forward," said Alberto Ascherio. "Until now we knew that virtually all MS patients are infected with EBV, but we could not exclude two non-causal explanations for this finding: that EBV infection is a consequence rather than a cause of MS, and that individuals who are EBV negative could be genetically resistant to MS. Both of these explanations are inconsistent with the present findings," said Ascherio.


Monday, March 22, 2010

Insurance Status of Gunshot Trauma Patients Affects Mortality Outcomes

ScienceDaily (Mar. 15, 2010) — New research findings published in the March issue of the Journal of the American College of Surgeons indicate that despite similar injury severity, uninsured patients were significantly more likely to die after hospital admission for gunshot injury than were insured patients. This difference could not be attributed to demographics or hospital resource use, and held true even after adjusting for the effects of race, age, gender, and injury severity.

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The in-hospital mortality rate for uninsured patients was nine percent versus six percent for insured patients (p=0.02). Even after adjusting for age, gender, race and injury severity with logistic regression analysis, the odds of dying from a gunshot trauma were 2.2 times greater for uninsured patients in comparison with insured patients.


Spring Has Sprung

Spring Has Sprung
copyright 1997 Patricia M. Shannon

Spring has sprung,
the flowers grow,
their pollen flows,
so does my nose.
Oh, hear it blow,
how it does glow.


Arizona Drops Children’s Health Program

Arizona Drops Children’s Health ProgramBy KEVIN SACK
Published: March 18, 2010

Arizona on Thursday became the first state to eliminate its Children’s Health Insurance Program when Gov. Jan Brewer signed an austere budget that will leave nearly 47,000 low-income children without coverage.

The Arizona budget is a vivid reflection of how the fiscal crisis afflicting state governments is cutting deeply into health care. The state also will roll back Medicaid coverage for childless adults in a move that is expected to eventually drop 310,000 people from the rolls.

State leaders said they were left with few choices because of a $2.6 billion projected shortfall next year. But hospital officials and advocates for low-income people said they were worried that emergency rooms would be overrun by patients who had few other options for care, and that children might suffer enduring developmental problems because of inadequate medical attention.

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Digestive tract contains 170 different species of bacteria — and that's good

By Seth Borenstein

updated 4:08 p.m. ET, Wed., March. 3, 2010
WASHINGTON - The human gut is a virtual zoo, full of a wide variety of bacteria, a new study found. And scientists say that's a good thing.

The first results of an international effort to catalog the millions of non-human genes inside people found about 170 different bacteria species thriving in the average person's digestive tract. The study also found that people with inflammatory bowel disease had fewer distinct species inside the gut.

The findings are being published in Thursday's issue of the journal Nature.

More than 99 percent of the different types of genes in our bodies are not in fact human, but come from microbes. So cataloging the genetics of bacteria inside of us will improve vastly on the mapping of the human genome, study co-author Jun Wang, a Chinese genomics researcher.

Bacteria "rule this planet, including our body," study co-author Jeroen Raes, a researcher at the European Molecular Biology Laboratory in Germany, said in an e-mail. "I think it's important that people realize that we are not really human — we are a walking colony of bacteria and they are crucial for our well being and health."

Looking at 124 adults, researchers found that most people's digestive systems have a lot in common. At least 57 species of bacteria were present in just about everybody. Overall, the researchers cataloged about 1,000 different bacteria species and figure there's another 150 or so they haven't found.


Shift Workers at More Risk for Irritable Bowel Syndrome

ScienceDaily (Mar. 18, 2010) — Nurses participating in shift work, especially those working rotating shifts, face a significantly increased risk of developing Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) and abdominal pain compared to those working a standard day-time schedule, according to research published in the American Journal of Gastroenterology.

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Looming Unemployment Harms Older Workers' Health

ScienceDaily (Mar. 18, 2010) — Downsizing and demotions at the workplace can be a health hazard for people over age 50, according to research reported in a recent issue of The Journals of Gerontology Series B: Psychological and Social Sciences.

A team of researchers found that job insecurity increased the chance of harmful effects for a sample of older workers in Cook County, IL. Over time, men reacted with greater physical symptoms, while changes in psychological health were more prominent in women.

"Older adults in the United States are living longer and working harder," said lead author Ariel Kalil, PhD, a professor at the University of Chicago. "Increased exposure to the labor market brings increased exposure to employment challenges."

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Job insecurity was not associated with health outcomes for all individuals uniformly. After a period of two years, the men who had faced job insecurity were more likely to experience poorer self-rated health, higher blood pressure, and higher levels of epinephrine (a stress-induced hormone). When faced with the same workplace conditions, women showed higher levels of hostility, loneliness, and depressive symptoms.

The researchers chose to focus on older workers for several reasons. People aged 55 and older have experienced strong growth in the labor market over the past 20 years -- a trend expected to continue in the decade ahead. Additionally, a 2007 AARP study found that a full 70 percent of working adults between 45 and 74 years old planned to work during retirement or to never retire at all.


Underemployment hits 20%

Gallup's underemployment measure hit 20.0% on March 15 -- up from 19.7% two weeks earlier and 19.5% at the start of the year...

Gallup classifies Americans as underemployed if they are unemployed or working part-time but wanting full-time work. On March 15, Gallup's unemployment rate was 10.3% -- essentially the same as the 10.4% of March 1, but down from 10.8% in mid-February. However, this decline in the percentage of unemployed Americans was more than offset over the past 30 days by an increase in the percentage of those working part-time but wanting full-time work, from 9.0% in mid-February to 9.7% in mid-March.

Gallup's data suggest that while the U.S. unemployment rate has declined over the past month, the employment gains may be largely taking the form of new part-time jobs.


Benefit Of A Mentor: Disadvantaged Teens Twice As Likely To Attend College

ScienceDaily (Nov. 5, 2009) — Two findings from a new national study reveal the power of mentors, particularly those in the teaching profession:
•For all teen students, having an adult mentor meant a 50 percent greater likelihood of attending college.
•For disadvantaged students, mentorship by a teacher nearly doubled the odds of attending college.
"Potential is sometimes squashed by the social environment, and the data show that mentors can overcome those forces," said Lance Erickson, a sociology professor at Brigham Young University and the study's lead author.

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"Youth who are most likely to need mentors are least likely to have them," McDonald said.

Their research shows less than half of disadvantaged students report having any adult mentor. Only seven percent had a mentoring relationship with a teacher.

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In the statistical analysis, mentors proved pivotal in whether students make the jump to college. For example, students whose parents do not have even a high school degree are normally 35 percent likely to enroll in college. According to the study, the rate jumps to 66 percent when the youth considers one of their teachers to be a personal mentor.

"Teacher-mentors close the college gap for disadvantaged kids," Erickson said.

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"Comments from study participants indicate that their mentors weren't necessarily doing anything extraordinary, just being involved and treating the young person as an important human being," Erickson said.


Sunday, March 21, 2010

Nepalese doc is ‘God of Sight’ to nation’s poor

AP Medical Writer

updated 11:26 a.m. ET, Sun., March. 21, 2010
HETAUDA, Nepal - Raj Kaliya Dhanuk sits on a wooden bench, barefoot, with a tattered sari covering thin arms as rough as bark. Thick clear tears bleed from her eyes, milky saucers that stare at nothing.

For nearly a year, cataracts have clouded out all sight from the 70-year-old grandmother's world. With no money, she assumed she'd die alone in darkness. But now she waits quietly outside the operating room for her turn to meet Nepal's God of Sight.

"I am desperate. If only I could see my family again," she whispers in her native tongue. "I feel so bad when I hear the baby cry because I can't help him. I want to pick him up."

Dhanuk and more than 500 others — most of whom have never seen a doctor before — have traveled for days by bicycle, motorbike, bus and even on their relatives' backs to reach Dr. Sanduk Ruit's mobile eye camp. Each hopes for the miracle promised in radio ads by the Nepalese master surgeon: He is able to poke, slice and pull the grape-like jelly masses out of an eye, then refill it with a tiny artificial lens, in about five minutes. Free of charge.

It's an assembly-line approach to curing blindness that's possible thanks to a simple surgical technique Ruit pioneered, allowing cataracts to be removed safely without stitches through two small incisions. Once condemned by the international medical community as unthinkable and reckless, this mass surgery "in the bush" started spreading from Nepal to poor countries worldwide nearly two decades ago.

Thousands of doctors — from North Korea to Nicaragua to Nigeria — have since been trained to train others, with the hope of slowly lessening the leading cause of blindness that affects 18 million people worldwide. And later this year, U.S. military surgeons will train under Ruit for the first time.

Ruit estimates sight has been restored to about 3 or 4 million people through his method. Most of them live in the developing world, where a loss of vision can be worse than death because of the added burden thrust on families already drowning in hardship. The soft-spoken portly doctor in acid-washed jeans and sneakers guesses he alone has removed 100,000 cataracts over his 30-year career.

"You realize there are drops which make an ocean," says Ruit, 55, an ethnic Sherpa who grew up poor in a remote mountain village on the border near Tibet. "They're such wonderful cases that make you fully convinced of the power of the work."

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"Dr. Ruit is as skilled as any cataract surgeon I know, and I suppose it is natural to wonder what he could earn with these same skills in an affluent country," says Chang.

Ruit admits life could have been much more comfortable if he'd simply left Nepal for a job in the West. But not many people have the opportunity he has had to make life better for others, he says.

"This is really too good for money," he says.

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Big Generation Gaps in Work Attitudes Revealed;_ylt=Ai7skC_.EwEEMh3FCc0MXA8PLBIF;_ylu=X3oDMTNlM2RjZjJvBGFzc2V0A2xpdmVzY2llbmNlLzIwMTAwMzEwL2JpZ2dlbmVyYXRpb25nYXBzaW53b3JrYXR0aXR1ZGVzcmV2ZWFsZWQEcG9zAzQEc2VjA3luX21vc3RfcG9wdWxhcgRzbGsDYmlnZ2VuZXJhdGlv

Jeanna Bryner
LiveScience Managing Editor jeanna Bryner
livescience Managing Editor – Wed Mar 10, 9:35 am ET
Experiences help to shape life, so it's reasonable to think someone who grew up when John F. Kennedy was shot might have a different worldview than a person who witnessed Enron collapse and has been "wired" since just a tot.

New survey research announced today suggests indeed that is the case: Large generational gaps exist, particularly when it comes to work attitudes. The findings reveal young people just entering the workforce, often called GenMe or Millennials, are more likely than their elders to value leisure time over work and to place a premium on rewards such as higher salaries and status.

"Our results show that the desire for leisure and a better work-life balance starts long before young workers have families, so companies will have to consider new policies for younger people who want leisure time to travel or spend with friends," said Jean Twenge of San Diego State University. "Of course, the generation itself may have to adapt their expectations if they want both higher salaries and more time off."

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Today's Youth Aren't 'Ego-Driven Slackers' After All

ScienceDaily (Jan. 18, 2008) — When asked about the state of today’s youth, former president Jimmy Carter recently mused “I’ve been a professor at Emory University for the past twenty years and I interrelate with a wide range of students...I don’t detect that this generation is any more committed to personal gain to the exclusion of benevolent causes than others have been in the past.”

Now research is beginning to support this notion. Researchers found no evidence that today’s young people have inflated impressions of themselves compared to the youth of previous generations.

Psychologist Kali Trzesniewski of the University of Western Ontario and her colleagues Brent Donnellan and Richard Robins measured narcissism --a personality trait encompassing characteristics like arrogance, exhibitionism, and a sense of entitlement -- in over 25,000 college students from 1996 to 2007. The researchers then compared their data to similar studies conducted in the late 1970’s to mid 1980’s and found no evidence that levels of narcissism had increased.

Levels of “self-enhancement” -- the tendency to hold unrealistically positive beliefs about the self -- were also assessed in a sample of high school seniors. As with college students, the high school seniors showed no prominent increase on this component of narcissism.

“Today’s youth seem to be no more narcissistic and self-aggrandizing than previous generations,” write the authors. “We were unable to find evidence that either narcissism or the closely related construct of self-enhancement has increased over the past three decades.”

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Drinking sugar-sweetened beverages daily linked to diabetes, cardiovascular disease, increased healthcare costs

SAN FRANCISCO, March 5, 2010 — More Americans now drink sugar-sweetened sodas, sport drinks and fruit drinks daily, and this increase in consumption has led to more diabetes and heart disease over the past decade, researchers reported at the American Heart Association’s 50th Annual Conference on Cardiovascular Disease Epidemiology and Prevention.

Using the Coronary Heart Disease (CHD) Policy Model, a well-established computer simulation model of the national population age 35 and older, researchers estimate that the increased consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages between 1990 and 2000 contributed to 130,000 new cases of diabetes, 14,000 new cases of coronary heart disease (CHD), and 50,000 additional life-years burdened by coronary heart disease over the past decade.

Sugar-sweetened soda, sport and fruit drinks (not 100 percent fruit juice) contain equivalent calories, ranging from 120 to 200 per drink, and thus play a role in the nation’s rising tide of obesity, researchers said. Previous research has linked daily consumption of these sugary beverages to an increased risk of diabetes, even apart from excessive weight gain.

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Carbon emissions 'outsourced' to developing countries

Public release date: 8-Mar-2010
Contact: Steven Davis
Carnegie Institution

Palo Alto, CA— A new study by scientists at the Carnegie Institution finds that over a third of carbon dioxide emissions associated with consumption of goods and services in many developed countries are actually emitted outside their borders. Some countries, such as Switzerland, "outsource" over half of their carbon dioxide emissions, primarily to developing countries. The study finds that, per person, about 2.5 tons of carbon dioxide are consumed in the U.S. but produced somewhere else. For Europeans, the figure can exceed four tons per person. Most of these emissions are outsourced to developing countries, especially China.

"Instead of looking at carbon dioxide emissions only in terms of what is released inside our borders, we also looked at the amount of carbon dioxide released during the production of the things that we consume," says co-author Ken Caldeira, a researcher in the Carnegie Institution's Department of Global Ecology.

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And shipping items longer distances takes more energy.


Vitamin D Lifts Mood During Cold Weather Months

ScienceDaily (Mar. 8, 2010) — A daily dose of vitamin D may just be what people in northern climates need to get through the long winter, according to researchers at Loyola University Chicago Marcella Niehoff School of Nursing (MNSON). This nutrient lifts mood during cold weather months when days are short and more time is spent indoors.

"Vitamin D deficiency continues to be a problem despite the nutrient's widely reported health benefits," said Sue Penckofer, PhD, RN, professor, MNSON. "Chicago winters compound this issue when more people spend time away from sunlight, which is a natural source of vitamin D."

Diet alone may not be sufficient to manage vitamin D levels. A combination of adequate dietary intake of vitamin D, exposure to sunlight, and treatment with vitamin D2 or D3 supplements can decrease the risk of certain health concerns. The preferred range in the body is 30 -- 60 ng/mL of 25(OH) vitamin D.

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"There is evidence to suggest that vitamin D supplementation may decrease insulin resistance," said Dr. Penckofer.

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Your Brain Wants You To Help The Poor

Nature. 2010 Feb 25;463(7284):1089-91.

Neural evidence for inequality-averse social preferences.
Tricomi E, Rangel A, Camerer CF, O'Doherty JP.

Psychology Department, Rutgers University, Newark, New Jersey 07102, USA.

A popular hypothesis in the social sciences is that humans have social preferences to reduce inequality in outcome distributions because it has a negative impact on their experienced reward. Although there is a large body of behavioural and anthropological evidence consistent with the predictions of these theories, there is no direct neural evidence for the existence of inequality-averse preferences. Such evidence would be especially useful because some behaviours that are consistent with a dislike for unequal outcomes could also be explained by concerns for social image or reciprocity, which do not require a direct aversion towards inequality. Here we use functional MRI to test directly for the existence of inequality-averse social preferences in the human brain. Inequality was created by recruiting pairs of subjects and giving one of them a large monetary endowment. While both subjects evaluated further monetary transfers from the experimenter to themselves and to the other participant, we measured neural responses in the ventral striatum and ventromedial prefrontal cortex, two areas that have been shown to be involved in the valuation of monetary and primary rewards in both social and non-social contexts. Consistent with inequality-averse models of social preferences, we find that activity in these areas was more responsive to transfers to others than to self in the 'high-pay' subject, whereas the activity of the 'low-pay' subject showed the opposite pattern. These results provide direct evidence for the validity of this class of models, and also show that the brain's reward circuitry is sensitive to both advantageous and disadvantageous inequality.


Saturday, March 20, 2010

Fifteen States Have Polluter-Driven Resolutions To Deny Climate Threat

I've finally started what I've been thinking about doing for awhile. I've started a folder "backward states" to keep track of the states to avoid when I escape from Georgia. And this is the first entry. Of course, any state might have some kooks in the legislature who might try to get something like this passed. It will be informative to see which, if any, actually pass.

Yesterday, the South Dakota legislature passed a resolution telling public schools to teach “balance” about the “prejudiced” science of climate change by a vote of 37-33. Earlier language that ascribed “astrological” influences to global warming was stripped from the final version.

This act of conspiracy-driven ideology is hardly alone — a Wonk Room investigation has found at least fifteen state legislatures attempting to prevent limits on greenhouse gas pollution. The states of Alabama and Utah have already adopted resolutions calling for the overturn of the Environmental Protection Agency’s global warming endangerment finding, with legislators in thirteen more states in tow. Several resolutions argue that the overwhelming scientific consensus on the threat of manmade global warming is actually a conspiracy:

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Every resolution makes the false claim that protecting citizens from hazardous climate pollution would hurt the economy, instead of recognizing the potential of a green recovery. Missouri, Illinois, Oklahoma, and Alaska lawmakers talk about being “dependent” on the coal and oil industries whose lobbyists are fighting climate action. Several of the resolutions, drafted early last year, call on Congress to reject the Waxman-Markey American Clean Energy and Security Act, which passed the House of Representatives in June but has languished in the Senate. The Alaska and West Virginia resolutions support Sen. Lisa Murkowski’s (R-AK) effort to rewrite the Clean Air Act (S.J.Res. 26), and Alabama’s resolution calls for the passage of Rep. Earl Pomeroy’s (D-ND) similar effort (H.R. 4396).

The most legally bizarre resolution is Arizona state senator Sylvia Allen’s (R-AZ) “tenther” argument that the U.S. Congress does not have the Constitutional authority to regulate greenhouse gas pollution. Allen also believes the Earth is 6000 years old. The other Arizona resolution, along with the Kentucky, Virginia, and Washington resolutions, would attempt to block state enforcement of global warming rules.

These efforts to overturn the Clean Air Act and replace science with conspiracy theories are being supported by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a national organization that brings conservative state lawmakers together with industry lobbyists. ALEC promotes a resolution opposing the endangerment finding drafted by its Natural Resources Task Force, which includes over 120 lawmakers from around the nation and a similarly sized group of corporate representatives. Although ALEC does not have an official position on the validity of climate science, the organization is “actively involved in helping people get together and share ideas,” a representative told ThinkProgress. For example, the spring ALEC task force meeting will feature Exxon Mobil-backed global warming denier Paul Driessen


Scientists Demonstrate Mammalian Regeneration Through a Single Gene Deletion

ScienceDaily (Mar. 16, 2010) — A quest that began over a decade ago with a chance observation has reached a milestone: the identification of a gene that may regulate regeneration in mammals. The absence of this single gene, called p21, confers a healing potential in mice long thought to have been lost through evolution and reserved for creatures like flatworms, sponges, and some species of salamander.

"Much like a newt that has lost a limb, these mice will replace missing or damaged tissue with healthy tissue that lacks any sign of scarring," said the project's lead scientist Ellen Heber-Katz, Ph.D., a professor in Wistar's Molecular and Cellular Oncogenesis program. "While we are just beginning to understand the repercussions of these findings, perhaps, one day we'll be able to accelerate healing in humans by temporarily inactivating the p21 gene."

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"In normal cells, p21 acts like a brake to block cell cycle progression in the event of DNA damage, preventing the cells from dividing and potentially becoming cancerous," Heber-Katz said. "In these mice without p21, we do see the expected increase in DNA damage, but surprisingly no increase in cancer has been reported."

In fact, the researchers saw an increase in apoptosis in MRL mice -- also known as programmed cell death -- the cell's self-destruct mechanism that is often switched on when DNA has been damaged. According to Heber-Katz, this is exactly the sort of behavior seen in naturally regenerative creatures.

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It will be interesting to find out the function of this gene.


Chemicals That Eased One Environmental Problem May Worsen Another

ScienceDaily (Mar. 16, 2010) — Chemicals that helped solve a global environmental crisis in the 1990s -- the hole in Earth's protective ozone layer -- may be making another problem -- acid rain -- worse, scientists are reporting. Their study on the chemicals that replaced the ozone-destroying chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) once used in aerosol spray cans, air conditioners, refrigerators, and other products, appears in ACS' Journal of Physical Chemistry A.

Jeffrey Gaffney, Carrie J. Christiansen, Shakeel S. Dalal, Alexander M. Mebel and Joseph S. Francisco point out that hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs) emerged as CFC replacements because they do not damage the ozone layer. However, studies later suggested the need for a replacement for the replacements, showing that HCFCs act like super greenhouse gases, 4,500 times more potent than carbon dioxide. The new study adds to those concerns, raising the possibility that HCFCs may break down in the atmosphere to form oxalic acid, one of the culprits in acid rain.


Virus infections may be contributing factor in onset of gluten intolerance

Public release date: 5-Mar-2010
Contact: Paivi Saavalainen
Academy of Finland

Virus infections may be contributing factor in onset of gluten intolerance

Recent research findings indicate a possible connection between virus infections, the immune system and the onset of gluten intolerance, also known as coeliac disease. A research project in the Academy of Finland's Research Programme on Nutrition, Food and Health (ELVIRA) has brought new knowledge on the hereditary nature of gluten intolerance and identified genes that carry a higher risk of developing the condition. Research has shown that the genes in question are closely linked with the human immune system and the occurrence of inflammations, rather than being connected with the actual breakdown of gluten in the digestive tract.

"Some of the genes we have identified are linked with human immune defence against viruses. This may indicate that virus infections may be connected in some way with the onset of gluten intolerance," says Academy Research Fellow Päivi Saavalainen, who has conducted research into the hereditary risk factors for gluten intolerance.

Saavalainen explains that the genes that predispose people to gluten intolerance are very widespread in the population and, as a result, they are only a minor part of the explanation for the way in which gluten intolerance is inherited. However, the knowledge of the genes behind gluten intolerance is valuable in itself, as it helps researchers explore the reasons behind gluten intolerance, which in turn builds potential for developing new treatments and preventive methods. This is essential, because the condition is often relatively symptom-free, yet it can have serious complications unless treated.

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Gluten intolerance is an autoimmune reaction in the small intestine. Roughly one in a hundred Finns suffer from this condition. The gluten that occurs naturally in grains such as wheat, barley and rye causes damage to the intestinal villi, problems with nutrient absorption and potentially other problems too. Gluten intolerance is an inherited predisposition, and nearly all sufferers carry the genes that play a key part in the onset of the condition. The only known effective treatment is a lifelong gluten-free diet.


Scientists find giant plastic rubbish dump floating in the Atlantic

February 26, 2010 4:16AM

Giant plastic dump floating off Carribean
200,000 pieces of debris per square km
Rubbish is harmful to sea life and birds
SCIENTISTS have discovered a giant rubbish tip made up of plastic bottles, bottletops and toothbrushes floating in the Atlantic Ocean.
The discarded plastic, which lies north of the Caribbean, is known to harm seabirds and marine life.

Sea Education Association's Dr Karen Lavender Law said that the problem in the Atlantic had been "largely ignored".

Researchers said the dump has 200,000 pieces of debris per square kilometre but it was impossible to measure the exact size of the patch as much of it floats beneath the surface.

"That's a maximum that is comparable with the 'great Pacific garbage patch'," Dr Lavender Law said.

The great Pacific patch lies between Hawaii and California.

During the study, researchers collected more than 64,000 tiny bits of plastic after carrying out 6100 sweeps of the North Atlantic towing fine mesh nets behind a research vessel. It is the longest and most extensive record of plastic debris in any ocean basin.

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Friday, March 19, 2010

'World's Most Useful Tree'

ScienceDaily (Mar. 14, 2010) — A low-cost water purification technique published in Current Protocols in Microbiology could help drastically reduce the incidence of waterborne disease in the developing world. The procedure, which uses seeds from the Moringa oleifera tree, can produce a 90.00% to 99.99% bacterial reduction in previously untreated water, and has been made free to download as part of access programs under John Wiley & Sons' Corporate Citizenship Initiative.

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"Moringa oleifera is a vegetable tree which is grown in Africa, Central and South America, the Indian subcontinent, and South East Asia. It could be considered to be one of the world's most useful trees," said Lea. "Not only is it drought resistant, it also yields cooking and lighting oil, soil fertilizer, as well as highly nutritious food in the form of its pods, leaves, seeds and flowers. Perhaps most importantly, its seeds can be used to purify drinking water at virtually no cost."

Moringa tree seeds, when crushed into powder, can be used as a water-soluble extract in suspension, resulting in an effective natural clarification agent for highly turbid and untreated pathogenic surface water. As well as improving drinkability, this technique reduces water turbidity (cloudiness) making the result aesthetically as well as microbiologically more acceptable for human consumption.

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At first I thought this would be another example of something that would lead to resistant bacteria. However, it apparently doesn't make water safer by killing bacteria, but by precipitating them out.

Also, it is refreshing to see that the directions for the procedure is being provided free by a private business, rather than many cases where companies copyright such things and sell them expensively.


Older Patients With Colon Cancer Less Likely to Receive Chemotherapy After Surgery

ScienceDaily (Mar. 16, 2010) — Even though older patients with colon cancer are less likely to receive chemotherapy following surgery because of concerns of adverse events, new research indicates that when they do receive this treatment, it is less toxic and of shorter duration than therapy younger patients receive, and older patients experience fewer adverse events, according to a study in the March 17 issue of JAMA, a theme issue on cancer.

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Randomized trials have shown reductions in cancer death and recurrence in patients with stage III colon cancer treated with adjuvant (supplemental [after surgery]) chemotherapy, with clinical trials also showing that surgery and adjuvant chemotherapy increases survival over surgery alone in selected patients with this stage of colon cancer. But in practice, older patients with stage III colon cancer are much less likely to receive this treatment. "Physicians cite the lack of randomized controlled trials evaluating the effectiveness of adjuvant chemotherapy for patients older than 80 years as well as comorbid [co-existing illnesses] conditions and drug toxicities as the most common reasons for not treating older patients with adjuvant chemotherapy," the authors write.

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Obesity Linked to Poor Colon Cancer Prognosis

ScienceDaily (Mar. 11, 2010) — Obese patients with colon cancer are at greater risk for death or recurrent disease compared to those who are within a normal weight range, according to a report in Clinical Cancer Research, a journal of the American Association for Cancer Research.

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Remarkably though, many patients remain unaware of the risk associated between obesity and cancer. Results of a recent survey from the American Institute for Cancer Research showed that only 51 percent of the participants knew about the link between obesity and cancer, compared with 94 percent who were aware of the increased cancer risk associated with tobacco use, and 87 percent who knew of the increased cancer risk associated with sun exposure.

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Living Longer: Colon Cancer Patients Gain Time With Radiofrequency Ablation Treatment

ScienceDaily (Mar. 16, 2010) — Approximately half of Americans living with colorectal cancer will develop liver metastases at some point during the course of their disease. Radiofrequency ablation, a minimally invasive treatment that applies heat directly in the tumor causing cancer cell death with minimal associated injury to the surrounding healthy liver, contributes to prolongation of their life by nearly three years, note researchers at the Society of Interventional Radiology's 35th Annual Scientific Meeting in Tampa, Fla.

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Older Non-Smokers Gain Most from Tobacco Ban

ScienceDaily (Mar. 16, 2010) — Older people who have never smoked benefit most from smoking bans, a study suggests.

A study in New Zealand showed that, three years after a smoking ban on all workplaces was introduced, hospital admissions for heart attacks among men and women aged 55-74 fell by 9 per cent. This figure rose to 13 per cent for 55-74 year olds who had never smoked. [In other words, heart attacks fell by 13% for the latter group.]

Overall, the research showed heart attacks among people aged 30 and over fell by an average of 5 per cent in the three years following the ban.

The study, involving scientists from the University of Edinburgh, examined trends in acute heart attacks following a change in legislation. The ruling, which updates a previous law in which smoking was outlawed in some public places, makes smoking illegal in all workplaces including bars and restaurants.

Researchers also found that heart attacks were reduced for ex-smokers of all ages, and that there was a greater decrease in hospital admissions for men compared with women.

In addition, the study found that people in more affluent neighbourhoods benefited more from the ban than those in poorer areas. This may be because they visit cafes and restaurants more often or because they are more likely to use the smoking ban as an incentive to quit.

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Being the child of smokers, I don't know how the heart attack risk applies to me, but I do know that my health has been greatly improved by the largee reduction in the number of asthma attacks I have had since non-smoking bans were implement


Hatch Forgets About The Bush Years, Claims Reconciliation Is Meant To ‘Balance The Budget’

Following the election of Sen. Scott Brown (R-MA) in the Massachusetts special election, Democrats have been discussing ways to pass a comprehensive health care bill that will not be killed by a GOP-led filibuster. One idea that has been floated is for the House to pass the Senate’s health care bill and also immediately amend the bill to make it more progressive and acceptable to members in the House via a reconciliation bill, which requires only a simple majority vote in the Senate to pass.

Today, in the Washington Post, Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) has written an op-ed condemning the use of reconciliation for health care, saying that it would be “inappropriate” to use the process, claiming that it was “designed to balance the federal budget.” While admitting that “both parties have used the process” in the past to pass legislation such as the Welfare and Medicaid Reform Act of 1996, he claims that using reconciliation would amount to an “abuse that stifles dissent and badly undermines our constitutional checks and balances.” Yet what Hatch fails to mention is that he has voted for bills passed through reconciliation every single time a bill was offered through the process during the Bush years, including to pass massive tax cuts for the wealthy that served to do anything but “balance the federal budget”:

Happiness Is Experiences, Not Stuff

Rachael Rettner
LiveScience Staff Writer rachael Rettner
livescience Staff Writer – Fri Mar 5, 11:46 am ET
If you're trying to buy happiness, you'd be better off putting your money toward a tropical island get-away than a new computer, a new study suggests.

The results show that people's satisfaction with their life-experience purchases - anything from seeing a movie to going on a vacation - tends to start out high and go up over time. On the other hand, although they might be initially happy with that shiny new iPhone or the latest in fashion, their satisfaction with these items wanes with time.

The findings, based on eight separate studies, agree with previous research showing that experience-related buys lead to more happiness for the consumer. But the current work provides some insight into why.

Among the reasons:

People are more likely to mull over their material purchases than they are experiential ones, second-guessing themselves about whether they really made the best choice.
We tend to think of experiences more on their own terms, rather than in comparison with other things.
It's easier for us to decide on an experiential purchase than a material one.
We're more upset if we learn that someone else got a better deal, or that a better option exists, for a material purchase than for an experience-related one.

Satisfaction with a purchase could also come down to mindset. When participants in one study thought of material purchases, such as a music CD, as an experience (many hours of enjoyable listening), they were more satisfied than those who viewed the purchase as just a material item.

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This obviously applies to those with a certain minimum level of "stuff", such as food and shelter.

Well-being Is Related to Having Less Small Talk and More Substantive Conversations

March 4, 2010
Contact: Barbara Isanski
Association for Psychological Science

Is a happy life filled with trivial chatter or reflective and profound conversations? Psychological scientists Matthias R. Mehl, Shannon E. Holleran, and C. Shelby Clark from the University of Arizona, along with Simine Vazire of Washington University in St. Louis investigated whether happy and unhappy people differ in the types of conversations they tend to engage in. Volunteers wore an unobtrusive recording device called the Electronically Activated Recorder (EAR) over four days. This device periodically records snippets of sounds as participants go about their lives. For this experiment, the EAR sampled 30 seconds of sounds every 12.5 minutes yielding a total of more than 20,000 recordings. Researchers then listened to the recordings and identified the conversations as trivial small talk or substantive discussions. In addition, the volunteers completed personality and well-being assessments.

As reported in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science, analysis of the recordings revealed some very interesting findings. Greater well-being was related to spending less time alone and more time talking to others: The happiest participants spent 25% less time alone and 70% more time talking than the unhappiest participants. In addition to the difference in the amount of social interactions happy and unhappy people had, there was also a difference in the types of conversations they took part in: The happiest participants had twice as many substantive conversations and one third as much small talk as the unhappiest participants.

These findings suggest that the happy life is social and conversationally deep rather than solitary and superficial. The researchers surmise that — though the current findings cannot identify the causal direction — deep conversations may have the potential to make people happier. They note, “Just as self-disclosure can instill a sense of intimacy in a relationship, deep conversations may instill a sense of meaning in the interaction partners.”


Thursday, March 18, 2010

Analysis: Republicans setting filibuster record

Associated Press Writer

updated 10:41 a.m. ET, Mon., March. 1, 2010
WASHINGTON - The filibuster — tool of obstruction in the U.S. Senate — is alternately blamed and praised for wilting President Barack Obama's ambitious agenda. Some even say it's made the nation ungovernable.

Maybe, maybe not. Obama's term still has three years to run.

More certain, however: Opposition Republicans are using the delaying tactic at a record-setting pace.

"The numbers are astonishing in this Congress," says Jim Riddlesperger, political science professor at Texas Christian University in Fort Worth.

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A tactic unique to the Senate, the filibuster means a simple majority guarantees nothing when it comes to passing laws.

"The rules of the Senate are designed to give muscle to the minority," said Senate historian Donald Ritchie.

With the Senate now made up of 100 members, two for each of the 50 states, an opposition filibuster can only be broken with 60 votes — a three-fifths majority.

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In this session of Congress, the 111th — for all of 2009 and the first two months of 2010 — the number already exceeds 40. (2.857/mo) Continuing at this rate, it will be 68 times during this session.

The most the Democrats have ever use the filibuster was 58 times in the 106th Congress of 1999-2000. (2.417/mo)


Go scentless, workers warned after lawsuit

updated 11:02 a.m. ET, Mon., March. 15, 2010
DETROIT - Change is in the air for Detroit city workers.

City employees will be urged not to wear perfume, cologne or aftershave as a result of a settlement in a federal lawsuit.

Officials plan to place warning placards in three city buildings. The signs will warn workers to avoid "wearing scented products, including ... colognes, aftershave lotions, perfumes, deodorants, body/face lotions ... (and) the use of scented candles, perfume samples from magazines, spray or solid air fresheners."

The employee handbook and Americans with Disabilities Act training also will bear warnings.

The Detroit News reports the move stems from a $100,000 settlement in a federal lawsuit filed in 2008 by a city employee who said a colleague's perfume made it challenging for her to do her job.


Since I have gotten asthma attacks from other people's perfume, I like this ruling.


Successful treatment of periodontal disease lowered preterm birth incidences

Public release date: 5-Mar-2010
Contact: Ingrid Thomas
International & American Association for Dental Research

Successful treatment of periodontal disease lowered preterm birth incidences

Washington, DC, USA – Previous studies have explored the effect of periodontal treatment, irrespective of efficacy of treatment, in reducing infant prematurity. In a study titled "Risk of Preterm Birth Is Reduced with Successful Periodontal Treatment," lead researcher M. Jeffcott, and colleagues S. Parry and M. Sammel (all from the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia) and G. Macones (Washington University, St. Louis, Missouri) determined whether a reduction in infant prematurity was associated with successful periodontal treatment.

Pregnant subjects between 6 and 20 weeks gestation (using standard pregnancy dating criteria) were eligible for screening and enrollment. Eight hundred and seventy-two subjects with and without periodontal disease were followed. One hundred and sixty subjects with periodontal disease were treated with scaling and root planing. Subjects received periodontal examinations before and after scaling and root planing. Subjects were classified post-hoc according to the results of periodontal treatment: successful treatment ("non-exposure") or unsuccessful treatment ("exposure").

Groups were compared using standard bivariate statistics, odds ratios, and logistic regression analysis. Dichotomous outcomes were compared with chi-square where appropriate.

The primary study outcome for this clinical trial was the occurrence of spontaneous preterm birth <35 weeks. Subjects without periodontal disease had 7.2 percent rate of prematurity less than 35 weeks gestation; subjects with periodontal disease had 23.4 percent rate of prematurity <35 weeks gestation. Pregnant women who were refractory to scaling and root planing were significantly more likely to have preterm infants. Subjects who were successfully treated for their periodontal disease had a significantly lower incidence of preterm birth less than 35 weeks gestation.


I would like to know more about whether the effects of poverty were accounted for. If the treatment was not free, poor women would be less likely to have it. Even if it were free, was it available when they could come w/o losing work?


Globe has 2nd or 6th warmest February on record

The globe recorded its sixth warmest February since record keeping began in 1880, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA's) National Climatic Data Center. NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies rated February 2010 the second warmest, behind 1998. The year-to-date period, January - February, is the 5th or 2nd warmest such period on record, according to NOAA and NASA, respectively. NOAA rated February 2010 global ocean temperatures as the 2nd warmest on record, next to 1998. February land temperatures in the Southern Hemisphere were the warmest on record, but in the Northern Hemisphere, they were the 26th warmest. The relatively cool Northern Hemisphere land temperatures were due in part to the much-above average amount of snow on the ground--February 2010 snow cover in the Northern Hemisphere was the 3rd highest in the 44-year snow cover record. For the entire winter, the Northern Hemisphere had the 2nd greatest snow cover on record, the U.S. had its greatest snow cover, and Eurasia had its 4th most.

Global satellite-measured temperatures for the lowest 8 km of the atmosphere were the second warmest on record in February, according to both the University of Alabama Huntsville (UAH) and Remote Sensing Systems (RSS) groups. Both groups also rated the winter of 2009 - 2010 the 2nd warmest winter on record. The record warmest February and winter occurred 1998.

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February 2010 Northern Hemisphere sea ice extent was the 4th lowest since satellite measurements began in 1979. Ice extent was lower than in 2009 and 2008, but greater than in 2005, 2006, and 2007, according to the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC). The weather pattern over the Arctic during much of February 2010 featured a strongly negative Arctic Oscillation (AO). This pattern tends to slow the winds that typically flush large amounts of sea ice out of the Arctic between Greenland and Iceland. In this way, a negative AO could help retain some the second- and third-year ice through the winter, and potentially rebuild some of the older, multi-year ice that has been lost over the past few years.

Sharp drop seen in children’s bullying

This is great news. Of course, it is great from a moral standpoint, but also from a practical view. Bullies are more likely to end up in jail as adults. Victims of bullying can be adversely affected into adulthood. Almost all violent criminals were abused as children.

updated 4:58 p.m. ET, Wed., March. 3, 2010
NEW YORK - There’s been a sharp drop in the percentage of America’s children being bullied or beaten up by their peers, according to a new national survey by experts who believe anti-bullying programs are having an impact.

The study, funded by the U.S. Department of Justice, found that the percentage of children who reported being physically bullied over the past year had declined from nearly 22 percent in 2003 to under 15 percent in 2008. The percentage reporting they’d been assaulted by other youths, including their siblings, dropped from 45 percent to 38.4 percent.

The lead author of the study, Professor David Finkelhor, said he was “very encouraged.”

“Bullying is the foundation on which a lot of subsequent aggressive behavior gets built,” said Finkelhor, director of the University of New Hampshire’s Crimes Against Children Research Center. “If it’s going down, we will reap benefits in the future in the form of lower rates of violent crime and spousal assault.”

Finkelhor noted that anti-bullying programs had proliferated and received funding boosts following the 1999 Columbine High School shootings in Colorado.

“There is evidence these programs are effective,” he said. “I wouldn’t be surprised if we’re seeing the fruits of that.”

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“The decline is not happening everywhere,” she said. “It’s in schools where adults really understand how detrimental this conduct can be and have made a conscious effort to bring these numbers down.”

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Along with bullying and assaults by peers or siblings, the new study also found declines in several other forms of child victimization, including sexual assaults and emotional abuse by caregivers. It found slight increases in dating violence, robbery targeting children and the witnessing of violence among other family members.

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Overall, the findings by Finkelhor and his co-authors were positive — and came on the heels of a major federal study documenting an unprecedented decrease in incidents of serious child abuse. That report, the National Incidence Study of Child Abuse and Neglect, found that incidents of serious physical, sexual or emotional abuse dropped by 26 percent from 1993 to 2005-06.


Monday, March 15, 2010

Ranks of millionaires jumped last year

updated 10:58 a.m. ET, Tues., March. 9, 2010
The number of U.S. households with a net worth of at least $1 million jumped 16 percent last year after dipping sharply during the financial crisis, an industry consulting group said on Tuesday.

Households with a net worth of $1 million or more, excluding their primary residence, totaled 7.8 million in 2009, up from 6.7 million in 2008, according to Spectrem Group.

The number of millionaire households shrank by 27 percent in 2008, it said.

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The study also found ultra high net worth families -- those with at least $5 million -- grew 17 percent last year to 980,000, Spectrem said.

Households with $500,000 or more topped 12.7 million, up 12 percent.


Acorn Cleared By Brooklyn Prosecutors; Tape Found To Be Edited

March 2, 2010 — Ron Chusid

Brooklyn prosecutors on Monday cleared ACORN of criminal wrongdoing after a four-month probe that began when undercover conservative activists filmed workers giving what appeared to be illegal advice on how to hide money.

While the video by James O’Keefe and Hannah Giles seemed to show three ACORN workers advising a prostitute how to hide ill-gotten gains, the unedited version was not as clear, according to a law enforcement source.

“They edited the tape to meet their agenda,” said the source.

O’Keefe and Giles – who visited ACORN offices in several cities, including its Brooklyn headquarters – stirred controversy when they posted the videos on their Web site.

They were hailed as heroes by the likes of Rush Limbaugh and their footage led several government agencies to temporarily cut funding for ACORN as the prosecutors opened an investigation.

“On Sept. 15, 2009, my office began an investigation into possible criminality on the part of three ACORN employees,” Brooklyn District Attorney Charles Hynes said in a one-paragraph statement issued Monday afternoon.

“That investigation is now concluded and no criminality has been found.”

Update: Many of the attacks on Acorn from the right wing were based upon false information spread by Andrew Breitbart. Media Matters reports that Breitbart has walked back his claims of criminality on the part of ACORN.

Even though the evidence against ACORN has been shown to have been fabricated my bet is that this will not change the attitude of most on the right. They enjoy living in their fantasy world and have far too many defenses built up to protect them from facing reality.

The American right wing has become an authoritarian movement which operates by fabricating false evidence to demonize their opponents. They will hold to their fantasies about ACORN just as many on the right still think that Saddam was involved with the 9/11 attack, there was WMD in Iraq at the time of the war, that the claims of the Swift Boat Liars about John Kerry were anything other than politically motivated lies, and that Barack Obama is a Muslim born outside of the United States.


In general, once an adult has a belief, it is very impervious to change.


Scientists Find that Selenium Pollution is Damaging

Selenium, one of the pollutants related to mountaintop removal coal mining, poses serious health risks to both aquatic life and human life.

“We’re killing fish right now with selenium pollution from mountaintop removal mining. Toxic levels of selenium were found in 73 of 78 stream samples. The threat is expanding as use of this destructive process expands. Once these ecosystems are polluted, damage to the environment is permanent…I specialize in fish, but that is only one part of the overall picture. Public health is also an issue with mountaintop removal mining. Once in the aquatic environment, waterborne selenium can enter the food chain and reach levels that are toxic to fish and wildlife.”
–Dennis Lemly, professor of biology at Wake Forest University


Growing low-oxygen zones in oceans worry scientists

By Les Blumenthal, McClatchy Newspapers Les Blumenthal, Mcclatchy Newspapers – Sun Mar 7, 12:01 pm ET
WASHINGTON — Lower levels of oxygen in the Earth's oceans, particularly off the United States' Pacific Northwest coast, could be another sign of fundamental changes linked to global climate change, scientists say.

They warn that the oceans' complex undersea ecosystems and fragile food chains could be disrupted.

In some spots off Washington state and Oregon , the almost complete absence of oxygen has left piles of Dungeness crab carcasses littering the ocean floor, killed off 25-year-old sea stars, crippled colonies of sea anemones and produced mats of potentially noxious bacteria that thrive in such conditions.

Areas of hypoxia, or low oxygen, have long existed in the deep ocean. These areas — in the Pacific, Atlantic and Indian oceans — appear to be spreading, however, covering more square miles, creeping toward the surface and in some places, such as the Pacific Northwest , encroaching on the continental shelf within sight of the coastline.

"The depletion of oxygen levels in all three oceans is striking," said Gregory Johnson , an oceanographer with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in Seattle .

In some spots, such as off the Southern California coast, oxygen levels have dropped roughly 20 percent over the past 25 years. Elsewhere, scientists say, oxygen levels might have declined by one-third over 50 years.

"The real surprise is how this has become the new norm," said Jack Barth , an oceanography professor at Oregon State University . "We are seeing it year after year."

Barth and others say the changes are consistent with current climate-change models. Previous studies have found that the oceans are becoming more acidic as they absorb more carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases.

"If the Earth continues to warm, the expectation is we will have lower and lower oxygen levels," said Francis Chan , a marine researcher at Oregon State .

As ocean temperatures rise, the warmer water on the surface acts as a cap, which interferes with the natural circulation that normally allows deeper waters that are already oxygen-depleted to reach the surface. It's on the surface where ocean waters are recharged with oxygen from the air.

Commonly, ocean "dead zones" have been linked to agricultural runoff and other pollution coming down major rivers such as the Mississippi or the Columbia . One of the largest of the 400 or so ocean dead zones is in the Gulf of Mexico , near the mouth of the Mississippi .

However, scientists now say that some of these areas, including those off the Northwest, apparently are linked to broader changes in ocean oxygen levels.

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People in power make better liars

By Eve Tahmincioglu contributor
updated 6:57 p.m. ET, Mon., March. 15, 2010

New York Gov. David Paterson is embroiled in a scandal over whether he used his power and influence to intimidate a woman pursuing a domestic violence case against one of his top aides.

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Former Enron CEO Jeffrey Skilling, who went to prison after the spectacular collapse of the company, is appealing to the Supreme Court his 2006 conviction on 19 counts of fraud, conspiracy, insider trading and lying.

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There’s old saying: power corrupts. A new Columbia Business School study titled “People with Power are Better Liars” finds there may be truth behind the cliché.

“People in power are able to lie better,” said Dana Carney, a management professor at Columbia Business School and one of the co-authors of the study. “It just doesn’t hurt them as much to do it.”

The effects of lying
For the average liar, she said, the act of lying elicits negative emotions, physiological stress and the fear of getting caught in a lie. As a result, she added, liars will often send out cues that they are lying by doing things like fidgeting in a chair or changing the rate of their speech.

But for the powerful, the impact is very different, according to the study:

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How does this all translate into the real world? Carney said the research doesn’t show that power leads to lying, but it does suggest dishonesty comes easier to those in power.

David Childers, the CEO of EthicsPoint, a compliance company that offers more than 2,000 businesses a hotline where employees can report business issues such as integrity lapses, said he has seen a propensity by some leaders to lie.

“From my perspective and experience, the better a person can do at concealing their true motivation, the better they do climbing the corporate ladder, and the better they do in abuse and misappropriation of assets in an organization,” he said. “We see a high percentage of our reports where management is involved or implicated.”

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It is certainly feasible that power may enhance one's power to lie convincingly. However, the fact that liars often have an advantage in getting ahead is easily observed.


Friday, March 12, 2010

Dogs understand growls, even if we don't

When someone says only humans can "talk" to each other, I want to know how they know. We have discovered that many animals communicate with sounds outside our range of hearing.
If we don't understand them, it may just be our own lack of ability.

By Jennifer Viegas

updated 1:56 p.m. ET, Fri., March. 12, 2010
One dog growl may sound like another to human ears, but a new study shows for the first time that dogs receive specific information in growls that conveys meanings like "get away from my bone" or "back off."

The study, accepted for publication in the journal Animal Behavior, presents the first experimental indication that domestic dogs rely on context-dependent signals when they growl at each other.

The findings add to the growing body of evidence that animal calls are far more complex than previously thought. For example, prior research suggests chimpanzees communicate information about food quality, while birds, prairie dogs, chickens, squirrels, primates and other animals likely share information about predator types.

Of all of these sounds, dog growls are particularly intense.

"A growl is a short-distance warning, not like a bark or howl, which you can hear over a large distance," co-author Peter Pongracz told Discovery News. "When a dog growls, the opponent is near, so he/she can hear clearly that the next few steps forward will not be greeted with a warm welcome."

"The other common usage of growls is during play," added Pongracz, a behavioral biologist at Eotvos Lorand University. "This can be explained by the fact that dogs very often play 'martially' — they wrestle, chase, play tug of war — so these actions and visual displays are accompanied with martial sounds too."

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Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Dry air blamed for flu outbreaks

By Emily Sohn
updated 9:46 a.m. ET, Thurs., March. 4, 2010

Extremely low humidity levels in winter, according to new research, fuel influenza outbreaks. Particularly dry spells make the problem worse. The discovery might help scientists prepare for epidemics and for the rash of secondary illnesses, like pneumonia, that often slam people once they're already down.

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But relative humidity isn't the best measurement for studying flu outbreaks, Shaman said, because relative humidity varies with temperature. So, there is actually less moisture in the air on a rainy winter day in Seattle than there is on a sunny summer day in the same city.

He thought it would be more useful to look at absolute humidity, which measures exactly how much moisture is in the air, regardless of temperature.

On that scale, Shaman said, winters are usually twice as dry as summers in a place like San Diego and Arizona, four times drier in New York, and up to five times drier in a particularly cold state like Minnesota.

Along with colleagues, he analyzed 31 years of data from around the United States and used a computer model to show that influenza outbreaks were more likely to occur when absolute humidity levels were low. Like a sliding scale, progressively drier air led to progressively higher likelihood that an outbreak would occur, the researchers reported in the journal PLoS Biology. Temperature didn't play much of a role.

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