Friday, April 30, 2010

Rough Day At Work? You Won't Feel Like Exercising

ScienceDaily (Sep. 25, 2009) — Have you ever sat down to work on a crossword puzzle only to find that afterwards you haven't the energy to exercise? Or have you come home from a rough day at the office with no energy to go for a run?

A new study, published in Psychology and Health, reveals that if you use your willpower to do one task, it depletes you of the willpower to do an entirely different task.

"Cognitive tasks, as well as emotional tasks such as regulating your emotions, can deplete your self-regulatory capacity to exercise," says Kathleen Martin Ginis, associate professor of kinesiology at McMaster University, and lead author of the study.

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She says that by constantly challenging yourself to resist a piece of chocolate cake, or to force yourself to study an extra half-hour each night, then you can actually increase your self-regulatory capacity.

"Willpower is like a muscle: it needs to be challenged to build itself," she says.


Scientists work on artificial cat brain

By Jeremy Hsu
updated 12:40 p.m. ET, Fri., April 30, 2010

Pentagon-backed scientists aim to create a human-like machine, at some point. But they are starting out with the goal of crafting artificial intelligence on the level of a cat's brain. Still there are vast challenges.

If they get far enough, however, one scientist says that they could theoretically achieve feline intelligence with a mouse-sized artificial brain and an even smaller body.

That's because bigger brains by themselves don't necessarily mean greater intelligence or more complex behavior — for instance, cats show more smarts than cows despite having a feline brain 10 times smaller than a bovine brain. What might really matter is that humans and some other species have bigger brains for their body size.

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After The 8 Years Of The Bush/Cheney Disaster, Now You Get Mad?

After The 8 Years Of The Bush/Cheney Disaster, Now You Get Mad?

You didn’t get mad when the Supreme Court stopped a legal recount and appointed a President.

You didn’t get mad when Cheney allowed Energy company officials to dictate
Energy policy and push us to invade Iraq.

You didn’t get mad when a covert CIA operative got outed.

You didn’t get mad when the Patriot Act got passed.

You didn’t get mad when we illegally invaded a country that posed no threat to us.

You didn’t get mad when we spent over 800 billion (and counting) on said illegal war.

You didn’t get mad when Bush borrowed more money from foreign sources than the previous 42 Presidents combined.

You didn’t get mad when over 10 billion dollars in cash just disappeared in Iraq.

You didn’t get mad when you found out we were torturing people.

You didn’t get mad when Bush embraced trade and outsourcing policies that shipped 6 million American jobs out of the country.

You didn’t get mad when the government was illegally wiretapping Americans.

You didn’t get mad when Bush said he wasn’t concerned about Bin Laden, just a few months after 911.

You didn’t get mad when Bush rang up 10 trillion dollars in combined budget and current account deficits.

You didn’t get mad when you saw the horrible conditions at Walter Reed.

You didn’t get mad when we let a major US city, New Orleans, drown.

You didn’t get mad when we gave people who had more money than they could spend, the filthy rich, over a trillion dollars in tax breaks.

You didn’t get mad with the worst 8 years of job creations in several decades.

You didn’t get mad when over 200,000 US Citizens died over an 8-year period because they had no health insurance.

You didn’t get mad when lack of oversight and regulations from the Bush Administration caused US Citizens to lose 12 trillion dollars in investments, retirement, and home values.

You finally got mad when a black man was elected President and decided that people in America deserved the right to see a doctor if they are sick. Yes, illegal wars, lies, corruption, torture, job losses by the millions, stealing your tax dollars to make the rich richer, and the worst economic disaster since 1929 are all okay with you, but helping fellow Americans who are sick…oh hell no.


Americans work longer

April 27, 2010
By Andrea Orr

At a time when some policy makers are recommending increasing the retirement age to 70, it is worth noting that American workers already have a higher retirement age than most of the rest of the developed world. The Figure shows the official retirement ages – the age at which workers may collect full retirement benefits – for men and women in the United States and several other countries in the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) as of 2007. The official U.S. retirement age, which was 65.8 years at the time, was significantly higher than the OECD averages of 63.5 years for men and 62.3 years for women. (U.S. workers may also take early retirement at age 62 and collect reduced benefits).

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At the same time, the life expectancy for retired American workers is about the same as that in most other developed countries.

In her 2009 paper Working the Graveyard Shift, EPI Economist Monique Morrissey notes that most of the increase in life expectancy in the U.S. in recent decades has been among higher income workers. Raising the retirement age would hurt many workers who have little choice but to retire early due to poor health and job prospects – often the low-income workers who rely on Social Security the most.


Thursday, April 29, 2010

EPA Staffers Forced To Ignore Science

I haven't been posting much recently about the Bush record, but this week I saw a comment on another blog that there is no difference between Democrats and Republicans, so we should vote for a 3rd party candidate for president. Which of course is how Bush got enough votes in 2000 to allow the supreme court to steal the election for him. And I still see people claiming that it doesn't matter who we vote for as president. That is totally ridiculous.

A government review has found that the Bush administration forced EPA employees to ignore scientific findings in order to both water down concerns about climate change and to protect business. Sheila Kaplan of Politics Daily reports:

The Committee on Science Integration for Decision Making is still working on its investigation, but has quietly posted draft summaries on the agency’s website of 73 interviews with 450 EPA employees — an unusual bottom-up examination that could bring sweeping changes to the 40-year-old federal agency. Some staffers traced the problems in the agency to the Bush administration, while others said the obstacles are longstanding and continue to this day…

The review of the EPA followed accusations by a former agency official that President George W. Bush had pressured agency employees to water down concerns of global climate change, a Government Accountability Office report criticizing the agency’s toxic chemical review process, and stern recommendations by the National Research Council, a division of the National Academy of Sciences.


Gut Bacteria Offer New Insights -- And Hope -- For People With Celiac Disease

ScienceDaily (Apr. 29, 2010) — Dietary changes that include probiotics and/or prebiotics (found in some foods) may help alleviate the severity of celiac disease for some patients. According to a new research study appearing in the May 2010 print issue of the Journal of Leukocyte Biology, differing intestinal bacteria in celiac patients could influence inflammation to varying degrees. This suggests that manipulating the intestinal microbiota with dietary strategies such as probiotics and prebiotics, could improve the quality of life for celiac patients, as well as patients with associated diseases such as type 1 diabetes and other autoimmune disorders.

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High Doses of B Vitamins Associated With Increased Decline in Kidney Function for Patients With Kidney Disease from Diabetes

ScienceDaily (Apr. 27, 2010) — Patients with diabetic nephropathy (kidney disease caused by diabetes) who received high dose B-vitamin therapy experienced a more rapid decline in kidney function and had a higher rate of heart attack and stroke than patients who received placebo, according to a study in the April 28 issue of JAMA.

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Homeless good Samaritan left to die on NYC street

One problem is that many people assume somebody else has already called for help. Studies have found that the more people who are around, the less likely it is that someone will help someone in such a situations.;_ylt=ArYJ0nVvitduGDNwtHExb.2s0NUE;_ylu=X3oDMTJoOWduZWI3BGFzc2V0A2FwLzIwMTAwNDI3L3VzX2R5aW5nX2FuZF9pZ25vcmVkBHBvcwM2BHNlYwN5bl9tb3N0X3BvcHVsYXIEc2xrA2hvbWVsZXNzZ29vZA--

By DEEPTI HAJELA, Associated Press Writer Deepti Hajela, Associated Press Writer – Tue Apr 27, 12:42 am ET

NEW YORK – The homeless man lay face down, unmoving, on the sidewalk outside an apartment building, blood from knife wounds pooling underneath his body.

One person passed by in the early morning. Then another, and another. Video footage from a surveillance camera shows at least seven people going by, some turning their heads to look, others stopping to gawk. One even lifted the homeless man's body, exposing what appeared to be blood on the sidewalk underneath him, before walking away.

It wasn't until after the 31-year-old Guatemalan immigrant had been lying there for nearly an hour that emergency workers arrived, and by then, it was too late. Hugo Alfredo Tale-Yax — who police said was stabbed while intervening to help a woman being attacked — had died.

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Warming sign? Arctic sees April rain

By David Ljunggren
updated 12:42 p.m. ET, Tues., April 27, 2010

OTTAWA - In what looks to be another sign the Arctic is heating up quickly, British explorers reported Tuesday that they had been hit by a three-minute rain shower over the weekend.

The rain fell on the team's ice base off Ellef Rignes Island, about 2,420 miles north of the Canadian capital Ottawa.

"It's definitely a shocker ... the general feeling within the polar community is that rainfall in the high Canadian Arctic in April is a freak event," said Pen Hadow, the team's expedition director.

"Scientists would tell us that we can expect increasingly to experience these sorts of outcomes as the climate warms," he told Reuters in a telephone interview from London.

The Arctic is heating up three times more quickly than the rest of the Earth. Scientists link the higher temperatures to the greenhouse gas emissions blamed for global warming.

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Adult death rates lowest in Iceland, Cyprus

By Maria Cheng
AP Medical Writer
updated 2 hours, 52 minutes ago

LONDON - Men in Iceland and women in Cyprus have the lowest risk of dying worldwide, a new study says.

In a survey from 1970 to 2010, researchers found a widening gap between countries with the highest and lowest premature death rates in adults aged 15 to 60. The study was published Friday in the medical journal Lancet.

The findings are in contrast to the trends in child and maternal mortality, where rates are mostly dropping worldwide. Health officials have long thought if child deaths were decreasing and health systems were improving, adult deaths would similarly decline. But that's not what researchers found.

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Only a few countries have cut death rates by more than 2 percent in the last 40 years: Australia, Italy, South Korea, Chile, Tunisia and Algeria. The U.S. lagged significantly behind, dropping to 49th in the rankings for women and 45th for men. That puts it behind all of Western Europe as well as countries including Peru, Chile and Libya.

"The U.S. is definitely on the wrong trajectory," said Chris Murray, director of the Institute for Health Metrics at the University of Washington, one of the study's authors. "(The U.S.) spends the most on health out of all countries, but (it) is apparently spending on the wrong things."

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Some people can’t remember a face

I have this problem, myself. It's embarrassing when someone I work with every day starts talking to me at the grocery store, and I have no idea who they are.

By Jeanna Bryner
updated 2:03 p.m. ET, Thurs., April 29, 2010

Some people can't remember names. Thomas Grüter can't hold onto a face. Instead, this medical doctor, who has what is called prosopagnosia, or face blindness, uses several tricks to avoid an embarrassing social gaffe.

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Before 2005, the face blindness disorder was only known from individual case reports and it was thought to be extremely rare. New research by Grüter and his wife, both medical doctors, suggested 2.5 percent of the general population in Germany have the disorder. "So it's millions of people suffering from that, but it wasn't known," Grüter said, adding that he thinks it's reasonable the same would hold across Europe.

Culture can play a role. For instance, in a primitive, mostly illiterate society, a cognitive disorder would only get noticed if it, say, kept a person from becoming an expert archer, the researchers say.

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Elephants Have Word for 'Bee-Ware'

ScienceDaily (Apr. 28, 2010) — For the first time elephants have been found to produce an alarm call associated with the threat of bees, and have been shown to retreat when a recording of the call is played even when there are no bees around.

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Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Canadians Lead Longer, Healthier Lives Than Americans

ScienceDaily (Apr. 28, 2010) — Compared to their neighbours south of the border, Canadians live longer, healthier lives. Research published in BioMed Central's open access journal Population Health Metrics has found this disparity between the two countries, suggesting that America's lack of universal health care and lower levels of social and economic equality are to blame.

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Mexico City Air Pollution Adversely Affects the Hearts of Young People

ScienceDaily (Apr. 28, 2010) — A post-mortem study of the hearts of 21 young people in Mexico City has found that the heart begins to show the adverse effects of air pollution at a young age and that tiny bits of inactivated bacteria that hitch a ride on pollutants may make the problem worse.

The study is part of a growing body of research showing that air pollution can damage the heart and lead to increased risk of heart disease and heart attacks. But this study contrasted two different areas of the same city, showing that different types of pollutants can produce different effects.

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The researchers note that this inflammation to the heart does not appear to create any immediate harm.

"However, as people age, this chronic inflammation may become a factor in heart disease," said Villarreal. "The bottom line is, the air we breathe affects our heart health. The more research is conducted in this field, the more it is becoming clear we need to address the issue of air quality and its intricate ties to our health."


Factors That Cause a High Blood Pressure Condition in Pregnant Women Protect Against Breast Cancer

ScienceDaily (Apr. 28, 2010) — Preeclampsia is a high blood pressure syndrome in pregnant mothers that is caused when the blood supply in the placenta of the developing baby is restricted. The blood-deprived placenta releases factors that cause the raise in blood pressure in the mother. Doctors have to monitor these women closely and they may be forced to deliver the baby early to protect the mother and the baby. Most women's blood pressure returns to normal levels after they deliver the placenta.

Women that develop preeclampsia paradoxically seem to have reduced incidence of developing breast cancer. But why this serious condition may have other beneficial effects is unknown.

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Acidifying Oceans Dramatically Stunt Growth of Already Threatened Shellfish,

ScienceDaily (Apr. 23, 2010) — New research shows that global warming and its effects -- in particular, ocean acidification -- have descended upon shellfish reefs, particularly those formed by the Olympia oyster.

More than one-third of the world's human-caused carbon dioxide emissions have entered the oceans, according to Brian Gaylord, a biological oceanographer at the Bodega Marine Laboratory of the University of California at Davis.

"Similar to what happens in carbonated soda," says Gaylord, "increasing carbon dioxide in seawater makes it more acidic."

Even with small changes in acidity, seawater becomes corrosive to the shells of aquatic organisms.

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Non-Smokers Put on Less Weight, Study Suggests

ScienceDaily (Apr. 23, 2010) — A new study links nicotine poisoning with weight gain, and concludes that active smokers, not only those who stop, put on more weight than non-smokers. After four years of analysis in the University of Navarra, those who put on least weight were those who had never smoked.

From now on we will have to question the myth that smoking makes you slimmer. Researchers from the Department of Preventative Medicine at the University of Navarra (UNAV) have evaluated the link between the two cardiovascular risk factors: the 'nicotine habit' and the increase in weight when smokers stop the habit and when they continue smoking.

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Weight gain in people who stopped smoking during the study was higher the more cigarettes they smoked a day when the investigation began. Those who continued smoking also gained more weight during this period than the non-smokers.

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Tuesday, April 27, 2010

High Levels of Phosphate in Sodas and Processed Foods Accelerate the Aging Process in Mice

ScienceDaily (Apr. 26, 2010) — Here's another reason to kick the soda habit. New research published online in the FASEB Journal shows that high levels of phosphates may add more "pop" to sodas and processed foods than once thought. That's because researchers have found that the high levels of phosphates accelerate signs of aging. High phosphate levels may also increase the prevalence and severity of age-related complications, such as chronic kidney disease and cardiovascular calcification, and can also induce severe muscle and skin atrophy.

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Keeping Kids Away from R-Rated Movies May Prevent Early Drinking

ScienceDaily (Apr. 26, 2010) — Middle-school children whose parents restrict access to R-rated movies are substantially less likely to start drinking than their peers who are allowed to see such films, a new study suggests.
In a study of nearly 3,600 New England middle school students, researchers found that among kids who said their parents never allowed them to watch R movies, few took up drinking over the next couple years.

Of that group, 3 percent said they had started drinking when questioned 13 to 26 months after the initial survey. That compared with 19 percent of their peers who'd said their parents "sometimes" let them see R-rated films, and one-quarter of students who'd said their parents allowed such movies "all the time."

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The current findings build on evidence linking children's exposure to R-rated movies and onscreen "adult" content in general not only to early drinking but also to early smoking and kids' likelihood of having sex or behaving violently.

"The research to date suggests that keeping kids from R-rated movies can help keep them from drinking, smoking and doing a lot of other things that parents don't want them to do," Sargent said.

Shoe Power Generator, Embedded in the Sole of a Shoe, Harvest Energy

ScienceDaily (Apr. 27, 2010) — Dr. Ville Kaajakari, assistant professor of electrical engineering at Louisiana Tech University has developed a technology that harvests power from a small generator embedded in the sole of a shoe.

Kaajakari's innovative technology, developed at Louisiana Tech's Institute for Micromanufacturing (IfM), is based on new voltage regulation circuits that efficiently convert a piezoelectric charge into usable voltage for charging batteries or for directly powering electronics.

"This technology could benefit, for example, hikers that need emergency location devices or beacons," said Kaajakari. "For more general use, you can use it to power portable devices without wasteful batteries."

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How Chimps Deal With Death

ScienceDaily (Apr. 27, 2010) — Two studies in the April 27th issue of Current Biology, a Cell Press publication, offer rare glimpses into the ways that chimpanzees deal with the deaths of those closest to them. In one case, researchers describe the final hours and moment of death of an older female chimp living in a small group at a UK safari park as captured on video. In the other, researchers observed as two chimpanzee mothers in the wild carried their infants' mummified remains for a period of weeks after they were lost to a respiratory epidemic.

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Children's Cognitive Ability Can Be Affected by Mother's Exposure to Urban Air Pollutants

ScienceDaily (Apr. 20, 2010) — A study by the Columbia Center for Children's Environmental Health (CCCEH) carried out in Krakow, Poland has found that prenatal exposure to pollutants can adversely affect children's cognitive development at age 5, confirming previous findings in a New York City (NYC) study.

Researchers report that children exposed to high levels of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) in Krakow had a significant reduction in scores on a standardized test of reasoning ability and intelligence at age 5. The study findings are published online in Environmental Health Perspectives.

PAHs are released into the air from the burning of fossil fuels for transportation, heating, energy production, and from other combustion sources.

"The effect on intelligence was comparable to that seen in NYC children exposed prenatally to the same air pollutants," noted Frederica Perera, professor of Environmental Health Sciences and director of the CCCEH at the Mailman School of Public Health, and senior author. "This finding is of concern because IQ is an important predictor of future academic performance, and PAHs are widespread in urban environments and throughout the world."

"These results contribute to the cumulative body of published evidence linking ambient air pollution levels and adverse health effects in children and are clearly relevant to public health policy," says Susan Edwards, study lead author.


Warming could wake up volcanoes

updated 1:33 p.m. ET, Sun., April 18, 2010

OSLO - A thaw of ice caps in coming decades caused by climate change may trigger more volcanic eruptions by removing a vast weight and freeing magma from deep below ground, research suggests.

While that's not the case with Iceland's Eyjafjallajokull glacier, which is too small and too light to affect local geology, other volcanoes on the island nation are seen as vulnerable.

"Our work suggests that eventually there will be either somewhat larger eruptions or more frequent eruptions in Iceland in coming decades," said Freysteinn Sigmundsson, a vulcanologist at the University of Iceland.

"Global warming melts ice and this can influence magmatic systems," he added. The end of the Ice Age 10,000 years ago coincided with a surge in volcanic activity in Iceland, apparently because huge ice caps thinned and the land rose.

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Melting ice appears to be the main way in which global warming, blamed mainly on the use of fossil fuels, could have knock-on effects on geology, Sigmundsson said.

At high pressures such as under an ice cap, they reckon that rocks cannot expand to turn into liquid magma even if they are hot enough. "As the ice melts the rock can melt because the pressure decreases," Pagli said.

See my prediction at
No psychic powers involved, just a little knowledge of science.


Republican Alternative Financial Reform Plan

by: DaveJ
Tue Apr 27, 2010 at 21:05

At the very last minute, after twice voting to filibuster the bill that took months of bipartisan effort to write, the Republicans are circulating a draft of an alternative Financial Reform plan.

The WSJ Real Time Economics blog. Click through for details. One thing I see is that instead of an agency to protect consumers from financial scams they would set up a "Council for Consumer Financial Protection" that only covers the biggest financial companies. It also pre-empts state laws, so states that protect consumers won't be able to do that anymore.


Exercise Can Forestall Osteoporosis

ScienceDaily (Apr. 26, 2010) — The stage for osteoporosis is set well before menopause -- but exercise can help rewrite the script, according to Medical College of Georgia researchers.

Declining estrogen levels have long been associated with osteoporosis, but bone density starts to decline years before these levels drop, according to Dr. Joseph Cannon, Kellet Chair in Allied Health Sciences and principal investigator of the National Institute of Aging-funded study. It's during that time that levels of follicle-stimulating hormone, released by the pituitary gland to help regulate ovarian function, actually increase.

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Additionally, they found that study participants who exercised more than 180 minutes a week retained greater bone density.

"Our work provides more evidence that physical activity is important for maintaining bone density. It's a case of 'use it or lose it,'" Cannon said, citing his team's findings that exercise seemed to promote inhibitory factors that help keep interleukin-1 and bone breakdown under control.


Monday, April 26, 2010

Republicans Block Bank Reform Measure

April 26, 2010

Senate Republicans stood together "to successfully block lawmakers from moving ahead with sweeping legislation to overhaul U.S. financial markets, a temporary stumble for the Obama administration's top domestic policy priority," the Wall Street Journal reports.

"The Senate voted 57-41 on a procedural measure allowing lawmakers to move toward debate on financial regulatory overhaul legislation, falling short of the 60 votes needed. All GOP senators present voted against invoking cloture, joined by at least one Democrat, Sen. Ben Nelson (D-NE)."

Roll Call reports Sen. Christopher Dodd (D-CT) was set to meet again with Banking ranking member Richard Shelby (R-AL) following the vote "to continue hammering a possible agreement that could be taken up by the full Senate later this week. Meanwhile, Democrats are likely to continue highlighting the issue with repeated floor statements and press conferences this week as they hope to build enough momentum behind the issue to pick off a handful of Republican votes."


GOP senators avoid co-sponsoring campaign finance reform legislation

By Susan Crabtree - 04/20/10 06:00 AM ET

Senate Democrats have been unable to find a GOP co-sponsor of highly anticipated campaign finance reform legislation, delaying the rollout of a measure aimed at counteracting a landmark Supreme Court ruling.

Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) and Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) had expected to unveil their legislation with bipartisan support by the end of last week, with a goal of delivering a bill to President Barack Obama’s desk by July 4 so that it would have an immediate impact in this year’s elections.

Well, it's no news that Republicans are trying to block any action that would help the Democrats look good.

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Republicans supportive of the Citizens United decision, which would allow unlimited corporate and union spending on individual campaigns, have attacked the Democratic effort as politically motivated

And the Republicans attacks on the SEC, for actions during the Bush administration, which they want voters to think was the fault of the Obama administration, are not politically motivated? Give me a break.

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Naps may boost learning

By Robin Nixon
updated 1:40 p.m. ET, Thurs., April 22, 2010

Scientists have long wondered why we sleep and why we dream. A new study provides evidence for some long-held notions that sleep and dreams boost learning and help us to make sense of the real world. Even naps can help, the researchers found.

Test subjects who dreamt about a challenging task performed it better than those who didn't have such dreams.

This newfound link between dreaming and learning gives insight into why humans bother to sleep at all. The study is thought to be the first to show "the relationship between dreaming and function in the outside world," said senior researcher Robert Stickgold of Harvard Medical School.

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Previous research has shown that sleep benefits the immune and endocrine systems, but it hasn't been clear that sleep per se is necessary. Resting quietly may be enough to meet these needs, Stickgold told LiveScience.

Sleep, however, might affect the brain in a way that no other state can equal, suggests the study published in the most recent issue of the journal Current Biology. The effect is likely critical for learning and making sense of life skills worth sleeping for, scientists think.

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Those who reported dreaming about the maze significantly improved their performance. They did better than people who had slept, but did not dream. And better than those who stayed awake rehearsing the task in their minds. Specifically, the dreamers bettered their performance more than six times the improvements of all other participants.

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Thursday, April 22, 2010

New study says oceans' chemistry changing rapidly;_ylt=Aqu4oqubGTNnZaBr4ufjvtSs0NUE;_ylu=X3oDMTFpMTAwa2c5BHBvcwMzNwRzZWMDYWNjb3JkaW9uX21vc3RfcG9wdWxhcgRzbGsDbmV3c3R1ZHlzYXlz

By RANDOLPH E. SCHMID, AP Science Writer Randolph E. Schmid, Ap Science Writer – Thu Apr 22, 1:33 pm ET

WASHINGTON – The chemistry of the oceans is changing faster than it has in hundreds of thousands of years because of the carbon dioxide being absorbed from the atmosphere, the National Research Council reported Thursday.

Carbon dioxide and other industrial gases have been a concern for several years because of their impact on the air, raising global temperatures in a process called the greenhouse effect.

One factor easing that warmth has been the amount of CO2 taken up by the oceans, but that has also caused scientific concerns because the chemicals make the water more acidic, which can affect sea life.

Since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution in the 18th century, the pH of ocean water has declined from 8.2 to 8.1 and a further decline of 0.2 to 0.3 units is expected by the end of this century, according to the Research Council, an arm of the National Academy of Science.

The current rate of change "exceeds any known change in ocean chemistry for at least 800,000 years," the report said.

As most folks will remember from school chemistry, pH is a measure of how alkaline or acidic something is. A pH of 7 is neutral, while higher numbers are more alkaline and lower numbers are more acidic.

As the ocean becomes more acidic scientists have raised concern about dissolving coral reefs and potential effects on fish and other sea life.

For example, studies have shown that increasing seawater acidity affects photosynthesis, nutrient acquisition, growth, reproduction and individual survival of certain sea life.

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Insurer targeted breast cancer patients to cancel

updated 11:14 a.m. ET, Thurs., April 22, 2010

LOS ANGELES - One after another, shortly after a diagnosis of breast cancer, each of the women learned that her health insurance had been canceled. First there was Yenny Hsu, who lived and worked in Los Angeles. Later, Robin Beaton, a registered nurse from Texas. And then, most recently, there was Patricia Relling, a successful art gallery owner and interior designer from Louisville, Kentucky.

None of the women knew about the others. But besides their similar narratives, they had something else in common: Their health insurance carriers were subsidiaries of WellPoint, which has 33.7 million policyholders — more than any other health insurance company in the United States.

The women all paid their premiums on time. Before they fell ill, none had any problems with their insurance. Initially, they believed their policies had been canceled by mistake.

They had no idea that WellPoint was using a computer algorithm that automatically targeted them and every other policyholder recently diagnosed with breast cancer. The software triggered an immediate fraud investigation, as the company searched for some pretext to drop their policies, according to government regulators and investigators.

Once the women were singled out, they say, the insurer then canceled their policies based on either erroneous or flimsy information. WellPoint declined to comment on the women's specific cases without a signed waiver from them, citing privacy laws.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Republicans Block Votes On 97 Federal Nominees In A Single Day

Of course, when Bush was president, the Republicans said there should be "up or down votes" on his nominees.

Republicans have been blocking votes on nominees to federal posts, taking longer to confirm President Obama’s nominees to executive agencies than nominees submitted by the previous three administrations. Due to these blocks, there is a backlog of 101 executive branch nominees that have yet to be voted on, ranging from the Transportation Safety Authority chief to members of the Marine Mammal Commission. Senators commonly issue “anonymous holds” to prevent a nomination from coming up for a vote.

Sens. Claire McCaskill (D-MO) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) took aim at this tactic yesterday evening. Employing a “little-used rule adopted in 2007 that requires a Member to report his anonymous hold [on a federal nominee] in the Congressional Record [six days] after a colleague has tried to clear the name,” the two senators took to the Senate floor to try and clear the backlog and ask for unanimous consent for votes on scores of federal nominees.

As Whitehouse and McCaskill began reading the names of stalled federal nominees, the Republicans at first didn’t even appear. Whitehouse then waited patiently for a Republican Senator to arrive on the floor. Minority Whip Sen. Jon Kyl (R-AZ) finally appeared and began objecting to the two senators’ unanimous consent requests, ultimately blocking votes on 97 nominees. The Huffington Post has assembled a video compilation of Kyl blocking Whitehouse and McCaskill’s requests. [See the above link for the video]

“Hopefully by the end of the week we’ll learn who it is in the Senate that doesn’t want them to be nominated, who it is that doesn’t want them to be confirmed,” McCaskill said afterwards. Because of the rule that McCaskill and Whitehouse employed, the senators who have placed the anonymous holds now have six legislative days before they have to reveal who they are to the Congressional Record. However, as the Huffington Post’s Ryan Gram and Ben Craw note, the senators “may be able to wiggle out of going public by dropping their holds and picking them right back up, or teaming up with other Republicans and swapping the holds back and forth. It’s never been tried before.”

Sen. Michael Bennet (D-CO) has introduced a package of legislative reforms in the Senate that would eliminate the ability of senators to place anonymous holds


Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Analysis Finally Clears Donner Party of Rumored Cannibalism;_ylt=AjA3mtHsI9YMMRhIXGveUcms0NUE;_ylu=X3oDMTRxMXI0dDA1BGFzc2V0A2hzbi8yMDEwMDQxOS9hbmFseXNpc2ZpbmFsbHljbGVhcnNkb25uZXJwYXJ0eW9mcnVtb3JlZGNhbm5pYmFsaXNtBGNjb2RlA21vc3Rwb3B1bGFyBGNwb3MDMTAEcG9zAzcEcHQDaG9tZV9jb2tlBHNlYwN5bl9oZWFkbGluZV9saXN0BHNsawNkb25uZXJwYXJ0eWQ-

Mon Apr 19, 11:49 pm ET
MONDAY, April 19 (HealthDay News) -- There's no evidence of cannibalism at the Donner Party campsite, say researchers who analyzed remains from the site at Alder Creek in the Sierra Nevada Mountains of California.

The 84 members of the Donner Party were trapped there by a snowstorm in the winter of 1846-1847, and it has long been alleged that the 47 survivors resorted to cannibalism in order to survive.

However, this latest examination of bones excavated from a hearth at the campsite found no human remains. The bones in the hearth came from cattle, deer, horses and dogs.

The study findings, presented last week at the annual meeting of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists in Albuquerque, N.M., will be published in the July issue of the journal American Antiquity.

Newspapers were primarily responsible for promoting the allegations of cannibalism, which were fiercely denied by the Donner Party survivors.


Some years ago, a group of people were trapped by some catastrophe, heavy snow or avalanche maybe. They ran out of food and were starving. There were allegations that they had resorted to eating flesh from members of the group who died in the accident. The newspapers played it up, but nobody I new thought it was a big deal. They weren't hurting anybody. There was no allegation that anybody deliberately killed anybody else.


Processed meat tied to ovarian cancer risk

A few years ago, eating a lot of processed meat was tied to cancer in children.

updated 1:56 p.m. ET, Tues., April 20, 2010
Women who eat a lot of processed meats, such as salami and hot dogs, are at a higher risk of ovarian cancer, according to a new Australian study.

At the same time, those who eat a lot of fish have a lower risk of the deadly tumors, Dr. Penny M. Webb of Gynecological Cancers Group at Queensland Institute of Medical Research in Brisbane, Australia, and colleagues found.

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They found that women who ate four or more servings per week of processed meat had an 18 percent higher risk of ovarian cancer than those who ate one or fewer servings per week. Also, women consuming four or more fish meals per week had 24 percent less risk of ovarian cancer than those who ate less than one fish meal per week.

The absolute risk difference, however, was quite small: "In Australia, the risk of developing ovarian cancer before the age of 75 for a woman who eats a lot of processed meat is about 1 percent, compared to about 0.8 percent for those who eat little processed meat," Webb told Reuters Health by email.

Most studies of ovarian cancer risks have focused on lifetime exposure to estrogen, according to Marji McCullough, of the American Cancer Society, meaning women who enter puberty early, and go through menopause late, have a higher risk. "Very few dietary risk factors have been identified for this highly fatal cancer," McCullough told Reuters Health by email.

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She noted that there already are good reasons to limit consumption of red meat and processed meat to lower risk for colon cancer and heart disease. "It would be wise to limit processed meats to the occasional event, rather than to consume them as part of one's usual diet," McCullough said.


Only 16 of 384 areas show employment growth in latest Adversity Index

By Bill Dedman
Investigative reporter
updated 11:13 a.m. ET, Tues., April 20, 2010

The recovery remains jobless for most of the nation, with only 16 of 384 metro areas showing job gains in the past year, according to new Adversity Index data for February from Moody's and

Of the nation's 384 metro areas, 205 had begun to recover, or 53 percent, according to the February Adversity Index. That's up from 185 metro areas in January, or 48 percent.

But the gains have been confined to manufacturing and housing, not employment.

Moreover, the only areas showing jobs growth are low-population areas. Here is a list of the 16 areas (only 4 percent of the total) showing job gains in the three-month period ending February 2010 compared with the same period a year earlier. They're ranked by annualized growth in jobs:

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The largest of those areas — Killeen, Yakima and Barnstable — each have only about 300,000 people.

You can follow the fortunes of each metro area in the nation on our interactive map, which gives details for each metro area and state for the past 15 years.

Job losses in big cities
The 20 largest metro areas all showed jobs loss from a year earlier. Listed by size of metro area:

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Atlanta-Sandy Springs-Marietta, Ga., -4.3

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Although the economy is starting to expand, businesses are squeezing additional work out of the workers they have, not hiring more.

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The good news is that the March employment report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics showed the largest net job gain since March 2007, before the recession had begun.

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"Recovering" doesn't mean "recovered." It doesn't mean that an area's economy is above where it was at the beginning of the recession, just that the area has begun to dig its way out of the hole.

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Overall, the index shows 205 [out of 384] metro areas in recovery; 177 in a "moderating recession," meaning their economies were still shrinking but not so severely as a few months earlier; a single metro area still in a full-bore recession: Laredo, Texas; and a single area in expansion, Jacksonville, N.C.

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Our interactive map shows the economic health of every state and metro area. You can "play" the map on this page to watch the economy's ups and downs over 15 years, or select any state to see data for each metro area for each month.
A month-by-month chart shows when the current recession enveloped each metro area.
The updated index will be published every month at There is a lag of about six weeks.
An explainer tells how the Adversity Index assesses the economy.
Many areas include multiple counties, and many cross state lines. This list shows which counties are within each metro area.


Monday, April 19, 2010

Fanged leech pulled from girl's nose

What a great title this article has. The picture is also lovely. If you're trying to lose weight, I recommend reading this at the beginning of the meal. ;-D

By Jennifer Viegas

updated 2:06 p.m. ET, Thurs., April 15, 2010
An enormous-toothed leech, pulled from the nose of a girl who was bathing in a river, has just been documented in the journal PLoS ONE.

Named Tyrannobdella rex, which means "tyrant leech king," the new species of blood sucker sports its "ferociously large teeth" in a single jaw, but is less than 2 inches in length.

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To read the full journal paper, which includes a few additional images, please go to:


Saturday, April 17, 2010

'Good' Bacteria Keep Immune System Primed to Fight Future Infections

ScienceDaily (Feb. 3, 2010) — Scientists have long pondered the seeming contradiction that taking broad-spectrum antibiotics over a long period of time can lead to severe secondary bacterial infections. Now researchers from the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine may have figured out why.

The investigators show that "good" bacteria in the gut keep the immune system primed to more effectively fight infection from invading pathogenic bacteria. Altering the intricate dynamic between resident and foreign bacteria -- via antibiotics, for example -- compromises an animal's immune response, specifically, the function of white blood cells called neutrophils.

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What unemployment extension tiers are you eligible for in your state?

Go to article for the links

April 17, 2010 06:06 PM EDT
by Mike Rheaume

Under the current federally-subsidized unemployment benefits extension program as mandated by last year's American Recovery & Reinvestment Act (ARRA) - the "stimulus" - unemployed citizens can receive up to a maximum of 99 weeks of benefits. However, this differs from state to state because there are four tiers of extensions. The fourth tier (6 weeks) is only available to states that meet the average unemployment rate criteria and "trigger" the extra tier.

Via Michael Thornton over at The Examiner* I found this helpful link at the US Dept. of Labor Office of Workplace Services where you can see what tier your state is currently eligible for, and whether you can claim to collect benefits for that tier if you have exhausted your current tier. The list tracks the "trigger" in place for Tier IV of benefits.

Here is the latest version effective April 18, 2010. Most states are eligible. Is yours?

When or if there will be a Tier V or a similar version of actual extended benefits is up for debate and speculation right now. We will have to see what sort of bills start materializing in Congress next week.


Friday, April 16, 2010

Strange Places to Visit

Really interesting slide show. I'd wish they had given the name of that interesting tree on the first slide, also on slide 7: Socotra Archipelago, Yemen.


Obama signs extension of jobless benefits :-D,0,5723634.story

By Richard Simon
April 16, 2010

Reporting from Washington
President Obama signed an extension of jobless benefits for the long-term unemployed Thursday night that will allow those whose aid expired to apply retroactively.

When Congress passed the measure earlier in the day, it ended, at least for now, a partisan stalemate that highlighted election-year differences over federal spending.

The Senate passed the $18-billion measure, 59 to 38, with the support of 54 Democrats, three Republicans and two independents. Every other Republican opposed it; the other three Democrats were absent.

Hours later, the House passed the bill, 289 to 112.

The measure extends jobless aid through June 2. Democrats, anxious about high unemployment in an election year, are working on separate legislation to extend benefits through the end of the year.

Obama urged them to do so and said, in a statement: "In these tough economic times, it is more critical than ever to bring relief to Americans who are working every day to find a job, and families that are struggling to make ends meet."

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About 212,000 people lost benefits when Congress failed to act before the expiration date, but the measure Obama signed extends the aid retroactively.

"If we do not pass this bill this week, another 200,000 Americans could lose their benefits," Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.) said during debate.

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Sen. Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.) said extending the benefits, which average $335 a week, was not only the humane thing to do but would speed economic recovery by giving money to people who need it most and will spend it right away.

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The bill also extends COBRA health insurance subsidies and federal flood insurance and restores Medicare payments to doctors, who were about to absorb a 21% reduction in payments.

First-time claims for jobless benefits rose by 24,000 last week to a seasonally adjusted 484,000, the highest since late February

More than 11 million jobless workers are collecting some form of unemployment benefits, including nearly 5.7 million receiving extensions, according to the National Employment Law Project.


Taxes at Lowest Levels in 60 Years

April 15, 2010

Despite big tax cuts included last year's economic stimulus package, the latest CBS News/New York Times poll finds that as many as 34% of Americans think President Obama raised their taxes.

William Gale, head of the Tax Policy Center at the Brookings Institution, tells CBS News that federal taxes are actually "at their lowest levels in 60 years."

Said Gale: "The relation between what is said in the tax debate and what is true about tax policy is often quite tenuous. The rise of the Tea Party at at time when taxes are literally at their lowest in decades is really hard to understand."


warmest March on record;_ylt=AhEY.ltrixiImtdf4taGjMqs0NUE;_ylu=X3oDMTFlaXZiZ2syBHBvcwMxMTgEc2VjA2FjY29yZGlvbl9zY2llbmNlBHNsawNhbmR0aGVoZWF0Z28-

By RANDOLPH E. SCHMID, AP Science Writer Randolph E. Schmid, Ap Science Writer – Thu Apr 15, 11:25 am ET
WASHINGTON – And the heat goes on.

Last month was the warmest March on record worldwide, based on records back to 1880, scientists reported Thursday.

The average temperature for the month was 56.3 degrees Fahrenheit (13.5 degrees Celsius), the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reported.

That was 1.39 degrees F (0.77 C) above the average for the month over the 20th century.

NOAA researchers said the warmer-than-normal conditions were especially notable in northern Africa, South Asia, Tibet, Delhi, India and Canada.

Cooler-than-normal regions included Mongolia and eastern Russia, northern and western Europe, Mexico, northern Australia, western Alaska and the southeastern United States.

Contributing to the record month was El Nino, a periodic warming of the tropical Pacific Ocean that, combined with changes in winds and air pressure, can affect weather worldwide.

In addition, climate researchers have been reporting rising global temperatures for several years as a result of what is called the "greenhouse effect," in which rising levels of carbon dioxide and others gases in the atmosphere trap heat instead of allowing it to escape into space.

NOAA also reported that in March Arctic sea ice, which normally reaches its maximum in that month, covered an average of 5.8 million square miles (15.1 million square kilometers).

That was 4.1 percent below the 1979-2000 average expanse, and the fifth-smallest March coverage since records began in 1979.


Thursday, April 15, 2010

Unemployment extension passes House

updated 20 minutes ago

Extension will pay for unemployment insurance through June 2

WASHINGTON - The Senate and House passed an $18 billion bill on Thursday to restore unemployment benefits for people who have been out of a job for months and resume Medicare payments to doctors about to absorb a 21 percent cut.

After the Senate passed the measure, the House followed suit and sent it for President Barack Obama's signature Thursday night.

The vote comes as welcome relief to hundreds of thousands of people who have been ineligible to reapply for additional weeks of benefits after exhausting their state-paid benefits. They will be able to receive those checks retroactively under the legislation.

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Good News for Unemployed - Unemployment Extension Passes Senate

I'm happy about this for my friends and relatives who have been out of work for a long time. They would rather have a job, but those are hard to come by now

First Posted: 04-15-10 06:20 PM | Updated: 04-15-10 06:47 PM

The Senate on Thursday [today 04-15-10] reauthorized jobless aid programs which had lapsed after an epic congressional delay that jeopardized emergency unemployment benefits for hundreds of thousands of people. Republicans Olympia Snowe (R-Maine), Susan Collins (R-Maine) and George Voinovich (R-Ohio) joined Democrats to break a GOP filibuster.

The bill extends through the end of May eligibility for Emergency Unemployment Compensation, subsidized COBRA health insurance for laid-off workers, and also the National Flood Insurance Program and increased Medicare reimbursement rates for doctors.


Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Avoiding rare but large dangers

On the radio a couple of days ago, NPR interviewed someone about in connection with the plane crash that killed so many important people in Poland. It was pointed out the large corporations often have rules limiting the number of high executives who can take the same plane, or even get a room on the same floor of a hotel. The interviewer asked if this were really necessary, because the risk of a plane crash was so small. The answer was that, yes the risk was very small, but it was wise to guard against it because the results would be so harmful.

The same logic applies to global warming. Except that we know it's happening; what is unknown is how bad it will be. The worst possibilities are very bad indeed.


Urban CO2 Domes Increase Deaths, Poke Hole in Cap-and-Trade Proposal

ScienceDaily (Mar. 19, 2010) — Everyone knows that carbon dioxide, the main greenhouse gas driving climate change, is a global problem. Now a Stanford study has shown it is also a local problem, hurting city dwellers' health much more than rural residents', because of the carbon dioxide "domes" that develop over urban areas.

That finding, said researcher Mark Z. Jacobson, exposes a serious oversight in current cap-and-trade proposals for reducing emissions of heat-trapping gases, which make no distinction based on a pollutant's point of origin. The finding also provides the first scientific basis for controlling local carbon dioxide emissions based on their local health impacts.

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Jacobson found that domes of increased carbon dioxide concentrations -- discovered to form above cities more than a decade ago -- cause local temperature increases that in turn increase the amounts of local air pollutants, raising concentrations of health-damaging ground-level ozone, as well as particles in urban air.

In modeling the health impacts for the contiguous 48 states, for California and for the Los Angeles area, he determined an increase in the death rate from air pollution for all three regions compared to what the rate would be if no local carbon dioxide were being emitted.

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"It doesn't mean you can never do something like cap and trade," he added. "It just means that you need to consider where the CO2 emissions are occurring."

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In addition to the changes he observed in local air pollutants, Jacobson found that there was increased stability of the air column over a city, which slowed the dispersal of pollutants, further adding to the increased pollutant concentrations.

Jacobson estimated an increase in premature mortality of 50 to 100 deaths per year in California and 300 to 1,000 for the contiguous 48 states.

"This study establishes a basis for controlling CO2 based on local health impacts," he said.

Current estimates of the annual air pollution-related death toll in the U.S. is 50-100,000.


Protected Forest Areas May Be Critical Strategy for Slowing Climate Change

ScienceDaily (Mar. 30, 2010) — A new study involving scientists from 13 different organizations, universities and research institutions states that forest protection offers one of the most effective, practical, and immediate strategies to combat climate change. The study was published in PLoS Biology and makes specific recommendations for incorporating protected areas into overall strategies to reduce emissions of greenhouse gasses from deforestation and degradation (nicknamed REDD).

"Deforestation leads to about 15 percent of the world's greenhouse gas emissions, more than all the cars, trucks, trains, ships, and planes on earth. If we fail to reduce it, we'll fail to stabilize our climate," said Taylor Ricketts, director of World Wildlife Fund's science program and lead author of the study. "Our paper emphasizes that creating and strengthening indigenous lands and other protected areas can offer an effective means to cut emissions while garnering numerous additional benefits for local people and wildlife."

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Taxing the Rich, Over Time

April 13, 2010, 8:56 pm

If we had good numbers on the distribution of state and local taxes, the picture would be even more pronounced. These taxes tend to be less progressive [aka "more regressive"] than federal taxes, in part because sales taxes are a larger part of state and local revenue. And sales taxes take a bigger percentage out of a middle-class family’s income than an affluent family’s income.

With all this being said, it is also true — as you often hear — that the wealthy are paying more in taxes than they used to. The top 0.01 percent paid 6.5 percent of all federal taxes in 2005, up from 2.7 percent in 1979. More broadly, the top 1 percent paid 27.6 percent of federal taxes in 2005, up from 15.4 percent in 1979. (You sometimes hear larger numbers, but they tend to apply only to income taxes, rather than to all federal taxes.)

So what’s the full story? In brief, tax rates for the wealthy have fallen more than for other income groups. Tax rates for the very wealthy have fallen more than they have for the merely wealthy. Incomes at the top have also increased much more quickly than incomes have for other groups.

Add it all up, and you can see why the wealthy are paying a greater share of federal taxes even though they are paying less tax on each dollar they earn. They’re simply making many more dollars than they used to.


Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Jobless benefits clear GOP roadblock

updated 7:09 p.m. ET, Mon., April 12, 2010
WASHINGTON - Democrats in the Senate won an initial skirmish Monday to restore unemployment benefits to hundreds of thousands of jobless people despite Republican criticism that it would add $9 billion to the nation's debt.

The 60-34 vote killed a GOP filibuster against debating the measure, which would extend jobless benefits through May 5 along with short-term extensions of several other lapsed programs.

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Republicans think it's ok to add to the national debt for the sake of the ultra-rich, but not for the working people.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Walking shrinks women's stroke risk


updated 4:15 p.m. ET, Tues., April 6, 2010
DALLAS - Women can lower their stroke risk by lacing up their sneakers and walking, a new study suggests.

Women who said they walked briskly had a 37 percent lower risk of stroke than those who didn't walk. Women who reported walking at least two hours a week at any pace had a 30 percent lower risk, according to a study published online Tuesday in the American Heart Association journal Stroke.

While previous studies have shown that physical activity decreases the chances of having a stroke, the new study focused on what kind of exercise might be most beneficial for women.

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Those walking at a brisk pace should be able to talk — but not sing, he said.

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Besides walking, the study looked at vigorous activities like running, swimming and biking, but researchers didn't find a link between those vigorous activities and a reduced stroke risk. The researcher said there may not have been enough women in that group to show a difference. It's also possible, they said, that moderate activity is better at lowering blood pressure, a strong risk factor for stroke.

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In addition to high blood pressure, risk factors for stroke include heart disease, Type 2 diabetes and obesity.


Northeast Hit With Devastating Floods, As Federal Flood Insurance Expires Due To GOP Obstruction

By Pat Garofalo on Apr 2nd, 2010 at 11:40 am

Last week, Senate Republicans, led by Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK), blocked an extension of unemployment benefits, claiming that they objected to granting the extension without offsetting it with a spending cut elsewhere. Last month, Sen. Jim Bunning (R-KY) and a handful of his Republican allies did the same thing, with Bunning telling Democrats who wanted to pass an extension by unanimous consent “tough sh*t.”

But it wasn’t only unemployment benefits that expired: the same package that the Republicans blocked also included extenders for the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). And the critical nature of NFIP was brought into the spotlight this week, as many northeastern states have been battered with record amounts of rainfall, which has led to widespread flooding.

Flooding in Rhode Island was the worst it’s been in 100 years, with some rivers “several feet above all-time records.” Boston saw its wettest March since record keeping began in 1872, while “bridges and highways have washed out from Maine to Connecticut and sewage systems have been overwhelmed to the point that families were asked to stop flushing toilets.” National Guard troops have been mobilized to aid residents in both Rhode Island and Massachusetts.

According to the Property Casualty Insurers Association of America, there are 5.5 million flood insurance policy holders in flood plains, and as of this week, homeowners were rendered unable to renew their policies. If any of those homeowners were victims of the current flooding, they will “face complications” filing claims. As Blain Rethmeier, spokesman for the American Insurance Association, put it, “it’s unfortunate that the NFIP has fallen victim to the political process”:

Ultimately the people who will suffer the most are property owners who need new coverage or who need to renew their flood insurance policies. One can only hope that Mother Nature is kind until April 12. Otherwise, there’s not much people can do.

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Smoking may increase risk of MS

updated 7:28 p.m. ET, Wed., April 7, 2010
WASHINGTON - Smoking may increase the risk of multiple sclerosis in people who have other risk factors for the neurological disorder, researchers said Wednesday.

The findings suggest that smokers who have high levels of a protein that protects against the Epstein-Barr virus, a common herpes virus, were twice as likely as nonsmokers to get multiple sclerosis (MS), the researchers wrote in the online edition of the journal Neurology.

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Animals Living Without Oxygen Discovered for First Time

Charles Q. Choi
LiveScience Contributor – Thu Apr 8, 8:30 am ET

A wide variety of single-celled organisms that live anaerobically, or without oxygen, had been found in the past, usually deep underwater or deep underground. But researchers had not found a multi-cellular or metazoan animal that did so until now - the giant tube worms that live by hydrothermal vents, for instance, rely on dissolved oxygen.

In the past decade or so, researcher Roberto Danovaro at the Polytechnic University of Marche in Ancona, Italy, and his colleagues conducted three expeditions off the south coast of Greece looking for signs of life in samples of mud from deep, hyper-salty basins in the Mediterranean Sea more than 10,000 feet (3,250 meters) deep. These basins are completely anoxic, or oxygen-free, and loaded with toxic levels of sulfides.

In these extremes, the investigators were only expecting to see viruses, bacteria and other microbes. The bodies of multi-cellular animals had previously been discovered in these sediments, "but were thought to have sunk there from upper, oxygenated, waters," explained Danovaro.

Instead, "our results indicate that the animals we recovered were alive," Danovaro said. "Some, in fact, also contained eggs."

These creatures, which measure less than 1 millimeter long, are known as loriciferans. They somewhat resemble jellyfish sprouting from a conical shell.

Electron microscopy revealed the three new species of loriciferans the researchers discovered lack mitochondria, the energy-making organelles or components in our cells that allow us to generate energy from oxygen among other functions. Instead, they possess large numbers of organelles resembling hydrogenosomes - anaerobic forms of mitochondria - that were previously seen in single-celled organisms inhabiting no-oxygen environments.

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What The Top U.S. Companies Pay In Taxes

Christopher Helman, 04.01.10, 03:00 PM EDT

HOUSTON -- As you work on your taxes this month, here's something to raise your hackles: Some of the world's biggest, most profitable corporations enjoy a far lower tax rate than you do--that is, if they pay taxes at all.

The most egregious example is General Electric ( GE - news - people ). Last year the conglomerate generated $10.3 billion in pretax income, but ended up owing nothing to Uncle Sam. In fact, it recorded a tax benefit of $1.1 billion.

Avoiding taxes is nothing new for General Electric. In 2008 its effective tax rate was 5.3%; in 2007 it was 15%. The marginal U.S. corporate rate is 35%.

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Thursday, April 08, 2010

New study of autism reveals a 'DNA tag' (methylation) amenable to treatment

Public release date: 8-Apr-2010
Contact: Cody Mooneyhan
Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology

Research in the FASEB Journal describes discrete epigenetic changes of DNA in a certain subgroup of twins and siblings with autism
A new discovery raises hope that autism may be more easily diagnosed and that its effects may be more reversible than previously thought. In a new study appearing online in The FASEB Journal (, scientists have identified a way to detect the disorder using blood and have discovered that drugs which affect the methylation state ("DNA tagging") of genes could reverse autism's effects. This type of drug is already being used in some cancer treatments.

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To make their discovery, Hu and colleagues identified chemical changes in DNA taken from cells of identical twins and sibling pairs, in which only one of the twins or siblings was diagnosed with autism.

So these are cases of autism most likely to be caused by environmental affects after conception. Which does not preclude a pre-existing susceptibility to the problem.

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"For far too long, autism research has been side-tracked by the cranky notion that it's caused by the MMR vaccine," said Gerald Weissmann, M.D., Editor-in-Chief of The FASEB Journal. "Studies like this, which define genetic and epigenetic changes in discrete subgroups of the autism spectrum, offer real hope that effective treatments and accurate diagnosis are closer at hand."


The epigenetic findings are also evidence for some kind of environmental influence or cause of autism. Not the MMR vaccine, but probably other chemical pollutants. There is already evidence for this.

This is very hopeful news, as mythelation of genes can be reversed. I would call it a temporary mutation. Once a gene in a cell is mythelated, it may pass that on when it divides, including to eggs and sperm. But mythelation and the removal of mythelation can be done by exposure to such things as nutrition and pollutants.


Social influence playing role in surging autism diagnoses

Social influence plays a substantial role in the surging number of autism diagnoses, according to a study published in the American Journal of Sociology.

The study, by researchers from the Institute for Social and Economic Research and Policy at Columbia University, found that children living near a child who has been previously diagnosed with autism have a much higher chance of being diagnosed themselves in the following year. The increased likelihood of being diagnosed is not due to environmental factors or contagious agents, the study found. Rather, it is due mainly to parents learning about autism from other parents who have a child diagnosed with the disorder.

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The study also showed the proximity effect to be strongest among children on the milder side of the autism spectrum. That is also consistent with a social influence explanation, Dr. Bearman says. "Parents of severely disabled kids are more likely to recognize the disorder without needing input from social contacts," he said. "So we would expect to see a weaker proximity effect there, and that's exactly what we found."

The data set used in the study allowed the researchers to judge just how strong the influence effect is compared to other factors that may be driving the epidemic. For example, previous studies have found a link between autism and parents' ages. Parents today are having children later in life, and that could be causing autism cases to increase. Other studies have found that parents' education plays a role as well. Better educated parents may be more likely to obtain a diagnosis for their children.

The Columbia team found that each of these factors plays a role in the epidemic, but that the social influence phenomenon was the strongest. The researchers estimate that the proximity effect explains about 16 percent of the recent increases in autism diagnoses. Put another way, if no child lived within 500 meters of a child with autism, there would be a 16 percent reduction in autism diagnoses. That effect was stronger than the other factors tested. The mother's age explained about 11 percent of the increase. The mother's education accounted for 9 percent.


The researchers are not saying that social influence affects whether or not a child has autism. What it affects is whether a child is diagnosed as being autistic.


An Honest Facebook Political Argument

The following link is funny and so true.

by Chase Mitchell on March 31, 2010


Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Unemployment benefits expire for at least 212,000 Monday

From Brianna Keilar, CNN
April 5, 2010 2:34 p.m. EDT

(CNN) -- Extended unemployment benefits will temporarily expire for thousands of Americans on Monday because the Senate went on its spring recess without approving a one-month deadline extension.

The extension, which had bipartisan support, would have cost about $10 billion, but a lone Republican, Sen. Tom Coburn, said no until the costs are offset.

The Oklahoma senator objected to a commonly used unanimous-consent agreement to pass the bill under emergency conditions, even if it increases the federal deficit. Coburn wants to eliminate additional government spending to pay for the bill.

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About 11.5 million people currently depend on jobless benefits. The average unemployment period lasts 32.1 weeks. Of those unemployed, a record 44.1 percent of have been jobless for 27 weeks or more.


Monday, April 05, 2010

Census Data Aid Disease Simulation Studies

ScienceDaily (Apr. 1, 2010) — Did you know that filling out your census card will help computer scientists model how diseases spread in the United States?

Over the last four years, researchers at RTI International in North Carolina have been transforming data from the 2000 census -- which described the country's 281 million people and 116 million households -- into a virtual U.S. population. They finished the "synthetic population" last year, and they plan to update it when the 2010 census results come out.

The scientists developed the synthetic population as part of the National Institute of General Medical Sciences' Models of Infectious Disease Agent Study (MIDAS) ( at the National Institutes of Health. By integrating the population into their computer models, MIDAS researchers can better simulate the spread of an infectious outbreak through a community and identify the best ways to intervene.

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Chemical Exposure Before Mid-30s May Be Critical in Breast Cancer Development

ScienceDaily (Apr. 1, 2010) — Occupational exposure to certain chemicals and pollutants before a woman reaches her mid-30s could treble her risk of developing cancer after the menopause, suggests research published in Occupational and Environmental Medicine.

Women exposed to synthetic fibres and petroleum products during the course of their work seem to be most at risk, the research suggests.

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An expert team of chemists and industrial hygienists then set about investigating the women's levels of exposure to around 300 different substances throughout the course of their employment history.

After taking account of the usual factors associated with an increased risk of breast cancer, the analysis indicated a link between occupational exposure to several of these substances.

Compared with the comparison group, this risk peaked for exposures before the age of 36, and was magnified with each additional decade of exposure before this age.

This resulted in women occupationally exposed to acrylic fibres running a seven-fold risk of breast cancer, while those exposed to nylon fibres almost doubled their risk.

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Sunday, April 04, 2010

Florida Senators gave staffers raises despite state worker salary cuts

Posted on Monday, March 22, 2010
By Marc Caputo | The Miami Herald

After the Legislature decided to cut state-worker pay last year, Florida senators did the opposite, passing out $183,000 in annual pay raises and promotions to some staffers.

In all, 61 Senate employees who now earn $45,000 or more received pay increases. A few earned raises in May just as the Legislature prepared to vote on a 2 percent pay cut for all state workers earning more than $45,000 yearly.

Gov. Charlie Crist then vetoed the pay-cut language. Soon after, the Senate started increasing more salaries.

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Perils of Plastics? Survey of Risks to Human Health and the Environment

ScienceDaily (Mar. 20, 2010) — Plastics surround us. A vital manufacturing ingredient for nearly every existing industry, these materials appear in a high percentage of the products we use every day. Although modern life would be hard to imagine without this versatile chemistry, products composed of plastics also have a dark side, due in part to the very characteristics that make them so desirable -- their durability and longevity.

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Today, plastics accumulate in garbage dumps and landfills and are sullying the world's oceans in ever-greater quantity. And plastics and their additives aren't just around us, they are inside virtually every one of us -- present in our blood and urine in measureable amounts, ingested with the food we eat, the water we drink and from other sources.

Halden's study reiterates the fact that the effects to the environment from plastic waste are acute. Measurements from the most contaminated regions of the world's oceans show that the mass of plastics exceeds that of plankton sixfold. Patches of oceanic garbage -- some as large as the state of Texas -- hold a high volume of non-biodegradable plastics. Aquatic birds and fish are increasingly victims because biodegradation processes are inadequate to eliminate this durable refuse.

The magnitude of society's burden of plastic waste is only beginning to be fully appreciated. In the U.S., the average person produces a half-pound of plastic waste every day. Around the world, some 300 million tons of the material are produced each year -- a figure poised to expand, as new forms of plastics are devised to serve a voracious global appetite. As Halden points out, this annual production alone would fill a series of train cars encircling the globe. "We're doomed to live with yesterday's plastic pollution and we are exacerbating the situation with each day of unchanged behavior," he said.

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Two broad classes of plastic-related chemicals are of critical concern for human health -- bisphenol-A or BPA, and additives used in the synthesis of plastics, which are known as phthalates.

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BPA has been recognized since the 1940s as an endocrine disrupting chemical that interferes with normal hormonal function.

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Halden explains that while plastics have legitimate uses of benefit to society, their brazen misuse has led to a radically unsustainable condition. "Today, there's a complete mismatch between the useful lifespan of the products we consume and their persistence in the environment." Prominent examples of offending products are the ubiquitous throwaway water bottles, Teflon-coated dental floss and cotton swabs made with plastic PVC sticks. All are typically used for a matter of seconds or minutes, yet are essentially non-biodegradable and will persist in the environment, sometimes for millennia[thousands of years].

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Daughter turns mom in for Ponzi scheme

It seems to me that the stock market and various Wall Street doings are ponzi schemes. But they don't go to jail, they get bailed out by the government.

By Mike Celizic contributor
updated 10:28 a.m. ET, Fri., April 2, 2010

Would you have the courage to turn your own mother in to authorities in order to stop a Ponzi scheme?

That wasn’t a rhetorical question for Kim Flanigan, who faced just such a dilemma when it became apparent that her widowed mother was involved as both a participant and a recruiter for a classic get-rich-quick scheme that had already ensnared 100 or more people.

When Flanigan heard her mother trying to convince a widow with nine children to invest her life savings in the scheme, she knew she had no choice.

“That was my breaking point,” Flanigan told TODAY’s Ann Curry Friday in New York. Rather than watch a widow lose money she desperately needed, Flanigan called state and federal officials. Her courageous act would bring down a $50 million Ponzi scheme and put its three ringleaders in federal prison. For a time, Flanigan’s mother as well as an aunt were also under investigation, but authorities eventually decided they were more victims than victimizers and filed no charges.

One reason the scam worked so well is because it preyed on churchgoing people. The widow Flanigan’s mom was trying to recruit was a member of her church. One of the three ringleaders of the investment scheme was an associate pastor of a church in California.

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Such frauds are called “affinity schemes” because they prey on people with natural affinities.

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Kim and David realized early on that it was all a scam, but they couldn’t convince her mother or aunt of that.

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David Flanigan said that once people had invested their belief and their money in the scam, it was hard for them to back away and admit they’d been taken.

“They had a lot invested. No one wantsto feel that they were made a fool of, that they were taken advantage of,”

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Saturday, April 03, 2010

Employment-Population Ratio, Part Time Workers, Unemployed over 26 Weeks

Friday, April 02, 2010


Employment Change Per Industry

Has a table of employment changes for various industries. It's hard to find this info. Most industries showed growth last month (March). Unfortunately, my own, Information Services, was one of the few that continued to decline.

Friday, April 2, 2010


Economy Adds Jobs

After losing eight million jobs since the recession began in December 2007, payrolls finally surged in March, the Labor Department reported on Friday. Employers added 162,000 nonfarm jobs last month. Nationwide, the unemployment rate held steady at 9.7 percent.

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The economy needs to add more than 100,000 jobs a month just to absorb new entrants into the labor market, let alone provide a livelihood for the 15 million Americans already looking for work.

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The March report may have been inflated, though, by a rebound from February when many people could not work because of snowstorms. Additionally, nearly a third of the hiring in March was temporary work on the 2010 census.

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Many of the jobs created last month were part time for people who really wanted full-time work. That caused the broader measure of unemployment along with those who are underemployed to tick up, to 16.9 percent, from 16.8 percent in February.

The situation looks worse for the long-term unemployed. The average length of time the jobless have been out of work has reached 31.2 weeks, the longest period since the government began keeping records in 1948.

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Even though the census jobs are just for a few months, I hope they will have a longer-lasting effect, since more people will have some money to spend, which could lead to more jobs for others.


Friday, April 02, 2010

Tea Party Advocates Who Scorn Socialism Want a Government Job

March 26 (Bloomberg) -- Tea Party activists, who are becoming a force in U.S. politics, want the federal government out of their lives except when it comes to creating jobs.

More than 90 percent of Tea Party backers interviewed in a new Bloomberg National Poll say the U.S. is verging more toward socialism than capitalism, the federal government is trying to control too many aspects of private life and more decisions should be made at the state level.

At the same time, 70 percent of those who sympathize with the Tea Party, which organized protests this week against President Barack Obama’s health-care overhaul, want a federal government that fosters job creation.

They also look to the government to rein in Wall Street, with almost half saying the government should do something about executive bonuses. Supporters are also conflicted over whether private-enterprise elements should be introduced into government programs like Social Security and Medicare.

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Studies Reveal Substantial Increases in Non-Melanoma Skin Cancers

ScienceDaily (Mar. 16, 2010) — Both new diagnoses and a history of non-melanoma skin cancer appear to have become increasingly common, and the disease affects more individuals than all other cancers combined, according to two reports in the March issue of Archives of Dermatology.

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Non-melanoma skin cancer is the most common malignant disease in the United States, according to background information in one of the articles. The disease is associated with substantial illness and cost, and a death rate that is lower than other cancers but still significant.

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"Skin cancer needs to be regarded as a chronic disease and should not be considered a solitary event requiring the treatment of one tumor," they conclude. "Combining these strategies in a disease management system will lead to efficient, evidence-based, high-quality care to help dermatologists deal proactively with chronic diseases such as skin cancer."


Insurance Industry Already Finding Ways to Game New System

A lot of the deficiencies in the health care bill are due to catering to Republicans for promises of votes, then every one of the Republicans voted against the bill.

Published on Wednesday, March 31, 2010 by The Huffington Post
by Dan Froomkin

The insurance industry's attempt to weasel out of one of the few provisions of the new health care reform law that took effect immediately is a harbinger of what's to come.

In this case, the companies that were balking at covering sick children quickly relented under media, congressional and White House pressure.

But far from being satisfied with a windfall of new customers and massive government subsidies, the nation's insurance companies appear to already be busy devising ways to game the new system. Their goal, as ever: Maximizing profits by paying out as little on actual health care as possible.

And next time they start to weasel, Congress and the White House -- and the media -- may not be paying attention anymore.

"This is what you're going to see as each element in this plan comes up for implementation," said Marcia Angell, a former editor of The New England Journal of Medicine who now teaches at Harvard Medical School. "This insurance industry is going to give up nothing."

In the short run, companies are expected to keep doing what they've been doing, which means, among other things, jacking up their rates. "There's nothing to stop them from raising their premiums, and that's what they're going to do," said Angell, a supporter of "single-payer" health insurance.

The new law's ban on discriminating against adults with preexisting conditions doesn't kick in until 2014.

"In the meantime, they can continue to cherry pick the healthiest customers, while foisting the sick into the new high-risk pool," said Wendell Potter, a former senior health insurance executive at CIGNA who went rogue and became a consumer advocate.

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Angell also pointed out that there's been very little coverage of the fact that insurance companies will still be allowed to charge older people (over age 55) much more than younger people. Three times as much, to be precise.

As a result, people between ages 55 and 65 (when Medicare kicks in) who don't have enough income to pay high premiums will be left with two options: Not buying insurance and being hit with a fine; or paying premiums they can't afford.

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Thursday, April 01, 2010

New 'Smart' Roof Reads the Thermometer, Saves Energy in Hot and Cold Climates

ScienceDaily (Mar. 31, 2010) — Top a building with a light-colored "cool roof," and it reflects sunlight, cutting air conditioning bills in summer, but increasing winter heating costs. Choose black shingles, and the roof soaks up sunlight to cut winter heating costs but makes the roof bake in the summer sun. One or the other. You can't have it both ways.

Until now.

Scientists reported the development of a "smart" roof coating, made from waste cooking oil from fast food restaurants, that can "read" a thermometer. The coating automatically switches roles, reflecting or transmitting solar heat, when the outdoor temperature crosses a preset point that can be tuned to the local climate.

They described the coating at the 239th National Meeting of the American Chemical Society (ACS) in San Francisco.

Roofs coated with the material would reflect scorching summer sunlight and reduce sticker-shock air-conditioning bills. When chilly weather sets in, the coating would change roles and transmit heat to help warm the interior.

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Wen cautions against pouring ordinary cooking oil on a roof in an attempt to achieve a similar energy-saving effect. That's because ordinary cooking oil won't turn into a polymer, doesn't contain the key ingredient for controlling infrared light levels, and could well pose a fire hazard for the building.