Saturday, July 31, 2010

Right turn etiquette

Some years ago, the Congress enacted a low that red lights would be "stop on red, turn right when clear" unless otherwise marked. I think a whole state can opt out. Don't remember about smaller entities. I think this is a good law, but some people misuse it. If someone on the crosswise road is making a (legal) left turn, they have the right of way, and your way is not "clear". And it is usually far easier to make a right turn than a left turn. Whatever your religious beliefs, a good rule is to do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

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Worst floods in a decade in China, 30,000 trapped Advertisement | ad info

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updated 7/28/2010 11:16:32 AM ET

BEIJING — Floods caused by heavy rains in northeastern China stranded tens of thousands of residents without power Wednesday, as the worst flooding in more than a decade continued to besiege many areas of the country.

Floods this year have killed at least 928 people with 477 missing and caused tens of billions of dollars in damage, the State Flood Control and Drought Prevention office reported. More heavy rains were expected for the southeast, southwest and northeast parts of the country through Thursday.

About 30,000 residents in Kouqian town were trapped in their homes after torrential rains drenched the northeastern province of Jilin on Wednesday, the official Xinhua News Agency reported. Water began flooding the town after the nearby Xingshan Reservoir and the Wende and Songhua rivers overflowed and rescue crews were delivering supplies by boat and moving people to higher ground, state television reported.

Flooding has hit areas all over China. Thousands of workers sandbagged riverbanks and checked reservoirs in preparation for potential floods expected to flow from the swollen Yangtze and Han rivers, an official with the Yangtze Water Resources Commission said Wednesday. He gave only his surname, Zhang, as is common with Chinese officials.

"Right now, the Han river in Hubei province is on the verge breaching warning levels," Zhang said.

The Han is expected to rise this week to its highest level in two decades, Xinhua reported. The flood threat was greater than usual because the Yangtze, into which the Han flows, was also reaching peak levels, it said.

Workers were prepared to blast holes in the Han embankment to divert flood waters into a low-lying area of farms and fish ponds, from which more than 5,000 people were evacuated, Xinhua said.

Although China experiences heavy rains every summer, flooding this year is the worst in more than a decade because the flood-prone Yangtze River Basin has seen 15 percent more rain than in an average year, Duan Yihong, director of the National Meteorological Center, said in a transcript of an interview Wednesday posted on the Xinhua website.

More than 800 dead in Pakistan floods

More flooding.

NOWSHERA, Pakistan — The death toll in the massive flooding in Pakistan surged past 800 as floodwaters receded Saturday in the hard-hit northwest, an official said. The damage to roads, bridges and communications networks hindered rescuers, while the threat of disease loomed as some evacuees arrived in camps with fever, diarrhea and skin problems.

Even for a country used to tragedy — especially deadly suicide attacks by Taliban militants — the scale of this past week's flooding has been shocking. Monsoon rains come every year, but rarely with such fury. The devastation came in the wake of the worst-ever plane crash in Pakistan, which killed 152 people in Islamabad on Wednesday.

In neighboring eastern Afghanistan, floods killed 64 people and injured 61 others in the past week, while destroying hundreds of homes and huge stretches of farmland, according to Matin Edrak, director of the Afghan government's disaster department.

As rivers swelled in Pakistan's northwest, people sought ever-shrinking high ground or grasped for trees and fences to avoid getting swept away. Buildings simply crumbled into the raging river in Kalam, a town in the northern part of the Swat Valley, Geo TV showed Saturday.

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Chemicals Are Likely Cause of Feminization of Fish Present in Two Rivers in Alberta, Canada

ScienceDaily (July 30, 2010) — Chemicals present in two rivers in southern Alberta are likely the cause of the feminization of fish say researchers at the University of Calgary who have published results of their study in the journal Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry.

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The study focused on two rivers in the South Saskatchewan River Basin: The Red Deer and Oldman rivers, located in southern Alberta, Canada. The water was analyzed for more than two dozen organic contaminants, many with hormone-like activity, commonly found in wastewater or rivers impacted by human and agricultural activity. Compounds detected in the water included synthetic estrogens (birth control pill compounds and hormone therapy drugs); bisphenol A, a chemical used in making plastics; and certain types of natural and synthetic steroids that are byproducts of agricultural run-off and cattle farming.

Researchers tested a native minnow, longnose dace (Rhinichthys cataractae), and found that at nearly every site, 14 out of 15 locations, males showed elevated levels of a protein, hepatic vitellogenin, which is normally only found in the blood of females and is used by females to produce eggs.

Co-author Hamid Habibi says the results downstream of two communities are striking.

"Most notably, we saw a significant increase in a specific protein marker for the presence of compounds with estrogen-like activity in areas downstream, south of Fort Macleod and Lethbridge. Our results showed females make up 85 per cent of the population of longnose dace. In the upstream locations, females comprise 55 per cent of the population," says Habibi, who is also the director of the newly established Institute of Environmental Toxicology at the University of Calgary.


Friday, July 30, 2010

To Make One Happy, Make One Busy

ScienceDaily (July 29, 2010) — A new study in Psychological Science found that people who have something to do, even something pointless, are happier than people who sit idly.

In Greek mythology, the gods punished Sisyphus by condemning him to roll a rock up a steep hill for eternity. But he was probably better off than if they'd condemned him to sit and stare into space until the end of time, conclude the authors of a new study on keeping busy. They found that people who have something to do, even something pointless, are happier than people who sit idly.

"The general phenomenon I'm interested in is why people are so busy doing what they are doing in modern society," says Christopher K. Hsee, of the University of Chicago. He co-wrote the study with Adelle X. Yang, also of the University of Chicago, and Liangyan Wang, of Shanghai Jiaotong University. "People are running around, working hard, way beyond the basic level." Sure, there are reasons, like making a living, earning money, accruing fame, helping others, and so on. But, Hsee says, "I think there's something deeper: We have excessive energy and we want to avoid idleness."

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Calcium Supplements Linked to Increased Risk of Heart Attack

ScienceDaily (July 30, 2010) — Calcium supplements, commonly taken by older people for osteoporosis, are associated with an increased risk of a heart attack, finds a study published online in the British Medical Journal.

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To further investigate this important issue, an international team of researchers analysed the results of 11 randomised controlled trials of calcium supplements (without co-administered vitamin D) involving 12,000 patients.

They found that calcium supplements were associated with about a 30% increased risk of heart attack and smaller, non-significant, increases in the risk of stroke and mortality.

Previous studies have found no increased cardiovascular risks with higher dietary calcium intake, suggesting that the risks are restricted to supplements.


Thursday, July 29, 2010

GOP Opposes Federal Fracking Regs REGARDLESS of Whether EPA Finds Poisoning

by: David Sirota
Thu Jul 29, 2010 at 12:19

As natural gas exploration expands throughout our energy starved nation - from the West and now into the South and Northeast - many folks living in drilling country are rightfully expressing concern that their groundwater may be susceptible to pollution from the fracking fluids that are central to drilling operations. These are very legitimate fears, as HBO's critically acclaimed documentary "Gasland" so graphically shows. And yet, to date, the Republican Party has expressed a rather callous "drill first, never ask questions later" attitude - callous, even for the GOP.

During the Bush years, Republicans managed to legislate an exemption for fracking fluid into the Clean Water Act. Then, Republicans in Congress blocked the proposed FRAC Act, which wouldn't even ban fracking fluid - it would simply require drilling companies to disclose what's in the fluids they are pumping into the earth near critical groundwater supplies. And now, in perhaps the most extreme step yet, Republicans here in Colorado (a state with one of the biggest natural gas reserves in the world) are demanding the Environmental Protection Agency never regulate fracking, regardless of whether or not the agency discovers that fracking is poisoning people.

As natural gas exploration expands throughout our energy starved nation - from the West and now into the South and Northeast - many folks living in drilling country are rightfully expressing concern that their groundwater may be susceptible to pollution from the fracking fluids that are central to drilling operations. These are very legitimate fears, as HBO's critically acclaimed documentary "Gasland" so graphically shows. And yet, to date, the Republican Party has expressed a rather callous "drill first, never ask questions later" attitude - callous, even for the GOP.

During the Bush years, Republicans managed to legislate an exemption for fracking fluid into the Clean Water Act. Then, Republicans in Congress blocked the proposed FRAC Act, which wouldn't even ban fracking fluid - it would simply require drilling companies to disclose what's in the fluids they are pumping into the earth near critical groundwater supplies. And now, in perhaps the most extreme step yet, Republicans here in Colorado (a state with one of the biggest natural gas reserves in the world) are demanding the Environmental Protection Agency never regulate fracking, regardless of whether or not the agency discovers that fracking is poisoning people.

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Hands-only CPR enough to save a life

The article includes a video on how to do CPR.

updated 7/28/2010 7:42:38 PM ET

ATLANTA — More bystanders are willing to attempt CPR if an emergency dispatcher gives them firm and direct instructions — especially if they can just press on the chest and skip the mouth-to-mouth, according to new research.

The two new studies conclude that "hands-only" chest compression is enough to save a life. They are the largest and most rigorous yet to suggest that breathing into a victim's mouth isn't needed in most cases.

The American Heart Association has been promoting hands-only CPR for two years, though it's not clear how much it's caught on. The new studies should encourage dispatchers and bystanders to be more aggressive about using the simpler technique.

"That could translate into hundreds if not thousands of additional lives saved each year. What are we waiting for?" said Dr. Arthur Kellermann, a RAND Corporation expert on emergency medicine.

An estimated 310,000 Americans die each year of cardiac arrest outside hospitals or in emergency rooms. Only about 6 percent of those who are stricken outside a hospital survive.

When someone collapses and stops breathing, many people panic and believe that phoning 911 is the best they can do to help.

The larger of the two new studies reported survival rates of about 12 percent when bystanders did dispatcher-directed CPR, confirming earlier research that on-scene CPR can dramatically increase a victim's odds of survival.

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Last decade warmest on record, indicators in decline

updated 7/28/2010 4:34:09 PM ET

WASHINGTON — Not only was the past decade the warmest on record, but climate indicators being tracked globally are worsening, scientists reported Wednesday in their annual "State of the Climate."

"A comprehensive review of key climate indicators confirms the world is warming and the past decade was the warmest" since recordkeeping began in 1870, declares the report, which was released by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Compiled by more than 300 scientists from 48 countries, the report said its analysis of 10 indicators that are "clearly and directly related to surface temperatures, all tell the same story: Global warming is undeniable."

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"The evidence in this report would say unequivocally yes, there is no doubt," that the Earth is warming, said Tom Karl, the transitional director of the planned NOAA Climate Service.

Deke Arndt, chief of the Climate Monitoring Branch at the National Climatic Data Center, noted that the 1980s was the warmest decade up to that point, but each year in the 1990s was warmer than the '80s average.

That makes the '90s the warmest decade, he said.

But each year in the 2000s has been warmer than the '90s average, so the first 10 years of the 2000s is now the warmest decade on record.

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"At first glance, the amount of increase each decade — about a fifth of a degree Fahrenheit — may seem small," the report said.

"But," it adds, "the temperature increase of about 1 degree Fahrenheit experienced during the past 50 years has already altered the planet. Glaciers and sea ice are melting, heavy rainfall is intensifying and heat waves are becoming more common and more intense."

Last month was the warmest June on record and this year has had the warmest average temperature for January-June since record keeping began, NOAA reported last week.

The new climate report, published as a supplement to the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society, focused on 10 indicators of a warming world, seven which are increasing and three declining.

Rising over decades are average air temperature, the ratio of water vapor to air, ocean heat content, sea surface temperature, sea level, air temperature over the ocean and air temperature over land.

Indicators that are declining are snow cover, glaciers and sea ice.

The 10 were selected "because they were the most obviously related indicators of global temperature," explained Peter Thorne of the Cooperative Institute for Climate and Satellites, who helped develop the list when at the British weather service, known as the Met Office.

"What this data is doing is, it is screaming that the world is warming," Thorne concluded.


Marine Phytoplankton Declining

ScienceDaily (July 28, 2010) — A new article published in the 29 July issue of the journal Nature reveals for the first time that microscopic marine algae known as "phytoplankton" have been declining globally over the 20th century. Phytoplankton forms the basis of the marine food chain and sustains diverse assemblages of species ranging from tiny zooplankton to large marine mammals, seabirds, and fish. Says lead author Daniel Boyce, "Phytoplankton is the fuel on which marine ecosystems run. A decline of phytoplankton affects everything up the food chain, including humans."

Using an unprecedented collection of historical and recent oceanographic data, a team from Canada's Dalhousie University documented phytoplankton declines of about 1% of the global average per year. This trend is particularly well documented in the Northern Hemisphere and after 1950, and would translate into a decline of approximately 40% since 1950. The scientists found that long-term phytoplankton declines were negatively correlated with rising sea surface temperatures and changing oceanographic conditions.

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"Phytoplankton are a critical part of our planetary life support system. They produce half of the oxygen we breathe, draw down surface CO2, and ultimately support all of our fisheries.


Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Dogs automatically imitate people

by Jennifer Viegas
updated 7/28/2010 9:35:53 AM ET

If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, dogs often shower us with praise. New research has just determined dogs automatically imitate us, even when it is not in their best interest to do so.

The study, published in the latest Proceedings of the Royal Society B, provides the first evidence that dogs copy at least some of our body movements and behaviors in ways that are spontaneous and voluntary.

In other words, they can't really help themselves when it comes to copying people.

"This suggests that, like humans, dogs are subject to 'automatic imitation'; they cannot inhibit online, the tendency to imitate head use and/or paw use," lead author Friederike Range and her colleagues conclude.

It's long been known that humans do this, even when the tendency to copy interferes with efficiency.

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Dogs sneak food when we're not looking

by Jennifer Viegas
updated 7/27/2010 3:09:07 PM ET

If a dog's eyes appear to be riveted to you and your sandwich the next time you try to enjoy lunch, consider the clever, strategical intent of your rapt viewer. That's because new research has just demonstrated dogs quietly sneak food when we're not looking, waiting for the perfect opportunity to bite, steal and nosh.

Before every dog owner and lover reading this comments, "Duh! I knew that already," the finding is not to be taken lightly. The research, published in the latest issue of Applied Animal Behaviour Science, adds to the growing body of evidence that dogs possess theory of mind, the ability to attribute mental states to oneself and others.

In other words, dogs can likely perceive what we see and know, allowing them to take advantage of us when opportunity arises. "Stains," a dog featured on Animal Planet, has mastered the approach, as this video shows.

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Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Warming Climate May Change Ape Behaviour, Resulting in Loss of Habitat

ScienceDaily (July 23, 2010) — A study on the effect of global warming on African ape survival suggests that a warming climate may cause apes to run 'out of time'. The research, published today in Journal of Biogeography, reveals that rising temperatures and changes in rainfall patterns have strong effects on ape behavior, distribution and survival, pushing them even further to the brink of extinction.

The researchers, from Roehampton University, Bournemouth University and the University of Oxford used data from 20 natural populations to model the effects of climate change on ape behaviour and distribution. The results suggest that rising temperatures and shifts in rainfall patterns alone may cause chimpanzees to lose up to 50% and gorillas up to 75% of their remaining habitats.

This loss of habitat, according to the researchers, is caused by the fact that apes run out of time, as with increasing environmental temperatures apes will have to spend more time resting to avoid over-heating, making some habitats uninhabitable. The study further suggests that chimpanzees will also experience a shift in diet from containing predominantly fruits to leaves.

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Guzzling diet soda raises premature birth risk

New research suggests that drinking lots of artificially sweetened beverages may be linked with an increased risk of premature births.

"It may be non-optimal for pregnant women to have high consumption of these types of products," Dr. Thorhallur I. Halldorsson of the Statens Serum Institut in Copenhagen, one of the researchers on the study, told Reuters Health.

"Diet" drinks are widely promoted as a healthy alternative to sugary sodas and juices, but Halldorsson and his colleagues note that there's been little research on the safety of regular consumption of artificial sweeteners in humans.

Soft drinks -- both artificially sweetened and sugar sweetened -- were recently linked to high blood pressure, the researchers add, which increases the risk of premature delivery. To investigate whether there might be a direct link, the researchers looked at nearly 60,000 Danish women who reported on their diet, including how many soft drinks they had each day, at around 25 weeks of pregnancy.

Around 5 percent of women delivered their babies before 37 weeks.

Women who had at least one serving of artificially sweetened soda a day while they were pregnant were 38 percent more likely to deliver preterm than women who drank no diet soda at all, the researchers report in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

Women who had at least four diet sodas a day were nearly 80 percent more likely to deliver preterm. The association was the same for normal-weight and overweight women.

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The writer goes on to calculate the probability of a woman who drinks the amounts cited in the study, and gets the arithmetic totally wrong, greatly underestimating the probability.


Monday, July 26, 2010

Who Cooked the Planet?

Published: July 25, 2010

Never say that the gods lack a sense of humor. I bet they’re still chuckling on Olympus over the decision to make the first half of 2010 — the year in which all hope of action to limit climate change died — the hottest such stretch on record.

Of course, you can’t infer trends in global temperatures from one year’s experience. But ignoring that fact has long been one of the favorite tricks of climate-change deniers: they point to an unusually warm year in the past, and say “See, the planet has been cooling, not warming, since 1998!” Actually, 2005, not 1998, was the warmest year to date — but the point is that the record-breaking temperatures we’re currently experiencing have made a nonsense argument even more nonsensical; at this point it doesn’t work even on its own terms.

But will any of the deniers say “O.K., I guess I was wrong,” and support climate action? No. And the planet will continue to cook.

So why didn’t climate-change legislation get through the Senate? Let’s talk first about what didn’t cause the failure, because there have been many attempts to blame the wrong people.

First of all, we didn’t fail to act because of legitimate doubts about the science. Every piece of valid evidence — long-term temperature averages that smooth out year-to-year fluctuations, Arctic sea ice volume, melting of glaciers, the ratio of record highs to record lows — points to a continuing, and quite possibly accelerating, rise in global temperatures.

Nor is this evidence tainted by scientific misbehavior. You’ve probably heard about the accusations leveled against climate researchers — allegations of fabricated data, the supposedly damning e-mail messages of “Climategate,” and so on. What you may not have heard, because it has received much less publicity, is that every one of these supposed scandals was eventually unmasked as a fraud concocted by opponents of climate action, then bought into by many in the news media. You don’t believe such things can happen? Think Shirley Sherrod.

Did reasonable concerns about the economic impact of climate legislation block action? No. It has always been funny, in a gallows humor sort of way, to watch conservatives who laud the limitless power and flexibility of markets turn around and insist that the economy would collapse if we were to put a price on carbon. All serious estimates suggest that we could phase in limits on greenhouse gas emissions with at most a small impact on the economy’s growth rate.

So it wasn’t the science, the scientists, or the economics that killed action on climate change. What was it?

The answer is, the usual suspects: greed and cowardice.

If you want to understand opposition to climate action, follow the money. The economy as a whole wouldn’t be significantly hurt if we put a price on carbon, but certain industries — above all, the coal and oil industries — would. And those industries have mounted a huge disinformation campaign to protect their bottom lines.

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the email i will probably regret sending--edited with thanks and some responses

I've seen some of those e-mails he refers to, and it is beyond my understanding how any sane person could accept them w/o suspicion.

by NearlySomebody
Digg this! Share this on Twitter - the email i will probably regret sending--edited with thanks and some responsesTweet this submit to reddit Share This
Fri Jul 23, 2010 at 11:53:02 PM PDT

Wish I could write something in anger and disgust EVERY morning at 2AM then wake up at 7 and have my wife tell me I am on the rec list. Glad you all find this useful. I am just sick and tired of pussyfooting around HOW WE GOT INTO THIS MESS. For those of you who object to the salty language, my apologies. Please take it out, rinse and repeat. For those of you who asked about how it will affect my relationship with my family, worry not. My family, though politically divided, is big on love and understanding of each other. I have an awesome family. For those who asked if they could use parts of it, by all means, take it away.

For the past few years I have been getting email forwards from my dad. He always asks if they are true, and I always do a little bit of research and debunk them. And that was ok, if annoying. But I finally sent the email I have been fearing I would, and now I wonder about the repercussions.

* NearlySomebody's diary :: ::

The email came to my box with the note, "This will probably piss you off..."

Thanks for sending it then; I really love to be pissed off.

The video was some asshat out in Vegas who runs a casino and wants to tell us how badly the American government has failed...and of course, the usual suspects from my dad's email circle all had to chime in and say how right he was and how bad Obama is, etc... ad nauseum... So I replied...

So let me get this straight, the great recession is government's fault, the uncertainty of the American business climate is government's fault, the fact that we are pissing away 12 billion a month in an illegal war for no good reason other than to make money for oil companies is Obama's fault, the fact that when Bush took over we had a record budget surplus and in his 8 years he LOST net jobs (as compared to population growth) and ended up with more deficit in 8 years than we had had in the previous 200...and somehow this is Obama's fault? Jesus Christ. If you sat through the last 8 years and watched the Constitution shredded, our treasure wasted on a war we were LIED into, and the wages and wealth inequity gap get just as big as it was before the Great Depression and then you get mad at liberals, there ain't much I can do for you.

But for starters, what do YOU THINK is going to happen when the top 1% own 33% of everything in America and the top 10% own approximately 65% of it? Who is left to buy all the useless shit that we have to consume just to prop up the economy? Through the combination of union busting, outsourcing, and the ever-shifting tax burden from the rich to the middle class over the last 30 years, the middle class has had to borrow money for the last 3 decades to keep up with the cost of living. Inflation outpaced job earnings over the last 30 years. Think about that. If you don't see that there have been systematic problems in the country for almost as long as I have been alive, you need to start paying attention. They engineered policy to keep interest rates low to make it cheap to borrow money, and that's how we ran America...that's how we HAD to run America because working people were not making enough to make ends meet. So we borrowed and borrowed and borrowed. And then the bill came due. Hey, this is kind of funny! Did you know that Bush raised the debt ceiling 7 times while he was in office? That's like...almost every year he was in office,right? And you want more of that?

Memory Links to 40 Winks

ScienceDaily (July 6, 2010) — When it comes to executing items on tomorrow's to-do list, it's best to think it over, then "sleep on it," say psychologists at Washington University in St. Louis.

People who sleep after processing and storing a memory carry out their intentions much better than people who try to execute their plan before getting to sleep. The researchers have shown that sleep enhances our ability to remember to do something in the future, a skill known as prospective memory.

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Sunday, July 25, 2010

More Time Spent Sitting Linked to Higher Risk of Death

ScienceDaily (July 23, 2010) — A new study from American Cancer Society researchers finds it's not just how much physical activity you get, but how much time you spend sitting that can affect your risk of death. Researchers say time spent sitting was independently associated with total mortality, regardless of physical activity level. They conclude that public health messages should promote both being physically active and reducing time spent sitting.

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They found that more leisure time spent sitting was associated with higher risk of mortality, particularly in women. Women who reported more than six hours per day of sitting were 37 percent more likely to die during the time period studied than those who sat fewer than 3 hours a day. Men who sat more than 6 hours a day were 18 percent more likely to die than those who sat fewer than 3 hours per day. The association remained virtually unchanged after adjusting for physical activity level. Associations were stronger for cardiovascular disease mortality than for cancer mortality.

When combined with a lack of physical activity, the association was even stronger. Women and men who both sat more and were less physically were 94% and 48% more likely, respectively, to die compared with those who reported sitting the least and being most active.


Rudeness at Work Causes Mistakes

ScienceDaily (July 7, 2010) — If someone is rude to you at work or if you witness rudeness you are more likely to make mistakes, says Rhona Flin, Professor of Applied Psychology at the University of Aberdeen, in an editorial published in this week's British Medical Journal.

Professor Flin believes that the link between rudeness and mistakes is particularly concerning in healthcare settings, where it can pose a threat to patient safety and quality of care.

Research suggests that in confined areas, such as operating theatres, even watching rudeness that occurs between colleagues might impair team members' thinking skills.

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The Bush Deficit Bamboozle

July 19, 2010, 1:45 pm

The Bush Deficit Bamboozle

OK, even by contemporary standards, this is rich: the official Republican stance is now apparently that Bush left behind a budget that was in pretty good shape. Mitch McConnell:

The last year of the Bush administration, the deficit as a percentage of gross domestic product was 3.2 percent, well within the range of what most economists think is manageable. A year and a half later, it’s almost 10 percent.

They really do think that we’re idiots.

So, that 3.2 percent number comes from here (pdf). Where’s the bamboozle? Let me count the ways.

First, they’re hoping that you won’t know that standard budget data is presented for fiscal years, which start on October 1 of the previous calendar year. So this isn’t the “last year of the Bush administration” — they’ve conveniently lopped off everything that happened post-Lehman — TARP and all.

Second, they’re hoping you won’t look at what was happening quarter by quarter. Here’s net federal borrowing as a percentage of GDP, quarter by quarter, since 2007: [see below]

Can we agree that the deficit in the first quarter of 2009 — Obama didn’t even take office until Jan. 20, the ARRA wasn’t even passed until Feb. 17, and essentially no stimulus funds had been spent — had nothing to do with Obama’s polices, and was entirely a Bush legacy? Yet the deficit had already surged to almost 9 percent of GDP. Even in 2009 II, Obama’s policies had barely begun to take effect, and the deficit was already over 10 percent of GDP.

What this chart really tells us is what you should have known already: the deficit is overwhelmingly the result of the economic slump, not Obama policies. But the usual suspects want to fool you.

I’d like to think that the raw dishonesty of this latest Bush defense would be obvious to everyone. But after the past decade, I’ve stopped believing such things. They think we’re idiots — and they may be right.

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Saturday, July 24, 2010

The Healing Effects of Forests

ScienceDaily (July 23, 2010) — "Many people," says Dr. Eeva Karjalainen, of the Finnish Forest Research Institute, Metla, "feel relaxed and good when they are out in nature. But not many of us know that there is also scientific evidence about the healing effects of nature."

Forests -- and other natural, green settings -- can reduce stress, improve moods, reduce anger and aggressiveness and increase overall happiness. Forest visits may also strengthen our immune system by increasing the activity and number of natural killer cells that destroy cancer cells.

Many studies show that after stressful or concentration-demanding situations, people recover faster and better in natural environments than in urban settings. Blood pressure, heart rate, muscle tension and the level of "stress hormones" all decrease faster in natural settings. Depression, anger and aggressiveness are reduced in green environments and ADHD symptoms in children reduce when they play in green settings.

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Essential Ingredients of Supportive Sibling Relationships

ScienceDaily (July 19, 2010) — Many moms and dads say the toughest part of parenting is keeping the peace when their kids squabble and bicker. But making an end to conflict your primary focus is a mistake, said Laurie Kramer, a University of Illinois professor of applied family studies and co-editor of a special section of Child Development Perspectives devoted to sibling relationships.

Parents should concentrate more on all the positive things they can do to help their children get along, Kramer said in an article she wrote for the special section.

"Even if you're successful at reducing conflict and antagonism, research suggests that you'll probably be left with little positive interaction between siblings. Do you really want your kids to head for their rooms and spend time mainly on their own interests and with their own friends?" she asked.

She urges parents to think about the relationship they want their kids to have with each other--now and as adults--and to be intentional in helping them create that positive, supportive bond.

"Most parents would like for their kids to be able to talk with each other, have fun together, and be a source of support for each other during stressful times in their lives," she said.

Kramer knows siblings can learn the skills that enable them to be more supportive brothers and sisters because her own research has demonstrated it. She is the creator of the U of I's extremely successful More Fun with Sisters and Brothers program.

Here are some ways parents can support these positive changes in their own families:

* Help your children learn to see things from their sibling's perspective and to respect other people's points of view.
* Teach them to identify and manage their emotions and behaviors when they're in challenging and frustrating situations.
* Teach your kids not to assume the worst about their sibling's or anyone else's intentions.
* Show them that conflict is a problem that can be solved and teach them how to do it.
* Try to meet each child's unique needs without showing favoritism.
* Teach them to use their unique knowledge of each other to strengthen their bond rather than taking advantage of each other's weaknesses.
* Promote play, conversation, mutual interests, and fun.
* Praise your kids when they help, support, and cooperate with each other.

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Anxiety May Be at Root of Religious Extremism

ScienceDaily (July 6, 2010) — Anxiety and uncertainty can cause us to become more idealistic and more radical in our religious beliefs, according to new findings by York University researchers, published in this month's issue of the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.

In a series of studies, more than 600 participants were placed in anxiety-provoking or neutral situations and then asked to describe their personal goals and rate their degree of conviction for their religious ideals. This included asking participants whether they would give their lives for their faith or support a war in its defence.

Across all studies, anxious conditions caused participants to become more eagerly engaged in their ideals and extreme in their religious convictions. In one study, mulling over a personal dilemma caused a general surge toward more idealistic personal goals. In another, struggling with a confusing mathematical passage caused a spike in radical religious extremes. In yet another, reflecting on relationship uncertainties caused the same religious zeal reaction.

Researchers found that religious zeal reactions were most pronounced among participants with bold personalities (defined as having high self-esteem and being action-oriented, eager and tenacious), who were already vulnerable to anxiety, and felt most hopeless about their daily goals in life.

A basic motivational process called Reactive Approach Motivation (RAM) is responsible, according to lead researcher Ian McGregor, Associate Professor in York's Department of Psychology, Faculty of Health. "Approach motivation is a tenacious state in which people become 'locked and loaded' on whatever goal or ideal they are promoting. They feel powerful, and thoughts and feelings related to other issues recede," he says.

"RAM is usually an adaptive goal regulation process that can re-orient people toward alternative avenues for effective goal pursuit when they hit a snag. Our research shows that humans can sometimes co-opt RAM for short term relief from anxiety, however. By simply promoting ideals and convictions in their own minds, people can activate approach motivation, narrow their motivational focus away from anxious problems, and feel serene as a result," says McGregor.

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Friday, July 23, 2010

Texans wonder if they executed an innocent man

By the CNN Wire Staff
July 23, 2010 8:12 a.m. EDT

(CNN) -- A Texas state board is set Friday to revisit questions surrounding a controversial 2004 execution, with supporters of the man's family warning the panel is trying to bury its own critical review of the case.

Cameron Todd Willingham was executed in 2004 for a fire that killed his three daughters. Prosecutors argued that Willingham deliberately set the 1991 blaze -- but three reviews of the evidence by outside experts have found the fire should not have been ruled arson.

The last of those reports was ordered by the Texas Forensic Sciences Commission, which has been looking into Willingham's execution since 2008. But a September 2009 shake-up by Texas Gov. Rick Perry has kept that panel from reviewing the report, and the commission's new chairman has ordered a review of its operating rules. Critics say that may kill the probe.

"They are attempting permanently to keep the investigation from continuing and moving on, and I do believe it's because they don't like the direction the evidence is leading," Willingham's cousin, Pat Cox, said Thursday.

The Forensic Science Commission's chairman is now John Bradley, an Austin-area district attorney with a reputation as a staunch supporter of the death penalty. Bradley has pledged to state lawmakers that the Willingham investigation "absolutely" will continue -- but said the panel needs better rules to guide its work, and could not say when the Willingham issue would move forward.

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Hundreds of dead penguins dot Brazil's beaches;_ylt=AqFKN3sQtXto9W8UE.lmx4Ks0NUE;_ylu=X3oDMTFlaWVla2d2BHBvcwMxMTgEc2VjA2FjY29yZGlvbl9zY2llbmNlBHNsawNodW5kcmVkc29mZGU-

By STAN LEHMAN, Associated Press Writer Stan Lehman, Associated Press Writer – Thu Jul 22, 3:08 am ET

SAO PAULO – Hundreds of penguins that apparently starved to death are washing up on the beaches of Brazil, worrying scientists who are still investigating what's causing them to die.

About 500 of the black-and-white birds have been found just in the last 10 days on Peruibe, Praia Grande and Itanhaem beaches in Sao Paulo state, said Thiago do Nascimento, a biologist at the Peruibe Aquarium.

Most were Magellan penguins migrating north from Argentina, Chile and the Falkland Islands in search of food in warmer waters.

Many are not finding it: Autopsies done on several birds revealed their stomachs were entirely empty — indicating they likely starved to death, Nascimento said.

Scientists are investigating whether strong currents and colder-than-normal waters have hurt populations of the species that make up the penguins' diet, or whether human activity may be playing a role.

"Overfishing may have made the fish and squid scarcer," Nascimento said.

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Obama signs jobless bill

updated 7/22/2010 8:39:07 PM ET

WASHINGTON — Federal checks could begin flowing again as early as next week to millions of jobless people who lost up to seven weeks of unemployment benefits in a congressional standoff.

President Barack Obama on Thursday signed into law a restoration of benefits for people who have been out of work for six months or more. Congress approved the measure earlier in the day. The move ended an interruption that cut off payments averaging about $300 a week to 2½ million people who have been unable to find work in the aftermath of the nation's long and deep recession.

At stake are up to 73 weeks of federally financed benefits for people who have exhausted their 26 weeks of state jobless benefits. About half of the approximately 5 million people in the program have had their benefits cut off since its authorization expired June 2.

They are eligible for lump-sum retroactive payments that are typically delivered directly to their bank accounts or credited to state-issued debit cards. Many states have encouraged beneficiaries to keep updating their paperwork in hopes of speeding payments once the program was restored.

In states like Pennsylvania and New York, the back payments should go out next week, officials said. In others, like Nevada and North Carolina, it may take a few weeks for all of those eligible to receive benefits.

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Sinkhole swallows SUV as storms slam Wisconsin

The latest in a string of heavy precipitation. Warm air holds more moisture. When it meets up with cooler air, that results in heavier rain and snow falls. We can't say that a particular episode of extreme weather is due to global warming, but we can say that some portion of it is.

MILWAUKEE — Torrential rains that flooded roads and runways kept Milwaukee's main airport shut at least through midday on Friday, while the city braced for another batch of storms.

Cars were submerged, streets and highways were flooded, and a sinkhole swallowed a sport-utility vehicle and a traffic light.

The closure of General Mitchell International Airport was due "to flooding on the airfield and roadways leading to the airport," the airport's website said.

The airport, which handled nearly 8 million passengers last year, shut on Thursday night as a parade of storms dumped 5-1/2 inches of rain on the city on Thursday. A rain gauge in the suburb of Shorewood recorded nearly a foot of water.

A flash flood watch remained in effect through Saturday morning, the National Weather Service said in an advisory, warning of possible widespread flooding.

Also under flood watch were parts of northern Illinois and western Iowa.

"Additional heavy rainfall will exacerbate the already-bad situation as many areas of high water remain from flooding on Thursday," the Weather Service said.

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Thursday, July 22, 2010

Woman pregnant with two babies -- and they're not twins

14 Jul 2010 5:12pm, EDT

Melissa Dahl writes: Utah resident Angie Cromar has a rare condition called uterus didelphys, which means she has a double uterus. And right now, there's a baby in both of them, each at different stages of development. One is five weeks and four days along; the other is six weeks and one day along, reports, the website of NBC affiliate KSL-TV 5 in Salt Lake City.

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Switching Off Your Lights Has a Bigger Impact Than You Might Think

And it saves on utility bills.

ScienceDaily (July 1, 2010) — Switching off lights, turning the television off at the mains and using cooler washing cycles could have a much bigger impact on reducing carbon dioxide emissions from power stations than previously thought, according to a new study published this month in the journal Energy Policy. The study shows that the figure used by government advisors to estimate the amount of carbon dioxide saved by reducing people's electricity consumption is up to 60 percent too low.

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Getting Angry Can Help Negotiations in Some Cultures, Hurt It in Others

ScienceDaily (July 21, 2010) — Getting angry might help you get your way if you're negotiating with European Americans, but watch out – in negotiations with East Asians, getting angry may actually hurt your cause. That's the conclusion of a new study on how people from different cultures react to anger in negotiations.

Most research on negotiations has shown that anger is a good strategy – it gets you larger concessions than other emotions, like happiness, or no emotions. But these studies have mostly been carried out in Western populations, says Hajo Adam, of INSEAD in France, who coauthored the new study with William Maddux of INSEAD and Aiwa Shirako of the University of California - Berkeley.

Adam noticed differences in emotions at the institute where he works. "INSEAD is very diverse, with people from all over the world. I noticed that sometimes people get angry, and you see that people react differently to that. I was wondering whether a lot of those different reactions might be explained by cultural backgrounds." He studies negotiation, so he decided to study how intercultural differences in the ways that people react to emotion expressions affect negotiation outcomes. For example, when President Clinton took an aggressive, angry stance in trade negotiations with Japan in the early 1990s, the Japanese were annoyed, and negotiation largely failed.

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European Americans made larger concessions to an angry opponent than to a non-emotional opponent. Asians and Asian Americans, however, made smaller concessions if their opponent was angry rather than non-emotional.


Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Do Cleaning Products Cause Breast Cancer?

This study is interesting, but the authors point out it is not definitive. It does astonish me the amount of poisons people voluntarily subject themselves, their families, and their co-workers to.

ScienceDaily (July 19, 2010) — Women who report greater use of cleaning products may be at higher breast cancer risk than those who say they use them sparingly. Researchers writing in BioMed Central's open access journal Environmental Health asked more than 1500 women about their cleaning product usage and found that women who reported using more air fresheners and products for mold and mildew control had a higher incidence of breast cancer.

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"Women who reported the highest combined cleaning product use had a doubled risk of breast cancer compared to those with the lowest reported use. Use of air fresheners and products for mold and mildew control were associated with increased risk. To our knowledge, this is the first published report on cleaning product use and risk of breast cancer."


Jay Bookman The GOP and its Malice in Wonderland attitude

3:31 pm July 21, 2010, by Jay

Republicans lost the political battle on extending unemployment benefits Tuesday when the Senate voted 60-40 to end a filibuster and allow the vote to take place. Once the Senate takes that final vote, the bill will go to the White House for President Obama’s signature and benefits to the longterm unemployed will resume.

Yet that final vote has yet to occur. After yesterday’s vote, Senate Republicans no longer have the power to stop the bill, but they are using Senate rules to delay passage as long as possible, a step that accomplishes absolutely nothing except to make the 2.5 million longterm unemployed wait another two days for the money they need to pay the rent, feed their children and keep the lights on.

In a saner, more compassionate world, such acts would be inconceivable.

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Jobless benefits extension passes Senate

By Tami Luhby, senior writerJuly 21, 2010: 7:06 PM ET

NEW YORK ( -- The Senate Wednesday voted 59 to 39 to restore unemployment benefits to 2.5 million jobless Americans, ending a seven-week stalemate.

The bill, which would push back the deadline to file for extended unemployment benefits until the end of November, now goes to the House, where it is expected to pass on Thursday. The president is expected to sign the measure quickly.

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The jobless stopped getting their checks in early June, after Congress failed to extend the deadline to apply for benefits. Senate Republicans, as well as Nebraska Democrat Ben Nelson, prevented the legislation's passage, saying it should be paid for first. They suggested covering the $34 billion tab with unused stimulus money, a step the Senate Democratic leadership rejected.

Federal unemployment payments, which last up to 73 weeks, kick in after the state-funded 26 weeks of coverage expire. These federal benefits are divided into tiers, and the jobless must apply each time they move into a new tier.

The payments will be retroactive to the previous deadline of June 2. But it could take up to a month for states to start sending the checks again, experts said.

Lynda Kahn of Coral Springs, Fla., can't wait to get that check. She stopped getting benefits last week and applied for Medicaid, only to be turned down because she doesn't have dependent children. But she did get a supermarket gift card from a local charity to supplement her $200 a month food stamp allotment.

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How to get boys to read? Try a book on farts

updated 7/21/2010 7:04:58 AM ET

Can fart jokes save the reading souls of boys?

You better hope so.

Boys have lagged behind girls in reading achievement for more than 20 years, but the gender gap now exists in nearly every state and has widened to mammoth proportions — as much as 10 percentage points in some, according to the Center on Education Policy.

"It certainly should set off alarm bells," said the center's director, Jack Jennings. "It's a significant separation."

Parents of reluctant readers complain that boys are forced to stick to stuffy required school lists that exclude nonfiction or silly subjects, or have teachers who cater to higher achievers and girls. They're hoping books that exploit boys' love of bodily functions and gross-out humor can close the gap.

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Best-selling author James Patterson knows from personal experience how hard it can be. Son Jack is a great reader now, at age 12, but that wasn't true when he was younger. "He wouldn't sit down with a book, beyond what he had to do in school."

Patterson hunted down quality reads for a user-friendly website,, and began writing for young people, including the "Daniel X" alien hunter series that has a new installment out this month.

"I think it can turn around for a lot of kids. Parents have to take the responsibility seriously. Schools need to be more practical, meaning they need to understand that reading lists are tremendously important but you have to put books on it that the kids are going to respond to," he said. "Reading is such a necessary thing to take you through life."


Swimming kitty proves she’s no fraidy cat

by Vidya Rao
TODAY staff
updated 7/21/2010 10:30:26 AM ET

Swimming has helped one lucky kitty walk again after being paralyzed.

Nazzaning, a 6-year-old Turkish Van, was injured in June and was unable to move her left side. Her owner, Florence Rostami, took her to the hospital, initially believing she had broken her paw. The veterinarian told Rostami that Nazzaning’s condition was much more dire, and that she would have to stay in the hospital.

“I cried so much,” said Rostami, an attorney in New York City. “We were devastated. My mom, my daughter and I stayed in the hospital until midnight the first night.”

Nazzaning was kept in the hospital for four days, and one by one various causes of her paralysis, such as kidney failure or a tumor, were eliminated. Finally, an MRI showed swelling in her vertebrae, and her vet recommended anti-inflammatory medication. The actual cause of the swelling wasn’t determined.

Rostami inquired about physical therapy for Nazzaning and was excited to find out that hydrotherapy was an option.

“I was very happy,” she said. “Turkish Vans are natural swimmers, and I thought that this might wake up her instinct.”

Boaz Levitin, a neurologist who examined Nazzaning and recommended hydrotherapy for her, told the New York Post that most cats couldn’t handle this style of rehabilitation. “I’m a big believer in physical therapy, but most cats just see water and flip out so I’ve never recommended that for them before.”

Nazzaning was the first cat to undergo hydrotherapy at Water 4 Dogs, an animal rehabilitation center in Manhattan that, as the name suggests, typically only works with canines.

“She was definitely nervous about what was going on, and she was vocal and meowing,” said Jean Marie Cooper, the manager at Water 4 Dogs. “At first she was balling up and not moving, but after a few treatments, I think she started feeling better and relaxed.”

Nazzaning’s treatments consist of 30 minutes of walking on a treadmill immersed in 4 to 5 inches of water, with a therapist helping to keep her upright and ensure proper foot placement.

“Her muscles needed to learn how to move the correct way again, and because she’s partially buoyant in water, if she makes a mistake it’s much less severe than if she’s walking on dry land,” Cooper explained.
Cat Therapy
Helayne Seidman
Different strokes: Nazzaning was the first cat to undergo hydrotherapy at Water 4 Dogs, an animal rehabilitation center that typically only works with canines.

After the treadmill, Nazzaning swims in a 4 1/2-foot pool while being supported by a therapist, to help strengthen her limbs and provide all-over exercise.

Nazzaning goes to therapy three times a week, in addition to at-home massages, and stretches several times a day.

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Wages Fail to Keep Pace With Inflation

July 20, 2010, 4:09 PM ET
By Sara Murray

Weekly wages rose by just $6 in the past year, failing to keep up with the rise in inflation, according to a Labor Department report on second quarter earnings.

Median weekly earnings increased slightly to $740 in the second quarter from $734 a year ago, a 0.8% increase. The consumer price index, meanwhile, rose 1.8% in the same period.

Excess supply in the labor market — 14.6 million Americans were unemployed as of June — has helped keep wage growth in check.

At a time when the value of a college degree has come under fire, those with the highest education levels still fared the best. Those workers 25-years and older with at least a bachelor’s degree earned $1,138 weekly compared to $629 for high school graduates and $440 for those without a high school degree.

Men’s earnings continued to outpace women’s. Females earned a median of $672 each week, 83% of the $810 that men took home weekly.

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Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Suicide tied to air pollution and asthma

updated 7/15/2010 3:57:11 AM ET

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Air pollution and asthma symptoms may increase suicide risk, two new studies from Asia suggest.

According to Taiwanese researchers, as many as 1 in 14 suicides among Taiwanese youth may have been caused by asthma, a condition that affects about 10 percent of children.

"It points out another negative part of air pollution," said Dr. Wayne Katon, a psychiatrist at the University of Washington in Seattle.

"In a way, suicide is a proxy for a bad effect on the whole society," added Katon, who was not involved in the new research.

Asthma has been linked to suicide before, but researchers say this is the first time the role of air quality has been tested.

Particle pollution - such as smoke, dust and heavy metals -- is known to irritate the airways and worsen asthma, and several studies have linked it to heart disease. Why it would make people more likely to kill themselves, however, is unclear.

One possibility is that worsening physical health might push vulnerable people over the edge, especially if they already have chronic disease, said Katon.

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In one study, researchers examined more than 4,000 suicides in seven major cities in South Korea. They found that spikes in particle pollution upped suicide risk by as much as 10 percent.

Overall, Dr. Changsoo Kim from the Yonsei University College of Medicine and colleagues write, about 23 in 100,000 South Koreans commit suicide.

Breaking down the data, those people who had been treated for heart disease in the year before they killed themselves seemed to be more influenced by pollution, with a 19 percent increase in suicide risk.

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Monday, July 19, 2010

Recess appointment

On NPR (National Propagandists for Republicans) news yesterday morning (Sun., 7/18/10), they reported on Republican opposition to Obama's recess appointment of Dr. Donald Berwick, a Harvard professor and patient care specialist, to run Medicare and Medicaid.

There was no mention, no hint at all, of the more than 100 Obama nominations the Republicans have blocked.

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Russia records its hottest temperature in history

Posted by: JeffMasters, 2:40 PM GMT on July 19, 2010
A heat wave of unprecedented intensity has brought the world's largest country its hottest temperature in history. On July 11, the ongoing Russian heat wave sent the mercury to 44.0°C (111.2°F) in Yashkul, Kalmykia Republic, in the European portion of Russia near the Kazakhstan border. The previous hottest temperature in Russia (not including the former Soviet republics) was the 43.8°C (110.8°F) reading measured at Alexander Gaj, Kalmykia Republic, on August 6, 1940. The remarkable heat in Russia this year has not been limited just to the European portion of the country--the Asian portion of Russia also recorded its hottest temperature in history this year, a 42.3°C (108.1°F) reading at Belogorsk, near the Amur River border with China. The previous record for the Asian portion of Russia was 41.7°C (107.1°F) at nearby Aksha on July 21, 2004.

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As I commented in Friday's post, six nations in Asia and Africa set new all-time hottest temperature marks in June. Two nations, Myanmar and Pakistan, set all-time hottest temperature marks in May, including Asia's hottest temperature ever, the astonishing 53.5°C (128.3°F) mark set on May 26 in Pakistan. Last week's record in Russia makes nine countries this year that have recorded their hottest temperature in history, making 2010 the year with the most national extreme heat records.


Meditation Helps Increase Attention Span

ScienceDaily (July 16, 2010) — It's nearly impossible to pay attention to one thing for a long time. A new study looks at whether Buddhist meditation can improve a person's ability to be attentive and finds that meditation training helps people do better at focusing for a long time on a task that requires them to distinguish small differences between things they see.

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Sunday, July 18, 2010

Stroke Risk Temporarily Increases for an Hour After Drinking Alcohol

ScienceDaily (July 15, 2010) — Call it the not-so-happy hour. The risk of stroke appears to double in the hour after consuming just one drink -- be it wine, beer or hard liquor -- according to a small multi-center study reported in Stroke: Journal of the American Heart Association.

"The impact of alcohol on your risk of ischemic stroke appears to depend on how much and how often you drink," said Murray A. Mittleman, M.D., Dr.P.H., senior author of the Stroke Onset Study (SOS) and director of the Cardiovascular Epidemiology Research Unit at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in the Harvard Medical School in Boston, Mass.

Prior to the SOS, researchers didn't know if alcohol consumption had an immediate impact on ischemic stroke (caused by a blood clot in a vessel in or leading to the brain), although modest alcohol use (less than two drinks per day) may potentially lower risk in the long term.

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Compared with times when alcohol wasn't being used, the relative risk of stroke after alcohol consumption was:

* 2.3 times higher in the first hour;
* 1.6 times higher in the second hour; and
* 30 percent lower than baseline after 24 hours.

The patterns remained the same whether participants had consumed wine, beer or distilled spirits.

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"The evidence on heavy drinking is consistent: Both in the long and short term it raises stroke risk," Mittleman said. "But we're finding it's more complicated with light to moderate drinking. It is possible that the transiently increased stroke risk from moderate alcohol consumption may be outweighed by the longer term health benefits."

Just after drinking, blood pressure rises and blood platelets become stickier, which may increase the possibility of a clot forming. However, consistent use of small amounts of alcohol is associated with beneficial changes in blood lipids and more flexible blood vessels, which may reduce risk overall.

"At this point we don't have enough evidence to say that people who don't drink should start, or that people who drink small amounts -- on the order of one drink a day -- should stop," Mittleman said.


Behavior Problems in School Linked to Two Types of Families

ScienceDaily (July 15, 2010) — Contrary to Leo Tolstoy's famous observation that "happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way," a new psychology study confirms that unhappy families, in fact, are unhappy in two distinct ways. And these dual patterns of unhealthy family relationships lead to a host of specific difficulties for children during their early school years.

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"This study shows that cold and controlling family environments are linked to a growing cascade of difficulties for children in their first three years of school, from aggressive and disruptive behavior to depression and alienation," Sturge-Apple explains. "The study also finds that children from families marked by high levels of conflict and intrusive parenting increasingly struggle with anxiety and social withdrawal as they navigate their early school years."

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Although the study demonstrates solid evidence of a family-school connection, the authors caution that dysfunctional family relationships are not responsible for all or even most behavior difficulties in school. Other risk factors, such as high-crime neighborhoods, high-poverty schools, troubled peer circles, and genetic traits also influence whether one child develops more problems than another child, explains co-author Patrick Davies, professor of psychology at the University of Rochester.


Saturday, July 17, 2010

Global Warming Slows Coral Growth in Red Sea

ScienceDaily (July 16, 2010) — In a pioneering use of computed tomography (CT) scans, scientists at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) have discovered that carbon dioxide (CO2)-induced global warming is in the process of killing off a major coral species in the Red Sea. As summer sea surface temperatures have remained about 1.5 degrees Celsius above ambient over the last 10 years, growth of the coral, Diploastrea heliopora, has declined by 30% and "could cease growing altogether by 2070" or sooner, they report in the July 16 issue of the journal Science.

"The warming in the Red Sea and the resultant decline in the health of this coral is a clear regional impact of global warming," said Neal E. Cantin, a WHOI postdoctoral investigator and co-lead researcher on the project. In the 1980s, he said, "the average summer [water] temperatures were below 30 degrees Celsius. In 2008 they were approaching 31 degrees."

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Those Who Exercise When Young Have Stronger Bones When They Grow Old

ScienceDaily (July 15, 2010) — The positive effects of exercise while growing up seem to last longer than previously believed. New findings suggest that physical activity when young increases bone density and size, which may mean a reduced risk of osteoporosis later in life, reveals a thesis from the Sahlgrenska Academy at the University of Gothenburg, Sweden.

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Friday, July 16, 2010

Using Domestic Spoons to Give Children Medicine Increases Overdose Risk

ScienceDaily (July 16, 2010) — Parents are being urged not to use domestic spoons to give children medicine after a study found significant differences in capacity. A parent using one of the biggest domestic teaspoons would be giving their child 192 per cent more medicine than a parent using the smallest teaspoon and the difference was 100 per cent for the tablespoons. This increases the chance of a child receiving an overdose or indeed too little medication.

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Sperm in all animals originated 600 million years ago

by LiveScience Staff
updated 7/15/2010 5:30:28 PM ET

A gene responsible for sperm production is so vital that its function has remained unaltered throughout evolution and is found in almost all animals, according to a new study. The results suggest the ability to produce sperm originated 600 million years ago.

The gene, called Boule, appears to be the only gene known to be exclusively required for sperm production in animals ranging from an insect to a mammal.

"Our findings also show that humans, despite how complex we are, across the evolutionary lines all the way to flies, which are very simple, still have one fundamental element that's shared," said Eugene Xu, assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine.

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Shelters filling up as Gulf pet owners struggle

The same problem has been going on around the country due to the recession.

updated 7/15/2010 3:46:11 PM ET

VIOLET, La. — Double-bunked behind the bars at the overrun St. Bernard Animal Shelter are more victims of the Gulf of Mexico oil spill: shiny-coated Labrador retrievers, long-haired Chihuahuas and a fluffy Shih Tzu.

Among the more typical skinny, stray mutts are healthy, seemingly well-tended dogs whose owners, because of the massive spill, suddenly don't have the time or money to keep them.

"It's the economy, the uncertainty of the future, for sure," said shelter director Beth Brewster, who saw 117 owners surrender their animals last month — up from 17 in June 2009.

May was particularly bad, Brewster said: The Violet shelter took in 288 animals that month, compared with 60 in May 2009.

Dean Howard of the Louisiana Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals said several coastal parishes began reporting a spike in owner relinquishments immediately after the spill.

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Greenspan Says Congress Should Let Bush's Tax Cuts Lapse

By Mike Dorning - Jul 15, 2010

Former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan, whose endorsement of George W. Bush’s 2001 tax cuts helped persuade Congress to pass them, said lawmakers should allow the cuts to expire at the end of the year.

“They should follow the law and let them lapse,” Greenspan said in an interview on Bloomberg Television’s “Conversations with Judy Woodruff,” citing a need for the tax revenue to reduce the federal budget deficit.

Greenspan’s comments, to be broadcast tomorrow and over the weekend, place him in the middle of an election-year struggle over extending trillions of dollars of tax cuts enacted under Bush.

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Bikinis in Moscow? Europe wilts in heat wave

updated 7/15/2010 4:34:50 PM ET

MOSCOW — It's so hot that women in bikinis are sunbathing in Moscow.

A heat wave across much of Europe is also causing crops to wither, forest fires to ignite and roads to melt, while refrigerators and fans are buckling in the searing sun.

From Russia's Urals mountains to western Germany, a week of temperatures hovering stubbornly in the mid-90 degrees has baked northern parts of Europe, which are usually spared the heat of the Mediterranean — and forecasters are warning of more to come over the next week.

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Thursday, July 15, 2010

Jan.-June warmest first half of year on record
updated 7/15/2010 5:53:10 PM ET

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Global land and ocean surface temperatures in the first half of 2010 were the warmest January-June on record, the federal climate service reported Thursday.

January-June temperatures averaged 57.5 degrees Fahrenheit — 1.22 degrees F above the 20th Century average, according to the National Climatic Data Center. Its records go back to 1880.

That broke the previous record of 1.19 degrees F above average set in 1998.

In addition, last month was the warmest June on record at 61.1 degrees F — 1.22 degrees F above the 20th Century average.

2010 has also surpassed 1998 for the most "warmest months" in any calendar year, the center stated.

"Each of the 10 warmest average global temperatures recorded since 1880 have occurred in the last fifteen years," it added. "The warmest year-to-date on record, through June, was 1998, and 2010 is warmer so far."

The warmest year on record is 2005, but that record could fall as well.

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Being a perfectionist can take toll on health

by Rachel Rettner
updated 7/12/2010 8:17:19 AM ET

Perfectionists, by definition, strive for the best, trying to ace exams, be meticulous at their jobs, and raise perfect children. So one might assume this drive for the ideal translates over to their health as well, with perfectionist being models for physical and mental well-being.

But new research is revealing the disorder can bring both profits and perils.

Though perfection is an impossible goal, striving for it can be a boon for one’s health, causing one to stick to exercise programs to a tee, say, or follow a strict regimen for treating chronic illnesseslike type 2 diabetes. But the same lofty goals can mean added mental pressure when mistakes are made and the resistance to asking for help from others in fear of revealing one's true, imperfect self.

In fact studies show the personality trait of perfectionism is linked to poor physical health and an increased risk of death.

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Perfectionism tends to have two components: a positive side, including things like setting high standards for themselves; and a negative side, which involves more deleterious factors, such as having doubts and concerns over mistakes and feeling pressure from others to be perfect.

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Those with high perfectionism scores, meaning they placed high expectations on themselves to be perfect, had a 51-percent increased risk of death compared to those with low scores.

The researchers suspect high levels of stress and anxiety, which are known to be linked with perfectionism, might contribute to the decrease in lifespan.

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But after following 385 patients with type 2 diabetes for 6.5 years, the researchers actually saw the opposite effect. Those with high perfectionism scores had a 26-percent lower risk of death than those with low scores.

The results suggest that in certain situations, perfectionism can have advantages. With type 2 diabetes, scrupulous attention to blood sugar levels and strict adherence to dietary rules can have payoffs in terms of reducing disease severity, the researchers suspect.

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Perfectionists at risk for postpartum blues

by Rachael Rettner
updated 7/7/2010 11:01:10 AM ET

New mothers who think they should be perfect parents might be at risk for postpartum depression, a new study suggests.

The results show that a type of perfectionism in which individuals feel others expect them to be perfect, known as "socially prescribed perfectionism," is associated with postpartum depression for first-time mothers.

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The link between perfectionism and postpartum depression was strongest amongst those who try to deal with perfectionism by appearing as if they don't have a problem.

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The results underscore the need to dispel the myth of the "perfect parent," Flett said.

"I think it's just important for new mothers and fathers to just realize, Hey, you haven't got a lot of experience with this, you don't need to be perfect, you don't need to be absolutely the best parent in the world," Flett said. "You need to just be able to experience the role, do your best, and your best is good enough."
[I would agree up to a point. If your best is damaging to your child, it's not enough, and you should get help.]


Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Sen. Kyl: $678-billion tax break for rich should not be offset

See the article for a graph of the contributors to the expected deficits over the next 10 years. Almost all comes from the Bush tax cuts for the ultra-rich.

July 13, 2010
Sam Stein
First Posted: 07-12-10 11:34 AM | Updated: 07-12-10 01:18 PM

Top Senate Republican Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) insisted on Sunday that Congress should extend the Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans regardless of their impact on the deficit, even as he and other Republicans are blocking unemployment insurance extensions over deficit concerns.

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"If all of this has a familiar ring to it, it's because unpaid for tax cuts for the rich at the expense of working people is the same backward policy Republicans used to put the nation in this hole, and it's the same policy they promise to return to if put in a position of power again," added Hari Sevugan, press secretary for the Democratic National Committee.

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But the politics already are fairly obvious. For the past few months, congressional Republicans have demanded that any additional spending be offset by budget cuts or revenue increases elsewhere. Also on Sunday, White House senior adviser David Axelrod blamed deficit concerns for the difficulty in finding a 60th vote in the Senate for unemployment benefits even though, as of Friday, 2.1 million people have not received checks that they were expecting in June.

And yet, Kyl is now suggesting that the same budget rules shouldn't apply with respect to tax cuts for the wealthy, which are set to expire unless Congress acts to renew them. As Steve Benen at the Washington Monthly notes:

It's quite a message to Americans: Republicans believe $30 billion for unemployment benefits don't even deserve a vote because the money would be added to the deficit, but Republicans also believe that adding the cost of $678 billion in tax cuts for the wealthy to the deficit is just fine.

Kyl is one of the most prominent members of Congress to advance the argument that jobless benefits make people not want to look for work, a position disputed by economists across the political spectrum. Unemployment insurance "doesn't create new jobs. In fact, if anything, continuing to pay people unemployment compensation is a disincentive for them to seek new work," Kyl said last March on the Senate floor.

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Japanese solar sail successfully rides sunlight

by Tariq Malik
updated 7/13/2010 9:52:03 AM ET

An unmanned probe riding a solar sail through space has felt its first accelerating push from sunlight in a successful test of its novel propulsion system, Japan's space agency has announced.

Observations of the Ikaros solar sail built by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency confirmed that the spacecraft has received a growing speed boost from light radiated by the sun, the space agency said.

"The small solar power sail demonstrator 'Ikaros,' which successfully deployed its solar sail, was confirmed to accelerate by [the] solar sail receiving solar pressure," JAXA officials said in a July 9 update. "This proved that the Ikaroshas generated the biggest acceleration through photon during interplanetary flight in history."

The effect stems from the cumulative push of light photons striking the solar sail. When measured together, it adds up to a small continuous thrust that does not require fuel use by the Ikaros craft.

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Scientists Quantify Global Warming's Threat to Public Health

July 12, 2010
By Douglas Fischer and The Daily Climate

Extreme weather induced by climate change has dire public health consequences, as heat waves threaten the vulnerable, storm runoff overwhelms city sewage systems and hotter summer days bake more pollution into asthma-inducing smog, scientists say.

The United States – to say nothing of the developed world – is unprepared for such conditions predicted by myriad climate models and already being seen today, warn climate researchers and public health officials.

"Climate change as it's projected will impact almost every aspect of public health, both in the developed world and – more importantly – in the developing world," said Michael McGeehin, director of the Environmental Hazards and Health Effects division at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

"A flood is a major public health disaster," he added. "A flood takes us back to the 1890s as far as the public health system is concerned."

Last week, as the East Coast stewed its way through the first heat wave of the summer, researchers at Stanford University published a study suggesting exceptionally long heat waves and extreme temperatures could be commonplace in the United States within 30 years – sooner than expected.

"I did not expect to see anything this large within the next three decades," Noah Diffenbaugh, assistant professor of environmental Earth system science at Stanford and lead author of the study, said in a statement. "It was definitely a surprise."

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Easterling and McGeehin spoke at a briefing last week arranged by the Union of Concerned Scientists. Climate disruption, they said, is also bringing more floods and drought.

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Avoiding the worst of the heat waves, sewage overflows and droughts has obvious benefit, Patz said. But many climate mitigation efforts also bring health benefits: Using less fuel improves air quality; walking or biking to work reduces obesity.

Patz is in the process of quantifying those savings, but preliminary results suggest that if Americans could reduce their car travel by 20 percent – essentially not driving one day a week – the largest cities across the Midwest could save hundreds of lives, avoid hundreds of thousands of hospital admissions and trim several billion dollars from health care spending, he said.

"If you were to turn those trips into active transport – that is walking or biking – you could probably double those health care (savings)," he added.


Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Fox News analyst Andrew Napolitano says Bush and Cheney ‘should have been indicted

I think Bush and Cheney should be waterboarded.

By Tanya Somanader on Jul 12th, 2010 at 8:00 pm

Although Fox News legal analyst and former New Jersey district judge Andrew Napolitano is usually a reliable right-wing voice for the network, he has often criticized President Bush and his national security policies. When the law authorizing Bush’s wiretapping program expired in 2008, Napolitano railed against the program as an affront to the Constitution. He has also blasted Bush last year for authorizing the use of torture, saying that he had “committed a felony for each act of torture.” In an interview with Ralph Nader on C-Span this weekend, Napolitano said Bush and Vice President Cheney “should have been indicted” for torture:

NADER: What’s the sanction for President Bush and Vice President Cheney? [...]

NAPOLITANO: They should have been indicted. They absolutely should have been indicted for torturing, for spying, for arresting without warrants. I’d like to say they should be indicted for lying but believe it or not, unless you’re under oath, lying is not a crime. At least not an indictable crime. It’s a moral crime.

NADER: So you think George W. Bush and Dick Cheney should even though they’ve left office, they haven’t escaped the criminal laws, they should be indicted and prosecuted?

NAPOLITANO: The evidence in this book and in others, our colleague the great Vincent Bugliosi has amassed an incredible amount of evidence. The purpose of this book was not to amass that evidence but I do discuss it, is overwhelming when you compare it to the level of evidence required for a normal indictment that George W. Bush as President and Dick Cheney as Vice President participated in criminal conspiracies to violate the federal law and the guaranteed civil liberties of hundreds, maybe thousands of human beings.

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Angle Calls Unemployed Americans ‘Spoiled

Sharron Angle should be unemployed.

By Pat Garofalo on Jun 30th, 2010 at 12:37 pm

Yesterday, after weeks of ducking interviews with the mainstream press, Senate candidate Sharron Angle — who is running on the Republican ticket in Nevada — appeared on Face to Face with Nevada journalist Jon Ralston to clarify some of her positions, including her view that unemployment benefits should be cut because “spoiled” workers are living off of them instead of getting a job.

Ralston asked Angle what she meant by that statement, and Angle replied that there are plenty of jobs out there for the unemployed, but extended benefits are discouraging workers from reentering the workforce because they pay more than entry-level work does:

They keep extending these unemployment benefits to the point where people are afraid to go out and get a job because the job doesn’t pay as much as the unemployment benefit does. … What has happened is the system of entitlement has caused us to have a spoilage with our ability to go out and get a job. … There are some jobs out there that are available. Because they have to enter at a lower grade and they cannot keep their unemployment, they have to make a choice now.

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Job seekers still face intolerable odds

Heidi Shierholz
July 13, 2010

This morning, the Bureau of Labor Statistics released the May report from the Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey (JOLTS), showing that job openings declined 96,000 to 3.2 million in May. From the Current Population Survey, we know that the number of unemployed workers in May was 15.0 million. This means that the ratio of unemployed workers to job openings was 4.7-to-one in May, a slight increase from the revised April ratio of 4.6-to-one.

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As with all labor market data in recent months, it is important to examine underlying trends excluding temporary hiring for the 2010 Decennial Census. Importantly, there was a large upward revision to the April job openings data of 238,000 federal job openings, presumably temporary Census job openings. In the last six months of 2009, the federal government averaged 73,000 job openings per month, while in April and May of this year, the federal government averaged 370,000 job openings. If those additional roughly 300,000 federal job openings are excluded from the calculation, the ratio of job seekers to job openings would have been 5.1-to-one in April and 5.2-to-one in May. These ratios provide a sense of the long-term trend and an idea of what to expect going forward as we pass through the temporary census hiring period.

But even at 4.7-to-one, there remains a severe shortage of jobs. The ratio of unemployed per job opening is still substantially higher than at the worst point in the last recession, when it never went above 2.8 unemployed workers per job opening. In 2007, before the recession started, the ratio averaged 1.5-to-one.

With so many unemployed workers per available job, people who find themselves out of work can be expected to remain unemployed for extremely long periods. In May, nearly half (46%) of this country’s unemployed workers had been unemployed for over six months, 20 percentage points above the previous high of 26.0%, set in the summer of 1983.

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Divorce not always bad for the kids

by Rachel Rettner
updated 7/1/2010 12:33:34 PM ET

In marriages with a lot of conflict, "staying together for the kids" might do more harm than good, a new study suggests.

Children of parents who fight a lot yet stay married experience more conflict in their own adult relationships than children of parents who fight and do get a divorce.

"The basic implication is, 'Don't stay together for the sake of the children if you're in a high conflict marriage,'" said study researcher Constance Gager, of Montclair State University in New Jersey.

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"There is research to show in the short-term, kids go through a one- to two-year crisis period when their parents divorce, but that they are resilient, and they come back from that divorce," Gager said.

Constant exposure to their parents' strife is likely what causes children's future relationships to suffer, the researchers say.

"If they're constantly exposed to conflict, and the parents stay together, that means there's many more years they're exposed to conflict by their parents," Gager told LiveScience. "Whereas if their parents get divorced, at least there's a chance the parents will have less conflict after the divorce," she said.

In contrast, parents' happiness did not appear to affect the children's adult relationships — children of happily married parentsdid not necessarily grow up to have happy partnerships themselves.


Monday, July 12, 2010

'Climategate' inquiry mostly vindicates scientists

Kind of old news, because previous reports came to the same conclusions. They do fault the scientists for not sharing data with critics, but since in the past the denialists had repeatedly distorted the research and lied about it, as they did about the contents of the e-mails, I don't see how that would have made a real difference.;_ylt=AuTILLvKg0G8y6nVaEdY59Ws0NUE;_ylu=X3oDMTFoczN1dGZ2BHBvcwMxMzUEc2VjA2FjY29yZGlvbl90ZWNobm9sb2d5BHNsawNjbGltYXRlZ2F0ZWk-

By RAPHAEL G. SATTER, Associated Press Writer Raphael G. Satter, Associated Press Writer – Wed Jul 7, 1:42 pm ET

LONDON – An independent report into the leak of hundreds of e-mails from one of the world's leading climate research centers on Wednesday largely vindicated the scientists involved, saying they acted honestly and that their research was reliable.

But the panel of inquiry, led by former U.K. civil servant Muir Russell, did chide scientists at the University of East Anglia's Climatic Research Unit for failing to share their data with critics.

"We find that their rigor and honesty as scientists are not in doubt," Russell said. "But we do find that there has been a consistent pattern of failing to display the proper degree of openness."

Russell's inquiry is the third major U.K. investigation into the theft and dissemination of more than 1,000 e-mails taken from a back-up server at the university.

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