Sunday, October 31, 2010

CO2 comparison

ScienceDaily (Oct. 29, 2010)

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The Earth has not had such a high CO2 content in the atmosphere since more than 15 million years ago, when the climate was very warm and alligators lived in England.

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Getting Older Leads to Emotional Stability and Happiness

ScienceDaily (Oct. 28, 2010) — It's a prediction often met with worry: In 20 years, there will be more Americans over 60 than under 15. Some fear that will mean an aging society with an increasing number of decrepit, impaired people and fewer youngsters to care for them while also keeping the country's productivity going.

The concerns are valid, but a new Stanford study shows there's a silver lining to the graying of our nation. As we grow older, we tend to become more emotionally stable. And that translates into longer, more productive lives that offer more benefits than problems, said Laura Carstensen, the study's lead author.

"As people age, they're more emotionally balanced and better able to solve highly emotional problems," said Carstensen, a psychology professor and director of the Stanford Center on Longevity. "We may be seeing a larger group of people who can get along with a greater number of people. They care more and are more compassionate about problems, and that may lead to a more stable world."

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Saturday, October 30, 2010

Green Tea of No Use in Breast Cancer Prevention, Large Study Finds

ScienceDaily (Oct. 26, 2010) — Green tea does not protect against breast cancer. A study of data from approximately 54,000 women, published in BioMed Central's open access journal Breast Cancer Research, found no association between drinking green tea and breast cancer risk.

Motoki Iwasaki, from the National Cancer Center, Tokyo, worked with a team of researchers to carry out the study. He said, "Although in vitro and animal-based studies have suggested that green tea may have beneficial protective effects against breast cancer, results from human studies have been inconclusive. Our large-scale, population-based prospective cohort study is one of the first to include a wide range of tea intakes; women who drank green tea less than 1 cup per week to those who drank 10 or more cups per day. It found no overall association between green tea intake and the risk of breast cancer."

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Love Takes Up Where Pain Leaves Off, Brain Study Shows

ScienceDaily (Oct. 14, 2010) — Intense, passionate feelings of love can provide amazingly effective pain relief, similar to painkillers or such illicit drugs as cocaine, according to a new Stanford University School of Medicine study.

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Results showed that both love and distraction did equally reduce pain, and at much higher levels than by concentrating on the photo of the attractive acquaintance, but interestingly the two methods of pain reduction used very different brain pathways.

"With the distraction test, the brain pathways leading to pain relief were mostly cognitive," Younger said. "The reduction of pain was associated with higher, cortical parts of the brain. Love-induced analgesia is much more associated with the reward centers. It appears to involve more primitive aspects of the brain, activating deep structures that may block pain at a spinal level -- similar to how opioid analgesics work.

"One of the key sites for love-induced analgesia is the nucleus accumbens, a key reward addiction center for opioids, cocaine and other drugs of abuse. The region tells the brain that you really need to keep doing this," Younger said.

"This tells us that you don't have to just rely on drugs for pain relief," Aron said. "People are feeling intense rewards without the side effects of drugs."


Friday, October 29, 2010

Wild Scottish Sheep Could Help Explain Differences in Immunity

ScienceDaily (Oct. 28, 2010) — Strong immunity may play a key role in determining long life, but may do so at the expense of reduced fertility, a Princeton University study has concluded. An 11-year study of a population of wild sheep located on a remote island off the coast of Scotland that gauged the animals' susceptibility to infection may give new insight into why some people get sicker than others when exposed to the same illness.

The answer to this medical puzzle may lie in deep-rooted differences in how animals survive and reproduce in the wild, according to the study, which was led by Princeton ecologist Andrea Graham and published in the Oct. 29 issue of Science. The research revealed that the sheep population over time has maintained a balance of those with weaker and stronger levels of immunity and fertility.

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Graham, an assistant professor of ecology and evolutionary biology at Princeton who also is on the faculty of the University of Edinburgh, led the study of wild Soay sheep on the remote island of Hirta in the St. Kilda archipelago, about 100 miles west of the Scottish mainland. The scientists tested the animals for levels of antibodies, natural molecules produced by the sheep's immune systems to fend off infections such as influenza or those caused by parasitic worms.

The sheep whose blood contained the most antibodies lived the longest, the researchers found. These animals also were most likely to survive harsh winters. However, they failed to produce as many offspring each spring as other sheep. Sheep with lower levels of antibodies tended to die earlier, they found, but also gave birth to more lambs each year.

Viewed in terms of breeding and, ultimately, evolutionary success, the differing groups of sheep were equally successful in that the longer-lived but less fertile sheep and the shorter-lived but more fertile sheep produced about the same number of progeny over the course of their lives. The overall balance, the researchers said, could help explain why immunity varies so much among individuals.

The tendency to form either strong or weak responses to infection ran in families in the sheep, the researchers also found. "This genetic basis means that natural selection has the chance to shape the trait," Graham said. If differing responses to infection still result in equal long-term reproductive success, she said, this means "selection seems actually to be maintaining this genetic variation in immunity."

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Divided We Fail

Published: October 28, 2010

Barring a huge upset, Republicans will take control of at least one house of Congress next week. How worried should we be by that prospect?

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This is going to be terrible. In fact, future historians will probably look back at the 2010 election as a catastrophe for America, one that condemned the nation to years of political chaos and economic weakness.

Start with the politics.

In the late-1990s, Republicans and Democrats were able to work together on some issues. President Obama seems to believe that the same thing can happen again today. In a recent interview with National Journal, he sounded a conciliatory note, saying that Democrats need to have an “appropriate sense of humility,” and that he would “spend more time building consensus.” Good luck with that.

After all, that era of partial cooperation in the 1990s came only after Republicans had tried all-out confrontation, actually shutting down the federal government in an effort to force President Bill Clinton to give in to their demands for big cuts in Medicare.

Now, the government shutdown ended up hurting Republicans politically, and some observers seem to assume that memories of that experience will deter the G.O.P. from being too confrontational this time around. But the lesson current Republicans seem to have drawn from 1995 isn’t that they were too confrontational, it’s that they weren’t confrontational enough.

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Beyond the politics, the crucial difference between the 1990s and now is the state of the economy.

When Republicans took control of Congress in 1994, the U.S. economy had strong fundamentals. Household debt was much lower than it is today. Business investment was surging, in large part thanks to the new opportunities created by information technology — opportunities that were much broader than the follies of the dot-com bubble.

In this favorable environment, economic management was mainly a matter of putting the brakes on the boom, so as to keep the economy from overheating and head off potential inflation. And this was a job the Federal Reserve could do on its own by raising interest rates, without any help from Congress.

Today’s situation is completely different. The economy, weighed down by the debt that households ran up during the Bush-era bubble, is in dire straits; deflation, not inflation, is the clear and present danger. And it’s not at all clear that the Fed has the tools to head off this danger. Right now we very much need active policies on the part of the federal government to get us out of our economic trap.

But we won’t get those policies if Republicans control the House. In fact, if they get their way, we’ll get the worst of both worlds: They’ll refuse to do anything to boost the economy now, claiming to be worried about the deficit, while simultaneously increasing long-run deficits with irresponsible tax cuts — cuts they have already announced won’t have to be offset with spending cuts.

So if the elections go as expected next week, here’s my advice: Be afraid. Be very afraid.


Texas Prosecutors Declare Anthony Graves Innocent

Why do the prosecutors who lie and withhold evidence, causing the imprisonment of innocent people, never end up in jail themselves?

Posted by: Brian Evans, October 28, 2010 at 2:46 PM

Last year, Texas prosecutors wanted to use a “scent lineup” in a desperate attempt to generate new evidence against Anthony Graves, whose death sentence had been overturned in 2006. “Scent lineups” are a ridiculous form of junk science where dogs match a scent from a crime scene with a scent from a suspect (in this case the evidence from the crime scene was 17 years old, had been stored – actually lost – for years in an old unused jail cell, and came from a house that was burned to the ground).

Fortunately this year, Bill Parham, the new DA for Washington and Burleson counties, and special prosecutor Kelly Siegler took a hard 5-month long look at the case. This refreshingly straightforward statement from Siegler says it all:

“After months of investigation and talking to every witness who’s ever been involved in this case, and people who’ve never been talked to before, after looking under every rock we could find, we found not one piece of credible evidence that links Anthony Graves to the commission of this capital murder. This is not a case where the evidence went south with time or witnesses passed away or we just couldn’t make the case anymore. He is an innocent man.”

So, on Wednesday, October 27, Anthony Graves became the 139th person exonerated from US death rows since 1973 and the 12th exoneree from Texas.

But how did he end up on death row in the first place?

Partly, it was because the prosecutor, Charles Sebesta, elicited false statements and withheld evidence that would have helped Graves’ case. But mostly, Graves’ conviction was based on a statement from the actual killer, Robert Carter. Carter later recanted, and continued to insist that Graves was innocent up to and including the moment he (Carter) was executed. After being tied down in the Texas death chamber, using some of his last words, Carter said: “Anthony Graves had nothing to do with it. … I lied on him in court.”

After the conviction was reversed, new prosecutors still attempted to re-try him. The new judge (whose father tried the original case) allowed Carter’s statement to be used as evidence, even though Carter had retracted it multiple times and was no longer available to testify or be cross-examined (the state having killed him). Then, there was the lost evidence that was found, and the proposed “scent lineups” … But the responsible efforts of DA Parham and special prosecutor Siegler brought Anthony Graves’ legal nightmare to an end, after 16 years in prison for a crime he did not commit.
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Whatever doesn't hurt us too much can make us stonger

The title on the article is "Study Confirms: Whatever Doesn't Kill Us Can Make Us Stronger", but that is not at all what the study found.

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But in this study of a national survey panel of 2,398 subjects assessed repeatedly from 2001 to 2004, Seery and co-researchers found those exposed to some adverse events reported better mental health and well-being outcomes than people with a high history of adversity or those with no history of adversity.

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"Our findings revealed," he says, "that a history of some lifetime adversity -- relative to both no adversity or high adversity -- predicted lower global distress, lower functional impairment, lower PTS symptoms and higher life satisfaction."

The team also found that, across these same longitudinal outcome measures, people with a history of some lifetime adversity appeared less negatively affected by recent adverse events than other individuals.

Although these data cannot establish causation, Seery says the evidence is consistent with the proposition that in moderation, experiencing lifetime adversity can contribute to the development of resilience.

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Thursday, October 28, 2010

World's Happiest Places

By Lauren Sherman

According to a new report released by the Organization for Economic Co-Operation and Development, a Paris-based group of 30 countries with democratic governments that provides economic and social statistics and data, happiness levels are highest in northern European countries.

Denmark, Finland and the Netherlands rated at the top of the list, ranking first, second and third, respectively. Outside Europe, New Zealand and Canada landed at Nos. 8 and 6, respectively. The United States did not crack the top 10. Switzerland placed seventh and Belgium placed tenth.

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Wealth alone does not bring the greatest degree of happiness. Norway has the highest GDP per capita on the list — $98,822 — yet it ranked ninth, not first. On the other hand, New Zealand's happiness level is 76.7 out of 100 on the OECD list, but its 2009 GDP per capita is just $30,556.

According to a 2005 editorial, published in the British Medical Journal and written by Dr. Tony Delamothe, research done in Mexico, Ghana, Sweden, the U.S. and the U.K. shows that individuals typically get richer during their lifetimes, but not happier. It is family, social and community networks that bring joy to one's life, according to Delamothe.

The OECD data shows that another important factor is work-life balance. While Scandinavian countries boast a high GDP per capita, the average workweek in that part of the world is no more than 37 hours. In China, which got a low score of just 14.8, the workweek is 47 hours and the GDP per capita is just $3,600.

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Going to the link to a slide show of the 10 happiest places, we find:

1. Denmark
2. Finland
3. Netherlands
4. Sweden
5. Ireland
6. Canada
7. Switzerland
8. New Zealand
9. Norway
10. Belgium


Daily choices can affect long-term happiness

16:53 05 October 2010 by Jessica Hamzelou
Magazine issue 2781

The widely accepted "set-point" theory of happiness says that an individual's long-term happiness tends to be stable because it depends mainly on genetic factors. The idea is based in part on studies that show identical twins to have more similar levels of life satisfaction than non-identical twins, and suggests that although your level of happiness may occasionally be thrown off by major life events, it will always return to a set level within two years.

To find out whether people really are destined for a certain level of happiness, Bruce Headey at the University of Melbourne in Australia and his team questioned people in Germany about their jobs, lifestyles and social and religious activities. The survey was initially completed by 3000 people annually, but that rose to 60,000 per year by the end of the 25-year study period.

They found that certain changes in lifestyle led to significant long-term changes in reported life satisfaction, rather than causing the temporary deflections in happiness that set-point theory would suggest.

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Altruism and family values also influenced long-term happiness. People whose annual survey responses changed to place a higher priority on altruistic behaviours and family goals were rewarded with a long-term increase in life satisfaction. Those who prioritised career and material success, however, experienced a corresponding lasting decline.

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Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Strongest storm ever recorded in the Midwest smashes all-time pressure records

Another bout of extreme weather.
A satellite picture at this link of the storm looks like there is a giant hurricane covering the eastern U.S.

Posted by: JeffMasters, 3:09 PM GMT on October 27, 2010

Tornadoes, violent thunderstorms, and torrential rains swept through a large portion of the nation's midsection yesterday, thanks to the strongest storm ever recorded in the Midwest. NOAA's Storm Prediction Center logged 24 tornado reports and 282 reports of damaging high winds from yesterday's spectacular storm, and the storm continues to produce a wide variety of wild weather, with tornado watches posted for Mississippi, Alabama, and Georgia, a blizzard warning for North Dakota, high wind warnings for most of the upper Midwest, and near-hurricane force winds on Lake Superior.

The mega-storm reached peak intensity late yesterday afternoon over Minnesota, resulting in the lowest barometric pressure readings ever recorded in the continental United States, except for from hurricanes and nor'easters affecting the Atlantic seaboard.

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Yesterday's 28.20" (955 mb) low pressure reading in Minnesota breaks not only the 28.28" (958 mb) previous "USA-interior-of-the-continent-record" from Cleveland, Ohio during the Great Ohio Storm of Jan. 26, 1978 (a lower reading in Canada during this event bottomed out at an amazing 28.05"/950 mb), but also the lowest pressure ever measured anywhere in the continental United States aside from the Atlantic Coast.

Yesterday's superstorm is reminiscent of the amazing low pressures reached earlier this year (Jan. 19-22) in the West, where virtually every site in California, Nevada, Utah, Arizona, southern Oregon, and southern Idaho--about 10 - 15% of the U.S. land area--broke their lowest on record pressure readings. However, the lowest readings from that event fell well short of yesterday's mega-storm with 28.85" (977 mb) being about the lowest recorded at any onshore site.

We've now had two remarkable extratropical storms this year in the U.S. that have smashed all-time low pressure records across a large portion of the country. Is this a sign that these type of storms may be getting stronger? Well, there is evidence that wintertime extratropical storms have grown in intensity in the Pacific, Arctic, and Great Lakes in recent decades. I discuss the science in detail in a post I did earlier this year. Here is an excerpt from that post:

General Circulation Models (GCMs) like the ones used in the 2007 IPCC Assessment Report do a very good job simulating how winter storms behave in the current climate, and we can run simulations of the atmosphere with extra greenhouse gases to see how winter storms will behave in the future. The results are very interesting. Global warming is expected to warm the poles more than the equatorial regions. This reduces the difference in temperature between the pole and Equator. Since winter storms form in response to the atmosphere's need to transport heat from the Equator to the poles, this reduced temperature difference reduces the need for winter storms, and thus the models predict fewer storms will form. However, since a warmer world increases the amount of evaporation from the surface and puts more moisture in the air, these future storms drop more precipitation. During the process of creating that precipitation, the water vapor in the storm must condense into liquid or frozen water, liberating "latent heat"--the extra heat that was originally added to the water vapor to evaporate it in the first place. This latent heat intensifies the winter storm, lowering the central pressure and making the winds increase. So, the modeling studies predict a future with fewer total winter storms, but a greater number of intense storms. These intense storms will have more lift, and will thus tend to drop more precipitation--including snow, when we get areas of strong lift in the -15°C preferred snowflake formation region.

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Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Drug maker to pay $750 million for defective meds

Why is nobody being jailed because of this?

By Pete Williams Justice correspondent
NBC News NBC News
updated 35 minutes ago

GlaxoSmithKline, one of the world's largest pharmaceutical makers, has agreed to pay $750 million to settle a Justice Department lawsuit accusing the company of selling adulterated and improperly made drugs, federal officials say.

The settlement, announced Tuesday, is the result of a long-running federal investigation of the company's former drug manufacturing plant in Cidra, Puerto Rico.

The government claimed that the plant churned out medications that were mislabeled, mixed up in the wrong packaging, and even defective — made either too weak or too strong. The allegations included such popular prescription drugs as Paxil and Avandia.

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Scary New Wage Data

David Cay Johnston | Oct. 25, 2010 04:35 AM EDT

Every 34th wage earner in America in 2008 went all of 2009 without earning a single dollar, new data from the Social Security Administration show. Total wages, median wages, and average wages all declined, but at the very top, salaries grew more than fivefold.

Not a single news organization reported this data when it was released October 15, searches of Google and the Nexis databases show. Nor did any blog, so the citizen journalists and professional economists did no better than the newsroom pros in reporting this basic information about our economy.

The new data hold important lessons for economic growth and tax policy and take on added meaning when examined in light of tax return data back to 1950.

The story the numbers tell is one of a strengthening economic base with income growing fastest at the bottom until, in 1981 [after Bush took office], we made an abrupt change in tax and economic policy. Since then the base has fared poorly while huge economic gains piled up at the very top, along with much lower tax burdens.

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Measured in 2009 dollars, total wages fell to just above $5.9 trillion, down $215 billion from the previous year. Compared with 2007, when the economy peaked, total wages were down $313 billion or 5 percent in real terms.

The number of Americans with any wages in 2009 fell by more than 4.5 million compared with the previous year. Because the population grew by about 1 percent, the number of idle hands and minds grew by 6 million.

These figures show, far more powerfully than the official unemployment measure known as U3, how both widespread and deep the loss of jobs was in 2009. While the official unemployment rate is just under 10 percent, deeper analysis of the data by economist John Williams at shows a real under- and unemployment rate of more than 22 percent.

Only 150.9 million Americans reported any wage income in 2009. That put us below 2005, when 151.6 million Americans reported wages, and only slightly ahead of 2004, when 149.4 million Americans held at least one paying job.

For those who did find work in 2009, the average wage slipped to $39,269, down $243 or 0.6 percent, compared with the previous year in 2009 dollars.

The median wage declined by the same ratio, down $159 to $26,261, meaning half of all workers made $505 a week or less. Significantly, the 2009 median wage was $37 less than in 2000.

To give this some perspective, from 1992 to 2000 the number of people earning any wages grew by 21 million, but nine years later just 2.8 million more people had any work.

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The number of Americans making $50 million or more, the top income category in the data, fell from 131 in 2008 to 74 last year. But that’s only part of the story.

The average wage in this top category increased from $91.2 million in 2008 to an astonishing $518.8 million in 2009. That’s nearly $10 million in weekly pay!

You read that right. In the Great Recession year of 2009 (officially just the first half of the year), the average pay of the very highest-income Americans was more than five times their average wages and bonuses in 2008. And even though their numbers shrank by 43 percent, this group’s total compensation was 3.2 times larger in 2009 than in 2008, accounting for 0.6 percent of all pay. These 74 people made as much as the 19 million lowest-paid people in America, who constitute one in every eight workers.

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Friday, October 22, 2010

Eating Mostly Whole Grains, Few Refined Grains Linked to Lower Body Fat

ScienceDaily (Oct. 20, 2010) — People who consume several servings of whole grains per day while limiting daily intake of refined grains appear to have less of a type of fat tissue thought to play a key role in triggering cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes, a new study suggests.

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Thursday, October 21, 2010

America Sarkozy should retire, says Franc

The demonstrations that have rocked France this past week highlight some of its differences from the United States. The photo here, for example shows the difference between rioting in baseball-playing versus soccer-playing countries. In the US, we would pick up the tear gas canister and throw it, rather than kick it, back at the police.

More importantly, the French have decided to take to the streets in the millions – including large-scale strikes and work stoppages – to defend hard-won retirement gains. (It must be emphasised, since the media sometimes forgets to make the distinction, that only a tiny percentage of France's demonstrators have engaged in any kind of property damage and even fewer in violence, with all but these few protesting peacefully.) French populist rage is being directed in a positive direction – unlike in the United States where it is most prominently being mobilised to elect political candidates who will do their best to increase the suffering of working- and middle-class citizens.

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Sarkozy has recently abandoned one of his most politically unpopular tax cuts for the rich, but there may be others. But he had also promised not to raise the retirement age for the public pension system. This has contributed to the mass outrage at his current proposal to raise it from 60 to 62, for those taking the reduced benefits, and from 65 to 67, for full benefits. (Under the US social security system, most people opt for the reduced benefit that is available beginning at age 62; full benefits are available, for those born after 1959, at 67.)

Once again, most of the media thinks the French are being unrealistic, and should just get with the programme like everyone else. The argument is that life expectancy is increasing, so we all have to work longer. But this is a bit like reporting half of a baseball score (or soccer, if you prefer). On the other side is the fact that productivity and GDP also increase over time, and so it is indeed possible for the French to choose to spend more years in retirement and pay for it.

France's retirement age was last set in 1983. Since then, GDP per person has increased by 45%. The increase in life expectancy is very small by comparison. The number of workers per retiree declined from 4.4 in 1983 to 3.5 in 2010, but the growth of national income was vastly more than enough to compensate for the demographic changes, including the change in life expectancy.

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An increase in the retirement age is a highly regressive cut that will hit working people hardest. Poorer workers have shorter life expectancies and would lose a higher proportion of their retirement years. Workers who have to retire early because of unemployment or other hardships will take a benefit cut as a result of this change. And, of course, this cut would not matter to the richest people in society, who do not rely on the public pension system for most of their retirement income.

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Polls show more than 70% support for France's strikers, despite the inconvenience of fuel shortages and other disruptions.

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Social Security Study Finds GOP Plans Would Bring Big Cuts

By Martin Vaughan

Republican proposals to overhaul Social Security would substantially reduce future benefits for people now entering the workforce, according to a new analysis from Social Security Administration’s chief actuary.

Social Security, which is projected to go broke in coming decades, has become an unusually hot issue on the campaign trail this year, as Democrats seek to raise fears among voters that Republicans will make painful cuts to the program.

“The new analysis reveals that these proposals result in benefits cuts ranging from 10% to as high as 50%,” said Rep. Earl Pomeroy (D., N.D.), one of the Democrats who requested the study. “That’s not what I’d call ’saving’ Social Security.”

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Arctic of old is gone, experts warn

updated 2 hours 25 minutes ago 2010-10-21T18:38:03

The Arctic — an area described as Earth's refrigerator because its ice helps keep temperatures cool — continues to warm up and is unlikely to return to earlier conditions, according to an annual report card issued Thursday by top scientists.

Record temperatures across the Canadian Arctic and Greenland, a reduced summer sea ice cover, (and) record snow cover decreases" were cited as factors supporting the conclusion in the 2010 Arctic Report Card issued by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

The report card "tells a story of widespread, continued and even dramatic effects of a warming Arctic," lead researcher Jackie Richter-Menge, an expert at the federal Cold Regions Research and Engineering Lab in Hanover, N.H., told reporters.

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Past report cards have also cited warming trends, the scientists acknowledged, but this last year has seen several anomalies: record temperatures in Greenland; a 110-square-mile piece of ice that broke off Greenland's Petermann Glacier ; and a 2009-2010 winter that saw a blast of Arctic winds that went north-south instead of west-east — causing a deep freeze across the Northeast and Midwest.

That latter event, which had been registered only three times in 160 years of records, "looks like it's connecting to the warming and ice loss in the Arctic," said Jim Overland, a NOAA scientist responsible for the report card's section on atmosphere.

"Normally we think of winds bottled up in the Arctic," he said, but now a north-south shift might become more common.

"As we lose more sea ice it's a paradox that warming in the atmosphere can create more of these winter storms," he added.

In Greenland, the warmth has meant accelerated flow of melt water from glaciers into the ocean, said Jason Box, a glaciologist at Ohio State University. As a result, he added, "sea level projections will need to be revised upward."

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‘US’ Chamber Of Commerce Hosts Seminars With Chinese Gov Officials To Teach American Firms How To Outsource

Among the many lies told by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce recently, chief Chamber lobbyist Bruce Josten said that his organization’s foreign affiliates, called AmChams, are only “comprised of American companies doing business abroad in those countries.” In fact, the Chinese AmCham is comprised of Chinese firms like Northern Light Venture Capital; the AmCham in Russia is comprised of Russian state-run companies like VTB Bank; and, the AmCham of Abu Dhabi is comprised of UAE state-run oil companies.

The ties between the AmChams and the U.S. Chamber are deep. In addition to sharing staff members, the Chinese AmCham has worked closely with the U.S. Chamber and the Chinese government to sponsor a series of seminars in America to teach American businesses how to outsource jobs to China (called the China Grassroots Program).

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Separately from their relationship with the AmCham affiliates, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce receives direct foreign donations to the same 501(c)(6) political account the Chamber is using to run an unprecedented $75 million attack ad campaign against progressives. In an exclusive investigation, ThinkProgress documented over 80 foreign firms donating at least $885,000 to the Chamber’s 501(c)(6) account. As ThinkProgress’ Brad Johnson noted, many of these foreign supporters of the Chamber financing its 501(c)(6) are also some of the world’s largest outsourcing companies.


Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Drought May Threaten Much of Globe Within Decades

ScienceDaily (Oct. 19, 2010) — The United States and many other heavily populated countries face a growing threat of severe and prolonged drought in coming decades, according to a new study by National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) scientist Aiguo Dai. The detailed analysis concludes that warming temperatures associated with climate change will likely create increasingly dry conditions across much of the globe in the next 30 years, possibly reaching a scale in some regions by the end of the century that has rarely, if ever, been observed in modern times.

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Univision Will Not Air GOP Group’s Ad Telling Latinos Not To Vote

Earlier today, ThinkProgress reported that Latinos for Reform — a Republican 527 group — purchased an $80,000 buy on Univision to air ads urging Nevada Latino voters not to vote. We urged Univision not to air the ads. The network, which heads the non-partisan Latino civic participation campaign, Ya Es Hora, has decided to do the right thing and not broadcast the ads. A Univision spokesperson told ThinkProgress:

Univision will not be running any spots from Latinos for Reform related to voting. It is also important to clarify that while Mr. Robert de Posada has on occasion provided political commentary on Univision, representing one of various points of views, he is not in any way affiliated with Univision. Univision prides itself on promoting civic engagement and our extensive national campaigns encourage Hispanics to vote.

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Secretive Republican Donors Are Planning Ahead

Had article with link to

Published: October 19, 2010
A secretive network of Republican donors is heading to the Palm Springs area for a long weekend in January, but it will not be to relax after a hard-fought election — it will be to plan for the next one.

Koch Industries, the longtime underwriter of libertarian causes from the Cato Institute in Washington to the ballot initiative that would suspend California’s landmark law capping greenhouse gases, is planning a confidential meeting at the Rancho Las Palmas Resort and Spa to, as an invitation says, “develop strategies to counter the most severe threats facing our free society and outline a vision of how we can foster a renewal of American free enterprise and prosperity.”

The invitation, sent to potential new participants, offers a rare peek at the Koch network of the ultrawealthy and the politically well-connected, its far-reaching agenda to enlist ordinary Americans to its cause, and its desire for the utmost secrecy.

Koch Industries, a Wichita-based energy and manufacturing conglomerate run by the billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch, operates a foundation that finances political advocacy groups, but tax law protects those groups from having to disclose much about what they do and who contributes.

With a personalized letter signed by Charles Koch, the invitation to the four-day Rancho Mirage meeting opens with a grand call to action: “If not us, who? If not now, when?”

The Koch network meets twice a year to plan and expand its efforts — as the letter says, “to review strategies for combating the multitude of public policies that threaten to destroy America as we know it.”

Those efforts, the letter makes clear, include countering “climate change alarmism and the move to socialized health care,” as well as “the regulatory assault on energy,” and making donations to higher education and philanthropic organizations to advance the Koch agenda.

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The Kochs insist on strict confidentiality surrounding the California meetings, which are entitled “Understanding and Addressing Threats to American Free Enterprise and Prosperity.” The letter advises participants that it is closed to the public, including the news media, and admonishes them not to post updates or information about the meeting on the Web, blogs, social media or traditional media, and to “be mindful of the security and confidentiality of your meeting notes and materials.”

Invited participants are told they must wear nametags for all meeting functions. And, ensuring that no one tries to gain access by posing as a participant, the invitation says that reservations will be handled through Koch Industries’ office in Washington: “Please do not contact the Rancho Las Palmas directly to place a reservation.”

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They listened to a presentations on “microtargeting” to identify like-minded voters, as well as a discussion about voter mobilization featuring Tim Phillips of Americans for Prosperity, the political action group founded by the Kochs in 2004, which campaigned against the health care legislation passed in March and is helping Tea Party groups set up get-out-the-vote operations.

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The participants included some of the nation’s wealthiest families and biggest names in finance: private equity and hedge fund executives like John Childs, Cliff Asness, Steve Schwarzman and Ken Griffin; Phil Anschutz, the entertainment and media mogul ranked by Forbes as the 34th-richest person in the country; Rich DeVos, the co-founder of Amway; Steve Bechtel of the giant construction firm; and Kenneth Langone of Home Depot.

The group also included longtime Republican donors and officials, including Foster Friess, Fred Malek and former Attorney General Edwin Meese III.

Participants listened to presentations from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, as well as people who played leading roles in John McCain’s presidential campaign in 2008, like Nancy Pfotenhauer and Annie Dickerson, who also runs a foundation for Paul Singer, a hedge fund executive who like the Kochs is active in promoting libertarian causes.

To encourage new participants, Mr. Koch offers to waive the $1,500 registration fee. And he notes that previous guests have included Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas of the Supreme Court, Gov. Haley Barbour and Gov. Bobby Jindal, Senators Jim DeMint and Tom Coburn, and Representatives Mike Pence, Tom Price and Paul D. Ryan.

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Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Global temperatures continue to rise

Oct 18, 5:35 PM EDT

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The government's monthly climate report is beginning to sound like a broken record.

The National Climate Data Center reported Monday that the January-September period is tied with 1998 for the warmest first nine months on record.

The agency said the average temperature for the period was 1.17 degrees above normal for records going back 131 years. For a full year the warmest on record was 2005.

The agency added that it has been the warmest January-September on record in the Northern Hemisphere and the second warmest in the Southern Hemisphere.

Steadily rising temperatures in recent decades have raised concerns among environmentalists and atmospheric scientists concerned that human-generated pollutants are contributing the a dangerous global warming.



Watching Violent TV or Video Games Desensitizes Teenagers and May Promote More Aggressive Behavior

ScienceDaily (Oct. 19, 2010) — Watching violent films, TV programmes or video games desensitises teenagers, blunts their emotional responses to aggression and potentially promotes aggressive attitudes and behaviour, according to new research recently published online in the journal Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience.

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Dumb Comments: Ratio of Government Payments to the Elderly Compared to Payments to the Young

Tuesday, 19 October 2010 12:39

Eric Schurenberg is upset about Social Security and Medicare benefits because the federal government spend 7 times as much on each senior as it does on each child. This is taken from a paper that came out from the Brookings Institution.

Let's use the Schurenberg-Brookings methodology to see the ratio of average federal spending on the country's 400 billionaires to spending per child. For convenience let's say that federal spending averages $5,000 per child.

How much does the federal government spend on each billionaire? Most wealthy people hold some amount of their wealth in government bonds. Let's conservatively assume that our 400 billionaires hold an average of $1 billion worth of government bonds. Let's assume that these bonds pay an average interest rate of 4 percent. This means that the government is paying our billionaires an average of $40 million a year in interest. This is about 8,000 times what we spend on children on average. How's that for fairness?

Okay, everyone is jumping up and down saying that our billionaires paid for these bonds and this interest is just a return on that payment. This is true, but guess what? Our seniors paid Social Security and Medicare taxes to cover their benefits. In other words, they paid for these benefits much like the billionaires paid for their bonds, except of course that the seniors had no choice in the matter.

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The Tax Cut that wasn't Noticed

October 19, 2010

In his State of the Union address earlier this year, President Obama noted the tax cuts in the Recovery Act. Conservatives who usually applaud such things seemed annoyed.

Shortly after the speech, National Review ran one piece that said the "strained credulity" with the claim. The same outlet ran another item insisting, "If the taxes of 95 percent of Americans actully [sic] had been cut, surely somebody other than Obama would have noticed."

For the right, this seemed to be a matter of opinion. Obama says he cut taxes for millions of Americans, but since people didn't really notice, the argument goes, then maybe it didn't happen.

But there was an objective truth here. Democrats passed one of the largest middle-class tax cuts in the history of the country, and Republicans voted against it and fought to kill it. As it turns out, though, even those inclined to like tax cuts aren't inclined to give the president or Congress any credit for this, because they missed the news entirely.

What if a president cut Americans' income taxes by $116 billion and nobody noticed?

It is not a rhetorical question. At Pig Pickin' and Politickin', a barbecue-fed rally organized here last week by a Republican women's club, a half-dozen guests were asked by a reporter what had happened to their taxes since President Obama took office.

"Federal and state have both gone up," said Bob Paratore, 59, from nearby Charlotte, echoing the comments of others.

After further prodding -- including a reminder that a provision of the stimulus bill had cut taxes for 95 percent of working families by changing withholding rates -- Mr. Paratore's memory was jogged.

"You're right, you're right," he said. "I'll be honest with you: it was so subtle that personally, I didn't notice it."

Mr. Paratore was certain that his federal taxes had gone up, when in reality, they'd gone down. It's not subjective -- he can go back and look at his paystubs and see that his taxes were reduced when Obama signed the Recovery Act into law. But even when talking to a reporter, his first instinct was to say the exact opposite of what really happened.

The point, of course, is not to pick on one guy at a Republican rally, because he's obviously not the only one who's confused. Less than 10% of the country knows about the tax cuts, while about a third of the population thinks their federal tax burden went up, even though it didn't.

Oddly enough, this was not entirely an accident. In fact, the tax cut was designed to be subtle -- rebate checks tend to be saved, not spent, so Obama made it so that everyone's paychecks would simply be a little higher every pay period -- an average of about $65 a month, for the typical family -- hoping that more people would be more likely to spend that extra bit, and for the most part, it was effective.

But what makes for good policy often has no bearing on politics or public opinion. Obama could have gone with rebate checks that would have been better noticed, but the policy result would have been worse. The president chose to go with an approach that worked better, but paid fewer political dividends.

Indeed, almost immediately after Obama signed one of the largest tax cuts in American history, right-wing zealots started organizing rallies to announce they're Taxed Enough Already. The disconnect didn't seem to bother them, because they didn't understand their own issues, and weren't paying close enough attention to know the president had just given them a tax break.

Jonathan Cohn added, "[T}he political implications seem pretty clear. Obama gets a lot of blame for things he didn't do wrong and very little credit for things he did right. It's not the best place to be on the eve of midterm elections."


This writer is more polite than I am. I will say right out that, while it is true that most people didn't notice the tax cuts, Republican politicians are simply blatant liars.

And why didn't the MSM (main stream media) set things straight?


Monday, October 18, 2010

Childhood Adversity May Lead to Unhealthy Stress Response in Adult Life

ScienceDaily (Oct. 7, 2010) — Seemingly healthy adults, if they were abused or neglected during childhood, may suffer physiological consequences decades later. In research published online by the journal Neuropsychopharmacology, a team led by psychiatrists at Brown University and Butler Hospital found that healthy adults who reported being mistreated as kids appear to have an elevated inflammatory response to stress compared to adults who had happier childhoods.

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Sunday, October 17, 2010

Brain Changes Found in High School Football Players Thought to Be Concussion-Free

ScienceDaily (Oct. 8, 2010) — A study by researchers at Purdue University suggests that some high school football players suffer undiagnosed changes in brain function and continue playing even though they are impaired.

"Our key finding is a previously undiscovered category of cognitive impairment," said Thomas Talavage, an expert in functional neuroimaging who is an associate professor of biomedical engineering and electrical and computer engineering and co-director of the Purdue MRI Facility.

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Saturday, October 16, 2010

Emotional Effects of Heavy Combat Can Be Lifelong for Veterans

ScienceDaily (Oct. 9, 2010) — The trauma from hard combat can devastate veterans until old age, even as it influences others to be wiser, gentler and more accepting in their twilight years, a new University of Florida study finds.

The findings are ominous with the exposure of today's men and women to heavy combat in the ongoing Iraq and Afghanistan wars on terror at a rate that probably exceeds the length of time for U.S. veterans during World War II, said UF sociologist Monika Ardelt.

"The study shows that we really need to take care of our veterans when they arrive home, because if we don't, they may have problems for the rest of their lives," she said. "Yet veterans report they are facing long waiting lines at mental health clinics and struggling to get the services they need."

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Friday, October 15, 2010

Breast-Healthy Lifestyle Worthwhile

ScienceDaily (Oct. 12, 2010) — Having a family history of breast cancer can lead some people to wonder if their risk is out of their control. However, a study of more than 85,000 postmenopausal women observed that regular physical activity, maintaining a healthy weight, and drinking less alcohol lowers breast cancer risk for women with, and without a family history of the disease.

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Blind Inventors Develop Free Software to Enable the Blind to Use Computers

ScienceDaily (Oct. 9, 2010) — For many blind people, computers are inaccessible. It can cost upwards of $1000 to purchase "screen reader" software, but two blind computer programmers have solved this problem.

Queensland University of Technology (QUT) graduate James Teh and business partner Michael Curran developed a free, open-source program, called NVDA (NonVisual Desktop Access), which provides a synthetic voice to read the words on a computer screen as the cursor moves over them.

The invention won the blind duo accolades in the grand final program of the ABC's show New Inventors, which aired on September 23. They took home the "Les* is More" award, for an invention that "might make a real difference to people's lives or the environment."

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Thursday, October 14, 2010

Monarch Butterflies Use Medicinal Plants to Treat Offspring for Disease

ScienceDaily (Oct. 11, 2010) — Monarch butterflies appear to use medicinal plants to treat their offspring for disease, research by biologists at Emory University shows. Their findings were published online Oct. 6 in the journal Ecology Letters.

"We have shown that some species of milkweed, the larva's food plants, can reduce parasite infection in the monarchs," says Jaap de Roode, the evolutionary biologist who led the study. "And we have also found that infected female butterflies prefer to lay their eggs on plants that will make their offspring less sick, suggesting that monarchs have evolved the ability to medicate their offspring."

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Too Much Light at Night at Night May Lead to Obesity

ScienceDaily (Oct. 11, 2010) — Persistent exposure to light at night may lead to weight gain, even without changing physical activity or eating more food, according to new research in mice.

Researchers found that mice exposed to a relatively dim light at night over eight weeks had a body mass gain that was about 50 percent more than other mice that lived in a standard light-dark cycle.

"Although there were no differences in activity levels or daily consumption of food, the mice that lived with light at night were getting fatter than the others," said Laura Fonken, lead author of the study and a doctoral student in neuroscience at Ohio State University.

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Chamber Receives At Least $885,000 From Over 80 Foreign Companies In Disclosed Donations Alone

Last week, ThinkProgress published an exclusive story about the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s foreign fundraising operation. We noted the Chamber raises money from foreign-owned businesses for its 501(c)(6) entity, the same account that finances its unprecedented $75 million dollar partisan attack ad campaign. While the Chamber is notoriously secretive, the thrust of our story involved the disclosure of fundraising documents U.S. Chamber staffers had been distributing to solicit foreign (even state-owned) companies to donate directly to the Chamber’s 501(c)(6).

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In US, Hispanics live the longest;_ylt=AvmYj1TF1Dg4qA3LRDzyGZqs0NUE;_ylu=X3oDMTFkbW5wMTRlBHBvcwMxNDcEc2VjA2FjY29yZGlvbl9oZWFsdGgEc2xrA2ludXNoaXNwYW5pYw--

By MIKE STOBBE, AP Medical Writer Mike Stobbe, Ap Medical Writer – 1 hr 7 mins ago

ATLANTA – U.S. Hispanics outlive whites by more than two years and blacks by more than seven, according to the government's first calculation of Hispanic life expectancy.

The startling report released Wednesday is the strongest evidence yet of the "Hispanic paradox" — long life expectancy for a population that has a large share of poor, undereducated members. A leading theory is that Hispanics who manage to immigrate to the U.S. are among the healthiest from their countries.

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Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Yersinia Pestis Bacteria Confirmed as Cause of Middle Ages 'Black Death' Plague Epidemic

ScienceDaily (Oct. 8, 2010) — The latest tests conducted by anthropologists at the Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU) have proven that the bacteria Yersinia pestis was indeed the causative agent behind the "Black Death" that raged across Europe in the Middle Ages.

The cause of the epidemic has always remained highly controversial and other pathogens were often named as possible causes, in particular for the northern European regions. Using DNA and protein analyses from skeletons of plague victims, an international team led by the scientists from Mainz has now conclusively shown that Yersinia pestis was responsible for the Black Death in the 14th century and the subsequent epidemics that continued to erupt throughout the European continent for the next 400 years. The tests conducted on genetic material from mass graves in five countries also identified at least two previously unknown types of Yersinia pestis that occurred as pathogens.

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Wall Street set to pay out record $144 billion news services
updated 1 hour 25 minutes ago 2010-10-12T19:02:28

Wall Street pay is on pace to break a record high for a second consecutive year, according to a report in Tuesday’s Wall Street Journal.

Some three dozen top banks and securities firms will pay $144 billion in salary and benefits this year, the paper said. That’s a 4 percent increase from the $139 billion paid out in 2009, according to a survey conducted by the Journal. Compensation is expected to rise at 26 of the 35 firms surveyed, including banks, investment banks, hedge funds, money-management firms and securities exchanges.

The report shows revenue is expected to rise at 29 of the firms, but at a slower pace than pay.

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Health insurance claim denials rose by half in recent years

updated 1 hour 31 minutes ago 2010-10-12T18:37:18

WASHINGTON — Coverage denials of individuals based on their medical histories by the nation's top for-profit health insurance companies rose by nearly half in recent years, U.S. lawmakers said Tuesday.

The findings raise questions about industry practices before a law to prevent such discrimination kicks in in 2014.

In a report released Tuesday, the House Energy and Commerce Committee's top Democrats said the number of people refused health insurance plans by big insurers Aetna Inc, Humana Inc , UnitedHealth Group Inc and WellPoint Inc due to pre-existing conditions rose 49 percent in the last three years.

The denials affected tens of thousands of individuals seeking to buy their own insurance. In 2009, 257,100 could not get a plan compared with 172,400 in 2007, the committee said.

Overall, the insurers refused to sell plans to more than 651,000 individuals -- or one out of every seven applicants -- because of their medical history, Committee Chairmen Henry Waxman and ranking Democrat Bart Stupak said.

Health care reforms passed earlier this year would make it illegal to deny insurance based on such so-called "preexisting conditions," but so far it only protects children. Insurers do not have to change their practices for adults until 2014.

Additionally, the committee said the four insurers all considered pregnancy a preexisting condition to trigger automatic denial for a plan.


Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Inflammation Helps to Heal Wounds

ScienceDaily (Oct. 5, 2010) — A new research study published in The FASEB Journal may change how sports injuries involving muscle tissue are treated, as well as how much patient monitoring is necessary when potent anti-inflammatory drugs are prescribed for a long time. That's because the study shows for the first time that inflammation actually helps to heal damaged muscle tissue, turning conventional wisdom on its head that inflammation must be largely controlled to encourage healing.

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Zhou and colleagues found that the presence of inflammatory cells (macrophages) in acute muscle injury produce a high level of a growth factor called insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF-1) which significantly increases the rate of muscle regeneration. The research report shows that muscle inflammatory cells produce the highest levels of IGF-1, which improves muscle injury repair.


Maybe this is how prolonged inflammation increases cancer incidence.
Too much of a good thing.


Unemployment Linked With Child Maltreatment

ScienceDaily (Oct. 5, 2010) — The stresses of poverty have long been associated with child abuse and neglect. In a study presented Sunday, Oct. 3, at the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) National Conference and Exhibition in San Francisco, researchers directly linked an increased unemployment rate to child maltreatment one year later.

Researchers reviewed state-level unemployment statistics from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, and compared them with child maltreatment data from the National Child Abuse and Neglect Data System (NCANDS), during the years 1990 to 2008. Each 1 percent increase in unemployment was associated with at least a 0.50 per 1,000 increase in confirmed child maltreatment reports one year later. In addition, higher levels of unemployment appeared to raise the likelihood of child maltreatment, as it was not only the lagged change in unemployment, but also the previous year's unemployment level that influenced the number of child abuse cases.

According to the study, a prolonged rise in unemployment rates is not only detrimental to the economic health of the country but also to the physical and mental health of children. Maltreated children suffer the immediate physical consequences of abuse, including physical injury and even death, and are also at increased risk of physical and mental health effects, often lasting for decades.

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Americans' life expectancy continues to fall behind other countries'

Public release date: 7-Oct-2010
Contact: Mary Mahon
Commonwealth Fund
Americans' life expectancy continues to fall behind other countries'
Obesity, smoking, traffic fatalities and homicide ruled out as causes of failure of US to keep up with gains in life expectancy in other countries

New York, NY, October 7, 2010—The United States continues to lag behind other nations when it comes to gains in life expectancy, and commonly cited causes for our poor performance—obesity, smoking, traffic fatalities, and homicide—are not to blame, according to a Commonwealth Fund-supported study published today as a Health Affairs Web First. The study, by Peter Muennig and Sherry Glied at Columbia University, looked at health spending; behavioral risk factors like obesity and smoking; and 15-year survival rates for men and women ages 45 and 65 in the U.S. and 12 other nations (Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, Sweden, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom).

While the U.S. has achieved gains in 15-year survival rates decade by decade between 1975 and 2005, the researchers discovered that other countries have experienced even greater gains, leading the U.S. to slip in country ranking, even as per capita health care spending in the U.S. increased at more than twice the rate of the comparison countries. Fifteen-year survival rates for men and women ages 45 and 65 in the US have fallen relative to the other 12 countries over the past 30 years. Forty-five year old U.S. white women fared the worst—by 2005 their 15-year survival rates were lower than that of all the other countries. Moreover, the survival rates of this group in 2005 had not even surpassed the 1975 15-year survival rates for Swiss, Swedish, Dutch or Japanese women. The U.S. ranking for 15-year life expectancy for 45-year-old men also declined, falling from 3rd in 1975 to 12th in 2005, according to the study, "What Changes in Survival Rates Tell Us About U.S. Health Care."

When the researchers compared risk factors among the 13 countries, they found very little difference in smoking habits between the U.S. and the comparison countries—in fact, the U.S. had faster declines in smoking between 1975 and 2005 than almost all of the other countries. In terms of obesity, the researchers found that, while people in the U.S. are more likely to be obese, this was also the case in 1975, when the U.S. was not so far behind in life expectancy. In fact, even as the comparison countries pulled ahead of the US in terms of survival, the percentage of obese men and women actually grew faster in most of those countries between 1975 and 2005. Finally, examining homicide and traffic fatalities, the researchers found that they have accounted for a stable share of U.S. deaths over time, and would not account for the significant change in 15-year life expectancy the study identified.

The researchers say that the failure of the U.S. to make greater gains in survival rates with its greater spending on health care may be attributable to flaws in the overall health care system. They point to the role of unregulated fee-for-service payments and our reliance on specialty care as possible drivers of high spending without commensurate gains in life expectancy.

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Monday, October 11, 2010

Greatest Warming Is in the North, but Biggest Impact on Life Is in the Tropics

ScienceDaily (Oct. 6, 2010) — In recent decades documented biological changes in the far Northern Hemisphere have been attributed to global warming, changes from species extinctions to shifting geographic ranges. Such changes were expected because warming has been fastest in the northern temperate zone and the Arctic.

But new research published in the Oct. 7 edition of Nature adds to growing evidence that, even though the temperature increase has been smaller in the tropics, the impact of warming on life could be much greater there than in colder climates.

The study focused on ectothermic, or cold-blooded, organisms (those whose body temperature approximates the temperature of their surroundings).

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In fact, previous research from the University of Washington has indicated that small temperature changes can push tropical organisms beyond their optimal body temperatures and cause substantial stress, while organisms in temperate and polar regions can tolerate much larger increases because they already are used to large seasonal temperature swings.

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Too Much of a Good Thing - Fish Oil

Balance is needed.

ScienceDaily (Oct. 6, 2010) — Fish oil -- long encouraged by doctors as a supplement to support heart and joint health, among other benefits -- induced severe colitis and colon cancer in mice in research led by Michigan State University and published this month in the journal Cancer Research.

enifer Fenton, a food science and human nutrition researcher at MSU, led the research that supports establishing a dose limit for docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), one of the omega-3 fatty acids present in fish oil, particularly in people suffering from chronic conditions such as inflammatory bowel diseases.

"We found that mice developed deadly, late-stage colon cancer when given high doses of fish oil," she said. "More importantly, with the increased inflammation, it only took four weeks for the tumors to develop."

Specifically, the research team found an increase in the severity of the cancer and an aggressive progression of the cancer in not only the mice receiving the highest doses of DHA but those receiving lower doses as well. The mice used in the study were prone to inflammatory-like bowel disease; inflammation is an important risk factor for many types of cancers, including colon cancer.

"Our findings support a growing body of literature implicating harmful effects of high doses of fish oil consumption in relation to certain diseases," Fenton said. "Currently, there is a call by academics and the food industry to establish dietary guidelines for omega-3 consumption. This is primarily motivated by the fact that most Americans are deficient in omega-3 fatty acids, and there is substantial evidence supporting the beneficial effects of the consumption."

The findings were surprising, specifically because DHA has been shown to have some anti-inflammatory properties, according to Fenton: "We hypothesized that feeding fish oil enriched with DHA to mice would decrease the cancer risk; we actually found the opposite. These mice were less equipped to mount a successful immune response to bacteria that increased colon tumors."

Fenton cautions people may not need to avoid fish oil; what the research shows is needed are guidelines on dosing. With any nutrient, there is a "bell curve" effect. On the left of the curve are those deficient in a nutrient; on the right are those in excess.

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"There are many examples of taking supplements, nutrients or chemicals in excess that can promote cancer (for example, beta-carotene supplementation in smokers). Supplementation is most useful when the person taking them is deficient in that specific nutrient."

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Sleep Loss Limits Fat Loss

ScienceDaily (Oct. 5, 2010) — Cutting back on sleep reduces the benefits of dieting, according to a study published October 5, 2010, in the Annals of Internal Medicine.

When dieters in the study got a full night's sleep, they lost the same amount of weight as when they slept less. When dieters got adequate sleep, however, more than half of the weight they lost was fat. When they cut back on their sleep, only one-fourth of their weight loss came from fat.

They also felt hungrier. When sleep was restricted, dieters produced higher levels of ghrelin, a hormone that triggers hunger and reduces energy expenditure.

"If your goal is to lose fat, skipping sleep is like poking sticks in your bicycle wheels," said study director Plamen Penev, MD, PhD, assistant professor of medicine at the University of Chicago. "Cutting back on sleep, a behavior that is ubiquitous in modern society, appears to compromise efforts to lose fat through dieting. In our study it reduced fat loss by 55 percent."

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Reverse Progress by Auto makers

I need to buy a car because a lady ran a red light and totaled mine. I am looking for a car about 3 years old with manual transmission, that gets good gas milage and is decently built. I had a 1996 Geo Metro, and the only cars I can find that get as good or better gas milage are hybrids. This is really, really irritating. My own car was running well, and I will probably have to replace it with one that gets less milage.


Joe Miller - hypocrite

Alaska GOP Senate candidate Joe Miller has repeatedly claimed that federal health care benefits violate the Constitution. It turns out, however, that “Mr. Noun, Verb, and Unconstitutional” doesn’t actually think that the Constitution applies to himself. Yesterday, Miller acknowledged that the received the very same kind of federally funded health care benefits that he believes to be unconstitutional:

U.S. Senate candidate Joe Miller acknowledged Thursday that in the past his family received assistance from federal Medicaid and Denali KidCare, the state low income health care program. His opponents in the race responded that he’s a hypocrite for taking assistance while now saying federal entitlement programs are unconstitutional.

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Sunday, October 10, 2010

Fox News, GOP melding into one apparatus

8:29 am September 27, 2010, by Jay

The tight, interlocking relationship between Fox News and the Republican Party has become more and more obvious in the past year. But a new Politico piece raises a couple of interesting consequences to that arrangement:

“With the exception of Mitt Romney, Fox now has deals with every major potential Republican presidential candidate not currently in elected office.

The matter is of no small consequence, since it’s uncertain how other news organizations can cover the early stages of the presidential race when some of the main GOP contenders are contractually forbidden to appear on any TV network besides Fox.

C-SPAN Political Editor Steve Scully said that when C-SPAN tried to have Palin on for an interview, he was told he had to first get Fox’s permission — which the network, citing her contract, ultimately denied. Producers at NBC, ABC, CBS, CNN and MSNBC all report similar experiences….”

As the Politico piece points out, the arrangement is great for Fox. They have the candidates under contract, which means that if you want to see Palin, Gingrich or Huckabee, you have no choice as a viewer but to turn to Fox. The system also enhances Fox’s position as kingmaker within the party. The candidates whom it puts under contract are rewarded with a straight pipeline to the Fox audience, which also happens to be the Republican base, while those excluded from Fox World operate at a great disadvantage.

It’s probably no accident that Romney, the most moderate of the GOP contenders, doesn’t get the guaranteed airtime of his competitors.

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Untruth in Advertising at Georgia polls

6:35 am October 1, 2010, by Jay

On the ballot, it sounds so wonderful that you can practically hear bluebirds singing:

“Shall the Constitution of Georgia be amended so as to make Georgia more economically competitive by authorizing legislation to uphold reasonable competitive agreements?” Amendment One asks.

Of course you want to make Georgia more competitive. Of course you favor “reasonable competitive agreements” — opposing them would by definition be “unreasonable.” So of course you’re going to vote yes, right?

Well, not so fast. Let’s look at what the amendment would actually do. The state constitution currently bars contracts “defeating or lessening competition.” Amendment One strikes that free-enterprise language.

According to supporters, the change is needed to make it easier to use noncompete employment contracts. Once signed, such contracts bar workers who leave a job from immediately taking a position with a competing firm or starting a competitor of their own. Those who leave anyway must wait until the contract expires, often two years or longer.

From a company’s point of view, such contracts have several advantages. The most legitimate is that noncompete clauses keep critical employees from taking inside information and immediately using it against their previous employer.

Other impacts are less benign. Such contracts discourage the rise of new competitors within an industry, and they limit worker freedom. Workers know that if they quit or get fired, they won’t be able to work in their field until the noncompete contract expires.

Until now, our state constitution has made such agreements hard to enforce. Amendment One is an effort led by the state’s business community to eliminate that constitutional obstacle.

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Jay Bookman
Amendment One: Making Georgia less competitive

6:35 am October 1, 2010, by Jay

On the ballot, it sounds so wonderful that you can practically hear bluebirds singing:

“Shall the Constitution of Georgia be amended so as to make Georgia more economically competitive by authorizing legislation to uphold reasonable competitive agreements?” Amendment One asks.

Of course you want to make Georgia more competitive. Of course you favor “reasonable competitive agreements” — opposing them would by definition be “unreasonable.” So of course you’re going to vote yes, right?

Well, not so fast. Let’s look at what the amendment would actually do. The state constitution currently bars contracts “defeating or lessening competition.” Amendment One strikes that free-enterprise language.

According to supporters, the change is needed to make it easier to use noncompete employment contracts. Once signed, such contracts bar workers who leave a job from immediately taking a position with a competing firm or starting a competitor of their own. Those who leave anyway must wait until the contract expires, often two years or longer.

From a company’s point of view, such contracts have several advantages. The most legitimate is that noncompete clauses keep critical employees from taking inside information and immediately using it against their previous employer.

Other impacts are less benign. Such contracts discourage the rise of new competitors within an industry, and they limit worker freedom. Workers know that if they quit or get fired, they won’t be able to work in their field until the noncompete contract expires.

Until now, our state constitution has made such agreements hard to enforce. Amendment One is an effort led by the state’s business community to eliminate that constitutional obstacle.

According to state Rep. Kevin Levitas, D-Atlanta, who sponsored the proposed amendment and related legislation, the change will bring jobs.

“It will make Georgia more economically competitive by bringing our laws into line with our surrounding states,” Levitas said, pointing out that the House and Senate passed the proposal by large margins.

Legislators have already passed a new law that will take effect as soon as voters agree to change the constitution. That new law gives noncompete clauses considerably more bite.

Current state law — rendered void by its constitutional problems — at least gave some protection to workers who were fired for no fault of their own. That made sense: Getting fired or laid off is bad enough; getting laid off and told that by law you can’t get a new job in your career field for two or three years is really rubbing it in.

The new law contains no such safeguard.

The previous law also limited the geographic area in which a noncompete clause could be enforced. The new law contains no such limit, meaning a noncompete contract could conceivably be enforced nationally.

For some, those changes might be worthwhile if they bring jobs to Georgia. But research suggests the opposite.

The classic case study compares Massachusetts, which allows strict noncompete contracts, and California, which bars them. At one point, the two states boasted comparable high-tech industries, but California’s Silicon Valley quickly outgrew Boston’s Route 128.

Why? Well, California allowed workers to form new, more nimble companies, creating competition, while Massachusetts protected existing firms at the expense of innovation.

A 2009 study by the Harvard School of Business focused on Michigan, which in 1985 passed a law much like that now on the Georgia ballot. By tracking patents, the study found that job mobility for inventors in Michigan fell significantly once the law changed.

“States that continue to allow widespread use of such agreements as a way to protect established firms may instead be inadvertently creating a ‘brain drain’ of the very workers needed to create and build successful new firms,” the Harvard study warns.

As an aside, that study also notes the first known legal case involving a noncompete contract. In 1414, a clothing dyer filed suit trying to bar a former employee from working in the same town for six months. The suit “was met with disdain from the judge, who threatened the plaintiff himself with jail time for having sought to restrict a citizen from practicing his trade,” the study reports.

I think that judge had it right.


Saturday, October 09, 2010

Obama: With so many suffering, billionaires and millionaires shouldn’t whine

4:53 pm September 20, 2010, by Jay

Good for Obama.

In a sometimes painful townhall session broadcast live on CNBC, the president took questions from Americans concerned about the economy and their own futures. The fear and anguish of at least a couple of questioners was palpable, and for the most part Obama didn’t try to sugarcoat what they and the country face.

At one point, however, a hedge fund manager stepped to the microphone to complain on behalf of Wall Street that the financial community was tired of being treated like a pinata. In his response, Obama pointed out that last year, the top 25 hedge fund managers earned an average of a billion dollars apiece. A billion bucks apiece. And he also suggested that a bit of perspective might be in order.

“Now, you know, I have been amused over the last couple years, this sense of somehow me beating up on Wall Street. I think most folks on Main Street feel like they got beat up on. I’ll be honest with you. There’s probably — there’s a big chunk of the country that thinks that I have been too soft on Wall Street. That’s probably the majority, not the minority…. It’s a two-way street. If you’re making a billion dollars a year after a very bad financial crisis where 8 million people lost their jobs and small businesses can’t get loans, then you shouldn’t feel put upon.”

At that point, the CNBC moderator jumped in to note that in the cover story in Forbes magazine, Obama is described as having an “anti-colonial attitude” toward business and that Steve Schwarzman, a prominent hedge-fund manager, had likened Obama’s proposed tax treatment of hedge-fund earnings as “a war … it’s like when Hitler invaded Poland in 1939.”

Obama responded by pointing out that the hedge fund manager and his colleagues are paying a tax rate of 15 percent on what they earn, which is a considerably lower rate than their secretaries have to pay.

“The notion that somehow, me saying ‘Maybe you should be taxed more like your secretary, when you’re pulling home a billion dollars or a hundred million a year,’ I don’t think is me being extremist or anti-business,” Obama said. (See video excerpts below.)

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TARP Bailout to Cost Less Than Once Anticipated

Published: September 30, 2010

WASHINGTON — Even as voters rage and candidates put up ads against government bailouts, the reviled mother of them all — the $700 billion lifeline to banks, insurance and auto companies — will expire after Sunday at a fraction of that cost, and could conceivably earn taxpayers a profit.

A final accounting of the government’s full range of interventions in the economy, including the bailouts of the mortgage finance giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, is years off and will most likely remain controversial and potentially costly.

But the once-unthinkable possibility that the $700 billion Troubled Asset Relief Program could end up costing far less, or even nothing, became more likely on Thursday with the news that the government had negotiated a plan with the American International Group to begin repaying taxpayers.

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Friday, October 08, 2010

In the Year 2525


What kind of entrepreneurs do we need?

This comment by somebody else on another blog makes excellent sense.

Cynthia said in reply to beezer...

Facebook, for instance, is an internet company, and like most internet companies, it is totally virtual. Because of this, Facebook is far from being a labor-intensive company. Look it up: Facebook, despite spanning the globe and despite making its founder into a billionaire in less than five years, needs only a few thousand people to keep it fully up and running.

Our banking system is another case in point. It is fast becoming nothing more than a virtual component on the World Wide Web. Because of this, our banks, especially the giant TBTF ones, are cutting back on the number of their employees. They are doing this despite that fact they growing both in terms of their net worth and their global reach.

My purpose in saying all this isn't to bash Mark Zuckerberg and his Facebook empire. Nor is it to bash the Goldmans of the World. I'm merely making the point, despite being rather poor at it, that America don't need more entrepreneurs like Mark Zuckerberg and Lloyd Lloyd Blankfein who are capable of making billions for their companies by having just a skeleton crew of people working for them. We need more entrepreneurs who can create companies that employ large numbers of people. On top of that, we need more entrepreneurs that are more loyal to the American economy than they are to the global economy, thus refusing to outsource American jobs to low-wage countries. This is the only way that we can get our economy back on a growth curve and get our unemployment rate back down below, say, five percent. And the companies that are most likely to accomplish this are the ones that are rooted in real economy, not the ones that are rooted the the virtual economy.

Reply Tuesday, October 05, 2010 at 10:38 AM


I will add that we also need citizens who care enough about their country to be willing to pay more for goods made in the U.S.


Thursday, October 07, 2010

Lack of Private Health Insurance Impacts Cancer Survival

ScienceDaily (Oct. 4, 2010) — Lack of private health insurance and its consequent lack of access to care appears to affect mortality among patients with uterine cancer and may partly explain the mortality disparity between African-Americans and other racial groups, according to data presented at the Third AACR Conference on The Science of Cancer Health Disparities.

"African-Americans were twice as likely to die within four years compared to white patients after adjusting for age, facility and education level. However, when insurance, treatment and clinical factors were accounted for, this likelihood decreased to 30 percent greater," said Dana Chase, M.D., a clinical fellow at the University of California, Irvine.

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The unadjusted four-year survival rates were 80.7 percent among uninsured, 75.93 percent for Medicaid insured, 79.45 percent for younger Medicare patients, 69.35 percent for older Medicare patients and 88.93 percent for privately insured patients.

Patients without insurance were 1.46 times likely to die within four years after adjusting for demographic and clinical factors. Medicaid insured and those insured through Medicare at younger ages (18 to 64 years) were 1.74 and 2.5 times as likely to die within four years compared to privately insured patients, respectively. However, survival patterns among Medicaid and younger Medicare patients are difficult to interpret due to retroactive enrollment in these insurance plans as a result of a cancer diagnosis. Additionally, this study did not account for comorbidity, which may vary by insurance and contribute to poorer survival outcomes.

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Turning Waste Heat Into Power

ScienceDaily (Oct. 3, 2010) — What do a car engine, a power plant, a factory and a solar panel have in common? They all generate heat -- a lot of which is wasted.

University of Arizona physicists have discovered a new way of harvesting waste heat and turning it into electrical power.

Using a theoretical model of a so-called molecular thermoelectric device, the technology holds great promise for making cars, power plants, factories and solar panels more efficient, to name a few possible applications. In addition, more efficient thermoelectric materials would make ozone-depleting chlorofluorocarbons, or CFCs, obsolete.


University of Arizona physicists have discovered a new way of harvesting waste heat and turning it into electrical power.

Using a theoretical model of a so-called molecular thermoelectric device, the technology holds great promise for making cars, power plants, factories and solar panels more efficient, to name a few possible applications. In addition, more efficient thermoelectric materials would make ozone-depleting chlorofluorocarbons, or CFCs, obsolete.

The research group led by Charles Stafford, associate professor of physics, published its findings in the September issue of the scientific journal, ACS Nano.

"Thermoelectricity makes it possible to cleanly convert heat directly into electrical energy in a device with no moving parts," said lead author Justin Bergfield, a doctoral candidate in the UA College of Optical Sciences.

"Our colleagues in the field tell us they are pretty confident that the devices we have designed on the computer can be built with the characteristics that we see in our simulations."

"We anticipate the thermoelectric voltage using our design to be about 100 times larger than what others have achieved in the lab," Stafford added.

Catching the energy lost through waste heat has been on the wish list of engineers for a long time but, so far, a concept for replacing existing devices that is both more efficient and economically competitive has been lacking.

Unlike existing heat-conversion devices such as refrigerators and steam turbines, the devices of Bergfield and Stafford require no mechanics and no ozone-depleting chemicals. Instead, a rubber-like polymer sandwiched between two metals acting as electrodes can do the trick.

Car or factory exhaust pipes could be coated with the material, less than 1 millionth of an inch thick, to harvest energy otherwise lost as heat and generate electricity.

The physicists take advantage of the laws of quantum physics, a realm not typically tapped into when engineering power-generating technology. To the uninitiated, the laws of quantum physics appear to fly in the face of how things are "supposed" to behave.

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Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Collective Intelligence: Number of Women in Group Linked to Effectiveness in Solving Difficult Problems

ScienceDaily (Oct. 2, 2010) — When it comes to intelligence, the whole can indeed be greater than the sum of its parts. A new study co-authored by MIT, Carnegie Mellon University, and Union College researchers documents the existence of collective intelligence among groups of people who cooperate well, showing that such intelligence extends beyond the cognitive abilities of the groups' individual members, and that the tendency to cooperate effectively is linked to the number of women in a group.

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Moreover, the researchers found that the performance of groups was not primarily due to the individual abilities of the group's members. For instance, the average and maximum intelligence of individual group members did not significantly predict the performance of their groups overall.

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Study Links Office Work With Obesity

ScienceDaily (Oct. 5, 2010) — Working nine-to-five may be the way to make a living, but it may be padding more than the wallet. According to a new study from the Université de Montréal, office-workers have become less active over the last three decades and this decreased activity may partly explain the rise in obesity. Their findings, published in the early online edition of Preventive Medicine, may have health implications for the millions of people toiling behind their desks.

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Racial predatory loans fueled U.S. housing crisis

By Nick Carey
updated 10/4/2010 9:36:57 AM ET

CHICAGO — Predatory lending aimed at racially segregated minority neighborhoods led to mass foreclosures that fueled the U.S. housing crisis, according to a new study published in the American Sociological Review.

Predatory lending typically refers to loans that carry unreasonable fees, interest rates and payment requirements.

Poorer minority areas became a focus of these practices in the 1990s with the growth of mortgage-backed securities, which enabled lenders to pool low- and high-risk loans to sell on the secondary market, Professor Douglas Massey of the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton University and PhD candidate Jacob Rugh, said in their study.

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The financial institutions likely to be found in minority areas tended to be predatory — pawn shops, payday lenders and check cashing services that "charge high fees and usurious rates of interest," they said in the study.

"By definition, segregation creates minority dominant neighborhoods, which, given the legacy of redlining and institutional discrimination, continue to be underserved by mainstream financial institutions," the study says.

Redlining is the practice of denying or increasing the cost of services, such as banking and insurance, to residents in specific areas, often based on race.

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Even African-Americans with similar credit profiles and down-payment ratios to white borrowers were more likely to receive subprime loans, according to the study.

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