Sunday, January 30, 2011

Too much optimism may be bad for cancer patients

By Linda Carroll contributor contributor
updated 1/28/2011 8:09:00 AM ET 2011-01-28T13:09:00

An optimistic outlook is often believed to have a positive impact on cancer. But researchers now say that optimism, like anything else, can be overdone. And “unrealistic optimism,” which a new study has found to be common among patients enrolling in early phase drug trials, may have a serious downside.

The problem, some experts say, is that unrealistic optimism may lead patients to sign up for very early stage trials when the patients might make other choices if they really understood and completely absorbed the true risks and benefits.

To learn more about the attitudes of patients in early phase trials, which only test toxicity of drugs and aren't intended to have a therapeutic benefit, researchers surveyed 72 patients with advanced cancer. All had signed up for phase I or phase II drug trials, according to a report published in the January issue of the journal IRB: Ethics & Human Research.

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Saturday, January 29, 2011

Pets poisoned by your pills

updated 1/28/2011 7:45:17 PM ET 2011-01-29T00:45:17

LOS ANGELES — Human medications including dropped pills sickened more pets in the United States last year than any other toxin.

It's the third year in a row that human medications top the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals' list of top 10 toxins, released Friday.

Over-the-counter medicines with ibuprofen and acetaminophen, antidepressants and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder medicine topped the list.

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Friday, January 28, 2011

Actively Recalling Information from Memory Beats Elaborate Study Methods

ScienceDaily (Jan. 21, 2011) — Put down those science text books and work at recalling information from memory. That's the shorthand take away message of new research from Purdue University that says practicing memory retrieval boosts science learning far better than elaborate study methods.

"Our view is that learning is not about studying or getting knowledge 'in memory,'" said Purdue psychology professor Jeffrey Karpicke, the lead investigator for the study that appears January 20 in the journal Science. "Learning is about retrieving. So it is important to make retrieval practice an integral part of the learning process."

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Eating More Fruit and Vegetables Is Linked to a Lower Risk of Dying from Ischemic Heart Disease

ScienceDaily (Jan. 19, 2011) — A European study investigating the links between diet and disease has found that people who consume more fruit and vegetables have a lower risk of dying from ischaemic heart disease -- the most common form of heart disease and one of the leading causes of death in Europe. However, the authors point out that a higher fruit and vegetable intake occurs among people with other healthy eating habits and lifestyles, and that these factors could also be associated with the lower risk of dying from IHD.

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Strong Social Ties Benefit Breast Cancer Patients

ScienceDaily (Jan. 21, 2011) — Breast cancer patients who have a strong social support system in the first year after diagnosis are less likely to die or have a recurrence of cancer, according to new research from Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center (VICC) and the Shanghai Institute of Preventive Medicine. The study, led by first author Meira Epplein, Ph.D., assistant professor of Medicine at VICC, was published in a recent edition of the Journal of Clinical Oncology.

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Thursday, January 27, 2011

Obesity Linked to Economic Insecurity

ScienceDaily (Jan. 24, 2011) — An Oxford University study suggests that people living in countries with 'free market' regimes are more likely to become obese due to the stress of being exposed to economic insecurity.

The researchers believe that the stress of living in a competitive social system without a strong welfare state could be causing people to overeat. According to the study published in the latest issue of the journal Economics and Human Biology, Americans and Britons are much more likely to be obese than Norwegians and Swedes.

Oxford researchers compared 11 affluent countries and found that those with a liberal market regime (strong market incentives and relatively weak welfare states) experienced one-third more obesity on average. Their analysis of nearly 100 surveys, carried out between 1994 and 2004, revealed that the highest prevalence of obesity reported in a single survey was in the United States where one-third of the population was classed as obese. By contrast, Norway had the lowest prevalence of obesity in a single survey at just five per cent.

The study compared 'market-liberal' countries (United States, Britain, Canada and Australia) with seven relatively affluent European countries that have systems that traditionally offer stronger social protection (Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Norway, Spain and Sweden). It concludes that economic security plays a significant role in determining levels of obesity. Countries with higher levels of job and income security were associated with lower levels of obesity.

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Better Learning Through Handwriting

cienceDaily (Jan. 24, 2011) — Writing by hand strengthens the learning process. When typing on a keyboard, this process may be impaired.

Associate professor Anne Mangen at the University of Stavanger's Reading Centre asks if something is lost in switching from book to computer screen, and from pen to keyboard.

The process of reading and writing involves a number of senses, she explains. When writing by hand, our brain receives feedback from our motor actions, together with the sensation of touching a pencil and paper. These kinds of feedback is significantly different from those we receive when touching and typing on a keyboard.

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I'm not surprised. I have found this to be true for myself.


Humans' Critical Ability to Throw Long Distances Aided by an Illusion

ScienceDaily (Jan. 24, 2011) — Can't help molding some snow into a ball and hurling it or tossing a stone as far into a lake as you can? New research from Indiana University and the University of Wyoming shows how humans, unlike any other species on Earth, readily learn to throw long distances.

The study, appearing online Jan. 14 in the journal Evolution and Human Behavior, suggests that the well-established size-weight illusion, where a person who is holding two objects of equal weight will consider the larger object to be much lighter, is more than just curious or interesting, but a necessary precursor to humans' ability to learn to throw -- and to throw far.

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Another way of stating the size-weight illusion is that for someone to perceive that two objects -- one larger than the other -- weigh the same, the larger object must weigh significantly more than the smaller object. Their study findings show that skilled throwers use this illusion of 'equal felt' heaviness to select objects that they are able to throw to the farthest, maximum distance. This, says Bingham, suggests the phenomenon is not actually an illusion but instead a "highly useful and accurate perception."

Neanderthals, which co-existed with Homo sapiens long ago, lacked the more developed cerebellum and posterior parietal cortex.

"These brain structures have recently been found to distinguish Homo sapiens from Neanderthals," Bingham said. "It is possible that this is what enabled us to beat out Neanderthals, who otherwise had the larger brains."


I suppose wind resistance is the reason we evolved to have this illusion.
Being useful doesn't mean it's not an illusion.


Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Eyewitnesses Are Not as Reliable as One Might Believe

ScienceDaily (Jan. 25, 2011) — Eyewitnesses play a key role in police investigations. But how likely is it that they remember correctly? Today the police place far too much emphasis on eyewitness accounts, according to Farhan Sarwar from Lund University in Sweden, who will be defending his PhD thesis on witness psychology shortly.

Those who have witnessed a crime would do best not to tell anyone about it. Contrary to what one might believe, a person's memory of an event is not improved by retelling the story. Instead, the risk of an incorrect account increases the more the story is retold and discussed.

"The most accurate witness statements come from people who have seen a crime and then write down what happened before they recount it or discuss it with anyone," says Farhan Sarwar.

However, it is quite unusual for witnesses to do this. On the contrary, many want to immediately discuss what they have seen. One example of how wrong they can be is the eyewitness descriptions of Anna Lindh's murderer. Those who were there and saw the murderer were in agreement that he was wearing military clothing. When the pictures from the department store's cameras were examined, it could be seen that he was wearing normal sports clothes.

Farhan Sarwar's studies show that eyewitnesses are particularly bad at remembering details, such as what the perpetrator was wearing or what weapon was used. On the other hand, they are better at recalling the key events.

A witness who has told his story many times may become increasingly sure of the details of the crime. This could have devastating consequences for a criminal investigation, as the police place great importance on how confident the witness is, says Farhan Sarwar.

But if eyewitness accounts are so flawed, should they be used at all?

"Yes," says Farhan Sarwar. "Criminals are getting increasingly canny. They rarely leave any clues. Therefore, eyewitness accounts are still the most important thing the police have to go on. However, the police must be aware of how much importance they attribute to them."

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Innocent people have served long prison terms because of this problem.

Reducing Diet Early in Pregnancy Stunts Fetal Brain Development

ScienceDaily (Jan. 18, 2011) — Eating less during early pregnancy impaired fetal brain development in a nonhuman primate model, researchers from The University of Texas Health Science Center San Antonio report.

The researchers found decreased formation of cell-to-cell connections, cell division and amounts of growth factors in the fetuses of mothers fed a reduced diet during the first half of pregnancy. "This is a critical time window when many of the neurons as well as the supporting cells in the brain are born," said Peter Nathanielsz, M.D., Ph.D., director of the Center for Pregnancy and Newborn Research in the Health Science Center School of Medicine.

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It is known that marked nutrient restriction, such as in famine conditions, adversely affects development of the fetal brain. Senior author Thomas McDonald, Ph.D., also of the Health Science Center, said the study "is the first demonstration of major effects caused by the levels of food insecurity that occur in sections of U.S. society and demonstrates the vulnerability of the fetus to moderate reduction in nutrients."

Dr. Nathanielsz noted:

* In teenage pregnancy, the developing fetus is deprived of nutrients by the needs of the growing mother;
* In pregnancies late in reproductive life, a woman's arteries are stiffer and the blood supply to the uterus decreases, inevitably affecting nutrient delivery to the fetus;
* Diseases such as preeclampsia or high blood pressure in pregnancy can lead to decreased function of the placenta with decreased delivery of nutrients to the fetus.

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Developmental programming of lifetime health has been shown to play a role in later development of obesity, diabetes and heart disease. In light of this new finding, research should focus on effects of developmental programming in the context of autism, depression, schizophrenia and other brain disorders.

Exercise Improve Symptoms in Irritable Bowel Syndrome

ScienceDaily (Jan. 25, 2011) — Physical activity improves symptoms in patients with IBS and is protective against symptom deterioration. This has recently been shown in a study from the University of Gothenburg, Sweden.

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"The group with unchanged lifestyle had an average decrease of symptoms by 5 points. The active group on the other hand showed a symptom improvement with an average reduction of 51 points," says Riadh Sadik, a senior physician who has been responsible for the study.

The researchers also showed that the group with an unchanged lifestyle had deteriorating symptoms in 23% of cases, compared with the active group in which only 8% felt worse. The measurement of fitness in the study showed a slight increase in the activity group only. "This suggests that even a slight increase of physical activity may reduce symptoms and protect from deterioration," says Sadik.


A Psychopath Lacks Empathy Just Like a Person With Frontal Head Injury

ScienceDaily (Jan. 25, 2011) — People diagnosed as psychopathic have difficulty showing empathy, just like patients who have suffered frontal head injury. This has been shown in a new study from the University of Haifa. "Our findings show that people who have psychopathic symptoms behave as though they are suffering frontal brain damage," said Dr. Simone Shamay-Tsoory, who conducted the study.

Psychopathy is a personality disorder that finds expression in extreme anti-social behavior and intentional harm to others, including a lack of compassion and empathy. An existing explanation for such behavior suggests inability to comprehend the existence of emotions in others. However, the fact that many psychopaths act with sophistication and deceit with intention to harm others, indicates that they actually have a good grasp of the mental capacity of others -- and are even capable of using that knowledge in order to cause them harm.

Earlier research by Dr. Shamay-Tsoory has examined individuals with frontal head injury, i.e., damage to parts of the brain that are responsible for emotional functioning. She has shown that people suffering this type of brain damage have difficulty showing empathy. Having observed similar emotional deficiency in psychopathic behavior, she set out to see if there is in fact a similarity between the two cases.

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"Seeing as psychopathic behavior is similar to that of a person with brain damage, it could be that it could benefit from similar forms of treatment," Dr. Shamay-Tsoory noted.


Near the end of the article, it referred to "people who had been diagnosed by psychiatrists as psychotic". Psychotic is a totally different thing. I assume it is a problem with the translator not being an expert in psychology. This common mix-up in terminology was the reason psychologists now usually refer to "sociopaths" instead of "psychopaths".

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Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Does Long-Term Cell Phone Use Lead to Brain Tumors?

ScienceDaily (Jan. 19, 2011) — The highest-quality research data available suggests that long-term exposure to microwaves from cellular phones may lead to an increased risk of brain tumors, reports a paper in the November/December issue of Journal of Computer Assisted Tomography.

Although debate continues, independent studies with long-term follow-up strongly suggest an increased risk of brain tumors related to the use of cellular or cordless phones. "We conclude that the current standard of exposure to microwave during mobile phone use is not safe for long-term exposure and needs to be revised," conclude the study authors, led by R.B. Dubey of Apeejay College of Engineering, Sohna, Gurgaon, India.

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New Melt Record for Greenland Ice Sheet

ScienceDaily (Jan. 21, 2011) — New research shows that 2010 set new records for the melting of the Greenland Ice Sheet, expected to be a major contributor to projected sea level rises in coming decades.

"This past melt season was exceptional, with melting in some areas stretching up to 50 days longer than average," said Dr. Marco Tedesco, director of the Cryospheric Processes Laboratory at The City College of New York (CCNY -- CUNY), who is leading a project studying variables that affect ice sheet melting.

"Melting in 2010 started exceptionally early at the end of April and ended quite late in mid- September."

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The capital of Greenland, Nuuk, had the warmest spring and summer since records began in 1873.

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Humans Have Been Provoking Climate Change for Thousands of Years, Carbon History Shows

ScienceDaily (Jan. 24, 2011) — The Roman Conquest, the Black Death and the discovery of America -- by modifying the nature of the forests -- have had a significant impact on the environment. These are the findings of EPFL scientists who have researched our long history of emitting carbon into the environment.

"Humans didn't wait for the industrial revolution to provoke environment and climate change. They have been having an influence for at least 8000 years."

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The story of our influence on the climate began with the first farmers. At that time, the prevailing technology didn't allow an optimal use of the soil. "For each individual, it was necessary to clear a very large area of forest," explains Jed Kaplan. However, with time, irrigation, better tools, seeds and fertilizer became more effficient. This development was a critical factor, which would partially counterbalance the increase in population, and contain the impact of human pressure on the natural environment.

The relationship between population levels and agricultural land-use is therefore not simply proportional, as was formerly believed. In the Middle Ages, Europe had fewer forests than today, although since then the population has increased more than five fold. "The real innovation in our research has indeed been the taking into account of the improvements in farming techniques. Standard models simply state that the bigger the population, the more forest is cleared; but this doesn't correspond to the historical reality.

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The results of this research tell a very different story from that which has been circulating up until now. They show, for example, a first major boom in carbon emissions already 2000 years before our era, corresponding to the expansion of civilizations in China and around the mediterranean.

Certain historical events, almost invisible in the preceding models, show up strongly in the data produced by the scientists. A good example is the re-growth of the forests as a consequence of the fall of the Roman Empire. The Black Death, a plague which resulted in the death of more than a third of the European population, also led to a fall in carbon emissions.

Lastly, a significant decrease in emissions began in the 16th century -- the one which would herald the minor ice age. Jed Kaplan has an audacious hypothesis to explain the dip in the data curve: "Thanks to the reports of the early explorers, we know that the forests were less abundant on the American continent. Then the settlers gradually eliminated the indigenous population." Threatened with extinction, these populations effectively deserted the forested areas, which -- by taking up the carbon in the atmosphere -- in turn set off the legendary frosts of the 19th century. "Of course, it's only a hypothesis," he concludes, "but given the data we have gathered, it's entirely plausible."

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Jed Kaplan's model is not in contradiction with the previous ones on one critical point: the enormous increase in emissions from the beginning of the industrial era, and the massive use of fossil fuels. "We are just saying that our influence on the climate began a lot earlier than we thought. In 6000 BC, we were already accumulating significant quantities of carbon in the atmosphere, even though it was nothing compared to the situation today," adds the scientist.


Rising Indoor Winter Temperatures Linked to Obesity?

ScienceDaily (Jan. 24, 2011) — Increases in winter indoor temperatures in the United Kingdom, United States and other developed countries may be contributing to rises in obesity in those populations, according to UCL research just published.

The review paper, published in the journal Obesity Reviews, examines evidence of a potential causal link between reduced exposure to seasonal cold and increases in obesity in the UK and US.

Reduced exposure to cold may have two effects on the ability to maintain a healthy weight: minimising the need for energy expenditure to stay warm and reducing the body's capacity to produce heat.

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The authors also discuss the role of brown adipose tissue (brown fat) in human heat production. Brown fat differs from white fat in that it has the capacity to burn energy to create heat, and its development in the body is thought to be triggered by exposure to cold temperatures. Recent studies suggest that increased time spent in warm conditions may lead to a loss of brown fat, and therefore reduced capacity to burn energy.

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Co-author, Marcella Ucci , UCL Bartlett School of Graduate Studies, said: "The findings suggest that lower winter temperatures in buildings might contribute to tackling obesity as well reducing carbon emissions."


Tax breaks for wealthy donors: Schools struggle, while the rich fund golf tourneys;_ylt=Al6TurZkwmn3r.2qKJuPE0Ws0NUE;_ylu=X3oDMTFlNnQzbXRlBHBvcwMyMTcEc2VjA2FjY29yZGlvbl9vcGluaW9uBHNsawN0YXhicmVha3Nmb3I-

By Susan Froetschel Susan Froetschel – Mon Jan 24, 3:03 pm ET

Washington – US generosity, and its network of charitable giving, comes with baffling inefficiencies. That’s no secret. But consider, too, that for every dollar donated and deducted by wealthy taxpayers paying taxes at a 35 percent marginal tax rate, the US loses 35 cents of potential income tax revenue.

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Charity is a growth industry. More than 1.5 million tax-exempt organizations are registered in the United States. According to the National Center for Charitable Statistics, more than 180,000 public charities were established before 1969, and more than 350,000 were founded during the past decade. But giving is down since reaching record highs in 2008. In 2009, households with more than $200,000 in income, or $1 million in net worth, reduced their giving by 35 percent since 2007, according to a report from Bank of America and the Center on Philanthropy. Charities’ budgets are strained, as the recession and a widening wage gap reduce giving but also increase demand for charitable services.

Excesses of entertainment charityTiger Woods’ divorce scandal last year exposed the excesses and waste of the entertainment charity industry. Sports stars, celebrities, and politicians create foundations and then arrange lavish fundraisers for wealthy friends. The catch is that celebrities can shift entertainment expenses for alcohol or party hosts to these foundations, which cuts into the foundations’ program budgets. Check out Charity Navigator to see its rating for charities on fundraising efficiency.

Wealthy sports figures aren’t the only ones who raise questions about charitable funding. Politicians have used foundations to funnel corporate donations into constituent handouts or even campaign contributions. The midterm elections last fall shed plenty of light on the loopholes exploited by political action committees and corporate giving.

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Monday, January 24, 2011

Iran hangs 2 men who made videos of post-election turmoil

This is horrible.

January 24, 2011 7:30 a.m. EST

Iran hanged two men Monday for their actions during post-election unrest in 2009, state media reported, months after the United States' secretary of state called for Iran to drop the "imminent" executions.

Iran's Press TV described the men as terrorists and members of the Mujahedin-e Khalq Organization (MKO).

Jafar Kazemi and Mohammad Ali Haj Aqaei were hanged on Monday "for distributing placards and photos of the terrorist group, making videos and images during the post-election unrest in Iran in 2009 and chanting slogans in favor of the MKO," the state-run Islamic Republic News Agency reported.

In an August 2010 statement, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton urged the Iranian government to halt the executions of the men who were "exercising their right to free expression."

"The United States is deeply concerned that Iran continues to deny its citizens their civil rights and intimidate and detain those Iranians who seek to hold their government accountable and stand up for the rights of their fellow citizens," the statement read.

"... We are also concerned about the fate of Iranians who are in danger of imminent execution for exercising their right to free expression after the June 2009 elections, including Jafar Kazemi, Mohammad Haj Aghaei, and Javad Lari. The United States urges the Iranian Government to halt these executions in accordance with its obligations to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and calls for the immediate release of all political prisoners and imprisoned human rights defenders."


Death toll from flooding in Brazil surpasses 800

January 24, 2011 9:17 a.m. EST

Devastating floods in Brazil's Rio de Janeiro state have killed more than 800 people, according to new government figures.

State authorities said late Sunday that 809 people were killed after flooding and massive mudslides flattened houses and wiped out entire neighborhoods in hillside towns.

The city of Nova Friburgo was the hardest hit, with at least 391 victims, Rio de Janeiro state government said.

Are you there? Share your stories, photos and videos

The flooding, caused by days of torrential rains, has left thousands of people homeless throughout the state, according to the government's tally.

Other states in the South American country have also seen heavy rainfall. Earlier this month, authorities in neighboring Sao Paulo state said flooding had killed 24 people.

Loss of reflectivity in the Arctic doubles estimate of climate models

Public release date: 18-Jan-2011
Contact: Karen Shell
Oregon State University
Loss of reflectivity in the Arctic doubles estimate of climate models

CORVALLIS, Ore. – A new analysis of the Northern Hemisphere's "albedo feedback" over a 30-year period concludes that the region's loss of reflectivity due to snow and sea ice decline is more than double what state-of-the-art climate models estimate.

The findings are important, researchers say, because they suggest that Arctic warming amplified by the loss of reflectivity could be even more significant than previously thought.

The study was published online this week in Nature Geoscience. It was funded primarily by the National Science Foundation, with data also culled from projects funded by NASA, the Department of Energy and others.

"The cryosphere isn't cooling the Earth as much as it did 30 years ago, and climate model simulations do not reproduce this recent effect," said Karen Shell, an Oregon State University atmospheric scientist and one of the authors of the study. "Though we don't necessarily attribute this to global warming, it is interesting to note that none of the climate models used for the 2007 International Panel on Climate Change report showed a decrease of this magnitude."

The cryosphere is the collective portion of the Earth's surface where water is in solid form and includes sea ice, snow, lake and river ice, glaciers, ice sheets and frozen ground. Most of these frozen areas are highly reflective, and "bounce" sunlight back into the atmosphere, keeping the Earth cooler than it would be without the cryosphere.

But as temperatures warm, ice and snow melts and reflectivity decreases, noted Shell, an assistant professor in OSU's College of Oceanic and Atmospheric Sciences.

"Instead of being reflected back into the atmosphere, the energy of the sun is absorbed by the Earth, which amplifies the warming," Shell said. "Scientists have known for some time that there is this amplification effect, but almost all of the climate models we examined underestimated the impact – and they contained a pretty broad range of scenarios."

As part of the study, Shell, lead author Mark Flanner of the University of Michigan, and their colleagues compared Northern Hemisphere cryosphere changes between 1979 and 2008 in 18 different climate models to changes in actual snow, ice and reflectivity measurements of the same period. They determined that mean radiative forcing – or the amount of energy reflected into the atmosphere – ranged from 4.6 to 2.2 watts per meter squared.

During the 30-year study period, cryosphere cooling declined by 0.45 watts per meter squared. The authors attribute that decline equally to loss of snow and sea ice.

"Some of the decline may be natural climate variability," Shell said. "Thirty years isn't a long enough time period to attribute this entirely to 'forcing,' or anthropogenic influence. But the loss of cooling is significant. The rate of energy being absorbed by the Earth through cryosphere decline – instead of being reflected back to the atmosphere – is almost 30 percent of the rate of extra energy absorption due to carbon dioxide increase between pre-industrial values and today."

The "albedo" or reflectivity process is simple, scientists say, but difficult to measure on a broad scale. The reflectivity of ice and snow is obviously much greater than that of darker, unfrozen ground, or open sea water. But researchers also have discovered that variations in the snow and ice result in different albedo impacts.

For example, pools of melted water on top of sea ice can have significantly less reflectivity, which in essence may speed up the warming and possibly melting of that sea ice.

"While the current group of models underestimates these Northern Hemisphere cryosphere changes, new models will be released this year that will have better representations of snow and ice," Shell said. "This study will help climate modelers improve the new generation of models to better predict the rate of cryosphere and albedo decline in the future."

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Friday, January 21, 2011

USDA admits role in large bird kill

I wonder if this is one of the cases where they claimed it was due to the birds injuring themselves because of loud noise causing them to run into things.
Maybe I'll have time to check on it tomorrow.

Fri Jan 21, 12:00 pm ET
By Brett Michael Dykes

When birds began mysteriously falling from the sky a couple of weeks ago, some conspiratorial minds were convinced that the government was involved. One line of speculation held that the Pentagon was conducting a secret weapons experiment that killed the birds. Another theorized that the feds were covering up the air-befouling practices of a major player in agribusiness or the energy industry.

Now we know that the government did have a hand in at least one of the kills, though this revelation doesn't seem to involve sinister intrigue.

Yes, the Agriculture Department said Thursday, it did have a hand in the recent mass killing of starlings in South Dakota. According to the USDA, the birds were poisoned in Nebraska to help farmers who had complained about starling flocks defecating into livestock feed troughs. The birds dropped dead en masse after migrating north.

According to the Christian Science Monitor:

"The USDA's Wildlife Services Program, which contracts with farmers for bird control, said it used an avicide poison called DRC-1339 to cull a roost of 5,000 birds that were defecating on a farmer's cattle feed across the state line in Nebraska. But officials said the agency had nothing to do with large and dense recent bird kills in Arkansas and Louisiana.

"Nevertheless, the USDA's role in the South Dakota bird deaths puts a focus on a little-known government bird-control program that began in the 1960s under the name of Bye Bye Blackbird, which eventually became part of the USDA and was housed in the late '60s at a NASA facility. In 2009, USDA agents euthanized more than 4 million red-winged blackbirds, starlings, cowbirds, and grackles, primarily using pesticides that the government says are not harmful to pets or humans."

Surely this news will calm all the "aflockalypse" hysteria out there, right? Oh, who are we kidding: Any sign of federal involvement will be seized on as another layer in the elaborate cover-up. This is the Internet, after all.

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Send health care hypocrites the form to repeal their own insurance

Go to the following link to send a fax

Who would have the audacity to vote for repealing affordable health care for 32 million Americans while gladly accepting generous, federally subsidized insurance for themselves? 237 congressional health care hypocrites!

Call out this hypocrisy by sending your Representative who voted for repeal the actual form to cancel his/her own federal insurance - we'll send a fax for you right now!
(If your Rep. voted against repeal, or has opted out of federal benefits, we'll send your message to Republican leadership.)


2011: Year of the flood

If you're not an environmentalist, you're a mass murderer.

The year 2010 was one the worst years in world history for high-impact floods. But just three weeks into the new year, 2011 has already had an entire year's worth of mega-floods. I'll recap here six remarkable floods that have already occurred this year.

Brazil suffered its deadliest natural disaster in history last week, when torrential rains inundated a heavily populated, steep-sloped area about 40 miles north of Rio de Janeiro. Flash floods and mudslides from the heavy rains have claimed at least 772 lives, including 357 in Nova Friburgo and 323 in Teresópolis. The storm left 126 people missing, the Brazilian Health and Civil Defense Ministry said Thursday. Rainfall amounts of approximately 300 mm (12 inches) fell in just a few hours in the hardest-hit regions. Damage estimates are currently $1.2 billion, and 13,000 are homeless.

Australia Queensland
Australia's most expensive natural disaster in history is now the Queensland flood of 2010 - 2011, with a price tag now as high as $30 billion. At least 31 have been killed since December in the floods, and another 40 are missing. According to the Australian Bureau of Meteorology, in 2010 Australia had its wettest spring (September - November) since records began 111 years ago, with some sections of coastal Queensland receiving over 4 feet (1200 mm) of rain. Rainfall in Queensland and all of eastern Australia in December was the greatest on record, and the year 2010 was the rainiest year on record for Queensland.

Australia Victoria
From January 12 - 14, extremely heavy rains over the southern Australian state of Victoria caused major flooding that killed one person and caused hundreds of millions in damage. Kevin Parkyn, a senior forecaster with the Bureau of Meteorology said "Victoria is experiencing one of its worst flood events in its history" after "a week in which rainfall totals have been smashed in parts of Victoria". Bureau of Meteorology senior forecaster Terry Ryan said "It's the worst flood in western Victoria in their history as far as our records go in terms of the depth of water and the number of places affected."

100-year flood in Sri Lanka
As I reported in my previous post, at least 43 are dead and damage estimates are at $500 million in Sri Lanka, which suffered a 1-in-100 year flood this month.

South Africa
Heavy rains of up 345 mm (13.6") have fallen in South Africa so far this month, resulting in deadly floods that have killed 40 people. Seven of the country's nine provinces have been declared disaster zones. Agricultural damage alone from the floods is estimated at $145 million. Heavy rains and severe flooding have also affected neighboring Mozambique, where 13 people are dead and 13,000 homeless or suffering damaged homes. Neighboring Zimbabwe has seen its heaviest rains in 30 years in recent weeks, according to the nation's Civil Protection Unit, but severe flooding has not yet hit that nation.

Very heavy rains since late December have triggered a major flooding disaster in the Philippines, where 40 are dead, 453,000 people displaced, and 1.2 million people affected.

The year 2011 has begun with a remarkable number of high-impact floods world-wide, and much of the blame for this can be placed on the current La Niña event occurring in the Eastern Pacific. NOAA's Climate Prediction Center currently puts the La Niña event in the "strong" category, and whenever a La Niña or El Niño event reaches the strong category, major perturbations to global weather patterns occur. This typically results in record or near-record flooding in one or more regions of the globe. When one combines the impact of La Niña with the increase of global ocean temperatures of 0.5°C (0.9°F) over the past 50 years, which has put 4% more water vapor into the atmosphere since 1970, the result is a much increased chance of unprecedented floods. A 4% increase in atmospheric moisture may not sound like much, but it turns out that precipitation will increase by about 8% with that 4% moisture increase. Critically, it is the extreme rainfall events that tend to supply the increased rainfall. For example, (Groisman et al., 2004) found a 20% increase in very heavy (top 1%) precipitation events over the U.S. in the past century, and a 36% rise in cold season (October - April) "extreme" precipitation events (those in the 99.9% percentile--1 in 1000 events. These extreme rainfall events are the ones most likely to cause floods.

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Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Musical Chills: Why They Give Us Thrills

ScienceDaily (Jan. 12, 2011) — Scientists have found that the pleasurable experience of listening to music releases dopamine, a neurotransmitter in the brain important for more tangible pleasures associated with rewards such as food, drugs and sex. The new study from The Montreal Neurological Institute and Hospital -- The Neuro at McGill University also reveals that even the anticipation of pleasurable music induces dopamine release [as is the case with food, drug, and sex cues]. Published in the journal Nature Neuroscience, the results suggest why music, which has no obvious survival value, is so significant across human society.

The team at The Neuro measured dopamine release in response to music that elicited "chills," changes in skin conductance, heart rate, breathing, and temperature that were correlated with pleasurability ratings of the music. 'Chills' or 'musical frisson' is a well established marker of peak emotional responses to music.

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Monday, January 17, 2011

Flooding hits northwestern United States

More flooding.

As I predicted, NPR is blaming all this flooding on the La Nina weather system. But this is not a real "explanation". There is a La Nina every few years. The question is why have the La Nina/El Nino events resulted in such abnormally severe weather. Global warming is causing an increase in the amount of moisture in the air, so we will have heavier precipitation. Similarly, between precipitations, more moisture will evaporate, resulting in stronger droughts.

January 17, 2011 1:15 p.m. EST

The Pacific Northwest braced for flooding Monday after heavy rains and rising waters caused landslides and closed roads, authorities said.

"We have a mess on our hands," Dave Thompson with the Oregon Department of Transportation said Sunday.

Thompson said landslides had closed the Wilson River Highway, which stretches from Portland to the coast.

The rain is also a problem in cities, according to Thompson, who said it was causing urban flooding.
Floods overrun Oregon homes

Flood watches and warnings are posted for portions of Oregon and Washington, according to the National Weather Service, which is predicting more rain for the region.

The winter storm killed at least one person in Washington, where CNN affiliate KIRO reported that a falling tree killed a transportation worker Sunday.

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Climate of Hate

Paul Krugman tells it true.

Published: January 9, 2011

When you heard the terrible news from Arizona, were you completely surprised? Or were you, at some level, expecting something like this atrocity to happen?

Put me in the latter category. I’ve had a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach ever since the final stages of the 2008 campaign. I remembered the upsurge in political hatred after Bill Clinton’s election in 1992 — an upsurge that culminated in the Oklahoma City bombing. And you could see, just by watching the crowds at McCain-Palin rallies, that it was ready to happen again. The Department of Homeland Security reached the same conclusion: in April 2009 an internal report warned that right-wing extremism was on the rise, with a growing potential for violence.

Conservatives denounced that report. But there has, in fact, been a rising tide of threats and vandalism aimed at elected officials, including both Judge John Roll, who was killed Saturday, and Representative Gabrielle Giffords. One of these days, someone was bound to take it to the next level. And now someone has.

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It’s important to be clear here about the nature of our sickness. It’s not a general lack of “civility,” the favorite term of pundits who want to wish away fundamental policy disagreements. Politeness may be a virtue, but there’s a big difference between bad manners and calls, explicit or implicit, for violence; insults aren’t the same as incitement.

¶ The point is that there’s room in a democracy for people who ridicule and denounce those who disagree with them; there isn’t any place for eliminationist rhetoric, for suggestions that those on the other side of a debate must be removed from that debate by whatever means necessary.

¶ And it’s the saturation of our political discourse — and especially our airwaves — with eliminationist rhetoric that lies behind the rising tide of violence.

¶ Where’s that toxic rhetoric coming from? Let’s not make a false pretense of balance: it’s coming, overwhelmingly, from the right. It’s hard to imagine a Democratic member of Congress urging constituents to be “armed and dangerous” without being ostracized; but Representative Michele Bachmann, who did just that, is a rising star in the G.O.P.

¶ And there’s a huge contrast in the media. Listen to Rachel Maddow or Keith Olbermann, and you’ll hear a lot of caustic remarks and mockery aimed at Republicans. But you won’t hear jokes about shooting government officials or beheading a journalist at The Washington Post. Listen to Glenn Beck or Bill O’Reilly, and you will.

¶ Of course, the likes of Mr. Beck and Mr. O’Reilly are responding to popular demand. Citizens of other democracies may marvel at the American psyche, at the way efforts by mildly liberal presidents to expand health coverage are met with cries of tyranny and talk of armed resistance. Still, that’s what happens whenever a Democrat occupies the White House, and there’s a market for anyone willing to stoke that anger.

¶ But even if hate is what many want to hear, that doesn’t excuse those who pander to that desire. They should be shunned by all decent people.

¶ Unfortunately, that hasn’t been happening: the purveyors of hate have been treated with respect, even deference, by the G.O.P. establishment. As David Frum, the former Bush speechwriter, has put it, “Republicans originally thought that Fox worked for us and now we’re discovering we work for Fox.”

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More Breaks from Sitting Are Good for Waistlines and Hearts

ScienceDaily (Jan. 13, 2011) — It is becoming well accepted that, as well as too little exercise, too much sitting is bad for people's health. Now a new study has found that it is not just the length of time people spend sitting down that can make a difference, but also the number of breaks that they take while sitting at their desk or on their sofa. Plenty of breaks, even if they are as little as one minute, seem to be good for people's hearts and their waistlines.

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Song of Joy

Dr. Martin Luther King lived this song.

Come sing a song of joy
For peace shall come my brother
Sing, sing a song of joy
For men shall love each other
That day shall dawn just as sure
As hearts set so pure our hearts set free
No man must stand alone
With hands held out before him
Reach out and take them in yours
With love that endures for evermore
Let's sing a song of joy
for love and understanding
Come sing a song of joy
Of freedom tells the story
Sing, sing a song of joy
For mankind in his glory
One mighty voice that will bring
The song that will ring for evermore
Let's sing a song of joy
For love and understanding
Come sing a song of joy
Of freedom tells the story
Sing, sing a song of joy
For mankind in his glory
One mighty voice that will bring
The song that will ring for evermore
Let's sing a song of joy
For love and understanding
Let's sing a song of joy
For love and understanding


Our scientific power has outrun our spiritual power. We have guided missiles and misguided men.
-- Martin Luther King Jr.


Room Light Before Bedtime May Impact Sleep Quality, Blood Pressure and Diabetes Risk

ScienceDaily (Jan. 14, 2011) — According to a recent study accepted for publication in The Endocrine Society's Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism (JCEM), exposure to electrical light between dusk and bedtime strongly suppresses melatonin levels and may impact physiologic processes regulated by melatonin signaling, such as sleepiness, thermoregulation, blood pressure and glucose homeostasis.

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New Farming Method Reduces Greenhouse Gases, Increases Farm Yields

cienceDaily (Jan. 15, 2011) — U.S. agricultural practices create 58 percent of nitrous oxide in the world, which is the third most prevalent greenhouse gas in the atmosphere. Scientists believe nitrous oxide contributes to global warming about 300 times more than carbon dioxide. New practices and products have been introduced to address this issue, but farmers do not have the time or profit margins to experiment with ideas that may ultimately hurt the "bottom line." Now, researchers at the University of Missouri have found methods to help farmers reduce those emissions while also increasing corn grain production.

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Sunday, January 16, 2011

Bisphenol A May Have Role in Ovarian Dysfunction

ScienceDaily (Jan. 13, 2011) — A recent study accepted for publication in The Endocrine Society's Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism (JCEM), found higher Bisphenol A (BPA) levels in women with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) compared to controls. Furthermore, researchers found a statistically significant positive association between male sex hormones and BPA in these women suggesting a potential role of BPA in ovarian dysfunction.

BPA is a very common industrial compound used in food and drink packaging, plastic consumer products and dental materials. PCOS is the most common endocrine disorder of women of reproductive age and is characterized by excessive secretion of androgens which are masculinization-promoting hormones. The syndrome raises the risk of obesity, type 2 diabetes, infertility and heart disease.

"Our research shows that BPA may be more harmful to women with hormonal and fertility imbalances like those found in PCOS," said Evanthia Diamanti-Kandarakis, MD, PhD, study co-author and professor at the University of Athens Medical School in Greece. "These women should be alert to the potential risks and take care of themselves by avoiding excessive every-day consumption of food or drink from plastic containers."

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2010 tied for warmest year in Earth's history

Earth's warmest year in history occurred in 2010, NASA reported this week. The globe's temperature beat the previous record set in 2005 by just .01°C, so we should consider 2010 and 2005 tied for the warmest year on reecord. Reliable global temperature records go back to 1880. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) also announced this week that 2010 was tied with 2005 as the warmest year on record, with temperatures during 2010 1.12°F (0.62°C) above the 20th century average. When the planet stops producing record weather catastrophes to blog about, I'll discuss the 2010 global temperature record in more detail.

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Role of near-record sea surface temperatures in Brazil's flood

Torrential rains inundated a heavily populated, steep-sloped area about 40 miles north of Rio de Janeiro on Tuesday and Wednesday, triggering flash floods and mudslides that have claimed at least 511 lives. Rainfall amounts of approximately 300 mm (12 inches) fell in just a few hours in the hardest-hit regions, Teresopolis and Nova Friburgo. Many more people are missing, and the death toll is expected to go much higher once rescuers reach remote villages that have been cut off from communications. The death toll makes the January 2011 floods Brazil's worst single-day natural disaster in its history. Brazil suffers hundreds of deaths each year due to flooding and mudslides, but the past 12 months have been particularly devastating. Flooding and landslides near Rio in April last year killed 246 people and did about $13 billion in damage, and at least 85 people perished last January during a similar event.

This week's heavy rains occurred when a storm system crossing from west to east over southern Brazil drew in a moist southerly flow air off the Atlantic Ocean over southern Brazil. Sea surface temperatures along the Brazilian coast are at near-record warm levels, which likely contributed to the heavy rains. Record rains are more likely when sea surface temperatures over the nearby moisture source regions are at record high levels. This occurs because increased amounts of water vapor evaporate into the atmosphere from a warm ocean compared to a cold one, due to the extra motion and energy of the hotter water molecules. According to an analysis I did of the UK Met Office Hadley Centre sea surface temperature data set, December 2010 sea surface temperatures in the 5x5 degree region of Earth's surface along the Brazilian shore nearest the disaster area, 20S to 25S and 45W to 40W, were the second warmest on record since 1900. Temperatures were 1.05°C (1.9°F) above average in this region last month. Only 2007, with a 1.21°C departure from average, had warmer December ocean temperatures.

Meteorologist Eugenio Hackbart, with the Brazilian private weather forecasting company Metsul, wrote in his blog today, "Heavy rains early this year coincide with the strong warming of the Atlantic along the coasts of southern and southeastern Brazil. With waters up to 2°C warmer than average in some places, there is a major release of moisture in the atmosphere essential for the formation of storms."

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we can get record rains and flooding when sea surface temperatures are near normal, and it is possible that this week's catastrophe was not significantly impacted by the exceptionally warm water near the coast. However, heating up the oceans loads the dice in favor of extreme rainfall events, and makes it more likely we will have an unprecedented flood. If we look at the departure of temperature from average for the moisture source regions of the globe's four most extreme flooding disasters over the past 12 months, we find that these ocean temperatures ranked 2nd or 3rd warmest, going back through 111 years of history:

January 2011 Brazilian floods: 2nd warmest SSTs on record, +1.05°C
November 2010 Colombia floods: 3rd warmest SSTs on record, +0.65°C
December 2010 Australian floods: 3rd warmest SSTs on record, +1.05°C
July 2010 Pakistani floods: 2nd warmest SSTs on record, +0.95°C



Saturday, January 15, 2011

99% of Pregnant Women in US Test Positive for Multiple Chemicals Including Banned Ones

cienceDaily (Jan. 14, 2011) — The bodies of virtually all U.S. pregnant women carry multiple chemicals, including some banned since the 1970s and others used in common products such as non-stick cookware, processed foods and personal care products, according to a new study from UCSF. The study marks the first time that the number of chemicals to which pregnant women are exposed has been counted.

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Earth's Hot Past Could Be Prologue to Future Climate

ScienceDaily (Jan. 14, 2011) — The magnitude of climate change during Earth's deep past suggests that future temperatures may eventually rise far more than projected if society continues its pace of emitting greenhouse gases, a new analysis concludes.

Building on recent research, the study examines the relationship between global temperatures and high levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere tens of millions of years ago. It warns that, if carbon dioxide emissions continue at their current rate through the end of this century, atmospheric concentrations of the greenhouse gas will reach levels that existed about 30 million to 100 million years ago, when global temperatures averaged about 29 degrees Fahrenheit (16 degrees Celsius) above pre-industrial levels.

Kiehl said that global temperatures may gradually rise over centuries or millennia in response to the carbon dioxide. The elevated levels of carbon dioxide may remain in the atmosphere for tens of thousands of years, according to recent computer model studies of geochemical processes that the study cites.

The study also indicates that the planet's climate system, over long periods of times, may be at least twice as sensitive to carbon dioxide than currently projected by computer models, which have generally focused on shorter-term warming trends. This is largely because even sophisticated computer models have not yet been able to incorporate critical processes, such as the loss of ice sheets, that take place over centuries or millennia and amplify the initial warming effects of carbon dioxide.

"If we don't start seriously working toward a reduction of carbon emissions, we are putting our planet on a trajectory that the human species has never experienced," says Kiehl, a climate scientist who specializes in studying global climate in Earth's geologic past. "We will have committed human civilization to living in a different world for multiple generations."

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Violent Rhetoric

The shooting of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Ariz. is so sad, but unfortunately not unexpected. Democrats have been worried something like this would happen because of the vitriolic words from Republican politicians and their media supporters. There are always mentally ill people who can be influence by such hate speech. Of course, the people who spew out this filth are denying they any responsibility, and explaining away their own words and images they used.

If you shout "fire" in a crowded theater, when there is none, and people get trampled and killed during the panic to escape, you do share the blame.

If you falsely tell a man his wife is cheating on him, and he shoots her, you do share the blame.

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Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., Rep. Emanuel Cleaver, D-Mo. and Rep. Debbie Wassermann Schultz, D-Fla., disagreed with Franks, arguing that intemperate rhetoric from politicians and from news media personalities might encourage some individuals to act violently.

Durbin, the Democratic whip in the Senate, cited imagery of crosshairs on political opponents and Sarah Palin's combative rallying cry, "Don't retreat; reload."

"These sorts of things, I think, invite the kind of toxic rhetoric that can lead unstable people to believe this is an acceptable response," Durbin said Sunday on CNN's State of the Union.
2010 campaign marked by angry rhetoric

On Meet the Press, Wasserman Schultz cited a radio talk show host in Florida who said during last fall’s campaign, “We will use bullets if ballots don’t work.”

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[George] Will said Americans will want to know whether the gunman in Tucson had a political motive or whether he was a mentally ill person. “We don’t know where on the continuum this falls.”

A feeble excuse. The people who have been making these violent comments and images know there are deranged people out there who can be influenced by their hate speech.

Here Comes the Sun

A Beetles tune to cheer us up.

Can't imbed this in the blog because imbedding was disabled on this video.
But the link works.

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I'm back :)

I haven't posted anything since last week because I don't have internet at home, and this is the first day I'v been away from home since the snowstorm at the beginning of the week. Here in the south, we don't get this much snow often enough for it to be worthwhile to have the equipment needed to cope with it in a timely manner.

I hope the readers of this blog are all safe.

Of course, I will also note that global warming is causing more moisture in the air, so we are getting more precipitation. It seems more fair that it has hit the south, since this area of the country consistently votes for politicians who block efforts to protect the environment.

And of course, the horrible flooding has been continuing in Australia, and now Brazil.


Saturday, January 08, 2011

Hornet's Outer Shell Can Harvest Solar Power

ScienceDaily (Jan. 6, 2011) — As every middle-school child knows, in the process of photosynthesis, plants take the sun's energy and convert it to electrical energy. Now a Tel Aviv University team has demonstrated how a member of the animal kingdom, the Oriental hornet, takes the sun's energy and converts it into electric power -- in the brown and yellow parts of its body -- as well.

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Friday, January 07, 2011

Study linking vaccine to autism was fraud;_ylt=AlHuqPTG7IzfRht64f1tqhKs0NUE;_ylu=X3oDMTFkZmZ1c2NiBHBvcwMxNDcEc2VjA2FjY29yZGlvbl9oZWFsdGgEc2xrA2pvdXJuYWxzdHVkeQ--

– 22 mins ago

LONDON – The first study to link a childhood vaccine to autism was based on doctored information about the children involved, according to a new report on the widely discredited research.

The conclusions of the 1998 paper by Andrew Wakefield and colleagues was renounced by 10 of its 13 authors and later retracted by the medical journal Lancet, where it was published. Still, the suggestion the MMR shot was connected to autism spooked parents worldwide and immunization rates for measles, mumps and rubella have never fully recovered.

A new examination found, by comparing the reported diagnoses in the paper to hospital records, that Wakefield and colleagues altered facts about patients in their study.

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Oceanic 'Garbage Patch' Not Nearly as Big as Portrayed in Media

ScienceDaily (Jan. 5, 2011) — There is a lot of plastic trash floating in the Pacific Ocean, but claims that the "Great Garbage Patch" between California and Japan is twice the size of Texas are grossly exaggerated, according to an analysis by an Oregon State University scientist.

Further claims that the oceans are filled with more plastic than plankton, and that the patch has been growing tenfold each decade since the 1950s are equally misleading, pointed out Angelicque "Angel" White, an assistant professor of oceanography at Oregon State.

"There is no doubt that the amount of plastic in the world's oceans is troubling, but this kind of exaggeration undermines the credibility of scientists," White said. "We have data that allow us to make reasonable estimates; we don't need the hyperbole. Given the observed concentration of plastic in the North Pacific, it is simply inaccurate to state that plastic outweighs plankton, or that we have observed an exponential increase in plastic."

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A Clear Danger to Free Speech

I remember John Edgar Hoover, who was Director of the FBI for many years. If Wikileaks had been around then, he probably could have been removed from office, which would have been a good thing.

Published: January 3, 2011

THE so-called Shield bill, which was recently introduced in both houses of Congress in response to the WikiLeaks disclosures, would amend the Espionage Act of 1917 to make it a crime for any person knowingly and willfully to disseminate, “in any manner prejudicial to the safety or interest of the United States,” any classified information “concerning the human intelligence activities of the United States.”

Although this proposed law may be constitutional as applied to government employees who unlawfully leak such material to people who are unauthorized to receive it, it would plainly violate the First Amendment to punish anyone who might publish or otherwise circulate the information after it has been leaked. At the very least, the act must be expressly limited to situations in which the spread of the classified information poses a clear and imminent danger of grave harm to the nation.

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Exercise May Lower Risk of Death for Men With Prostate Cancer

ScienceDaily (Jan. 5, 2011) — A new study of men with prostate cancer finds that physical activity is associated with a lower risk of overall mortality and of death due to prostate cancer. The Harvard School of Public Health and University of California, San Francisco researchers also found that men who did more vigorous activity had the lowest risk of dying from the disease. It is the first study in men with prostate cancer to evaluate physical activity after diagnosis in relation to prostate cancer-specific mortality and overall mortality.

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Thursday, January 06, 2011

How Wall St. execs bankrolled GOP victory

Some people claim there is no difference between the Democrats & the Republicans. Big business obviously disagrees, since they give far more to the Republicans.

By Peter Stone, Center for Public Integrity, and Michael Isikoff, NBC News
Special to Special to
updated 1/5/2011 6:54:16 AM ET 2011-01-05T11:54:16

A small network of hedge fund executives pumped at least $10 million into Republican campaign committees and allied groups before November’s elections, helping bankroll GOP victories that this week will change the balance of power in Washington, according to a review of campaign records and interviews with industry insiders by the Center for Public Integrity and NBC News.

Bitterly opposed to President Barack Obama’s economic and regulatory policies — including proposals to increase taxes on some of their profits — top Wall Street hedge fund moguls were unusually energized during last year’s election. They held multiple fundraisers and coordinated strategy to direct what appear to be unprecedented sums into the coffers of GOP and allied political committees, according to industry and GOP fundraising sources.

Many substantial donations from the hedge fund executives escaped public notice either because they were made late in the campaign (and therefore weren’t reported until after the election) or were funneled through third-party groups, obscure “joint fundraising committees” and newly created political nonprofits that are not required to disclose donors.

The net effect has been to give the hedge funds important new allies at a time they are fending off regulations mandated by the Dodd-Frank financial reform bill and an aggressive Justice Department investigation into insider trading.

A prime example is Rep. Scott Garrett, a little known Republican from northern New Jersey who this week is slated to become the new chairman of the House Financial Services subcommittee on capital markets, a key panel that has direct oversight of the industry. A staunch foe of the regulation of Wall Street, Garrett has threatened to cut funding for the Securities and Exchange Commission and roll back some provisions of Dodd-Frank.

As it became increasingly clear late last summer that Republicans were likely to capture the House, the partners at Elliott Management Corp., a $17 billion Wall Street hedge fund that specializes in distressed foreign debt, mobilized to boost Garrett’s political fortunes.

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As it became increasingly clear late last summer that Republicans were likely to capture the House, the partners at Elliott Management Corp., a $17 billion Wall Street hedge fund that specializes in distressed foreign debt, mobilized to boost Garrett’s political fortunes.


Large-Scale Study Reveals Major Decline in Bumble Bees in US

ScienceDaily (Jan. 3, 2011) — The first in-depth national study of wild bees in the U.S. has uncovered major losses in the relative abundance of several bumble bee species and declines in their geographic range since record-keeping began in the late 1800s.

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Trust Your Gut ... but Only Sometimes

ScienceDaily (Jan. 5, 2011) — When faced with decisions, we often follow our intuition -- our self-described "gut feelings" -- without understanding why. Our ability to make hunch decisions varies considerably: Intuition can either be a useful ally or it can lead to costly and dangerous mistakes. A new study published in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science, finds that the trustworthiness of our intuition is really influenced by what is happening physically in our bodies.

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To investigate how different bodily reactions can influence decision making, Dunn and his co-authors asked study participants to try to learn how to win at a card game they had never played before. The game was designed so that there was no obvious strategy to follow and instead players had to follow their hunches. While playing the game, each participant wore a heart rate monitor and a sensor that measured the amount of sweat on their fingertips.

Most players gradually found a way to win at the card game and they reported having relied on intuition rather than reason. Subtle changes in the players' heart rates and sweat responses affected how quickly they learned to make the best choices during the game.

Interestingly, the quality of the advice that people's bodies gave them varied. Some people's gut feelings were spot on, meaning they mastered the card game quickly. Other people's bodies told them exactly the wrong moves to make, so they learned slowly or never found a way to win.

Dunn and his co-authors found this link between gut feelings and intuitive decision making to be stronger in people who were more aware of their own heartbeat. So for some individuals being able to 'listen to their heart' helped them make wise choices, whereas for others it led to costly mistakes.

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Anti-Bullying Program Reduces Malicious Gossip on School Playgrounds

ScienceDaily (Jan. 5, 2011) — Elementary school students who participated in a three-month anti-bullying program in Seattle schools showed a 72 percent decrease in malicious gossip.

The study, led by the University of Washington, is the first to show that the widely-used Steps to Respect bullying prevention program can curb children's gossip, an element of playground culture often seen as harmless but capable of causing real harm.

"Gossip is an element of bullying, and it can lead to physical bullying," said Karin Frey, a UW research associate professor of educational psychology. "Kids will tell you that gossip is just as painful as physical bullying."

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Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Even Healthy Cats Act Sick When Their Routine Is Disrupted

ScienceDaily (Jan. 4, 2011) — A cat regularly vomiting hairballs or refusing to eat probably isn't being finicky or otherwise "cat-like," despite what conventional wisdom might say. There is a good chance that the cat is acting sick because of the stress caused by changes in its environment, new research suggests.

Healthy cats were just as likely as chronically ill cats to refuse food, vomit frequently and leave waste outside their litter box in response to changes in their routine, according to the Ohio State University study. Veterinary clinicians refer to these acts as sickness behaviors.

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Loud noise sent 5,000 Arkansas birds flying to their deaths

By Tristan Smith and Michael Martinez, CNN
January 5, 2011 4:57 p.m. EST

Experts believe a loud noise or event was behind the mass death of as many as 5,000 red-winged blackbirds and starlings in Arkansas on New Year's Eve, when they all flew into buildings at night, veterinarian Dr. John Fischer said Wednesday.

Fischer, of the Southeastern Cooperative Wildlife Disease Study in Athens, Georgia, said the bang startled very large roosts in a square-mile area in Beebe, Arkansas, 40 miles northeast of Little Rock.

Kevin Keel, a wildlife researcher at the center, agreed with the preliminary findings.

The panicked birds slammed into structures low to the ground, and the collisions caused internal trauma, Fischer said. Authorities don't believe disease was behind the birds' deaths.

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Karen Rowe, an ornithologist for the game and fish commission, said this week the incident is not that unusual and is often caused by a lightning strike or high-altitude hail. A strong storm system moved through the state earlier in the day Friday.

Officials have also speculated that fireworks shot by New Year's revelers in the area might have startled the birds. Blackbirds do not normally fly at night.

In a separate incident 450 miles south of Beebe, some 500 red-winged blackbirds, starlings and sparrows were found dead Monday morning on streets in the southern Louisiana community of Labarre.

Fischer told CNN Wednesday that X-rays of those birds found hemorrhaging consistent with traumatic death, and the birds apparently flew into stationary objects and power lines.


Household Sewage: Not Waste, but a Vast New Energy Resource

ScienceDaily (Jan. 5, 2011) — In a finding that gives new meaning to the adage, "waste not, want not," scientists are reporting that household sewage has far more potential as an alternative energy source than previously thought. They say the discovery, which increases the estimated potential energy in wastewater by almost 20 percent, could spur efforts to extract methane, hydrogen and other fuels from this vast and, as yet, untapped resource.

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Vitamin D Deficiencies May Impact Onset of Autoimmune Lung Disease

ScienceDaily (Jan. 4, 2011) — A new study shows that vitamin D deficiency could be linked to the development and severity of certain autoimmune lung diseases.

These findings are being reported in the Jan. 4 edition of the journal Chest.

Brent Kinder, MD, UC Health pulmonologist, director of the Interstitial Lung Disease Center at the University of Cincinnati and lead investigator on the study, says vitamin D deficiencies have been found to affect the development of other autoimmune diseases, like lupus and type 1 diabetes.

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Simplistic idea

Rosen ignores the influence of editors who are subject to owners and advertisors. It's obvious even at NPR that there corporate sponsors have a great influence.

But media critic Jay Rosen says mainstream news reporters don't disclose what they believe enough of the time.

"I'd like to know something about their background –- like where they're from," says Rosen, an associate professor of journalism at New York University.

"If they've been covering a beat for a while, I'd like to know what fascinates them about their beat, what they think are the biggest challenges facing the nation, who some of their heroes and villains are, and any convictions — deeply held convictions — they've developed by reporting on the story over a long period of time."

Rosen says there would be a real benefit to such disclosure.

"We can tell where the person is coming from and apply whatever discount rate we want to what they're saying," Rosen says. "I also think that it's more likely to generate trust. And this is the main reason why I recommend 'here's where I'm coming from' replace 'the view from nowhere.' "

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How to manipulate public opinion

Yesterday morning, in a report on the horrible flooding in Australia, they interviewed a farmer, and asked him why it was flooding so badly. Like a farmer is an expert on such things. All he was able to offer was that it is a tropical area and get's a lot of rain. He did say it was by far the worst. A few years ago, when NPR had a total ban on anything even slightly suggestive of global warming, this would have not made it to the air. I know, because I made a detailed list for a year and a half of how NPR covered, or didn't cover, certain topics. Once oil companies started admitting that the use of fossil fuels is causing an increase in greenhouse gases, leading to global warming, the blackout has not been so total. But it is obvious there is still pressure from their corporate contributors on the subject.

What is happening now, is NPR is interviewing people like the Red Cross and farmers, who are not climate experts, on why Australia is getting so much rain. Not surprisingly, the answer is there has been a lot of rain, including a strong cyclone. So the public gets the idea implanted that the question has been answered. And once people have an idea, it is very hard to change it. So NPR is not going to mention the fact there is 5% more moisture in the atmosphere, due to global warming, than there used to be. So if they eventually do point it out, the fact will be ignored by the public, and NPR can say they covered it.

Unfortunately, when people are given a reason, like "El Nino" or "La Nina", they don't think any further and ask why these systmes are getting stronger.


Monday, January 03, 2011

DNA clears Texas man who spent 30 years in prison;_ylt=AmH5Ogpb.2Ca0KNyPk6Sk_us0NUE;_ylu=X3oDMTFlb29jNW9uBHBvcwM2OARzZWMDYWNjb3JkaW9uX3Vfc19uZXdzBHNsawNkbmFjbGVhcnN0ZXg-

By JEFF CARLTON, Associated Press Jeff Carlton, Associated Press – 1 hr 45 mins ago

DALLAS – Prosecutors declared a Texas man innocent Monday of a rape and robbery that put him in prison for 30 years, more than any other DNA exoneree in Texas.

DNA test results that came back barely a week after Cornelius Dupree Jr. was paroled in July excluded him as the person who attacked a Dallas woman in 1979, prosecutors said Monday. Dupree was just 20 when he was sentenced to 75 years in prison in 1980.

Now 51, he has spent more time wrongly imprisoned than any DNA exoneree in Texas, which has freed 41 wrongly convicted inmates through DNA since 2001 — more than any other state.

"Our Conviction Integrity Unit thoroughly reinvestigated this case, tested the biological evidence and based on the results, concluded Cornelius Dupree did not commit this crime," Dallas County District Attorney Craig Watkins said.

Dupree is expected to have his aggravated robbery with a deadly weapon conviction overturned Tuesday at an exoneration hearing in a Dallas court.

There have been 21 DNA exonerations in Dallas since 2001, more than any other county in the nation. Only two states — Illinois and New York — have freed more of the wrongly convicted through DNA evidence, according to the Innocence Project, a New York-based legal center representing Dupree that specializes in wrongful conviction cases.

Dallas' record of DNA exonerations is unmatched nationally because the county crime lab maintains biological evidence even decades after a conviction, leaving samples available to test. In addition, Watkins has cooperated with innocence groups in reviewing hundreds of requests by inmates for DNA testing. Watkins, the first black DA in Texas history, has also pointed to what he calls "a convict-at-all-costs mentality" that he says permeated the DA's office before he arrived in 2007.

Dupree's 30 years in prison will surpass James Woodard, who spent more than 27 years in a Texas prison for a murder that he was cleared of in 2008.

Nationally, there are at least two other DNA exonerees who spent more time in prison, according to the Innocence Project. James Bain was wrongly imprisoned for 35 years in Florida and Lawrence McKinney spent more than 31 years in a Tennessee prison. Phillip Bivens was locked up for more than 30 years in Mississippi, but it wasn't immediately clear whether he or Dupree were in longer.

The DNA testing in Dupree's case also excluded a second defendant, Anthony Massingill, who was subsequently convicted in another sexual assault case and sentenced to life in prison. Massingill remains in prison but maintains his innocence. DNA testing in that second case is ongoing.

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NPR and global warming.

Yesterday morning, NPR had an interview with the Australian Red Cross about the flooding in Australia. They asked him the reason for the floods. He said it was because they had had a lot of rain, and on top of that a cyclone that had a deluge. Well, duh. I notice they didn't ask a climate scientist. There is no doubt that by now the reporters at NPR know that the activity has led to increased water vapor in the atmosphere, which is leading to increased precipitation. But they have to keep their corporate sponsors happy.

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Very very few Canadians come to the U.S. for health care.

October 11, 2010 at 9:27 am
Aaron Carroll

Based on the comments I’ve seen over the last week, many of you are still going with that well used meme in the health care debate that people in other countries – frustrated by wait times and rationing – come to the United States for care. These are almost always anecdotal stories and you should know by now how much stock I put in anecdotes.

As always, when we can we should turn to evidence and research, and on this topic it does exist. The most comprehensive work I’ve seen on this topic was published in a manuscript in the peer-reviewed journal Health Affairs. That study looked at how Canadians cross the border for care. Most anecdotes involve Canadians, since it’s easy for those on the border to come here. And, the authors used a number of different methods to try and answer the question*:

1) First, they surveyed United States border facilities in Michigan, New York, and Washington. It makes sense that Canadians crossing the border for care would favor sites close by, right? It turns out that about 80% of such facilities saw fewer than one Canadian per month. About 40% saw none in the prior year. And when looking at the reasons for visits, more than 80% were emergencies or urgent visits (ie tourists who had to go to the ER). Only about 19% of those already few visits were for elective purposes.

2) Next, they surveyed “America’s Best Hospitals”, because if Canadians were going to travel for care, they would be more likely to go to the most well-known and highest quality facilities, right? Only one of the surveyed hospitals saw more than 60 Canadians in one year. And, again, that included both emergencies and elective care.

3) Finally, they examined data from the 18,000 Canadians who participated in the National Population Health Survey. In the previous year, only 90 of those 18,000 Canadians had received care in the United States; only 20 of them had done so electively.

Look, I’m not denying that some people with means might come to the United States for care. If I needed a heart/lung transplant, there’s no place I’d rather be. But for the vast, vast majority of people, that’s not happening. You shouldn’t use the anecdote to describe things at a population level. This study showed you three different methodologies, all with solid rationales behind them, all showing that this meme is mostly apocryphal.


See the link for a pie chart showing what a tiny proportion of Canadians use the U.S. health care system each year.

Sunday, January 02, 2011

98.6 Degrees Fahrenheit Ideal Temperature for Keeping Fungi Away and Food at Bay

ScienceDaily (Dec. 30, 2010) — Two researchers at Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University have found that our 98.6° F (37° C) body temperature strikes a perfect balance: warm enough to ward off fungal infection but not so hot that we need to eat nonstop to maintain our metabolism.

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Consistent Exercise Associated With Lower Risk of Colon Cancer Death

ScienceDaily (Dec. 30, 2010) — Consistent exercise is associated with a lower risk of dying from colon cancer, according to a new study led by researchers at the Siteman Cancer Center at Washington University School of Medicine and Barnes-Jewish Hospital in St. Louis. The study is among the first to show that physical activity can make the disease less deadly.

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Ohio child cancers confound parents, investigators;_ylt=AuDCLbmXaimK2qdgXR95c9us0NUE;_ylu=X3oDMTFpbTI0NnRhBHBvcwMzOQRzZWMDYWNjb3JkaW9uX21vc3RfcG9wdWxhcgRzbGsDb2hpb2NoaWxkY2Fu

By JOHN SEEWER, Associated Press John Seewer, Associated Press – Thu Dec 30, 9:33 pm ET

CLYDE, Ohio – Every time his kids cough, Dave Hisey's mind starts to race. Is it cancer? Is it coming back? His oldest daughter, diagnosed with leukemia nearly five years ago when she was 13, is in remission. His 12-year-old son has another year of chemotherapy for a different type of leukemia. And his 9-year-old daughter is scared she'll be next.

Hisey is not alone in fearing the worst. Just about every mom and dad in this rural northern Ohio town gets nervous whenever their children get a sinus infection or a stomachache lingers. It's hard not to panic since mysterious cancers have sickened dozens of area children in recent years.

Since 1996, 35 children have been diagnosed — and three have died — of brain tumors, leukemia, lymphoma, and other forms of cancer — all within a 12-mile wide circle that includes two small towns and farmland just south of Lake Erie. With many of the diagnoses coming between 2002 and 2006, state health authorities declared it a cancer cluster, saying the number and type of diagnoses exceed what would be expected statistically for so small a population over that time.

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After three years of exhaustive investigation, no cause is known. Investigators have tested wells and public drinking water, sampled groundwater and air near factories and checked homes, schools and industries for radiation.

They also set up a network of air monitors across eastern Sandusky County, finding cleaner air than in most places around Ohio, the health department said.

Nothing unusual was detected. Not even a hint.

"From the very beginning, we've said the vast majority of childhood cancer causes aren't known," said Robert Indian, the state health department's chief of comprehensive cancer control. He'll soon release yet another investigative report.

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Eight children were diagnosed with cancer in and near Clyde between 2002-2006, nearly four times the number that state health experts figure is normal.

Ohio health investigators converged on the town of just 6,000 people halfway between Cleveland and Toledo and home to the Whirlpool Corp.'s largest washing machine factory.

What they found was worse than anyone suspected. The cancers affecting victims age 19 and younger included neighboring townships and much of the nearby town of Fremont.

One in five of the cancer cases were related to the brain or central nervous system, matching national rates, according to the American Cancer Society.

The diagnoses peaked in 2006, when nine children were told they, too, had cancer. Since then, there have been four new cases. The most recent came in the spring this year, when a 7-year-old girl was diagnosed with rhabdomyosarcoma, a rare cancer of the body's connective tissues.

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Ohio health and environmental regulators have speculated the cause was environmental and may have come and gone — maybe a chemical from a factory or a dump that polluted the air or water.

Air and water samples have not revealed any concerns around the Whirlpool plant or the Vickery Environmental waste site just outside town, where hazardous chemicals are injected into rock a half-mile below ground.

And in September, investigators said they found no radiation from homes, schools, or industries to link to the illnesses, ruling out the Davis-Besse nuclear plant, about 20 miles from Clyde, and NASA's former nuclear reactor near Sandusky as a possible source.

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Some parents think it's likely that investigators will never identify a cause.

In a way, it's not a surprise.

Pinpointing the cause of a cancer cluster rarely — if ever — happens.

During the 1960s and '70s, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention investigated 108 cancer clusters around the United States, most of them childhood leukemia. But they found no definite causes for any of them.

The CDC has since allowed states to take the lead investigating almost all suspected clusters while still offering some oversight, as the federal agency is doing in Ohio.

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Some parents of Clyde area's sick children question whether the state's inquiry has been thorough enough. They point out that there's been no soil testing or requests for experts from CDC to join the investigation.

"Why haven't they brought all minds to the table?" said Warren Brown, whose 11-year-old daughter, Alexa, died of brain cancer in August 2009. "Why not throw everything at it?"

Investigators insist they've ignored nothing. Soil testing wouldn't reveal any answers, they said, because the sick children come from a widespread area and all would have needed to come in contact with contaminated dirt.

Ohio Environmental Protection Agency Director Christopher Korleski said the state has consulted with federal health officials throughout the investigation and that they've signed off on the steps Ohio has taken.

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It may have been something that has come and gone, but why are they not testing the soil? Their reasoning sounds silly to me. If there is a widespread effect, there might be widespread soil contamination, duh.


Saturday, January 01, 2011

Globalization Burdens Future Generations With Biological Invasions

ScienceDaily (Dec. 21, 2010) — The consequences of the current high levels of socio-economic activity on the extent of biological invasions will probably not be completely realized until decades into the future, according to new research.

A new study on biological invasions based on extensive data of alien species from 10 taxonomic groups and 28 European countries has shown that patterns of established alien species richness are more related to historical levels of socio-economic drivers than to contemporary ones. An international group of 16 researchers reports the new finding in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS). The publication resulted from the three-year project DAISIE (Delivering Alien Invasive Inventory for Europe,, funded by European Union within its 6th Framework Programme.

Recent research has demonstrated that economic activities are among the most important determinants of biological invasions, fostering discussions about appropriate political strategies to prevent unintended introductions, e.g. in terms of trade regulations. Yet the frequent delay between first introduction of a species in a new territory and its establishment and spread suggest that invasions triggered by current economic behavior will possibly take a long time to become fully realized, causing what the researchers call an "invasion debt."

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