Thursday, June 30, 2011

Why Do Fingers Wrinkle When They Get Wet?

June 29, 2011

We know you've asked yourself that question in the headline and common knowledge dictates that the reason your fingers look pruney when you're in water for too long is that the skin absorbs water.

Well, Mark Changizi, an evolutionary neurobiologist at 2AI Labs in Boise, Idaho, thinks he has a better theory. Nature reports on the study, which was published in the journal Brain, Behavior and Evolution:

Changizi thinks that the wrinkles act like rain treads on [tires]. They create channels that allow water to drain away as we press our fingertips on to wet surfaces. This allows the fingers to make greater contact with a wet surface, giving them a better grip.

Scientists have known since the mid-1930s that water wrinkles do not form if the nerves in a finger are severed, implying that they are controlled by the nervous system.

"I stumbled upon these nearly century-old papers and they immediately suggested to me that pruney fingers are functional," says Changizi. "I discussed the mystery with my student Romann Weber, who said, 'Could they be rain treads?' 'Brilliant!' was my reply."



GOP Negotiations/Conflict of Interest?

JUNE 30, 2011

What would happen if Republicans positioned themselves to gain monetary rewards if the debt ceiling is not raised? Would there be repercussions for a House Majority Leader who stands to win financial gain for tanking our economy? Would you believe that this is not merely a hypothetical? reported:

Last year the Wall Street Journal reported that Cantor, the No. 2 Republican in the House, had between $1,000 and $15,000 invested in ProShares Trust Ultrashort 20+ Year Treasury EFT. The fund aggressively “shorts” long-term U.S. Treasury bonds, meaning that it performs well when U.S. debt is undesirable. (A short is when the trader hopes to profit from the decline in the value of an asset.)

According to his latest financial disclosure statement, which covers the year 2010 and has been publicly available since this spring, Cantor still has up to $15,000 in the same fund. Contacted by Salon this week, Cantor’s office gave no indication that the Virginia Republican, who has played a leading role in the debt ceiling negotiations, has divested himself of these holdings since his last filing. Unless an agreement can be reached, the U.S. could begin defaulting on its debt payments on Aug. 2. If that happens and Cantor is still invested in the fund, the value of his holdings would skyrocket.

“If the debt ceiling isn’t raised, investors would start fleeing U.S. Treasuries,” said Matt Koppenheffer, who writes for the investment website the Motley Fool. “Yields would rise, prices would fall, and the Proshares ETF should do very well. It would spike.”

The fund hasn’t significantly spiked yet because many investors believe Congress will eventually raise the debt ceiling. However, since Cantor abruptly called off debt ceiling negotiations last Thursday, the fund was up 3.3%.

Or in other words, the person who is playing hardball in bipartisan debt discussions stands to benefit substantially if negotiations collapse and the debt ceiling is not raised, causing the U.S. to default on their loans.



State of the ocean report a wake-up call for the world

June 29, 2011

Oceans keep us alive. They provide food, oxygen, water, medicines, and recreation. They help protect us from climate change by absorbing and storing carbon dioxide. If we care about ourselves and our children and grandchildren, we must look beyond our immediate surroundings and do all we can to care for the oceans. But instead of respecting oceans as a life-giving miracle, we often use them as vast garbage dumps and as stores with shelves that never go empty.
The shelves are going empty, though. Humans are changing the chemistry and ecology of the ocean at a scale and rate not previously believed possible. According to a study from the International Programme on the State of the Ocean, the combined effects of overfishing, fertilizer run-off, pollution, and ocean acidification from carbon dioxide emissions are putting much marine life at immediate risk of extinction.
The 27 scientists from 18 organizations in six countries who participated in the review of scientific research from around the world concluded that the looming extinctions are "unprecedented in human history" and have called for "urgent and unequivocal action to halt further declines in ocean health." The main factors are what they term the "deadly trio": climate change, ocean acidification, and lack of oxygen. Overfishing and pollution add to the problem.
The researchers also found that "existing scientific projections of how coral reefs will respond to global warming have been highly conservative and must now be modified." And they found that chemicals such as "brominated flame retardants, fluorinated compounds, pharmaceuticals and synthetic musks used in detergents and personal care products" — which can cause cancer and disrupt human endocrine and immune systems — have been found in aquatic animals everywhere, even in the Canadian Arctic. Marine litter and plastics are also found throughout the oceans, sometimes in massive swirling gyres.

Alex Rogers, the scientific director of IPSO, is quoted in the Guardian as saying he was shocked by the findings: "This is a very serious situation demanding unequivocal action at every level. We are looking at consequences for humankind that will impact in our lifetime, and worse, our children's and generations beyond that."

Action at every level means just that — actions that we can all take as individuals as well as actions that governments and industry must take. Reducing our own wastes, being careful about what we put down the drain, cutting down the amount of animal-based protein we eat and feed to our pets, and joining efforts to protect the oceans are a start, but the most important role we can all play is to tell governments and industry that we will no longer stand for this.

We can already anticipate that industry-funded deniers and the dupes who help spread their misinformation will be out in force, painting this as yet another conspiracy on the part of the world's scientists, and that some governments will put industrial interests ahead of everything else. We must put a stop to this nonsense. Every year that we stall on the solutions to climate change means we are less likely to be able to resolve the problems. Other scientists and I have been warning about the consequences of climate change for more than 20 years, and yet governments are still dithering while the world's natural systems continue to erode.

What this study also shows is that we cannot look at ecosystems, species, and environmental problems in isolation. This research points out that the combined impacts of all the stressors are far more severe than what scientists might conclude by looking at individual problems.

The report exemplifies the old adage about death by a thousand cuts. There is no single place to concentrate blame except in the mirror. The study's authors note that, "traditional economic and consumer values that formerly served society well, when coupled with current rates of population increase, are not sustainable." In other words, we need to account for the impact we have on the planet each time we flush a toilet, drink a pop, hop in a car, or eat a radish. There is no shortage of solutions, just a shortage of political will. Further delay in resolving these serious problems will only increase costs and lead to even greater losses of the natural benefits oceans give to us.


Criminal investigation into torture deaths begins

4:25 pm June 30, 2011, by Jay

From the WSJ:

“Attorney General Eric Holder said Thursday he has ordered a full criminal investigation into the deaths of two prisoners who were interrogated by the Central Intelligence Agency in the years following the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorism attacks.

The move is likely to restart the partisan fight over Bush-era detainee treatment that Democrats have called torture.

Mr. Holder said he accepted the recommendations of John Durham, a prosecutor from Connecticut, who has been examining the treatment of CIA detainees and studying whether CIA interrogations exceeded methods allowed under legal guidance provided at the time by the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel.

Justice Department prosecutors led by Mr. Durham have been using a grand jury in Alexandria, Va., to investigate the death of Gul Rahman at a CIA prison called the Salt Pit in Afghanistan in 2002, as well as the death of Manadel al Jamadi at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq in 2003, according to a person familiar with the matter.

Holder had previously made it clear that the Justice Department would not prosecute any intelligence officer “who acted in good faith and within the scope of the legal guidance given by the Office of Legal Counsel regarding the interrogation of detainees.” In other words, if they abided by the standards and legal guidance set by their superiors — however flawed, immoral and illegal those standards and legal guidance might be — they would not be prosecuted.

I think that’s appropriate and necessary. If we’re not going to prosecute the people at the top who created the torture policy — and clearly we’re not — then we sure as hell shouldn’t prosecute the lowly employees who carried that policy out.

However, if U.S. officials tortured individuals to the point of death, well, that is not the country to which I pledge allegiance, and was not within the bounds of any standards that have so far been made public. We are Americans and Americans aren’t supposed to do that kind of thing. The people we fight may do those things; that’s one reason we fight them.

But we don’t. Or at least we’re not supposed to.

– Jay Bookman


61% Of Voters Recognize Republicans Not Obama to Blame For The Recession

June 28, 2011
By Jason Easley

Buried in the latest McClatchy/Marist poll was an interesting nugget. Although Americans are upset about the economy, 61% of those polled still think that Obama inherited the recession.

According to the poll Obama only has a 37% approval rating on his handling of the economy. He scores even worse on the issue of the deficit with a 61% disapproval rating, but his favorable rating remains at 50%, and when asked if the economy is his fault, or he inherited it, 61% of those polled expressed the belief that the president inherited the economy.

While the first two numbers should give the Obama campaign cause for concern and the second number will be the likely reason why any deal to raise the debt ceiling will also involve spending cuts, it is the last two numbers above that pose the biggest problem for Republicans ahead of 2012.


The hurdle that Republicans face is the widely held perception that Obama inherited their economic mess. This belief has held true with over 60% of those polled since Obama took office. It has been a fairly unshakable piece of data across the polls that have asked the question. Should the 2012 election revolve around the economy, voters have to decide if they are willing to put the party back in the White House who they feel is responsible for this mess.


Since the economy was already well into recession when Obama took office, this shows that over 60% of those polled are in touch with reality. The troubling thing is that almost 40% are not.



I often reminded of the following quote:
“Make the lie big, make it simple, keep saying it, and eventually they will believe it”
~ Adolf Hitler

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Waistlines in People, Glucose Levels in Mice Hint at Sweeteners' Effects

ScienceDaily (June 28, 2011) — In the constant battle to lose inches or at least stay the same, we reach for the diet soda. Two studies presented June 25 and 27 at the American Diabetes Association's Scientific Sessions in San Diego suggest this might be self-defeating behavior.

Epidemiologists from the School of Medicine at The University of Texas Health Science Center San Antonio reported data showing that diet soft drink consumption is associated with increased waist circumference in humans, and a second study that found aspartame raised fasting glucose (blood sugar) in diabetes-prone mice.


Diet soft drink users, as a group, experienced 70 percent greater increases in waist circumference compared with non-users. Frequent users, who said they consumed two or more diet sodas a day, experienced waist circumference increases that were 500 percent greater than those of non-users.
Abdominal fat is a major risk factor for diabetes, cardiovascular disease, cancer and other chronic conditions. "These results suggest that, amidst the national drive to reduce consumption of sugar-sweetened drinks, policies that would promote the consumption of diet soft drinks may have unintended deleterious effects," the authors wrote


Calcium Plus Vitamin D May Reduce Melanoma Risks in Some Women

ScienceDaily (June 28, 2011) — A combination of calcium and vitamin D may cut the chance of melanoma in half for some women at high risk of developing this life-threatening skin cancer, according to a new study by Stanford University School of Medicine researchers.

Using existing data from a large clinical trial, the study zeroed in on women with a history of non-melanoma skin cancer, as people with this generally non-fatal disease are more likely to develop the more lethal illness -- melanoma. The researchers found that women who once had non-melanoma and took the calcium-vitamin D combination developed 57 percent fewer melanomas than women with similar histories who were not given the supplements. Non-melanoma skin cancers, such as basal cell or squamous cell cancers, are the most common forms of skin cancer.



Children’s Hay Fever Relieved by Cellulose Powder Without Adverse Effects, Study Suggests

It will be good if this does not turn out to negative long-term effects.

ScienceDaily (June 28, 2011) — A cellulose powder has been used increasingly for many years against allergic rhinitis. Still, there has been a shortage of scientific evidence for its efficacy in seasonal allergic rhinitis (hay fever), particularly in children. Now, however, scientists have shown that the cellulose powder reduces symptoms of seasonal allergic rhinitis in children. Researchers did not find any adverse effects.

The powder is produced from pine trees and forms a barrier on the mucous membrane when puffed into the nose. This means that allergy causing substances are filtered out.
"The cellulose powder has no adverse effects, and this fact makes it a particularly attractive treatment for children. It is used increasingly in many countries, but there is until now no scientific study proving the efficacy of the cellulose powder in children during the pollen season," is the comment from Nils Åberg, associate professor at the Department of Pediatrics and consultant at the Queen Silvia Children's Hospital


"We showed that the nasal symptoms of the children were significantly reduced in those who used the cellulose powder. The best effect was obtained at low to moderate concentrations of pollen, corresponding to the predominating levels in the area during the 31-year period. Furthermore, no adverse effects of the cellulose powder were seen," Nils Åberg remarks.


Lack of Empathy Following Traumatic Brain Injury Associated With Reduced Responsiveness to Anger

ScienceDaily (June 29, 2011) — Egocentric, self-centred, and insensitive to the needs of others: these social problems often arise in people with severe traumatic brain injury (TBI) and have been attributed in part to a loss of emotional empathy, the capacity to recognise and understand the emotions of other people. Given that traumatic brain injuries are becoming more common, and resulting empathy deficits can have negative repercussions on social functioning and quality of life, it is increasingly important to understand the processes that shape emotional empathy.

A new study has recently revealed evidence of a relationship between physiological responses to anger and a reduction of emotional empathy post-injury, as reported in the May 2011 issue of Elsevier's Cortex


the researchers measured activation of their facial muscles and sweat glands, in response to happy and angry facial expressions, using facial electromyography (EMG) and skin conductance. They found that the control group spontaneously mimicked the emotional facial expressions they saw, and also perspired more in response to angry faces. In contrast, those in the TBI group generally scored lower in emotional empathy and were less responsive, specifically to angry faces. Lack of emotional empathy was specifically found to be associated with reduced physiological responses to angry faces



Bachmann defends Medicaid funds to clinic

ST. PAUL, Minn. — Republican presidential candidate Michele Bachmann is deflecting questions about federally subsidized health dollars that have flowed to her husband's mental health clinic.
As Bachmann, a Republican member of the U.S. House from Minnesota, tours the nation attacking the size of federal government, she has come under heightened scrutiny over public dollars flowing to family business interests. That includes $137,000 that Bachmann and Associates has received for treating patients in Medicaid-backed programs, NBC News and reported Tuesday .

Bachmann's press secretary, Alice Stewart, issued a statement Wednesday contending that it "would be discriminatory" for the clinic to turn away Medicaid patients. She said Marcus Bachmann's business had the responsibility to provide the care "regardless of a patient's financial situation."


Well, they had the option of not charging patients who could not afford care, or at least reduce their usual fees.
I'm would be interested in knowing how many, if any, patients they have treated for free or for reduced fees. Many poor people are not eligible for Medicaid. Eg., a person in Georgia who does not have children is not disabled, is not eligible for Medicaid if their income is more than $280/month!


Fed’s Raskin Says Income Inequality Hinders Economy’s Ability to Recover

By Jeannine Aversa and Joshua Zumbrun - Jun 29, 2011 1:00 PM ET

Federal Reserve Governor Sarah Bloom Raskin said the financial inequality resulting from stagnating incomes for most Americans and rapid growth in wealth for the richest 1 percent is hindering the U.S. economic recovery.

“This inequality is destabilizing and undermines the ability of the economy to grow sustainably and efficiently,” Raskin said today to a forum in Washington sponsored by the New America Foundation. The disparities help “drag down maximum economic growth and are anathema to the social progress that is part and parcel of such growth,” she said.



The economy is so bad that

Got another 2 resumes returned. Employment agencies moved with no forwarding address, making 4 so far this month.


Tuesday, June 28, 2011

25 years since global temps were below average


WASHINGTON — It's been more than 300 months since the average global average temperature was below average, scientists and the U.S. government said in the annual State of the Climate report released Tuesday.

The experts tracked 41 climate indicators, four more than in the previous year, and "they all show a continued tendency," said Tom Karl, director of the National Climatic Data Center. "The indicators show unequivocally that the world continues to warm."

"There is a clear and unmistakable signal from the top of the atmosphere to the depths of the oceans," added Peter Thorne of the Cooperative Institute for Climate and Satellites at North Carolina State University.

Carbon dioxide increased by 2.60 parts per million in the atmosphere in 2010, which is more than the average annual increase seen from 1980-2010, Karl said. Carbon dioxide is the major greenhouse gas accumulating in the air that atmospheric scientists blame for warming the climate.

The warmer conditions are consistent with events such as heat waves and extreme rainfall, Karl said at a teleconference. However, it is more difficult to make a direct connection with things like tornado outbreaks, he said.

"Any single weather event is driven by a number of factors, from local conditions to global climate patterns and trends. Climate change is one of these," he said. "It is very likely that large-scale changes in climate, such as increased moisture in the atmosphere and warming temperatures, have influenced — and will continue to influence — many different types of extreme events, such as heavy rainfall, flooding, heat waves and droughts.


Deke Arndt, chief of the Climate Monitoring Branch at NCDC, noted that every month since early 1985 has been warmer than the 20th century average for the month.



Koch brothers products

See this link for a list of some products made by Koch brother companies.
The Georgia-Pacific brand accounts for many.

It also gives "A Sampling of Environmental Charges Verses Koch", .


September 2000, a federal grand jury in Corpus Christi, Texas returned a 97-count indictment against Koch Industries Inc., Koch Petroleum Group for violating federal clean air and hazardous waste laws, due to the release of at least 91 metric tons of uncontrolled, untreated carcinogenic benzene.


A March 2010 Greenpeace report shows that Koch Industry foundations have contributed (2005-2008) nearly $25 million to organizations that oppose clean energy and climate policy. That does not include oil and gas lobbying of $37.9 million. For more info on Koch Industries' funding of Climate Denial Groups -- See GreenPeace's report "Koch Industries Funding the Climate Denial Machine"



78,000 tax filers with incomes of $211,000 to $533,000 who will pay no federal income taxes this year

Bruce Bartlett talks about who does and doesn't pay federal taxes, and notes that "the growth of the non-income-taxpaying population is largely a result of Republican tax policies."

He also notes that:

There are 78,000 tax filers with incomes of $211,000 to $533,000 who will pay no federal income taxes this year. Even more amazingly, there are 24,000 households with incomes of $533,000 to $2.2 million with zero income tax liability, and 3,000 tax filers with incomes above $2.2 million with the same federal income tax liability as most of those with incomes barely above the poverty level.



Born to Lose: Health Inequality at Birth

June 27, 2011, 6:00 AM

In an imaginary world of equal opportunity we would all be free to choose our own economic future. In reality, many children in the United States are born to lose, suffering health disadvantages at birth that reduce their likelihood of economic success.

Epidemiologists and economists have long agreed that low birth weight is an important, albeit approximate, predictor of future health problems. A wealth of new economic research tracing individuals over time shows that it is also an approximate predictor of future earnings problems, with statistical effects almost as strong as children’s test scores.

Among other things, low birth weight increases the probability of suffering from attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and lowers the probability of graduating from high school.

In the current American Economic Review, Janet Currie of Princeton, a pioneer in this new area of research, summarizes recent findings and points out that children of black mothers who dropped out of high school are three times as likely as children of white college-educated mothers to suffer low birth weight.

Many of the mechanisms that underlie this inequality are linked to characteristics of the physical environment, such as exposure to environmental toxins.

For instance, carbon monoxide related to automobile emissions harms fetal health. Detailed statistical analysis of families in New Jersey shows that moving from an area with high levels of carbon monoxide to one with lower levels has an effect on birth weight larger than persuading a woman who was smoking 10 cigarettes a day during pregnancy to quit.

Another memorable illustration of carbon monoxide effects comes from a study of the impact of E-ZPass electronic technologies, which improve infant health by reducing auto emissions in neighborhoods close to highway toll booths.

Exposure to toxic air pollutants and waste dumps (like Superfund cleanup sites) both lowers birth weight and increases the risks of premature and infant death.

Professor Currie’s research shows that black and Latino children are significantly more likely than white children to be born to mothers living in proximity to such hazards, supporting arguments long made by environmental justice advocates.

Less-educated mothers are less aware of such health risks and less able to mobilize the economic resources necessary to move to better neighborhoods. This helps explain results showing that improved educational opportunities for mothers improve infant health.

Another important policy implication is that stricter environmental regulation would benefit low-income children in particular. Professor Currie has taken part in research showing that reductions in the release of three toxicants (cadmium, toluene, and epichlorohydrin) from 1988 to 1999 account for a 3.9 percent reduction in infant mortality over that time.


Professor Currie herself tends to emphasize the pricing problem. As she put it: “Factories dump toxic releases into the atmosphere but don’t pay the cost of pollution. There would be less harm to the children who ingest the toxins if the factories had to bear the cost.”

Changes would happen even more quickly if the chief executives of these companies — and their children — had to bear the cost. But these adults are free to choose where to live and what to breathe. And their children are, for the most part, born to win.


How Industrial Farming 'Destroyed' The Tasty Tomato, sometimes using slavery today

You can also hear the article at the following link:

June 28, 2011

If you bite into a tomato between the months of October and June, chances are that tomato came from Florida. The Sunshine State accounts for one-third of all fresh tomatoes produced in the United States — and virtually all of the tomatoes raised during the fall and winter seasons.

But the tomatoes grown in Florida differ dramatically from the red garden varieties you might grow in your backyard. They're bred to be perfectly formed — so that they can make their way across the U.S. and onto your dinner table without cracking or breaking.

"For the last 50 or more years, tomato breeders have concentrated essentially on one thing and that is yield — they want plants that yield as many or as much as possible," writer Barry Estabrook tells Fresh Air's Terry Gross. "They also want those fruits to be able to stand up to being harvested, packed, artificially turned orange [with ethylene gas] and then shipped away and still be holding together in the supermarket a week or 10 days later."

Estabrook, a freelance food writer whose work has appeared in The Atlantic, The New York Times and The Washington Post, looks at the life of today's mass-produced tomato — and the environmental and human costs of the tomato industry — in his book Tomatoland: How Modern Industrial Agriculture Destroyed Our Most Alluring Fruit. The book was based on a James Beard Award-winning article that originally appeared in Gourmet magazine, where Estabrook was a contributing editor before publication ceased in 2009.

Estabrook says the mass-produced tomatoes in today's supermarkets lack flavor because they were bred for enduring long journeys to the supermarket — and not for taste.

"As one large Florida farmer said, 'I don't get paid a single cent for flavor,' " says Estabrook. "He said, 'I get paid for weight. And I don't know of any supermarket shopper who tastes her tomatoes before she puts them in her shopping cart.' ... It's not worth commercial plant breeders' while to breed for taste because their customers — the large farmers — don't get paid for it."

As a result, customers have become accustomed to the flavorless tomatoes that dot supermarket shelves, says Estabrook.

"I was speaking to a person in their 30s recently and she said she had never recalled tasting anything other than a supermarket tomato," he says. "I think that wanting a tomato in the winter of winter — or wanting a little bit of orange on the plate ... is inherent in a lot of our shopping decisions. We expect an ingredient to be on the supermarket shelves 365 days a year, whether or whether not it's in season or tastes any good."

Though most of our tomatoes come from Florida, the state isn't necessarily the best place to grow the crop, says Estabrook. Most tomatoes are grown in sand, which contains few nutrients and organic materials. In addition, Florida's humidity breeds large populations of insects, which means tomato growers need to apply chemical pesticides on a weekly basis.

"In order to get a successful crop of tomatoes, the official Florida handbook for tomato growers lists 110 different fungicides, pesticides and herbicides that can be applied to a tomato field over the course of the growing season," he says. "And many of those are what the Pesticide Action Network calls 'bad actors' — they're kind of the worst of the worst in the agricultural chemical arsenal."

Florida applies more than eight times the amount of pesticide and herbicides as does California, the next leading tomato grower in the country. Part of this has to do with the fact that California processes tomatoes that are used for canning — and therefore don't have to look as good as their Florida counterparts. But part of this also has to do with consumers.

"It's the price we pay for insisting we have food out of season and not local," he says. "We foodies and people in the sustainable food movement chant these mantras, 'local, seasonable, organic, fair-trade, sustainable,' and they almost become meaningless because they're said so often and you see them in so many places. If you strip all those away, they do mean something, and what they mean is that you end up with something like a Florida tomato in the winter — which is tasteless."

"My mother, in the '60s could buy a tomato in the supermarket that had 30 to 40 percent more vitamin C and way more niacin and calcium. The only area that the modern industrial tomato beats its Kennedy-administration counterpart is in sodium."

"Of the legal jobs available, picking tomatoes is at the very bottom of the economic ladder. I came into this book chronicling a case of slavery in southwestern Florida that came to light in 2007 and 2008. And it was shocking. I'm not talking about near-slavery or slavery-like conditions. I'm talking about abject slavery. These were people who were bought and sold. These were people who were shackled in chains at night or locked in the back of produce trucks with no sanitary facilities all night.

"These were people who were forced to work whether they wanted to or not and if they didn't, they were beaten severely. If they tried to escape, they were either beaten worse or in some cases, they were killed. And they received little or no pay. It sounds like 1850. ... There have been seven [legal cases] in the last 10 or 15 years ... successfully brought to justice in Florida involving slavery. And 1,200 people have been freed. The U.S. Attorney for the district in Southern Florida claims that that just represents a tiny, tiny tip of an iceberg because it's extraordinarily difficult to prosecute a modern-day slavery case."



The War Against Women



But just when you think Republicans couldn’t be any harsher, they then propose a law that would allow hospitals to just let women die rather than perform an abortion, even if she needs one to save her life. It leads me to ask, what the hell is wrong with these monstrous people?


Back in Washington, Republicans have put forward measures to fund contraceptives for HORSES, but are denying funding for human female contraceptives. Oh, but they are still funding Viagra for men.


A couple Republican officials have already stated that women with kids should not only be married, but should also remain in the household with the kids. This is occurring in Maryland, where Republicans have ended all county money for a low-income kids’ preschool program. Why? No need, they said. Women should really be home with the kids, not out working. How stupid is that? What happens to single women or low income families that are struggling to get by on two incomes?

[...] [And what happens if her husband dies or becomes disabled or loses his job or deserts her?]

If you’re a financially poor woman with a family to feed, it gets even worse for you because Republicans want to cut nearly a billion dollars of food and other aid to low-income pregnant women, mothers, babies, and kids. Republicans are also cutting billions from Head Start, which means over 200,000 children will lose their spots in preschool, all in the effort to force women to stay home. If you’re an elderly woman, tough luck to you too. Two-thirds of the elderly poor are women, and Republicans are taking aim at them too. A spending bill would cut funding for employment services, meals, and housing for senior citizens.



After Taking A $10 Billion Bailout, Goldman Sachs Announces It Will Outsource 1,000 Jobs To Singapore

By Scott Keyes on Jun 28, 2011 at 12:50 pm

Less than three years after receiving $10 billion in bailout money from American taxpayers, Goldman Sachs informed its employees recently that it will fire 1,000 workers in the United States and elsewhere, shifting their jobs to the cheaper Singaporean labor market.
According to Fox Business, Goldman Sachs has quietly informed workers and lawmakers of its plan to outsource 1,000 jobs in an attempt to inoculate itself from the impending blowback:


Goldman Sachs has also worked to protect itself by hiring former Republican Sen. Judd Gregg (NH) as an “international advisor.” It is not unreasonable to assume that Gregg’s 26 years in Washington will help the investment firm’s attempts to placate critics.
The move to shift 1,000 jobs to Singapore is part of an overall effort by Goldman Sachs to cut $1 billion in operating costs over the next year. However, Goldman is firing American workers at a time of record profits for the company, which raked in $2.7 billion in profits in the first three months of 2011 alone.

Goldman’s plan is helped by conservatives in Washington who have prevented Congress from discouraging corporations from outsourcing. Last fall, Senate Republicans voted unanimously against a bill that would have ended tax breaks for companies that shift American jobs overseas.

Many conservatives justify outsourcing by arguing that not only would companies be more profitable by shifting low-skilled work to developing countries, but laid-off American workers would be forced to re-educate themselves for new, high-paying industries. However, this move by Goldman Sachs is particularly troubling for that theory because, according to a source with knowledge of the matter, the 1,000 Singaporean jobs are likely to be “high-paying, skilled positions in sales and investment banking.”



A little house of secrets on the Great Plains

By Kelly Carr and Brian Grow | Reuters – 6 hrs ago

CHEYENNE/ATLANTA (Reuters) - The secretive business havens of Cyprus and the Cayman Islands face a potent rival: Cheyenne, Wyoming.

At a single address in this sleepy city of 60,000 people, more than 2,000 companies are registered. The building, 2710 Thomes Avenue, isn't a shimmering skyscraper filled with A-list corporations. It's a 1,700-square-foot brick house with a manicured lawn, a few blocks from the State Capitol.

Neighbors say they see little activity there besides regular mail deliveries and a woman who steps outside for smoke breaks. Inside, however, the walls of the main room are covered floor to ceiling with numbered mailboxes labeled as corporate "suites." A bulky copy machine sits in the kitchen. In the living room, a woman in a headset answers calls and sorts bushels of mail.

A Reuters investigation has found the house at 2710 Thomes Avenue serves as a little Cayman Island on the Great Plains. It is the headquarters for Wyoming Corporate Services, a business-incorporation specialist that establishes firms which can be used as "shell" companies, paper entities able to hide assets.

Wyoming Corporate Services will help clients create a company, and more: set up a bank account for it; add a lawyer as a corporate director to invoke attorney-client privilege; even appoint stand-in directors and officers as high as CEO. Among its offerings is a variety of shell known as a "shelf" company, which comes with years of regulatory filings behind it, lending a greater feeling of solidity.

"A corporation is a legal person created by state statute that can be used as a fall guy, a servant, a good friend or a decoy," the company's website boasts. "A person you control... yet cannot be held accountable for its actions. Imagine the possibilities!"

Among the entities registered at 2710 Thomes, Reuters found, is a shelf company sheltering real-estate assets controlled by a jailed former prime minister of Ukraine, according to allegations made by a political rival in a federal court in California.


The owner of two other firms there was banned from government contracting in January for selling counterfeit truck parts to the Pentagon.

All the activity at 2710 Thomes is part of a little-noticed industry in the U.S.: the mass production of paper businesses. Scores of mass incorporators like Wyoming Corporate Services have set up shop. The hotbeds of the industry are three states with a light regulatory touch-Delaware, Wyoming and Nevada.

The pervasiveness of corporate secrecy on America's shores stands in stark contrast to Washington's message to the rest of the world. Since the September 11 attacks in 2001, the U.S. has been calling forcefully for greater transparency in global transactions, to lift the veil on shadowy money flows. During a debate in 2008, presidential candidate Barack Obama singled out Ugland House in the Cayman Islands, reportedly home to some 12,000 offshore corporations, as "either the biggest building or the biggest tax scam on record."

Yet on U.S. soil, similar activity is perfectly legal. The incorporation industry, overseen by officials in the 50 states, has few rules. Convicted felons can operate firms which create companies, and buy them with no background checks.


"In the U.S., (business incorporation) is completely unregulated," says Jason Sharman, a professor at Griffith University in Nathan, Australia, who is preparing a study for the World Bank on corporate formation worldwide. "Somalia has slightly higher standards than Wyoming and Nevada."



Monday, June 27, 2011

If you want your comment accepted

please don't use foul language.



Pelosi says Cantor 'can't handle the truth'

June 26, 2011

House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi said Sunday that debt ceiling talks were derailed in part by Republican leeriness over ending special interest tax deals.

The California congresswoman had particular scorn for House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.), who last week pulled out of talks amid a flap with Democrats over taxes.

"Leader Cantor can't handle the truth when it comes to these tax subsidies for big oil, for corporations sending jobs overseas, for giving tax breaks to the wealthiest people in our country while they're asking seniors to pay more for less, as they abolish Medicare," Pelosi said on CNN's "State of the Union."

President Barack Obama and House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) this week are stepping into the debt ceiling morass with a series of high-level meetings aimed at working out a deal before an Aug. 2 deadline.

Pelosi said Republican determination to fix the deficit with tax cuts is a non-starter. "In the Bush years the Republicans said that tax cuts will produce jobs," she said. "They didn't. They produced a deficit."



Hottest day on record in Texas Panhandle

Posted by: JeffMasters, 4:54 PM GMT on June 27, 2011

The hottest temperatures in recorded history scorched large portions of the Texas Panhandle, Oklahoma Panhandle, and southwestern Kansas on Sunday. Amarillo hit 111°, breaking its hottest day-ever record of 109° (set just two days previously, on June 24). Borger, Texas hit 113°, smashing the previous hottest day-ever record set on June 24, 2011 of 108°. Dalhart, Texas had its hottest day on record, 110°, beating the 108° on June 24, 2011. Dodge City, Kansas tied its all-time record with 110° (last seen on June 29, 1998). Dodge City has temperature records back to 1874. Yesterday saw the hottest temperatures of the month for Texas with 116.2° at Childress, Northfield, and Memphis (all in the panhandle region.) These readings are not far from the state record of 120° set at Monahas on June 28, 1994 and at Seymore on August 12, 1936.


Wunderground's weather historian Christopher C. Burt has many more details on the great Texas drought of 2011 in his latest post, updated Sunday night. He reports that Pecos, Texas has had no precipitation since September 23, 2010--one of the longest rain-free periods for a U.S. city in recorded history, outside of the desert regions of Arizona and California.



Shyness: Evolutionary Tactic?

Published: June 25, 2011

A BEAUTIFUL woman lowers her eyes demurely beneath a hat. In an earlier era, her gaze might have signaled a mysterious allure. But this is a 2003 advertisement for Zoloft, a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (S.S.R.I.) approved by the F.D.A. to treat social anxiety disorder. “Is she just shy? Or is it Social Anxiety Disorder?” reads the caption, suggesting that the young woman is not alluring at all. She is sick.

But is she?

It is possible that the lovely young woman has a life-wrecking form of social anxiety. There are people too afraid of disapproval to venture out for a job interview, a date or even a meal in public. Despite the risk of serious side effects — nausea, loss of sex drive, seizures — drugs like Zoloft can be a godsend for this group.

But the ad’s insinuation aside, it’s also possible the young woman is “just shy,” or introverted — traits our society disfavors. One way we manifest this bias is by encouraging perfectly healthy shy people to see themselves as ill.

This does us all a grave disservice, because shyness and introversion — or more precisely, the careful, sensitive temperament from which both often spring — are not just normal. They are valuable. And
they may be essential to the survival of our species


As a society, we prefer action to contemplation, risk-taking to heed-taking, certainty to doubt. Studies show that we rank fast and frequent talkers as more competent, likable and even smarter than slow ones. As the psychologists William Hart and Dolores Albarracin point out, phrases like “get active,” “get moving,” “do something” and similar calls to action surface repeatedly in recent books.

Yet shy and introverted people have been part of our species for a very long time, often in leadership positions. We find them in the Bible (“Who am I, that I should go unto Pharaoh?" asked Moses, whom the Book of Numbers describes as “very meek, above all the men which were upon the face of the earth.”) We find them in recent history, in figures like Charles Darwin, Marcel Proust and Albert Einstein, and, in contemporary times: think of Google’s Larry Page, or Harry Potter’s creator, J. K. Rowling.

In the science journalist Winifred Gallagher’s words: “The glory of the disposition that stops to consider stimuli rather than rushing to engage with them is its long association with intellectual and artistic achievement. Neither E=mc2 nor ‘Paradise Lost’ was dashed off by a party animal.”

We even find “introverts” in the animal kingdom, where 15 percent to 20 percent of many species are watchful, slow-to-warm-up types who stick to the sidelines (sometimes called “sitters”) while the other 80 percent are “rovers” who sally forth without paying much attention to their surroundings. Sitters and rovers favor different survival strategies, which could be summed up as the sitter’s “Look before you leap” versus the rover’s inclination to “Just do it!” Each strategy reaps different rewards.


“There is no single best ... [animal] personality,” Professor Wilson concludes in his book, “Evolution for Everyone,” “but rather a diversity of personalities maintained by natural selection.”

The same might be said of humans, 15 percent to 20 percent of whom are also born with sitter-like temperaments that predispose them to shyness and introversion. (The overall incidence of shyness and introversion is higher — 40 percent of the population for shyness, according to the psychology professor Jonathan Cheek, and 50 percent for introversion. Conversely, some born sitters never become shy or introverted at all.)

Once you know about sitters and rovers, you see them everywhere, especially among young children. Drop in on your local Mommy and Me music class: there are the sitters, intently watching the action from their mothers’ laps, while the rovers march around the room banging their drums and shaking their maracas.

Relaxed and exploratory, the rovers have fun, make friends and will take risks, both rewarding and dangerous ones, as they grow. According to Daniel Nettle, a Newcastle University evolutionary psychologist, extroverts are more likely than introverts to be hospitalized as a result of an injury, have affairs (men) and change relationships (women). One study of bus drivers even found that accidents are more likely to occur when extroverts are at the wheel.

In contrast, sitter children are careful and astute, and tend to learn by observing instead of by acting. They notice scary things more than other children do, but they also notice more things in general.


Once they reach school age, many sitter children use such traits to great effect. Introverts, who tend to digest information thoroughly, stay on task, and work accurately, earn disproportionate numbers of National Merit Scholarship finalist positions and Phi Beta Kappa keys, according to the Center for Applications of Psychological Type, a research arm for the Myers-Briggs personality type indicator — even though their I.Q. scores are no higher than those of extroverts. Another study, by the psychologists Eric Rolfhus and Philip Ackerman, tested 141 college students’ knowledge of 20 different subjects, from art to astronomy to statistics, and found that the introverts knew more than the extroverts about 19 subjects — presumably, the researchers concluded, because the more time people spend socializing, the less time they have for learning.

THE psychologist Gregory Feist found that many of the most creative people in a range of fields are introverts who are comfortable working in solitary conditions in which they can focus attention inward. Steve Wozniak, the engineer who founded Apple with Steve Jobs, is a prime example: Mr. Wozniak describes his creative process as an exercise in solitude. “Most inventors and engineers I’ve met are like me,” he writes in “iWoz,” his autobiography. “They’re shy and they live in their heads. They’re almost like artists. In fact, the very best of them are artists. And artists work best alone ... Not on a committee. Not on a team.”

Sitters’ temperaments also confer more subtle advantages. Anxiety, it seems, can serve an important social purpose; for example, it plays a key role in the development of some children’s consciences. When caregivers rebuke them for acting up, they become anxious, and since anxiety is unpleasant, they tend to develop pro-social behaviors. Shy children are often easier to socialize and more conscientious, according to the developmental psychologist Grazyna Kochanska. By 6 they’re less likely than their peers to cheat or break rules, even when they think they can’t be caught, according to one study. By 7 they’re more likely to be described by their parents as having high levels of moral traits such as empathy.

When I shared this information with the mother of a “sitter” daughter, her reaction was mixed. “That is all very nice,” she said, “but how will it help her in the tough real world?” But sensitivity, if it is not excessive and is properly nurtured, can be a catalyst for empathy and even leadership. Eleanor Roosevelt, for example, was a courageous leader who was very likely a sitter. Painfully shy and serious as a child, she grew up to be a woman who could not look away from other people’s suffering — and who urged her husband, the constitutionally buoyant F.D.R., to do the same; the man who had nothing to fear but fear itself relied, paradoxically, on a woman deeply acquainted with it.

Another advantage sitters bring to leadership is a willingness to listen to and implement other people’s ideas. A groundbreaking study led by the Wharton management professor Adam Grant, to be published this month in The Academy of Management Journal, found that introverts outperform extroverts when leading teams of proactive workers — the kinds of employees who take initiative and are disposed to dream up better ways of doing things. Professor Grant notes that business self-help guides often suggest that introverted leaders practice their communication skills and smile more. But, he told me, it may be extrovert leaders who need to change, to listen more and say less.


The act of treating shyness as an illness obscures the value of that temperament. Ridding people of social unease need not involve pathologizing their fundamental nature, but rather urging them to use its gifts.


Concierge medicine has a cost for all patients,0,7101789.story

By Steve Dudley, Special to the Los Angeles Times
June 27, 2011

I've begun seeing a new patient, a retired delivery driver named Donald. Nice guy, friendly and chatty, and a little mystified as he tries to navigate his way through the constantly changing world of healthcare. He had been my patient many years ago, but we parted ways when I left that office. Donald tracked me down because his former doctor had switched to a concierge-style practice.

Concierge medicine — you may have heard of it — is gaining in popularity. Patients pay a monthly fee directly to the doctor, on top of their regular health insurance premiums and co-pays, to secure better access to the physician. Donald told me that the service was promoted to him as an opportunity to improve the doctor-patient relationship. Instead of juggling more than 2,000 patients, the physician would be able to winnow that number to a very manageable 600, enabling him to devote more time to the select few who opted for premium service.

Being a naturally frugal sort, Donald didn't think such a monetary commitment was prudent, especially on his retiree income.

Even among concierge practices, there are different levels. Some doctors charge very high retainers that give their patients access to them 24/7. Physicians have even been known to vacation with their charges, just in case anything goes wrong.

This raises some interesting logistical problems. What if one millionaire is taking his family to Zermatt, Switzerland, and wants a tag-along doctor while at the same time another client has decided that this is the perfect time of year to see Zanzibar, Tanzania? Oh, the decisions! What does a poor concierge doctor do with such a dilemma?



Fracking Makes Earthquakes?

Air Date: Week of June 24, 2011

Greenbrier, Arkansas is home to one of the world’s largest natural gas fields. It also felt a swarm of earthquakes recently. Geologists and state regulators noticed that when they capped some of the deep injection wells, the earthquakes nearly stopped. Living on Earth’s Ike Sriskandarajah reports on the future of those wells and a class-action suit that puts drilling-induced earthquakes on trial.

GELLERMAN: Fracking is the process of using fluid chemicals under high pressure to crack open rock deep in the earth to release natural gas. It’s highly profitable - and potentially dangerous. Some environmentalists fear the ingredients can pollute underground aquifers. Most fracking companies are reluctant to disclose the chemicals they use - though Texas just announced they have to. But now comes a new worry: that wastewater from fracking injected back into the ground might trigger earthquakes. It’s already set off a class action lawsuit in Arkansas as Living on Earth’s Ike Sriskandarajah reports.

[.....] [original post has full transcript, and the radio program]


U.S. Plans Stealth Survey on Access to Doctors

Published: June 26, 2011

WASHINGTON — Alarmed by a shortage of primary care doctors, Obama administration officials are recruiting a team of “mystery shoppers” to pose as patients, call doctors’ offices and request appointments to see how difficult it is for people to get care when they need it.

The administration says the survey will address a “critical public policy problem”: the increasing shortage of primary care doctors, including specialists in internal medicine and family practice. It will also try to discover whether doctors are accepting patients with private insurance while turning away those in government health programs that pay lower reimbursement rates.



Sunday, June 26, 2011

"Lean gene" ups risk of heart disease and diabetes

By Kate Kelland

updated 6/26/2011 1:07:21 PM ET

LONDON — Being slim may not always lead to a lower risk of heart disease and diabetes, scientists said Sunday after they identified a gene linked both to having a lean body and to a higher risk of metabolic diseases.

Researchers from Britain's Medical Research Council Epidemiology Unit said that while a so-called "lean gene" was linked to having less body fat, it was also linked to an increased risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes -- illnesses normally associated with being overweight.
"We've uncovered a truly fascinating genetic story, and when we found the effect of this gene, we were very intrigued," said Ruth Loos, whose study was published in Nature Genetics journal.

Loos' team examined the genetic code of more than 75,000 people to look for the genes that determine body fat percentage, and found strong evidence that a gene called IRS1 is linked with having less body fat.

When they investigated further, they found IRS1 also leads to having unhealthy levels of cholesterol and glucose in blood -- key markers for so-called metabolic diseases like heart disease and diabetes.

They found the gene was only linked to lower levels of fat under the skin, called subcutaneous fat, but not to the more harmful fat that surrounds the organs, called visceral fat.
Loos said the findings suggest that people with the IRS1 gene are less able to store subcutaneous fat, and may therefore store fat in other parts of the body where it might pose more risk to organ function.

She added that the study results did not change the general message for most people. "People who are lean are generally healthier than people who are overweight or obese," she said in a telephone interview.

"But we all know some people who are lean and also may have high cholesterol or have a heart attack before the age of 50 -- so maybe this gene is one factor in looking healthy but still being at risk for cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes."


Loos said that while this study pointed to genes as one factor in determining the risk of developing these conditions, it was important to remember that lifestyle factors like diet, exercise, cutting out smoking and maintaining a healthy weight also play a vital role in reducing the risk.


Midwest Floods: Waters Breach Berm at Fort Calhoun Nuclear Station in Nebraska

MINOT, N.D., June 26, 2011
A berm at a nuclear power plant in Fort Calhoun, Neb., collapsed early this morning, allowing Missouri River flood waters to reach containment buildings and transformers and forcing the shutdown of electrical power.

Tonight, backup generators are cooling the nuclear material at the Fort Calhoun Nuclear Station.

The plant has not operated since April, and officials say there is no danger to the public.

A spokesman for the Omaha Public Power District, Jeff Hanson, told The Associated Press that the breached berm wasn't critical to protecting the plant, though a crew will look at whether it can be patched.

"That was an additional layer of protection we put in," Hanson said.

Nevertheless, federal inspectors are on the scene, and the federal government is so concerned the head of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission is headed to the plant.

There was no protecting thousands of homes in Minot, N.D., where massive flooding of the Souris River hit its peak today, flooding more than 4,000 homes, including Leslie Dull's.



My Music


46 large wildfires currently in continental U.S., including Alaska


Heart-pounding help for 'Grinch syndrome' sufferers

6 days ago
By Melissa Dahl

Maybe all the Grinch needed for his heart condition was to hit the treadmill. A new study shows that exercise helped improve the symptoms of patients with "Grinch Syndrome," named for the Dr. Seuss character because most sufferers have hearts that really are "two sizes too small."

About 500,000 Americans -- mostly women -- suffer from the condition, which is also known as postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome. It causes such such dizziness and tiredness that many are unable to stand for long periods of time. "(T)he lightheadedness or fainting is also accompanied by a rapid increase in heartbeat of more than 30 beats per minute, or a heart rate that exceeds 120 beats per minute, within 10 minutes of rising," according to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke.

Researchers in Texas gave the 18 study participants either a beta blocker or a placebo, accompanied by three months of exercise training. They found that regardless of whether the volunteers were assigned the placebo or the beta blocker, all of the patients who did the exercise training saw improvement in circulation and kidney function, according to the report published in Hypertension: Journal of the American Heart Association.


She was a modern-day slave in the U.S. at 9

I am moving this up to show today, because I got a lot of comments, mostly correcting the girl's name. Unfortunately, there were several different "corrections". Since this is just one example of a well-verified pattern of human trafficking and abuse of the victims, I haven't spent the time to look any deeper into this specific case, so I make no claims one way or another about the accuracy. I find the comments to be very interesting and informative in their own right. I'm glad to see so many people who are concerned about truth.

Some years ago, I read a comment from someone who said that laws against slavery should be removed from the criminal code because they were obsolete.

June 23rd, 2011

She was brought to the United States at the age of 9. She was forced into servitude and she was abused. Evelyn Chumbow was 17 years old before she was actually able to escape her captors. She is now 25 and a college student.

Evelyn shares with CNN's Kiran Chetry what it was like at the beginning, her eventual escape and how she feels about her captor now.

CHETRY: Tell us a little bit about how you first came to the United States. You were promised an education, a place to stay, a better situation than the one that you had. And what ended up happening?

CHUMBOW: Like you said, modern-day slavery. I was promised a better education. I came here at the age of nine. I was forced to take care of two kids, cleaning and cooking, no schooling, and not even being able to get in contact with my parents or any of my family members.
I had no knowledge of the outside world, except the one I was living in. Getting up in the morning, cleaning and cooking, taking care of two kids, changing diapers.

CHETRY: No, I mean, it was unbelievable what you described that you were abuse - that the person, who is holding you who is now in trouble by the way, who is now serving a jail sentence for what happened.


This woman who did this to you, your captor, Theresa Moombang was sentenced to more than 17 years in prison and she was sentenced for involuntary servitude, for harboring a juvenile for financial gain.



Smoking During Pregnancy Lowers Levels of 'Good' HDL Cholesterol in Children

ScienceDaily (June 21, 2011) — Researchers in Australia have discovered that mothers who smoke during pregnancy are causing developmental changes to their unborn babies that lead to them having lower levels of the type of cholesterol that is known to protect against heart disease in later life -- high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol.

The research, published online in the European Heart Journal, showed that, by the age of eight years, children born to mothers who smoked while they were pregnant had HDL cholesterol levels of about 1.3 millimoles per litre (mmol/L), compared to the more normal level of 1.5 mmol/L in children born to mothers who had not smoked. After adjustments for various factors that might affect the result, the difference attributable to mothers' smoking was about 0.15 mmol/L. The researchers found that this effect was independent of whether the children had been exposed to other people's smoke after birth, suggesting that prenatal exposure had the most impact on the children's subsequent development.

David Celermajer, Scandrett Professor of Cardiology at the University of Sydney, Australia, who led the study, said: "Our results suggest that maternal smoking 'imprints' an unhealthy set of characteristics on children while they are developing in the womb, which may well predispose them to later heart attack and stroke. This imprinting seems to last for at least eight years and probably a lot longer.

Although cigarette smoking during and after pregnancy is known to be linked to a range of childhood health problems, including behavioural and neurocognitive problems and sudden infant death, until now it has been unclear what effect prenatal exposure to cigarette smoke had on the risk of future cardiovascular disease


The researchers believe that the lower levels of HDL cholesterol at this age suggest there could be a serious impact on health in later life, as the children will probably continue to have low levels in adulthood. "Cholesterol levels tend to track from childhood to adulthood, and studies have shown that for every 0.025mmol/L increase in HDL levels, there is an approximately 2-3% reduction in the risk of coronary heart disease. If we extrapolate this, we can suggest that the difference of 0.15mmol/L between children of smoking mothers versus non-smoking mothers might result in a 10-15% higher risk for coronary disease in the children of smoking mothers. This is an approximation only, but the best one we have," said Prof Celermajer.

The researchers point out that the prevalence of smoking during pregnancy is still high, at around 15% in many Western countries.


"The only ways to increase HDL levels are regular exercise and with the use of certain medications such as Niacin.




Bridge Comes to San Francisco With a Made-in-China Label

Fred C. Dobbs said...
(Here's yer 'shovel-ready infrastructure spending' -
5.5% saved by rebuilding the SF Bay Bridge in China.)

NYT - June 25, 2011

SHANGHAI — Talk about outsourcing.

At a sprawling manufacturing complex here, hundreds of Chinese laborers are now completing work on the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge.

Next month, the last four of more than two dozen giant steel modules — each with a roadbed segment about half the size of a football field — will be loaded onto a huge ship and transported 6,500 miles to Oakland. There, they will be assembled to fit into the eastern span of the new Bay Bridge.

The project is part of China’s continual move up the global economic value chain — from cheap toys to Apple iPads to commercial jetliners — as it aims to become the world’s civil engineer.

The assembly work in California, and the pouring of the concrete road surface, will be done by Americans. But construction of the bridge decks and the materials that went into them are a Made in China affair. California officials say the state saved hundreds of millions of dollars by turning to China. ...

On the reputation of showcase projects like Beijing’s Olympic-size airport terminal and the mammoth hydroelectric Three Gorges Dam, Chinese companies have been hired to build copper mines in the Congo, high-speed rail lines in Brazil and huge apartment complexes in Saudi Arabia.

In New York City alone, Chinese companies have won contracts to help renovate the subway system, refurbish the Alexander Hamilton Bridge over the Harlem River and build a new Metro-North train platform near Yankee Stadium. As with the Bay Bridge, American union labor would carry out most of the work done on United States soil.

American steelworker unions have disparaged the Bay Bridge contract by accusing the state of California of sending good jobs overseas and settling for what they deride as poor-quality Chinese steel. Industry groups in the United States and other countries have raised questions about the safety and quality of Chinese workmanship on such projects. Indeed, China has had quality control problems ranging from tainted milk to poorly built schools.

But executives and officials who have awarded the various Chinese contracts say their audits have convinced them of the projects’ engineering integrity. And they note that with the full financial force of the Chinese government behind its infrastructure companies, the monumental scale of the work, and the prices bid, are hard for private industry elsewhere to beat.

The new Bay Bridge, expected to open to traffic in 2013, will replace a structure that has never been quite the same since the 1989 Bay Area earthquake. At $7.2 billion, it will be one of the most expensive structures ever built. But California officials estimate that they will save at least $400 million by having so much of the work done in China. ...

Sunday, June 26, 2011 at 07:13 AM

The Social Cost of the Loss of Job Stability and Careers

SUNDAY, JUNE 26, 2011

As much as the rest of the world has chosen to look down on Japan in its post bubble era for its failure to clean up its banking mess and resultant stagnant economy, it has managed its relative decline in status with considerable aplomb. It still has the longest life expectancy in the world, universal health care, not bad unemployment (3% to 5%) and ranks well on other social indicators And now that the US is going down the Japan path, it might behoove us to take heed of their example.

One of the striking difference between the cultures is importance ascribed to job creation. The Japanese understand full well that the workplace for many people is a far more important community to them than where they live, and so in contrast to the US, generating and preserving employment is a high priority. For example, Japanese entrepreneurs are revered for generating jobs, while in the US, personal wealth is proof of success.

McKinsey had Yankelovich survey the attitudes of young people a decade ago, and even then, the results were pretty disturbing. Yankelovich projected that college graduates would average 11 jobs by the time they were 38 (!), yet found they were demanding of their employers, wanting frequent feedback (as in lots of attention) and quick advancement. But if you are not likely to be around for very long, no one is likely to want to invest in you all that much (McKinsey, which was competing for a narrow slice of supposed “top” talent and not offering Wall Street sized pay opportunities, might have been more inclined to indulge this sort of thing than other employers).

But these rapid moves from job to job, and now a much weaker job market, are producing behaviors that old farts like me find troubling. One is rampant careerism. I’ve run into too many polished people under the age of 35 where the veneer is very thin. It isn’t hard to see the opportunism, the shameless currying of favor, and ruthless calculations of whom to help and whom to kick, including throwing former patrons under the bus when they are no longer useful (I can cite specific examples of the last behavior). The world has always had its Sammy Glicks, but now we seem to be setting out to create them on a mass basis.

The economic effects are also not pretty. A 30 year mortgage made sense when people would spend a decade or more with a single employer. And more frequent job changes means not only more total time unemployed over one’s working years, but also the very high odds of falling out of a highly or even moderately paid career path to a much lower one as the work place continues to be restructured.

A New York Times piece tonight describes the latest stage of this sorry devolution: “job jugglers” who hold down multiple part time jobs to make a living. This sort of thing used to happen only to lower income people, artists, or people who live in resort areas. The article makes clear that this is often a hand-to-mouth, high stress existence, although the interviewees put a brave face on it. And we aren’t necessarily talking having one income source in the days and another in the evenings: three of the individuals featured had four jobs. Even then, they barely cover their expenses.


More college graduates are working in second jobs that don’t require college degrees, part of a phenomenon called “mal-employment.” In short, many baby-sitters, sales clerks, telemarketers and bartenders are overqualified for their jobs.

Last year, 1.9 million college graduates were mal-employed and had multiple jobs, up 17 percent from 2007, according to federal data. Almost half of all college graduates have a job that doesn’t require a bachelor’s degree.



Insiders Warn “Shale Plays are Just Giant Ponzi Schemes” in Bombshell-Laden NY Times Piece on Natural Gas, Fracking

By Joe Romm on Jun 26, 2011 at 11:21 am

The lead story in the New York Times today is a detailed bubble bursting of the much vaunted boom in unconventional natural gas.

Natural gas companies have been placing enormous bets on the wells they are drilling, saying they will deliver big profits and provide a vast new source of energy for the United States.
But the gas may not be as easy and cheap to extract from shale formations deep underground as the companies are saying, according to hundreds of industry e-mails and internal documents and an analysis of data from thousands of wells

The NYT has gained access to some amazing, must-read e-mails that “suggest a view that is in stark contrast to more bullish public comments made by the industry, in much the same way that insiders have raised doubts about previous financial bubbles.”


The NYT has gained access to some amazing, must-read e-mails that “suggest a view that is in stark contrast to more bullish public comments made by the industry, in much the same way that insiders have raised doubts about previous financial bubbles.”


“The word in the world of independents is that the shale plays are just giant Ponzi schemes and the economics just do not work,” an analyst from IHS Drilling Data, an energy research company, wrote in an e-mail on Aug. 28, 2009.


The article raises three serious concerns about the new gas boom:

Are most wells going to deplete much faster than people expect?

Will the price of natural gas have to be much higher than people thought to make the economics work?

Will this all mean more fracking — with all of the potentially dangerous side effects, including leakage of methane, which boosts the lifecycle greenhouse gas emissions of shale gas?

[...] [See this article for a fuller discussion]


Not-A Does Not Imply B

June 26, 2011, 12:40 PM

Just a thought suggested by some economic discussions I’ve followed, including the comments on this blog: many people seem to have a hard time accepting that there are intermediate positions, in particular that you can question free-market, hard-money dogma without being a wild man. To say that some inflation can sometimes be a good thing does not mean advocating hyperinflation; to call for deficit spending in slumps does not mean saying that debt and deficits never matter; and so on.


I really do worry about the state of reading comprehension. Or maybe it’s just that extremists can’t grasp the notion of non-extreme positions held by other people.


My comments:

One factor is our educational system, where teachers have to teach to the tests, where there is only one correct answer allowed. And many teachers, esp. in the elementary grades, are conservative women who may be nice, but are not deep thinkers. They teach elementary school because that is an acceptable job for a woman. And parents often/usually teach their children not to think.

Another factor is the hyper-competitive nature of U.S. culture, where you if you are not the single number 1, you are considered a failure. So if someone doesn't agree with you 100%, they are seen as attacking you.

There may be biological factors of brain development, but such factors are usually affected by environment/culture/learning.

Growing Up or Growing Down?
copyright 1987 Patricia M. Shannon

Most people I know are like ants in a hill,
not thinking, just acting as part of the mass.
Like half-alive puppets they walk in a daze,
when they try to converse, they just talk in cliches.

They say they worship different gods,
sometimes none at all.
But their gods are all the same,
"everybody else" and monetary gain.

Mixed feelings I get when I play with a child,
so eager to learn and so ready to grow;
such sorrow I feel when I see how we crush children's spirits
in order to make them like us.



US gas is artificially cheap: What we don't pay for at the pump

And this analysis does not even include the costs that is being caused by the effects of climate change, such as more and stronger droughts, floods, and fires.

June 13, 2011 | Sarah Terry-Cobo

Clean air requirements, combined with supply and refining constraints, make the price of California gas consistently among the highest in the nation. Turmoil in the Middle East is another factor that pushes up the global price of crude oil. Even though the average price for a gallon of regular unleaded gas in California fluctuates around $4, some experts argue that $4 a gallon is much less than the real cost.

Compared with other industrialized countries, the U.S. has it cheap. The Economist notes that American consumers pay about half of what Europeans pay, which is up to about $8.50 per gallon (or $2.25 per liter). The media website Good has a nifty chart showing the disparity in prices across the Atlantic, and PBS' NewsHour explains the effect Middle East turmoil has on the retail price of gas. While politicians on both sides of the aisle bicker about why gas is expensive, U.S. Sen. Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M., is one who explains the real reasons, and as Grist reporter David Roberts notes, he is lonely in doing so.

Even though reducing toxic chemicals in gasoline might make it more expensive, the Environmental Protection Agency argues that clean air provides long-term cost benefits. A recent study of the Clean Air Act showed “the public health and environmental benefits ... exceed their costs by a margin of four to one.”

From 1990 to 2010, these regulations have prevented “23,000 Americans from dying prematurely ... avert(ed) over 1,700,000 incidences of asthma attacks and aggravation of chronic asthma,” the EPA states. In the same two decades, it also prevented more than 4.1 million lost workdays due to pollution-related illnesses.


The cost of clean air programs may be high, but so is the cost of pollution. A 2008 study commissioned by CSU Fullerton’s Institute for Economic and Environmental Studies notes that the cost of air pollution for the greater Los Angeles region adds up to more than $1,250 per person per year.

For the Central Valley, where one-third of the nation’s produce originates, the cost is more than $1,600 per person per year. These costs include treatment for respiratory illnesses like asthma, which are disproportionately borne by children younger than 5, the elderly and minority populations. Other costs include lost workdays, missed school days and premature deaths.

But health effects are just some of the financial impacts of burning fossil fuels – gasoline and diesel fuel, in particular. Harmful air pollution can affect food and fiber crops. The U.S. Global Change Research Program noted in a 2009 report on climate change that greenhouse gases can reduce crop yields for “soybeans, wheat, oats, green beans, peppers and some types of cotton.”

And the cost of oil spills? Some early estimates put the price of cleaning up the massive spill in the Gulf of Mexico at up to $20 billion. Every year, states spend more than $600 million to clean up leaking underground gasoline storage tanks.

In the last three decades, businesses, states and the EPA have cleaned up 401,874 leaking underground gasoline storage tanks, with an estimated 93,123 more sites awaiting cleanup, according to an EPA representative. In 2010, the agency set aside $66.2 million in a fund for states to use for cleanup activities. The agency spends about $2 million to $3 million each year for cleanup on tribal land.

Although $4 a gallon may seem expensive, there are many social and environmental costs that Americans don't pay for at the pump. While these costs are hidden, the cost to society is high.


U.S. Wars Cost $20 Billion A Year For Air Conditioning Alone

U.S. military spend annually to stay cool on bases in the war zones like Iraq and Afghanistan? $20.2 billion, former Iraq war logistics chief Brigadier Gen. (Ret.) Steven Anderson told NPR. A gallon of gas to power an air conditioner in Afghanistan must be shipped to Karachi, Pakistan, then spend 18 days travelling for 800 miles over land in fuel convoys, dangerous transportation operations in which Anderson calculates over 1,000 U.S. troops have lost their lives. Anderson added that a policy stating, “We will no longer build anything other than energy efficient structures in Iraq and Afghanistan,” would have a “profound effect.”


America's pay gap shame: Inequality between rich and poor is worse than Cameroon, Ivory Coast and revolutionary Egypt

Last updated on 20th June 2011

The gap between America's rich and poor is so extreme levels of inequality are worse in the land of the free than they are in many developing countries.
The U.S. ranks way behind the European Union and the United Kingdom in terms of inequality of pay, figures show.
In fact, the situation is so extreme the land of the free falls behind countries such as Cameroon, the Ivory Coast and revolutionary Egypt, Tunisia and Yemen - and only just in front of Uganda and Jamaica.

According to the CIA's World Fact Book, which ranks countries in terms of how 'equally' wealth is distributed, the U.S. is the 42nd most unequal country in the world.

In contrast, Tunisia is the 62nd most unequal country, Yemen is 76th and Egypt, which has been ravaged by civil war, comes in at 90th place.

Income disparity in the U.S. has been growing for decades but the latest figures show it has now reached levels not seen since the Great Depression.

Ten per cent of the total personal income in America was taken home by the top 0.1 per cent of earners in 2008 - the latest year for which figures are available.

The top one per cent took home more than a fifth of all personal income in the U.S.
Research suggests the reason for this extraordinary disparity is a huge rise in pay for company executives, the Washington Post reported.



Saturday, June 25, 2011

Common drugs linked to cognitive impairment and possibly to increased risk of death

Public release date: 24-Jun-2011
Contact: Cindy Fox Aisen
Indiana University School of Medicine

INDIANAPOLIS – A large, long-term study confirms that medications with anticholinergic activity, which include many drugs frequently taken by older adults, cause cognitive impairment. The research is also the first to identify a possible link between these drugs – which include over-the-counter and prescription sleep aids and incontinence treatments – and risk of death.

The two-year study of the impact of these medications on 13,000 men and women aged 65 and older is part of the Medical Research Council (UK) Cognitive Function and Ageing Studies (CFAS), a large UK-based longitudinal multi-center study initiative looking at health and cognitive function in older adults. Results of the study of anticholinergics appear June 24, 2011 in an advanced online publication of the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.

Anticholinergics affect the brain by blocking acetylcholine, a nervous system neurotransmitter. Over-the-counter products containing diphenhydramine, sold under various brand names such as Benadryl®, Dramamine®, Excedrin PM®, Nytol®, Sominex®, Tylenol PM®, and Unisom®, have anticolinergic activity. Other anticholinergic drugs, such as Paxil®, Detrol®, Demerol® and Elavil® are available by prescription.

"Our findings make it clear that clinicians need to review the cumulative anticholinergic burden in people presenting with cognitive impairment to determine if the drugs are causing decline in mental status," said co-author Malaz Boustani, M.D., Regenstrief Institute investigator, Indiana University School of Medicine associate professor of medicine, and research scientist with the IU Center for Aging Research.


Medications with anticholinergic effects are used for many diseases including hypertension and congestive heart failure. The study found that older age, lower income, and greater number of health conditions increased use of medications with anticholinergic activity. Women were more likely to report taking anticholinergic medications, due to the greater number of health conditions reported by women than by men. Participants living in institutions were more likely to report taking anticholinergic medications.



High Technology, Not Low Taxes, May Drive US States' Economic Growth

ScienceDaily (June 23, 2011) — High-tech training may trump tax breaks for creating more jobs and improving a state's economy, according to a team of economists.

"We found that lower state taxes were not statistically associated with a state's economic performance," said Stephan Goetz, professor of agricultural economics and regional economics, Penn State. "The tax climate was not linked to either growth or income distribution."
Goetz, who serves as director of the Northeast Regional Center for Rural Development, said states that favor low taxes do not necessarily spend funds efficiently. They may skimp on funding needed public services like road maintenance and education. Those costs are often transferred to businesses directly or become obstacles for businesses seeking to attract qualified workers to the state.

"It's essentially a case of you get what you pay for," Goetz said. "You can't attract businesses if you can't provide needed public services."

While lower taxes were not factors in economic growth, the researchers, who released their findings in the current online issue of Environment and Planning C: Government and Planning, said policies that promoted the use of high technology and entrepreneurship were significantly correlated with job creation and economic growth.

States with more technology classes in school, higher domain name registrations and more people online tended to economically outperform states with a lower emphasis on technology.
"It does indicate that states that have already moved into the online economy are better able to create jobs," Goetz said.



Long-Term Inhaled Corticosteroid Use Increases Fracture Risk in Lung Disease Patients

ScienceDaily (June 23, 2011) — Patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) who use inhaled corticosteroids to improve breathing for more than six months have a 27 percent increased risk of bone fractures, new Johns Hopkins-led research suggests.

Because the research subjects were mostly men age 60 and older, the findings raise perhaps more troubling questions about the medication's effects on women with COPD, a group already at a significantly higher risk than men for fractures.

"There are millions of COPD patients who use long-term inhaled corticosteroids in the United States and millions more across the world," says Sonal Singh, M.D., M.P.H., an assistant professor of general internal medicine at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and the senior author of the study published online in the journal Thorax. "The number of people who are getting fractures because of these medications is quite large."

The inhaled corticosteroids evaluated were fluticasone, sold in combination with salmeterol as Advair, and budesonide, sold in combination with formoterol as Symbicort. Although applied through the mouth, the body absorbs corticosteroids, which have long been linked to a decline in bone density. Until now, no reliable association had been found to fractures in patients with COPD, Singh says



2010 - 2011: Earth's most extreme weather since 1816?

Every year extraordinary weather events rock the Earth. Records that have stood centuries are broken. Great floods, droughts, and storms affect millions of people, and truly exceptional weather events unprecedented in human history may occur. But the wild roller-coaster ride of incredible weather events during 2010, in my mind, makes that year the planet's most extraordinary year for extreme weather since reliable global upper-air data began in the late 1940s. Never in my 30 years as a meteorologist have I witnessed a year like 2010--the astonishing number of weather disasters and unprecedented wild swings in Earth's atmospheric circulation were like nothing I've seen. The pace of incredible extreme weather events in the U.S. over the past few months have kept me so busy that I've been unable to write-up a retrospective look at the weather events of 2010. But I've finally managed to finish, so fasten your seat belts for a tour through the top twenty most remarkable weather events of 2010. At the end, I'll reflect on what the wild weather events of 2010 and 2011 imply for our future.

[Highlights follow. See the original article for details.]

Earth's hottest year on record

Most extreme winter Arctic atmospheric circulation on record; "Snowmageddon" results

Arctic sea ice: lowest volume on record, 3rd lowest extent

Record melting in Greenland, and a massive calving event

Second worst coral bleaching year

Amazon rainforest experiences its 2nd 100-year drought in 5 years

A hyperactive Atlantic hurricane season: 3rd busiest on record

Strongest storm in Southwestern U.S. history

Strongest non-coastal storm in U.S. history

Weakest and latest-ending East Asian monsoon on record

No monsoon depressions in India's Southwest Monsoon for 2nd time in 134 years

The Pakistani flood: most expensive natural disaster in Pakistan's history

The Russian heat wave and drought: deadliest heat wave in human history

Record rains trigger Australia's most expensive natural disaster in history

Heaviest rains on record trigger Colombia's worst flooding disaster in history

Tennessee's 1-in-1000 year flood kills 30, does $2.4 billion in damage


Where will Earth's climate go from here?
The pace of extreme weather events has remained remarkably high during 2011, giving rise to the question--is the "Global Weirding" of 2010 and 2011 the new normal? Has human-caused climate change destabilized the climate, bringing these extreme, unprecedented weather events? Any one of the extreme weather events of 2010 or 2011 could have occurred naturally sometime during the past 1,000 years. But it is highly improbable that the remarkable extreme weather events of 2010 and 2011 could have all happened in such a short period of time without some powerful climate-altering force at work. The best science we have right now maintains that human-caused emissions of heat-trapping gases like CO2 are the most likely cause of such a climate-altering force. [emphasis by Dr. Masters]


A warmer planet has more energy to power stronger storms, hotter heat waves, more intense droughts, heavier flooding rains, and record glacier melt that will drive accelerating sea level rise. I expect that by 20 - 30 years from now, extreme weather years like we witnessed in 2010 will become the new normal.

Finally, I'll leave you with a quote from Dr. Ricky Rood's climate change blog, in his recent post,Changing the Conversation: Extreme Weather and Climate: "Given that greenhouse gases are well known to hold energy close to the Earth, those who deny a human-caused impact on weather need to pose a viable mechanism of how the Earth can hold in more energy and the weather not be changed. Think about it."