Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Flame Retardants Linked to Lower-Birth-Weight Babies

ScienceDaily (Aug. 31, 2011) — Exposure during pregnancy to flame retardant chemicals commonly found in the home is linked to lower birthweight babies, according to a new study led by researchers at the University of California, Berkeley's School of Public Health.

In the study, that was published on Aug. 30 in the peer-reviewed publication American Journal of Epidemiology, researchers found that every tenfold increase in levels of PBDEs, or polybrominated diphenyl ethers, in a mother's blood during pregnancy corresponded to a 115 gram (4.1 ounce) drop in her baby's birthweight.


The researchers are careful to point out that, while the study found a decrease in birthweight overall, very few babies in the study were born weighing less than 2,500 grams (5.5 pounds), the clinical definition of low birthweight. Low birthweight babies are more likely to experience social and cognitive delays in development.

"This was a very healthy population, and we didn't see many low birthweight babies. What we saw was a shift toward lighter babies among women with higher PBDE exposure rather than a dramatic increase in the number of low birthweight babies," said Harley. However, she points out that a 115-gram shift could make a big difference for babies already at risk of being low birthweight, including low-income populations with poor access to prenatal care.



Solar Industry Responsible for Lead Emissions in Developing Countries

ScienceDaily (Aug. 31, 2011) — Solar power is not all sunshine. It has a dark side -- particularly in developing countries, according to a new study by a University of Tennessee, Knoxville, engineering professor.

A study by Chris Cherry, assistant professor in civil and environmental engineering, found that solar power heavily reliant on lead batteries has the potential to release more than 2.4 million tons of lead pollution in China and India.

Lead poisoning causes numerous adverse health effects, including damage to the central nervous system, the kidneys, the cardiovascular system, and the reproductive system. In children, blood lead concentration is associated with learning impairments, as well as hyperactive and violent behavior.


Lead pollution predicted to result from investments in solar power by 2022 is equivalent to one-third of current global lead production. The researchers, who relied on official government plans for deploying solar power to make these projections, also found that the countries have large amounts of lead leak into the environment from mining, smelting, battery manufacturing, and recycling -- 33 percent in China and 22 percent in India. Also, a large percentage of new solar power systems continues to be reliant on lead batteries for energy storage due to the inadequate power grid in these countries.

The study's release comes on the heels of reports of a large number of mass lead poisoning incidents around lead battery recycling and manufacturing plants in China and the announcement that the country recently closed 583 of these facilities.

"Investments in environmental controls in the lead battery industry, along with improvements in battery take-back policies, are needed to complement deployment of solar power in these countries," said Cherry. "Without improvements, it is increasingly clear that the use of lead batteries will contribute to environmental contamination and lead poisoning among workers and children."

The battery industry is the largest consumer of lead, using approximately 80 percent of global lead production. Lead battery manufacturing is growing rapidly in much of the world to meet demand for batteries for solar power and other applications. With the authors' projected emissions, they say this will impact public health and contribute to environmental contamination.


Some U.S. firms paid more to CEOs than taxes

Wed Aug 31, 7:41 am ET
Reporting by Nanette Byrnes; Editing by Howard Goller and Todd Eastham

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Twenty-five of the 100 highest paid U.S. CEOs earned more last year than their companies paid in federal income tax, a pay study said on Wednesday.

It also found many of the companies spent more on lobbying than they did on taxes.

At a time when lawmakers are facing tough choices in a quest to slash the national debt, the report from the Institute for Policy Studies (IPS), a left-leaning Washington think tank, quickly hit a nerve.

After reading it, Democratic Representative Elijah Cummings, ranking member of the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, called for hearings on executive compensation.

In a letter to that committee's chairman, Republican Darrell Issa, Cummings asked "to examine the extent to which the problems in CEO compensation that led to the economic crisis continue to exist today."

He also asked "why CEO pay and corporate profits are skyrocketing while worker pay stagnates and unemployment remains unacceptably high," and "the extent to which our tax code may be encouraging these growing disparities."

In putting together its study, IPS chose to compare CEO pay to current U.S. taxes paid, excluding foreign and state and local taxes that may have been paid, as well as deferred taxes which can often be far larger than current taxes paid.

The group's rationale was that deferred taxes may or may not be paid, and that current U.S. taxes paid are the closest approximation in public documents to what companies may have actually written a check for last year.


In prior reports, Collins said, out-sized CEO pay was often a red flag of bigger problems to come. The IPS has been putting a pay report together for 18 years. Among those whose leaders have made the high pay list in years past, only to have their businesses falter: Tyco, Enron and WorldCom.


$60 billion misspent in past 2 U.S. wars

Ah, the wonders of privatization, to make use of the efficiencies of the private sector

by Richard Lardner - Aug. 31, 2011 12:00 AM

WASHINGTON - As much as $60 billion intended for financing U.S. wars in Iraq and Afghanistan has been lost to waste and fraud over the past decade through lax oversight of contractors, poor planning and payoffs to warlords and insurgents, an independent panel investigating U.S. wartime spending estimates.

In its final report to Congress, the Commission on Wartime Contracting said the figure could grow as U.S. support for reconstruction projects and programs wanes, leaving both countries to bear the long-term costs of sustaining the schools, medical clinics, barracks, roads and power plants already built with American tax dollars.

Much of the waste and fraud could have been avoided with better planning and more aggressive oversight, the commission said. To avoid repeating the mistakes in Iraq and Afghanistan, government agencies should overhaul the way they award and manage contracts in war zones, the commission recommended.


The Afghan insurgency's second-largest funding source after the illegal drug trade is the diversion of money from U.S.-backed construction projects and transportation contracts, according to the commission.

But the report does not say how much money has been funneled to the insurgency. The money typically is lost when insurgents and warlords threaten Afghan subcontractors with violence unless they pay for protection, according to the report.


But there are other considerations related to what the commission called an "unhealthy over-reliance" on the private sector for reconstruction work.

Contractors are handling duties that U.S. laws and regulations require government employees to perform, the commission said.

For example, agencies often hire contractors to help evaluate or support its management of other contractors. This can create serious conflicts of interests, the report said, underscoring the need for a competent and well-staffed workforce of government acquisition professionals.

"Ten years of war in Iraq and Afghanistan have seen the United States using too many contractors for too many functions with too little forethought and control," the commission said.

The heavy dependence on contractors also obscures the full human cost of war, according to the commission. Contractor deaths and injuries largely have been undercounted and unpublicized by the U.S. government and the media, the report said.


Kids of older dads face greater risk of autism

By Lauren Cox
updated 8/30/2011 12:53:22 PM ET

Children of older fathers are more likely to be diagnosed with autism, schizophrenia and a number of other neuropsychiatric or developmental disorders, and a new study reveals why this may be.

The results show that older male mice are more likely than younger males to have offspring with mutations in genes that correspond to human genes associated with these neurological conditions. The genomes of mice and men are roughly 85 percent identical.

"Mice do not get schizophrenia or autism," said Dr. John McGrath, senior author of the study published today (Aug.30) in the journal Translational Psychiatry. "But, we have found previously that the offspring of older mice have subtle changes in brain structure and behavior."


When digging through the mice genomes, the researchers found new mutations in the baby mice that weren't present in either parent. Offspring of the older male mice showed six new mutations that, when matched to their human equivalent genes, have been linked to autism and schizophrenia in humans. The offspring of the young male mice had none of these genetic mutations.



Republican vs. Democratic Spending

By Kevin Drum
Mon Feb. 21, 2011 11:20 AM PST

The federal government can spend money on social programs two ways: directly, via ordinary tax-funded programs (Medicare, food stamps, etc.) or indirectly, via tax expenditures (tax deductions for charitable contributions, employer health insurance, etc.). Christopher Faricy, a political science professor at Washington State, recently examined both types of spending over the past 40 years and concluded that the big spenders aren't who you think they are:

The traditional narrative of Democratic party control of the federal government resulting in higher levels of social spending needs to be reconsidered....Social spending over the last 40 years grows on average around 5% a year regardless of which political party is sitting in the majority.

....An increase in indirect social spending has the same budgetary effect as direct social spending. For example, an increase in tax expenditures for private health care insurance that costs the Treasury $100 million dollars has the exact same effect on the budget deficit as a newly proposed public health insurance option that is projected at $100 million dollars


Republicans, it turns out, actually spend a bit more money on social programs than Democrats, as the green bars in the chart below show (click for a larger image). The main difference? Democrats spend it on direct programs that largely serve "the elderly, the disabled, the unemployed, and the poor...ethnic minorities, racial minorities, and single mothers." Republicans spend it indirectly on programs that "are biased towards workers who are White, full-time, in large companies, and high-wage earners." But spend it they do.

[See link for charts]


Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Irene gone? New Jersey still flooding, evacuating


WAYNE, N.J. — Hundreds of people evacuated in northern New Jersey on Tuesday as flooding continued nearly three days after Hurricane Irene tore through, and one town was told it would be swamped for up to a week.

In Vermont, several towns cut off by destroyed roads got supplies airlifted in, while in N.Y.'s Catskill Mountains national guardsman arrived to help clean up. Asked one guard: "Where do you start?"

Across the East Coast, power outages, while down by half, impacted millions on Tuesday.

Irene has been blamed for at least 44 deaths in 13 states, the latest being a Maine couple who died from carbon monoxide poisoning.


In New Jersey, the Passaic, Ramapo and Pompton rivers were still overflowing.

In Wallington, 1,000 families were ordered to evacuate Tuesday evening as the Passaic was not expected to crest until late Tuesday night, NBC New York reported.

"Many people were caught off guard," said James Furtak, acting emergency management coordinator of the borough of 11,000 residents. "Their basements were flooded up to the ceiling and the first floor."

People were climbing out windows to get out of their flooded homes, he said.

In Patterson, search and rescue teams pulled nearly 600 people from homes in recent days with the most intense efforts Tuesday when the Passaic measured 13 feet above flood stage, the highest level since 1903, said Paterson Police Sgt. Alex Popov.



House Republican Bill Cuts Hurricane Monitoring Funds That Help Save Millions Of Dollars

By Pat Garofalo on Aug 30, 2011 at 11:50 am

In the wake of Hurricane Irene, which caused billions of dollars in damages up and down the U.S.’s eastern seaboard, House Republicans are callously claiming that any aid to victims of the disaster needs to be offset by budget cuts elsewhere. The savings favored by House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) would come from cuts to the Federal Emergency Management Agency and first responders.

However, if House Republicans get their way, not only will recovering from the effects of Hurricane Irene be more difficult, but so will monitoring incoming hurricanes in general. As the Associated Press noted, the House Appropriations Committee has approved cuts to funding for “hurricane hunters” — military planes that fly into hurricanes in order to measure and track them:

Hurricane hunters – which are flying into Irene’s eye to feed forecasters vital information about the storm – could face big funding cuts under a budget proposal moving through the U.S. House.

Rep. Kathy Castor, a Democrat from Florida, wrote House Speaker John Boehner on Friday asking for a reversal of proposed cuts to the program under a bill that passed the Appropriations Committee. She said if the cuts go through, it would amount to a 40 percent drop in funding for hurricane hunter flights out of MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa. [...]

Hurricane hunter planes fly directly into the storm to measure wind speed, barometric pressure and other data that the National Hurricane Center then uses to formulate its forecasts.

The cuts passed by the Appropriations Committee would take funding for these flights down from $29 million to $17 million, despite the fact that the flights help save a substantial amount of money.

Due to data from the hurricane monitoring flights, forecasts are 30 percent more accurate. Since it costs $1 million per coastal mile for evacuation and preparation when a storm approaches, every mile that is not evacuated yields substantial savings for taxpayers. Estimates put the savings due to monitoring flights at $100-$150 million per storm, far outstripping the $29 million budget dedicated to the hurricane hunters.


$280,000 | That’s how much top corporate law firms are paying recent Supreme Court clerks as a signing bonus. And that’s in addition to the young lawyer’s starting salary and annual bonuses, which can yield up to an additional $200,000 per year for an associate in their third year out of law school. Ever wonder why workers, consumers, and other ordinary Americans are completely outgunned by big corporate legal teams? This is why.


List of Koch Products to Boycott

To see why you might want to boycott Koch, see

Angel Soft toilet paper
Brawny paper towels
Dixie plates, bowls, napkins and cups
Mardi Gras napkins and towels
Quilted Northern toilet paper
Soft 'n Gentle toilet paper
Sparkle napkins
Vanity fair napkins
Zee napkins
Georgia-Pacific paper products and envelopes
Stainmaster Carpet
Dense Armor Drywall and Decking
ToughArmor Gypsum board
Georgia pacific Plytanium Plywood
Densglass sheathing
G/P Industrial plasters (some products used by a lot of crafters)-
FibreStrong Rim board
G/P Lam board
Blue Ribbon OSB Rated Sheathing
Blue Ribbon Sub-floor
DryGuard Enhanced OSB
Nautilus Wall Sheathing
Thermostat OSB Radiant Barrier Sheathing
Broadspan Engineered Wood Products
XJ 85 I-Joists
FireDefender Banded Cores
FireDefender FS
FireDefender Mineral Core
Hardboard and Thin MDF including Auto Hardboard,
Perforated Hardboard and Thin MDF
Wood Fiberboard -
Commercial Roof Fiberboard
Hushboard Sound Deadening Board
Regular Fiberboard Sheathing
Structural Fiberboard Sheathing
COMFOREL® fiberfill
COOLMAX® fabric
CORDURA® fabric
DACRON® fiber
SOLARMAX® fabric
SOMERELLE® bedding products
SUPPLEX® fabric
TACTEL® fiber
TACTESSE® carpet fiber
TERATE® polyols
TERATHANE® polyether glycol
PHENREZ® resin
POLARGUARD® fiber and
LYCRA® fiber

Texas Gov. Perry became a millionaire while serving in office

By Aman Batheja | The Fort Worth Star-Telegram

Since his first race for office more than a quarter-century ago, Gov. Rick Perry has emphasized his roots as a rural farmer.

Yet Perry's bank account no longer reflects those humble beginnings as his bottom line has soared in recent years, records show, thanks largely to a handful of real estate deals that critics allege were achieved through the presidential candidates' political connections.


While much of the scrutiny has focused on land deals Perry made while a statewide official, "real estate investor" doesn't properly capture all of his recent financial activity, just as "farmer" is too simple a description of Perry's earlier years.


Like many other Texas farmers, Perry benefited from federal agriculture subsidies. Between 1987 and 1998, he received over $80,000 from such programs.



A Heapin’ Helpin’ of Texas Hoax

August 29, 2011
By Sue

Rick Perry has spent the better part of the last two weeks touting his ‘Jobs Miracle’ within the great state of Texas. His assertion is essentially that while the rest of the nation has suffered with seriously high unemployment rates, the state in which he has been governor since 2000 has actually flourished. Given his tendency towards religious exploitation, he has been touting this as his own personal miracle. Further, he has assured potential voters that he can translate his Texas Miracle into a national one. To hear him tell it, before you can get an “Amen” we will be shuttering the unemployment offices circa 2012 since we will then be gleefully employed.


the federal government has been actively involved in new job creation in Texas over the course of the last several years. The bulk of new jobs in Texas were actually government jobs as the state itself grew population-wise. The population of Texas has risen almost 21% over the course of the last decade and these new residents require government services as a routine matter of course. More residents mean more kids in the school system, which in turn, requires the hiring of more teachers and school administrators; new neighborhoods require an expansion of mail delivery and trash pickup, and on and on. In point of fact, Texas realized an increase of 7% in the federal job sector as opposed to a national average of other states of 4%.


The real indicator of serious jobs growth in any jurisdiction would be the number of private sector jobs that are created. When it comes to that calculation, Texas clocks in with an actual reduction of private sector jobs over the last few years. This is actually on par with the rest of the country, so while it is not better than other states it is also no worse.



U.S. newborn death rate tied with Qatar

By Rachael Rettner

Babies in the United States have a higher risk of dying during their first month of life than do babies born in 40 other countries, according to a new report.

Some of the countries that outrank the United States in terms of newborn death risk are South Korea, Cuba, Malaysia, Lithuania, Poland and Israel, according to the study.

Researchers at the World Health Organization estimated the number of newborn deaths and newborn mortality rates of more than 200 countries over the last 20 years.

The results show that, while newborn mortality rates have decreased globally over that period, progress to lower these rates has been slow, the researchers said.


In the United States, the drop over the last 20 years was less than the average drop — 26 percent. And the United States dropped from No. 28 to No. 41 in the rankings of newborn death risk. It is now tied with Qatar, Croatia and United Arab Emirates.

One of the bigger challenges in the U.S. is complications from preterm birth, Lawn said. The U.S. rate of preterm birth is double that of countries in Europe and Northern Africa, she said. Babies who are born preterm need extra care that is often expensive. While there are few things that can reduce preterm birth, she noted that disadvantaged people in the United States may be less likely to receive proper care for preterm infants.


The earth is not ours. We merely borrow it from our children.


Playing highly competitive video games may lead to aggressive behavior

Public release date: 29-Aug-2011
Contact: Audrey Hamilton
American Psychological Association

Video game competitiveness may trump violence as cause of aggression, according to new research

WASHINGTON – While most research into video games and aggressive behavior has focused on violent games, competitiveness may be the main video game characteristic that influences aggression, according to new research published by the American Psychological Association.

In a series of experiments in which video games were matched on competitiveness, difficulty, and pace of action, researchers found video game violence alone did not elevate aggressive behavior. However, more competitive games produced greater levels of aggressive behavior than less competitive games, no matter how much violence was in the games, according to research published online in Psychology of Violence. The study was conducted by lead author Paul J.C. Adachi, M.A., a PhD candidate at Brock University in Canada.



Monday, August 29, 2011

Weight loss without the hunger: Cornell scientists say eat a lighter lunch

Public release date: 29-Aug-2011
Contact: Syl Kacapyr
Cornell University
Weight loss without the hunger: Cornell scientists say eat a lighter lunch

ITHACA, N.Y. — Losing weight without a grumbling stomach or expensive liquid diet can be as simple as eating a lighter lunch, finds a new Cornell University study to be published in the October issue of the journal Appetite.

Participants who ate portion-controlled lunches did not compensate by eating more calories later in the day, leading researchers to believe the human body does not possess the mechanisms necessary to notice a small drop in energy intake.

"Making small reductions in energy intake to compensate for the increasing number of calories available in our food environment may help prevent further weight gain, and one way of doing this could be to consume portion-controlled lunches a few times a week," said doctoral student Carly Pacanowski, who co-authored the study with David Levitsky, Cornell professor of nutritional sciences and of psychology.



Sharper than a serpent's tooth!

If you help your children with college expenses, be sure they understand that you means you will have less for retirement, or you might end up with a child who thinks we should do away with social security because people should save for their own retirements. I met one a couple of weeks ago.


Lack of deep sleep contributes to high blood pressure

August 29th, 2011

A lack of deep sleep may be one of the reasons why people develop high blood pressure. A study of older men published Monday found that those who got the least amount of deep sleep were 80% more likely to develop high blood pressure, compared to those who got longer, less interrupted sleep.

Researchers studied almost 800 men over the age of 65 who didn't have hypertension when the study started. They were given at-home sleep tests that looked at their sleep patterns and measured their non-rapid eye movement sleep, also known as "slow wave sleep," or deep sleep. Researchers monitored the men's blood pressure changes for a little more than 3 years. Results were published in Hypertension, a journal of the American Heart Association.

Previous studies have shown that when people get less than 6 hours of sleep per night, it can increase the risk of high blood pressure. If people wake-up frequently, due to sleep apnea, medications, or other health issues and cannot fall back asleep quickly, this can also negatively affect blood pressure.

"Our study shows for the first time that poor quality sleep, reflected by reduced slow wave sleep, puts individuals at significantly increased risk of developing high blood pressure, and that this effect appears to be independent of the influence of breathing pauses during sleep," explains study author Dr. Susan Redline, Professor of Sleep Medicine at Brigham and Women's Hospital and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center at Harvard Medical School in Boston.

Experts often refer to slow wave sleep as the time when the body is restoring its energy reserves: Blood pressure goes down, breathing slows and the heart rate drops. People usually fall into deep sleep during the early part of the night.

Redline says this new research suggests that if your blood pressure doesn't drop sufficiently while you're sleeping, it may damage your blood vessels. Too little deep sleep may also cause parts of the brain that control the release of a number of hormones and other substances related to maintaining proper blood pressure to work less efficiently.



Obama vs. Bush

Monday 29 August 2011
by: Dave Johnson

Government spending increased dramatically under Bush. It has not increased much under Obama. Note that this chart does not reflect any spending cuts resulting from deficit-cutting deals.

Notes, the following chart includes Clinton's last budget year for comparison.

In this chart, the RED lines on the left side -- the ones that keep doing DOWN -- show what happened to jobs under the policies of Bush and the Republicans. We were losing lots and lots of jobs every month, and it was getting worse and worse. The BLUE lines -- the ones that just go UP -- show what happened to jobs when the stimulus was in effect. We stopped losing jobs and started gaining jobs, and it was getting better and better. The leveling off on the right side of the chart shows what happened as the stimulus started to wind down: job creation leveled off at too low a level.


These things really matter. We all want to fix the terrible problems the country has. But it is so important to know just what the problems are before you decide how to fix them. Otherwise the things you do to try to solve those problems might just make them worse. If you get tricked into thinking that Obama has made things worse and that we should go back to what we were doing before Obama -- tax cuts for the rich, giving giant corporations and Wall Street everything they want -- when those are the things that caused the problems in the first place, then we will be in real trouble.


Cholesterol can be lowered by diet alone

I have found that when I eat a lot of regular cheese, my blood pressure goes up. When I switch to a lower fat diet, and use mostly lower fat cheese like mozzarella, my blood pressure goes back down. And mozzarella is not low-fat in absolute terms, but relative to cheddar, for example.

By Genevra Pittman, ReutersTue, Aug 23 2011 at 4:17 PM EST

NEW YORK - A diet based around plants, nuts and high-fiber grains lowered "bad" cholesterol more than a low-saturated-fat diet that was also vegetarian, researchers reported on Tuesday.

And the drop in low-density lipoprotein, or LDL cholesterol, was big enough that dietary changes could be an alternative to statin medications for many people, they said.

"There's no question that statins have made a major difference in terms of cardiovascular disease control," said study author Dr. David Jenkins, from the University of Toronto. But at least for now, he added, "we can only get so far with statins."

One in four adults age 45 and older in the U.S. takes the cholesterol-lowering drugs.



Republicans Against Science

Published: August 28, 2011

Jon Huntsman Jr., a former Utah governor and ambassador to China, isn’t a serious contender for the Republican presidential nomination. And that’s too bad, because Mr. Hunstman has been willing to say the unsayable about the G.O.P. — namely, that it is becoming the “anti-science party.” This is an enormously important development. And it should terrify us.

To see what Mr. Huntsman means, consider recent statements by the two men who actually are serious contenders for the G.O.P. nomination: Rick Perry and Mitt Romney.

Mr. Perry, the governor of Texas, recently made headlines by dismissing evolution as “just a theory,” one that has “got some gaps in it” — an observation that will come as news to the vast majority of biologists. But what really got peoples’ attention was what he said about climate change: “I think there are a substantial number of scientists who have manipulated data so that they will have dollars rolling into their projects. And I think we are seeing almost weekly, or even daily, scientists are coming forward and questioning the original idea that man-made global warming is what is causing the climate to change.”

That’s a remarkable statement — or maybe the right adjective is “vile.”

The second part of Mr. Perry’s statement is, as it happens, just false: the scientific consensus about man-made global warming — which includes 97 percent to 98 percent of researchers in the field, according to the National Academy of Sciences — is getting stronger, not weaker, as the evidence for climate change just keeps mounting.

In fact, if you follow climate science at all you know that the main development over the past few years has been growing concern that projections of future climate are underestimating the likely amount of warming. Warnings that we may face civilization-threatening temperature change by the end of the century, once considered outlandish, are now coming out of mainstream research groups.

But never mind that, Mr. Perry suggests; those scientists are just in it for the money, “manipulating data” to create a fake threat. In his book “Fed Up,” he dismissed climate science as a “contrived phony mess that is falling apart.”

I could point out that Mr. Perry is buying into a truly crazy conspiracy theory, which asserts that thousands of scientists all around the world are on the take, with not one willing to break the code of silence. I could also point out that multiple investigations into charges of intellectual malpractice on the part of climate scientists have ended up exonerating the accused researchers of all accusations. But never mind: Mr. Perry and those who think like him know what they want to believe, and their response to anyone who contradicts them is to start a witch hunt.

So how has Mr. Romney, the other leading contender for the G.O.P. nomination, responded to Mr. Perry’s challenge? In trademark fashion: By running away. In the past, Mr. Romney, a former governor of Massachusetts, has strongly endorsed the notion that man-made climate change is a real concern. But, last week, he softened that to a statement that he thinks the world is getting hotter, but “I don’t know that” and “I don’t know if it’s mostly caused by humans.” Moral courage!

Of course, we know what’s motivating Mr. Romney’s sudden lack of conviction. According to Public Policy Polling, only 21 percent of Republican voters in Iowa believe in global warming (and only 35 percent believe in evolution). Within the G.O.P., willful ignorance has become a litmus test for candidates, one that Mr. Romney is determined to pass at all costs.

So it’s now highly likely that the presidential candidate of one of our two major political parties will either be a man who believes what he wants to believe, even in the teeth of scientific evidence, or a man who pretends to believe whatever he thinks the party’s base wants him to believe.

And the deepening anti-intellectualism of the political right, both within and beyond the G.O.P., extends far beyond the issue of climate change.

Lately, for example, The Wall Street Journal’s editorial page has gone beyond its long-term preference for the economic ideas of “charlatans and cranks” — as one of former President George W. Bush’s chief economic advisers famously put it — to a general denigration of hard thinking about matters economic. Pay no attention to “fancy theories” that conflict with “common sense,” the Journal tells us. Because why should anyone imagine that you need more than gut feelings to analyze things like financial crises and recessions?

Now, we don’t know who will win next year’s presidential election. But the odds are that one of these years the world’s greatest nation will find itself ruled by a party that is aggressively anti-science, indeed anti-knowledge. And, in a time of severe challenges — environmental, economic, and more — that’s a terrifying prospect.


Already happened from 2000-2008, and we are paying the price, and will be for years, in some cases for centuries.


Lower Socioeconomic Status Linked With Heart Disease Despite Improvements in Other Risk Factor

ScienceDaily (Aug. 26, 2011) — People with lower socioeconomic status are much more likely to develop heart disease than those who are wealthier or better educated, according to a recent UC Davis study. Published online in BMC Cardiovascular Disorders, the outcomes also show that this risk persists even with long-term progress in addressing traditional risk factors such as smoking, high blood pressure and elevated cholesterol.

"Being poor or having less than a high school education can be regarded as an extra risk when assessing a patient's chances of developing cardiovascular disease," said Peter Franks, a UC Davis professor of family and community medicine and lead author of the study. "People with low socioeconomic status need to have their heart-disease indicators managed more aggressively."


The results indicated that people with lower socioeconomic status had a 50 percent greater risk of developing heart disease than other study participants.

According to Franks, although it is known that people with low socioeconomic status have a greater risk for developing heart disease and other health problems, the reason is often attributed to reduced health-care access or poor adherence to treatments such as smoking cessation or medication. This study showed for the first time that the increased risk endured despite long-term improvements in other risk factors, indicating that access and adherence could not account for the differences.

"Low socioeconomic status is a heart-disease risk factor on its own and needs to be regarded as such by the medical community," Franks said.

According to Franks, previous studies could help explain the link between low socioeconomic status and increased heart-disease risk. Social disadvantages and adversity in childhood may result in lasting adaptations to stress that take a bigger toll on the heart. Cumulative effects of social disadvantage throughout the lifespan could also cause more "wear and tear" on the cardiovascular system.



Eradicating Dangerous Bacteria May Cause Permanent Harm

ScienceDaily (Aug. 28, 2011) — In the zeal to eliminate dangerous bacteria, it is possible that we are also permanently killing off beneficial bacteria as well, posits Martin Blaser, MD, Frederick H. King Professor of Medicine, professor of Microbiology and chair of the Department of Medicine at NYU Langone Medical Center.

By the time a child in the US or other developed countries reaches the age of 18, s/he has already had on average 10-20 doses of antibiotics. These are in addition to the antibiotics that may be given to women while they are pregnant, and which may affect the normal bacteria that mothers transmit to their children.

The discovery and use of antibiotics has helped to increase life expectancy. However they are non-discriminatory and destroy even friendly bacteria, not just harmful ones. Scientists have found that some of the beneficial bacteria may never recover and that these extinctions may lead to increased susceptibility to infections and disease. As a result, antibiotic use could be contributing to the increases in obesity, allergies and asthma, inflammatory bowel disease, and type 1 diabetes that are occurring throughout the developed world.

Dr. Blaser urges physicians to curtail the use of these drugs immediately, and recommends that narrow spectrum, and more targeted drugs be used in their place. To be successful, this shift will require a significant effort to develop new antibacterials and new diagnostic tests that will permit the use of targeted agents.



Sunday, August 28, 2011

Genetics vs Family Lifestyle for Coronary Heart Disease, comment added 9/13/2011

Comment added 9/13/2011
Note that all the people in the study lived in Sweden. So the chances are good there were many commonalities among the families' lifestyles. So this study does not really show that lifestyle has little effect.

Note this studies the lifestyle of our parents, biological or adoptive, not of the individuals themselves. Of course, this does not mean our own lifestyle is not important. People often don't follow the lifestyle of their family. And we can't do anything about what genes we inherited, but we can make choices of our own lifestyle, and these do make a difference. And our genes probably influence at least some of our own lifestyle, like how active we are.

ScienceDaily (Aug. 26, 2011) — It has long been known that hereditary factors play a role in coronary heart disease. However, it has been unclear whether the increased risk is transferred through the genes or through an unhealthy lifestyle in the family. A new study from the Center for Primary Health Care Research in Sweden, published in the American Heart Journal, shows that genes appear to be most important.


The risk of coronary heart disease in adopted individuals who had at least one biological parent with coronary heart disease was 40-60% higher than that of a control group. There was no increased risk in individuals whose adoptive parents suffered from coronary heart disease, not even if both adoptive parents had the disease.

"The results of our studies suggest that the risk of coronary heart disease is not transferred via an unhealthy lifestyle in the family, but rather via the genes," says Kristina Sundquist, a professor at the Center for Primary Health Care Research in Malmö, Sweden.

"But that does not mean that one's lifestyle is not a factor in one's own risk of developing coronary heart disease."


No Bones About It: Eating Dried Plums Helps Prevent Fractures and Osteoporosis, Study Suggests

Dried plums are also known as prunes.

ScienceDaily (Aug. 26, 2011) — When it comes to improving bone health in postmenopausal women -- and people of all ages, actually -- a Florida State University researcher has found a simple, proactive solution to help prevent fractures and osteoporosis: eating dried plums.

"Over my career, I have tested numerous fruits, including figs, dates, strawberries and raisins, and none of them come anywhere close to having the effect on bone density that dried plums, or prunes, have," said Bahram H. Arjmandi, Florida State's Margaret A. Sitton Professor and chairman of the Department of Nutrition, Food and Exercise Sciences in the College of Human Sciences. "All fruits and vegetables have a positive effect on nutrition, but in terms of bone health, this particular food is exceptional."



Portion of men who work falling with wages

Mike Dorning, Bloomberg Businessweek
Sunday, August 28, 2011

As President Obama puts together a new jobs plan to be revealed shortly after Labor Day, he is up against a powerful force, long in the making, that has gone virtually unnoticed in the debate over how to put people back to work: Employers are increasingly giving up on the American man.

If that sounds bleak, it's because it is. The portion of men who work and their median wages have been eroding since the early 1970s. For decades the impact of this fact was softened in many families by the increasing number of women who went to work and took up the slack. More recently, the housing bubble helped to mask it by boosting the male-dominated construction trades, which employed millions.

When real estate ultimately crashed, so did the prospects for many men. The portion of men holding a job fell to 63.5 percent in July - hovering stubbornly near the low point of 63.3 percent it reached in December 2009. These are the lowest numbers in statistics going back to 1948.

Among the critical category of prime working-age men between 25 and 54, only 81.2 percent held jobs, a barely noticeable improvement from its low point last year - and still well below the depths of the 1982-83 recession, when employment among prime-age men never dropped below 85 percent. To put those numbers in perspective, consider that in 1969, 95 percent of men in their prime working years had a job.

Men who do have jobs are getting paid less. After accounting for inflation, median wages for men between 30 and 50 dropped 27 percent - to $33,000 a year - from 1969 to 2009, according to an analysis by Michael Greenstone, a Massachusetts Institute of Technology economics professor who was chief economist for Obama's Council of Economic Advisers.

"That takes men and puts them back at their earnings capacity of the 1950s," Greenstone says. "That has staggering implications."


The impact has been greatest on moderately skilled men, especially those without a college education, though even men with bachelor's degrees from less selective schools are beginning to see their position erode.

"There's really been this polarization in the middle," Katz says, as men at the top of the education and income scale see their earnings rise while those in the middle gravitate downward.



Omega-3s Reduce Stroke Severity, Study Suggests

ScienceDaily (Aug. 26, 2011) — A diet rich in omega-3s reduces the severity of brain damage after a stroke, according to a study conducted by Université Laval researchers. The team, co-directed by professors Jasna Kriz and Frédéric Calon, showed that the extent of brain damage following a stroke was reduced by 25% in mice that consumed DHA type omega-3s daily. Details of the study can be found on the website of the journal Stroke.



Early Embryos Can Correct Genetic Abnormalities During Development, Researchers Find

This is really amazing! Life is so wondrous!

ScienceDaily (Aug. 26, 2011) — Professor William G. Kearns told the annual meeting of the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology that a three-day-old embryo (called a cleavage stage embryo) with an incorrect number of chromosomes (known as "aneuploidy") was capable of undergoing "a dynamic process of genetic normalisation" so that by day five, when it had developed to the blastocyst stage, it had become euploid, with the correct number of chromosomes.



Hottest day in Houston's history

Hurricane Irene hit New Jersey ten miles north of Atlantic City at 5:30 am EDT, as a minimum-strength Category 1 hurricane with 75 mph winds. Irene is only the second hurricane since 1851 to hit New Jersey. At 9 am EDT, Irene made a third U.S. landfall over Long Island, NY, and New York City, as a tropical storm with 65 mph winds.


This brings total rainfall for the month of August in New York City to 19.68", making it the wettest month in the city since record keeping began in 1869. The previous record was 16.85", set in September 1882. Philadelphia, PA and Newark, NJ have also set all-time wettest month records, thanks to Irene's rains. The 19.40" of rain that has fallen in Philadelphia this August is probably the most rain any major city in the Northeast, U.S. has received since 22.43" fell in Newark, NJ in August 1843, according to wunderground's weather historian, Christopher C. Burt.


The mercury hit 109°F (42.8°C) yesterday at Houston's George Bush Intercontinental Airport, tying September 4, 2000 as the hottest day in the city's history. Yesterday was the also the hottest August day on record in Houston, besting the 108°F reading of August 18, 1909. This year, Houston has set its record for all-time hottest temperature, most 100° days in a year (36, old record was 32, and 4 is normal), and most consecutive 100° days (24, old record was 14.) Weather records in Houston go back to 1889. Houston needs 20.18" of rain to get to normal levels of rainfall for the year. Today's high is predicted to be 107°F in Houston, so yesterday's record may be in danger of being broken today.


So the average=mean rainfall this year for the U.S. might not look bad. Shows how the mean can be misleading. The mean is the "average" we computed in school by adding up all the values and dividing by the number of values. Another average is the median, where half the values are below and half are above.


Summer Drought Limits the Positive Effects of CO2 and Heat On Plant Growth in Future Climate

ScienceDaily (Aug. 27, 2011) — Although the rain this summer has been pouring down over Denmark, most scientists agree that global temperature increases will intensify periods with summer drought already in 2075. The large scale project CLIMAITE, led by Risø DTU, has published its first synthesis paper in the journal Global Change Biology, and the conclusion is perhaps a little surprising that the predicted increase in plant growth, due to more CO2 in the atmosphere is noticeably limited when combined with higher temperatures -- and especially summer droughts.

In contrast to the increased growth in plants that scientists have often seen in studies with elevated CO2, the first synthesis paper on the comprehensive CLIMAITE project shows that the combination of summer drought and potential plant growth-promoting factors such as higher temperatures and increased CO2 together limit the effect of CO2 increased plant growth significantly.

"When you've previously seen a significantly higher plant growth at elevated CO2 concentrations, it is typically because it has been controlled studies, where only the CO2 concentration was changed. We fundamentally had the theory that you have to look at the combination of the different climate variables, since the plants in the future will be exposed to multiple changes simultaneously, "explains Klaus Steenberg Larsen, who is a researcher in the Biosystems Division at Risø DTU and lead author on the scientific paper.



The Bush Tax Cuts and the Deficit

August 25, 2011, 2:00 pm
The Bush Tax Cuts and the Deficit

How much do the Bush tax cuts and the alternative minimum tax patch widen the deficit? Take a look at the lightest blue bars below:


The lightest blue bars, labeled “Extend Tax Policies,” represent an estimate of how the deficit will grow if Congress extends the Bush tax cuts and indexes the alternative minimum tax for inflation, as legislators are expected to do once again. As you can see, these moves alone more than double the size of the deficit for most of the years shown.

Just above this are much darker blue bars, labeled “Maintain Medicare’s Payment Rates for Physicians.” These represent the expectation that Congress will continue to nullify their own requirements to cut Medicare payments for doctors. The law says that Medicare’s payment rates for physicians’ services will fall by 30 percent at the end of 2011, but given Washington’s record on this “doc fix,” few expect that cut to be allowed to happen.

“Additional Debt Service” — the aqua strips at the top — refers to the interest payments the government will have to pay because it will need to borrow more money to account for the greater budget shortfall caused by continuing these tax and Medicare policies.


Those Medicare payments are a pretty small slice.


Saturday, August 27, 2011

How Global Warming Is Making Hurricane Irene Worse

By Brad Johnson on Aug 26, 2011 at 4:12 pm

Hurricane Irene is bearing down on the Outer Banks of North Carolina as a Category Two storm, [fortunately, is decreased to a Category One storm, although there is still much destruction going on from this giant] and is expected to track a path of destruction up the densely populated Atlantic coast, with New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg ordering the first-ever mandatory evacuation of low-lying areas of the city. As the U.S. government report “Global Climate Change Impacts in the US” summarized in 2009, warming of the oceans is causing Atlantic hurricanes to become more intense and dangerous:

The destructive potential of Atlantic hurricanes has increased since 1970, correlated with an increase in sea surface temperature. An increase in average summer wave heights along the U.S. Atlantic coastline since 1975 has been attributed to a progressive increase in hurricane power. The intensity of Atlantic hurricanes is likely to increase during this century with higher peak wind speeds, rainfall intensity, and storm surge height and strength. Even with no increase in hurricane intensity, coastal inundation and shoreline retreat would increase as sea-level rise accelerates, which is one of the most certain and most costly consequences of a warming climate.

Below, ThinkProgress Green explores in more detail how Hurricane Irene has been made more destructive by the combustion of hundreds of billions of tons of fossil fuels.

Oceanic Warming. Greenhouse pollution is causing the world’s oceans to warm. Sea surface temperatures in the region where Hurricane Irene formed and along its track are around 0.5°C warmer than they were about 30 years ago.


This increased heat adds about 10 to 20 miles to the top potential speed of the hurricane’s winds. Storm surge increases proportionally to the square of the wind speed, meaning a 10 percent increase in hurricane wind speed means a 20 percent increase in storm surge.


More Atmospheric Vapor. As the world’s oceans have warmed, the amount of atmospheric water vapor has increased by about 4 percent. Rainfall rates due to hurricanes appeart to have increased by 6 to 8 percent since about 1970 in association with increased water vapor in the atmosphere and warming.


“These warm ocean temperatures will also make Irene a much wetter hurricane than is typical, since much more water vapor can evaporate into the air from record-warm ocean surfaces,” tropical meteorologist Jeff Masters explains in the Daily Beast.


Increased Extreme Precipitation. Because of greenhouse pollution, heavy rains in the United States have increased 14 percent over the 20th century, much greater than the increase in overall precipitation. This has been one of the wettest years in history for the Northeast, directly in the path of Hurricane Irene. Hurricane Irene’s wind and rain will more easily topple trees in the loose, saturated soil and flood rivers, reservoirs, and drains.



Hurricane Irene: How to help


This Labor Day We Need Protest Marches Rather than Parades

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Labor Day is traditionally a time for picnics and parades. But this year is no picnic for American workers, and a protest march would be more appropriate than a parade.

Not only are 25 million unemployed or underemployed, but American companies continue to cut wages and benefits. The median wage is still dropping, adjusted for inflation. High unemployment has given employers extra bargaining leverage to wring out wage concessions.

All told, it’s been the worst decade for American workers in a century. According to Commerce Department data, private-sector wage gains over the last decade have even lagged behind wage gains during the decade of the Great Depression (4 percent over the last ten years, adjusted for inflation, versus 5 percent from 1929 to 1939).


CEO pay, meanwhile, has soared. The median value of salaries, bonuses and long-term incentive awards for CEOs at 350 big American companies surged 11 percent last year to $9.3 million (according to a study of proxy statements conducted for The Wall Street Journal by the management consultancy Hay Group.). Bonuses have surged 19.7 percent.

This doesn’t even include all those stock options rewarded to CEOs at rock-bottom prices in 2008 and 2009.


The ratio of corporate profits to wages is now higher than at any time since just before the Great Depression.

Meanwhile, the American economy has all but stopped growing – in large part because consumers (whose spending is 70 percent of GDP) are also workers whose jobs and wages are under assault.



SF Fed Warns Baby Boomers May Wound Stock Market

Interesting. I was asking about this years ago, and people didn't want to admit it. The "experts" were saying people should buy stock for financial security in retirement. Of course, it was to the benefit of the those in the financial industry that people believe that.

Similar to global warming/climate change, ignoring a problem for the sake of short-term profits and convenience.

August 22, 2011, 1:50 PM ET

By Michael S. Derby

The next quarter century or so could be a tough one for the stock market, researchers at the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco warn.

In a paper released by the institution Monday, two of its staffers said the retirement of the Baby Boom generation stands to strip away from equities a key source of support. The ongoing wave of retirees won’t crater the market, but they may well be “a factor holding down equity valuations over the next two decades,” writes Zheng Liu and Mark Spiegel write.

As they see it, what the Baby Boomers have given to the market is something like what they will be taking away. Allowing for the “theoretical ambiguities,” the economists noted “U.S. equity values have been closely related to demographic trends in the past half century” across several key metrics. “In the context of the impending retirement of baby boomers over the next two decades, this correlation portends poorly for equity values,” Liu and Spiegel write.

As much as it is a problem for the market over the long haul, as retirees sell stocks to try to maintain their lifestyles, the “well known” nature of the troubles is also a problem for markets now. Indeed, if current investors now start pricing in the coming Baby Boomer headwind, they may “depress” stock prices.

“These demographic shifts may present headwinds today for the stock market’s recovery from the financial crisis,” the paper said.

Liu and Siegel allow that considerable uncertainty surrounds their work. Other important influences on the outlook for stocks are the performance of the bond market, as well as the appetites of foreign buyers. They cited China as one potential wild card, saying that nation and other emerging economies “may relax capital controls, which would allow their nationals to invest in U.S. equity markets.” That could counter some of the drag generated by U.S. retirees.

There are, of course, even more risks that surround the stock market beyond what the paper flags. Equity prices have undergone considerable volatility of late after enjoying a sharp Federal-Reserve-engineered rally starting nearly a year ago. Equity investors are confronting a protracted period of economic weakness, and a central bank that appears to have few good options to restart growth. Should weakness prove longer-lasting than some expect, that itself may influence Baby Boomers’ retirement plans, and thus change the outlook for the market.


Friday, August 26, 2011

Useful weather sites

At the top of the page is global map with sea temperatures, and tropical weather systems. In the Atlantic is hurricane Irene, two tropical waves, and a tropical depression.

Then info on each weather system.

At the bottom of the page is satellite imagery. You can what area to look at, and whether to see the visible or infrared image.
Irene is huge. Reminds me of Katrina. Thank goodness it's run into winds that have weakened it. But it will still have a big impact from the amount of rainfall.

The national hurricane center.

Satellite images of east and west part of U.S., updated every half hour.
Looks like they cover the whole U.S. between them, as well as surrounding areas.


Thursday, August 25, 2011

MN Republicans Literally Auctioning Off GOP Congressmen And State Lawmakers To Highest Bidder

Well, at least they weren't being hypocritical on that web site.

By Lee Fang on Aug 25, 2011 at 7:20 pm

A Republican committee in Minnesota has been caught creating an eBay-style auction site to sell access with politicians, including top lawmakers like Rep. John Kline (R-MN) and Rep. Erik Paulsen (R-MN), as well as State House Speaker Kurt Zellers (R-MN). With bidding starting at $250, the committee offered opportunities to “get up close and personal” with each lawmaker. The announcement for the auction was reportedly sent to area lobbyists.

Yesterday, the progressive group Common Cause called out the Carver County Republican Party, the committee sponsoring the fundraising effort, for crossing the “line on what is acceptable behavior for some of the most powerful members of the Minnesota legislature and U.S. Congress.” The GOP committee quickly deleted its website, but not before Common Cause took a screenshot: [See original article]


Hip Implant Complaints Surge, Even as the Dangers Are Studied

This is the way conservatives think things should work. Don't get in the way of innovation by business, by requiring studies and proof of safety. If things go wrong, they will be taken care of by lawsuits, and the company will mend it's ways. Of course, big companies can outspend individuals, and the supreme court has been limiting the ability of people to use class-action lawsuits.

Published: August 22, 2011

The federal government has received a surge in complaints in recent months about failed hip replacements, suggesting that serious problems persist with some types of artificial hips even as researchers scramble to evaluate the health dangers.

An analysis of federal data by The New York Times indicates that the Food and Drug Administration has received more than 5,000 reports since January about several widely used devices known as metal-on-metal hips, more than the agency had received about those devices in the previous four years combined.

The vast majority of filings appear to reflect patients who have had an all-metal hip removed, or will soon undergo such a procedure because a device failed after only a few years; typically, replacement hips last 15 years or more.

The mounting complaints confirm what many experts have feared — that all-metal replacement hips are on a trajectory to become the biggest and most costly medical implant problem since Medtronic recalled a widely used heart device component in 2007. About 7,700 complaints have been filed in connection with that recall.

Though immediate problems with the hip implants are not life-threatening, some patients have suffered crippling injuries caused by tiny particles of cobalt and chromium that the metal devices shed as they wear.


Under F.D.A. rules, many all-metal devices were sold without testing in patients or without a requirement that producers track their performance. But in an unusual intervention, the F.D.A. in May ordered producers to study how frequently the devices were failing and to examine the threat to patients. Now, researchers say, producers face substantial hurdles in recruiting the hundreds of patients needed to conduct sound studies because of the lack of patient registries.

“They are grasping at how they are going to get this information,” said Dr. Robert S. Namba, an orthopedic surgeon with Kaiser Permanente.

In addition, researchers are struggling to understand the tissue damage caused by the metallic debris. While some patients experience pain, other patients with the same damage have no pain, complicating decisions about whether to remove devices.

As problems and questions grow, most surgeons are abandoning the all-metal hips, saying they are unwilling to expose new patients to potential dangers when safer alternatives — mainly replacements that combine metal and plastic components — are available. Some researchers also fear that many all-metal hips suffer from a generic flaw. Current use of all metal devices has plummeted to about 5 percent of the market, though a few of the models are performing relatively well in select patients.

“It is like playing Russian roulette,” said Dr. Geoffrey H. Westrich, an orthopedic surgeon at the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York, who has stopped using all-metal implants.

Dr. William Maisel, the chief scientist of the F.D.A. division that oversees medical devices, said he believed that producers would mount rigorous studies and find answers. But he acknowledged that it could take several years.

“There is not an existing infrastructure for studying this kind of information,” Dr. Maisel said.



J&J's DePuy Orthopaedics Inc unit recalled its metal ASR hip system a year ago after it failed at a higher-than-expected rate, with some patients experiencing pain, swelling, joint dislocation and sometimes systemic damage to the central nervous system, thyroid and heart.

The company now faces more than 2,000 lawsuits in state and federal court in the United States.

In a highly unusual move, DePuy has hired a third party -- Broadspire Services Inc, which manages workers compensation and other medical claims on behalf of insurance companies and employers -- to administer patient claims for out-of-pocket medical costs associated with the recall.

The move has prompted debate among industry and legal experts. Some see it as an efficient way to outsource a process that is unrelated to making artificial hips. Others see it as a way for J&J to limit payments while gaining control of medical records and other material that could be used against patients in court.



Republican leader Eric Cantor: Federal Hurricane Disaster Relief Would Have To Be Offset By Spending Cuts

Zeke Miller | Aug. 25, 2011, 4:43 PM

A spokesperson for House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) said that if there is any damage caused by Hurricane Irene requiring federal disaster funding, the money would have to be balanced out by spending cuts elsewhere in government.

"We aren't going to speculate on damage before it happens, period," his spokesperson Laena Fallon told TalkingPointsMemo. "But, as you know, Eric has consistently said that additional funds for federal disaster relief ought to be offset with spending cuts."

If the storm causes damage while passing over highly populated areas as predicted, help from the federal government might not be quick in coming.



Wednesday, August 24, 2011

As GOP Slashes Women’s Health Care, Study Finds Medicaid-Funded Program Saved Texas Over $20 Million

In the latest state budget signed by Gov. Rick Perry (R), the Texas GOP gutted funding for women’s preventative health care, leaving up to 300,000 women without access to basic health services. Now a new report from the Texas Health and Human Services Commission shows just how self-defeating those drastic cuts were. The report says the Medicaid-funded Women’s Health Program saved the state at least $20 million a year and prevented over 6,700 unplanned pregnancies in 2009. Earlier this year Republicans rushed to defund Planned Parenthood and cut family planning services by a staggering $74 million in an attempt to reduce the number of abortions. Yet the Women’s Health Program does not provide abortions but does give low-income women access to breast cancer screenings and birth control. The new study confirms what experts have been saying — state-funded family planning services save taxpayers millions each year. The federal program reportedly saved $10 for every dollar spent.


Climate Secret: NSF Quietly Closes Out Inspector General Investigation with Complete Vindication of Michael Mann

It's safe to say this report will be ignored or misquoted by the denialists.

By Joe Romm on Aug 22, 2011 at 6:08 pm

NSF Inspector General: “Finding no research misconduct or other matter raised by the various regulations and laws discussed above, this case is closed.”

Two things we know with extremely high confidence:

Recent warming is unprecedented in magnitude and speed and cause (so the temperature history looks like a Hockey Stick).
Michael Mann, the lead author on the original Hockey Stick paper, is one of the nation’s top climatologists and a source of first-rate analysis.

We know these things because both the Hockey Stick and Mann have been independently investigated and vindicated more times than any other facet of climate science or any other climate scientist (see links below).

Readers also know that “the first rule of vindicating climate science is you do not talk about vindicating climate science.” While the anti-science extremists who rule the Tea Party and the right-wing bunkosphere keep shouting lies about the Hockey Stick and Mann — and urging their followers to “shout down” science-based commenters on independent websites — the vindications of the science and the man are reported as quietly as if they came from the Whos of Whoville.

And so after countless investigations — 3 in the U.K., 2 by Penn State, the EPA, the NOAA IG — that have all unanimously found the allegations against climate scientists and their research conclusions based on the hacked “ClimateGate” emails to be wholly unsubstantiated, a top GOP presidential candidate backed by the fossil fuel industry still gives voice to the Texas-sized lie (see “Denier Rick Perry Takes $11 Million from Big Oil, Then Claims Climate Scientists ‘Manipulated Data’ For Money“).

And so while Mann and the Hockey Stick were getting yet another full vindication (from Penn State) earlier this year, Fox News was trumpeting one final investigation:

But the final say will be in the hands of a skeptical inspector general at the National Science Foundation, the primary funder of the research into global warming. According to published documents obtained by, the IG must determine whether Penn State’s investigation was adequate.

The Office of Inspector General confirmed that it will review the misconduct charges. A spokeswoman told that “in accordance with our research misconduct regulation, (45 C.F.R. part 689), when the OIG is provided with an institution’s investigation report, we review it for fairness, accuracy and completeness” — issues the investigation has already been faulted for.

Yes, well, the Penn State investigation was faulted only by anti-science deniers. And NSF’s IG is “skeptical” only in the sense that global warming “skeptics” are not — which is to say it analyzes the facts objectively and come to defensible and reproducible conclusions.

The IG analyzed all of the charges “de novo” and concluded:

“Finding no research misconduct or other matter raised by the various regulations and laws discussed above, this case is closed.”



How the Organ Transplant System Is Stacked Against the Most Needy

The original title of this article is "How the Organ Transplant System Is Stacked Against the Most Needy, and Why You Should Be a Donor".
But they never give a reason someone who cannot themself afford to receive a transplant, should offer to be a donor. I note that to do such a thing for the sake of some stranger is a liberal thing to do. Frankly, I do not want my organs going to save the lives of some conservatives who don't care about others.,_and_why_you_should_be_a_donor?utm_source=feedblitz&utm_medium=FeedBlitzRss&utm_campaign=alternet

August 19, 2011

Being an organ donor is simple and can save lives; conceivably, eight lives. But the system is very much in need of reform.

Ever see the bumpersticker, “Don’t take your organs to Heaven, Heaven knows we need them here!”?

Regardless of whether you believe in God, these stickers make a good point: Why are we taking our organs to the crematorium, or burying them six feet underground, when we could use them to avoid someone ending up in the same situation? And by same situation, I mean dead.

More than 100,000 Americans are waiting for lifesaving operations. Unfortunately, organ donation rates do not match organ demand. Each year 6,000 or more people die waiting for organ transplants. What’s more, because the organ transplant system operates with a built-in bias against the poor, minorities are nearly half as likely to receive organs, even though they are more likely than whites to need them. In 2008, 7,182 people died waiting for organs; 4,638 people died waiting for kidney transplants, and 1,542 of them were black. In other words, 64 percent of deaths on waiting lists are for kidneys, and 33 percent of deaths on the kidney waiting list are black patients.

Blacks in America donate organs (13 percent of donors) at about the same rate they make up the population (14 percent), but they represent a disproportionate 35 percent of the kidney waiting list. More problematic is the fact that many in need of an organ do not even make the lists, or not in time, stymied by a complex patchwork system that discriminates against poor and minorities in any number of ways, many of which can be fixed.


During dialysis, patients deemed to be physically, mentally and economically able to undergo a transplant receive a transplant referral. However, the amount of time dialysis demands makes many poor people unable to make all of their appointments. Health providers then label the poor “non-compliant,” as opposed to “disadvantaged,” and assume that they will not keep up with the after-care necessary to maintain a successful organ transplant.

The problem is not that minorities choose to stay on dialysis, but that they struggle to meet the demands of the system. “We often require multiple tests or procedures to be done for patients right before they are perceived to be appropriate for the waiting list. If you take patients who are, broadly speaking, financially disadvantaged -- many significantly so -- all are also time-disadvantaged because they’re on dialysis, which is taking up three days a week,” said Norman.

Disparity in time from dialysis to wait list would not end, however, with incentivizing referrals. The reality is that those who cannot make it to dialysis regularly would probably not be able to keep up with vital transplant after care, but not due to lack of compliance. According to Callender, Medicare covers about 80 percent of expenses in the first three years following an organ transplant. After three years, patients must come up with the annual $10,000-$20,000 necessary to take the medicine vital to preventing organ rejection. While transplant centers and organizations work with patients so that most can afford the medication, some cannot find another health insurance plan to take over where Medicare left off. If they cannot come up with the cash, the organs will actually be taken back, and the patient must go back on dialysis, which, at $50-60,000 a year, costs a whole lot more than the transplant medication, but is covered by Medicare. In the words of Callender, the policy “makes no sense.”


Another possibility is making organ donation part of an “assumed” process -- requiring people to opt-out of organ donations, e.g. when they get drivers' licenses and denying families the opportunity to prevent their kin from giving organs upon death.

[I consider this proposal immoral as long as people who need organs cannot get them because of lack of money.]

After uproar, man with breast cancer OK’d for coverage

In Georgia, single people w/o children who are not on disability are not eligible for Medicaid if they make more than $235 per month ($2,820 per year).

By Joan Raymond contributor
updated 8/22/2011 3:31:07 PM ET

Raymond Johnson was due for some good news.

Earlier this month, reported that because he’s a man , Johnson, 26, of South Carolina, was denied Medicaid coverage after being diagnosed with breast cancer.

But late last week, Johnson got the call he was waiting for: South Carolina’s Department of Health and Human Services is granting him coverage, after all.

Johnson, a tile layer who worked about 30 hours a week making $9 per hour, could not afford private insurance. He discovered he had Stage II breast cancer after visiting a local emergency room for chest pain.

Although he was not eligible for traditional Medicaid coverage, Johnson was told to apply for coverage under Medicaid’s Breast and Cervical Cancer Prevention and Treatment Act, an 11-year-old federal mandate designed to help people who may not fit into traditional Medicaid eligibility requirements. But the program only provides care for women.

Read on: Breast cancer patient denied coverage since he's a man

In a statement to the press, South Carolina Health and Human Services Director Tony Keck, announced that after speaking with the federal Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, “. . . we believe it is in the best interest of Mr. Johnson to deem him eligible for the Medicaid Breast and Cervical Cancer Program.”
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The state health department will submit claims to the federal government for reimbursement. So far, though, state officials have gotten mixed messages on Raymond’s case from their contacts at Medicaid.

“If federal lawyers choose to deny those claims based on a discriminatory policy, that is their choice and our department will appeal the decision,” Keck says.

The national media attention Johnson’s plight has received has raised the profile not only of male breast cancer, but has also raised awareness of what it means to be Medicaid eligible.

“There is a misperception that Medicaid is for all poor people, when you actually have to fit into a very specific category, much of which is determined at the state level,” explained Jeff Stensland, a health department spokesperson. For example, if Johnson was diagnosed with, say, colorectal cancer or a brain tumor, he still wouldn’t get coverage under Medicaid. South Carolina, like most states, does not provide Medicaid to single, childless adults.



Republican House leader Eric Cantor’s Hatred Of Government Is More Important Than The Safety Of His Constituents

August 24, 2011
By Michael Hayne

So you know how back in March, following that devastating earthquakes that hit Japan, John Boehnor’s slimy elf-like errand boy, Eric Cantor, had the gall to defend Republican plans to cut funding from the USGS and warning systems to help in case of a disaster?

Well, it turns out the epicenter of the aberrant 5.9 magnitude earthquake that slammed across the east coast yesterday is located squarely in Rep. Cantor’s seventh congressional district. Worse yet, the Anna 1 and 2 nuclear power plants are also located in the Congressman’s district.

It seems the North Anna nuclear power station in the middle of Cantor’s district is only built to withstand a 5.9-6.1 magnitude earthquake and has no seismographs due to budget cuts in the 1990s. But Eric Cantor wants to defund the agency that monitors quake activity because, well…it makes the bottom line of billionaire industrialists and Teabagger Republican sugar daddies, David and Charles Koch, look good.



Older Adults With Too Much Salt in Diet and Too Little Exercise at Greater Risk of Cognitive Decline

ScienceDaily (Aug. 23, 2011) — Older adults who lead sedentary lifestyles and consume a lot of sodium in their diet may be putting themselves at risk for more than just heart disease.

A study led by researchers at Baycrest in Toronto -- in collaboration with colleagues at the Institut Universitaire de Gériatrie de Montréal, McGill University and the Université de Sherbrooke -- has found evidence that high-salt diets coupled with low physical activity can be detrimental to cognitive health in older adults.


"The results of our study showed that a diet high in sodium, combined with little exercise, was especially detrimental to the cognitive performance of older adults," said Dr. Fiocco.

"But the good news is that sedentary older adults showed no cognitive decline over the three years that we followed them if they had low sodium intake."



Stress Can Affect Future Offspring

ScienceDaily (Aug. 23, 2011) — Rats exposed to stress during early development inherit the effects of that stress to their offspring, largely expressed in behavior impairments but also characteristics of resilience, shows a new study from the University of Haifa, published in the journal Developmental Psychobiology.

Providing environmental enrichment to the future mother rats had a remedial role on some of the negative effects. "The similarities between rats and humans raise the question of whether similar effects might transpire in humans; for example, exposure to war or natural disasters might have heritable effects," explains Prof. Micah Leshem who headed the study.



Older Adults Are Better at Decision-Making Than Young Adults

ScienceDaily (Aug. 23, 2011) — We make decisions all our lives -- so you'd think we'd get better and better at it. Yet research has shown that younger adults are better decision makers than older ones. Some Texas psychologists, puzzled by these findings, suspected the experiments were biased toward younger brains.

So, rather than testing the ability to make decisions one at a time without regard to past or future, as earlier research did, these psychologists designed a model requiring participants to evaluate each result in order to strategize the next choice, more like decision making in the real world.

The results: The older decision makers trounced their juniors. The findings will be published in an upcoming issue of Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science.

"We found that older adults are better at evaluating the immediate and delayed benefits of each option they choose from. They are better at creating strategies in response to the environment," says Darrell Worthy, of Texas A&M University, who conducted the study with Marissa Gorlick, Jennifer Pacheco, David Schnyer, and Todd Maddox, all at the University of Texas at Austin.


groups of older (ages 60 to early 80s) and younger (college-age)


"The younger adults were better when only the immediate rewards needed to be considered," says Worthy. "But the second experiment required developing a theory about how rewards in the environment were structured. The more experience you have in this, the better you are better at it."

The psychologists conjecture that these results are related to the ways we use our brains as we age. Younger people's choice making relies on the ventral striatum, which is related to habitual, reflexive learning and immediate rewards: impulsivity. But as this portion of the brain declines, older adults compensate by using their pre-frontal cortices, where more rational, deliberative thinking is controlled.

"More broadly, our findings suggest that older adults have learned a number of heuristics" -- reasoning methods -- "from their vast decision-making experience," says Worthy. Another word for this, which the psychologists use in their title, is wisdom. For older people, it may be nice to know that this sometimes-undervalued asset has been ratified in the lab.


Image of Irene

Satellite images updated every 30 minutes. I believe this is a good use of our tax dollars, to monitor the weather.


Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Confirmation That Vitamin D Acts as a Protective Agent Against the Advance of Colon Cancer

ScienceDaily (Aug. 23, 2011) — A study conducted by VHIO researchers confirms that a lack of vitamin D increases the aggressiveness of colon cancer.

The indication that vitamin D and its derivatives have a protective effect against various types of cancer is not new. In the field of colon cancer, numerous experimental and epidemiological studies show that vitamin D3 (or cholecalciferol) and some of its derivatives inhibit the growth of cancerous cells. Researchers at the Vall d'Hebron Institute of Oncology (VHIO), in collaboration with the Alberto Sols Institute of Biomedical Research (CSIC-UAB), have confirmed the pivotal role of vitamin D, specifically its receptor (VDR), in slowing down the action of a key protein in the carcinogenic transformation process of colon cancer cells. The


The study was conducted on mice and human colon cancer cells. The mice were used as a model to replicate the initial phases of colon cancer. "These findings show that mice of this kind, which also lack the VDR and hence do not respond to vitamin D, present larger and more aggressive tumours than mice with the VDR", explains Dr. Palmer, and concludes: "The number of tumours is not influenced by the absence of VDR, which would indicate that this factor does not protect against the appearance of the tumour but does intervene in its growth phase, reducing its aggressiveness."


In light of these findings, chronic vitamin D deficiency represents a risk factor in the development of more aggressive colon tumours. Patients in the initial stages of colon cancer, the time when the VDR still has a substantial presence in the cells, could benefit from being treated with vitamin D3. However, this would not be useful in the advanced stages of the disease when the presence of the VDR is very much reduced.

The study data support the development of anti-tumour medicines based on the structure of vitamin D, although their use in patients will require further research in the next few years.

The body not only obtains vitamin D from food, especially milk and fish oils, but also manufactures it from exposure to sunlight. Prolonged exposure is not necessary; just 10 minutes in the sun every day when it is not at its peak is sufficient to stimulate its production. During the summer, when we are more likely to sunbathe, it is important to use the appropriate protective measures against sunburn to avoid future sun damage. Use high-factor solar protection products and do not expose the skin to the sun in the middle of the day to protect against skin cancers.


Why Rick Perry’s War On The 16th Amendment Is The Third Prong Of His War On Seniors

By Ian Millhiser on Aug 23, 2011 at 12:30 pm

Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) is taking a lot of well-deserved criticism for his absurd claims that Medicare and Social Security violate the Constitution. But these are hardly the only part of Perry’s constitutional agenda, which seem designed to inflict unnecessary cruelty on America’s seniors. Perry also wants to repeal the federal government’s 16th Amendment authority to enact income taxes and replace it with a tax system that would slash millions of Americans life savings:

Perry declares that the 16th Amendment represents “the great milestone on the road to serfdom” because it represented “the birth of wealth redistribution in the United States.”

Perry clearly states that “we should restrict the unlimited source of revenue that the federal government has used to grow beyond its constitutionally prescribed powers.” How? Here’s what Perry suggests, in addition to scrapping the current tax code:

Another option would be to repeal the 16th Amendment to the Constitution (providing the power for the income tax) altogether, and then pursue an alternative model of taxation such as a national sales tax or the Fair Tax.

There are countless problems with Perry’s national sales tax proposal (“Fair Tax” is just a more Orwellian term for the national sales tax), but one of the biggest problems is its impact on seniors or anyone else with significant life savings. Perry’s plan would require millions of Americans to be taxed twice on much of the money they have saved for retirement.

Imagine that you earn $10,000, and are required to pay 25 percent income tax on those earnings. That means that you are left with $7,500 that you are free to spend or save however you choose. If Perry gets his way, however, Congress will suddenly enact a massive new sales tax after you have already paid income taxes on your earnings. The result is that every single one of your $7,500 will be taxed again when you make a purchase — causing nearly one in three dollars in your savings to be eaten up by sales taxes. Thanks to Rick Perry, you are left with only about $5,000 of your original $10,000 in income.

Admittedly, there are ways to temporarily shield retirement savings from taxation, but few if any Americans will be able to shield their entire savings and still be able to maintain the flexibility they need to live their lives. As a result, Rick Perry’s double tax will eviscerate the savings that millions of American seniors depend upon. Add to this the fact that Perry also believes that Social Security and Medicare are unconstitutional, and it is unclear how he expects any but the wealthiest seniors to pay their medical bills and continue to put food on their tables.