Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Why It’s So Important to Keep Moving

February 29, 2012, 12:01 am


in the current study, which was published this month in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, the scientists created a more realistic version of inactivity by having their volunteers cut the number of steps they took each day by at least half.


During these three days, according to data from their glucose monitors, the volunteers’ blood sugar did not spike after they ate.

But that estimable condition changed during the second portion of the experiment, when the volunteers were told to cut back on activity so that their step counts would fall below 5,000 a day for the next three days.


And there were changes. During the three days of inactivity, volunteers’ blood sugar levels spiked significantly after meals, with the peaks increasing by about 26 percent compared with when the volunteers were exercising and moving more. What’s more, the peaks grew slightly with each successive day.



Sugar makes up 16% of kids' daily diet

February 29th, 2012

It’s not a shocker: Kids eat lots of sugar.

About 16% of their daily calories come from sugar, according to a new report released Wednesday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Health Statistics.

By sugar the report means sugars in processed foods like soda, cakes and ice cream. It also includes sweet substitutes like corn syrup, high fructose corn syrup, malt syrup, fructose sweetener, honey, molasses, anhydrous dextrose, crystal dextrose and dextrin.

About 66% of sugary foods were consumed at home, according to the report. This means that the vast majority of kids get their sugar fix at their houses rather than school cafeterias, convenience stores or vending machines.

White males were more likely to consume the largest percent of sugar, compared with black or Hispanic males. The same trend was true for white females, although the differences in the percentages were lesser than those seen among boys.


Feds Arrest Mansion Dweller In Servant Case

FEBRUARY 29--A New York woman who lives in a 34-room, 30,000-square-foot mansion is facing a federal criminal charge related to her employment of an illegal alien who allegedly served as a domestic servant in a “forced labor situation” that included her working 17-hour days, seven days a week, and sleeping in a walk-in closet.

Acting on a tip received by the National Human Trafficking Resource Center, federal immigration agents last year removed the servant from the 12-acre estate (pictured below) on the Mohawk River in Rexford, a hamlet 20 miles north of Albany.

A subsequent criminal investigation determined that the woman--who barely spoke English and came from the Kerala state in India--was paid about 85 cents an hour during the 67 months she worked for Annie George and her husband (who died in a plane crash in mid-2009).

The servant, identified only as “V.M.” in a court filing, cooked for the George family, cleaned the sprawling mansion, and cared for the couple’s five children.

The George estate has a helicopter pad, an indoor swimming pool, 15 fireplaces, Scandinavian marble flooring, a four-story solarium, 24-karat gold gilded ceilings, a glass elevator, and an array of other features. Before his death, George’s husband listed the residence for sale at $30 million.

According to a criminal complaint filed Monday against Annie George, 39, the servant entered the U.S. on a non immigrant visa in 1998 to work for the family of a United Nations employee. She began working for the Georges in late-2005 after being offered about $1000 per month, a substantial pay increase.

In reality, “V.M” received sporadic minimal payments from the Georges. A U.S. District Court complaint estimates that the servant received about $29,000 over the five-and-a-half years she worked for the family.


The servant told federal agents that she received no personal or sick time while employed by the Georges, nor was she afforded any dental or medical treatment. She had to sleep in a closet in a bedroom shared by the family’s three daughters, the complaint alleges, because “Annie George required that V.M. be near the children at night.”



Inherited Epigenetics Produced Record Fast Evolution

ScienceDaily (Feb. 29, 2012) — The domestication of chickens has given rise to rapid and extensive changes in genome function. A research team at Linköping University in Sweden has established that the changes are heritable, although they do not affect the DNA structure.


Degrees of a kind of epigenetic modification, DNA methylation, were measured in several thousand genes. This is a chemical alteration of the DNA molecule that can affect gene expression, but unlike a mutation it does not appear in the DNA structure. The results show clear differences in hundreds of genes.

Researchers also examined whether the epigenetic differences were hereditary. The answer was yes; the chickens inherited both methylation and gene activity from their parentages. After eight generations of cross breeding the two types of chickens, the differences were still evident.


Since methylation is a much faster process than random mutations, and may occur as a result of stress and other experiences, this may explain how variation within a species can increase so dramatically in just a short time.


Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Cannabis: The Good, the Evil, the Ugly

ScienceDaily (Feb. 28, 2012) — Cannabis-like substances that are produced by the body have both therapeutic and harmful properties, besides their well-known intoxicating effects, and the body's cannabinoid system may be a target for new strategies in cancer treatment. This is what Sofia Gustafsson finds in the dissertation she recently defended at Umeå University in Sweden.


In summary, the findings of Sofia Gustafsson's studies show that cannabinoids can be toxic for cancer cells as well as for nerve cells, and that they decrease embryonal survival. These findings are important for our knowledge both of the potential of the cannabinoid system as a target system for new strategies in cancer treatment and of the risks of new drugs, such as Spice, on nerve development.


Cold Air Chills Heart's Oxygen Supply, Making Snow Shoveling Dangerous for Some People

ScienceDaily (Feb. 28, 2012) — People with heart disease may not be able to compensate for their bodies' higher demand for oxygen when inhaling cold air, according to Penn State researchers, making snow shoveling and other activities dangerous for some.



University of Virginia Football Player Goes On Hunger Strike To Get Living Wage For University Employees

By Travis Waldron posted from ThinkProgress Economy on Feb 27, 2012 at 8:05 pm

Joseph Williams moved more than 30 times as a child, living in homeless shelters, church basements, and the homes of family friends. Now Williams, a junior safety on the University of Virginia football team, is taking up a cause supporting the contract workers who are barely making enough to get by.

Williams is one of 18 Virginia students participating in a hunger strike — now more than a week long — to protest the poor wages paid to many of the university’s contracted service employees. The strike, organized by the school’s Living Wage Campaign, began on February 17 with the goal of getting a living wage for underpaid employees. “I know first-hand what the economic struggle is like for many of these underpaid workers,” Williams wrote in an essay explaining his participation:

In failing to implement a living wage for its lowest paid employees, the University of Virginia has also failed to uphold the moral standards to which it holds its students. We are engaging in this hunger strike to call attention to the administration’s moral hypocrisy and to finally produce results in the form of a Living Wage. Although I am exhausted, hungry, dry-mouthed, and emotionally taxed, I believe it is my responsibility as a member of the University community, and even more as a member of the human race, to stand up and speak for those whose voices have been silenced and whose livelihoods are marginalized by the policies of the current University administration.

Williams decried the pay disparity between “hundreds of contract workers who may make as little as $7.25/hour” and the university’s top administrators. According to the essay, six of the state’s 10 highest-paid employees are administrators at Virginia. Williams also told the story of one employee who, despite working 40 hours a week, couldn’t afford to pay rent or utility bills.



Analysis: Stock Returns Are Significantly Higher When A Democrat Is President

By Pat Garofalo posted from ThinkProgress Economy on Feb 28, 2012 at 10:10 am

The stock market has been flirting with 13,000 for days, a level at which it has not closed since 2008. As ThinkProgress’ Scott Keyes reported, Republicans have been at pains to explain why President Obama deserves no credit for the Dow’s rebound (even though the GOP was quite willing to blame Obama when the Dow tanked in 2008 and 2009).

But as it turns out, Obama is not the only Democratic President under whom the stock market has done well for investors. A Bloomberg Government report shows that since the 1960′s, stocks have done significantly better under Democratic administrations than under Republican ones:

The BGOV Barometer shows that, over the five decades since John F. Kennedy was inaugurated, $1,000 invested in a hypothetical fund that tracks the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index (SPX) only when Democrats are in the White House would have been worth $10,920 at the close of trading yesterday.

That’s more than nine times the dollar return an investor would have realized from following a similar strategy during Republican administrations. A $1,000 stake invested in a fund that followed the S&P 500 under Republican presidents, starting with Richard Nixon, would have grown to $2,087 on the day George W. Bush left office.

Even eliminating the best stock performance under a Democrat, which occurred under President Clinton, and the worst under a Republican, which was under President George W. Bush, the Democrats still come out ahead.



Romney 's Cross-Party Primary Vote In 1992

By Josh Israel on Feb 28, 2012 at 10:57 am

In 1992, Republican Mitt Romney voted in a Democratic primary, backing former Massachusetts Sen. Paul Tsongas for the Democratic presidential nomination. He said he did so because he wanted to “vote for the person who I thought would be the weakest opponent for the Republican.”

Romney is now railing against the Santorum campaign for trying to get traditional Democratic voters to cross-over and vote in the Republican primary. Romney has called this a “terrible dirty trick” and an “attempt to kidnap the primary process.”



Occupy DC Helps Grandmother Avoid Eviction, Stay In Her Home

By Alex Seitz-Wald posted from ThinkProgress Economy on Feb 28, 2012 at 1:25 pm

An hour after Occupy DC protesters organized a rally outside Freddie Mac’s offices in downtown Washington, DC yesterday on behalf of a Maryland resident facing eviction, the mortgage giant announced that it had developed plan to keep her in her home.

Bertina Jones, of Prince George’s county, a suburb of DC, was “a perfect example of a woman who was making her payments, and they still foreclosed on her,” said Maryland Legal Aid Bureau’s Vicki King Taitano, who is helping Jones. Jones, a grandmother and accountant, got a mortgage modification in 2009 from Bank of America, “but the bank repeatedly lost the accompanying documents” and Freddie Mac bought the house at 2010 in a foreclosure auction.


Jones’ case also shows how difficult it can be for people to fight mortgage providers — Jones is an accountant who seemed to work hard and do everything right, but still faced eviction. “I’m glad I stood up and fought,” Jones said. “I hope more homeowners will join us. I’m not an icon, I’m just a homeowner trying to save her home.”


America’s Top Magazines: Still Not Hiring Women

By Alyssa Rosenberg posted from ThinkProgress Alyssa on Feb 28, 2012 at 4:40 pm

Vida, an organization devoted to examination and discussion of the roles women play in literature, has released its latest survey of the articles and reviews published by women in major magazines in 2011, and the results aren’t encouraging.

Of articles published by The Atlantic in 2011, 64 were by women and 184 were by men. In the Boston Review, the ratio was 60 to 131; in Harper’s, 13 to 65; in the London Review of Books 30 to 186; in The New Republic, 50 to 118; in the New York Review of Books a truly embarrassing 19 to 133; the New Yorker published 165 stories by women to 459 by men; and the New York Times Book Review printed 273 articles by women to 520 by men. The Nation, ostensibly a progressive publication, published 118 articles by women and 293 by men. Granta’s the only publication that’s close to parity—in fact, it published slightly more pieces by women than by men, 34 to 30.



Alabama Denies DNA Test To Potentially Innocent Man On Death Row

This is simply evil.

By Ian Millhiser on Feb 28, 2012 at 5:40 pm

Andrew Cohen chronicles the many uncertainties in Alabama’s case against Thomas Arthur, who was convicted of murder three decades ago and is scheduled to be executed next month. They include a key witness who recanted and then unrecanted her testimony, another man who admitted to committing the murder, and a wig containing DNA evidence that likely belongs to the real killer.

Alabama, however, refuses to allow this evidence to be tested even though it would cost the state nothing to do so:


Arthur’s attorneys are even willing to pay for that testing, the few thousand bucks it would be, and the testing could be completed by the execution date. It is here where prosecutors and judges lose me when they prioritize “finality” in capital punishment cases at the expense of “accuracy.” It would cost Alabama nothing to let Arthur’s lawyers do the testing. And it might solve a case that already has cost the state millions of dollars. Instead, Alabama wants to finally solve its Arthur problem by executing him. No matter how the new DNA test could come out, the state is more interested in defending its dubious conviction.

Alabama can thank the five conservatives on the Supreme Court for its ability to deny Arthur an opportunity to prove his innocence. In 2009, a 5-4 Supreme Court denied a similar DNA test to a potentially innocent man in Alaska.


Solving problems

We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them. - Einstein


Wealthy, motivated by greed, are more likely to cheat, study finds,0,5965885.story

By Eryn Brown, Los Angeles Times

February 27, 2012, 7:07 p.m.
The rich really are different from the rest of us, scientists have found — they are more apt to commit unethical acts because they are more motivated by greed.

People driving expensive cars were more likely than other motorists to cut off drivers and pedestrians at a four-way-stop intersection in the San Francisco Bay Area, UC Berkeley researchers observed. Those findings led to a series of experiments that revealed that people of higher socioeconomic status were also more likely to cheat to win a prize, take candy from children and say they would pocket extra change handed to them in error rather than give it back.

Because rich people have more financial resources, they're less dependent on social bonds for survival, the Berkeley researchers reported Monday in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. As a result, their self-interest reigns and they have fewer qualms about breaking the rules.


But before those in the so-called 99% start feeling ethically superior, consider this: Piff and his colleagues also discovered that anyone's ethical standards could be prone to slip if they suddenly won the lottery and joined the top 1%.


In earlier studies, Piff documented that wealthy people were less likely to act generously than relatively impoverished people.


But rather than vilify the wealthy, Piff said, he hopes his work leads to policies that help bridge the gap between the haves and have-nots.

Acts as simple as watching a movie about childhood poverty seem to encourage people of all classes to help others in need, he said.


Warming Arctic Fuels Cold Surges and Snowy Winters, Yet Another Study Finds

By Joe Romm on Feb 28, 2012 at 1:22 pm

A new study led by the Georgia Institute of Technology provides further evidence of a relationship between melting ice in the Arctic regions and widespread cold outbreaks in the Northern Hemisphere….

Since the level of Arctic sea ice set a new record low in 2007, significantly above-normal winter snow cover has been seen in large parts of the northern United States, northwestern and central Europe, and northern and central China. During the winters of 2009-2010 and 2010-2011, the Northern Hemisphere measured its second and third largest snow cover levels on record.

“Our study demonstrates that the decrease in Arctic sea ice area is linked to changes in the winter Northern Hemisphere atmospheric circulation,” said Judith Curry, chair of the School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences at Georgia Tech. “The circulation changes result in more frequent episodes of atmospheric blocking patterns, which lead to increased cold surges and snow over large parts of the northern continents.”

That’s from the news release of an NASA- and NSF-funded study in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, “Impact of declining Arctic sea ice on winter snowfall.”

I think Curry’s use of the phrase “cold surges” is important. Although there have definitely been some major cold blasts, our winters aren’t actually getting colder — see the 10/11 Climate Progress post, “Last Two Winters’ Warm Extremes More Severe Than Their Cold Snaps, Study Finds.” And that’s without counting this winter. Of course, winters are just going to keep getting warmer globally — so I think some of the reporting on this study has been a tad misleading.

The point is that it now appears over the next couple of decades, the gradual rate of warming will not be able to overcome the occasional incredible winter cold surges fueled by the loss of Arctic ic. This is particularly true if, as I and others have argued, we’re going to see continued rapid ice loss in the next decade (see “The New Arctic Abnormal: Record Low Sea Ice Volume, Area and Extent*” and “The death spiral continues“).



Sunday, February 26, 2012

Theory of the 'Rotting' Y Chromosome Dealt a Fatal Blow

ScienceDaily (Feb. 22, 2012) — If you were to discover that a fundamental component of human biology has survived virtually intact for the past 25 million years, you'd be quite confident in saying that it is here to stay.

Such is the case for a team of Whitehead Institute scientists, whose latest research on the evolution of the human Y chromosome confirms that the Y -- despite arguments to the contrary -- has a long, healthy future ahead of it.

Proponents of the so-called rotting Y theory have been predicting the eventual extinction of the Y chromosome since it was first discovered that the Y has lost hundreds of genes over the past 300 million years. The rotting Y theorists have assumed this trend is ongoing, concluding that inevitably, the Y will one day be utterly devoid of its genetic content.



Cat named Pudding rescues owner hours after his adoption

By Laura T. Coffey updated 2/23/2012 9:47:43 PM ET

Pudding the cat is big. He is orange. He is laid-back. And he’s a lifesaver.

Just ask Amy Jung. The 36-year-old Wisconsin resident credits 21-pound Pudding with saving her from the grip of diabetic seizure mere hours after she adopted him from a local animal shelter.

“If something or someone hadn’t pulled me out of that, I wouldn’t be here,” Jung told the Green Bay Press-Gazette newspaper.



Saturday, February 25, 2012

Investigation Links Deaths to Paint-Stripping Chemical

ScienceDaily (Feb. 23, 2012) — The deaths of at least 13 workers who were refinishing bathtubs have been linked to a chemical used in products to strip surfaces of paint and other finishes.

An investigation started by researchers at Michigan State University in 2011 has found that 13 deaths since 2000 -- including three in Michigan -- involved the use of paint-stripping products containing methylene chloride, a highly volatile, colorless and toxic chemical that is widely used as a degreaser and paint stripper. The chemical, in addition to being used in industrial settings, is available in many over-the-counter products sold at home improvement stores.

"To use products containing methylene chloride safely, work areas must be well-ventilated, and when levels of methylene chloride exceed recommended exposure limits, workers must use protective equipment," said Kenneth Rosenman, chief of MSU's Division of Occupational and Environmental Medicine in the College of Human Medicine. "In a small bathroom, it is unlikely these products can be used safely."



CFC Substitutes: Good for the Ozone Layer, Bad for Climate?

ScienceDaily (Feb. 24, 2012) — The Montreal Protocol led to a global phase-out of most substances that deplete the ozone layer, such as chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs). A happy side-effect of the gradual ban of these products is that Earth's climate has also benefited because CFCs are also potent greenhouse gases. However, now a "rebound effect" threatens to accelerate the rate of global warming.



The Increase in Household Debt Prior to the Crisis is Not a Moral Issue

Friday, February 24, 2012

Via Mike Konczal at Rortybomb, Josh Mason explains the findings of his research with Arjun Jayadev on the dynamics of household debt. Importantly, this research knocks a hole in the story that it was lack of self control -- the decline of the morals of the middle class -- that caused the increase in household debt prior to the financial crisis (the original article also has the mathematics and empirical tables explaining and documenting the results):

Guest Post by JW Mason: The Dynamics of Household Debt: [Mike here. ... Josh Mason ... and Arjun Jayadev, former Roosevelt Institute fellow and economist at Umass-Boston, have an interesting new paper out on the growth of household debt over the past 30 years. I asked them if they would write a summary of this research..., and Josh was willing...]

It’s a well-known fact that household debt has exploded in recent decades, rising from 50 percent of GDP in 1980 to over 100 percent on the eve of the Great Recession. It’s also well-known that household borrowing has increased sharply over this period. ... In fact, though,... while the first one is certainly true, the second is not.

How can debt have increased if borrowing hasn’t? Though this seems counterintuitive, the answer is simple. We’re not interested in debt per se, but in leverage, defined as the ratio of a sector’s or unit’s debt to its income (or net worth). This ratio can go up because the numerator rises, or because the denominator falls. Household leverage increased sharply, for instance, in 1930 and 1931 (see Figure 1) but people weren’t were consuming more in the Depression; leverage rose because incomes and prices were falling faster than households could pay down debt. Similarly, changes in interest rates can change the debt burden without any shift in household consumption...

But strangely, despite the example of the Depression (and Irving Fisher’s famous diagnosis of rising debt burdens caused by falling prices and incomes (Fisher 1933)), no one has systematically examined what fraction of changes in private debt can be attributed to changes in interest, growth, inflation and new borrowing. In a new paper, Arjun Jayadev and I attempt to fill this gap, applying the standard decomposition of public sector debt changes to household debt in the United States for the period 1929-2011. (Mason and Jayadev, 2012.) Our findings challenge the conventional narrative about rising household debt.

What we find is that the entire increase in household leverage after 1980 can be attributed to the non-borrowing... — what we call Fisher dynamics. If interest rates, growth and inflation over 1981-2011 had remained at their average levels of the previous 30 years, then the exact same spending decisions by households would have resulted in a debt-to-income ratio in 2010 below that of 1980, as shown in Figure 2.


'Storm of the Century' May Become 'Storm of the Decade'

ScienceDaily (Feb. 23, 2012) — As the Earth's climate changes, the worst inundations from hurricanes and tropical storms could become far more common in low-lying coastal areas, a new study suggests. Researchers from Princeton University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology found that regions such as the New York City metropolitan area that currently experience a disastrous flood every century could instead become submerged every one or two decades.



Are You Making Your Spring Allergies Worse?

ScienceDaily (Feb. 24, 2012) — Fruits and veggies, air filters, spring breezes, procrastination and self-medication -- each can delay relief from a stuffy nose, sneezing, sniffling or other symptoms if you're one of the more than 35 million Americans who suffer from seasonal allergies.


Many people with seasonal allergies also suffer from pollen food allergy syndrome (also called oral allergy syndrome), a cross-reaction between the similar proteins in certain types of fruits, vegetables (and some nuts) and the allergy-causing pollen. One in five people with grass allergies and as many as 70 percent of people with birch tree allergies suffer from the condition, which can make your lips tingle and swell and your mouth itch. The trick is to determine which problematic produce is causing your symptoms and then avoid eating it, (although you might be able to eat it if it's peeled, cooked or canned). If you're allergic to birch or alder trees, you might have a reaction to celery, cherries or apples. If you have grass allergies, tomatoes, potatoes or peaches may bother you. Usually the reaction is simply annoying and doesn't last long. But up to 9 percent of people have reactions that affect a part of their body beyond their mouth and 1.7 percent can suffer a life-threatening allergic reaction called anaphylactic shock. If you've had a systemic reaction, you should see an allergist and ask whether you should carry injectable epinephine.



Two New Blood Types Identified

ScienceDaily (Feb. 23, 2012) — You probably know your blood type: A, B, AB or O. You may even know if you're Rhesus positive or negative. But how about the Langereis blood type? Or the Junior blood type? Positive or negative? Most people have never even heard of these.

et this knowledge could be "a matter of life and death," says University of Vermont biologist Bryan Ballif.

While blood transfusion problems due to Langereis and Junior blood types are rare worldwide, several ethnic populations are at risk, Ballif notes. "More than 50,000 Japanese are thought to be Junior negative and may encounter blood transfusion problems or mother-fetus incompatibility," he writes.


Beyond the ABO blood type and the Rhesus (Rh) blood type, the International Blood Transfusion Society recognizes twenty-eight additional blood types with names like Duffy, Kidd, Diego and Lutheran. But Langereis and Junior have not been on this list. Although the antigens for the Junior and Langereis (or Lan) blood types were identified decades ago in pregnant women having difficulties carrying babies with incompatible blood types, the genetic basis of these antigens has been unknown until now.

Therefore, "very few people learn if they are Langereis or Junior positive or negative," Ballif says.



Training Parents Is Good Medicine for Children With Autism Behavior Problems, Study Suggests

ScienceDaily (Feb. 24, 2012) — Children with autism spectrum disorders who also have serious behavioral problems responded better to medication combined with training for their parents than to treatment with medication alone, Yale researchers and their colleagues report in the February issue of Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry.



Bush-Appointed Judge Strikes Down Washington Law Protecting Access To Birth Control

By Ian Millhiser posted from ThinkProgress Justice on Feb 24, 2012 at 1:15 pm

Yesterday, a George W. Bush appointed judge declared unconstitutional a Washington state law that, among other things, requires pharmacies to dispense birth control and emergency contraception. While it’s not impossible that the law should be blocked on very narrow grounds, Judge Ronald Leighton’s opinion overreaches in ways that could undermine many efforts to protect women’s health and potentially render religious objectors immune to the rule of law.

This lawsuit was brought by pharmacies and pharmacists who objected to dispensing emergency contraception on religious grounds



Open and closed primaries

To find out whether a state has open or closed primaries, click the following link


petition the president to Eliminate Diebold Voting Machines From ALL Voting Booths Nationwide

If you would like to sign a petition to for the U.S. to stop using Diebold voting machines, which can be hacked to give invalid results, please click on the following link:

For far too long now the fact that Diebold voting machine have been responsible for voter tallies being manipulated enabling the outcomes of our elections to be tampered with. We The People want and demand fair elections that cannot be tampered with in order to allow the votes of our citizens to determine who our government leaders will be. There is no doubt that this coming November election season is the most important election in decades which will decide the future of our country. Every vote must be counted without incidents arising out of these manipulations and We The People do not trust Diebold in light of their past failures to provide true voting tabulations with their falable voting machines.

As discovered by: Ariel J. Feldman, J. Alex Halderman, and Edward W. Felten of Princeton University who have stated the following.



From the comments:

As a poll inspector in FL in 2004 I saw just how vulnerable these machines are as I had three of them thrown out in Broward County because they were tabulating Republican candidates even when the voter voted for a Democrat. Diebold is a criminal corporation controlled by the criminal Republican oligarchs


The Consequences Of The War On Women And Romney’s Cadillacs

By Sarah Jones Feb. 24, 2012

For your late night snack I offer a few tidbits of amusing video. The first is Mitt Romney being EveryMan, telling Michiganders (in an almost empty stadium) how he and his wife love American cars — so much that he drives two of them and his wife has a “couple of Cadillacs”! Way to keep it real, Mitt-let-Detroit-die.


And next, we have a Republican (Dave Albo) representative moaning on the floor about how his wife wouldn’t have sex with him after she watched Rachel Maddow tell the world that he has pushed for transvaginal ultra sounds. He wants an apology for being a douchebag. Who is going to tell him that God is very sorry that she sometimes makes mistakes like him, but it can’t be helped as she gave him a heart and a brain and he chose not to use these gifts?



The Value of a Person

"The labor of a human being is not a commodity or article of commerce. You can't weigh the soul of a man with a bar of pig-iron."
-Samuel Gompers (First President of the AF of L)


Friday, February 24, 2012

Music In The Goldilocks Zone

February 24, 2012
by Alva Noë

Music is a lot like clothing. We like our jeans pre-worn. When it comes to music, we like the familiar unfamiliar. That is, we like things we've never heard before that sound like things we have heard before. If the music is too familiar, it's dull. But if it is genuinely new, if it really is novel, then it is obnoxious.

We are attracted to music in the Goldilocks Zone, as it has been called.



Phone hacking: News of the World bosses ordered emails to be deleted

News of the World is owned by Rupert Murdoch, who owns Fox "News" (which many of us refer to as Faux News)

By Gordon Rayner and Mark Hughes 9:30PM GMT 23 Feb 2012

New evidence of a cover-up of phone hacking at the News of the World has been disclosed in court documents, which show the company created a policy to delete emails which could be used against it in legal proceedings.

The documents, released to The Daily Telegraph by a High Court judge, says the policy’s stated aim was “to eliminate in a consistent manner” emails that “could be unhelpful in the context of future litigation in which a News International company is a defendant”.

Hundreds of thousands of emails were deleted “on nine separate occasions”, computers were destroyed and one senior executive told an underling to remove seven boxes of paper records relating to them from the company’s storage facility.



The Shrinking Service: Why Are Post Offices Closing?

Story Published: Feb 21, 2012 at 6:35 PM EST Story Updated: Feb 22, 2012 at 1:01 PM EST

7 News reporter John Moore spent the last month assessing what the loss of post offices means in northern New York, and the reasons for the Postal Service's difficulties.

What emerged is a more complex picture of the Postal Service's woes, one that is not consistent with the popular image of wasteful government spending or a business model doomed to failure.

Most importantly, a 2006 law passed by Congress appears to have crippled the Postal Service's finances. That law required the Postal Service to 'pre-pay' employee benefits for many years into the future, a decision that cost the Postal Service billions of dollars.

It leaves people inside the system scratching their heads.

"That is to say, an employee or a child was born 20 years from now, will hopefully retire in 35 years, we have to pay for their health benefits for when they retire, today," said Ken Montgomery, the head of the letter carriers union in Rochester.

"I think if the mandate was never imposed, the postal service would be operating right about break-even like we had been in 2006," Edward Phalen, the Postal Service manager for upstate New York said. "Possibly even had somewhat of a profitability."

To be sure, the internet has affected the Postal Service, as it has most things. But if you go back only five years, to 2006, the Postal Service moved a record 213 billion pieces of mail. The internet was already a dominating, world changing force at that point.

The recession was a truer turning point for the Postal Service, officials say. As business worsened, the volume of mail dropped dramatically.



Thursday, February 23, 2012

Ex-Marine Arrested In California For Protesting Bank Foreclosure On His Home, Now Faces Imminent Eviction

By Travis Waldron posted from ThinkProgress Economy on Feb 22, 2012 at 1:10 pm

More than 200 protesters have been fighting to save the home of Arturo de los Santos, an ex-Marine who went into foreclosure after Chase Bank advised him to skip payments to speed up a loan modification he never received. In early February, amid rumors that Riverside, California sheriff’s deputies could serve papers on the home at any time, organizers from the Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment and other groups surrounded the home, and de los Santos petitioned the sheriff to prevent eviction.



New product allows you to explore record-setting extreme weather

Posted by: angelafritz, 6:14 PM GMT on February 23, 2012

We've launched a new extreme weather product this week: Record Extremes. Recent, globally record-setting years have demanded a product that combines U.S. and international record extremes into one, easy to use interface. The Record Extremes page will give you the option to see U.S. and international records on a map and table. You can select any combination of record types at once, which, combined with the map, provides a interesting visual way to investigate record-setting events. The product uses data from three sources: (1) NOAA's National Climate Data Center, (2) Wunderground's U.S. records, and (3) Wunderground's International records.



More States Plan To Divert Foreclosure Fraud Settlement Money Away From Helping Homeowners

Well, Republicans are against earmarks, so this will happen.

By Pat Garofalo on Feb 23, 2012 at 9:30 am

Already, three states have announced plans to divert some of their share of the $26 billion foreclosure fraud settlement with the nation’s five biggest banks away from helping homeowners (which is the money’s intended purpose), and towards other parts of their respective budgets. Wisconsin and Missouri are planning to use the money to plug budget holes, while Ohio wants to use the funding to demolish vacant homes.

And those states are evidently not the only ones planning to use the settlement funds for something other than helping troubled homeowners, as the Associated Press noted:



Big business gives more to Republicans

By Josh Israel and Scott Keyes on Feb 23, 2012 at 11:30 am


Even after the Citizens United ruling, businesses cannot donate directly to federal candidates, but corporate political action committees and executives give millions to political candidates — predominantly Republicans. The political action committee for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which calls itself “the world’s largest business organization,” has given 78 percent of its donations this cycle to Republicans — down from 88 percent in 2010. And another arm of the organization is currently orchestrating a $10 million “issue ad” campaign aiding almost exclusively Republican incumbents and candidates.

According to the non-partisan Center for Responsive Politics, contributors from the financial sector have given over $182 million so far this cycle: 52.8 percent to Republicans, 32.5 percent to Democrats. Of those, the ones identified as part of the securities and investment sector — the very “Big Wall Street” donors Santorum referenced — have favored Republicans by about a two-to-one ratio. Other sectors, including health (54.8 percent GOP), energy (70.1 percent GOP), and defense (61.1 percent GOP) similarly contradicted Santorum’s premise.

And these figures do not include any of the millions of dollars big business tycoons and billionaire investors have given to Republican-allied super PACs — including two million dollar donors to the pro-Santorum Red, White & Blue Fund.

The truth is that businesses interests tend to give some money to each party and their donations tend to coincide partially with who controls the most seats in Congress (currently, the Republicans). But with Wall Street and the business community likely to spend record sums to stop President Barack Obama’s consumer protections, the Republicans may be more the party of Big Business than usual.



Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Once again, speculators behind sharply rising oil and gasoline prices Read more here:

By Kevin G. Hall | McClatchy Newspapers Posted on Tuesday, February 21, 2012


On Tuesday, oil rose past $106 a barrel and gasoline averaged $3.57 a gallon — thanks again in no small part to rampant financial speculation on top of fears of supply disruptions.

The ostensible reason for the climb of crude prices on the New York Mercantile Exchange, where contracts for future delivery of oil are traded, is growing fear of a military confrontation with Iran in the

Read more here:


Persian Gulf's Strait of Hormuz, through which 20 percent of the world's oil passes.

Other factors driving up prices include last month's bankruptcy of Petroplus, a big European refiner, and a recent BP refinery fire in Washington state that's temporarily crimped gasoline supply along the West Coast; gas now costs an average of $4.04 a gallon in California.

While tension over Iran has ratcheted up over the last few months, the price of oil and gasoline has leaped far beyond conventional supply and demand variables. Financial speculators are piling into the market, torquing the Iranian fear factor into ever-higher prices.

"Speculation is now part of the DNA of oil prices. You cannot separate the two anymore. There is no demarcation," said Fadel Gheit, a 30-year veteran of energy markets and an analyst at Oppenheimer & Co. "I still remain convinced oil prices are inflated."



What's Behind The Recent Hike In Gas Prices?

I heard this on the radio this afternoon. They also discussed whether or not it might affect the presidential election. I didn't see any mention of the fact that the oil companies have paid off the Republican candidates to deny the reality of global warming. So it's in the interest of oil industry for there to be conditions that might adversely affect President Obama's chances of getting re-elected. And there was no mention of a previous gasoline shortage which drove up prices, and turned out to be caused by speculators. I have to admit, when people were first claiming that, I thougt they were being paranoid. Of course, NPR gets corporate donations from big oil companies.

February 22, 2012

Oil prices have jumped sharply in the past two weeks, and the price of gasoline is also moving up. Across the country, a gallon of regular costs nearly $3.60 on average, with some areas facing $4 gas. That's causing sticker shock at the pump, and concern that rising prices could derail the economic recovery.

According to Daniel Yergin of Cambridge Energy Research Associates, gas prices are up because of the West's current confrontation with Iran and sanctions over that country's nuclear program.

"Right now the market focus is on a tightening of supply, because the whole direction of these policies is to do one thing, which is to reduce Iran's ability to export oil," Yergin says.

That's driven crude oil prices in the U.S. to around $106 a barrel. But Fadel Gheit, senior energy analyst at the investment firm Oppenheimer and Co., says there's an even bigger reason than Iran.

"The supply of gasoline has been declining," Gheit says. "We have 700,000 barrels of refining capacity [that were shut down] in the last three months. That is almost 5 percent of U.S. gasoline production ... now offline."

Energy analyst Phil Verleger says that's an amazing drop in refining capacity.

"I've been following the industry since 1971," he says, "and never in my life have I seen so many refineries close all at once."


"Because the global market is much more lucrative than the domestic market, for the first time in our history we are not importing gasoline," Gheit says. "Not only are we not importing gasoline, we're actually a net exporter of gasoline."

So while gasoline supplies are short and prices are rising, big U.S. oil companies are exporting gasoline. Ironically, that's because natural gas prices in the U.S. are so low. American refiners are using this cheap, domestic natural gas to produce the heat needed to crack crude oil into products like gasoline.


"For the first time in my life I'd say that this time higher oil prices might actually stimulate a little more economic activity rather than a little less economic activity," he says.

That's because the higher prices are causing many people to buy fuel-efficient cars, boosting the output in one of the country's major industries.


Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Horrified 'Undercover Boss' shuts down restaurant

By Gael Fashingbauer Cooper 2/21/2012

On CBS's reality show "Undercover Boss," one boss was pushed so far by the horrible behavior of a restaurant manager that he came out from undercover, revealed his identity, and shut the whole restaurant down.



Fruit Flies Use Alcohol as a Drug to Kill Parasites

ScienceDaily (Feb. 16, 2012) — Fruit flies infected with a blood-borne parasite consume alcohol to self-medicate, a behavior that greatly increases their survival rate, an Emory University study finds.



In Sickness and in Health: Importance of Supportive Spouses in Coping With Work-Related Stress

ScienceDaily (Feb. 16, 2012) — The growth of two-income families and increasing levels of job stress are two of the most significant work trends affecting American businesses and families in recent years. Having just one stressed-out spouse can harm couple's work and home lives -- but what about when it's both?


Hochwarter also noted that the men and women differed by gender in terms of what support behaviors worked best for them. In general, wives appreciated getting "cut some slack" in terms of household activities; feeling wanted; and receiving expressions of warmth and affection. The husbands, meanwhile, were more likely to respond positively to offers of assistance with errands and feeling appreciated and needed.

Both husbands and wives, however, were especially grateful for their spouse's help in getting time away from work and home hassles to simply rest and recharge their batteries.



Cell Phone Hackers Can Track Your Location Without Your Knowledge

ScienceDaily (Feb. 16, 2012) — Cellular networks leak the locations of cell phone users, allowing a third party to easily track the location of the cell phone user without the user's knowledge, according to new research by computer scientists in the University of Minnesota's College of Science and Engineering.



Military Service, Even Without Combat, Can Change Personality and Make Vets Less Agreeable, Research Suggests

ScienceDaily (Feb. 17, 2012) — It's no secret that battlefield trauma can leave veterans with deep emotional scars that impact their ability to function in civilian life. But new research led by Washington University in St. Louis suggests that military service, even without combat, has a subtle lingering effect on a man's personality, making it potentially more difficult for veterans to get along with friends, family and co-workers.

"Our results suggest that personality traits play an important role in military training, both in the sort of men who are attracted to the military in the first place, and in the lasting impact that this service has on an individual's outlook on life," says study lead author Joshua J. Jackson, PhD, an assistant professor of psychology in Arts & Sciences.


The study confirms that the military attracts men who are generally less neurotic, less likely to worry, less likely to be concerned about seeking out novel experiences. When compared with men in civilian pursuits, those entering the military also are more aggressive, more interested in competition than cooperation and less concerned about the feelings of others, the study finds.



No Kids in Public School? You Still Benefit

To me, this was obvious.

ScienceDaily (Feb. 17, 2012) — Quality public schools benefit everyone -- including those without school-aged children -- and therefore everyone should play a role in maintaining them, according to a study by two Michigan State University scholars.



'Duet of One' Possible With Hand-Controlled Voice Synthesizer

ScienceDaily (Feb. 19, 2012) — New technology at the University of British Columbia makes it possible for a person to speak or sing just by using their hands to control a speech synthesizer.



Substituting With Smokeless Tobacco Saves Lives, Research Suggests

I'm sure it also saves lives by avoiding second-hand exposure to smoke.

ScienceDaily (Feb. 19, 2012) — Substituting smokeless tobacco products can save smokers' lives, and there is a scientific foundation that proves it.



High Definition Polarization Vision Discovered in Cuttlefish

ScienceDaily (Feb. 20, 2012) — Cuttlefish have the most acute polarization vision yet found in any animal, researchers at the University of Bristol have discovered by showing them movies on a modified LCD computer screen to test their eyesight.



Babies' Colic Linked to Mothers' Migraines

ScienceDaily (Feb. 20, 2012) — A study of mothers and their young babies by neurologists at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) has shown that mothers who suffer migraine headaches are more than twice as likely to have babies with colic than mothers without a history of migraines.

The work raises the question of whether colic may be an early symptom of migraine and therefore whether reducing stimulation may help just as reducing light and noise can alleviate migraine pain. That is significant because excessive crying is one of the most common triggers for shaken baby syndrome, which can cause death, brain damage and severe disability.



Environmental Pollutant Level During Pregnancy Linked With Grown Daughters Who Are Overweight

ScienceDaily (Feb. 21, 2012) — The levels of the environmental pollutant perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) that mothers had in their blood during pregnancy increased the risk of obesity in their daughters at 20 years of age. The findings come from a recent study of Danish women in which the Norwegian Institute of Public Health participated.

In recent decades, there has been a sharp increase in the number of overweight children and adults worldwide. It is suspected that diet and exercise alone cannot explain this large weight increase.

Researchers suggest that the increasing levels of endocrine disrupters in the environment may be a possible contributing factor. Therefore, this study was established and discovered the following:



Over-Reactive Parenting Linked to Negative Emotions and Problem Behavior in Toddlers

ScienceDaily (Feb. 21, 2012) — Researchers have found that parents who anger easily and over-react are more likely to have toddlers who act out and become upset easily.


They followed the children at nine, 18 and 27 months of age, and found that adoptive parents who had a tendency to over-react, for example, were quick to anger when children tested age-appropriate limits or made mistakes. These over-reactive parents had a significant effect on their children, who exhibited "negative emotionality," or acting out and having more temper tantrums than normal for their age.

Genetics also played a role, particularly in the case of children who were at genetic risk of negative emotionality from their birth mothers, but were raised in a low-stress or less-reactive environment.


"Parents' ability to regulate themselves and to remain firm, confident and not over-react is a key way they can help their children to modify their behavior," she said. "You set the example as a parent in your own emotions and reactions."


Can Consuming Caffeine While Breastfeeding Harm Your Baby?

ScienceDaily (Feb. 21, 2012) — Babies are not able to metabolize or excrete caffeine very well, so a breastfeeding mother's consumption of caffeine may lead to caffeine accumulation and symptoms such as wakefulness and irritability, according to an interview with expert Ruth Lawrence, MD, published in Journal of Caffeine Research, a peer-reviewed journal from Mary Ann Liebert, Inc.



Anticipation of Stressful Situations Accelerates Cellular Aging

ScienceDaily (Feb. 21, 2012) — The ability to anticipate future events allows us to plan and exert control over our lives, but it may also contribute to stress-related increased risk for the diseases of aging, according to a study by UCSF researchers.



Why Inequality Matters: The Housing Crisis, The Justice System & Capitalism

by Bruce Judson on February 20th, 2012

Extreme economic inequality is among the most destructive forces in a society. As inequality grows, it undermines the effective functioning of the economy, the basic tenets of capitalism, and the foundations of democracy.

Unfortunately, the housing crisis and now the housing settlement increasingly look like an example of how this mechanism works.

One of the central characteristics of highly unequal societies is that two sets of laws develop: One set for the rich and powerful and one set for everyone else. The more unequal societies become, the more easily they accept the unacceptable, and with each unrebuked violation, the powerful actors at the top of the society gain an ever greater sense of entitlement and an ever greater sense that the laws that govern everyone else don’t apply to them. As a result, their behavior becomes increasingly egregious.



Manufacturing jobs lost

From Facebook

Bernie Sanders [U.S. Senator from Vermont]
Between December 2000 and December 2010, 38 percent of the manufacturing jobs in Ohio were lost, 42 percent of the manufacturing jobs in North Carolina were lost and 48 percent of the manufacturing jobs in Michigan were lost.


Important truths

During these serious times it is important for all of us, of all faiths, to recognize these four Religious Truths:

1.Muslims do not recognize Jews as God's chosen people.

2.Jews do not recognize Jesus as the Messiah.

3.Protestants do not recognize the Pope as the leader of the Christian world.

4.Baptists do not recognize each other at Hooters. (variation: at the liquor store)


Both Maternal and Paternal Age Linked to Autism - comments invitation

2/20/2012 An obvious possibility is that older parents are more likely to have defective eggs and sperm. This is known to be a risk factor for some other problems, like Down's syndrome. However, I can think of some others. If you would like share other possibilities before I add my own, please leave a comment.

ScienceDaily (Feb. 10, 2012) — Older maternal and paternal age are jointly associated with having a child with autism, according to a recently published study led by researchers at The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth).



Monday, February 20, 2012

Different Minds

New Scientist Nov. 5, 2011 (my favorite magazine)

In the industrialised world, roughly 1 person in every 25 has severe mental disorder, and nearly half of us will experience some kind of mental illness during our lives. Many conditions, including schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, as well as developmental conditions like autism, are at least in part inherited from our parents. If they affect people’s chance of survival adversely, you would expect natural selection to have eliminated them, but instead they persist at high levels.

Some argue that these genes bring benefits – mental illness and genius have a long-standing link – but archaeologist Penny Spikins at the University of York, UK, goes further. She believes that mental illness and conditions such as autism persist at such high levels because in the past they were advantageous to humanity. “I think that part of the reason Homo sapiens were so successful is because they were willing to include people with different minds in their society – people with autism or schizophrenia, for example.”

According to Spikins, human tolerance allowed the genes associated with different kinds of brain development and mental illness to flourish, kick-starting a revolution. “At some point our ancestors began to develop very complex emotions such as compassion, gratitude and admiration,” she says. “These helped them accept and tolerate people with different minds.”

By embracing the unique skills and attributes that came with unusual ways of thinking, early humans became more inventive and adaptable, and eventually outcompeted all other hominins, she says.

The archaeological evidence is circumstantial, but new findings in genetics are helping to bolster Spikin’s idea. It turns out that some genes associated with mental illness proliferated at just the time when human society was flowering and confer attributes that other hominins may not have shared. All of this raises the interesting issue of whether, in the modern world, we should place more value on people like my father.


However, not everybody believes this. “Mental illness is more likely to be an unfortunate by-product of evolving a highly developed brain,” says Catriona Pickard from the University of Edinburgh, UK (Cambridge Archaeological Journal, vol 21, p 357).

Others argue that modern society is not a good analogue for the past. “Eccentricity is more accepted in small scale hunter-gatherer societies, as everyone has a role to play,” says Benjamin Campbell, an anthropologist at the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee.


What we do know is that inherited mental disorder is extremely rare amongst living primates. Klaus-Peter Lesch at the University of Wurzburg, Germany, and colleagues looked at the gene responsible for the serotonin transporter protein SERT, which has been implicated in several inherited disorders. This gene comes in a “long” and a “short” form. Every human carries a combination of two of these. People with the long/long combination appear to be protected from very low moods, whereas those with the short/long version are more susceptible to depression, and the short/short version with emotional dysregulation. Lesch and colleagues looked at the gene in 12 species of primate and found that the short/short version is found only in humans and one other primate, rhesus monkeys. (Molecular Psychiatry, DOI:10.1038/ “Carrying the short variant of the SERT gene seems to expose humans and rhesus monkeys to emotional disorders, which we just don’t see in other species,” says Lesch.

Double-edged sword
But the gene can also confer advantages. The short variant appears to be linked with depression in a stressful environment, but in a supportive environment people with this variant are often highly successful. “One trait that humans and rhesus monkeys share is an ability to live almost anywhere,” says Lesch. Noting that other primates thrive only in very specific niches, he speculates that behavioural traits connected with the short versions of the SERT gene may have helped both humans and rhesus monkeys to adapt to new and challenging environments.

Such adaptability would have been crucial in the past 100,000 years as our ancestors migrated around the world, and it turns out that the gene responsible for SERT is among many that evolved rapidly during this period (The 10,000 Year Explosion by Henry Harpending and Gregory Cochran, Basic Books, 2009). The genetic analysis that revealed this dramatic acceleration in human evolution also exposed the rise of another gene variant linked with mental disorder – this time one that helps regulate dopamine, the neurotransmitter associated with pleasure and reward. Harpending and colleagues found that a particular variant of the gene that codes for the D4 dopamine receptor has increased very rapidly in frequency in humans. People with this variant, known as DRD4-7R, tend to have very high energy levels and an increased risk of attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Yet the prevalence of the variant among certain groups – it is found in 80% of lowland Amazonian Indians, for example – indicates that extra energy has advantages. “Previously these traits have been highly regarded in some societies,” says Lesch. “We see a higher percentage of ADHD-associated traits in migratory people, for example.

Like the SERT gene, DRD4-7R can be both a boom and a bane. Some researchers describe these as the “orchid genes”: nurture them and the carrier thrives, neglect them and a maladaptive personality trait appears. If Spikins is correct, many other genes associated with developmental conditions could possess such Jekyll-and-Hyde characteristics. Our ancestors may have benefited from this, but modern societies tend instead to view different minds as a major impediment.

“Nowadays, being different is bad,” says Whitley. “In the West, we continue to pathologies difference, and lost its potential adaptive advantage.”

Instead of ostracising people with maverick minds, perhaps we would do better to cherish them (see “Beautiful Minds?” beneath). If the special talents in the population have helped humans to get this far, we may need such different modes of thinking to see us through the next few thousand years. If the past teaches us anything, it’s that humanity thrives by being adaptable.

With the advances in genetic selection we may be soon be able to screen the genetic make-up of embryos and reduce the prevalence of conditions such as schizophrenia and autism. Could this in fact be a retrograde step?

Simon Baron-Cohen, director of the Autism Research Centre at the University of Cambridge thinks so, and not just because he considers it a form of eugenics. He believes it could also deprive humanity of some crucial attributes.

Recently, Baron-Cohen and his colleagues reported that people living and working in Eindhoven, a major information technology and industry hub in Holland, are more than twice as likely to have children with autism than those living in similar-sized Dutch cities that lack the focus on technology-based industries. (New Scientist, 22 June.)

“Our work suggests that parents of children with autism – and who therefore carry some of the genes for autism – have talents in systemising and deep focus, which has been responsible for innovation in fields like science, mathematics, music, technology, art and engineering,” he says.

Similarly, several studies have shown an apparent link between the genes associated with schizophrenia and creative ability. In 2005, Daniel Nettle from Newcastle University, UK, showed that professional poets and artists commonly possess several of the traits used to diagnose schizophrenia, such as delusions, hallucinations, moodiness and concentration problems (Journal of Research in Personality,DOI:10.1016/j.jrp.2005.09.004).

Such findings help explain why many scientists are equivocal when it comes to the possibility of genetic screening. “If we start selecting against the outer margins on any set of attributes, we may be losing something valuable for our culture in the long term,” says Robert Cook-Deegan, director of the Centre for Genome Ethics, Law and Policy at Duke University in North Carolina. “And yet the stories of suffering of those who live out on those extremes are quite real too.”

Kate Ravilious is a writer based in York, UK
Article published in New Scientist magazine, 5 November 2011, pages 35-37


Flowering Plant Revived After 30,000 Years in Russian Permafrost

Feb 20, 2012 3:00pm

The plant in this picture dates from the Pleistocene Age, 30,000 years ago, before agriculture, before writing, before the end of the last Ice Age. And while it’s not accurate to say the plant itself is that old, scientists in Russia say they regenerated it from frozen cells they found beneath 125 feet of permafrost in what is now northeastern Siberia.

It was cultivated in the lab, with help from some “clonal micropropagation,” say the scientists, from seeds and leaves probably collected by some long-ago species of squirrel. The researchers, publishing their find today in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, say the squirrel’s burrow was probably frozen over quickly, and stayed that way until they discovered it.


They also point to the Svalbard Global Seed Vault in the northernmost reaches of Norway, an ultra-high security, ultra-low temperature bank for the seeds of every plant we eat — more than two million of them. More than 100 nations have left seeds there in a sort of frozen Noah’s Ark, so that species can be recovered in case of some sort of calamity.

When the vault was set up in 2008, there was doubt it would be useful. The Russian team now says it is “of great interest and importance,” worth keeping up.


Heartland Institute documents reveal strategy of attacks against climate science

S.Fred Singer has made a habit of lying about scientific matters for the sake of payoffs from industries that benefit from those lies. Eg., claiming that smoking is not harmful.

by: JeffMasters, 3:15 PM GMT on February 17, 2012

Documents illegally leaked from the Heartland Institute, one of the most active groups engaged in attacking the science of climate change, provide an unprecedented look into how these groups operate. The story was broken Tuesday by DeSmogBlog, a website dedicated to exposing false claims about climate change science. The documents reveal that donors to Heartland included oil billionaire Charles Koch, and Heartland has spent several million dollars over the past five years to undermine climate science. Tens of thousands of dollars are slated to go this year to well-known climate contrarians S.Fred Singer, Craig Idso, and Anthony Watts of the Watts Up With That? website. Naturally, the leaked documents have lit up the blogosphere, but none of the revelations are particularly surprising. The U.S. has a very successful and well-funded climate change denial industry, primarily funded by fossil fuel companies, that has spent hundreds of millions of dollars over the past few decades on a PR campaign against climate change science. I made a lengthy post on the subject in 2009 called, The Manufactured Doubt industry and the hacked email controversy. I won't say more here, but has compiled a long list of blogs that have interesting posts on the Heartland Institute affair for those interested in following this story.



4 out of 5 Americans affected by weather-related disasters since 2006

by: JeffMasters, 5:55 PM GMT on February 20, 2012

Since 2006 , federally declared weather-related disasters in the United States have affected counties housing 242 million people--or roughly four out of five Americans. That's the remarkable finding of Environment America, who last week released a detailed report on extreme weather events in the U.S. The report analyzed FEMA data to study the number of federally declared weather-related disasters. More than 15 million Americans live in counties that have averaged one or more weather-related disasters per year since the beginning of 2006. Ten U.S. counties--six in Oklahoma, two in Nebraska, and one each in Missouri and South Dakota--have each experienced ten or more declared weather-related disasters since 2006. South Carolina was the only state without a weather-related disaster since 2006. The report did a nice job explaining the linkages between extreme weather events and climate change, and concluded, "The increasing evidence linking global warming to certain types of extreme weather events--underscored by the degree to which those events are already both a common and an extremely disruptive fact of life in the United States--suggests that the nation should take the steps needed now to prevent the worst impacts of global warming and to prepare for the changes that are inevitably coming down the road."



Saturday, February 18, 2012

Virginia Ritual Humiliation Bill

I never knew a sonogram involved something like this. See the following article for details.

February 17, 2012 10:16 AM

Over the weekend Virginia became the eighth state to pass legislation requiring women to submit to an ultrasound examination and be offered a chance to view the images before having an abortion. But the Old Dominion followed just one state, Texas, in specifying the required images in a way that requires, in most cases, highly intrusive procedures.



Drugmakers Still Pay to Keep Generics Off Market, FTC Says

November 04, 2011, 4:56 PM EDT

Oct. 25 (Bloomberg) -- Brand-name drugmakers are continuing an “anticompetitive” trend of paying generic-drug manufacturers to delay introducing their lower-cost products, according to a Federal Trade Commission report.

Drug companies completed 28 potential deals to delay generics in the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30, according to the report released today. That’s just under the record of 31 such agreements in the previous fiscal year, the FTC said.

The commission has been pressing Congress and the courts to limit the deals, which the FTC said delay the introduction of cheaper drugs. Drugmakers have said that the agreements cut legal costs and in some cases speed up the introduction of the less-expensive drugs.

“While a lot of companies don’t engage in pay-for-delay settlements, the ones that do increase prescription drug costs for consumers and the government each year,” FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz said in a statement.

The 28 deals involved 25 different brand-name drugs with combined U.S. sales of more than $9 billion, according to the FTC. The agreements, which drugmakers are required to report to the FTC, are otherwise confidential, said Mitchell Katz, a commission spokesman.

FTC Lawsuits



50th anniversary of the first American in orbit

A little over a year ago, I think the day after Christmas, 2010, NPR aired a program by NASA about the space program, "Forged in the Stars". The title inspired me to write a song by the same name, which you can hear at

February 17th, 2012

NASA is celebrating the 50th anniversary of the first American in orbit.

Back in 1959, NASA selected John Glenn as one of the original group of seven astronauts for the Mercury program.

Three years later, he blasted off to the famous words, "Godspeed John Glenn," becoming the first American to orbit the Earth. To honor this landmark, we’re taking a look back at Glenn’s historic flights into space.

On February 20, 1962, Glenn made his famous journey around the planet aboard NASA's Friendship 7 spacecraft. During the nearly five-hour mission, he circled the globe three times.


Glenn made headlines again in 1998 when he rejoined NASA at age 77 to become the oldest person ever to go into space. Glenn’s trip aboard the shuttle Discovery helped NASA learn about the effects of space flight on older people.



Why books and movies are better the second time

By Natalie Wolchover 2/17/2012

New research reveals why people like to reread books, re-watch movies and generally repeat the same experiences over and over again. It’s not addictive or ritualistic behavior, but rather a conscious effort to probe deeper layers of significance in the revisited material, while also reflecting on one's own growth through the lens of the familiar book, movie or place.



Goodness, this is such a judgmental, mean-spirited culture if rereading a book, etc. has to be defended. One might reread a book, etc, simply to enjoy it again. If you enjoy listening to a song, that doesn't mean you can't enjoy hearing the song again. Also, the parts you remember can help you appreciate and understand things you didn't notice the previous time.


What's the lifespan of a singer's voice?

By Sheila Eldred 2/17/2012
Discovery Channel

Before Whitney Houston died last week, there was talk of the 48-year-old legendary vocalist staging a comeback.

It wouldn't have been easy: Somewhere between the years of Houston mesmerizing fans with the resonating "you" in "I Will Always Love You" and the demise of Being Bobby Brown, Houston's voice had deteriorated.

What is the normal life span of a voice? Can training or techniques prevent aging of the vocal cords, and can surgery -- or a special gel -- correct it?

Think of a singer as an athlete, experts suggest.

"Just like any other muscle, it's a physical thing," said Andrea Leap, a professional singer and voice instructor at the MacPhail Center for Music in Minneapolis. "It depends on the use. If you stopped walking up the stairs every day, it would get harder. It's exactly the same thing for the voice. Muscles do lose strength and agility as they age, so more effort is required in continuing that."

Opera star Placido Domingo is still belting out arias at age 71, because he's in terrific shape vocally, Leap said.


In fact, overexertion is such an issue that the opera singers' union maintains strict rules about the frequency an opera singer can perform.



All infant Tylenol recalled due to new bottle flaw

updated 2/17/2012 12:42:58 PM ET

Johnson & Johnson said it was recalling its entire U.S. supply of infant Tylenol after parents complained about problems with a new dosing system, the latest in a string of recalls for the healthcare giant.

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Friday's recall involves about 574,000 bottles of the grape-flavored liquid Tylenol for infants younger than 2 years old. Following earlier recalls, J&J had just returned to the market with the infant Tylenol in November, but now will be out of the market for an indefinite time.

The problems involves a new bottle design, which was intended to prevent accidental ingestion and ensure accurate dosing. But when parents inserted a syringe into the bottle, some accidentally pushed a protective cover inside. To date, J&J has received 17 complaints, company spokeswoman Bonnie Jacobs said.

No serious side effects from the infant Tylenol have been reported, and the risk of such problems are "remote," J&J said.

The recall is from stores and wholesalers; consum



Friday, February 17, 2012

Studies: Health risk from toxic pavement sealant greater than previously believed

By Robert McClure 2/17/2012

When you think of pollution, you might picture an industrial center like Camden, N.J., or Jersey City. But new research shows that when it comes to a potent class of cancer-causing toxic chemicals, many American parking lots are a lot worse.

New studies paint an increasingly alarming picture – particularly for young children – about how these chemicals are being spread across big swaths of American cities and suburbs by what may seem an unlikely source – a type of asphalt sealer. These sealants are derived from an industrial waste, coal tar.

Four new studies (links are at the end of this article) announced this week further implicate coal tar-based asphalt sealants as likely health risks. The creosote-like material typically is sprayed onto parking lots and driveways in an effort to preserve the asphalt. It also gives the pavement a dark black coloring that many people find attractive.


Coal tar sealants are used most heavily in the eastern United States, but were applied in all 50 states until Washington state banned the products last year. More than a dozen local governments, including Washington, D.C., and Austin, Texas, also have banned the coal tar sealants in favor of the other major type of sealant, which is asphalt-based.

Asphalt-based sealants contain about 1/1000th the concentration of the cancer-causing chemicals that coal tar-based products do. Home Depot and Lowe’s stores have dropped the coal tar sealants from their product lines, but still some 85 million gallons of the coal tar-based sealants are applied annually in the United States.



Ossining Girl's Bake Sale Earnings to Fight Hunger

by Nathan Bruttell Feb. 2012

Ossining resident Caroline Reed knows people are hungry in other countries and she’s doing all she can to help.

The 9-year-old asked her mom and friends to help her organize a bake sale in front of local stores and donate the earnings to charitable organizations working to fight hunger in third-world countries. Caroline did all of the planning and most of the baking herself. She also took charge in asking permission to host the sale in front of Choice Pets and Stop & Shop in Ossining’s Arcadian Shopping Center.

“I was looking at a magazine and it said there were websites where you could donate to hungry people in Africa,” Caroline said. “And I realized people were really hungry and I wanted to help.”



Michigan Cyber Schools — Here Be Dragons

Posted on February 16, 2012

QUESTION: What do securities fraud and public education have in common?

(HINT: You’re not going to like the answer.)

ANSWER: Michael Milken, junk bond dealer, ex-con — you know the guy. He’s interested in educating our precious children. Or, perhaps it’s more accurate to say he is interested in profiting off the tax dollars we pay to educate our precious children.

Milken is a primary investor in K12 Inc. an online school, and a very profitable one at that. It is the leading cyber scheme in a growing market of for-profit “schools” preying on state legislatures through heavy lobbying to open up their coffers for corporate pillaging in the name of school choice.

K12 currently has 81,000 students in 27 states, including one school in Michigan, with more to come in the wake of looming legislation. K12′s net profits in 2011 alone topped $21.5 million, while it’s CEO, Ron Packard, bagged a cool $5 million last year. That’s money going into the pockets of the rich at the expense of our children. Money that formerly went towards actual face-to-face education with real teachers earning on average 1% of Packard’s salary.


Dr. Michael Barbour, a recognized cyber school expert testified last month before the Michigan House Education Committee, and he was very clear in expressing his concerns about the deleterious effects of full-time cyber schooling. Barbour said “On average, there is a decrease in the percentage of students achieving proficiency the longer they are enrolled in full-time online learning.” Cyber schools often make the claim that they enroll more students that lag academicaly as their excuse for lower scores, but it is apparent that online learning exacerbates the existing problem. Additionally cyber schools do not have the tools to address, one-on-one, individual learning deficiencies.

Barbour cites an extensive and disturbing survey of 10,500 students in Colorado where they found that cyber schools are so bad that they have three times as many drop-outs as they do actual graduates. The study focused on the top cyber schools, with Milken’s K12 Inc. being the largest. Only 27% of cyber students met Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP).

Cyber Schools are a virtual, pardon the pun, invitation for corruption. In Pennsylvania and Ohio, when lawmakers opened the door for cyber school expansion, both states experienced a flurry of court cases involving cyber school fraud. The schools where falsifying enrollment reports to receive funding for non-existent students– education tax dollars which went directly into the pockets of the same greedy millionaires that fund cyber school lobbyists and their political action committee, Digital Learning Now, headed by former governor Jeb Bush.



Mommy Elephant Rescues her Baby Stuck in a Pit - video

This is really awesome. Motherly love applies to all of God's creatures from humans to elephants and every animal in between. The persistence of this mommy elephant and the rescue of her baby are truly great to see.

Click the following link to see the video:


High Cost to Getting Rid of Affordable Care Act Mandate

By Joyce Frieden, News Editor, MedPage Today
Published: February 16, 2012

Premiums in the health insurance exchanges would not rise sharply if the Affordable Care Act's individual mandate requirement is overturned or repealed, but government spending could more than double and fewer people would be covered, according to a study by the RAND Corporation.

"We find that the elimination of the individual mandate leads to a 12.5-million-person reduction in the number of newly insured individuals and increases government spending per newly insured individual by a factor of more than two," the authors wrote.

"While we find that average exchange premiums increase by approximately 9.3% when the individual mandate is eliminated, this finding is mostly driven by compositional effects. The increase in premiums that would be faced by any given individual is only 2.4%."



IRS faces surge in identity theft tax fraud

By Allison Linn 2/17/2012

The Internal Revenue Service is grappling with a surge in identity theft-based tax fraud as crooks take advantage of web-based resources including electronic filing.

Identity theft cases, in which criminals obtain living or deceased people’s names and Social Security numbers to defraud the government, ranked No. 1 on an annual “Dirty Dozen” list of tax scams the agency released Thursday. The IRS called ID theft one of the most complex threats it handles.

The IRS estimates 404,000 people were victimized by identity theft tax fraud from mid-2009 to the end of 2011.



Thursday, February 16, 2012

What’s New? Exuberance for Novelty Has Benefits

Published: February 13, 2012

Do you make decisions quickly based on incomplete information? Do you lose your temper quickly? Are you easily bored? Do you thrive in conditions that seem chaotic to others, or do you like everything well organized?

Those are the kinds of questions used to measure novelty-seeking, a personality trait long associated with trouble. As researchers analyzed its genetic roots and relations to the brain’s dopamine system, they linked this trait with problems like attention deficit disorder, compulsive spending and gambling, alcoholism, drug abuse and criminal behavior.

Now, though, after extensively tracking novelty-seekers, researchers are seeing the upside. In the right combination with other traits, it’s a crucial predictor of well-being.


“It can lead to antisocial behavior,” he says, “but if you combine this adventurousness and curiosity with persistence and a sense that it’s not all about you, then you get the kind of creativity that benefits society as a whole.”


“Although we’re a neophilic species,” Ms. Gallagher says, “as individuals we differ in our reactions to novelty, because a population’s survival is enhanced by some adventurers who explore for new resources and worriers who are attuned to the risks involved.”

The adventurous neophiliacs are more likely to possess a “migration gene,” a DNA mutation that occurred about 50,000 years ago, as humans were dispersing from Africa around the world, according to Robert Moyzis, a biochemist at the University of California, Irvine. The mutations are more prevalent in the most far-flung populations, like Indian tribes in South America descended from the neophiliacs who crossed the Bering Strait.


But genes, as usual, are only part of the story. Researchers have found that people’s tendency for novelty-seeking also depends on their upbringing, on the local culture and on their stage of life. By some estimates, the urge for novelty drops by half between the ages of 20 and 60.


Dr. Cloninger, a professor of psychiatry and genetics at Washington University in St. Louis, ... and colleagues looked for the crucial combination of traits in people who flourished over the years — the ones who reported the best health, most friends, fewest emotional problems and greatest satisfaction with life.

What was the secret to their happy temperament and character? A trio of traits. They scored high in novelty-seeking as well in persistence and “self-transcendence.” Persistence, the stick-to-it virtue promoted by strong-willed Victorians, may sound like the opposite of novelty-seeking, but the two traits can coexist and balance each other.


“People with persistence tend to be achievers because they’ll keep working at something even when there’s no immediate reward,” Dr. Cloninger says. “They’ll think, ‘I didn’t win this time, but next time I will.’ But what if conditions have changed? Then you’re better off trying something new. To succeed, you want to be able to regulate your impulses while also having the imagination to see what the future would be like if you tried something new.”

The other trait in the trio, self-transcendence, gives people a larger perspective. “It’s the capacity to get lost in the moment doing what you love to do, to feel a connection to nature and humanity and the universe,” Dr. Cloninger says.



Bear Stearns Ex-Managers to Pay $1 Million to Settle Fraud Case

How to get rich - defraud people out of a lot of money.

February 13, 2012, 4:24 pm

Two former Bear Stearns hedge fund managers have agreed to pay about $1 million to settle a civil lawsuit brought by the Securities and Exchange Commission, avoiding a second trial over whether they defrauded investors.

As part of the deal with the agency, neither of the former Bear executives, Ralph R. Cioffi and Matthew M. Tannin, will admit any wrongdoing. The agency has been sharply criticized in the courts and in Congress for allowing defendants to settle fraud cases without admitting or denying the charges.

The settlement is still subject to approval by Frederic Block, the federal judge in Brooklyn presiding over the civil case. In Monday’s hearing, he raised his eyebrows over what seemed to him to be a rather small sum of money being paid by Mr. Cioffi and Mr. Tannin to resolve the lawsuit.

“This case is being settled for, relatively speaking, chump change,” Judge Block said at the hearing. But he said he “was inclined to sign off on it.”


Mr. Cioffi and Mr. Tannin were indicted almost four years ago on criminal charges that they lied to their clients about the health of their hedge funds, which were largely invested in subprime mortgage-backed securities that plummeted in value when the housing market collapsed.

Federal prosecutors asserted that the former executives, who earned millions while at Bear, publicly promoted the fund’s prospects while privately fretting about the state of their portfolio and the housing market.