Monday, April 30, 2012

Humane eating

I'm a vegetarian, but if you want to eat meat as humanely as possible, here is some info. These sources would also be better for the environment.

Whenever people ask, "Where can I get pasture-based meats like yours in my area?," I tell them to go to Maintained by food writer extraordinaire Jo Robinson, it's the definitive clearinghouse for livestock raised the old-fashioned way—outdoors, with on-site pasture grass, instead of inside facilities. Editors recommend Eat Well Guide, where you can find local and organic farms in the United States and Canada. The American Grassfed Association has information on local grass-fed-beef producers, as well as recipes.


I've had a compost pile since college.

"Erosion" is a dirty word. The world is losing soil 10 to 40 times faster than nature can replenish it, leaving us literally dirt-poor. Ethiopia loses 2 billion tons of topsoil each year, and China 4.5 billion. Iowa lost nearly half its dirt in the past century.

Over the past four decades, a third of the earth's prime agricultural land has become too eroded to farm on. And the world's growing population needs it more than ever.

"If we still had the fertile soils we had in 1900, we'd have a far easier time feeding the world 50 years from now," says David Montgomery, author of Dirt: The Erosion of Civilizations.

Soil has been going downhill ever since our Neolithic ancestors began tilling the land 10,000 years ago, but dirt depletion is now accelerating, thanks to chemical fertilizers, mechanized cultivators, a lack of cover crops, overgrazing, and population pressures that push marginal land into cultivation. The torrential downpours that come with climate disruption exacerbate the problem, washing away topsoil and releasing soil-sequestered carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.

So, take good care of your own little patch of earth. It took 500 years just to form the top inch of it, and it may have to produce enough food to feed you—and a few billion others.

Early Mortgage Payment Sets Off Foreclosure

by: Blair S. Walker | from: AARP Bulletin | October 1, 2011

After making her mortgage payment a week early, Sharon Bullington, 70, was stunned when Bank of America began foreclosing on her home. Why? Because, she was told, she made the payment too soon.

Here's how it happened. Bullington and her husband, James, 78, had modified their mortgage, cutting payments on their one-story New Port Richey, Fla., home from $1,400 to $916. She mailed the first check on Dec. 23, 2010 — a mistake.

In Bank of America's eyes the check was due Jan. 1, and the early check invalidated the modification. "It's like death to me," an emotional Sharon Bullington told the St. Petersburg Times. "I just don't understand why they're doing this."

Desperate, she wrote to bank CEO and President Brian T. Moynihan and was told the foreclosure couldn't be stopped. Bullington's congressman, Rep. Gus Bilirakis, R-Fla., contacted the bank on her behalf. "It is extremely frustrating to hear about cases such as these," he said. Bullington's St. Petersburg attorney, Shawn Yesner, 38, said, "I've seen some crazy stuff, but this is a first."

In August, Bank of America issued a statement admitting it "made an error posting" one of the Bullingtons' mortgage payments. It also offered the couple "a long-term affordable mortgage," and agreed to reimburse the couple for $1,800 in legal fees and waived late fees. That should resolve the matter, Yesner says.

Global Warming is Doubling Bark Beetle Mating, Boosting Tree Attacks Up To 60-Fold, Study Finds

By Joe Romm on Apr 30, 2012 at 5:00 pm

Long thought to produce only one generation of tree-killing offspring annually, some populations of mountain pine beetles now produce two generations per year, dramatically increasing the potential for the bugs.

Because of the extra annual generation of beetles, there could be up to 60 times as many beetles attacking trees in any given year, their study found. And in response to warmer temperatures at high elevations, pine beetles also are better able to survive and attack trees that haven’t previously developed defenses.

That’s from the University of Colorado, Boulder news release for a new study in in The American Naturalist.

We’ve known that climate change favors invasive species, but the mountain pine beetle infestation is far worse than anyone had imagined even a decade ago. This this new study, “Mountain Pine Beetle Develops an Unprecedented Summer Generation in Response to Climate Warming,” spells out the grim facts:

The current MPB epidemic is the largest in history, extending from the Yukon Territory, Canada, to southern California and New Mexico…. To date, more than 13 million ha [hectares] of trees have been killed in British Columbia. The MPB-killed trees in British Columbia alone will release 990 million tons of CO2 into the atmosphere, an amount equal to five times the annual emissions from all forms of transportation in the country. Forests affected by bark beetles also have altered hydrology and biogeochemical cycles. Thus, extensive beetle kill is altering forest ecology and tipping conifer forests from regional carbon sinks to carbon sources, thereby creating positive feedback for climate-change factors.

For more on the amplifying feedback, see “Nature: Beetle tree kill releases more carbon than fires.”


Romney Family Investment Group Partnered With Alleged Perpetrators Of $8 Billion Ponzi Scheme

Thinkprogress is a source I have usually found reliable.
Recent research indicates that having wealth tends to decrease people's empathy and ethics. And it is obvious from many examples that lack of empathy and ethics can facilitate the accumulation of wealth.

By Lee Fang on Nov 1, 2011 at 9:30 am

Mitt Romney, his son Tagg, and Romney’s chief fundraiser, Spencer Zwick, have extensive financial and political ties to three men who allegedly participated in an $8.5 billion Ponzi scheme. A few months after the Ponzi scheme collapsed, a firm financed by Mitt Romney and run by his son and chief fundraiser partnered with the three men and created a new “wealth management business” as a subsidiary.

In an exclusive interview with ThinkProgress, Tagg Romney confirmed their business relationship, but falsely claimed that the men were cleared of any wrongdoing associated with the Ponzi scheme. Tagg Romney told ThinkProgress that his three partners collected about $15,000 from their involvement in the Ponzi scheme. Court documents obtained by ThinkProgress show that the legal proceedings are ongoing and the men made over $1.6 million selling fraudulent CDs to investors.


The revelation about Romney’s ties to the Stanford ponzi scheme unmask the risks associated with removing new investor protections. The Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform law, a reform Romney says he will repeal if he wins the presidency, attempts to address future Ponzi schemes by enacting new protections for whistleblowers to alert authorities when they find evidence of fraud. The law also creates a new Investor Advocate and Investor Advisory Committee within the Securities and Exchange Commission to detect and investigate future Ponzi schemes.

Mike Hudson, a reporter with iWatch News and author of a new book about how predatory Wall Street practices created the financial crisis, told ThinkProgress that Dodd-Frank “could be a game changer that helps the SEC identify and shut down Ponzis and Ponzi-like schemes.” But on the campaign trail, Romney, a fierce critic of efforts to reign in Wall Street practices, has called new investor protections like Dodd-Frank “extraordinarily burdensome.”

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Maintain your brain: The secrets to aging success

Public release date: 27-Apr-2012
Contact: Elisabeth (Lisa) Lyons
Cell Press
Maintain your brain: The secrets to aging success

Aging may seem unavoidable, but that's not necessarily so when it comes to the brain. So say researchers in the April 27th issue of the Cell Press journal Trends in Cognitive Sciences explaining that it is what you do in old age that matters more when it comes to maintaining a youthful brain not what you did earlier in life.

"Although some memory functions do tend to decline as we get older, several elderly show well preserved functioning and this is related to a well-preserved, youth-like brain," says Lars Nyberg of Umeå University in Sweden.

Education won't save your brain -- PhDs are as likely as high-school dropouts to experience memory loss with old age, the researchers say. Don't count on your job either. Those with a complex or demanding career may enjoy a limited advantage, but those benefits quickly dwindle after retirement.

Engagement is the secret to success. Those who are socially, mentally and physically stimulated reliably show better cognitive performance with a brain that appears younger than its years.

"There is quite solid evidence that staying physically and mentally active is a way towards brain maintenance," Nyberg says.

Racial differences found in care of children in ED

Public release date: 28-Apr-2012
Contact: Debbie Jacobson
American Academy of Pediatrics
Racial differences found in care of children in ED
Black youths less likely to get medication for abdominal pain than white patients

BOSTON – Black children are less likely than white children to receive medication for abdominal pain in the emergency department (ED) even when they report severe pain, according to a study to be presented Saturday, April 28, at the Pediatric Academic Societies (PAS) annual meeting in Boston.

"The emergency department serves as our nation's health care safety net, where all children can receive care regardless of their insurance status, ability to pay or race," said lead author Tiffani J. Johnson, MD, pediatric emergency medicine fellow at Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh and a postdoctoral scholar at RAND-University of Pittsburgh. "It is concerning to find that black children are less likely than white children to receive pain medication for treatment of their abdominal pain."


Results showed that black and Hispanic children were more likely to stay in the ED for more than six hours compared to white children. However, there were no racial differences in what tests were performed to evaluate the cause of abdominal pain or hospital admission rates.

Fear of not having enough food may lead to obesity

Public release date: 28-Apr-2012
Contact: Debbie Jacobson
American Academy of Pediatrics
Fear of not having enough food may lead to obesity
Mothers with 'food insecurity' more likely to engage in feeding practices associated with childhood weight gain

BOSTON – While eating too much food can cause obesity, the fear of not having enough food may lead to the same result, according to a study to be presented Saturday, April 28, at the Pediatric Academic Societies (PAS) annual meeting in Boston.

Being worried about not having enough food to feed one's family, a situation called food insecurity, is common in low-income families. These families often are overweight, too.

Low-income moms under stress may overfeed infants

Public release date: 28-Apr-2012
Contact: Susan Stevens Martin
American Academy of Pediatrics
Low-income moms under stress may overfeed infants
Single mothers and those with symptoms of depression more likely to add cereal to bottles

BOSTON – Efforts to prevent obesity among low-income infants should focus not only on what babies are being fed but also the reasons behind unhealthy feeding practices, according to a study to be presented Saturday, April 28, at the Pediatric Academic Societies (PAS) annual meeting in Boston.

Adding cereal to bottles is one unhealthy practice that is discouraged by the American Academy of Pediatrics because it may lead to overfeeding and excess weight gain in infants.

Researchers sought to determine factors associated with putting cereal in bottles among low-income, primarily Latino households in which the risk for child obesity is high.

Mothers of 254 infants were asked if they ever added cereal to bottles to help their babies sleep longer or stay full longer. Researchers also collected information on mothers' age, language, country of origin, marital status, education and income; whether the mother had symptoms of depression; and infants' age, gender and whether the infant was felt to have strong emotional reactions (a high intensity temperament).

The data were collected as part of the larger Bellevue Project for Early Language, Literacy and Education Success (BELLE Project). Funded by the National Institutes of Health/National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, the BELLE Project is following infants from birth to first grade to study issues related to parenting and child development.

Results showed that 24 percent of mothers put cereal in bottles. Those with depressive symptoms were 15 times more likely to add cereal than mothers who did not have symptoms of depression.

"Depression is very common in low-income mothers and makes it more difficult to engage in beneficial parenting practices in general," said lead author and general academic pediatrics fellow Candice Taylor Lucas, MD, MPH, who also is the Alan Mendelsohn, MD, principal investigator and associate professor of pediatrics, New York University School of Medicine and Bellevue Hospital Center. "Our results are especially concerning because they suggest that depressed mothers may be more likely to add cereal to the bottle, which may increase their children's risk of obesity."

Data also showed that mothers who were single were significantly more likely to add cereal to bottles. "This suggests that mothers' support systems and family dynamics may influence feeding practices," said obesity researcher and fellow investigator Mary Jo Messito, MD, FAAP.

Mothers who felt that their children had intense emotional reactions to daily routines were 12 times more likely to add cereal to bottles.

"Overall, these findings demonstrate that stressors prevalent in low-income households, such as depression, single parenthood and associated infant behavioral challenges, influence feeding practices likely to promote obesity," Dr. Lucas concluded. "It is important to provide support for parents related to healthy feeding practices if we are to end the epidemic of childhood obesity."

Mom's stress during pregnancy can affect baby's iron status

Public release date: 29-Apr-2012
Contact: Debbie Jacobson
American Academy of Pediatrics
Mom's stress during pregnancy can affect baby's iron status
Study shows maternal stress during first trimester of pregnancy puts newborns at risk for iron deficiency

BOSTON – Newborns whose mothers are under stress during the first trimester of pregnancy may be at risk for low iron status, which could lead to physical and mental delays down the road, according to a study to be presented Sunday, April 29, at the Pediatric Academic Societies (PAS) annual meeting in Boston.

Iron plays an important role in the development of organ systems, especially the brain. Well-known risk factors for poor iron status in infants are maternal iron deficiency, maternal diabetes, smoking during pregnancy, preterm birth, low birthweight and multiple pregnancy.

This study, conducted by researchers from Ashkelon Academic College and Barzilai Medical Center in Israel and the University of Michigan, is the first in humans to suggest that maternal stress early in pregnancy is another risk factor for low iron status in newborns.

First evaluation of the Clean Water Act's effects on coastal waters reveals major successes

I remember when rivers in the U.S. sometimes caught fire.

Public release date: 26-Apr-2012

Contact: Robert Perkins
University of Southern California
First evaluation of the Clean Water Act's effects on coastal waters reveals major successes
Landmark legislation helped clean up LA's coastal waters over the past 40 years, study indicates

Levels of copper, cadmium, lead and other metals in Southern California's coastal waters have plummeted over the past four decades, according to new research from USC.

Samples taken off the coast reveal that the waters have seen a 100-fold decrease in lead and a 400-fold decrease in copper and cadmium. Concentrations of metals in the surface waters off Los Angeles are now comparable to levels found in surface waters along a remote stretch of Mexico's Baja Peninsula.

Sergio Sañudo-Wilhelmy, who led the research team, attributed the cleaner water to sewage treatment regulations that were part of the Clean Water Act of 1972 and to the phase-out of leaded gasoline in the 1970s and 1980s.

"For the first time, we have evaluated the impact of the Clean Water Act in the waters of a coastal environment as extensive as Southern California," said Sañudo-Wilhelmy, professor of Biological and Earth sciences at the USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences.

"We can see that if we remove the contaminants from wastewater, eventually the ocean responds and cleans itself. The system is resilient to some extent," he said.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Women who smoke in pregnancy may be more likely to have a child with high-functioning autism

ScienceDaily (Apr. 26, 2012) — Women who smoke in pregnancy may be more likely to have a child with high-functioning autism, such as Asperger's Disorder, according to preliminary findings from a study by researchers involved in the U.S. autism surveillance program of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.


"The study doesn't say for certain that smoking is a risk factor for autism," Kalkbrenner says. "But it does say that if there is an association, it's between smoking and certain types of autism," implicating the disorders on the autism spectrum that are less severe and allow children to function at a higher level. That connection, she adds, needs further study.


Because autism involves a broad spectrum of conditions and the interplay of genetics and environment is so complex, no one study can explain all the causes of autism, she adds. "The goal of this work is to help provide a piece of the puzzle. And in this we were successful."

People With 'Balanced Time Perspective' More Likely to Call Themselves Content

ScienceDaily (Apr. 26, 2012) — Do you look fondly at the past, enjoy yourself in the present, and strive for future goals? If you hold these time perspectives simultaneously -- and don't go overboard on any one of them -- you're likely to be a happy person.


There is some evidence that people can "rebalance" their time perspectives, Howell said, while noting that "there hasn't been a lot of work that's tried to change time perspectives explicitly." But in general, "if you're too future-oriented, it might be good to give yourself a moment to sit back and enjoy the present," Howell suggested. "If you're too hedonistic and living for the moment, maybe it's time to start planning some future goals."

'Warming Hole' Delayed Climate Change Over Eastern United States

ScienceDaily (Apr. 26, 2012) — Climate scientists at the Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS) have discovered that particulate pollution in the late 20th century created a "warming hole" over the eastern United States -- that is, a cold patch where the effects of global warming were temporarily obscured.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Taxed by the boss: 16 states redirect income taxes to corporate profiteers instead of education, public safety - April 23, 11:39 PM

Across the United States more than 2,700 companies are collecting state income taxes from hundreds of thousands of workers – and are keeping the money with the states’ approval, says an eye-opening report published on Thursday.

The report from Good Jobs First, a nonprofit taxpayer watchdog organization funded by Ford, Surdna and other major foundations, identifies 16 states that let companies divert some or all of the state income taxes deducted from workers’ paychecks. None of the states requires notifying the workers, whose withholdings are treated as taxes they paid.

General Electric, Goldman Sachs, Procter & Gamble, Chrysler, Ford, General Motors and AMC Theatres enjoy deals to keep state taxes deducted from their workers’ paychecks, the report shows. Foreign companies also enjoy such arrangements, including Electrolux, Nissan, Toyota and a host of Canadian, Japanese and European banks, Good Jobs First says.


These deals typify corporate socialism, in which business gains are privatized and costs socialized. They also mean government picks winners and losers, interfering with competitive markets. Leaders in both parties embrace these giveaways because they draw campaign donations from corporate interests and votes from people who do not understand that they are subsidizing huge companies.


Total revenue losses are higher than the report states. First, some states hide the costs. Phil Mattera, the research director at Good Jobs First, said he lists the cost as zero for states that hide the numbers.

Good Jobs First wants to end these diversions, but failing that recommends mandatory disclosure to the workers as the first reform. I concur. It's the first step in ending corporate welfare as we know it.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Preventing Dementia: Trajectory of Cognitive Decline Can Be Altered in Seniors at Risk for Dementia

ScienceDaily (Apr. 23, 2012) — Cognitive decline is a pressing global health care issue. Worldwide, one case of dementia is detected every seven seconds. Mild cognitive impairment is a well recognized risk factor for dementia, and represents a critical window of opportunity for intervening and altering the trajectory of cognitive decline in seniors.

A new study by researchers at the Centre for Hip Health and Mobility at Vancouver Coastal Health and the University of British Columbia shows that implementing a seniors' exercise program, specifically one using resistance training, can alter the trajectory of decline. Perhaps most importantly, the exercise program improved the executive cognitive process of selective attention and conflict resolution functions, as well as associative memory, which are robust predictors for conversion from mild cognitive impairment to dementia.


Common Environmental Contaminant, Cadmium, Linked to Rapid Breast Cancer Cell Growth

ScienceDaily (Apr. 23, 2012) — Studies by researchers at Dominican University of California show that breast cancer cells become increasingly aggressive the longer they are exposed to small concentrations of cadmium, a heavy metal commonly found in cosmetics, food, water and air particles.


Unfortunately, cadmium is all around us -- it is in our food, our water, our makeup and our air.


Cadmium is produced mainly as a byproduct from mining, smelting and refining sulfidic ores of zinc, lead and copper. Rocks mined to produce phosphate fertilizers also contain varying amounts of cadmium. Cadmium also is found in rechargeable batteries and cigarette smoke. Cadmium enters the body through consumption of contaminated food, water or inhalation of cigarette smoke.


Florida: Computer Science or Sports?

April 23, 2012 04:55 PM
by Daniel Luzer

In what ordinarily might seem like a rather sensible decision, given declining state funding (Florida state legislators have cut the budget for by 30 percent over the past 6 years), the University of Florida has decided to save money by eliminating its computer science department. The department is perhaps just too expensive to maintain.

According to an article by Steven Salzberg at Forbes:

Wow, no one saw this coming. The University of Florida announced this past week that it was dropping its computer science department, which will allow it to save about $1.7 million. The school is eliminating all funding for teaching assistants in computer science, cutting the graduate and research programs entirely, and moving the tattered remnants into other departments.

Let’s get this straight: in the midst of a technology revolution, with a shortage of engineers and computer scientists, UF decides to cut computer science completely?

But, well, when you don’t have the money, you just don’t have the money. Oh but wait. Salzberg also reports that, “the athletic budget for the current year is $99 million, an increase of more than $2 million from last year.”

Granted, the athletic department and computer science are not actually funded out of the same pot of money, but come on. These are the priorities of the university. The budget increase for sports alone would more than offset the whole computer science department.

Meanwhile, Florida governor Rick Scott decided that that the state needs new public university,
Florida Polytechnic University, in Tampa Lakeland, because:

At a time when the number of graduates of Florida’s universities in the STEM [science, technology, engineering, and mathematics] fields is not projected to meet workforce needs, the establishment of Florida Polytechnic University will help us move the needle in the right direction.

No word yet on the plans for the football team at FPU.

Eight of the Top Ten 2012 Super PAC Donors Are Republicans

By Ian Millhiser posted from ThinkProgress Justice on Apr 23, 2012 at 8:30 pm

Last January, a study found that seventeen of the top twenty political donors are Republicans or conservatives. Last night, USA Today published a similar roundup of Super PAC donors in the 2012 cycle, and they found exactly the same pattern. Eight of the top ten Super PAC donors are Republicans or corporations who donate exclusively to Republicans. One is the Cooperative of American Physicians, a group of physicians focused on mitigating the cost of malpractice liability that supports a single Democrat. The other non-Republican group is a teachers union.

Notably, the top three Super PAC donors are all Republicans, and their more than $45 million in contributions adds up to more than four times the total spending by the remainder of the top ten:


These totals may also understate the total amount of spending by these wealthy right-wing benefactors because donors can keep their identities secret by funneling their money into non-profit arms of political organizations. Sixty-two percent of the $123 million raised by Karl Rove’s “Crossroads” political empire in 2010 and 2011, for example, came from secret donors.

ALEC Says It Plans To Craft Legislation To Take Down State Renewable Energy Targets

By Stephen Lacey posted from Climate Progress on Apr 24, 2012 at 2:15 pm

Two leading conservative political organizations say they are stepping up coordinated efforts to repeal state-level renewable energy targets.

The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) — a “stealth business lobbyist” that works with corporate interests to help them write and implement “model” legislation — says it may soon start crafting laws designed to kill or weaken state targets for renewable electricity, heating and fuels.


Last July, Bloomberg News acquired tax documents showing that Koch Industries, Exxon Mobil and other energy companies paid membership fees to ALEC in order to help write legislation repealing carbon pollution reduction programs in states around country.


Three-Quarters Of Money Raised By Top Romney Bundlers Come From Lobbyists For Big Energy, Financial Services

By Josh Israel posted from Climate Progress on Apr 24, 2012 at 6:40 pm

New disclosures filed Friday show that the Romney campaign has now received about $3 million in “bundled” contributions collected by registered lobbyists. And about three-quarters of that total was collected by lobbyists who represent either polluter interests (oil, gas, and coal — or the energy companies that burn them), financial sector interests, or both.

Though Romney has not voluntarily disclosed any campaign bundlers who are not lobbyists, federal law requires that he identify major bundlers who are. To date, the campaign has identified 22 lobbyist bundlers who each raised $17,000 or more.

A ThinkProgress analysis of the data shows that 13 represent Big Energy and Big Finance — and between them, they collected more than $2.2 million in donations.

They are:


Romney’s strong support from powerful Wall Street and energy lobbyists is unsurprising given his proposals to repeal the Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act and undo environmental protections — and his support for continuing subsidies for Big Oil.

As ThinkProgress previously reported, Romney’s lobbyist-bundler list also includes Ignacio E. Sanchez ($86,700) of DLA Piper, a registered foreign agent for the United Arab Emirates and a birther presidential candidate in the Dominican Republic.

President Obama does not accept campaign contributions donated or bundled by federal lobbyists or foreign agents. His campaign voluntarily discloses all of its major bundlers. He also voluntarily discloses all of his major bundlers, as did Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) and President George W. Bush (R) in their 2000, 2004, and 2008 races.

Raise SS Cap and Close the Gap

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Dean Baker:

The Primary Cause of Social Security's Bleak Outlook Is Upward Redistribution, by Dean Baker: In an article on the release of the 2012 Social Security trustees report the Washington Post told readers that:

"Social Security’s bleak outlook is primarily driven by the ever-larger numbers of people in the baby boom generation entering retirement."

Actually the fact that baby boomers would enter retirement is not news. Back in 1983, the Greenspan Commission knew that the baby boomers would retire, yet they still projected that the program would be able to pay all promised benefits into the 2050s.

The main reason that the program's finances have deteriorated relative to the projected path is that wage growth has not kept pace with the path projected. This is in part due to the fact that productivity growth slowed in the 80s, before accelerating again in the mid-90s and in part due to the fact that much more wage income now goes to people earning above the taxable cap.

In 1983 only 10 percent of wage income fell above the cap and escaped taxation. Now more than 18 percent of wage income is above the cap.


Peter Dorman also weighs in:

For the past thirty years we have seen repeated campaigns to eviscerate Social Security—to privatize it, siphon off its finances, drain it of its essential social insurance character. These have failed, not because of the brilliance or commitment of its defenders, but simply because it fulfills a vital social function and is wildly popular. Even those who, in their heart of hearts, want to crush it to bits, claim to be in favor of “saving” it. So what’s the strategy of the anti-SS minions?

Cynicism. Convince younger voters, whose benefits are still decades away, that the program is dying a slow but certain death, and that politicians are too myopic or pandering or just stupid to do anything about it.


People also need to realize that "Social Security faces a shortfall — NOT bankruptcy — a quarter of a century from now. OK, I guess that’s a real concern. But compared to other concerns, it’s really pretty minor, and doesn’t deserve a tenth the attention it gets. It’s also worth noting that even if the trust fund is exhausted and no other financing provided, Social Security will be able to pay about three-quarters of scheduled benefits, which would mean real benefits higher than it pays now."

Notice that even under the worse case scenario, real benefits would be higher than they are now. The benefits would not keep up with increases in productivity as they do presently -- payments rise as the standard of living rises -- but the benefits would still rise as much or more than inflation. So today's standard of living would still be available even in the worst possible case. But there is the problem of how to cover the productivity increases over the next quarter century. What to do?

Raise the cap and close the gap.

Research shows the US is a low wage country

By Mark Thoma April 23, 2012 7:00 AM

(MoneyWatch) Recent research from John Schmitt of the Center for Economic Policy Research shows that the US leads developed countries in the share of workers earning low wages. The research also shows that increased wage polarization over the last several decades is one of the reasons for the large share of low wage-work in the US.

The bars in this graph represent the share of workers in low wage work, where low wage work is defined as employees earning less than 2/3 of the median wage (approximately $10 per hour or $20,000 per year). In this category, the US leads among developed nations:

Death Valley's 113°: hottest April temperature on record in U.S.

Posted by: JeffMasters, 2:37 PM GMT on April 24, 2012

An unprecedented April heat wave brought a second day of sizzling temperatures to the Western U.S. yesterday, where temperatures ranging 20 - 30 degrees above normal have toppled numerous all-time April heat records. Nearly every weather station in the Inter-mountain West has broken, tied, or come within 1 - 2 °F of their all-time record April heat record since Sunday. Most notably, the 113°F measured at Furnace Creek in Death Valley, California on Sunday, April 22 was tied for the hottest April temperature ever recorded in the U.S. According to wunderground weather historian Christopher C. Burt, the hottest reliable April temperature ever measured in the U.S. was 113°F in Parker, Arizona in 1898. A 113°F reading was also taken at Catarina, Texas in April 1984, and at Greenland Ranch in Death Valley on April 24, 1946. A hotter 118°F reading measured at Volcano Springs, CA in April 1898 is considered unreliable, since we don't know much about the exposure conditions or if the thermometers were even in shelters at remote California desert stations back in the 1880s and 1890s. The previous hottest April day in Death Valley was 111°F. Yesterday, the high temperature in Death Valley "cooled off" to 110°F, merely the fourth highest April temperature ever measured there. The heat wave peaked Sunday and Monday, and temperatures will be closer to normal for the remainder of the week.



A handy list of emoticons :

Actions speak louder than words

From Facebook of Cory Booker, mayor of Newark:

Before you speak to me about your religion, first show it to me in how you treat other people; before you tell me how much you love your God, show me in how much you love all His children; before you preach to me of your passion for your faith, teach me about it through your compassion for your neighbors. In the end, I'm not as interested in what you have to tell or sell as in how you choose to live and give.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Researchers find time in wild boosts creativity, insight and problem solving

April 23, 2012
Brendan Lynch, KU News Service

There’s new evidence that our minds thrive away from it all.

Research conducted at the University of Kansas concludes that people from all walks of life show startling cognitive improvement — for instance, a 50 percent boost in creativity — after living for a few days steeped in nature.

Ruth Ann Atchley, whose research is featured in this month’s Backpacker magazine, said the “soft fascination” of the natural world appears to refresh the human mind, offering refuge from the cacophony of modern life.

“We’ve got information coming at us from social media, electronics and cell phones,” said Atchley, associate professor and chair of psychology at KU. “We constantly shift attention from one source to another, getting all of this information that simulates alarms, warnings and emergencies. Those threats are bad for us. They sap our resources to do the fun thinking and cognition humans are capable of — things like creativity, or being kind and generous, along with our ability to feel good and be in a positive mood.”

The researcher said that nature could stimulate the human mind without the often-menacing distractions of workaday life in the 21st-century.

“Nature is a place where our mind can rest, relax and let down those threat responses,” said Atchley. “Therefore, we have resources left over — to be creative, to be imaginative, to problem solve — that allow us to be better, happier people who engage in a more productive way with others.”


I pledge allegiance to the earth and all the life which it supports. One planet in our care, irreplaceable, with sustenance and respect for all.

Got Weeds? Use Vinegar, Not Roundup

Kevin Lee Jacobs June 16, 2011

NEED PROOF THAT VINEGAR IS A WEED-TERMINATOR? Just look at the weeds growing along a pea-stone path in my Herb Garden. These were photographed yesterday afternoon, just moments before I sprayed them with cheap, undiluted, store-brand white vinegar. Here’s what all that greenery looked like this morning:


I’d say those weeds are deader than dead. And that’s why I use vinegar on the gravel paths, brick walk-ways, and blue-stone patio here at A Garden for the House. For me it has proven an effective, eco-friendly answer to Roundup.

And speaking of Roundup, this year Monsanto, the product’s evil manufacturer, agreed with the New York Attorney General’s office to discontinue their use of the terms “biodegradable” and “environmentally friendly” in ads promoting Roundup. Why? Because these terms were bald-faced lies. Roundup is neither biodegradable nor environmentally friendly.

Breastfeeding Promotes Healthy Growth

ScienceDaily (Dec. 20, 2011) — A PhD project from LIFE -- the Faculty of Life Sciences at the University of Copenhagen has shown that breastfed children follow a different growth pattern than non-breastfed children. Breastfeeding lowers the levels of the growth hormones IGF-I and insulin in the blood, which means that growth is slightly slower. This is believed to reduce the risk of overweight and diabetes later in life.

Breastfeeding Saved Babies in 19th Century Montreal

ScienceDaily (Dec. 20, 2011) — Breastfeeding increased infant survival rates in 19th -Century Montreal in two major ways, according to research from Concordia University and McGill University. Mother's milk protected vulnerable infants from food and water contaminated by fecal bacteria, while breastfeeding postponed the arrival of more siblings and that improved the health of mothers as well as their subsequent children.


Hypertension Treatment Associated With Long-Term Improvement in Life Expectancy

ScienceDaily (Dec. 20, 2011) — Patients with systolic hypertension who were treated with the diuretic chlorthalidone for 4.5 years as part of a clinical trial had a significantly lower rate of death and a gain in life expectancy free from cardiovascular death about 20 years later compared to patients who received placebo, according to a study in the December 21 issue of JAMA.


Starch Intake May Influence Risk for Breast Cancer Recurrence, Study Suggests

ScienceDaily (Dec. 8, 2011) — Researchers have linked increased starch intake to a greater risk for breast cancer recurrence, according to results presented at the 2011 CTRC-AACR San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium, held Dec. 6-10, 2011.

The results show that it's not just overall carbohydrates, but particularly starch," said Jennifer A. Emond, M.S., a public health doctoral student at the University of California, San Diego. "Women who increased their starch intake over one year were at a much likelier risk for recurring."

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Prejudice Comes from a Basic Human Need and Way of Thinking, New Research Suggests

ScienceDaily (Dec. 21, 2011) — Where does prejudice come from? Not from ideology, say the authors of a new paper. Instead, prejudice stems from a deeper psychological need, associated with a particular way of thinking. People who aren't comfortable with ambiguity and want to make quick and firm decisions are also prone to making generalizations about others.


Roets argues that this way of thinking is linked to people's need to categorize the world, often unconsciously. "When we meet someone, we immediately see that person as being male or female, young or old, black or white, without really being aware of this categorization," he says. "Social categories are useful to reduce complexity, but the problem is that we also assign some properties to these categories. This can lead to prejudice and stereotyping."


It's virtually impossible to change the basic way that people think. Now for the good news: It's possible to actually also use this way of thinking to reduce people's prejudice. If people who need quick answers meet people from other groups and like them personally, they are likely to use this positive experience to form their views of the whole group. "This is very much about salient positive information taking away the aversion, anxiety, and fear of the unknown," Roets says.

Childhood Trauma Linked to Schizophrenia

ScienceDaily (Apr. 19, 2012) — Researchers at the University have found that children who experience severe trauma are three times as likely to develop schizophrenia in later life.


cross all three types of studies the results led to similar conclusions. Children who had experienced any type of trauma before the age of 16 were approximately three times more likely to become psychotic in adulthood compared to those selected randomly from the population. Researchers found a relationship between the level of trauma and the likelihood of developing illness in later life. Those that were severely traumatised as children were at a greater risk, in some cases up to 50 times increased risk, than those who experienced trauma to a lesser extent.

The Liverpool team also conducted a new study which looked at the relationship between specific psychotic symptoms and the type of trauma experienced in childhood. They found that different traumas led to different symptoms. Childhood sexual abuse, for example, was associated with hallucinations, whilst being brought up in a children's home was associated with paranoia. The research further suggests a strong relationship between environment and the development of psychosis, and provides clues about the mechanisms leading to severe mental illness.


Saturday, April 21, 2012

How Thinking About Death Can Lead to a Good Life

ScienceDaily (Apr. 19, 2012) — Thinking about death can actually be a good thing. An awareness of mortality can improve physical health and help us re-prioritize our goals and values, according to a new analysis of recent scientific studies. Even non-conscious thinking about death -- say walking by a cemetery -- could prompt positive changes and promote helping others.


How Social Interaction and Teamwork Led to Human Intelligence

ScienceDaily (Apr. 19, 2012) — Scientists have discovered proof that the evolution of intelligence and larger brain sizes can be driven by cooperation and teamwork, shedding new light on the origins of what it means to be human. The study appears online in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B and was led by scientists at Trinity College Dublin: PhD student, Luke McNally and Assistant Professor Dr Andrew Jackson at the School of Natural Sciences in collaboration with Dr Sam Brown of the University of Edinburgh.

We are one

The old appeals to racial, sexual, religious chauvinism and to rabid nationalistic fervor are beginning not to work.

A new consciousness is developing which sees the earth as a single organism and recognizes that an organism at war with itself is doomed.

We are one planet. - Carl Sagan

New Study Links Air Pollution and Early Death in the UK

ScienceDaily (Apr. 19, 2012) — In a study appearing this month in the journal Environmental Science and Technology, MIT researchers report that emissions from cars, trucks, planes and powerplants cause 13,000 premature deaths in the United Kingdom each year.

The researchers analyzed data from 2005, the most recent year for which information is available. They found that among the various sources of emissions in the country, car and truck exhaust was the single greatest contributor to premature death, affecting some 3,300 people per year. By comparison, the researchers note, fewer than 3,000 Britons died in road accidents in 2005.

The researchers found that emissions originating elsewhere in Europe cause an additional 6,000 early deaths in the U.K. annually; U.K. emissions that migrate outside the country, in turn, cause 3,100 premature deaths per year in other European Union nations. In some areas on the periphery of the U.K. -- such as northern Scotland -- almost all air pollution comes from the rest of Europe, the researchers say.


States In Northeast Cap And Trade Program Reduce CO2 20% Faster And Grow GDP At Twice The Rate of Other States

By Stephen Lacey on Apr 20, 2012 at 3:40 pm

Northeastern states participating in America’s first carbon cap and trade program have outperformed the rest of the country in GDP growth and reduction in global warming pollution.

That’s according to a new report from Environment New Jersey, which examined emissions data and economic growth indicators from 2000 to 2009.

The Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) is a nine-state cap-and-trade market designed to reduce emissions in the utility sector 10% by 2018. A recent independent analysis showed that the program has already created $1.6 billion in economic value and set the stage for $1.1 billion in ratepayer savings through investments in efficiency and renewable energy.

This latest report shows that states under the RGGI program saw a 20% greater reduction in per-capita carbon emissions than non-RGGI states — all while growing per-capita GDP at double the rate of the rest of the country.


Dally No Longer: Get the Lead

By Jane E. Brody Published: January 17, 2006

There's no question that the amount of lead in children's blood has dropped significantly in recent decades, much to the benefit of their brains and bodies. There's also no question that children who are still being permanently damaged by excessive lead levels live mainly at the poverty level or near it, in neighborhoods where they can be poisoned by lead from contaminated paint, water, soil and dust.

However, no one at any level of society, not even those with seven-figure incomes, can afford to be complacent about the exposure of children to lead in home and play environments.

Here are some disturbing facts important to everyone concerned about the damage lead can cause and its individual and societal costs.

About a quarter of the nation's children are exposed to lead at home, and more than 400,000 children are found each year to harbor amounts of lead deemed hazardous to normal mental and physical development.

Environmental exposure to lead in early childhood is a prelude to a host of societal ills. It is associated with an increased risk of reading problems, school failure, delinquency and criminal behavior.

There is no safe threshold for lead levels in the blood. In other words, any amount of lead is a potential hazard to a developing child.

Studies have shown that half the amount of lead deemed acceptable by the United States government can inflict notable damage. In fact, the intellectual harm inflicted by lead is proportionately greater at levels below 10 micrograms per deciliter of blood, the level now considered acceptable by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Risks associated with lead exposure begin in the womb, and not just from lead acquired by pregnant women. During pregnancy, lead stored in a woman's bones can leach out, get into her blood and injure the fetus.

A child need not be poor to be exposed to lead. Children can be harmed by lead in toys, for example. Lead paint was banned for indoor use in 1978, so those living in homes built before then can be contaminated by lead in dust when windows are opened or when renovations are done.

Children are not the only ones whose health is endangered by lead. In adults, whose bodies may have stored lead from exposures incurred decades earlier, lead is associated with such problems as cardiovascular disease, tooth decay, miscarriage, kidney disease, mental decline and cataracts.


The Significance of Citigroup’s Shareholder Revolt

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

The shareholders of Wall Street giant Citigroup are out to prove that corporate democracy isn’t an oxymoron. They’ve said no to the exorbitant $15 million pay package of Citi’s CEO Vikram Pandit, as well as to the giant pay packages of Citi’s four other top executives.

The vote, at Citigroup’s annual meeting in Dallas Tuesday, isn’t binding on Citigroup. But it’s a warning shot across the bow of every corporate boardroom in America.

Shareholders aren’t happy about executive pay.

And why should they be? CEO pay at large publicly-held corporations is now typically 300 times the pay of the average American worker. It was 40 times average worker pay in the 1960s and has steadily crept upward since then as corporations have morphed into “winner-take-all” contraptions that reward their top executives with boundless beneficence and perks while slicing the jobs, wages, and benefits of almost everyone else.

Meanwhile, too many of these same corporations have failed to deliver for their shareholders. Citigroup, for example, has had the worst stock performance among all large banks for the last decade but ranked among the highest in executive pay.

The real news here is new-found activism among institutional investors – especially the managers of pension funds and mutual funds. They’re the ones who fired the warning shot Tuesday.

Institutional investors are catching on to a truth they should have understood years ago: When executive pay goes through the roof, there’s less money left for everyone else who owns shares of the company.


Vast Mexico Bribery Case Hushed Up by Wal-Mart After Top-Level Struggle

By DAVID BARSTOW Published: April 21, 2012

MEXICO CITY — In September 2005, a senior Wal-Mart lawyer received an alarming e-mail from a former executive at the company’s largest foreign subsidiary, Wal-Mart de Mexico. In the e-mail and follow-up conversations, the former executive described how Wal-Mart de Mexico had orchestrated a campaign of bribery to win market dominance. In its rush to build stores, he said, the company had paid bribes to obtain permits in virtually every corner of the country.

¶ The former executive gave names, dates and bribe amounts. He knew so much, he explained, because for years he had been the lawyer in charge of obtaining construction permits for Wal-Mart de Mexico.

¶ Wal-Mart dispatched investigators to Mexico City, and within days they unearthed evidence of widespread bribery. They found a paper trail of hundreds of suspect payments totaling more than $24 million. They also found documents showing that Wal-Mart de Mexico’s top executives not only knew about the payments, but had taken steps to conceal them from Wal-Mart’s headquarters in Bentonville, Ark. In a confidential report to his superiors, Wal-Mart’s lead investigator, a former F.B.I. special agent, summed up their initial findings this way: “There is reasonable suspicion to believe that Mexican and USA laws have been violated.”

¶ The lead investigator recommended that Wal-Mart expand the investigation.

¶ Instead, an examination by The New York Times found, Wal-Mart’s leaders shut it down.

Neither American nor Mexican law enforcement officials were notified. None of Wal-Mart de Mexico’s leaders were disciplined. Indeed, its chief executive, Eduardo Castro-Wright, identified by the former executive as the driving force behind years of bribery, was promoted to vice chairman of Wal-Mart in 2008. Until this article, the allegations and Wal-Mart’s investigation had never been publicly disclosed.

¶ But The Times’s examination uncovered a prolonged struggle at the highest levels of Wal-Mart, a struggle that pitted the company’s much publicized commitment to the highest moral and ethical standards against its relentless pursuit of growth.


Debtor’s Prison for Failure to Pay for Your Own Trial

by Alex Tabarrok on April 18, 2012 at 7:38 am in Economics, History, Law | Permalink

Debtor’s prisons are supposed to be illegal in the United States but today poor people who fail to pay even small criminal justice fees are routinely being imprisoned. The problem has gotten worse recently because strapped states have dramatically increased the number of criminal justice fees. In Pennsylvania, for example, the criminal court charges for police transport, sheriff costs, state court costs, postage, and “judgment.” Many of these charges are not for any direct costs imposed by the criminal but have been added as revenue enhancers. A $5 fee, for example, supports the County Probation Officers’ Firearms Training Fund, an $8 fee supports the Judicial Computer Project, a $250 fee goes to the DNA Detection Fund. Convicted criminals may face dozens of fees (not including fines and restitution) totaling a substantial burden for people of limited means. Fees do not end outside the courtroom. Jailed criminals can be charged for room and board and for telephone use, haircuts, drug tests, transportation, booking, and medical co-pays. In Arizona, visitors to a prison are now charged a $25 maintenance fee. In PA in order to get parole there is a mandatory charge of $60. While on parole, defendants may be further assessed counseling, testing and other fees. Interest builds unpaid fees larger and larger. In Washington state unpaid legal debt accrues at an interest rate of 12%. As a result, the median person convicted in WA sees their criminal justice debt grow larger over time.

Many states are now even charging the accused to apply for and use a public defender! As a result, some defendants are discouraged from exercising their rights to an attorney.

Most outrageously, in some states public defender, pre-trial jail and other court fees can be assessed on individuals even when they are not convicted of any crime. Failure to pay criminal justice fees can result in revocation of an individual’s drivers license, arrest and imprisonment. Individuals with revoked licenses who drive (say to work to earn money to pay their fees) and are apprehended can be further fined and imprisoned. Unpaid criminal justice debt also results in damaged credit reports and reduced housing and employment prospects. Furthermore, failure to pay fees can mean a violation of probation and parole terms which makes an individual ineligible for Federal programs such as food stamps, Temporary Assistance to Needy Family funds and Social Security Income for the elderly and disabled.

It’s difficult to argue against criminal justice fees for those who can pay, but for those who cannot– and most criminal defendants are poor–such fees can be a personal and public policy disaster. Criminal justice debt drags people further away from reintegration with civil society. A person’s life can spiral out of their control when interest, late fees, revocation of a driver’s license and ineligibility for public assistance, mean that unpaid criminal justice debt snowballs. You can’t get blood from a stone but if you try, you can break the stone.

Fairness Matters for Efficiency

The Triumph of the Social Animal, by Chrystia Freeland, Reuters:

 Does fairness matter? .... Economics ... hasn’t traditionally been much concerned with fairness. ... The alternate view was advanced by Armin Falk, a Bonn University economist, at a recent economics conference in Berlin organized by the Institute for New Economic Thinking. It emphasizes the importance of fairness and trust to human behavior. This approach takes as its starting point the idea that we are social animals, driven powerfully by how we fit into our community.

The social animal school may sound touchy-feely, but one of its favorite research tools is the M.R.I. ... In one experiment, subjects were paid 50 percent more, the same amount or 50 percent less than a peer for doing the same amount of work. Crucially, the absolute payment the research subject received in each case was identical

But brain scans showed that fairness had a strong impact at a neurological level. Anyone who has ever held a job or has a sibling won’t be surprised to learn that the most powerful response was evoked when the research subject was underpaid, compared with his identically tasked peer. Interestingly, when researchers simulated low social status..., unfair treatment mattered less. The meek may inherit the earth, but in the meantime they have been conditioned to accept less than their fair share.

In another experiment, Dr. Falk and Ernst Fehr, of the University of Zurich, investigated [the question]: Does our perception of fairness influence how hard we work? Their answer is yes — workers who are underpaid don’t work as hard. ...

Exercising Even A Little Bit Makes It Easier For Smokers To Quit

by Nancy Shute April 20, 2012

Smoking is bad. Quitting smoking is hard. But exercising can make quitting easier, and make sliding back into smoking less likely.

That's the word from a big new study, which tracked the health and habits of 434,190 people in Taiwan from 1996 to 2008. Smokers who got just 15 minutes of exercise a day were 55 percent more likely to quit than were people who weren't active at all. And those active smokers were 43 percent less likely to relapse when they did quit.

New blogger

The new blogger is still not publishing my scheduled posts, but it does have some nice features that make it much easier to find them and change them to publish immediately. In fact, I found some old drafts I didn't know I had and got them published. I'm sure they'll get the scheduling thing fixed. I don't think you who are reading the blog will see much, if any difference. It's the owner of the blog who see's the difference. I think it will turn out to be an improvement when I get used to using it, unlike that horrible "Timeline" of Facebook!

"Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy" on the Glass Armonica



“We’re all a little weird. And life is weird. And when we find someone
whose weirdness is compatible with ours, we join up with them and fall into
mutually satisfying weirdness—and call it love — true love.” ― Robert Fulghum


Blood Type A May Predispose to Some Rotavirus Infections

cienceDaily (Apr. 15, 2012) — Whether you become infected by some strains of rotavirus may depend on your blood type. Some strains of rotavirus find their way into the cells of the gastrointestinal tract by recognizing antigens associated with the type A blood group, a finding that represents a new paradigm in understanding how this gut pathogen infects humans, said Baylor College of Medicine researchers in an online report in the journal Nature.

Rotavirus is a major intestinal pathogen that is the leading cause of severe dehydration and diarrhea in infants around the world. An estimated 500,000 people worldwide die from the infection annually.


This finding raises questions about why humans developed different blood groups, Prasad said. It may be an evolutionary change that occurred after the pathogen first invaded human cells.


Sunlight Plus Lime Juice Makes Drinking Water Safer

ScienceDaily (Apr. 17, 2012) — Looking for an inexpensive and effective way to quickly improve the quality of your drinking water? According to a team of researchers from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, sunlight and a twist of lime might do the trick. Researchers found that adding lime juice to water that is treated with a solar disinfection method removed detectable levels of harmful bacteria such as Escherichia coli (E. coli) significantly faster than solar disinfection alone.


In low-income regions, solar disinfection of water is one of several household water treatment methods to effectively reduce the incidence of diarrheal illness. One method of using sunlight to disinfect water that is recommended by the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) is known as SODIS (Solar water Disinfection). The SODIS method requires filling 1 or 2 L polyethylene terephthalate (PET plastic) bottles with water and then exposing them to sunlight for at least 6 hours. In cloudy weather, longer exposure times of up to 48 hours may be necessary to achieve adequate disinfection.


Researchers found that lower levels of both E. coli and MS2 bacteriophage were statistically significant following solar disinfection when either lime juice or lime slurry was added to the water compared to solar disinfection alone. They did find however, that noroviruses were not dramatically reduced using this technique, indicating it is not a perfect solution.


Friday, April 20, 2012

Mitt Romney Blames Obama For Bad Economy At Factory That Was Shuttered Under Bush

By Alex Seitz-Wald posted from ThinkProgress Special Topic on Apr 20, 2012 at 10:40 am

Yesterday, presumed GOP nominee Mitt Romney made a major campaign stop at the shuttered factory where then-candidate Obama spoke in 2008. The National Gypsum plant has since closed, and Romney said that fact “underscores the failure of this president’s policies with regards to getting the economy working again.”

But Romney’s implication that the plant’s closing is a result of Obama’s economic policies is undercut by the fact that the plant closed before Obama took office. The factory closed in June 2008, when George W. Bush was still president.

This isn’t the first time the Romney campaign has tried to blame Obama for something that happened under his predecessor. The campaign’s central piece of evidence in arguing that Obama has been bad for women — that 92 percent of job losses under Obama were from women — counts job losses that occurred from the beginning of January 2009, even though Obama wasn’t sworn in until the end of that month.


One-quarter of adults went without health care last year, report finds

By Noam N. Levy | McClatchy Tribune Newswire Posted on Thursday, April 19, 2012

With the future of the health care law emerging as a major campaign issue this fall, a new survey has found that more than a quarter of adults ages 19 to 64 in the United States lacked health insurance for at least some time in 2011.

And the vast majority of those people, nearly 70 percent, had been without coverage for more than a year, according to the study by the nonprofit Commonwealth Fund, a leading authority on health policy.

The holes in health insurance were a driving force in President Barack Obama's push for the controversial health care overhaul he signed in 2010. Close to 50 million people in the country now lack coverage, a number that has been rising as employers eliminate jobs or cut back health benefits.

Research, including the Commonwealth Fund survey, indicates that people without health insurance often skip needed medical care and do not get vital preventive services such as cancer screenings.


Wunderground launches new Local Climate Change section

By Dr. Jeff Masters
Published: 6:10 PM GMT on April 20, 2012

In honor of Earth Day on Sunday, wunderground has launched a new Climate Change Center, which gives people resources to understand how the climate is changing both globally and in their local neighborhoods. I am particularly pleased with our Local Climate Change feature, which allows one to see how temperature and precipitation have changed over the past 100+ years at the nearest station with a long period of measurements. Predictions from climate models on what the next 100 years may bring are overlaid for each station. Data for most U.S. stations goes back to 1895; we have data for a few stations in Europe that extend back to the 1700s. Berlin has the longest period of record in this database, with data back to 1702.


At link

there is a map of the U.S.

Click on a spot near the location you are interested in.

This will take you to a page with a regional map where you can get closer to your desired location, is not already there.

For uninsured Georgians, specialty care can be hard to come by

By: Andy Miller Published: Apr 16, 2012

Tammie Cox of Calhoun needed a cervical polyp removed. She had to wait several weeks for surgery, while dealing with cramping and bleeding.

S. Rita Wilson, a Rome woman, had a dangerous problem with a large uterine fibroid, which was finally removed after four months and three emergency room visits.
Jayme Robinson of Lithia Springs also waited months for surgery, all the while suffering pain from a strangulated hernia. [Note that this can cause gangrene and death.]

These three Georgia women were all in essentially the same financial predicament: No health insurance, and no ability to pay out of pocket for surgery and doctors’ fees.

Getting specialty care, such as surgery, can be difficult, if not impossible, for an uninsured adult with little financial means.

Primary care is cheaper and can be obtained at a retail clinic, a doctor’s office, a charity clinic or a community health center. But when an expensive specialized procedure such as surgery is needed, experts say, patients who lack coverage can have trouble getting it.

It’s a national problem, says Mark Rukavina of the Access Project, a Massachusetts-based research and advocacy organization that works to improve health and health care access.



Republican Meteorologist: Climate Change Has Nothing To Do With Al Gore

By Climate Guest Blogger on Apr 20, 2012 at 11:30 am
by Paul Douglas, via Bloomberg Businesweek

I’m a moderate Republican — a fan of small government, light regulation and market solutions. A serial entrepreneur, I founded companies that invented 3-D television weather graphics and the first app on a cell phone. I’m a Penn State meteorologist. My day-job since 1979: tracking weather for TV news.

If you know anything about American politics these days, and follow the climate war at all, you might anticipate with some confidence that I agree global warming is a hoax. That’s a shame, and I hope it changes soon.

In the 1980s I was skeptical that an upward blip in global temperatures was the result of manmade gases. Then the blips persisted. By the mid-90s I began to see them as unsettling changes. The weather was becoming erratic and even more unpredictable than usual. Storms were more frequent and intense. Curious, I began including climate statistics in daily TV weather segments, like annual trends in flash-flooding, hail, summer humidity, fewer subzero nights and decreased snowfall.

Mixing climate and weather was a problem in local TV news, with its reliance on Q-scores and market research. Finally, in 2008 I lost my job in local TV. I continued to write a daily column for the Star Tribune. Mixing climate news in with weather reports made me a lightning rod for skeptics there, too. The flame-mail was relentless. “Stop proselytizing, you crazy liberal – climb back under your rock!” wrote one reader. That’s one of the tamer, more family-friendly messages I’ve received.

I don’t take speaking out on this topic lightly. My father escaped a communist regime in East Germany, moved to the U.S. and became a Republican. He taught me to never take my freedom for granted. He taught me “actions have consequences.” That’s true of nations as it is of individuals. It is sheer lunacy to pretend that releasing 30 billion tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere every year won’t come back to bite us.

Climate is what you expect; weather is what you get, the saying goes. Climate is the weather over a long period of time — 15 or 30 years. We’ve pushed the bell curve of ‘average weather’ in a new and more extreme direction. There are simply too many coincidences not to take this seriously.

Climate science shows that over a long period of time, the statistics have changed. Things that used to happen a lot, like consistent winter snow cover, are happening less reliably. Things that happened every now and then, like droughts and wildfires, are happening more reliably. And things that almost never happened — such as the 15,000 new U.S. temperature records in March — sometimes now do occur. And they can’t be explained with purely meteorological reasoning.

The changes we’re seeing, far more than I can list here, seem like an accumulation of coincidences. Pieced together, reveal the full puzzle: There’s more heat and moisture in the atmosphere, and our emissions are largely responsible for keeping it there.



Poor people in the U.S. dying because they can't afford medical care

By Phil Galewitz, Kaiser Health News 4/18/2012

STONE MOUNTAIN, Ga. – At Oakhurst Medical Center here, just 20% of children have received all their recommended immunizations by age 2

Adults don't fare much better at this community health center, which provides primary care to 14,000 mostly poor people in a town famous for its granite monolith and "Confederate Mount Rushmore," just east of Atlanta.

Fewer than half of its diabetics and a little more than a third of those with high blood pressure had their conditions under control in 2010 — far below national averages for the U.S. population, according to a Kaiser Health News-USA TODAY analysis of the latest federal data.

But 65 miles east of here in Greensboro in rural central Georgia, it's a different story. At TenderCare Clinic, almost all children get the appropriate immunizations, and eight out 10 diabetics have normal blood sugar levels.

The marked differences between Oakhurst and TenderCare underscore the wide variability in how well community health centers are caring for millions of people nationwide.

"There is tremendous performance variation within community health centers and also tremendous variation among any health providers, hospitals, nursing homes, doctors," says Deborah Gurewich, a Brandeis University researcher. "That's the American health system."

Lower-performing centers typically have a higher proportion of uninsured patients and more staff turnover, she says. Most also lack electronic record systems, which makes it harder to track patients.


Still, says Dave Ringer, a family doctor, it's not unusual for patients to tell him they cannot keep appointments because they couldn't pay a family member for a ride.

The center also has trouble finding specialists and hospitals willing to provide surgery to its uninsured patients. While many health centers have trouble finding specialists and hospitals to do surgery on patients without insurance, TenderCare is in a more precarious spot because it is outside the areas covered by Grady Memorial, the large public hospital in Atlanta, and Medical College of Georgia in Athens.

In the past year, an uninsured man waited more than eight months to find a neurosurgeon to operate on a brain tumor, Ringer says. An uninsured woman died of cervical cancer after waiting a year to find a surgeon.



Blogger has changed it's format for the owner of the blog (me), and in the process, the posts I had scheduled to appear in case I couldn't get on the internet are still "scheduled". I have internet at home, but the connection is not great, and I haven't been able to get on it most of the time the last few days because it's been cloudy. I'm at a restaurant now, for an open mic, so I hope I can post things ok.

Most Wikipedia Entries About Companies Contain Factual Errors, Study Finds

It's safe to assume that public relations professionals work with Wikipedia editors to achieve Wikipedia entries that reflect well on their companies, including suppressing unfavorable information.

ScienceDaily (Apr. 17, 2012) — Sixty percent of Wikipedia articles about companies contain factual errors, according to research published recently in the Public Relations Society of America's (PRSA) scholarly publication, Public Relations Journal. Findings from the research will help establish a baseline of understanding for how public relations professionals work with Wikipedia editors to achieve accuracy in their clients' entries.



Listening to Your Favorite Music Boosts Performance

ScienceDaily (Apr. 17, 2012) — Whether you like classical, death metal or skiffle, listening to your own choice of music could improve your enjoyment of taking part in competitive sports and improve performance, a study has found.



DDT Linked to Long-Term Decline of Insect-Eating Birds in North America, Through Analysis of Bird Droppings

ScienceDaily (Apr. 18, 2012) — New research findings highlight how deposits of animal droppings are scientifically important for determining the impact of environmental change on threatened species.

Analysis of 50 years' bird droppings inside a large decommissioned chimney on Queen's campus provided evidence that DDT and bird diet may have played a role in a long-term decline for populations of insect-eating birds in North America. The chimney had been a roosting spot for chimney swifts.



Thursday, April 19, 2012

Lead Dust Is Linked to Violence

ScienceDaily (Apr. 17, 2012) — Childhood exposure to lead dust has been linked to lasting physical and behavioral effects, and now lead dust from vehicles using leaded gasoline has been linked to instances of aggravated assault two decades after exposure, says Tulane toxicologist Howard W. Mielke.

Vehicles using leaded gasoline that contaminated cities' air decades ago have increased aggravated assault in urban areas, researchers say.



End your toxic relationship with household cleaners

April 9, 2012

Almost half of Canadian women (40 per cent) are expected to develop cancer over their lifetimes — reason number one to join the Queen of Green's Spring Breakup to end your toxic relationships with cleaners!

It's a parting you'll remember fondly. And I'm here to help.

Fact: An estimated one out of every four Canadians is expected to die from cancer— this country's leading cause of premature death. Yet, 50 to 75 per cent of cancers are preventable.

Did you know that many doctors and cancer treatment centres, like Inspire Health, tell patients to rid their homes of conventional cleaning products once they've been diagnosed with the big "c"?

That's sick.
Subscribe to the Queen of Green digest

Why wait for illness before reducing your exposure to known or potential cancer-causing chemicals (and those that disrupt or mimic hormones like estrogen)?

Speaking of estrogen, pregnant women are given similar advice on blogs, websites and in mommy mags when it comes to home cleaners. But why wait to get knocked up before making your home healthy and safe?

Most home cleaning can be accomplished with ingredients safe enough to eat — baking soda, olive oil, white vinegar, salt, and lemons. When I realized that many common household cleaning products are made with chemicals classified as toxic or hazardous — to our health and the planet's — I made the switch. I prefer my hormones undisrupted, thank you very much.



At Least 30 Countries Have Unemployment Benefits More Generous Than The U.S.

By Pat Garofalo on Apr 16, 2012 at 5:00 pm

According to data from the International Monetary Fund analyzed by Tim Vlandas, there are at least 30 countries with unemployment benefits that are more generous than those that go to American workers. The University of Missouri-St. Louis’ Kenneth Thomas broke the data down:

The metric used is the gross replacement rate (GRR) the ratio of unemployment benefits to a worker’s previous wages. The United States gives, on average, a miserly 27.5% of previous wages in unemployment benefits, behind 17 OECD members, though ahead of 11 others (no data was given for OECD members Iceland, Luxembourg, Mexico, Slovak Republic, and Slovenia). Not only that, the U.S. falls behind 13 non-OECD members, including Algeria, Taiwan, and Ukraine, all of which have at least double the replacement rate of the U.S.

The U.S. does rank ahead of the United Kingdom, New Zealand, and Australia, but trails Egypt, Azerbaijan, and Tunisia in terms of the amount of income replaced by unemployment insurance. And in the wake of the Great Recession, instead of fashioning a better unemployment insurance system, Republicans across the country have slashed benefits, even while some, such as Florida, have high unemployment rates. Meanwhile, Republican lawmakers in Congress have blocked and voted against several benefit extensions.

But it remains the case that there are nearly four unemployed job seekers for every available job opening, making unemployment benefits a critical source of income for those who can’t find work through no fault of their own.



Wednesday, April 18, 2012

It Doesn’t Mean You’re Crazy – Talking to Yourself Has Cognitive Benefits

ScienceDaily (Apr. 17, 2012) — Most people talk to themselves at least every few days, and many report talking to themselves on an hourly basis. What purpose is served by this seemingly irrational behavior? Previous research has suggested that such self-directed speech in children can help guide their behavior. For example, children often talk themselves step-by-step through tying their shoelaces, as if reminding themselves to focus on the job in hand.


It was found that speaking to themselves helped people find the objects more quickly.


The next time you lose your keys, you may want to mutter "keys keys keys" to yourself while searching for them, and just ignore the strange looks you may be getting…


Edible landscaping: Eat your beautiful yard

By Stephanie RogersWed, Apr 27 2011 at 11:26 AM EST

This yummy alternative can be just as beautiful as traditional landscaping, replacing everything from ground cover to trees with food-producing plants like mint, strawberries and asparagus.

Why surround your home with landscaping that is merely ornamental when it could feed you, too? Edible landscaping can be just as beautiful as traditional landscaping, replacing everything from groundcover to trees with food-producing plants like mint, strawberries, asparagus and sunflowers.

The first trick to successful edible landscaping is thinking outside the rows. Food crops don't always need to be planted farm-style, one row after another. Just as ornamental landscapers use creative groupings that arrange plants by color, texture and height, edible landscaping can be planted in visually stimulating layouts that are both pleasing to the eye and beneficial to the plants themselves.



U.S. Standard of Living Has Fallen More Than 50%

One of the few places I have seen statistics on individual, rather than household, income, much less a discussion of the differing measures of inflation. Giving statistics for households hides the decline in wages because of the increasing number of two-wager earner families, made necessary by the decline in wages.

By Jeff Nielson 04/03/12 - 06:00 AM EDt

In writing about the relentless collapse of Western economies, I frequently point to "40 years of plummeting wages" for Western workers, in real dollars. However, where I have been remiss is in quantifying the magnitude of this collapse in Western wages.

On several occasions, I have glibly referred to how it now takes two spouses working to equal the wages of a one-income family of 40 years ago. Unfortunately, that is now an understatement. In fact, Western wages have plummeted so low that a two-income family is now (on average) 15% poorer than a one-income family of 40 years ago.

Regular readers will recognize the chart below on U.S. average wages.

Using the year 2000 as the numerical base from which to "zero" all of the numbers, real wages peaked in 1970 at around $20/hour. Today the average worker makes $8.50/hour -- more than 57% less than in 1970. And since the average wage directly determines the standard of living of our society, we can see that the average standard of living in the U.S. has plummeted by over 57% over a span of 40 years.


Then we have the blue line: showing wage data discounted with our "official" inflation rate. The problem? The methodology used by our governments to calculate inflation in 1975 was different from the method they used in 1985, which was different than the method they used in 1995, which was different than the method they used in 2005.

Two obvious points flow from this observation. First, it is tautological that the only way in which data can be compared meaningfully is to use a consistent methodology. If the government thinks it has improved upon its inflation methodology, then all it had to do was take all of its old data and re-calculate it with their "improved" methodology. Since 1970 there is this invention called "computers" which makes such calculations rather simple.

This brings us to the second point: the refusal of our governments to adopt a consistent methodology in reporting inflation statistics can only imply a deliberate attempt to deceive, since it is 100% logically/statistically invalid to simply string together disconnected series of data -- and present it as if it represents a consistent picture. More specifically, we can see precisely what lie our government was attempting to get us to believe.


The causes of that economic rape are equally obvious in terms of categories, although the actual analysis of those causes is somewhat more complex.

1) Taxation oppression. .....

2) Systemic/structural unemployment. Technology always eliminates jobs faster than it creates new opportunities. .....

3) Oligopolies/monopolies. .....


Sinking Nations Are Pursuing Legal Options To Stave Off Destruction

by Michael Bobelian 3/12/2012 @ 2:52PM

The Marshall Islands is approaching extinction. The threat is not from a plague or a warring neighbor. It is the very ocean that surrounds this archipelago of islands and atolls located in the Pacific Ocean just above the equator.

The math is as simple as it is deadly. As global temperatures rise, so will sea levels from three to six feet by the end of the century according to the Columbia University Earth Institute. The speckles of flat land that make up the Marshall Islands rise about seven feet above sea level.

In a few decades, scientists predict that rising ocean levels, combined with stronger, more frequent storms, will erode coastlines and destroy fresh water and agricultural supplies of low-elevation island nations (not to mention low-altitude coastlines across the globe).



ROMNEY LIES: Claims John Kerry Released 2 Years Of Tax Returns But Kerry Actually Released 20

By Judd Legum posted from ThinkProgress Special Topic on Apr 17, 2012 at 6:15 pm

In a CNBC interview with Larry Kudlow to air later tonight, Mitt Romney defends his decision to release only two years of tax returns — both filed after he decided to run for President — by claiming that 2004 Democratic nominee John Kerry also released two years.


In fact, John Kerry released not two years of returns, but 20.



Corporations Spending The Most On Lobbying See Their Tax Rates Drop

By Rebecca Leber posted from ThinkProgress Economy on Apr 17, 2012 at 8:20 pm

Two-thirds of the largest 200 U.S. corporations lobbied on at least one tax bill between 2007 and 2010, and here’s why: the majority of them ended up paying lower taxes in 2010.

The eight major corporations that spent the most on lobbying, for a total $540 million, all saw their tax rates decrease. According to a Sunlight Foundation report, the odds that those companies saw lower rates merely by chance is less than 1 in 100. The odds that six of those corporations paid seven percentage points less is even lower, at only 1 in 100,000.

Instead, the reduction was likely a result of their presence in Washington, lobbying for tax giveaways.


These companies are notorious for tax dodging, like ExxonMobil, which spent the most on lobbying and paid $565 million less in taxes. AT&T received the greatest return on lobbying, paying $7.3 billion less. Both of these companies spent even more on lobbying in 2011, with Exxon spending up by $300,000 and AT&T’s up $4,834,922. Exxon’s 2011 tax rate decreased from 17.6 to 13 percent in 2011.


Who is fittest?

"It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent, but rather the one most adaptable to change." birthday greetings to Clarence Darrow, a sprightly 155 years young today.


What the world needs now

The world needs dreamers and the world needs doers. But above all, the world needs dreamers who do. ~ Sarah Ban Breathnach

Society needs a variety of different kinds of people. I don't know that "the world" needs humans at all, unless we come up with a way to avoid being hit by an asteroid or something like that.


Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Bank of America Forecloses On Homeowner With Disabled Daughter After Offering Her A Modification

By Travis Waldron posted from ThinkProgress Economy on Apr 13, 2012 at 7:00 pm

A California woman is facing foreclosure from Bank of America after taking out a loan to make her home more accessible for her disabled daughter, shining light on yet another improper foreclosure practice perpetuated by America’s largest banks.

Dirma Rodriguez fell behind on her original loan after spending thousands of dollars installing tile floors and a wheelchair ramp to make it easier for Ingrid Ortiz, her daughter who has cerebral palsy, to move around the house. When Rodriguez fell behind on her original loan, Bank of America offered her a trial modification. Even though Rodriguez kept up with those payments for more than a year, the bank sold her home at auction, and the new owner is pursuing eviction, the Los Angeles Times reports:


Rodriguez’s story, unfortunately, is not unique. Thanks to the process known as dual-tracking, banks have thrown thousands of homeowners into foreclosure even while offering those same homeowners loan modifications. As a result, homeowners who were willing to make new, lower payments to stay in their homes are often evicted anyway. Dual tracking, along discriminatory, fraudulent, and deceptive practices, led Bank of America and other Wall Street banks to settle a $25 billion suit with the federal government last month.