Thursday, May 31, 2012

Oxnard school district bans epithet that divides Mexicans

Patt Morrison for May 31, 2012

The Oxnard school district passed a resolution this week, banning the words “Oaxaquita” (little Oaxacan) and “indito” (little Indian) from district campuses.

"This is very constant in Los Angeles, and that 'Oaxaquita' is rooted here in L.A.," said Gabriel Martinez, a Oaxaca-born professor at SDSU. "Its been going on for quite some time and we've been quiet about that."

The ban comes after months of lobbying from the Mixteco/Indigena Community Organizing Project’s “No me llames Oaxaquita,” or “Don’t call me little Oaxacan” campaign. The project claims the names are racial epithets, often used by Mexicans to put down indigenous Mexicans, of which there are about 20,000 in Ventura County, where many work in the strawberry industry.

"Many of our Oaxaqueños are indigenous, so the kids use these words to bully the other kids from Oaxaca," said Arsenio Lopez, associate director of the Mixteco/Indigena Community Organizing Project. "We started seeing this situation happening in the school and in the work area of the parents, so thats why we believe its important to start this campaign."

Researchers say the treatment links back to a legacy of discrimination against indigenous people in Mexico. Martinez says Mexico has an institutional prejudice from indigenous Mexicans that pervades the establishment there.

"In a historic context, the fight has been going on for a couple centuries," said Martinez. "The Mexican institution, the government, the church, the education system, this is what they ask for to leave behind the Indigenous people and move on into a European behavior, language, Spanish, and adopt their version of institution, so this is just a manifestation of what the three different institutions have applied into the minds of Mexican people."

White Supremacist With Ties To Neo-Nazi Groups Elected To Pennsylvania County GOP Committee

By Adam Peck on May 31, 2012 at 2:40 pm

Republicans in Luzerne County, Pennsylvania have elected Steve Smith, a lifelong white supremacist with close ties to neo-Nazi groups and groups like Aryan Nations, to the county’s GOP Committee.

Unprecedented May heat in Greenland; update on 2011 Greenland ice melt

Posted by: JeffMasters, 2:53 PM GMT on May 31, 2012

The record books for Greenland's climate were re-written on Tuesday, when the mercury hit 24.8°C (76.6°F) at Narsarsuaq, Greenland, on the southern coast. According to weather records researcher Maximiliano Herrera, this is the hottest temperature on record in Greenland for May, and is just 0.7°C (1.3°F) below the hottest temperature ever measured in Greenland. The previous May record was 22.4°C (72.3°F) at Kangerlussuaq (called Sondre Stormfjord in Danish) on May 31, 1991. The 25.2°C at Narsarsuaq on June 22, 1957 is the only June temperature measured in Greenland warmer than yesterday's 24.8°C reading. Wunderground's extremes page shows that the all-time warmest temperature record for Greenland is 25.5°C (77.9°F) set on July 26, 1990.


Why Greenland is important
If the massive icecap on Greenland were to melt, global sea level would rise 7 meters (23 ft). Temperatures in Greenland are predicted to rise 3°C by 2100, to levels similar to those present during that warm period 120,000 years ago. During that period, roughly half of the Greenland ice sheet melted, increasing sea level by 2.2 - 3.4 meters (7.2 - 11.2 ft.) However, the 2007 IPCC report expects melting of the Greenland ice sheet to occur over about a 1,000 year period, delaying much of the expected sea level rise for many centuries. While Greenland's ice isn't going to be melting completely and catastrophically flooding low-lying areas of the earth in the next few decades (sea level is only rising about 3 mm per year or 1.2 inches per decade at present), the risk later this century needs to be taken seriously.


North Carolina Bill Would Require Coastal Communities To Ignore Global Warming Science

These people are making our country a laughing stock to the world.

By Joe Romm on May 31, 2012 at 6:10 pm

Some North Carolina GOP legislators want to stop the use of science to plan for the future. They are circulating a bill that would force coastal counties to ignore actual observations and the best science-based projections in planning for future sea level rise.

King Canute thought he had the power to hold back the tide (in the apocryphal legend). These all-too-real lawmakers want to go one better and mandate a formula that projects a sea level rise of at most 12 inches, far below what the science now projects.

A state-appointed science panel reviewed the recent literature and reported that a 1-meter (39 inch) rise is likely by 2100. Many coastal studies experts think a level of 5 to 7 feet should be used, since you typically plan for the plausible worst-case scenario, especially with expensive, long-lived infrastructure.

The 2011 report by the National Academy of Science for the U.S. Navy on the national security implications of climate change concluded:

Based on recent peer-reviewed scientific literature, the Department of the Navy should expect roughly 0.4 to 2 meters global average sealevel rise by 2100, with a most likely value of about 0.8 meter. Projections of local sea-level rise could be much larger and should be taken into account for naval planning purposes,

Rob Young, a geology professor at Western Carolina University and a member of the state science panel, pointed out to the North Carolina Coastal Federation (NCCF), that this proposed law stands against the conclusions of “every major science organization on the globe.” Young notes, “Every other state in the country is planning on three-feet of sea level rise or more.” The Charlotte Observer notes:

Maine is preparing for a rise of up to 2 meters by 2100, Delaware 1.5 meters, Louisiana 1 meter and California 1.4 meters. Southeastern Florida projects up to a 2-foot rise by 2060.

In place of science, the bill would mandate that only the Division of Coastal Management can put out an estimate of the rate of sea-level rise rate — and they must use an arbitrary, low-ball formula:

These rates shall only be determined using historical data, and these data shall be limited to the time period following the year 1900. Rates of sea-level rise may be extrapolated linearly to estimate future rates of rise but shall not include scenarios of accelerated rates of sea-level rise.


As the National Academies report to the Navy pointed out, observations suggest SLR won’t be linear: Thanks to satellite data, “it is now possible to detect acceleration in sea-level rise over the past few decades.”

Here is NASA’s website with the data plotted showing the recent acceleration:


A 2011 study led by the U.S. Jet Propulsion Laboratory using satellite data concluded, “The Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets are losing mass at an accelerating pace.” The JPL news release explains how the authors concluded we face 1 foot of sea level rise by 2050:

The authors conclude that, if current ice sheet melting rates continue for the next four decades, their cumulative loss could raise sea level by 15 centimeters (5.9 inches) by 2050. When this is added to the predicted sea level contribution of 8 centimeters (3.1 inches) from glacial ice caps and 9 centimeters (3.5 inches) from ocean thermal expansion, total sea level rise could reach 32 centimeters (12.6 inches).


One North Carolinian writing in Scientific American said the proposed bill is “exactly like saying, do not predict tomorrow’s weather based on radar images of a hurricane swirling offshore, moving west towards us with 60-mph winds and ten inches of rain. Predict the weather based on the last two weeks of fair weather with gentle breezes towards the east. Don’t use radar and barometers; use the Farmer’s Almanac and what grandpa remembers.”

The irony is that North Carolina celebrates scientific and technological achievement on its license plate and state quarter – the Wright Brothers “First Flight” at Kittyhawk. Oh, and its state motto is Esse quam videri, which means “To be, rather than to seem.”

You’d think such a state would pass laws based on science and what actually is, rather than what seems to be popular with narrow economic interests.

Oklahoma Doctor Refuses To Provide Rape Victim With Emergency Contraception

What I would like is for the fertilized egg to be implanted into that doctor. I suspect that one of the factors in the decrease in violent crime rates is that women have been able to get emergency contraception after being raped, so rapists are less likely to pass on their defective genes.

By Annie-Rose Strasser on May 31, 2012 at 11:09 am

An Oklahoma emergency room doctor refused to provide emergency contraception to a 24-year-old female rape victim because the medication violated the health provider’s personal beliefs, a local CBS News affiliate reports. The hospital also denied the victim a rape kit, noting that it had no appropriate nurse on staff to administer the test.

“I will not give you emergency contraceptives because it goes against my beliefs,” the doctor allegedly told the rape victim and her mother, Rhonda. “She knew my daughter had just been raped. Her attitude was so judgmental and I felt that she was just judging my daughter,” Rhonda told the news station. Watch the segment:

'Personality Genes' May Help Account for Longevity

ScienceDaily (May 24, 2012) — "It's in their genes" is a common refrain from scientists when asked about factors that allow centenarians to reach age 100 and beyond. Up until now, research has focused on genetic variations that offer a physiological advantage such as high levels of HDL ("good") cholesterol. But researchers at Albert Einstein College of Medicine and Ferkauf Graduate School of Psychology of Yeshiva University have found that personality traits like being outgoing, optimistic, easygoing, and enjoying laughter as well as staying engaged in activities may also be part of the longevity genes mix.


"When I started working with centenarians, I thought we'd find that they survived so long in part because they were mean and ornery," said Nir Barzilai, M.D., the Ingeborg and Ira Leon Rennert Chair of Aging Research, director of Einstein's Institute for Aging Research and co-corresponding author of the study. "But when we assessed the personalities of these 243 centenarians, we found qualities that clearly reflect a positive attitude towards life. Most were outgoing, optimistic and easygoing. They considered laughter an important part of life and had a large social network. They expressed emotions openly rather than bottling them up." In addition, the centenarians had lower scores for displaying neurotic personality and higher scores for being conscientious compared with a representative sample of the U.S. population.

"Some evidence indicates that personality can change between the ages of 70 and 100, so we don't know whether our centenarians have maintained their personality traits across their entire lifespans," continued Dr. Barzilai. "Nevertheless, our findings suggest that centenarians share particular personality traits and that genetically-based aspects of personality may play an important role in achieving both good health and exceptional longevit

Too Much Vitamin D Can Be as Unhealthy as Too Little, Study Suggests

ScienceDaily (May 29, 2012) — Scientists know that Vitamin D deficiency is not healthy. However, new research from the University of Copenhagen now indicates that too high a level of the essential vitamin is not good either. The study is based on blood samples from 247,574 Copenhageners. The results have just been published in the reputed scientific Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism.

Vitamin D is instrumental in helping calcium reach our bones, thus lessening the risk from falls and the risk of broken hips. Research suggests that vitamin D is also beneficial in combating cardiac disease, depression and certain types of cancers. The results from a study conducted by the Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences now support the benefits of vitamin D in terms of mortality risk. However, the research results also show higher mortality in people with too high levels of vitamin D in their bloodstream:

"We have had access to blood tests from a quarter of a million Copenhageners. We found higher mortality in people with a low level of vitamin D in their blood, but to our surprise, we also found it in people with a high level of vitamin D. We can draw a graph showing that perhaps it is harmful with too little and too much vitamin D," explains Darshana Durup, PhD student.

If the blood contains less than 10 nanomol (nmol) of vitamin per liter of serum, mortality is 2.31 times higher. However, if the blood contains more than 140 nmol of vitamin per liter of serum, mortality is higher by a factor of 1.42. Both values are compared to 50 nmol of vitamin per liter of serum, where the scientists see the lowest mortality rate.

Facts in Scientific Drug Literature May Not Be

ScienceDaily (May 29, 2012) — A growing concern with fraud and misconduct in published drug studies has led researchers at the University of Illinois at Chicago's Center for Pharmacoeconomic Research to investigate the extent and reasons for retractions in the research.

"We were surprised to find the proportion of retractions due to scientific misconduct in the drug literature is higher than in general biomedical literature," said Simon Pickard, associate professor of pharmacy practice and senior author of a study published in the journal Pharmacotherapy.

Nearly three-quarters of the retracted drug studies were attributed to scientific misconduct, he said, "which includes data falsification or fabrication, questionable veracity, unethical author conduct, or plagiarism. While these studies comprise a small percentage of the overall literature, health care professionals may rely on this evidence to make treatment recommendations."


The UIC team found that a considerable number of the retracted papers were attributable to two authors, one based in Japan and the other in Germany.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Irritable Bowel Syndrome Clearly Linked to Gut Bacteria

ScienceDaily (May 25, 2012) — An overgrowth of bacteria in the gut has been definitively linked to Irritable Bowel Syndrome in the results of a new Cedars-Sinai study which used cultures from the small intestine. This is the first study to use this "gold standard" method of connecting bacteria to the cause of the disease that affects an estimated 30 million people in the United States.

Children Exposed to the Common Pollutant Naphthalene Show Signs of Chromosomal Damage

ScienceDaily (May 29, 2012) — According to a new study, children exposed to high levels of the common air pollutant naphthalene are at increased risk for chromosomal aberrations (CAs), which have been previously associated with cancer. These include chromosomal translocations, a potentially more harmful and long-lasting subtype of CAs.


Naphthalene is found in both outdoor and indoor urban air. It is present in automotive exhaust, tobacco smoke, and is the primary component of household mothball fumes. Classified as a possible carcinogen by the International Agency for Cancer Research, naphthalene belongs to a class of air pollutants called polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH). Prior research at the CCCEH has established a link between prenatal exposure to PAH and increased risk for childhood obesity, IQ deficits, and CAs. The new study is the first to present evidence in humans of CAs, including translocations, associated with exposure to one specific PAH -- naphthalene -- during childhood.

Greenland's Loss of Ice Mass During the Last 10 Years Is Unusually High Compared to Last 50 Years

ScienceDaily (May 29, 2012) — Loss through melting and iceberg calving during the last 10 years is unusually high compared to the last 50 years

The Greenland ice sheet continues to lose mass and thus contributes at about 0.7 millimeters per year to the currently observed sea level change of about 3 mm per year. This trend increases each year by a further 0.07 millimeters per year.

Older Adults May Need More Vitamin D to Prevent Mobility Difficulties, Study Suggests

ScienceDaily (May 29, 2012) — Older adults who don't get enough vitamin D -- either from diet, supplements or sun exposure -- may be at increased risk of developing mobility limitations and disability, according to new research from Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center.

Marriage May Make People Happier

Of course, this is on average. It's obvious that some marriages result in people being less happy.

ScienceDaily (May 30, 2012) — Married people may be happier in the long run than those who aren't married, according to new research by Michigan State University scientists.

Their study, online in the Journal of Research in Personality, finds that although matrimony does not make people happier than they were when they were single, it appears to protect against normal declines in happiness during adulthood.

"Our study suggests that people on average are happier than they would have been if they didn't get married," said Stevie C.Y. Yap, a researcher in MSU's Department of Psychology.

Yap, Ivana Anusic and Richard Lucas studied the data of thousands of participants in a long-running, national British survey. They set out to find whether personality helps people adapt to major life events including marriage.

The answer, essentially, was no: Personality traits such as conscientiousness or neuroticism do not help people deal with losing a job or having a baby.

"Past research has suggested that personality is important in how people react to important life events," Yap said. "But we found that there were no consistent effects of personality in how people react and adapt to these major events."

In general, similar-aged participants who did not get married showed a gradual decline in happiness as the years passed.

Those who were married, however, largely bucked this trend. It's not that marriage caused their satisfaction level to spike, Yap noted, but instead kept it, at least, stable.

Hacked fake news promoting work-at-home scam!

Wow! Hacked fake news promoting a work-at-home scam! How many levels of scam is that?

I got an e-mail from a friend with a link to a news item about a woman who supposedly makes $15,000/week in a work-at-home scheme. Classic scam. When I googled it, found it was "fake news". I e-mailed the info to my friend, and found out someone had hacked her e-mail, and she had not sent it!

America’s Children Living in Poverty- Ranked 2nd from the Highest of 35 Developed Nations

May 30, 2012 at 8:38 AM PDT
By Amee Ellsworth

Those advertisements that ask you to send money to feed a starving child in a foreign country should carry a significantly new meaning after reading a new report released by the Office of Research at the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF). The United States now has one of the highest rates of children living in poverty in developed countries. Children in the U.S. now rank second after Romania.

This rate is based on the definition of poverty- a child is deemed to be living in relative poverty if he or she is growing up in a household where disposable income, when adjusted for family size and composition, is less than 50% of the median disposable household income for the country concerned. According to this definition, over 15% of the 200 million children in the World’s developed countries are currently living in poverty. Of these 35 countries, only two countries have over 20% of their children living in poverty- Romania and the United States.

Contributing factors to issues faced by children in the U.S. include the long reaching destruction caused by the recession. Food stamp assistance has reduced the number of U.S. children from living in extreme poverty by half last year. Fears of reduction in food stamps, school lunch programs and other safety nets that are currently available to the nation’s children are raising concerns that this number may increase significantly.

According to the Washington Post, “1 in 7 people in the U.S. now subsist on food stamps, and, in 2009, nearly 15 percent of U.S. households were found to have low or very low “food security,” meaning that, on a regular basis, nearly 50 million Americans ran short on food. Even for many members of the traditional middle class, America is no longer the Land of Plenty.” Dependence on food stamps, school lunch programs and food pantries has increased significantly. Food pantries that once had full shelves are being forced to turn away hungry families as their shelves become bare.

ABC News reports “As many as 17 million children nationwide are struggling with what is known as food insecurity. To put it another way, one in four children in the country is living without consistent access to enough nutritious food to live a healthy life, according to the study, "Map the Meal Child Food Insecurity 2011."” The long term consequences of malnutrition caused by failure to maintain a healthy diet include learning disabilities, developmental issue and other long term problems.

The truth about renewable energy: Inexpensive, reliable, and inexhaustible

By Bill White 29 May 2012

We’ve all heard the common myths about renewable energy: It’s expensive; it can’t be relied upon; there just isn’t enough of it to meet our energy needs. But as technological advances and plummeting costs drive explosive growth — U.S. installed wind capacity has grown sevenfold to nearly 47 gigawatts in the last seven years — real-world experience is shattering long-held assumptions every day. Even ardent supporters of renewables may be surprised by what we’re learning.

Renewable energy actually reduces electricity prices for businesses and consumers. A new analysis [PDF] conducted by Synapse Energy Economics on behalf of Americans for a Clean Energy Grid found that adding more wind power to the electric grid could reduce wholesale market prices by more than 25 percent in the Midwest region by 2020 — $3–$10 per megawatt hour (MWh) in the near term, and up to nearly $50 per MWh by 2030. Those savings would be passed along to consumers through lowering retail electricity prices by $65–$200 each year.


Infrastructure to connect renewable energy is a great investment. The Synapse analysis also found that new transmission is needed in the Midwest region to tap wind power. New high-voltage transmission lines are large infrastructure investments, but are the smallest part of a typical electricity bill — less than 10 percent, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. Generation is much more expensive, comprising two-thirds of the average bill.


Integrating variable renewable resources is easier and cheaper than we thought. There are challenges to integrating any kind of power into the grid, but the challenges for wind are minimal and well worth the effort.


America has far more than enough renewable energy resources to meet its entire electric demand. World-class renewable resources from wind in the Great Plains to solar in the Southwest could power the whole country more than a dozen times over.


Billionaires Are Trying to Buy the Presidential Election of 2012

I doubt this will come as a surprise to my readers!

May 30th, 2012

In an exclusive interview this morning, Jennifer Granholm asks David Axelrod to weigh in on GOP super PACs:

David Axelrod talks with Jennifer Granholm about billionaires buying the election (excerpted from full interview airing tonight):

GRANHOLM: This morning there was a story about how much money the Republican outside groups are going to be spending in this election. What do you know and will that keep you up at night?

AXELROD: There was a report this morning that the Republican super PACs, apart from Romney and apart from his own super PAC, intend to spend a billion dollars in this campaign setting up shadow state organizations—district-wide organizations—as well as running media. So a handful of plutocrats of billionaires with a special interest agenda are going to try and buy this government in this election, and the stakes of that are pretty profound.

GRANHOLM: Profound for the presidency? Profound for congress? Because that’s a lot of money.

AXELROD: I think the congressional races… I’m obviously concerned about the implications for our race, but we’ve braced ourselves… We’ve been talking about this for some time. It’s a concern. It’s one of my big concerns. But for congressional candidates, its gotta be a nightmare. We saw in the last election, in the last 3 weeks of those campaigns, super PACs swooped in and spent huge amounts of money in the final 3 weeks to influence those congressional races and turned a lot of races with their money. I think you can anticipate that in spades this year.

Global CO2 emissions hit record in 2011 led by China

Thu May 24, 2012 4:33pm BST

By Michel Rose

PARIS, May 24 (Reuters) - China spurred a jump in global carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions to their highest ever recorded level in 2011, offsetting falls in the United States and Europe, the International Energy Agency (IEA) said on Thursday.

CO2 emissions rose by 3.2 percent last year to 31.6 billion tonnes, preliminary estimates from the Paris-based IEA showed.

China, the world's biggest emitter of CO2, made the largest contribution to the global rise, its emissions increasing by 9.3 percent, the body said, driven mainly by higher coal use.

"When I look at this data, the trend is perfectly in line with a temperature increase of 6 degrees Celsius [which is an increase of 10.8 degrees Fahrenheit] (by 2050), which would have devastating consequences for the planet," Fatih Birol, IEA's chief economist told Reuters.

Scientists say ensuring global average temperatures this century do not rise more than 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels is needed to limit devastating climate effects like crop failure and melting glaciers.

They believe that is only possible if emission levels are kept to around 44 billion tonnes of CO2 equivalent in 2020.

Negotiators from over 180 nations are meeting in Bonn, Germany, until Friday to work towards getting a new global climate pact signed by 2015.


In China, CO2 emissions per unit of GDP - or its carbon intensity - fell by 15 percent between 2005 and 2011, the IEA said, suggesting the world's second-largest economy was finding less carbon-consuming ways to fuel growth.

In the United States, the world's second-biggest CO2 emitter, a switch to natural gas from coal in power plants, a slower economy and a mild winter helped cut emissions by 1.7 percent.


Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Online Smear Campaign Against USA Today Reporters

By Adam Peck on May 24, 2012 at 6:21 pm

The former head of a group that contracts with the Pentagon to produce propaganda material used oversees has admitted to launching a similar disinformation campaign against two U.S.-based reporters.

In April, two USA Today journalists claimed they were the victims of a deliberate “reputation attack” after they wrote a series of stories about the Pentagon’s contracts with groups that specialize in the production of propaganda. Days after the journalists began speaking with officials at the Pentagon and other sources for the story, fake websites and social media accounts set up in the names of the two reporters were mysteriously registered and began trying to discredit the stories.

Camille Chidiac, the minority owner and former president of Leonie Industries, one of the consulting firms that works with the Pentagon and was featured prominently in USA Today’s reporting, took responsibility for the misinformation campaign. USA Today reports:

“I take full responsibility for having some of the discussion forums opened and reproducing their previously published USA TODAY articles on them,” he said a statement released by his attorney, Lin Wood, of Atlanta.

“I recognize and deeply regret that my actions have caused concerns for Leonie and the U.S. military. This was never my intention. As an immediate corrective action, I am in the process of completely divesting my remaining minority ownership from Leonie,” Chidiac said.

Chidiac says Leonie Industries and the Pentagon had no knowledge of the smear campaign, and no funding from either entity was used in the attack. Leonie Industries has received at least $120 million in Pentagon contracts since 2009.

Earlier this month, Rep. Hank Johnson (D-GA) called on the Pentagon to launch an investigation into the smear campaign against the USA Today journalists and said it should “consider suspending all contracts with Leonie Industries until such investigation is complete.”

Typical CEO made $9.6M last year, AP study finds

That's $184,615/week$9.6m-last-year-ap-study-finds/

May 28, 2012

Profits at big U.S. companies broke records last year, and so did pay for CEOs.

The head of a typical public company made $9.6 million in 2011, according to an analysis by The Associated Press using data from Equilar, an executive pay research firm.

That was up more than 6 percent from the previous year, and is the second year in a row of increases. The figure is also the highest since the AP began tracking executive compensation in 2006.

Companies trimmed cash bonuses but handed out more in stock awards. For shareholder activists who have long decried CEO pay as exorbitant, that was a victory of sorts.

That's because the stock awards are being tied more often to company performance. In those instances, CEOs can't cash in the shares right away: They have to meet goals first, like boosting profit to a certain level.

The idea is to motivate CEOs to make sure a company does well and to tie their fortunes to the company's for the long term. For too long, activists say, CEOs have been richly rewarded no matter how a company has fared — "pay for pulse," as some critics call it.

Monday, May 28, 2012

How The Zero Weeks Of Paid Maternity Leave In The U.S. Compare Globally

By Amanda Peterson Beadle on May 24, 2012 at 5:30 pm

Out of 178 nations, the U.S. is one of three that does not offer paid maternity leave benefits, let alone paid leave for fathers, which more than 50 of these nations offer.

In comparison, Canada and Norway offer generous benefits that can be shared between the father and mother, France offers about four months, and even Mexico and Pakistan are among the nations offer 12 weeks paid leave for mothers.

American women are offered 12 weeks of unpaid leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act, which exempts companies with fewer than 50 paid employees, but in 2011, only 11 percent of private sector workers and 17 percent of public workers reported that they had access to paid maternity leave through their employer. And for first-time mothers, only about half can take paid leave when they give birth.


Coal Industry Pays Fake Activists $50 To Wear Pro-Coal Shirts At Public Hearing

By Rebecca Leber posted from Climate Progress on May 25, 2012 at 1:10 pm

Apparently unable to find real activists, the coal industry paid astroturfers $50 to wear pro-coal t-shirts at an Environmental Protection Agency hearing yesterday.

The EPA hearings, held yesterday in Chicago and Washington, D.C., were focused on the agency’s first-ever carbon standards for new power plants. The industry has adamantly opposed these standards, as well as standards on mercury — a pollutant that even Senator James Inhofe (R-OK) admits is harmful.

This year, coal is throwing around its weight by spending tens of millions of dollars on media advertising and political contributions.

Coal is also engaging in fake advocacy campaigns, known as astroturfing. In a Craigslist ad found by the Environmental Law & Policy Center in Chicago, a coal group promised participants $50 to “wear a t-shirt in support of an energy project.” Upon further digging, the Sierra Club blog pieced together much of the deleted Craigslist ad:

People needed to attend a public meeting (Tinley Park /Chicago)

Reply to: (email address no longer valid)

Looking for people THIS THURSDAY, MAY 24 who want to make a couple of dollars for a few hours of your time.

All you need to do is wear a t-shirt in support of an energy project for two hours during the public meeting. We will be departing the Tinely Park convention center at 8:15 am for the meeting and we will be back by 1:30 pm. For your time we will pay you $50 cash and provide you lunch once we return to the convention center.

Humans Are Not Like Slowly Boiling Frogs … We Are Like Slowly Boiling Brainless Frogs

By Joe Romm on May 28, 2012 at 12:23 pm

Even though people keep using the famous simile — “the fatally slow human response to climate change makes us like a slowly boiling frog” — it is not quite right.

As Wikipedia puts it, German physiologist Friedrich Goltz “demonstrated that a frog that has had its brain removed will remain in slowly heated water, but his intact frogs attempted to escape the water.” Other 19th Century studies appeared to have different results, but modern experiments (!) show that frogs with brains are in fact smart enough to leap out of water as it is heated up.

The Four Companies That Control the 147 Companies That Own Everything

Brendan Coffey 10/26/2011

There may be 147 companies in the world that own everything, as colleague Bruce Upbin points out and they are dominated by investment companies as Eric Savitz rightly points out. But it’s not you and I who really control those companies, even though much of our money is in them. Given the nature of how money is invested, there are four companies in the shadows that really control those companies that own everything.


So of the $25.69 trillion in worldwide assets we’ve identified, $2.23 trillion are directly in indexes (ETFs and index mutual funds) with another $22.3 trillion indirectly beholden to indexes (that 95% of actively managed fund holdings said to be determined by an index).

You can see where I’m headed here. That means the real power to control the world lies with four companies: McGraw-Hill, which owns Standard & Poor’s, Northwestern Mutual, which owns Russell Investments, the index arm of which runs the benchmark Russell 1,000 and Russell 3,000, CME Group which owns 90% of Dow Jones Indexes, and Barclay’s, which took over Lehman Brothers and its Lehman Aggregate Bond Index, the dominant world bond fund index. Together, these four firms dominate the world of indexing. And in turn, that means they hold real sway over the world’s money.

While that may seem benign – they are indexers after all you may say – a financial index isn’t cut and dried like the index of a book. It’s a misperception indexers merely do some simple math like identifying the 500 largest US companies and voila! you have the S&P 500. Every indexer has a fudge factor that allows them to say one company is more “economically significant” for the index at hand than another company. To again take the S&P 500 as an example, the 502-largest company by market cap could get the nod over number 500 by size if S&P decides it wants to.

The power is even more obvious in bonds. The now-Barclays Aggregate Bond Index attempts to mirror volume of bond issuance in a region or the world, but it can’t include even a sizable percentage of all the bonds issued. Essentially, there’s a big judgment call in there in what bonds it adds to its index. A judgment that influences bond fund flows worldwide.

What does all this mean? Researchers at a desk in midtown Manhattan are the butterflies that cause the hurricanes in the markets.


Germany sets new solar power record, institute says

By Erik Kirschbaum BERLIN | Sat May 26, 2012 2:02pm EDT

(Reuters) - German solar power plants produced a world record 22 gigawatts of electricity per hour - equal to 20 nuclear power stations at full capacity - through the midday hours on Friday and Saturday, the head of a renewable energy think tank said.

The German government decided to abandon nuclear power after the Fukushima nuclear disaster last year, closing eight plants immediately and shutting down the remaining nine by 2022.

They will be replaced by renewable energy sources such as wind, solar and bio-mass.

Norbert Allnoch, director of the Institute of the Renewable Energy Industry (IWR) in Muenster, said the 22 gigawatts of solar power per hour fed into the national grid on Saturday met nearly 50 percent of the nation's midday electricity needs.


Who’s Who in Right-Wing Republican Political Propaganda 2012 (Pt. 1)

A good reference link. I have included a few items from it.

May 27, 2012

When you see Americans for Prosperty it’s really the Koch Brothers.

When you see American Crossroads or CrossroadsGPS (Grassroots Policy Strategies), it’s actually Karl Rove

Nobody in this country got rich on his own

Former White House financial reform adviser Elizabeth Warren:

“I hear all this, you know, ‘Well, this is class warfare, this is whatever,’” Warren said. “No. There is nobody in this country who got rich on his own — nobody.

“You built a factory out there? Good for you. But I want to be clear. You moved your goods to market on the roads the rest of us paid for. You hired workers the rest of us paid to educate. You were safe in your factory because of police-forces and fire-forces that the rest of us paid for. You didn’t have to worry that marauding bands would come and seize everything at your factory — and hire someone to protect against this — because of the work the rest of us did.

“Now look, you built a factory and it turned into something terrific, or a great idea. God bless — keep a big hunk of it. But part of the underlying social contract is, you take a hunk of that and pay forward for the next kid who comes along.”

The Truth About Federal Spending

Paul Krugman July 29, 2011, 12:39 pm

Whenever someone like me or Bruce Bartlett points out how little Obama resembles the right’s portrait of a raging leftist, someone is sure to come back with the assertion that Obama has presided over a vast expansion of federal spending. Even people who really should know better, like John Taylor, do it.

So what’s the truth? I’ve written about this before, but here’s another take.

The fact is that federal spending rose from 19.6% of GDP in fiscal 2007 to 23.8% of GDP in fiscal 2010. So isn’t that a huge spending spree? Well, no.

First of all, the size of a ratio depends on the denominator as well as the numerator. GDP has fallen sharply relative to the economy’s potential; here’s the ratio of real GDP to the CBO’s estimate of potential GDP:

..... [see original article for graphs]

A 6 percent fall in GDP relative to trend, all by itself, would have raised the ratio of spending to GDP from 19.6 to 20.8, or about 30 percent of the actual rise.

That still leaves a rise in spending; but most of that is safety-net programs, which spend more in hard times because more people are in distress. The CBO breaks out “income security” (Table E-10 in Historical Budget Tables), which is unemployment insurance, food stamps, etc., and also gives us numbers on Medicaid; here’s what they look like as percentages of GDP:


That’s another 2 points of GDP, or about half the rise.

So we’re still left with a bit, around 1 point of GDP. That’s the stimulus, more or less. And there are two things you need to know about it. First, it’s temporary, and already fading out fast. Second, a large part of the stimulus “spending” was actually aid to state and local governments, intended not to expand spending but to avert a fall — that is, it was about maintaining government, not expanding it.

Now, pointing out the Obama spending binge is a myth generally produces rage: people know that it happened, because Rush Limbaugh and the Wall Street Journal say so. But that doesn’t make it true.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Men who cheat on their wives more likely to die of a heart attack

By Meghan Holohan May 25, 2012

Your cheatin’ heart makes Hank Williams weep, but it might kill you.

Researchers in Italy examined monogamy among men and discovered an interesting correlation -- having an extramarital affair increases men’s risk of having a deadly heart attack.


The authors report that anywhere from 15 to 25 percent to as many as 30 to 50 percent of men cheat at least once in their lives.


Doctors have long known that men live longer if they consistently have sex into old age, but knocking boots only provides a health boost if it occurs with the same partner in a familiar place. Sex into old age only helps if you’re doing it with your spouse. Sudden coital death occurs most frequently when a man engages in coitus with a woman who is not his long-term partner.

Science Fact


A man only becomes wise when he begins to calculate the approximate depth of his ignorance. ~ Carlo Menotti

We Are The 99 (Occupy Protest Song) | Rick Harris

Friday, May 25, 2012

Cleared Of Rape Conviction after five years in prison

by Mark Memmott May 25, 2012

Five years in prison. Then five years of probation and wearing an electronic monitoring device. The shame of being a registered sex offender. Not being able to get a job. His dream of playing in the NFL destroyed, possibly forever.

Brian Banks, now 26, has gone through all that.

Then Thursday, the California man's rape conviction was dismissed. His accuser, who last year sent Banks a message on Facebook suggesting that they "let bygones be bygones," had been videotaped saying she lied about being raped. Wanetta Gibson's previous statements to police about the alleged 2002 incident had been the only evidence against Banks — there was no physical evidence that Banks had raped her. With the change in her story, prosecutors and a judge agreed, there was no case.


Banks' story, which he's scheduled to talk about later today with All Things Considered, raises anew questions about the U.S. legal system. After his arrest, as KPCC reports, Banks' lawyer "urged him to plead no contest rather than risk a sentence of 41 years to life in prison if convicted."

Justin Brooks of the California Innocence Project, who handled Banks' case after the accuser recanted, told Patt Morrison that racism surely played a part in what happened. Banks' original lawyer, he said, basically told the then-teenager that because he was a large, black, young man it would be his word against hers and that he should take the deal.

As for Banks' accuser, she hasn't been willing to repeat to authorities what she said on the videotape (made by a private investigator) about the accusation. In fact, the Los Angeles Times says, she "recanted her video statement." Her family had been granted a $1.5 million legal judgment from the Long Beach, Calif., public school system because she had claimed the rape happened on school property. Now, Brooks told the Times, she doesn't want to put that money at risk.


Banks also told Robert that he took the original plea deal in part because his attorney had told him he would likely only serve another 18 months or so in prison (he had been in jail about a year by that time). "I was pretty much sold this dream," he said. Instead, the judge issued a harsher sentence.

Meet Maureen Russo: An Eligible Florida Voter Governor Rick Scott Just Purged From The Voting Rolls

It's amusing in a disgusting way to hear about voting irregularities in other countries, when our own system has been corrupted. If the Republicans believed they could win fairly, they wouldn't be working so hard to disenfranchise voters who are more likely to vote Democratic.

By Judd Legum on May 25, 2012 at 1:55 pm

Maureen Russo was born in Akron, Ohio. For the last 40 years she’s operated a dog boarding and grooming business — Bobbi’s World Kennels — with her husband in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. Maureen is 60 years old and has been a registered voter in the state for the last four decades. She regularly votes at the church around the corner from her home.

Two weeks ago she received a letter from the State of Florida informing her that that had recieved information that she was not born in this country and, therefore, was ineligible to vote.

She was given an option to request “an administrative hearing to present evidence” disputing the determination of the State of Florida that she was ineligible to vote. Unless Maureen returned a form requesting such a hearing within 30 days, she was told, it would result in “the removal of your name from the voter registration rolls.”

She immediately sent off a registered letter to the State with a copy of her passport. She hasn’t heard anything back.


Unfortunately, Maureen’s situation is not an isolated incident. Earlier this week, ThinkProgress reported Seminole County Supervisor of Elections Mike Ertel, a Republican, posted a picture on Twitter of a voter on the list falsely identified as ineligible, with his passport. Congressman Deutch also told ThinkProgress he’s heard from several other constituents who have been removed from the rolls without justification.

It is unclear what legitimate purpose Gov. Scott has to move forward with the voting purge in the face of multiple documented errors. Florida has no history of mass voter fraud. It does have a history, however, of mass voter disenfranchisement. By one estimate, 7000 Florida voters were wrongfully removed from the voter rolls for the 2000 presidential election — 13 times George W. Bush’s margin of victory in that state after the Supreme Court halted the post-election recount.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Caesarean Section Delivery May Double Risk of Childhood Obesity: May Be Due to Different Gut Bacteria

ScienceDaily (May 23, 2012) — Caesarean section delivery may double the risk of subsequent childhood obesity, finds research published online in the Archives of Disease in Childhood.

Caesarean section delivery has already been linked to an increased risk of subsequent childhood asthma and allergic rhinitis, and around one in three babies born in the US is delivered this way.

Republicans try to force the military to use dirty energy it doesn’t want

By David Roberts 23 May 2012 2:06 PM

The U.S. military recognizes that dependence on fossil fuels is a threat to U.S. strategic influence and its own operational effectiveness. With that in mind, it’s trying to make itself lighter and leaner, reducing energy consumption at bases and on the battlefield while working to develop fuel alternatives for its ship and plane fleets. Republicans have been quietly grumbling about this for a while; now they are openly opposing it. The GOP wastes no opportunity to boast of “supporting the troops,” but that support apparently ends where Big Oil contributions begin.

Let’s look at a few examples, shall we?

GOP tries to block use of cleaner fuels

Last week, the Republican-led House Armed Services Committee proposed a new Pentagon budget. Tucked away inside it was a provision that would prohibit the Department of Defense from buying any alternative fuels that cost more than conventional fossil fuels. TPM has the story.

Slate’s Fred Kaplan laments that this provision would kill the $12 million “Green Strike Group” program the Navy is running, which would field a strike group running entirely on biofuels (and a nuclear-powered carrier) for a naval exercise in June. The Navy hopes to have an entire “Great Green Fleet” in the water by 2016.

But the language is far broader than that. It would effectively prohibit military field-testing of any non-fossil fuel. After all, if alternatives were already cheaper than fossil fuels, they wouldn’t be alternatives. The Air Force couldn’t experiment with fuel blends for its jets. The Army couldn’t fuel its “Green Warrior Convoy.” This provision would explicitly ban the military from being an instrument of energy innovation.

GOP tries to push use of dirtier fuel

But wait! There is one expensive alternative fuel that congressional Republicans support. You see, Section 526 of 2007′s Energy Independence and Security Act prohibits the military from buying fuel that is more carbon-intensive than crude oil. Earlier this month, Rep. Bill Flores (R-Texas) offered an amendment to an appropriations bill, later passed by the House, that would bar the military from enforcing Sec. 526.


New Inexpensive, Environmentally Friendly Solar Cell

ScienceDaily (May 23, 2012) — The limitations of conventional and current solar cells include high production cost, low operating efficiency and durability, and many cells rely on toxic and scarce materials. Northwestern University researchers have developed a new solar cell that, in principle, will minimize all of these solar energy technology limitations.

In particular, the device is the first to solve the problem of the Grätzel cell, a promising low-cost and environmentally friendly solar cell with a significant disadvantage: it leaks. The dye-sensitized cell's electrolyte is made of an organic liquid, which can leak and corrode the solar cell itself.

Moral Decisions May Depend On the Situation

ScienceDaily (May 23, 2012) — An individual's sense of right or wrong may change depending on their activities at the time -- and they may not be aware of their own shifting moral integrity -- according to a new study looking at why people make ethical or unethical decisions.

Focusing on dual-occupation professionals, the researchers found that engineers had one perspective on ethical issues, yet when those same individuals were in management roles, their moral compass shifted. Likewise, medic/soldiers in the U.S. Army had different views of civilian casualties depending on whether they most recently had been acting as soldiers or medics.


"When people switch hats, they often switch moral compasses," Leavitt said. "People like to think they are inherently moral creatures -- you either have character or you don't. But our studies show that the same person may make a completely different decision based on what hat they may be wearing at the time, often without even realizing it."


Leavitt said subtle cues -- such as signage and motivation materials around the office -- should be considered, along with more direct training that helps employees who juggle multiple roles that could conflict with one another.

"Organizations and businesses need to recognize that even very subtle images and icons can give employees non-conscious clues as to what the firm values," he said. "Whether they know it or not, people are often taking in messages about what their role is and what is expected of them, and this may conflict with what they know to be the moral or correct decision."


"We find that people tend to make decisions that may conflict with their morals when they are overwhelmed, or when they are just doing routine tasks without thinking of the consequences," Leavitt said. "We tend to play out a script as if our role has already been written. So the bottom line is, slow down and think about the consequences when making an ethical decision."

Hormone Plays Surprise Role in Fighting Skin Infections

ScienceDaily (May 23, 2012) — Antimicrobial peptides (AMPs) are molecules produced in the skin to fend off infection-causing microbes. Vitamin D has been credited with a role in their production and in the body's overall immune response, but scientists at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine say a hormone previously associated only with maintaining calcium homeostasis and bone health is also critical, boosting AMP expression when dietary vitamin D levels are inadequate.


The immunological benefits of vitamin D are controversial. In cultured cell studies, the fat-soluble vitamin provides strong immunological benefits, but in repeated studies with humans and animal models, results have been inconsistent: People with low levels of dietary vitamin D do not suffer more infections. For reasons unknown, their immune response generally remains strong, undermining the touted immunological strength of vitamin D.

Working with a mouse model and cultured human cells, Gallo and colleagues discovered why: When levels of dietary vitamin D are low (it's naturally present in very few foods), production of parathyroid hormone (PTH), which normally helps modulate calcium levels in blood, is ramped up. More PTH or a related peptide called PHTrP spurs increased expression of AMPs, such as cathelicidin, which kill a broad spectrum of harmful bacteria, fungi and viruses.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Nomads of the Galaxy: What Does It Mean to Have Quadrillions of Planets Adrift in Milky Way?

ScienceDaily (May 23, 2012) — Recently, a study was published in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society proposing planets simply adrift in space may be something of a common phenomenon. Aptly titled "Nomads of the Galaxy," the authors proposed an upper limit to the number of nomad planets that might exist in the Milky Way Galaxy: 100,000 for every star. And because the Milky Way is estimated to have 200 to 400 billion stars, that could put the number of nomad planets in the quadrillions.

If this proposal is correct, it could be that nomad planets play a dynamic role in the universe. In particular, if life can exist without the warmth of a nearby sun, it raises the possibility that, along with sustaining life, nomad planets could be transporting it as well.

If this proposal is correct, it could be that nomad planets play a dynamic role in the universe. In particular, if life can exist without the warmth of a nearby sun, it raises the possibility that, along with sustaining life, nomad planets could be transporting it as well.

As for whether a nomad planet could actually sustain life, the proof may be here on Earth. "If you imagine the Earth as it is today becoming a nomad planet... life on Earth is not going to cease," said Dimitar D. Sasselov, Professor of Astronomy at Harvard University and the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, and the Director of the Harvard Origins of Life Initiative. "That we know. It's not even speculation at this point. ...[Scientists] already have identified a large number of microbes and even two types of nematodes that survive entirely on the heat that comes from inside the Earth."

Turtles More Closely Related to Birds Than Lizards and Snakes, Genetic Evidence Shows

Something as surprising to us non-experts is that crocodilians are more closely related to birds rather than to lizards, snakes, and tuataras (never heard of a tuaatara before. It's a reptile from New Zealand)

ScienceDaily (May 23, 2012) — The evolutionary origin of turtles is one of the last unanswered questions in vertebrate evolution. Paleontological and morphological studies place turtles as either evolving from the ancestor of all reptiles or as evolving from the ancestor of snakes, lizards, and tuataras. Conflictingly, genetic studies place turtles as evolving from the ancestor of crocodilians and birds.

Having recently looked at more than a thousand of the least-changed regions in the genomes of turtles and their closest relatives, a team of Boston University researchers has confirmed that turtles are most closely related to crocodilians and birds rather than to lizards, snakes, and tuataras.

Why People In Other Countries Live Longer Than Americans

linked to the following:

The United States spends more on medical care per person than any country, yet life expectancy is shorter than in most other developed nations and many developing ones. Lack of health insurance is a factor in life span and contributes to an estimated 45,000 deaths a year. Why the high cost? The U.S. has a fee-for-service system—paying medical providers piecemeal for appointments, surgery, and the like. That can lead to unneeded treatment that doesn’t reliably improve a patient’s health. Says Gerard Anderson, a professor at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health who studies health insurance worldwide, “More care does not necessarily mean better care.” —Michelle Andrews

‘Hug The Monster’: Why So Many Climate Scientists Have Stopped Downplaying the Climate Threat

by Joe Romm on May 7, 2012 at 5:33 pm

Journalist Bill Blakemore has a great piece on ABC’s website:

‘Hug the Monster’ for Realistic Hope in Global Warming (or How to Transform Your Fearful Inner Climate).

He offers advice to journalists in covering climate change — and advice to the rest of us in a world captured by denial.

The piece helps dispel the myth that climate scientists have long been overhyping climate impacts — when everyone who actually follows climate science and talks to any significant number of climate scientists knows that the reverse is true. As Blakemore writes:

Established scientists, community and government leaders and journalists, as they describe the disruptions, suffering and destruction that manmade global warming is already producing, with far worse in the offing if humanity doesn’t somehow control it, are starting to allow themselves publicly to use terms like “calamity,” “catastrophe”, and “risk to the collective civilization”….

A few years ago, this reporter heard a prominent climate and environment scientist speaking at a large but off-the-record conference of experts and policy makers from around the world who had gathered at Harvard University’s Kennedy School….

He told us that he and most other climate scientists often simply didn’t want to speak openly about what they were learning about how disruptive and frightening the changes of manmade global warming were clearly going to be for “fear of paralyzing the public.”

That speaker now has an influential job in the Obama administration.

Climate scientists have been consistently downplaying and underestimating the risks for three main reasons. First, their models tended to ignore the myriad amplifying carbon cycle feedbacks that we now know are kicking in (such as the defrosting tundra).

Second, they never imagined that the nations of the world would completely ignore their warnings, that we would knowingly choose catastrophe. So until recently they hardly ever seriously considered or modeled the do-nothing scenario, which is a tripling (820 ppm) or quadrupling (1100 ppm) of preindustrial levels of carbon dioxide over the next hundred years or so. In the last 2 or 3 years, however, the literature in this area has exploded and the picture it paints is not pretty (see “An Illustrated Guide to the Science of Global Warming Impacts: How We Know Inaction Is the Gravest Threat Humanity Faces“).

Third, as Blakemore (and others) have noted, the overwhelming majority of climate scientists are generally reticent and cautious in stating results — all the more so in this case out of the mistaken fear that an accurate diagnosis would somehow make action less likely. Yes, it’d be like a doctor telling a two-pack-a-day patient with early-stage emphysema that their cough is really not that big a deal, but would they please quit smoking anyway. We live in a world, however, where anyone who tries to explain what the science suggests is likely to happen if we keep doing nothing is attacked as an alarmist by conservatives, disinformers, and their enablers in the media.

Back in 2005, the physicist Mark Bowen wrote about glaciologist Lonnie Thompson: “Scientists have an annoying habit of backing off when they’re asked to make a plain statement, and climatologists tend to be worse than most.”

The good news, if you can call it that, is that the climate situation has become so dire that even the most reticent climatologists are starting to speak more bluntly. By the end of 2010, Thompson was writing:

Climatologists, like other scientists, tend to be a stolid group. We are not given to theatrical rantings about falling skies. Most of us are far more comfortable in our laboratories or gathering data in the field than we are giving interviews to journalists or speaking before Congressional committees. Why then are climatologists speaking out about the dangers of global warming? The answer is that virtually all of us are now convinced that global warming poses a clear and present danger to civilization.


Global warming’s “risk to the collective civilization” (meaning global civilization) has been continually spoken of in secret or unofficial or private conversations among engaged climate scientists and government and policy leaders around the world.

Such terms — catastrophe, threat to civilization itself — have been commonplace in carefully worded private discussions among peer-reviewed experts that this reporter and other journalists have often experienced and sometimes engaged in.

I heard that from many, many climate scientists in private as far back as 2005 and 2006, which is why I titled my book, Hell and High Water. Other journalists heard the same, which is why, for instance, Elizabeth Kolbert wrote at the time:

“It may seem impossible to imagine that a technologically advanced society could choose, in essence, to destroy itself, but that is what we are now in the process of doing.”

So what does Blakemore mean by “Hug the Monster,” by his ”Metaphor to Change Fear Into Action and Extinguish the Panic and Despair so Deadly in a Great Crisis”? He explains:

“Hug the monster” is a metaphor taught by U.S. Air Force trainers to those headed into harm’s way.

The monster is your fear in a sudden crisis — as when you find yourself trapped in a downed plane or a burning house.

If you freeze or panic — if you go into merely reactive “brainlock” — you’re lost.

But if your mind has been prepared in advance to recognize the psychological grip of fear, focus on it, and then transform its intense energy into action — sometimes even by changing it into anger — and by also engaging the thinking part of your brain to work the problem, your chances of survival go way up.

Around the world, a growing number of people are showing signs of hugging the monster of what the world’s experts have plainly shown to be a great crisis facing us all.


“For survival then, here’s the bottom line. If you’re scared out of your mind, try to remember this Air Force mantra: Hug The monster. Wrap your arms around fear, wrestle it under control, and turn it into a driving force in your plan of attack. ‘Survival is not about bravery and heroics,’ award-winning journalist Laurence Gonzales writes in his superb book Deep Survival. ‘Survivors aren’t fearless. They use fear: They turn it into anger and focus.’ The good news is that you can learn to subdue the monster and extinguish some of the clanging bells. The more you practice, the easier it becomes. Indeed, with enough hugs, you can even tame the beast and turn him into your best friend and most dependable ally.”


‘Hell Is Truth Seen Too Late’: WWII And Climate Change

By Joe Romm on May 23, 2012 at 6:25 pm

Journalist Bill Blakemore has another great piece on ABC’s website:

‘The Great Big Book of Horrible Things’: WWII and Climate Change

What our great failure in the 1930s may teach about facing the rapid assault of manmade global warming (Or “Hell is the truth seen too late.”)

It is the continuation of an essay he wrote about last week, which I blogged about here: “ ‘Hug The Monster’: Why So Many Climate Scientists Have Stopped Downplaying the Climate Threat.”

Blakemore cites the great quote from 18th century philosopher Thomas Hobbes, “Hell is truth seen too late.” Since I wrote a book on climate a few years back, Hell and High Water, that quote seems particularly apt to me for climate.

Blakemore’s piece starts by looking at The Great Big Book of Horrible Things: The Definitive Chronicle of History’s 100 Worst Atrocities by Matthew White, noting:

The world’s climate scientists are in effect telling us that one part of the truth we must now try to see is humanity’s ability — or lack of it — for collective prevention of enormous manmade disaster, atrocity.

The record is worrisome.

He then examines humanity’s problematic track record of not preventing catastrophes even when many powerful people were aware of what was happening or about to happen, including the great atrocities of World War II. And no, there is no direct analogy being made (see “Climate Science Disinformers Are Nothing Like Holocaust Deniers“).

Blakemore cites a presentation by Harvard historian and social anthropologist Timothy Weiskel — a colleague of mine 20 years ago at the Rockefeller Foundation. Weiskel in turn cites John F. Kennedy’s 1940s book, Why England Slept (a title JFK ‘borrowed’ from Churchill’s 1938 book, though JFK’s book was originally his senior thesis at Harvard titled, Appeasement in Munich):

“To say that all the blame must rest on the shoulders of Neville Chamberlain or of Stanly Baldwin, is to overlook the obvious. As the leaders, they are, of course, gravely and seriously responsible. But, given the conditions of democratic government, a free press, public elections, and a cabinet responsible to Parliament and thus to the people, given rule by the majority, it is unreasonable to blame the entire situation on one man or group…”

Blakemore notes, “But this time, say today’s climate scientists, the rapidly approaching climate catastrophe threatens to kill far more people than all of White’s 100 Deadliest atrocities combined.

There is little question that if we continue to listen to the disinformers and the do-little crowd, we are very likely headed toward global warming in excess of 10°F, as the International Energy Agency and many others have made clear. That will destroy a livable climate (see “An Illustrated Guide to the Science of Global Warming Impacts: How We Know Inaction Is the Gravest Threat Humanity Faces“).

Indeed, that is “incompatible with organized global community, is likely to be beyond ‘adaptation’, is devastating to the majority of ecosystems & has a high probability of not being stable (i.e. 4°C [7F] would be an interim temperature on the way to a much higher equilibrium level),” according to Professor Kevin Anderson, director of the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change in Britain (see here).

Blakemore points out that a great many scientists are worried that this would lead to a staggering amount of misery and starvation:

The Rapidly Approaching Climate Catastrophe

… Estimates heard in private conversations with scientists and economists reach even into the billions of people who could perish well within this century if the warming is not somehow controlled.

This reporter has heard figures in measured conversation, for example, such as this: If humanity does not now manage somehow to drastically cut carbon emissions so that the global temperature levels off at around 2 degrees centigrade above pre-industrial times, but reaches instead 4 degrees centigrade, it could mean some 4 billion people dying within this century because the world couldn’t grow enough food in such heat and the drought it will bring — rice harvests, for one, would be decimated.


Sneezing monkey highlights new species list

By Wynne Parry updated 5/23/2012

The realm of living things known to science gained some fascinating new members in the past year. These include a monkey that sneezes when it rains; a tiny worm discovered nearly a mile below ground; a mushroom that looks more like a sponge and the first night-blooming orchid ever recorded.

These strange organisms and others made the top 10 list of species described in 2011.

The International Institute for Species Exploration at Arizona State University and an international committee of scientists issued this list for the fifth year Wednesday, a date coinciding with the birthday of Carolus Linnaeus, the Swedish botanist who created the modern system for naming and classifying living things.

The list is intended to honor the work of explorers and museum scientists who continue to discover new plants, animals, fungi and microbes. [ Photos of the Top 10 New Species ]
Thomas Bruns
A funky new mushroom species "lives in the rain forest, under a tree," and researchers say it's nearly as strange as its SpongeBob SquarePants namesake. The bright orange (sometimes purple) mushroom, Spongiforma squarepantsii, was discovered in the forests of Sarawak, Malaysia, on the island of Borneo.

Its other purpose is not a celebratory one. The list also is intended to highlight the diversity of life on the planet, which is declining due to extinctions. In fact, scientists have said we are in the midst of the sixth mass extinction event triggered by human activities.


Images and other information about the top 10 new species, including the explorers who made the discoveries and recorded them in calendar year 2011, are online at Also at the site is a Google world map that pinpoints the location for each of the top 10 new species. This year's top 10 come from Brazil, Myanmar, the Dutch Caribbean, South Africa, Papua New Guinea, Spain, Borneo, Nepal, China and Tanzania.

MIT Engineers Solve An Everyday Problem: A Backed-Up Ketchup Bottle

by Eyder Peralta May 23, 2012

We've all been there: Banging the back of a glass ketchup bottle, begging it to give you a dollop of the good stuff or battling with a plastic bottle coercing it into giving up the last of its contents.

Maybe that will be a thing of the past.

Six MIT researchers say they've solved that problem as part of an entrepreneurship competition. The result is a bottle coated with "LiquiGlide," a non-toxic material so slippery that the ketchup or for that matter mayonaisse just glids out when you turn it over.

Fever During Pregnancy More Than Doubles the Risk of Autism or Developmental Delay

I'm glad to see that they investigated whether fever-reducing medication would be beneficial. Sometime the cure for something turns out to make things worse.

ScienceDaily (May 23, 2012) — A team of UC Davis researchers has found that mothers who had fevers during their pregnancies were more than twice as likely to have a child with autism or developmental delay than were mothers of typically developing children, and that taking medication to treat fever countered its effect.


Irva Hertz-Picciotto, a professor of public health sciences at UC Davis and principal investigator of CHARGE, pointed out that fever is produced by acute inflammation -- the short-term, natural immune system reaction to infection or injury -- and that chronic inflammation, which no longer serves a beneficial purpose and can damage healthy tissue, may be present in mothers with metabolic abnormalities like diabetes and obesity.

"Since an inflammatory state in the body accompanies obesity and diabetes as well as fever," said Hertz-Picciotto, "the natural question is: Could inflammatory factors play a role in autism?


The results showed that flu during pregnancy was not associated with greater risks of having a child with autism or developmental delay. Fever from any cause during pregnancy, however, was far more likely to be reported by mothers of children with autism (2.12 times higher odds) or developmental delay (2.5 times higher odds), as compared with mothers of children who were developing typically. For children of mothers who took anti-fever medication, the risk of autism was not different from the risk in children whose mothers reported no fever.

According to Irva Hertz-Picciotto, results based on CHARGE data are noteworthy because of the study's large population-based sample and detailed information on participants. Other CHARGE evaluations have found that taking prenatal vitamins prior to and during the first month of pregnancy may help prevent autism and that living near a freeway or in areas with high regional air pollution is associated with higher risk of autism in children.

Why Would A Bank Charge Private Prisons 3% Interest But Charge Regular People 267% Interest?

Taken from a National People Action press release, May 21, 2012:

Wells Fargo borrows from the federal government at virtually 0 percent interest, lends it to private prison companies at interest rates as low as 3 percent, all while charging their own customers an average of 276 percent interest on their account-based payday loan product. Why???

Wells Fargo is a major investor in the two largest private prison operators in the country, the Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) and the GEO Group. These companies fill their prisons by spending millions of dollars on lobbying to keep the immigration and criminal justice systems broken. Wells Fargo and these companies make money — with taxpayers footing the bill — on every cell that is filled.

Granholm: Republicans’ voter suppression drive is ‘treasonous’

I agree. Treasonous and anti-patriotic.

By Andrew Jones Wednesday, May 23, 2012 10:24 EDT

Former Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm said on her Current TV show Tuesday evening that voter suppression efforts across the country could be considered as “treasonous” acts.

Granholm took a swipe at the Republican Party, feeling their push for tougher voter eligibility laws and limiting early voting is an obvious attack on the Democratic party’s key base.

“Why do they do this?” Granholm asked. “Seems kind of obvious. When you don’t have the winning ideas, you change the rules of the game. And when you can’t convince voters that you are the best choice, you restrict their ability to choose.”

“Efforts to suppress voting are not just selfish, there not just short-sighted. Voter restriction laws, that lead to an outcome based upon process instead upon merit, might be labeled – and I imagine even by our founding fathers – as treasonous.”

In 2011, 37 states instituted or introduced new voter suppression measures . Voter ID laws disproportionally affect people of color, according to a Brennan Center study. A 93-year-old Pennsylvania woman, who said she has voted in every election since 1962, has filed suit against such Voter ID measures.

Mitt Romney: Is He a Unicorn? More Than 17,000 People Want Ken Bennett to Find Out

by Matthew Hendley Wed., May 23 2012 at 11:56 AM

Is GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney a businessman? Or is he really a unicorn?

At the time of this post, more than 17,000 people would like Arizona Secretary of State Ken Bennett to find out.

In response to the 1,200 "birthers" who asked Bennett to verify with the state of Hawaii -- yet again -- that President Obama has a birth certificate there, the left-wingers would also like Bennett to check out their conspiracy theory.

"I understand you are considering kicking President Obama off the ballot because some people continue to raise questions about his birth," the petition to Bennett says. "Well, I believe it cannot be proven conclusively that Mitt Romney is *not* a unicorn. A unicorn would not be qualified to be president. Thus, I hope you will apply the same standard to Romney, and investigate the unicorn question."

Indeed, Romney has never denied being a unicorn, and the left-wingers say it's possible Romney's hair could be covering up a unicorn horn.

The petition is at:

Love is life

“Love is life. All, everything that I understand, I understand only because I love. Everything is, everything exists, only because I love. Everything is united by it alone. Love is God, and to die means that I, a particle of love, shall return to the general and eternal source.”
― Leo Tolstoy

Today's Environment Influences Behavior Generations Later

ScienceDaily (May 21, 2012) — Researchers at The University of Texas at Austin and Washington State University have seen an increased reaction to stress in animals whose ancestors were exposed to an environmental compound generations earlier.


"We are now in the third human generation since the start of the chemical revolution, since humans have been exposed to these kinds of toxins," says Crews. "This is the animal model of that."


The researchers had already shown exposure to vinclozolin can effect subsequent generations by affecting how genes are turned on and off, a process called epigenetics. In that case, the epigenetic transgenerational inheritance altered how rats choose mates.


Crews says that increases in other mental disorders may be attributable to the kind of "two-hit" exposure that the experiment is modeling.

"There is no doubt that we have been seeing real increases in mental disorders like autism and bipolar disorder," says Crews, who focused on the neuroscience, behavior and stress aspects of the paper. "It's more than just a change in diagnostics. The question is why? Is it because we are living in a more frantic world, or because we are living in a more frantic world and are responding to that in a different way because we have been exposed? I favor the latter."

The researchers also saw intriguing differences in weight gain, opening the door to further research on obesity.

Flu Shot During Pregnancy Shows Unexpected Benefits in Large Study

Flu Shot During Pregnancy Shows Unexpected Benefits in Large Study

ScienceDaily (May 22, 2012) — Getting a flu shot during pregnancy provides unanticipated benefits to the baby, according to the authors of a large population-based study examining the issue. Specifically, the study showed that H1N1 vaccination during the pandemic was associated with a significantly reduced risk of stillbirth, preterm birth and extremely small babies at birth.


The study shows that, compared to pregnant women who were not immunized against H1N1, mothers who received the H1N1 vaccination were:

34% less likely to have a stillbirth, 28% less likely to deliver before 32 weeks, and 19% less likely to give birth to a child with a birth weight for gestational age in the bottom third percentile.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

101 People Sentenced To Die Were Later Exonerated

And there must be many more that were never brought to light.

By Ian Millhiser on May 21, 2012

A new report by the National Registry of Exonerations, a joint project of Michigan and Northwestern law schools, chronicles over 2000 cases where a person convicted of a crime was later exonerated between 1989 and 2012. More than half of these exonerated persons “were cleared since 1995 in 13 ‘group exonerations,’ that occurred after it was discovered that police officers had deliberately framed dozens or hundreds of innocent defendants, mostly for drug and gun crimes.” Perhaps most distressingly, however, 101 of the exonerated individuals were convicted of murder and sentenced to die — nearly all of whom spent years or even decades behind bars before their criminal conviction was eventually overturned.

It’s Official: Watching Fox Makes You Stupider

Ben Adler on May 21, 2012 - 9:04 PM ET

People who work at Fox News might like to think that they are despised by real journalists only because they are conservative and most journalists are liberal. Anyone who read the admiring obituaries of William F. Buckley Jr. in mainstream and liberal outlets would know that is nonsense. Journalists, both liberals and ones with no ideology in particular, are quite capable of respecting conservative pundits and reporters who deserve their respect.

But Fox does not. The reason is not because it holds a set of values that others may not share. And that is only partially because it claims to be “Fair and Balanced” when it is neither.

Rather, it is because it fails the fundamental test of journalism: are you informing your audience? According to a new study by Farleigh Dickinson University, Fox viewers are the least knowledgeable audience of any outlet, and they know even less about politics and current events than people who watch no news at all.

Respondents to the survey were able to answer correctly an average of 1.8 of 4 questions about international news and 1.6 out of 5 questions about domestic affairs. “Based on these results, people who don’t watch any news at all are expected to answer correctly on average 1.22 of the questions about domestic politics, just by guessing or relying on existing basic knowledge,” said Dan Cassino, the poll’s analyst.

“The study concludes that media sources have a significant impact on the number of questions that people were able to answer correctly,” wrote Cassino and his colleagues. “The largest effect is that of Fox News: all else being equal, someone who watched only Fox News would be expected to answer just 1.04 domestic questions correctly—a figure which is significantly worse than if they had reported watching no media at all. On the other hand, if they listened only to NPR, they would be expected to answer 1.51 questions correctly.”

This should come as no surprise if you follow Fox.


This Fairleigh Dickinson study is not the first to find that Fox News viewers are the most ill-informed of any news consumers. As of November 22, 2011, Think Progress had found seven studies showing Fox News’s viewers to be the worst informed of all news consumers. In a post about a report that had just come out in the International Journal of Press/Politics, by communication scholar Lauren Feldman of American University and colleagues which found that “Fox News viewing manifests a significant, negative association with global warming acceptance,” Chris Mooney cited six previous studies with similar findings.

I identified 6 separate studies showing Fox News viewers to be the most misinformed, and in a right wing direction—studies on global warming, health care, health care a second time, the Ground Zero mosque, the Iraq war, and the 2010 election.
I also asked if anyone was aware of any counterevidence, and none was forthcoming. There might very well be a survey out there showing that Fox viewers aren’t [emphasis in original] the most misinformed cable news consumers on some topic (presumably it would be a topic where Democrats have some sort of ideological blind spot), but I haven’t seen it. And I have looked.

Zombie blondes invade Facebook with fake profiles

By Matt Liebowitz May 22, 2012

Beware of the blondes. It's not life advice, but it could save you a good deal of trouble on Facebook, where scammers, armed with pictures of attractive blond women, are creating fake profiles specifically designed to spread malware and steal your identity.

The zombie profiles all show blond women in their early 20s with the same interests, the same favorite sport (cricket) and the same favorite movie, "Arab Spring Wedding," said Dan Tynan from PC World. Tynan compared the fake profiles, with names such as Mandy Barnes, Jasmine Wilson and Mindy Bennett, to one another, and found that each girl's profile has three photos and the exact same quotation, and the women are all friends with each other.

At first glance, the profiles appear completely legitimate; it's only when each one is scrutinized against another similar fake profile that the truth becomes clear — these blondes are bad news.

"Look at any of these profiles by themselves and you probably wouldn't stop to think twice about them," Tynan said. "Look at more than a couple in a row, though, or two of them side by side, and the ruse becomes obvious."

That ruse, called "like fraud," could make the scammers behind the zombie profiles rich, and damage your computer and your privacy in the process.

If you accepted a friend request from one of these blond bots — or anyone else you don't know, for that matter — the owner of the fake profile could easily exploit this new relationship by sending you messages, pictures or a host of other files containing malware built to steal your passwords, emails, or, in the case of a dangerous new Facebook bug, even your bank account information.

Hawaii turns tables on Arizona Secretary of State’s birther requests

By David Ferguson Tuesday, May 22, 2012 11:14 EDT

Hawaiian officials have apparently had enough of your requests for President Barack Obama’s birth certificate and they’re not afraid to tell you where to get off, even if you are Arizona’s Secretary of State Ken Bennett or a special delegation sent by Maricopa County’s controversial “Sheriff Joe.”

Talking Points Memo obtained emails yesterday detailing the occasionally testy exchanges between Bennett and Jill T. Nagamine, Hawaii’s Deputy Secretary of State. Bennett, who is a co-chair of former Massachusetts governor and presumptive Republican nominee Mitt Romney’s Arizona campaign, announced last Thursday that “it’s possible” President Obama may not appear on the Arizona ballot in November. TPM filed a public records request on Monday to obtain the correspondence between Bennett’s office and Hawaiian officials, and the results are hugely entertaining.

It appears that the State of Hawaii’s first response to Bennett’s request of President Obama’s birth certificate was to quickly dash out a letter on March 17 with a series of hyperlinks, including one to the Hawaii Department of Health’s website and three links to Hawaii’s Revised Statutes concerning the confidentiality of vital records.

The state of Hawaii has gone to great lengths to handle the years of backlogged requests by so-called “birthers” looking for the president’s birth certificate. In spite of the White House’s decision last year to release the president’s long-form birth certificate, the Hawaii Department of Health is still receiving an average of 50 new requests each month.

Bennett’s office replied on March 30 that if they could not have a certified copy of the actual birth certificate sent to them, then they would need the Department of Health to verify the details of Obama’s birth and parentage and fill out an enclosed form. The email also requested that department officials verify that the copy of the birth certificate released by the White House matches the document on file in Hawaii.

On April 16, Bennett emailed again asking what was taking so long. Nagamine replied that she would check with the Department of Health to see if they had received Bennett’s request. Two weeks later, on May 1, Arizona’s Deputy Secretary of State Jim Drake emailed, insisting that he needs Hawaii’s help to quell suspicions about the president’s legitimacy.

“I am wondering whether you can give me a ballpark timeframe on our request,” wrote Drake, “As you know, the closer we get to November, the more my phone rings. I believe that having Hawaii’s response on hand might help to quell the inquiries!”

At this point, Nagamine turned the tables on Bennett’s office, demanding verification that they were qualified to seek verification of the president’s birth. “My client, the Department of Health, has forwarded your request for verification of President Obama’s birth record to me,” she wrote, “We need more information to substantiate that you are eligible to receive verification.”


Bennett went on AM talk radio to decry Hawaii’s refusal to cooperate with his demands. He re-iterated that if his requests for proof of the president’s citizenship are not met, then President Obama will not appear on the Arizona ballot in November.

On Saturday, Arizona Republican Senator John McCain assured the public in an interview with Arizona’s KPNX, “The president of the United States is not going to be taken off the ballot.” Some have speculated that Bennett’s decision to play to the “birther” elements of the electorate is a purely political gambit on his part ahead of a run for governor in 2014.

This morning, Arizona’s embattled Sheriff Joe Arpaio confirmed that he sent a deputy from his “threats unit” to Hawaii, along with a volunteer tasked with investigating the matter. They arrived in Hawaii on Monday and flashed badges at Hawaii Department of Health personnel, announcing that they had been sent by the State of Arizona.