Saturday, June 30, 2012

Phthalate, environmental chemical is linked to higher rates of childhood obesity

Public release date: 26-Jun-2012
Contact: Aaron Lohr
The Endocrine Society

Obese children show greater exposure than nonobese children to a phthalate, a chemical used to soften plastics in some children's toys and many household products, according to a new study, which found that the obesity risk increases according to the level of the chemical found in the bloodstream. The study will be presented Saturday at The Endocrine Society's 94th Annual Meeting in Houston.

The chemical, di-ethylhexyl phthalate (DEHP), is a common type of phthalate, a group of industrial chemicals that are suspected endocrine disruptors, or hormone-altering agents.

In the study, children with the highest DEHP levels had nearly five times the odds of being obese compared with children who had the lowest DEHP levels, study co-author Mi Jung Park, MD, PhD, said.

"Although this study cannot prove causality between childhood obesity and phthalate exposure, it alerts the public to recognize the possible harm and make efforts to reduce this exposure, especially in children," said Park, a pediatric endocrinologist in Seoul, Korea, at Sanggye Paik Hospital and professor at Inje University College of Medicine.

Phthalates are found in some pacifiers, plastic food packages, medical equipment and building materials such as vinyl flooring, and even in nonplastic personal care products, including soap, shampoo and nail polish.

Prior research has shown that phthalates may change gene expression associated with fat metabolism, according to Dr. Park. Because past research suggested a link between concentrations of phthalate metabolites and increased waist size in adults, her group studied a possible connection with childhood obesity.

A View from Our Dystopian Future

June 30, 2012 10:14 AM By Ryan Cooper

Yesterday, after a day of intense heat that hit 104 F, shattering the DC record for hottest June day by two degrees, and humidity so thick you could have cut it into bricks and dropped it on the Colorado wildfires, a sudden storm came in from the west at high speed.

I was having some beers in downtown with a couple friends, and when we left for home everything was hot and dead still, with no sign of a storm. Five stops on the Metro later, it was raining buckets and blowing like a mad thing, gusting up to 80 mph according to later reports. Power failed all across the DC metro region, with 1.5 million homes affected, including mine. Thus I’ve spent the last several hours scrambling around Silver Spring, trying to find a cafe that wasn’t swarming with half of Maryland’s IT professional population.

Anyway, to make a policy observation, this is particularly vivid example of what we’ll be dealing with in the future as climate change gets worse and worse, and of the utter stupidity of failing to deal with it. Environmentalism is typically portrayed, especially by Republicans, as being somehow in tension with long-term economic growth, as if “the environment” is a kind of luxury good that we can only afford when times are good. That might be sort of true when it comes to things like national parks. But steaming hot temperatures, sudden, spectacularly violent storms, and rapid swings from drought to flooding are not just inconvenient, they’re terrifically expensive.

We have two choices. Make some fairly expensive but easily within our grasp investment now, or pay dramatically more as storms like last night’s rip apart our infrastructure, and rising seas drown many of our cities:

Understanding "Obamacare"

This site has information on what the Affordable Care Act does, in understandable language. I have included some highlights of the provisions already in effect.

What people call "Obamacare" is actually the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. However, people were calling it "Obamacare" before everyone even hammered out what it would be. It's a term mostly used by people who don't like the PPACA, and it's become popularized in part because PPACA is a really long and awkward name, even when you turn it into an acronym like that.


Already in effect:

It allows the Food and Drug Administration to approve more generic drugs (making for more competition in the market to drive down prices)

It increases the rebates on drugs people get through Medicare (so drugs cost less)

It establishes a non-profit group, that the government doesn't directly control, PCORI, to study different kinds of treatments to see what works better and is the best use of money.

It makes a "high-risk pool" for people with pre-existing conditions. Basically, this is a way to slowly ease into getting rid of "pre-existing conditions" altogether. For now, people who already have health issues that would be considered "pre-existing conditions" can still get insurance, but at different rates than people without them.

It forbids insurance companies from discriminating based on a disability, or because they were the victim of domestic abuse in the past (yes, insurers really did deny coverage for that)

It says that health insurance companies can no longer tell customers that they won't get any more coverage because they have hit a "lifetime limit". Basically, if someone has paid for health insurance, that company can't tell that person that he's used that insurance too much throughout his life so they won't cover him any more. They can't do this for lifetime spending, and they're limited in how much they can do this for yearly spending.

Kids can continue to be covered by their parents' health insurance until they're 26.

No more "pre-existing conditions" for kids under the age of 19.

Insurers have less ability to change the amount customers have to pay for their plans.

People in a "Medicare Gap" get a rebate to make up for the extra money they would otherwise have to spend.

Insurers can't just drop customers once they get sick.

Insurers need to have an appeals process for when they turn down a claim, so customers have some manner of recourse other than a lawsuit when they're turned down.

Anti-fraud funding is increased and new ways to stop fraud are created.

A limit is placed on just how much of a percentage of the money an insurer makes can be profit, to make sure they're not price-gouging customers.

A limit is placed on what type of insurance accounts can be used to pay for over-the-counter drugs without a prescription. Basically, your insurer isn't paying for the Aspirin you bought for that hangover.

Any new health plans must provide preventive care (mammograms, colonoscopies, etc.) without requiring any sort of co-pay or charge.

Hate Obamacare? Don't Worry, Here Are Some Countries You Can Move To

Dan Treadway 06/29/2012

On the heels of the announcement of the Supreme Court's decision to uphold the majority of the Affordable Care Act, Buzzfeed released a compilation of tweets by outraged citizens claiming that they were going to move to Canada in an effort to avoid Obamacare.

While I may not agree with their utter disappointment at the prospect of roughly 40 million uninsured Americans being granted access to affordable health care, as a dual citizen of the U.S. and Canada, I feel somewhat of a responsibility to inform these people, in addition to those who have similar feelings but somehow held back from voicing them on Twitter, that Canada probably isn't the best place to go to avoid universal health care. In fact, it hasn't been since 1966.

While this may come as a disappointment to some who were hoping to blissfully drink Tim Horton's coffee while observing impoverished people die from treatable ailments, fear not: There are plenty of countries that you can move to where you'll have absolutely no government-mandated access to health care.

Perhaps you might consider moving to Haiti. Not only would you be able to dodge socialist doctors, but you might be able to avoid medical professionals altogether: The country only has 25 physicians per 100,000 people. While access to clean water may be a bit spotty, this is more than made up for by the short life expectancy and the absence of Barack Obamas. Pack your swimsuit!

But maybe Haiti is still a little too close to our socialist empire for comfort. (Dear God, what if America's newfound brand of Marxist, fascist dictatorship were to spread?!) Don't worry, because the majority of the continent of Africa is far away from both Obamacare -- and any sort of care whatsoever. In fact, for you diehard libertarians who hate having your government provide things, there aren't many places better-suited for you than Liberia. Not only will the Liberian government not provide you with health care, but it will also fail to provide for just about every other basic human need. It's no coincidence that the country's motto is, "The love of liberty brought us here," because nothing represents the anti-Obamacare brand of liberty than a very high risk of catching a serious infectious disease and a low likelihood of finding the resources to treat it. As a bonus for you fans of the Second Amendment who feel that it's necessary to have a gun on you at all times, you're going to love this beautiful land where that's probably a pretty good idea.


Six Ways the Big Banks Are Getting Back-Door Bailouts

Saturday, 30 June 2012 13:52 By Sarah Jaffe, AlterNet

Bankers love to rail against government interference in the “free market.” Jamie Dimon, grilled this week in front of Congress over JP Morgan Chase's massive recent losses, famously complained last year that some regulations are “anti-American.” And Lloyd Blankfein, CEO of Goldman Sachs, warned ominously that increased regulations might make the bank seek out another location to do its business: “Operations can be moved globally and capital can be accessed globally,” he said.

Even while some of them occasionally have the grace to admit that they wouldn't still be around without the massive taxpayer bailouts of 2008 (and continued access to ultra-cheap loans from the Federal Reserve), they still like to claim that they're free-market entities, subject to the whims of the invisible hand, and that the government's meddling can only be destructive.

Yet those same banks are happy to make their money from the same governments about which they love to whine. Most of us know about the big, official bailouts. But the banks get much more than that from federal and state governments. Those lobbying dollars and campaign donations aren't just to keep regulators away; they lead to lucrative contracts where banks are paid to administer government services, and are put in position to skim fees off the very same taxpayers who pay for those services.

The big banks have their tentacles in every aspect of government—despite right-wing hand-wringing about government bureaucracy, the big banks are often actually the ones coming between you and your money. So who's really getting rich off “welfare”? JP Morgan and Bank of America.

Below are six ways the big banks rake in cash every day from services that are supposed to help working Americans.

1. Big Contracts for Food Stamps


While SNAP is a federal program, USDA and the states work together to administer the program. States contract with banks, who authorize payments (Electronic Bank Transfers or EBTs) from the Federal Reserve to retailers. J.P. Morgan Chase has contracts in half the states “indicating a lack of competition and significant market power,” according to Simon. How much are these deals worth? In New York, one seven-year deal originally gave the bank $112 million for its services, but was recently amended to add another $14.3 million.

JP Morgan spends a bunch of money lobbying the Department of Agriculture on this program, making sure they get what they want—a big paycheck from state taxpayers.

And the best part? When you have a problem with your JP Morgan SNAP benefits card? You call a JP Morgan call center for help—and that call center just might be in India.

So to recap: big bank makes money off a program that helps people who are unemployed—and creates jobs in India with that money, rather than creating them here in the US.

2. Making Money Off the Unemployed

The banks get paid directly by the state to handle the SNAP program, but that's far from the only program designed to help the victims of the lousy economy that has turned into a cash cow for the banks that created the crisis in the first place.

Unemployment benefits in 41 states are provided through Wall Street giants like Bank of America, Wells Fargo, and JP Morgan Chase. In South Carolina, for instance, customers get a prepaid debit card from Bank of America to access their unemployment benefits—which is, of course, fee-free at a Bank of America ATM. But for rural South Carolinians, the nearest Bank of America ATM might be 50 miles away. Shawana Busby, a South Carolina user of the program, tells the Huffington Post that she's probably spent $350 in fees to access her benefits—which are $264 a week. Another user of the cards, Sandra Gortman, tells the Huffington Post that she was pressured to adopt the prepaid card, and then when she used it to put gas in her car, the gas station put a hold on her card for $75, which didn't come off for three days. When she called to check on the hold, she was charged a customer service fee. (The bank has now eliminated such fees.)

The bank also collects a 3-cent fee from the state each time it “facilitates” a transfer on a prepaid card. It also gets those fees for direct-depositing unemployment benefits into someone's bank account.

3. Sweet Campus Deals to Prey on Students While Distributing Federal Student Aid Money

A recent report from USPIRG, “The Campus Debit Card Trap,” dug into the deals that universities, both public and private, make with banks to produce student ID cards and more significantly, actually handle and disburse student financial aid. In other words, young people who've already signed up for a lifetime of student debt are being preyed on further by banks that can charge them fees just to access their money. (And, remember, those same big banks are already making big bucks on student aid.)


4. Cashing in on Tax Returns

It's not only your unemployment, financial aid, or SNAP benefits that the big banks control these days—they also might come between you and your tax return.

Once again, South Carolina takes the lead, claiming to save the taxpayer money by cutting a deal with Bank of America, this time to send out tax returns in the form of—you guessed it—prepaid debit cards from Bank of America. And just like with unemployment benefits and financial aid (or your regular, consumer bank card), the bank is making its money collecting fees from people trying to access their own money.

“They’re not even nickel and diming people, they’re five-dollaring and 10-dollaring people,” Sue Berkowitz, Director of the Appleseed Legal Justice Center, says.

Oh, and the bank got this deal through a no-bid contract—the Department of Revenue calls them “the best fit” for the program. The program isn't mandatory but, the Palmetto Public Record notes, it's opt-out, not opt-in. Which means that unless you request otherwise, your money will be given to you through Bank of America—which in addition to sticking you with ATM fees and other charges, is going to make interest on your money while it's sitting in their account.

5. Refinancing Homes Means Big Bucks for Banks

Getting the big banks to refinance mortgages and help people facing foreclosure stay in their homes has been a huge fight, with activists around the country putting their bodies on the line, physically occupying homes to keep residents in them.

Now the program that's supposed to help those struggling homeowners looks instead to be a big fat handout to the same banks that were preying on borrowers to begin with. According to the Wall Street Journal, banks that service mortgages could make as much as $12 billion by refinancing under the newest version of the Home Affordable Refinance Program (HARP 2.0). And the borrowers? Oh, they'll save money, too—somewhere around $2.5 billion, maybe $5 billion tops.


6. Profiting Off The Very Idea of Another Big Bailout


In recent decades, governments and central banks around the world have developed a consistent pattern of behavior when trouble strikes banks that are large or interconnected enough to threaten the broader economy: They step in to ensure that all the bank’s creditors, not just depositors, are paid in full. Although typically necessary to prevent permanent economic damage, such bailouts encourage a reckless confidence among creditors. They assume the government will always make them whole, so they become willing to lend at lower rates, particularly to systemically important banks.

In other words, because we bailed them out once, the expectation that we'll do it again is actually making the banks money. Other lenders are willing to lend money to the “systemically important banks” (read: banks that got bailed out by the US government because they were “too big to fail”) at lower interest rates because they presume that they'll always get their money back since the government will make sure the banks don't go belly up. So the biggest banks are paying less in interest than medium-size and small banks--and that adds up to billions.


Experts warn of significant cardiovascular risk with Atkins-style diets

Public release date: 26-Jun-2012
Contact: Emma Dickinson
BMJ-British Medical Journal
Experts warn of significant cardiovascular risk with Atkins-style diets
Research: Low carbohydrate-high protein diet and incidence of cardiovascular diseases in Swedish women: Prospective cohort study; Editorial: Low carbohydrate-high protein diets

Women who regularly eat a low carbohydrate, high protein diet are at greater risk of cardiovascular disease (such as heart disease and stroke) than those who do not, a study published on today suggests.

Although the actual numbers are small (an extra 4-5 cases of cardiovascular disease per 10,000 women per year) the authors say that this is a 28% increase in the number of cases and that these results are worrying in a population of young women who may be exposed to these dietary patterns and face the excess risk for many years.

Low carbohydrate-high protein diets are frequently used for body weight control. Although they may be nutritionally acceptable if the protein is mainly of plant origin (e.g. nuts) and the reduction of carbohydrates applies mainly to simple and refined ones (i.e. unhealthy sweeteners, drinks and snacks), the general public do not always recognise and act on this guidance.


Friday, June 29, 2012

Simpler lifestyle found to reduce exposure to endocrine-disrupting chemicals

Public release date: 26-Jun-2012
Contact: Jeanne Bernard
The Mount Sinai Hospital / Mount Sinai School of Medicine
Simpler lifestyle found to reduce exposure to endocrine-disrupting chemicals

A lifestyle that features fresh foods and limited use of products likely to contain environmental chemicals has been shown to reduce exposure to endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs), such as BPA and phthalates, in a small population study. EDCs are linked to a number of adverse health complications including neuro-developmental delays, behavioral issues and fertility problems. They are produced by the millions of pounds per year and found extensively in a range of products that contain certain plastics.

Researchers from Mount Sinai School of Medicine and University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry examined individual behavioral choices and community lifestyle practices, as well as analyzed urine samples, from a group of Old Order Mennonite (OOM) women in mid-pregnancy and determined that they have lower levels EDCs in their systems than the general population. The study is published online today in the journal NeuroToxicology.

Bisphenol A (BPA) and phthalates are part of a group of chemicals known as endocrine disruptors, chemicals in plastic that interfere with the body's endocrine, or hormone, system. They are used at length in a range of products, including clothing, furniture, cosmetics, and medical supplies and are also commonly found in food, water, and dust. EDC exposure can occur through ingestion, inhalation and absorption through the skin.

In addition to neuro-developmental delays, behavioral issues and fertility problems, exposure to BPA and phthalates have been linked to reproductive tract changes, neuro-developmental delays, behavioral issues, obesity, asthma, allergies, fertility problems and heart disease. The effects of EDCs appear to be greatest for the fetus exposed during gestation.

"Bisphenol A and phthalates have been linked to a number of adverse health effects, but because these chemicals are so pervasive in the environment, and we all carry their signatures in our bodies, it's difficult to explicitly identify environmental sources and pathways," said Shanna H. Swan, PhD, Professor of Preventive Medicine at Mount Sinai School of Medicine and lead author of the study. "The Mennonite community provides us with a natural comparison group because they eat mostly fresh, unprocessed foods, farms without pesticides, applies no cosmetics, and uses personal care products sparingly,."


Standing for long periods during pregnancy may curb fetal growth

Public release date: 27-Jun-2012
Contact: Stephanie Burns
BMJ-British Medical Journal
Standing for long periods during pregnancy may curb fetal growth
But working up to 36 weeks of pregnancy has no adverse effect

Standing for long periods during pregnancy may curb the growth of the developing fetus, suggests research published online in Occupational and Environmental Medicine.

Previous research has indicated that long working hours may increase the risk of birth defects, premature birth, stillbirth and low birthweight.


But women who spent long periods on their feet during their pregnancy, in jobs such as sales, childcare, and teaching, had babies whose heads were an average of 1 cm (3%) smaller than average at birth, implying a slower growth rate.


And those who worked more than 40 hours a week had smaller babies than those who worked under 25 hours a week.

Babies born to these women had a head circumference that was 1 cm smaller and a weight that was between 148 and 198 g smaller, on average, than babies born to women working under 25 hours a week. These differences were apparent from the third trimester (last three months of pregnancy) onwards.

The authors comment that generally women who are in work have fewer pregnancy complications, birth defects, and stillbirths than women who are unemployed, but that certain aspects of work may not be without risk.

'Broken heart syndrome' protects the heart from adrenaline overload

Public release date: 27-Jun-2012
Contact: Sam Wong
Imperial College London
'Broken heart syndrome' protects the heart from adrenaline overload

A condition that temporarily causes heart failure in people who experience severe stress might actually protect the heart from very high levels of adrenaline, according to a new study published in the journal Circulation. The research provides the first physiological explanation for Takotsubo cardiomyopathy, also called "broken heart syndrome" because it affects people who suffer severe emotional stress after bereavement, and suggests guidance for treatment.

Around 1-2% of people who are initially suspected of having a heart attack are finally discovered to have this increasingly recognised syndrome.

The Imperial College London study, which simulated the condition in an animal model, suggests that the body changes its response to adrenaline by switching from its usual role in stimulating the heart to reducing its pumping power. Although this results in acute heart failure, most patients make a full recovery within days or weeks.

The researchers propose that the switch in the heart's response to adrenaline might have evolved to protect the heart from being overstimulated by the particularly high doses of adrenaline that the body releases during stress.

Patients with Takotsubo cardiomyopathy, most often older women, experience symptoms that resemble a heart attack, but heart tests reveal no blockage in the coronary arteries; instead the heart has a balloon-like appearance caused by the bottom of the heart not contracting properly. The same condition is sometimes seen in people who are injected with adrenaline to treat severe allergic reactions.

In this new research, the authors simulated the condition by injecting high doses of adrenaline in anaesthetised rats. In these rats, as in Takotsubo patients, heart muscle contraction was suppressed towards the bottom of the heart. The researchers found that these rats were protected from an otherwise fatal overstimulation of the heart, indicating that adrenaline acts through a different pathway from usual, and that this switch protects the heart from toxic levels of adrenaline.


Study co-author Dr Alexander Lyon, also from the NHLI at Imperial, and consultant cardiologist at Royal Brompton Hospital, set up one of the first specialist services in the UK to look after people who have experienced Takotsubo cardiomyopathy. "Currently it is not fully known how to treat these patients," he said. "Insights from this work show that the illness may be protecting them from more serious harm. We've identified a drug treatment that might be helpful, but the most important thing is to recognise the condition, and not to make it worse by giving patients with Takotsubo cardiomyopathy more adrenaline or adrenaline-like medications."

Menopausal women could 'work out' their hot flashes

Public release date: 27-Jun-2012
Contact: Victoria M. Indivero
Penn State
Menopausal women could 'work out' their hot flashes

Menopausal women who exercise may experience fewer hot flashes in the 24 hours following physical activity, according to health researchers.

In general, women who are relatively inactive or are overweight or obese tend to have a risk of increased symptoms of perceived hot flashes, noted Steriani Elavsky, assistant professor of kinesiology at Penn State.

Perceived hot flashes do not always correspond to actual hot flashes. Most previous research analyzed only self-reported hot flashes. This is the first study known to the researchers to look at objective versus subjective hot flashes.

After child dies, mom's risk of early death skyrockets: study

Public release date: 27-Jun-2012
Contact: Williams Evans
University of Notre Dame
After child dies, mom's risk of early death skyrockets: study

In the first two years following the death of a child, there is a 133% increase in the risk of the mother dying, a new study from the University of Notre Dame shows.

Unemployed Americans face greater risk of mortality: UBC study

Public release date: 28-Jun-2012
Contact: Heather Amos
University of British Columbia
Unemployed Americans face greater risk of mortality: UBC study

Employment policy is also health policy according to a University of British Columbia study that found that workers experienced higher mortality rates if they didn't have access to social protections like employment insurance and unemployment benefits.

Researchers with the Human Early Learning Partnership and the School of Population and Public Health at UBC found that low and medium-skilled workers in the United States are at a greater risk of death if they lose their job than their German counterparts, who have access to more robust employment protections and insurance.

"Employment insurance makes a difference to the health of the most vulnerable populations, low-wage and poorly educated workers," said Chris McLeod, the lead researcher on the paper and a post-doctoral fellow with the Human Early Learning Partnership. "For low-wage and poorly educated workers, it's not just about losing your job but losing your job and being at the bottom of the labour market."

The study, published online earlier this month in the American Journal of Public Health, compared mortality rates of unemployed minimum, medium and high-skilled workers in Germany and the United States of America between 1984 and 2005. While researchers found an increased risk of dying for all unemployed workers, the relative risk was higher for U.S. workers in almost all situations. Unemployed minimum and medium skilled Americans were about seven and 3.5 times more likely to die than employed high skilled Americans or Germans.

The U.S. and Germany are the world's two most successful economies but differ significantly in their employment policies. Germany, a coordinated market economy, has high levels of both employment protection – restrictions on terminating employees – and unemployment protection – availability of unemployment benefits. The United States, a liberal market economy, has low levels of employment and unemployment protection. The study found that 75 per cent of unemployed German workers received unemployment compensation compared to only 19 per cent of U.S. workers.


Study in hurricane region reveals effects of stress on pregnancy Posted June 22, 2012; 03:53 p.m.

by Michael Hotchkiss June 22, 2012

Expectant mothers who dealt with the strain of a hurricane or major tropical storm passing nearby during their pregnancy had children who were at elevated risk for abnormal health conditions at birth, according to a study led by a Princeton University researcher that offers new insights into the effects of stress on pregnancy.

The study used birth records from Texas and meteorological information to identify children born in the state between 1996 and 2008 whose mothers were in the path of a major tropical storm or hurricane during pregnancy. The children's health at birth was compared with that of siblings whose gestation didn't coincide with a major weather event.

The study found that mothers living within 30 kilometers of a hurricane's path during their third trimester were 60 percent more likely to have a newborn with abnormal conditions, which are detailed on birth records. Those conditions included being on a ventilator for more than 30 minutes or experiencing meconium aspiration, which occurs when a newborn breathes in a mixture of meconium — or early feces — and amniotic fluid around the time of delivery. Increased risk was also found following exposure to weather-related stressors in the first trimester, while evidence was less clear for exposure in the second trimester. The researchers were able to isolate the impact of stress caused by the storm from other factors, such as changes in the availability of health care in a storm's aftermath.


So hot

It was so hot I saw a dog chasing a cat and they were both walking.

'Ambient' bullying gives employees urge to quit

Public release date: 29-Jun-2012
Contact: Katie Baker
SAGE Publications
'Ambient' bullying gives employees urge to quit

London (June 29 2012) – Merely showing up to work in an environment where bullying goes on is enough to make many of us think about quitting, a new study suggests. Canadian researchers writing in the journal Human Relations published by SAGE, have found that nurses not bullied directly, but who worked in an environment where workplace bullying occurred, felt a stronger urge to quit than those actually being bullied. These findings on 'ambient' bullying have significant implications for organizations, as well as contributing a new statistical approach to the field.

Misleading headline

In yesterday's USA Today newspaper, Thurs. June 28, 2012, one of the articles on the front page were:

Local, state hiring jumps
Government jobs hit 4-year high

That second line seemed very unlikely. While the private sector has been hiring, the loss of government jobs has been making prolonging the recession. Reading the article itself, it says that "state and local governments are hiring at the fastest pace in four years ..... "The number of job openings at state and local governments also hit a four-year high. "

This does not mean that all the jobs that were lost have been gained back. As the article goes on to say, after talking about hiring by Tuscon:

"Tucson - like other state and local governments - still expects to live with a smaller workforce than the 2008 peak."

Many people will get not have time or interest in reading past the headline, and will get a false perception.

Number Of Homeless Students Tops One Million For The First Time

According to a report from the Department of Education, the number of homeless students in the U.S. topped one million for the first time during the 2010-2011 school year. The number includes students enrolled in public preschool through 12th grade, and as the Orlando Sentinel pointed out, “the figure actually underestimates the number of homeless children by excluding infants, toddlers, preschool-aged children who aren’t enrolled in public programs and homeless children who are home-schooled.” According to the data, “44 states overall saw the number of homeless students increase, while “fifteen states’ homeless student population increased by one fifth or more.”

Wildfire crews fight for health coverage in online campaign

If they could get private insurance at all, it would surely be very expensive, because of the dangerous nature of their work.

By Miguel Llanos June 29, 2012

A social media campaign started by a few seasonal firefighters is spreading, well, like wildfire.

The issue? Getting frontline firefighters who battle the nation's wildfires -- temporary federal employees because of the seasonal nature of their work -- into the government health care system.

More than 118,000 people have endorsed the idea on through Friday afternoon. The group also has its own Facebook page.

A union official working on behalf of the 8,000 temporary federal firefighters told he had never seen such traction on an issue that's been around for decades.

"These are employees that time, and civil service reforms, forgot," said Mark Davis, head of the Forest Service Council.

John Lauer and a few colleagues on a federal hotshot fire crew based out of Custer, S.D., started the petition while fighting the massive High Park Fire in Colorado earlier this month.


I was talking to a Republican relative a few days ago, and he was unhappy that his step daughter, a teacher in California, has gotten a pink slip. California schools lay off a lot of teachers during the summer vacation, so they can save money by not having to pay for their health insurance. Then they hire many back in the fall. My relative said that was unfair. I just said mildly "Some people don't want to pay taxes." Typical oblivious Republican. Like people who vote against taxes, then complain if their are long delays for government services, for car tags. How do they think people at the tag office get paid? Of course, they don't think about it at all.

New revelations point to a Darrell Issa conspiracy

Posted Jun 28, 2012, 3:58 pm

Jimmy Zuma

June 28, Washington DC – Bombshell reporting in Fortune Magazine and the Washington Post sheds new light on the festering, wormy mess that is Darrell Issa’s Fast and Furious investigation. Fortune reports that the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives operation was nothing like U.S. Rep. Issa has claimed. In fact, Fast and Furious was so different that it is virtually impossible for Issa to be so utterly misinformed. He appears to be lying. 

Let’s catch up…
ATF never bought, held or had '2,000 guns'

Fortune reported that the “2,000 guns” often named by Issa, a California Republican, as having been a part of the program were actually guns that were purchased ordinarily by suspected straw purchasers who were under investigation. They were not guns purchased by ATF, with ATF funds, or for ATF investigations.

As it turns out, only five guns appear to have been purchased with ATF funds. They were all part of an operation conducted by ATF Agent John Dodson, congressman Issa’s ostensible “whistle-blower.” So it appears that John Dodson described his own operation, but made it sound like everyone was doing it. In reality, his investigation was the only example among seven ATF gun-running units.

Given where he worked, Dodson too, could not have been honestly mistaken. Though not proven, he appears to have made inaccurate claims about the other 1,995 guns under investigation, which would be perjury if he had made them under oath instead of under federal protections for whistleblowers.


Guns recovered from the Brian Terry shooting were not ATF guns


Thursday, June 28, 2012

Senator Says Employers Should Be Able To Deny Coverage To Cancer Patients Because ‘Our Nation Was Based On Freedom’

So what's the point of insurance?

By Scott Keyes on Jun 28, 2012 at 2:10 pm

Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI)
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Businesses should be allowed to deny health insurance to cancer patients, according to a Republican senator, because “our nation was based on the foundation of freedom and limited government.”

Discussing health care outside the Supreme Court today, Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) told ThinkProgress that there “shouldn’t” be a law requiring businesses to cover employees who have cancer because that would “create an obligation” for others. “When you create a right for somebody,” Johnson said, “you create an obligation for somebody else, and then you’re taking away that person’s right.”


Under Obamacare, health insurance companies cannot deny people health insurance because of a pre-existing condition like cancer. Johnson remains strongly opposed to the law.

Unfortunately, he is not the first person to suggest that businesses should be permitted to deny insurance to cancer patients. Last week, Indiana Republican Senate nominee Richard Mourdock similarly argued that employers should be allowed to deny coverage to cancer patients “if they want to keep their health care costs down.”

Moving to Canada because of Obamacare?


People on Facebook are posting on comments from conservatives that they are moving to Canada because the supreme court upheld the Affordable Care Act!

Canada has had universal health care for years. So have all other advanced democracies other than they U.S. And they have longer life expectancies, lower infant mortality, and far lower health care costs per capita.

Drought threatens U.S. food prices

Peter Whoriskey for The Washington Post

A drought in the Corn Belt and elsewhere in the Midwest has pushed the bushel price up about 27 percent in the past month alone, and there is little sign of rain in the near future, a forecast that could soon push up food costs across the country, meteorologists say.

Last week, 63 percent of the corn crop was rated in good or better condition, according to the Agriculture Department. This week, that figure had fallen to 56 percent.

Concerns arise as the crop approaches pollination, a particularly sensitive two-week period when bad weather can inflict significant damage.

“You only get one chance to pollinate over 1 quadrillion kernels,” said Bill Lapp, president of Advanced Economic Solutions, a Omaha-based commodity consulting firm. “There’s always some level of angst at this time of year, but it’s significantly greater now and with good reason. We’ve had extended periods of drought.”

Corn is the most valuable U.S. crop, and its price has ripple effects across a wide range of food prices.

Rising corn prices mean higher costs for beef producers who use it to feed their livestock; it also means that some fields planted with other crops will be shifted into corn production. In addition, it puts upward pressure on the price of ethanol.

“Getting a big corn crop is important for everyone,” said David Anderson, an agricultural economist at Texas A&M.

In less than a month, the future price of a bushel of corn has risen from $4.99 to $6.33, Lapp said. The supply of corn in the United States, meanwhile, is down about 8 percent from last year, according to Agriculture Department statistics.

The area affected by the drought is a swath of the Midwest that reaches as far west as Kansas, as far south as Arkansas and as far east as Indiana, according to the National Weather Service, and the dry condition have come on fast.

Last week, about 19 percent of the contiguous United States was facing drought conditions characterized as severe or worse. This week that percentage had grown to 24 percent, according to federal forecasters.


Jay Armstrong, owner and operator of Armstong Farms in Kansas, flew his small plane over a portion of the affected area and landed with the impression that the potential damage is far worse than is commonly understood.

“At this time of year, when you look down in a place like Indiana or Illinois, you should see just lush green fields,” Armstrong said. “I saw bare soil. I just thought to myself, the market has no idea what’s coming.”

Spam filter

I finally looked, briefly, in my blogger spam box last night, and when I have some time I'll look into it more, to make sure there aren't some legitimate comments. At least half of the comments the spam filter does let thru look like spam. So if you left a legitimate comment and wonder why it hasn't been posted, the spam filter probably made a mistake.

To those who offered sincere appreciation of my blog, thank you very much. I strive to be helpful and interesting.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Tests in cannibalism case: Zombie-like attacker used pot

By Michael Martinez, CNN
updated 8:03 PM EDT, Wed June 27, 2012
(CNN) -- The naked Florida man who chewed off the face of another man last month in a zombie-like cannibal attack used marijuana but not "bath salts" as police had suspected, authorities said Wednesday.

Rudy Eugene, 31, was killed by a police officer after Eugene's 18-minute attack on a homeless man. His body didn't show "any other street drugs, alcohol or prescription drugs, or any adulterants found in street drugs," according to the Miami-Dade County Medical Examiner Department.

"The department has also sought the assistance of an outside forensic toxicology reference laboratory, which has confirmed the absence of 'bath salts,' synthetic marijuana and LSD," the statement said.

A health care 'Judas' recounts his conversion

By John Blake, CNN June 27th, 2012

(CNN) – When Wendell Potter first saw them, he froze.

“It felt like touching an electrical fence,” he says. “I remember tearing up and thinking, how could this be real.”

Thousands of them had lined up under a cloudy sky in an open field. Many had camped out the night before. When their turns came, doctors treated them in animal stalls and on gurneys placed on rain-soaked sidewalks.

They were Americans who needed basic medical care. Potter had driven to the Wise County Fairgrounds in Virginia in July 2007 after reading that a group called Remote Area Medical, which flew American doctors to remote Third World villages, was hosting a free outdoor clinic.

Potter, a Cigna health care executive who ate from gold-rimmed silverware in corporate jets, says that morning was his “Road to Damascus” experience.

“It looked like a refugee camp,” Potter says. “It just hit me like a bolt of lightning. What I was doing for a living was making it necessary for people to resort to getting care in animal stalls.”

The U.S. Supreme Court’s decision Thursday on the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act is a colossal legal and political issue. For Potter, though, the issue became a crisis of faith.

For the last three years, Potter has been one of the most visible supporters of President Barack Obama’s health care legislation. He has testified before Congress, appeared on countless talk shows and written a tell-all book on the health care industry called "Deadly Spin." With his Southern drawl and mild professorial manner, he has been described as a health care industry “Judas” in some media accounts.


He says an estimated 45,000 Americans die each year because they don’t have insurance that provides them access to the care they need.

“This doesn’t happen in any other developed country in the world, and it should not happen here, the richest nation on the planet,” he says.


He says many of the people who attended the Remote Area Medical clinic were working people. Their jobs simply didn’t provide enough good medical care. While many companies provide health insurance to people with pre-existing conditions such as high blood pressure or high cholesterol, most people with these maladies wouldn’t get coverage if they suddenly lost their job.


'A Manifesto for Economic Sense'

The inequality problem won't solve itself:

America is no longer a land of opportunity, by By Joseph Stiglitz, Commentary, FT: US inequality is at its highest point for nearly a century. ... One might feel better about inequality if there were a grain of truth in trickle-down economics. But the median income of Americans today is lower than it was a decade and a half ago... Meanwhile, those at the top have never had it so good. ...

Markets are shaped by the rules of the game. Our political system has written rules that benefit the rich at the expense of others. ... There is good news in this: by reducing rent-seeking ... and the distortions that give rise to so much of America’s inequality we can achieve a fairer society and a better-performing economy. ...

America used to be thought of as the land of opportunity. Today, a child’s life chances are more dependent on the income of his or her parents than in Europe, or any other of the advanced industrial countries for which there are data. .....

As Exxon CEO Calls Global Warming’s Impacts ‘Manageable’, Colorado Wildfires Shutter Climate Lab

By Rebecca Leber and Joe Romm on Jun 27, 2012 at 6:50 pm

Fueled by a warming climate, Colorado is experiencing its worst fire season in its history.

As researchers at Boulder’s National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) joined 32,000 other Coloradans in fleeing the fires, ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson spoke to the Council on Foreign Relations about the “manageable” risks of climate change:

Rex Tillerson said at a meeting at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York that climate change was a “great challenge,” but it could be solved by adapting to risks such as higher sea levels and changing conditions for agriculture.

“As a species that’s why we’re all still here: we have spent our entire existence adapting. So we will adapt to this,” he said. “It’s an engineering problem, and it has engineering solutions.”

Tillerson’s flippant remarks about “adapting” to the “manageable” consequences of climate change come at a time that Exxon is making record profits. In 2011, the company made $41.1 billion in profits, and Tillerson pulled in $34.9 million total compensation — a 20 percent raise from 2010.

A 2011 study found that “9 out of 10 top climate change deniers [were] linked with Exxon Mobil.” So it’s no surprise that Exxon’s CEO would spread misinformation on global warming.

Climate Progress is unaware of any serious climate scientists who think that global warming is “manageable” simply through adaptation if we listen to the do-nothing Exxon crowd and stay anywhere near our current emissions path. We know a great many who have written that the reverse is true (see below).

It’s also worth nothing that by mid-century, wildfires in the West our projected to be far, far worse. Here’s the grim projection from a presentation made by the President’s science adviser Dr. John Holdren in Oslo in 2010:


Science stunner — On our current emissions path, CO2 levels in 2100 will hit levels last seen when the Earth was 29°F (16°C) hotter: Paleoclimate data suggests CO2 “may have at least twice the effect on global temperatures than currently projected by computer models”


More record-setting heat; Waldo Canyon Fire consumes 15,000 acres

Posted by: Angela Fritz, 7:17 PM GMT on June 27, 2012 +22
Tuesday's heat toppled many records in the Central U.S., particularly in Colorado, Nebraska, and Kansas. On Monday and Tuesday combined, 11 locations tied or broke their all-time record high temperature, 78 locations broke their all-time record high for the month of June, and 382 daily high records fell. Some notable Tuesday records from our Weather Historian:

115° in McCook, Nebraska is the all-time record for any month. The old records for site are 114° 7/20/1932 and for June 112° 6/5/1933—both set in the heat waves of the 1930s. Yesterday's 115° at Mc Cook also broke the all-time Nebraska state June record of 114° which was set in Franklin in 1936.

105° in Denver, Colorado, ties Monday's all-time record, and ties the 5-day record for number of days above 100°.

101° in Colorado Springs, Colorado is the all-time undisputed record high for any month.

111° in Miles City, Montana is the all-time high for any month.

111° in Lamar, Colorado tied that all-time heat record in any month.

115° in Hill City, Kansas is the new June record, but fell short of all-time 117° reading, and one degree short of Kansas state June record.

110° in Dodge City, Kansas ties the all-time high for any month, which was just set last June.

Wheat Ridge, Colorado (103°) and Cedar Bluff Dam, Kansas (110°) also tied their all-time record highs on Tuesday. Our Weather Historian Christopher C. Burt, who mused that this heat wave is starting to shape up like the record setting heat waves of the 1930s, will have a full-length post on this week's incredible heat wave on Friday. Today the heat shifts eastward, with eastern Iowa and northwest Illinois in an excessive heat watch, and eastern Kansas and western Missouri in an excessive heat warning. St. Louis could start to see 100°+ today, and Chicago will likely have their warmest day on Thursday. This heat wave will reach the eastern U.S. by Friday.

Waldo Canyon Fire engulfs parts of Colorado Springs

Firefighters are "on the offensive" on Wednesday as they fight the Waldo Canyon Fire, which started Saturday afternoon for reasons unknown. The fire is 5% contained as of Wednesday afternoon, though firefighters are using triage protocol, according to the AP, to save the homes that they are able to save. 30,000 people have fled their homes on Wednesday as the fire grew to over 15,000 acres. The region remains in a red flag warning as conditions continue to be unfavorable for fighting both this and the High Park fire, which continues to burn west of Fort Collins. Humidity is expected to remain around or less than 10%, and winds could gust up to 50 mph.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Pay Those Bills On Time Or Forfeit Right To Vote in Iowa

Everybody I know believes people should regain their right to vote after they server their sentence, and most don't know that in some states that that is not the case.

June 26, 2012 11:17 AM

By Ed Kilgore
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If the 2012 general election winds up as a close GOP win, the odds are very high that the national GOP drive to restrict the franchise will deserve significant credit or blame. You tend to think, quite rightly, of Florida as Ground zero for voter suppression, given that state’s decentralized voter administration system and the zest the state’s Republicans have shown for stealing elections in the name of “preventing” stolen elections. But it’s actually staid and civil Iowa that is exhibiting one of the boldest exercises in tilting the ballot box, via Gov. Terry Branstad’s determination to reduce the restoration of voting rights for ex-felons to a number closely approximating zero. The AP’s Ryan Foley has the story:

Republican Gov. Terry Branstad has made Iowa one of the most difficult states in the nation for felons to vote, with an executive order he issued last year already having disenfranchised thousands of people, a review by The Associated Press shows.

On the day he took office, Branstad signed an order reversing a six-year policy started under Democrat Tom Vilsack in which felons automatically regained their voting rights once they were discharged from state supervision. The move flew in the face of a nationwide trend to make voting easier for felons, making Iowa one of four states where felons must apply to the governor to have voting rights restored. Branstad’s new process requires applicants to submit a credit report, a provision critics call inappropriate and unique among states.

Since then, 8,000 felons in Iowa have finished their prison sentences or been released from community supervision, but less than a dozen have successfully navigated the process of applying to get their citizenship rights back, according to public records obtained by the AP.

A credit report to regain the right to vote? That’s about the most revealing reflection of latter-day Republican values I’ve seen in a while. As is this quote:

The state’s new top elections official, Republican Secretary of State Matt Schultz, urged Branstad to reinstate the application process to “send a message to Iowa’s voters that their voting privilege is sacred and will not be compromised.”

Voting’s a “privilege,” not a right, you see. There’s not a question in my mind that these people would reinstitute poll taxes if the courts and Grover Norquist would let them.

Pennsylvania Republican: Voter ID Laws Are ‘Gonna Allow Governor Romney To Win’

By Annie-Rose Strasser posted from ThinkProgress Election on Jun 25, 2012 at 3:40 pm

Pennsylvania House Majority Leader Mike Turzai
This weekend, Pennsylvania Republican House Leader Mike Turzai (R-PA) finally admitted what so many have speculated: Voter identification efforts are meant to suppress Democratic votes in this year’s election.

At the Republican State Committee meeting, Turzai took the stage and let slip the truth about why Republicans are so insistent on voter identification efforts — it will win Romney the election, he said:

“We are focused on making sure that we meet our obligations that we’ve talked about for years,” said Turzai in a speech to committee members Saturday. He mentioned the law among a laundry list of accomplishments made by the GOP-run legislature.

“Pro-Second Amendment? The Castle Doctrine, it’s done. First pro-life legislation – abortion facility regulations – in 22 years, done. Voter ID, which is gonna allow Governor Romney to win the state of Pennsylvania, done.”

Man Dies After Prison Tries To ‘Cut Costs’ By Denying Him Care

Why was his medication dosage cut? To save money?

Jun 26, 2012

A Minnesota mother is suing the correctional facility where her son, Xavier Scullark-Johnson, died after being denied emergency care by his prison nurses. The 27-year-old St. Paul native was less than three months away from his prison release when he passed away in June 2010.

According to new documents obtained by the Minneapolis Star Tribune, Scullark-Johnson had already suffered numerous seizures the night that prison nurse Denise L. Garin turned away an ambulance team that a doctor had ordered to be sent for the inmate.

Garin overrode the on-call doctor and demanded that Scullark-Johnson not be transported to the hospital because “protocol” stated that ambulance transports were to be “strictly monitored” in an effort to “cut costs.”


“They have protocols to deal with the patient,” her notes continue, “and say this is because patient has recently gotten his Dilantin cut in half.”

Dilantin is a drug used to control seizures. An autopsy later showed that Johnson’s Dilantin was “below therapeutic level,” but there is no mention in Garin’s charting why she refused to let the ambulance crew take him to the hospital to have his Dilantin level checked immediately.


Johnson was pronounced dead less than two hours after the ambulance was ordered to leave without him. All accounts indicated that he was found soaked in urine on the floor of his cell, coiled in a fetal position after seizures had caused irreversible brain damage. Garin continues to work for the Rush City prison.

This tragedy marks the glaring problem of using for-profit contractors for medical care in government-run prisons: Private contractors put money before the care of their patients. Other cost-cutting measures have included eliminating doctors from Minnesota prisons after 4 p.m. and on weekends. Nurses continue to remain on staff, but end their shifts at 10:30 p.m., leaving inmates with no immediate access to medical care after hours.

Countdown to a black hole show

6/26/2012 By Alan Boyle

Researchers are watching the first scenes of a cosmic show that's expected to heat up over the next year as a giant gas cloud approaches the supermassive black hole at the center of our galaxy.

The impending collision was the subject of a research paper published in Nature last December, and now the European Research Media Center is providing an update: By mid-2013, the cloud is expected to pass in the vicinity of the black hole, known as Sagittarius A*, at a distance of 36 light-hours, or less than 25 billion miles (40 billion kilometers).


Rare Neurons Linked to Empathy and Self-Awareness Discovered in Monkey Brains

ScienceDaily (May 21, 2012) — Max Planck scientists have discovered brain cells in monkeys that may be linked to self-awareness and empathy in humans.

The anterior insular cortex is a small brain region that plays a crucial role in human self-awareness and in related neuropsychiatric disorders. A unique cell type -- the von Economo neuron (VEN) -- is located there. For a long time, the VEN was assumed to be unique to humans, great apes, whales and elephants. Henry Evrard, neuroanatomist at the Max Planck Institute for Biological Cybernetics in Tübingen, Germany, now discovered that the VEN occurs also in the insula of macaque monkeys. The morphology, size and distribution of the monkey VEN suggest that it is at least a primal anatomical homolog of the human VEN.

Prenatal Pollution Exposure Dangerous for Children With Asthma

ScienceDaily (May 20, 2012) — The link between prenatal exposure to air pollution and childhood lung growth and respiratory ailments has been established by several studies in recent years, and now a new study suggests that these prenatal exposures can be especially serious for children with asthma.

The study will be presented at the ATS 2012 International Conference in San Francisco. "In this study, we found that prenatal exposures to airborne particles and the pollutant nitrogen dioxide adversely affect pulmonary function growth among asthmatic children between 6 and 15 years of age," said study lead author Amy Padula, PhD, post-doctoral fellow at the University of California, Berkeley. "This analysis adds to the evidence that maternal exposure to ambient air pollutants can have persistent effects on lung function development in children with asthma."

Monday, June 25, 2012

Grading the nation: How accountable is your state?

The following link shows a map of the U.S. with each state graded for accountability by the Center for Public Integrity.

the State Integrity Investigation, a first-of-its-kind, data-driven assessment of transparency, accountability and anti-corruption mechanisms in all 50 states. Not a single state — not one — earned an A grade from the months-long probe. Only five states earned a B grade: New Jersey, Connecticut, Washington, California and Nebraska. Nineteen states got C’s and 18 received D’s. Eight states earned failing grades of 59 or below from the project, which is a collaboration of the Center for Public Integrity, Global Integrity and Public Radio International.

The F’s went to Michigan, North Dakota, South Carolina, Maine, Virginia, Wyoming, South Dakota and Georgia.

Noncompetitive Coal Leasing Policies Cost U.S. Taxpayers $29 Billion Since 1982

By Stephen Lacey on Jun 25, 2012 at 4:18 pm

Most Americans don’t realize just how much coal they own.

Consider this: coal accounts for two thirds of resources extracted from public lands for electricity generation. And Americans also own most of the Powder River Basin, a region stretching across Wyoming and Montana that accounts for roughly 43 percent of America’s coal.

With all that coal being the property of U.S. citizens, you’d think the taxpayers were getting a lot of revenue from selling that resource to the coal companies. Not so much.

A new report concludes that uncompetitive leasing and poor oversight has denied Americans taxpayers of up to $28.9 billion since 1982.

According to an analysis from Tom Sanzillo, director of the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis, the government allows coal companies operating on public lands to purchase the resource at a price far below market value by supporting “auctions” with only one bidder.

This is a problem that environmental groups have raised for some time.


New evidence links ozone exposure to potential heart attacks

Public release date: 25-Jun-2012
Contact: Carrie Thacker
American Heart Association
New evidence links ozone exposure to potential heart attacks

Young, healthy adult volunteers exposed for two hours to ozone developed physiological changes associated with cardiovascular ailments, according to a small study reported in Circulation, an American Heart Association journal.

Study participants showed evidence of vascular inflammation, a potential reduced ability to dissolve artery-blocking blood clots, and changes in the autonomic nervous system that controls the heart's rhythm. The changes were temporary and reversible in these young, healthy participants.

Ground level ozone is created when pollutants from vehicles, power plants, industry, chemical solvents and consumer products react in the presence of sunlight. Recent epidemiology studies have reported associations between acute exposure to ozone and death but little is known about the underlying pathophysiological pathways responsible.

Exercise, even mild physical activity, may reduce breast cancer risk

Public release date: 25-Jun-2012
Contact: Chris Perry
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Exercise, even mild physical activity, may reduce breast cancer risk

A new analysis done by University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill researchers has found that physical activity – either mild or intense and before or after menopause – may reduce breast cancer risk, but substantial weight gain may negate these benefits.

Published early online in Cancer, a peer-reviewed journal of the American Cancer Society, the findings indicate that women can reduce their breast cancer risk by exercising and maintaining their weight.


Overweight men can boost low testosterone levels by losing weight

Public release date: 25-Jun-2012
Contact: Aaron Lohr
The Endocrine Society

Weight loss can reduce the prevalence of low testosterone levels in overweight, middle-aged men with prediabetes by almost 50 percent, a new study finds. Results will be presented Monday at The Endocrine Society's 94th Annual Meeting in Houston.

"Doctors should first encourage overweight men with low testosterone levels to try to lose weight through diet and exercise before resorting to testosterone therapy to raise their hormone levels," said study co-author Frances Hayes, MD, professor at St. Vincent's University Hospital, Dublin.


Saturday, June 23, 2012

Number Of People Living In Extreme Poverty Up 50% Since 2000

Economics blogger Evan Soltas broke down census figures and found that since 2000, the number of people living in “extreme” poverty — that is, incomes totaling less than half of the federal poverty line — has climbed an astounding 50 percent, accelerating most dramatically after the recession began four years ago. In 2010, 6.7 percent of Americans were living in extreme poverty, up from 5.2 percent in 2007 and just 4.7 percent in 2000. That represents the largest jump by a single income bracket among those hovering near the poverty line.

BPA Exposure Effects May Last for Generations

ScienceDaily (June 15, 2012) — Exposure to low doses of Bisphenol A (BPA) during gestation had immediate and long-lasting, trans-generational effects on the brain and social behaviors in mice, according to a recent study accepted for publication in the journal Endocrinology, a publication of The Endocrine Society.

BPA is a human-made chemical present in a variety of products including food containers, receipt paper and dental sealants and is now widely detected in human urine and blood. Public health concerns have been fueled by findings that BPA exposure can influence brain development. In mice, prenatal exposure to BPA is associated with increased anxiety, aggression and cognitive impairments.

"We have demonstrated for the first time to our knowledge that BPA has trans-generational actions on social behavior and neural expression," said Emilie Rissman, PhD, of the University of Virginia School of Medicine and lead author of the study. "Since exposure to BPA changes social interactions in mice at a dose within the reported human levels, it is possible that this compound has trans-generational actions on human behavior. If we banned BPA tomorrow, pulled all products with BPA in them, and cleaned up all landfills tomorrow it is possible, if the mice data generalize to humans, that we will still have effects of this compound for many generations."


Children, Brain Development and the Criminal Law

Also, a child may have brain damage from being physically abused by their parents. The effects of brain damage will of course depend on the are of the brain affected.

ScienceDaily (June 18, 2012) — The legal system needs to take greater account of new discoveries in neuroscience that show how a difficult childhood can affect the development of a young person's brain which can increase the risk adolescent crimes, according to researchers.


Neuroscientists have recently shown that early adversity -- such as a very chaotic and frightening home life -- can result in a young child becoming hyper vigilant to potential threats in their environment. This appears to influence the development of brain connectivity and functions.

Such children may come to adolescence with brain systems that are set differently, and this may increase their likelihood of taking impulsive risks. For many young offenders such early adversity is a common experience, and it may increase both their vulnerability to mental health problems and also their risk of problem behaviours.

These insights, from a team led by Dr Eamon McCrory, University College London, are part of a wave of neuroscientific research questions that have potential implications for the legal system.

Other research by Dr Seena Fazel of Oxford University has shown that while social disadvantage is a major risk factor for offending, a Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) -- from an accident or assault -- significantly increases the risk of involvement in violent crime. Professor Huw Williams, at University of Exeter, has similarly shown that around 45 per cent of young offenders have TBI histories, and more injuries are associated with greater violence.

Professor Williams said: "The latest message from neuroscience is that young people who suffer troubled childhoods may experience a kind of 'triple whammy'. A difficult social background may put them at greater risk of offending and influence their brain development early on in childhood in a way that increases risky behaviour. This can then increase their chances of experiencing an injury to their brains that would compromise their ability to stay in school or contribute to society still further."


Seeds of Success

Anybody who's been around for awhile and is observant knows that the most successful businesses are not always the best.

ScienceDaily (June 22, 2012) — New research published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences suggests reasons why the richest should pay more tax; why rewarding the top performers leads to recurrent crises and scandals; and why we should resist the temptation to learn from and imitate the most successful.

Successful people don't like to have their success explained by luck, while audiences, too, seem unwilling to acknowledge the role of luck in determining success. As a result, the stories of the most successful attract the most media attention -- described as 'extreme success' in this research report. These outliers are perceived to be the most skilful and so receive the highest rewards and get imitated.

However, new research by Dr Chengwei Liu, Assistant Professor of Strategy & Behavioural Science at Warwick Business School and Professor Jerker Denrell at Oxford Saïd Business School shows that the idea that the exceptional performers are the most skilled is flawed. The reason is that exceptional performance often occurs in exceptional circumstances. Top performers are often the luckiest people, who have benefitted from rich-get-richer dynamics that boost their initial fortune.

Consider a college drop-out who turns out to be the wealthiest person in the world. Yes, Bill Gates may be very talented, but his extreme success perhaps tells us more about how circumstances beyond his control created such an outlier. Stated differently, what is more exceptional in this case may not be Gates's talent, but the circumstances he happens to be in.

For example, Gates's upper class background enabled him to gain extra programming experience when less than 0.01% of his generation then had access to computers; his mother's social connection with IBM's chairman enabled him to gain a contract from the then leading PC company, generating a lock-in effect that was crucial for establishing the software empire. Of course, Gates's talent and effort play important roles in the extreme success of Microsoft. But that's not enough for creating such an outlier. Talent and effort are likely less important than the circumstances (e.g., network externalities generated by customers' demand for software compatibility boosted Gates's initial fortune enabled by his social background) in the sense that he could not have been so successful without the latter.

A rational learner should realise that it is more useful to draw lessons from the less exceptional performers, the second best, because their circumstances are likely to be less extreme, implying their performances are more informative and offer more evidence for skill.

Dr Chengwei Liu commented, "Humans, however, often rely on the heuristic of learning from the most successful. Our research found that even though observers were given clear feedback and incentives to be accurate in their judgement of performers, 58% of them still assumed the most successful were the most skilled when they are clearly not, mistaking luck for skill. This assumption is likely lead to disappointment -- even if you can imitate everything Bill Gates did, you will not be able to replicate his initial fortune. This also implies that rewarding the highest performers can be detrimental or even dangerous because imitators are unlikely to achieve exceptional performance without luck unless they take excessive risk or cheat, which may partly explain the recurrent financial crises and scandals."


This research also has important implications for learning and goal setting for individuals, organisations and society. Media and popular business books often advise on how to learn from the most successful with a goal of moving from 'good to great'. This research suggests that following such advice is likely to lead to frustrations and wasted resource, as it requires luck rather than talent to be exceptional. Instead, learning from the second best and setting the goal of moving from 'poor to good' may be more constructive not only for individual learners but also for business and society collectively.


Lichen Can Survive in Space: Space Station Research Sheds Light On Origin of Life

ScienceDaily (June 23, 2012) — You can freeze it, thaw it, vacuum dry it and expose it to radiation, but still life survives. ESA's research on the International Space Station is giving credibility to theories that life came from outer space -- as well as helping to create better sunscreens.


Living organisms surviving in open space supports the idea of 'panspermia' -- life spreading from one planet to another, or even between solar systems.

It seems possible that organisms could colonize planets by hitching rides on asteroids. ESA is probing this intriguing theory further on future Station missions with different samples.

Parts of Mars interior as wet as Earth's

Since the earth has single-celled organisms deep inside the earth, the same might be true of Mars.

updated 6/23/2012 2:46:55 PM ET

The interior of Mars holds vast reservoirs of water, with some spots apparently as wet as Earth's innards, scientists say.

The finding upends previous studies, which had estimated that the Red Planet's internal water stores were scanty at best — something of a surprise, given that liquid water apparently flowed on the Martian surface long ago.


The scientists examined two Martian meteorites that formed in the planet's mantle, the layer under the crust. These rocks landed on Earth about 2.5 million years ago, after being blasted off the Red Planet by a violent impact.

Using a technique called secondary ion mass spectrometry, the team determined that the mantle from which the meteorites derived contained between 70 and 300 parts per million (ppm) of water. Earth's mantle, for comparison, holds roughly 50-300 ppm water, researchers said.

"The results suggest that water was incorporated during the formation of Mars and that the planet was able to store water in its interior during the planet's differentiation," Hauri said.


Dumb juror

I think Sandusky is guilty and should be in prison. But making a judgement of somebody because of a lack of visible emotion is totally stupid. Many people learn not to show emotion. Some parents teach their children not to show emotion. Any adult competent to be on a jury should know this.

By NBC News and staff 6/23/2012

A juror in the Jerry Sandusky trial said Saturday that the look on the former Penn State football coach's face as the guilty verdicts were announced was "confirmation" that they had made the right decision.

Joshua Harper told TODAY that Sandusky had shown "no real emotion, just kind of accepting because he knew it was true," he added.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Does night work put women's health at risk?


The risk of developing breast cancer was 30% higher in women who had worked nights compared to women who had never worked nights. This increased risk was particularly marked in women who had worked nights for over four years, or in women whose working rhythm was less than 3 nights per week, because this led to more frequent disturbances between night and day rhythms.

Finally, the link between night work and breast cancer seemed to be more marked when we looked at women who had worked at night prior to a first pregnancy. An explanation for this result could be that the mammary cells, incompletely differentiated in women before their first pregnancy, are more vulnerable.


Breaking your budget? Why consumers overspend on exceptional purchases

Public release date: 19-Jun-2012
Contact: Mary-Ann Twist
University of Chicago Press Journals

Consumers routinely overspend on unbudgeted purchases such as birthday gifts, car repairs, or luxury chocolates because they underestimate the overall number of such "exceptional" purchases, according to a new study in the Journal of Consumer Research.

"This tendency to underbudget for so-called 'exceptional' purchases occurs because, although each purchase is unusual in isolation, when combined they tend to occur with unexpected frequency," write authors Abigail B. Sussman (Princeton University) and Adam L. Alter (Stern School of Business, New York University). "People fail to recognize just how many items fall into this exceptional category, so they spend more than they would if they realized how often they were spending on these exceptional purchases."


'Color blind' policies could make diversity harder to achieve

Public release date: 19-Jun-2012
Contact: Anna Mikulak
Association for Psychological Science

Whether it be growing concerns about bias or recognition of the value of diversity, many organizations and institutions have elected to deemphasize race or remove it entirely from their decision-making processes. Yet new evidence from psychological science research suggests that this color-blind approach may not be as effective as people believe it is.

Color blindness offers a seemingly simple way to deal with race: If individuals and institutions do not even notice race, then they cannot act in a biased manner on that basis.

But according to a new article published by Evan Apfelbaum of the MIT Sloan School of Management and colleagues, efforts to ignore race can backfire.

"Shutting our eyes to the complexities of race does not make them disappear," they write in the June issue of Current Directions in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science.

Apfelbaum and his co-authors, Michael Norton of Harvard Business School and Samuel Sommers of Tufts University, delve into the existing research on the unintended consequences of racial color blindness. For example, in one study, White individuals who avoided mentioning race in conversation were perceived as more biased by Black observers than White individuals who openly talked about race. And another study suggests that people who read arguments promoting color blindness are more likely to display racial bias than people who read arguments promoting multiculturalism.

Because color blindness is difficult to maintain even between two people, it's not surprising that the approach has had mixed results for larger groups. Psychological scientists have found that whether color blindness succeeds at an organization largely depends on how diverse the organization is. Minority applicants perceive diverse organizations that endorse color blindness more favorably than they do predominantly White organizations. Policies that promote color blindness can even lead to racial tension when they are used to support claims of reverse racism by White individuals who believe they are victims of discrimination.

A proposed alternative to colorblindness, according to Apfelbaum and colleagues, is multiculturalism,in which racial differences are openly discussed rather than ignored. Research indicates that when people are encouraged to use a multicultural approach, they are better at understanding the perspectives of other people and better at spotting discrimination when it occurs. The authors acknowledge that multiculturalism isn't perfect either (White individuals can feel alienated by multiculturalism), but they suggest that racial inequities are harder to hide — and more likely to be corrected — with a multicultural approach compared to a color-blind one.

High-fat/calorie diet accelerates development of pancreatic cancer

Public release date: 20-Jun-2012
Contact: Jeremy Moore
American Association for Cancer Research

LAKE TAHOE, Nev. — Study results presented at the American Association for Cancer Research's Pancreatic Cancer: Progress and Challenges conference, held here June 18-21, strongly suggest that a diet high in fat and calories can hasten the development of pancreatic cancer in humans.

"Our results showed that in mice, a diet high in fat and calories led to obesity and metabolic disturbances such as insulin resistance that are seen in obese humans. It also greatly enhanced pancreatic inflammation and pancreatic cancer development," said Guido Eibl, M.D., an associate professor in the department of surgery at the David Geffen School of Medicine at the University of California, Los Angeles and a researcher at UCLA's Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center.

Human epidemiological studies have linked high fat intake and obesity to an increased risk of pancreatic cancer, but the mechanism driving this association has not been understood.


A better way to help high-risk pregnant smokers

Public release date: 21-Jun-2012
Contact: Stephanie Desmon

Cigarette smoking among drug dependent pregnant women is alarmingly high, estimated at 77 to 99%. Programs that treat pregnant patients for substance use disorders often fail to address cigarette smoking despite the clear risks to both mother and child, including ectopic pregnancy, spontaneous abortion, preterm delivery, low birth weight, and Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. However, programs to help people quit smoking do not seem to interfere with drug abuse treatment, and may actually improve drug abstinence rates.

One of the most effective methods of helping people to quit smoking is contingency management, which gives smokers monetary incentives for meeting target goals. Researchers at Johns Hopkins University's Center for Addiction and Pregnancy recently used contingency management to shape smoking reduction and abstinence in drug-dependent pregnant women, with promising results.


Research finds Stonehenge was monument marking unification of Britain

22 June 2012

After 10 years of archaeological investigations, researchers have concluded that Stonehenge was built as a monument to unify the peoples of Britain, after a long period of conflict and regional difference between eastern and western Britain


Stonehenge may have been built in a place that already had special significance for prehistoric Britons. The SRP team have found that its solstice-aligned Avenue sits upon a series of natural landforms that, by chance, form an axis between the directions of midsummer sunrise and midwinter sunset.

Professor Parker Pearson continued: “When we stumbled across this extraordinary natural arrangement of the sun’s path being marked in the land, we realized that prehistoric people selected this place to build Stonehenge because of its pre-ordained significance. This might explain why there are eight monuments in the Stonehenge area with solstitial alignments, a number unmatched anywhere else. Perhaps they saw this place as the centre of the world”.


Happy Father's Day! Another reason why dads and hopeful dads should quit smoking now

Public release date: 22-Jun-2012
Contact: Cody Mooneyhan
Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology
New research in the FASEB Journal shows that cigarette smoke damages DNA in the reproductive cells of fathers and these changes are inherited by the offspring

Bethesda, MD—As you decide what to get dad for Father's Day, you might want to consider what he gave you when you were conceived. If he smoked, your genes are likely damaged, and your odds for cancers and other diseases throughout your life could be increased. A new research report appearing online in the FASEB Journal, scientists show for the first time in humans that men who smoke before conception can damage the genetic information of their offspring. These inherited changes in DNA could possibly render an offspring in the womb susceptible to later disease such as cancer. This provides evidence showing why men should be urged to stop smoking before trying to conceive in the same way women have been urged to quit. Interestingly, a fertile sperm cell takes about three months to fully develop; therefore men would ultimately need to quit smoking long before conception to avoid causing genetic problems.


Is arm length the reason women need reading glasses sooner than men?

Public release date: 22-Jun-2012
Contact: Katrina Norfleet
Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology
Scientific analysis finds gender difference is not related to the eye's focusing power

Rockville, Md. – Studies have consistently reported that women require reading glasses or bifocal lenses earlier than men. According to a recent Investigative Ophthalmology & Visual Science paper, the gender difference is caused by factors other than focusing ability, such as arm length or preferred reading distance, which should be considered when prescribing readers or bifocals.


Giving Makes Young Children Happy

ScienceDaily (June 19, 2012) — If it is indeed nobler to give than to receive, it may also make you happier -- even if you're a toddler, according to a new study co-authored by three psychologists at the University of British Columbia.

The study, published in PLoS One, an on-line journal from the Public Library of Science, finds that toddlers under the age of two are happier when giving treats to others than receiving treats themselves. Furthermore, children are happier when they give their own treats away than when they give an identical treat that doesn't belong to them.

These findings support recent research showing that adults feel good when they help others and may help explain why people act pro-socially, even when doing so involves personal cost. This is the first study to show that giving to others makes young children happy.

"People tend to assume that toddlers are naturally selfish," said Dr. Lara Aknin, who co-authored the study with UBC colleagues Profs. Kiley Hamlin and Elizabeth Dunn. "These findings show that children are actually happier giving than receiving."


Study: House Republican Budget Would Raise Taxes On The Middle Class, Cut Them For Millionaires

By Pat Garofalo posted from ThinkProgress Economy on Jun 20, 2012

According to a study prepared by the congressional Joint Economic Committee and verified by independent experts, the House Republican budget authored by Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) would raise taxes on families making less than $200,000, even while it gives millionaires a tax cut:

So although households earning $100,000 to $200,000 a year would save about $7,000 from the lower tax rates in the GOP plan, those savings would be swamped by eliminating major deductions, according to the report by the Democratically controlled congressional Joint Economic Committee.

The net result: Married couples in that income range would pay an additional $2,700 annually to the Internal Revenue Service, on top of the tax increases that are scheduled to hit every American household when the George W. Bush-era cuts expire at the end of the year.

Households earning more than $1 million a year, meanwhile, could see a net tax cut of about $300,000 annually.


According to the non-partisan Tax Policy Center, the Republican budget would also slam those making less than $30,000 per year, because it doesn’t extend some of the tax cuts for low-income Americans that President Obama has signed into law:

..... [chart in original article shows that people with incomes under $30,000 would get less after-tax income]

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Too Much Salt May Damage Blood Vessels and Lead to High Blood Pressure

ScienceDaily (June 18, 2012) — Eating a high-salt diet for several years may damage blood vessels -- increasing your risk of developing high blood pressure, according to research reported in the American Heart Association journal Circulation.


Eat Less Meat and Farm Efficiently to Tackle Climate Change, Scientists Say

ScienceDaily (June 19, 2012) — We need to eat less meat and recycle our waste to rebalance the global carbon cycle and reduce our risk of dangerous levels of climate change, according to scientists.

New research from the University of Exeter shows that if today's meat-eating habits continue, the predicted rise in the global population could spell ecological disaster. But changes in our lifestyle and our farming could make space for growing crops for bioenergy and carbon storage.

Though less efficient as an energy source than fossil fuels, plants capture and store carbon that would otherwise stay in the atmosphere and contribute to global warming. Burning our waste from organic materials, such as food and manure, and any bioenergy crops we can grow, while capturing the carbon contained within them, could be a powerful way to reduce atmospheric carbon dioxide.