Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Eight More Ways Women Will Benefit Under Obamacare Starting Tomorrow (Aug. 1, 2012)


By Amanda Peterson Beadle posted from ThinkProgress Health on Jul 31, 2012

When eight Obamacare regulations go into effect tomorrow, 47 million women will benefit from the guaranteed coverage of preventive services — including contraception coverage — without co-pays. The new rules will require most insurance plans to begin including the services at no additional cost at the next renewal date that falls on or after August 1, according to a news release from the Department of Health and Human Services.

The Center for American Progress graphic breaks down what will be covered and how women will benefit:


52% of women report delaying needed medical care because of cost
32% of women report giving up basic necessities to pay for health care expenses


But even as millions of women will benefit from even more provisions of the Affordable Care Act, nine states are attacking the contraception coverage requirement because of the claim that the provision violates religious liberty. Even though President Obama announced an “accommodation” for religious institutions so that the employer does not have to pay for the birth control coverage, states have considered legislation or ballot measures to either reject the federal regulation or undermine contraceptive coverage in state law. And ongoing challenges against the contraception regulation continue in federal courts.

We're getting sicker: More Americans have a chronic health condition

And there is more and more pollution.


More than one in five middle-aged U.S. adults, and nearly half of adults over age 65, have more than one chronic health condition, such as hypertension and diabetes, according to a new government report.

The report said that in 2010, 21.3 percent of women and 20.1 percent of men between ages 45 and 64 had at least two chronic health conditions. In 2000, the rate among men was 15.2 percent, and among women it was 16.9 percent.

Increases were also seen in adults older than 65, with 49 percent of men and 42.5 percent of women reporting in 2010 that they had at least two chronic health conditions. In 2000, the rates were 39.2 percent of men and 35.8 percent of women.


The increases were due mainly to rises in three conditions: hypertension, diabetes and cancer, according to the report. These increases may be due to more new cases, or due to people living longer with the conditions because of advances in medical treatments.

The report also said that middle-aged adults with at least two chronic conditions had increasing difficulty, between 2000 and 2010, in getting the care and prescription drugs they needed because of cost. In 2010, 23 percent reported not receiving or delaying the medical care they needed, and 22 percent said they didn't get the prescriptions they needed. In 2000, these rates were 17 percent and 14 percent, respectively.

The CDC does not consider obesity itself to be a health condition; rather, it is a risk factor for other conditions, such as heart disease, cancer and diabetes. The obesity rate in the U.S. increased in the United States over the past 30 years, but has leveled off in recent years, the report said.

Conservative Nonprofit Acts as a Stealth Business Lobbyist


Published: April 21, 2012

Desperate for new revenue, Ohio lawmakers introduced legislation last year that would make it easier to recover money from businesses that defraud the state.

¶ It was quickly flagged at the Washington headquarters of the American Legislative Exchange Council, or ALEC, a business-backed group that views such “false claims” laws as encouraging frivolous lawsuits. ALEC’s membership includes not only corporations, but nearly 2,000 state legislators across the country — including dozens who would vote on the Ohio bill.

¶ One of them, Bill Seitz, a prominent Republican state senator, wrote to a fellow senior lawmaker to relay ALEC’s concerns about “the recent upsurge” in false-claims legislation nationwide. “While this is understandable, as states are broke, the considered advice from our friends at ALEC was that such legislation is not well taken and should not be approved,” he said in a private memorandum.

¶ The legislation was reworked to ease some of ALEC’s concerns, making it one of many bills the group has influenced by mobilizing its lawmaker members, a vast majority of them Republicans


Most of the attention has focused on ALEC’s role in creating model bills, drafted by lobbyists and lawmakers, that broadly advance a pro-business, socially conservative agenda. But a review of internal ALEC documents shows that this is only one facet of a sophisticated operation for shaping public policy at a state-by-state level. The records offer a glimpse of how special interests effectively turn ALEC’s lawmaker members into stealth lobbyists, providing them with talking points, signaling how they should vote and collaborating on bills affecting hundreds of issues like school vouchers and tobacco taxes.

Florida: Computer Science or Sports?


April 23, 2012 04:55 PM
by Daniel Luzer

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


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

Treatment of Childhood OSA Reverses Brain Abnormalities


ScienceDaily (May 20, 2012) — Treatment of obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) in children normalizes disturbances in the neuronal network responsible for attention and executive function, according to a new study.

"OSA is known to be associated with deficits in attention, cognition, and executive function," said lead author Ann Halbower, MD, Associate Professor at the Children's Hospital Sleep Center and University of Colorado Denver. "Our study is the first to show that treatment of OSA in children can reverse neuronal brain injury, correlated with improvements in attention and verbal memory in these patients."

Obese Adolescents Have Heart Damage


ScienceDaily (May 21, 2012) — Obese adolescents with no symptoms of heart disease already have heart damage, according to new research.


Obese adolescents with no symptoms of heart disease had damaged hearts with thicker walls. The systolic and diastolic function of their hearts was also impaired. Both structural and functional measures correlated with BMI. These findings may explain why obesity is a risk for heart disease.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Romney Praises Israel’s Universal Health Care System, Which Includes Individual Mandate


By Amanda Peterson Beadle posted from ThinkProgress Health on Jul 30, 2012

Throughout his presidential campaign, Mitt Romney has been running away from the individual insurance mandate in the Affordable Care Act — even though a mandate is a cornerstone of the former Massachusetts governor’s health care reform law. “If I’m President of the United States, we’re gonna get rid of Obamacare and return, under our constitution, the 10th Amendment, the responsibility and care of health care to the people in the states,” Romney said during a GOP presidential debate.

But during his trip to Israel, Romney inadvertently praised the individual requirement and universal health care. “[F]or an American abroad, you can’t get much closer to the ideals and convictions of my own country than you do in Israel,” he said. And according to The New York Times, Romney spoke favorably about the fact that health care makes up a much smaller amount of Israel’s gross domestic product compared to the United States:

As GOP Guts Food Safety Budgets, New Data Show Illnesses On The Rise


By Travis Waldron posted from ThinkProgress Economy on Jul 30, 2012 at 4:00 pm

House Republicans have gone to great lengths to block implementation of a new food safety law, while also trying to cut the budgets of agencies that oversee food safety. But new data from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention shows just how foolhardy those moves are, as rates of foodborne illnesses are rising:

The most recent figures from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that the rates of infections linked to four out of five key pathogens it tracks – salmonella, vibrio, campylobacter and listeria – remained relatively steady or increased from 2007 through 2011. The exception is a strain of E. coli, which has been tied to fewer illnesses over the same time period.

Foodborne illnesses sicken 48 million and kill roughly 3,000 Americans each year,


Hunter-gatherers, Westerners use same amount of energy, contrary to theory


Public release date: 25-Jul-2012
Contact: Lindsay Morton
Public Library of Science
Hunter-gatherers, Westerners use same amount of energy, contrary to theory
Results contradict previously held idea that rising obesity is due to lowered energy expenditure

Modern lifestyles are generally quite different from those of our hunter-gatherer ancestors, a fact that some claim as the cause of the current rise in global obesity, but new results published July 25 in the open access journal PLoS ONE find that there is no difference between the energy expenditure of modern hunter-gatherers and Westerners, casting doubt on this theory.

The research team behind the study, led by Herman Pontzer of Hunter College in New York City, along with David Raichlen of the University of Arizona and Brian M. Wood of Stanford measured daily energy expenditure (calories per day) among the Hadza, a population of traditional hunter-gatherers living in the open savannah of northern Tanzania. Despite spending their days trekking long distances to forage for wild plants and game, the Hadza burned no more calories each day than adults in the U.S. and Europe. The team ran several analyses accounting for the effects of body weight, body fat percentage, age, and gender. In all analyses, daily energy expenditure among the Hadza hunter-gatherers was indistinguishable from that of Westerners. The study was the first to measure energy expenditure in hunter-gatherers directly; previous studies had relied entirely on estimates.

These findings upend the long-held assumption that our hunter-gatherer ancestors expended more energy than modern populations, and challenge the view that obesity in Western populations results from decreased energy expenditure. Instead, the similarity in daily energy expenditure across a broad range of lifestyles suggests that habitual metabolic rates are relatively constant among human populations. This in turn supports the view that the current rise in obesity is due to increased food consumption, not decreased energy expenditure.

The authors emphasize that physical exercise is nonetheless important for maintaining good health. In fact, the Hadza spend a greater percentage of their daily energy budget on physical activity than Westerners do, which may contribute to the health and vitality evident among older Hadza. Still, the similarity in daily energy expenditure between Hadza hunter-gatherers and Westerners suggests that we have more to learn about human physiology and health, particularly in non-Western settings.

Men with prostate cancer more likely to die from other causes


Public release date: 26-Jul-2012
Contact: Marge Dwyer
Harvard School of Public Health
Men with prostate cancer more likely to die from other causes
Study suggests prostate cancer management should emphasize healthy lifestyle changes

Boston, MA – Men diagnosed with prostate cancer are less likely to die from the disease than from largely preventable conditions such as heart disease, according to a new study from Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH). It is the largest study to date that looks at causes of death among men with prostate cancer, and suggests that encouraging healthy lifestyle changes should play an important role in prostate cancer management.

"Our results are relevant for several million men living with prostate cancer in the United States," said first author Mara Epstein, a postdoctoral researcher at HSPH. "We hope this study will encourage physicians to use a prostate cancer diagnosis as a teachable moment to encourage a healthier lifestyle, which could improve the overall health of men with prostate cancer, increasing both the duration and quality of their life."

Sexual Assault Victims Charged Up To $1,200 In Wisconsin For Cost Of Their Rape Kits


By Scott Keyes posted from ThinkProgress Health on Jul 30, 2012

For years, hospitals in northeastern Wisconsin have billed sexual assault victims as much as $1,200 for the cost of their examinations, according to a new investigation.

The Post-Crescent newspaper found that, despite the availability of government funds to cover the cost of sexual assault examinations, many hospitals were sending the bill to victims. The AP has more:

When someone is sexually assaulted, the process of collecting forensic evidence can include taking pictures of bruises, swabs of sexual fluids or hair. Other expenses, which can include a pregnancy test, antibiotics and medical supplies, can bring the final price tag to about $1,200. [...]

For example, hospitals in the ThedaCare system used to absorb the cost for years as part of their charity care, said Jean Coopman-Jansen a program coordinator at Appleton Medical Center. After a change to comply with the health system’s billing rules, some victims last year were forced to pay the costs themselves, she said.

Fortunately, Wisconsin officials appear to be addressing the problem. Jill Karofsky, who heads up the Wisconsin Department of Justice’s Office of Crime Victim Services, said the state government recently began working with hospitals to educate them on how to properly use government funds so victims wouldn’t be charged for their examinations.

“The message to victims is when someone sexually assaults them, their body becomes a crime scene and they are submitting to a very invasive exam and the state frankly ought to pay for it. … It’s forensic evidence,” Karofsky said.

Apostate Conservatives


May 25, 2012 9:02 AM By Ryan Cooper

Another point about the decay of the conservative intelligentsia is just how far people go when they finally quit the movement. They don’t just fade into retirement or neutrality, they get angry. Bruce Bartlett, a former Reagan adviser, says things like ““I think a good chunk of the Republican caucus is either stupid, crazy, ignorant or craven cowards, who are desperately afraid of the tea party people, and rightly so.” David Frum, former speechwriter for George W. Bush, wrote a piece titled “When Did the GOP Lose Touch With Reality?”

Most recently, Michael Fumento wrote a take-no-prisoners piece in Salon about how “I worked for Reagan and wrote for National Review. But the new hysterical right cares nothing for truth or dignity:”

Sunday, July 29, 2012


I am so sorry for the people of Syria. But when they ask why we don't give arms to the rebels, I remember that our government did give arms to Afghans in their fight against Russia, and after they ousted the Russians from Afghanistan, they allowed Al Qaeda to train terrorists who attacked the U.S. and other countries.

Seventy-Two Percent of Teenagers Experienced Reduced Hearing Ability After Attending Concert


ScienceDaily (May 21, 2012) — Seventy-two percent of teenagers participating in a study experienced reduced hearing ability following exposure to a pop rock performance by a popular female singer.


The hearing loss that may be experienced after a pop rock concert is not generally believed to be permanent. It is called a temporary threshold shift and usually disappears within 16-48 hours, after which a person’s hearing returns to previous levels.

“Teenagers need to understand a single exposure to loud noise either from a concert or personal listening device can lead to hearing loss,” said M. Jennifer Derebery, MD, lead author and physician at the House Clinic. “With multiple exposures to noise over 85 decibels, the tiny hair cells may stop functioning and the hearing loss may be permanent.”

Race, insurance status related to likelihood of being assessed for kidney transplantation


Public release date: 26-Jul-2012
Contact: Tracy Hampton
American Society of Nephrology
Race, insurance status related to likelihood of being assessed for kidney transplantation
Young blacks and patients without private insurance less likely to be assessed


Young black patients and patients without private health insurance are less likely to be assessed for a kidney transplant when they start dialysis.
These patients are also less likely to be put on the transplant waiting list and to receive a kidney transplant.
The findings may help explain the racial and socioeconomic disparities in access to kidney transplantation that are well documented.

A kidney transplant is the best treatment for kidney failure, which afflicts 2 million people worldwide.

Lower vitamin D could increase risk of dying, especially for frail, older adults



CORVALLIS, Ore. – A new study concludes that among older adults – especially those who are frail – low levels of vitamin D can mean a much greater risk of death.

The randomized, nationally representative study found that older adults with low vitamin D levels had a 30 percent greater risk of death than people who had higher levels.

Overall, people who were frail had more than double the risk of death than those who were not frail. Frail adults with low levels of vitamin D tripled their risk of death over people who were not frail and who had higher levels of vitamin D.

“What this really means is that it is important to assess vitamin D levels in older adults, and especially among people who are frail,” said lead author Ellen Smit of Oregon State University.

Latin American and Asian Cities Lead Way in Planning for Global Warming


ScienceDaily (June 5, 2012) — Quito, Ecuador, is not considered a global leader by most measures. But there is one way in which Quito is at the forefront of metropolises worldwide: in planning for climate change. For more than a decade, officials in Ecuador's mountainous capital have been studying the effects of global warming on nearby melting glaciers, developing ways of dealing with potential water shortages and even organizing conferences on climate change for leaders of other Latin American cities.

In so doing, Quito officials represent a global trend: The cities that are most active in preparing for climate change are not necessarily the biggest or wealthiest. Instead, they are often places buffeted by natural disasters and increasing changes in temperature or rainfall. In places where the climate seems to be a growing threat to human lives, resources and urban infrastructure, local officials have been working with scientists, conducting assessments and examining which new measures may best prepare them for the future.

Indeed, as an MIT survey released today shows, 95 percent of major cities in Latin America are planning for climate change, compared to only 59 percent of such cities in the United States.


No “Government of National Salvation” This Time


June 15, 2012 8:59 AM By Ed Kilgore

At Wonkblog this morning, Ezra Klein considers the possibility of another global economic crisis driven by a possible Greek withdrawal from the eurozone, and then notes the official GOP announcement that it will block all judicial nominations until the end of the year. It makes him wonder:

This is related to something called the “Thurmond rule,” which Manu Raju at Politico explains is an “informal rule [that] holds that sitting presidents should not get Senate votes on lifetime appointments to the bench in the months leading up to a presidential election.” If there was some evidence that this really would be limited to lifetime judicial appointments, then fine: The aftermath of the euro zone break-up doesn’t require any lifetime appointments. But combined with everything else we’ve seen from the House and Senate in recent months, I take it as further evidence that Congress would strongly prefer to do nothing until the next president is elected. That’s not comforting at a moment when a lot might need to be done before the next president is elected.

Remember: The financial crisis also came a few months before a presidential election. In that case, the Obama campaign and congressional Democrats joined with the Bush administration to pass the Economic Stimulus Act of 2008 and TARP. If similar cooperation is needed this year, is there any real chance that we’ll get it?

Nope. I don’t know if congressional Republicans would publicly cheer a really bad economic turn by dancing around the Capitol signing “Ding Dong the Witch is Dead.” But they are not about to lift a finger to help the Obama administration. Aside from the considerations of simple partisanship, I am increasingly convinced that most conservatives don’t really much care about the performance of the economy one way or another. They have an agenda they want to implement. It never, ever really changes regardless of economic circumstances, which simply require different rhetorical packaging rather than any modification of the central tenets of smaller and less charitable government, lower high-end taxes, and state intervention to bring back as much of the patriarchal family system as is possible.


The Power of Introverts


By Gareth Cook | January 24, 2012

We live in a nation that values its extroverts – the outgoing, the lovers of crowds – but not the quiet types who change the world. She recently answered questions from Mind Matters editor Gareth Cook.

Cook: This may be a stupid question, but how do you define an introvert? How can somebody tell whether they are truly introverted or extroverted?

Cain: Not a stupid question at all! Introverts prefer quiet, minimally stimulating environments, while extroverts need higher levels of stimulation to feel their best. Stimulation comes in all forms – social stimulation, but also lights, noise, and so on. Introverts even salivate more than extroverts do if you place a drop of lemon juice on their tongues! So an introvert is more likely to enjoy a quiet glass of wine with a close friend than a loud, raucous party full of strangers.

It’s also important to understand that introversion is different from shyness. Shyness is the fear of negative judgment, while introversion is simply the preference for less stimulation. Shyness is inherently uncomfortable; introversion is not. The traits do overlap, though psychologists debate to what degree.

Cook: You argue that our culture has an extroversion bias. Can you explain what you mean?

Cain: In our society, the ideal self is bold, gregarious, and comfortable in the spotlight. We like to think that we value individuality, but mostly we admire the type of individual who’s comfortable “putting himself out there.” Our schools, workplaces, and religious institutions are designed for extroverts. Introverts are to extroverts what American women were to men in the 1950s -- second-class citizens with gigantic amounts of untapped talent.


Cook: How does this cultural inclination affect introverts?

Cain: Many introverts feel there’s something wrong with them, and try to pass as extroverts. But whenever you try to pass as something you’re not, you lose a part of yourself along the way. You especially lose a sense of how to spend your time. Introverts are constantly going to parties and such when they’d really prefer to be home reading, studying, inventing, meditating, designing, thinking, cooking…or any number of other quiet and worthwhile activities.

According to the latest research, one third to one half of us are introverts – that’s one out of every two or three people you know. But you’d never guess that, right? That’s because introverts learn from an early age to act like pretend-extroverts.

Cook: Is this just a problem for introverts, or do you feel it hurts the country as a whole?

Cain: It’s never a good idea to organize society in a way that depletes the energy of half the population. We discovered this with women decades ago, and now it’s time to realize it with introverts.

This also leads to a lot of wrongheaded notions that affect introverts and extroverts alike. Here’s just one example: Most schools and workplaces now organize workers and students into groups, believing that creativity and productivity comes from a gregarious place. This is nonsense, of course. From Darwin to Picasso to Dr. Seuss, our greatest thinkers have often worked in solitude, and in my book I examine lots of research on the pitfalls of groupwork.

Cook: What are some of the other misconceptions about introverts and extroverts?

Cain: One big one is the notion that introverts can’t be good leaders. According to groundbreaking new research by Adam Grant, a management professor at Wharton, introverted leaders sometimes deliver better outcomes than extroverts do


Cain: The most surprising and fascinating thing I learned is that there are “introverts” and “extroverts” throughout the animal kingdom – all the way down to the level of fruit flies! Evolutionary biologist David Sloan Wilson speculates that the two types evolved to use very different survival strategies.


Mitt Romney's Pork Barrel Olympics


By Tim Murphy Thu Jul. 26, 2012

GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney is in London for the opening ceremonies of the 2012 summer games—part of a three-country world tour designed to build his foreign policy resume and shake down overseas donors. The Romney campaign will run television ads during the games touting the candidate's experience as CEO of the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympics, where he was widely credited with turning around the scandal-plagued organizing effort.

What Romney doesn't talk about is how he succeeded in Utah with government help—lots of it—and how millions in assistance that he pried out of the feds ended up bankrolling subsidies, sweetheart deals, and giveaways for land developers and other well-connected Utahns.


"The $1.5 billion in taxpayer dollars that Congress is pouring into Utah is 1.5 times the amount spent by lawmakers to support all seven Olympic Games held in the U.S. since 1904—combined," Donald Barlett and James Steele reported for Sports Illustrated in 2001. Those numbers were adjusted for inflation.


The most damning aspect of the Salt Lake tab wasn't the final amount, but how it was being spent. In their exhaustively researched Sports Illustrated accounting, Barlett and Steele explain how many Olympics projects amounted to little more than slush funds for wealthy donors to the games. Wealthy Utahns used the games as an excuse to receive exemptions for projects that would otherwise never meet environmental standards, or to receive generous subsidies for improvements of questionable value to the games—but with serious value to future real estate developments. In one example, a wealthy developer received $3 million to build a three-mile stretch of road through his resort. Where'd he get the money? Federal funds that had been deposited in the Utah Permanent Community Impact Fund.


The $3 million resort road wasn't unique. Snowbasin, the site of the downhill skiing championships in 2002, was one of the more notorious examples of a well-connected Utahn getting a sweetheart deal in the name of the Olympics. Earl Holding, a billionaire oil baron, pressured the Forest Service into giving him title to valuable land in Park Valley in exchange for land of "approximate equal value" elsewhere in the state. But Holding drove a hard bargain; he got Congress to foot the bill for a new—and arguably unnecessary—access road (cost: $15 million), and received more than 10 times the 100 acres that were necessary for the Games. That would allow him to turn what was once protected federal land into a massive, and lucrative, mountain resort.

Shift work linked to increased risk of heart attack and stroke


Public release date: 26-Jul-2012
Contact: Emma Dickinson
BMJ-British Medical Journal
Shift work linked to increased risk of heart attack and stroke
Screening programs could help identify and treat risk factors, say authors

Shift work is associated with an increased risk of major vascular problems, such as heart attacks and strokes, concludes a study published on bmj.com today.

This is the largest analysis of shift work and vascular risk to date and has implications for public policy and occupational medicine, say the authors.

Shift work has long been known to disrupt the body clock (circadian rhythm) and is associated with an increased risk of high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes, but its association with vascular disease is controversial.


Night shifts were associated with the steepest increase in risk for coronary events (41%). However, shift work was not associated with increased death rates from any cause.

Chemical found in hot asphalt could be linked to higher cancer rates in roofers


Chemical found in hot asphalt could be linked to higher cancer rates in roofers
July 26, 2012 By Garth Sundem Leave a Comment

Roofers have higher levels of cancer. University of Colorado Cancer Center study explores why.

Roofers and road construction workers who use hot asphalt are exposed to high levels of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). A University of Colorado Cancer Center study published this week in the British Medical Journal Open shows that roofers have higher PAH blood-levels after working a shift and that these high levels of PAHs are linked with increased rates of DNA damage, and potentially with higher cancer risk.

Social Identification, Not Obedience, Might Motivate Unspeakable Acts


ScienceDaily (July 18, 2012) — What makes soldiers abuse prisoners? How could Nazi officials condemn thousands of Jews to gas chamber deaths? What's going on when underlings help cover up a financial swindle? For years, researchers have tried to identify the factors that drive people to commit cruel and brutal acts and perhaps no one has contributed more to this knowledge than psychological scientist Stanley Milgram.

Just over 50 years ago, Milgram embarked on what were to become some of the most famous studies in psychology. In these studies, which ostensibly examined the effects of punishment on learning, participants were assigned the role of "teacher" and were required to administer shocks to a "learner" that increased in intensity each time the learner gave an incorrect answer. As Milgram famously found, participants were willing to deliver supposedly lethal shocks to a stranger, just because they were asked to do so.


This obedience explanation, however, fails to account for a very important aspect of the studies: why, and under what conditions, people did not obey the experimenter.


The researchers hypothesized that, rather than obedience to authority, the participants' behavior might be better explained by their patterns of social identification. They surmised that conditions that encouraged identification with the experimenter (and, by extension, the scientific community) led participants to follow the experimenters' orders, while conditions that encouraged identification with the learner (and the general community) led participants to defy the experimenters' orders.

As the researchers explain, this suggests that participants' willingness to engage in destructive behavior is "a reflection not of simple obedience, but of active identification with the experimenter and his mission."


The results of the study confirmed the researchers' hypotheses. Identification with the experimenter was a very strong positive predictor of the level of obedience displayed in each variant. On the other hand, identification with the learner was a strong negative predictor of the level of obedience. The relative identification score (identification with experimenter minus identification with learner) was also a very strong predictor of the level of obedience.


These new findings suggest that social identification provides participants with a moral compass and motivates them to act as followers. This followership, as the authors point out, is not thoughtless -- "it is the endeavor of committed subjects."

Looking at the findings this way has several advantages, Reicher, Haslam, and Smith argue. First, it mirrors recent historical assessments suggesting that functionaries in brutalizing regimes -- like the Nazi bureaucrat Adolf Eichmann -- do much more than merely follow orders. And it simultaneously accounts for why participants are more likely to follow orders under certain conditions than others.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Folic Acid May Reduce Some Childhood Cancers


ScienceDaily (May 21, 2012) — Folic acid fortification of foods may reduce the incidence of the most common type of kidney cancer and a type of brain tumors in children, finds a new study by Kimberly J. Johnson, PhD, assistant professor at the Brown School at Washington University in St. Louis, and Amy Linabery, PhD, postdoctoral fellow at the University of Minnesota.

Incidence reductions were found for Wilms' tumor, a type of kidney cancer, and primitive neuroectodermal tumors (PNET), a type of brain cancer.

A pinch of opportunity makes deep inequality more palatable


Just a tiny hint of opportunity has a disproportionately powerful effect - making unfairness more acceptable to disadvantaged people, new research has found.

Dr Eugenio PortoA study by Eugenio Proto, an economist from the Centre for Competitive Advantage in the Global Economy (CAGE) at the University of Warwick and two other co-authors, looked at decision-making and how it was influenced by people’s perceptions of fairness.

Bombshell: Koch-Funded Study Finds ‘Global Warming Is Real’, ‘On The High End’ And ‘Essentially All’ Due To Carbon Pollution


By Joe Romm on Jul 28, 2012

The Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature Study (BEST) is poised to release its findings next week on the cause of recent global warming. A forthcoming NY Times op-ed by Richard Muller, BEST’s Founder and Scientific Director, has been excerpted on a conservative website with the headline, “New Global Temperature Data Reanalysis Confirms Warming, Blames CO2.”

I have spoken with scientists and journalists familiar with BEST’s findings, and the excerpt appears genuine. Here is the money graf:

CALL me a converted skeptic. Three years ago I identified scientific issues that, in my mind, threw doubt on the very existence of global warming. Now, after organizing an intensive research effort involving a dozen scientists, I’ve concluded that global warming is real, that the prior estimates of the rate were correct, and that cause is human.

Yes, yes, I know, the finding itself is “dog bites man.” What makes this “man bites dog” is that Muller has been a skeptic of climate science, and the single biggest funder of this study is the “Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation ($150,000).” The Kochs are the leading funder of climate disinformation in the world!


In short, a Koch-funded study has found that the IPCC “consensus” underestimated both the rate of surface warming and how much could be attributed to human emissions!

BPA exposure in pregnant mice changes gene expression of female offspring


Public release date: 26-Jun-2012
Contact: Aaron Lohr
The Endocrine Society
BPA exposure in pregnant mice changes gene expression of female offspring

Prenatal exposure to bisphenol A, or BPA, a chemical found in many common plastic household items, can cause numerous genes in the uterus to respond differently to estrogen in adulthood, according to a study using a mouse model. The results will be presented Tuesday at The Endocrine Society's 94th Annual Meeting in Houston.

The study, led by Hugh Taylor, MD, professor and chief of the reproductive endocrinology section at Yale University School of Medicine, observed "major and permanent changes in gene expression" in female mice exposed to BPA as a fetus. Taylor said these differences were apparent only after estrogen exposure, either naturally at puberty or with estrogen treatment.

"Hyperresponsiveness to estrogens is a potential mechanism to explain the increased incidence of estrogen-related disorders seen after exposure to endocrine disrupters like BPA," Taylor said.

BPA has estrogen-like properties and has been linked to breast cancer and many female reproductive disorders that are sensitive to estrogen. These problems include uterine fibroids (benign tumors), endometriosis and endometrial hyperplasia, an abnormal thickening of the lining of the uterus that can lead to uterine cancer.

Why We Need To Pay More Attention To The Role Of Landfills In Global Warming

Another factor in the fact that global warming has been progressing faster than climate scientists expected.


Jul 26, 2012 at 4:20 pm
By Peter Anderson


In 2009, the Sierra Club undertook a year-long due diligence. Peeling back the onion layers, its technical experts found that industry’s claims – that their operators captured most of the methane generated in landfills, and that landfill-gas-to-energy (LFGTE) miraculously converted lemons into lemonade – were as bogus as the ethanol deceit. In fact, landfills were responsible for almost five times more GHG emissions than understood. Attempts to recover energy from inherently low Btu and dirty gas only made bad things worse.

Methane is so potent a greenhouse gas, even small leaks from major generators of methane are a huge concern – depending how much escapes.

Major volume of methane generated

Over the 100 years or so that landfills generate gas, methane equivalent to roughly 472 million tons of carbon dioxide will be generated from just one year of municipal trash in the U.S. That is a third more than from heating and cooling all of the homes in the country.

In-utero exposure to magnetic fields associated with increased risk of obesity in childhood


Public release date: 27-Jul-2012
Contact: Catherine Hylas Saunders
Kaiser Permanente
In-utero exposure to magnetic fields associated with increased risk of obesity in childhood

In-utero exposure to relatively high magnetic field levels was associated with a 69 percent increased risk of being obese or overweight during childhood compared to lower in-utero magnetic field levels, according to a Kaiser Permanente study that appears in the current online version of Nature's Scientific Reports.


Researchers noted a dose response relationship with increasing in-utero magnetic field levels being associated with further increased risk of obesity or being overweight. The observed association and supporting evidence provide the first epidemiologic findings that link increasing exposure to environmental magnetic fields, especially in-utero exposure, over the last few decades with the rapid rise in childhood obesity during the corresponding decades, according to the authors.

The longer you're awake, the slower you get


Public release date: 27-Jul-2012
Contact: Jessica Maki
Brigham and Women's Hospital
The longer you're awake, the slower you get
Lack of sleep can influence the way you perform certain tasks

Boston, MA – Anyone that has ever had trouble sleeping can attest to the difficulties at work the following day. Experts recommend eight hours of sleep per night for ideal health and productivity, but what if five to six hours of sleep is your norm? Is your work still negatively affected? A team of researchers at Brigham and Women's Hospital (BWH) have discovered that regardless of how tired you perceive yourself to be, that lack of sleep can influence the way you perform certain tasks.


Researchers collected and analyzed data from visual search tasks from 12 participants over a one month study. In the first week, all participants were scheduled to sleep 10-12 hours per night to make sure they were well-rested. For the following three weeks, the participants were scheduled to sleep the equivalent of 5.6 hours per night, and also had their sleep times scheduled on a 28-hour cycle, mirroring chronic jet lag. The research team gave the participants computer tests that involved visual search tasks and recorded how quickly the participants could find important information, and also how accurate they were in identifying it. The researchers report that the longer the participants were awake, the more slowly they identified the important information in the test. Additionally, during the biological night time, 12 a.m. -6 a.m., participants (who were unaware of the time throughout the study) also performed the tasks more slowly than they did during the daytime.

Medicaid Expansion May Lower Death Rates, Study Says


Published: July 25, 2012

Into the maelstrom of debate over whether Medicaid should cover more people comes a new study by Harvard researchers who found that when states expanded their Medicaid programs and gave more poor people health insurance, fewer people died.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Study associates excess maternal iodine supplementation with congenital hypothyroidism in newborns


Public release date: 26-Jul-2012
Contact: Monica Helton
Study associates excess maternal iodine supplementation with congenital hypothyroidism in newborns

Cincinnati, OH. July 26, 2012 – Congenital hypothyroidism is thyroid hormone deficiency at birth that, if left untreated, can lead to neurocognitive impairments in infants and children. Although the World Health Organization recommends 200-300 µg of iodine daily during pregnancy for normal fetal thyroid hormone production and neurocognitive development, the US Institute of Medicine considers 1,100 µg to be the safe upper limit for daily ingestion. A case series scheduled for publication in The Journal of Pediatrics describes three infants who developed congenital hypothyroidism as a result of excess maternal iodine supplementation.

Kara Connelly, MD, and colleagues from Oregon Health & Science University, Doernbecher Children's Hospital, Boston University School of Medicine, State of Oregon Public Health Laboratory, and Randall Children's Hospital at Legacy Emanuel describe three infants with congenital hypothyroidism whose mothers had taken 12.5 mg of iodine daily, 11 times more than the safe upper limit, while pregnant and/or breastfeeding. Iodine is transferred from the mother to the infant through the placenta or breast milk. The three infants had blood iodine levels 10 times higher than healthy control infants (measured from newborn screening filter paper).

Excess iodine causes the thyroid to temporarily decrease function to protect against hyperthyroidism (Wolff-Chaikoff effect). Adults and older children are able to "escape" from this effect after several days of excess iodine to avoid hypothyroidism. However, the immature thyroid glands of fetuses and newborns have not developed this protective effect and are more susceptible to iodine-induced hypothyroidism. Although infants recover normal thyroid function after acute iodine exposure (e.g., a few days of topical iodine application), continuous excessive iodine exposure to the fetal and neonatal thyroid gland may cause long-term harmful effects on thyroid function.

Sources of iodine include nutritional supplements, prenatal vitamins, and seaweed (kelp). According to Dr. Connelly, "The use of iodine-containing supplements in pregnancy and while breastfeeding is recommended in the United States. However, these cases demonstrate the potential hazard of exceeding the safe upper limit for daily ingestion." Excess iodine ingestion from supplementation is often unrecognized because it is not routine practice to ask mothers of infants with congenital hypothyroidism about nutritional supplements taken during pregnancy. Pregnant or breastfeeding women should discuss the safe dosages of nutritional supplements with their doctors prior to including them in their daily regimen.

Toddlers Object When People Break the Rules


We all know that, for the most part, it’s wrong to kill other people, it’s inappropriate to wear jeans to bed, and we shouldn’t ignore people when they are talking to us. We know these things because we’re bonded to others through social norms – we tend to do things the same way people around us do them and, most importantly, the way in which they expect us to do them.

Social norms act as the glue that helps to govern social institutions and hold humans societies together, but how do we acquire these norms in the first place?

In a new article published in the August 2012 issue of Current Directions in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science, researchers Marco Schmidt and Michael Tomasello of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology aim to get a better understanding of this important ‘social glue’ by reviewing research on children’s enforcement of social norms.


Schmidt and Tomasello were specifically interested in understanding children’s use of a type of norm called constitutive norms. Unlike other norms, constitutive norms can give rise to new social realities. Police, for example, are given their power through the ‘consent of the governed,’ which entitles them to do all sorts of things that we would never allow an average citizen to do.

Constitutive norms can be found in many places, but they are especially important in rule games like chess – there are certain norms that make chess what it is. So, for example, if you move a pawn backward in a game of chess, you’re not just violating a norm by failing to follow a particular convention, you’re also not playing the game everyone agreed upon. You’re simply not playing chess.


In one study, 2- and 3-year-old children watched a puppet, who announced that she would now ‘dax.’ The puppet proceeded to perform an action that was different from what the children had seen an adult refer to as ‘daxing’ earlier. Many of the children objected to this rule violation and the 3-year-olds specifically made norm-based objections, such as “It doesn’t work like that. You have to do it like this.”

In another study, Schmidt, Rakoczy, and Tomasello found that children only enforce game norms on members of their own cultural in-group – for example, people who speak the same language. These results suggest that children understand that ‘our group’ falls within the scope of the norm and can be expected to respect it. And research also shows that children don’t need explicit teaching from adults to see an action as following a social norm; they only need to see that adults expect things to work a certain way.

Together, these studies suggest that children not only understand social norms at an early age, they’re able to apply the norms in appropriate contexts and to the appropriate social group.

“Every parent recognizes this kind of behavior – young children insisting that people follow the rules – but what is surprising is how sophisticated children are in calibrating their behavior to fit the circumstances,” says Tomasello.


Physical Punishment of Children Potentially Harmful to Their Long-Term Development


ScienceDaily (Feb. 6, 2012) — An analysis of research on physical punishment of children over the past 20 years indicates that such punishment is potentially harmful to their long-term development, states an article in CMAJ (Canadian Medical Association Journal).

Over the past 20 years, a growing body of research clearly indicates that children who have experienced physical punishment tend to be more aggressive toward parents, siblings, peers and, later, spouses, and are more likely to develop antisocial behaviour.

"Virtually without exception, these studies found that physical punishment was associated with higher levels of aggression against parents, siblings, peers and spouses," write Dr. Joan Durrant, Department of Family Social Sciences, University of Manitoba, and Ron Ensom, Children's Hospital of Eastern Ontario.

In a trial of an intervention designed to reduce difficult behaviour in children, when parents in more than 500 families were trained to reduce their use of physical punishment, the difficult behaviours in the children also declined.

"Results consistently suggest that physical punishment has a direct causal effect on externalizing behaviour, whether through a reflexive response to pain, modeling or coercive family processes," write the authors.

Physical punishment is also associated with a variety of mental health problems, such as depression, anxiety and use of drugs and alcohol. Physical punishment may change areas in the brain linked to performance on IQ tests and increase vulnerability to drug or alcohol dependence, as recent neuroimaging studies suggest. Attitudes toward the use of physical punishment have changed, and many countries have shifted focus to positive discipline of children and have legally abolished physical punishment.

Drought Tightens Its Grip on High Plains, Central States

Ironic that the drought tends to affect most states who tend to vote Republican, who have been blocking efforts to combat global warming.


By Andrew Freedman, via Climate Central on Jul 27, 2012

The massive U.S. drought, which is already driving food prices skyrocketing and prompting federal disaster declarations, has only grown worse during the past week. According to the latest edition of the U.S. Drought Monitor, released Thursday morning, between July 17 and July 24, the portion of the country affected by “extreme” to “exceptional” drought jumped from 14 percent to about 21 percent. The portion of the country affected by exceptional drought, which is the most significant drought category, rose from 1 percent last week to 2.4 percent this week.

In all, 33 of the lower 48 states were experiencing moderate drought or worse, with every state in the lower 48 experiencing at least “abnormally dry” conditions. For the fourth straight week, the U.S. set a record for the largest area of moderate drought conditions or worse since the U.S. Drought Monitor began in 2000. And climate outlooks for the next few months don’t offer much hope for sustained rainfall in the most severely affected drought regions, with above-average temperatures and below-average precipitation likely during the rest of the summer.


While the drought is likely related to natural climate variability, including a long-lasting La Niña event that is still winding down, manmade climate change has likely made the drought worse by making the drought hotter than it otherwise would be. Extreme heat can help perpetuate drought conditions, since soils dry faster during periods of higher temperatures. This dynamic occurred during the 2011 Texas drought and heat wave, which cost farmers and ranchers in that state billions in losses.

“This drought is two-pronged,” said Brian Fuchs, a climatologist at the National Drought Minitgation Center in Lincoln, Neb., said in a press release. “Not only the dryness but the heat is playing a big and important role. Even areas that have picked up rain are still suffering because of the heat.”

Study: Group yoga improves motor function and balance long after stroke


Public release date: 27-Jul-2012
Contact: Cindy Fox Aisen
Indiana University School of Medicine
Study: Group yoga improves motor function and balance long after stroke

INDIANAPOLIS -- Group yoga can improve motor function and balance in stroke survivors, even if they don't begin yoga until six months or more after the stroke, according to "Post-Stroke Balance Improves With Yoga: A Pilot Study," published online July 26 in the journal Stroke.


Improvement in balance was statistically significant and clinically meaningful. It was also greater than previously found by other post-stroke exercise trials. Study participants reported they increasingly attempted new activities in different, more challenging environments and, while aware of potential fall risk, grew confident in maintaining their balance.

"For patients, like those in our study, natural recovery and acute rehabilitation therapy typically ends after six or, less frequently, 12 months," said Regenstrief Institute investigator Arlene Schmid, Ph.D., OTR, a rehabilitation research scientist with the Center of Excellence on Implementing Evidence-Based Practice at the Richard Roudebush VA Medical Center and assistant professor of occupational therapy at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis, who led the study. "We found that yoga exercises significantly extended rehabilitation beyond the first year after stroke."

BUSM researchers find link between childhood abuse and age at menarche


Public release date: 27-Jul-2012
Contact: Gina Orlando
Boston University Medical Center
BUSM researchers find link between childhood abuse and age at menarche

(Boston) – Researchers from Boston University School of Medicine (BUSM) have found an association between childhood physical and sexual abuse and age at menarche. The findings are published online in the Journal of Adolescent Health.

Researchers led by corresponding author, Renée Boynton-Jarrett, MD, assistant professor of pediatrics at BUSM, found a 49 percent increase in risk for early onset menarche (menstrual periods prior to age 11 years) among women who reported childhood sexual abuse compared to those who were not abused. In addition, there was a 50 percent increase in risk for late onset menarche (menstrual periods after age 15 years) among women who reported severe physical abuse in childhood. The participants in the study included 68,505 women enrolled in the Nurses' Health Study II, a prospective cohort study.

"In our study child abuse was associated with both accelerated and delayed age at menarche and importantly, these associations vary by type of abuse, which suggest that child abuse does not have a homogenous effect on health outcomes," said Boynton-Jarrett. "There is a need for future research to explore characteristics of child abuse that may influence health outcomes including type, timing and severity of abuse, as well as the social context in which the abuse occurs."

Child abuse is associated with a significant health burden over the life course. Early menarche has been associated with risks such as cardiovascular disease, metabolic dysfunction, cancer and depression, while late menarche has been associated with lower bone mineral density and depression.

Texas GOP wages war on thinking


Posted on Sunday, July 22, 2012
By Leonard Pitts Jr


a plank from the 2012 platform of the Republican Party of Texas which, astonishingly enough, reads as follows: "We oppose the teaching of Higher Order Thinking Skills (HOTS) (values clarification), critical thinking skills and similar programs that are simply a relabeling of Outcome-Based Education (OBE) (mastery learning) which focus on behavior modification and have the purpose of challenging the student's fixed beliefs and undermining parental authority."

Holy wow. That is, without a doubt, the most frightening sentence this side of a Stephen King novel.

The Texas GOP has set itself explicitly against teaching children to be critical thinkers. Never mind the creeping stupidization of this country, the growing dumbification of our children, our mounting rejection of, even contempt for, objective fact. Never mind educators who lament the inability of American children to think, to weigh conflicting paradigms, analyze competing arguments, to reason, ruminate, question and reach a thoughtful conclusion. Never mind that this promises the loss of our ability to compete in an ever more complex and technology-driven world.


For what it's worth, the Texas GOP says that language was not supposed to be in the platform. Spokesman Chris Elam says its inclusion "was an oversight on the subcommittee's part."

If that explanation leaves you cold, join the club. That such an asinine position was even under consideration is hardly comforting. And the fact that something so neon stupid escaped notice of both the subcommittee and the full platform committee suggests the Texas GOP could use a little critical thinking instruction itself.

Remember when Republicans were grown-ups? Agree with them or not, you never thought of Bob Dole, George H.W. Bush, Gerald Ford, even Richard Nixon as less than serious, substantive adults, susceptible like all serious, substantive adults, to logic and reason.


Workers 20 years of age and older benefit most from proposed hike to federal minimum wage


By Doug Hall | July 25, 2012

Three years after the most recent increase in the federal minimum wage, proposals have emerged in both the House and Senate to increase the federal minimum wage to $9.80 by July 1, 2014. Such an increase would significantly help lower-income workers at a time when their wages have stagnated due (in part) to the lingering effects of the recession and a very tentative economic recovery. Forthcoming EPI research shows that those benefiting from a minimum wage increase are older than generally believed.

As seen in the figure below, 87.9 percent of those affected nationally by increasing the federal minimum wage to $9.80 are 20 years of age and older. The share of those affected who are 20 or older varies by state, from a low of 77.1 percent in Massachusetts to a high of 92.4 percent in Florida (and 93.9 percent in the District of Columbia).

Some minimum-wage workers are younger workers, perhaps saving for college or even contributing to their family expenses, but most minimum wage workers are 20 or older. Additionally, more than a third (35.8 percent) are married, and over a quarter (28.0 percent) are parents.

GOP Senate Nominee Shorting U.S. Treasury Bonds, Would Profit From Government Default


By Scott Keyes posted from ThinkProgress Election on Jul 27, 2012 at 12:52 pm

Ohio Senate nominee Josh Mandel (R)
The Republican nominee in Ohio’s Senate race stands to reap a significant financial windfall if the government defaults by not raising the debt ceiling, a move he opposed last year and has indicated he would vote against if elected to the Senate.

According to personal financial disclosure documents examined by ThinkProgress, Josh Mandel’s wife owns an undisclosed amount of ProShares UltraShort 20+ Year Treasury exchange-traded fund (ETF). This ETF aggressively “shorts” U.S. Treasury bills, meaning that it bets against U.S. debt and spikes when Treasury bill values drop. If a default were to occur, the desirability of Treasury bills would plummet and Mandel’s ETF would skyrocket in value.


Former Florida Republican Party Chair Says Republicans Actively Suppressed The Black Vote


Alex Brown July 27, 2012

In a 630-page deposition, released to the press yesterday, former Republican Party Chairman Jim Greer described a systemic effort by Republicans to suppress the black vote. Referring to a 2009 meeting with party officials, Greer said “I was upset because the political consultants and staff were talking about voter suppression and keeping blacks from voting.” He also said party officials discussed how “minority outreach programs were not fit for the Republican Party.” Florida is currently embroiled in a controversy surrounding Gov. Rick Scott’s (R) voter purge program, which disproportionately affects voters of color. Fifty-eight percent of Scott’s original list of voters who were supposedly ineligible to voter were Hispanic while Hispanics make up only 13 percent of Florida’s eligible voters.

After Stonewalling Obama’s Jobs Package, Republicans Complain About GDP Growth


By Pat Garofalo on Jul 27, 2012 at 12:10 pm

New data released today shows that the U.S. economy grew by 1.5 percent last quarter, following a revised increase of 2 percent in the first quarter. Republicans, of course, leaped on the middling number, with Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH) calling it “a troubling sign for the future of our economy.”

But GOP’ers neglect to mention that they repeatedly filibustered President Obama’s American Jobs Act in the Senate, after several independent economic analysts estimated that the bill would boost GDP by one to three percent.

– Goldman Sachs economists estimated that the AJA would increase GDP by 1.5 percent, before any multiplier effects.


The Congressional Budget Office also scored the bill as a net deficit reducer over a ten year budget window. As ThinkProgress has detailed, blocking the AJA is hardly the only thing that the GOP has done to sabotage economic growth and job creation.

Your stressful job is indeed aging you, study confirms


By Brian Alexander, NBC July 27, 2012

Everybody knows too much stress and anxiety is bad for you. It dents the immune system, the cardiovascular system and may even contribute to cancer. Now it appears that one common source of stress -- our jobs -- could be having damaging effects on critical DNA in our cells. And that could lead to early aging, and the diseases and conditions that go along with it.

A study led by Kirsi Ahola of the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health measured the length of DNA sections called telomeres and how the lengths varied in association with job stress. It found that people with the most job stress tended to have shorter telomeres.


As a result, those workers could face the diseases of aging sooner than they might otherwise. Telomere shortening has been associated with Parkinson’s, type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease and cancer. In short, a constantly stressful job could make you old before your time.


A number of life stressors aside from work, such as marital troubles, poverty, early childhood experience, gender (males tend to have shorter telomeres) -- as well as genetic makeup and health behaviors like smoking and diet – also appear to affect telomere length. For example, people who have experienced childhood trauma tend to be less able to cope with stress later in life and also tend to have shorter telomeres. The Finnish researchers adjusted their findings to take some of these factors into account, but it’s not possible to filter them out completely.

Still, O’Donovan doesn’t doubt the validity of the link between work stress and telomere shortening. “When you get a high enough dose of stress, hardly anyone is resilient,” she explained. “People can be resilient to one or two types of stressors in certain periods of time, but once it becomes cumulative, across domains, it’s rare to find resilient people.”

Researchers find pop music is too loud and all sounds the same


By Chris Wickham, Reuters July 26, 2012

LONDON -- Comforting news for anyone over the age of 35, scientists have worked out that modern pop music really is louder and does all sound the same.

Researchers in Spain used a huge archive known as the Million Song Dataset, which breaks down audio and lyrical content into data that can be crunched, to study pop songs from 1955 to 2010.
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A team led by artificial intelligence specialist Joan Serra at the Spanish National Research Council ran music from the last 50 years through some complex algorithms and found that pop songs have become intrinsically louder and more bland in terms of the chords, melodies and types of sound used.

"We found evidence of a progressive homogenization of the musical discourse," Serra told Reuters. "In particular, we obtained numerical indicators that the diversity of transitions between note combinations -- roughly speaking chords plus melodies -- has consistently diminished in the last 50 years."

They also found the so-called timbre palette has become poorer. The same note played at the same volume on, say, a piano and a guitar is said to have a different timbre, so the researchers found modern pop has a more limited variety of sounds.


Social deprivation has a measurable effect on brain growth


Public release date: 23-Jul-2012
Contact: Meghan Weber
Children's Hospital Boston
Social deprivation has a measurable effect on brain growth
MRI shows decreased gray and white matter among children in institutional care -- but white matter can 'catch up' if circumstances improve

(Boston, Mass.)—Severe psychological and physical neglect produces measurable changes in children's brains, finds a study led by Boston Children's Hospital. But the study also suggests that positive interventions can partially reverse these changes.

Researchers led by Margaret Sheridan, PhD, and Charles Nelson, PhD, of the Labs of Cognitive Neuroscience at Boston Children's Hospital, analyzed brain MRI scans from Romanian children in the ongoing Bucharest Early Intervention Project (BEIP), which has transferred some children reared in orphanages into quality foster care homes.

Their findings, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (Early Edition, online the week of July 23), add to earlier studies by Nelson and colleagues showing cognitive impairment in institutionalized children, but also showing improvements when children are placed in good foster homes.

"Increasingly we are finding evidence that exposure to childhood adversity has a negative effect on brain development," says Sheridan. "The implications are wide ranging, not just for institutionalized children but also for children exposed to abuse, abandonment, violence during war, extreme poverty and other adversities."

Cognitive changes may be only sign of fetal alcohol exposure


Public release date: 23-Jul-2012
Contact: Robert Bock or Marianne Glass Miller
NIH/National Institute of Child Health and Human Development
Cognitive changes may be only sign of fetal alcohol exposure
Distinct facial features not seen in many cases, NIH study finds

Most children exposed to high levels of alcohol in the womb do not develop the distinct facial features seen in fetal alcohol syndrome, but instead show signs of abnormal intellectual or behavioral development, according to a study by researchers at the National Institutes of Health and researchers in Chile.

These abnormalities of the nervous system involved language delays, hyperactivity, attention deficits or intellectual delays. The researchers used the term s functional neurologic impairment to describe these abnormalities.. The study authors documented an abnormality in one of these areas in about 44 percent of children whose mothers drank four or more drinks per day during pregnancy. In contrast, abnormal facial features were present in about 17 percent of alcohol exposed children.

Fetal alcohol syndrome refers to a pattern of birth defects found in children of mothers who consumed alcohol during pregnancy. These involve a characteristic pattern of facial abnormalities, growth retardation, and brain damage. Neurological and physical differences seen in children exposed to alcohol prenatally— but who do not have the full pattern of birth defects seen in fetal alcohol syndrome—are classified as fetal alcohol spectrum disorders.

"Our concern is that in the absence of the distinctive facial features, health care providers evaluating children with any of these functional neurological impairments might miss their history of fetal alcohol exposure," said Devon Kuehn, M.D., of the Epidemiology Branch of the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD), the NIH institute involved in the study. "As a result, children might not be referred for appropriate treatment and services."

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Use of sunbeds leads to 3000+ cases of melanoma a year in Europe


Public release date: 24-Jul-2012
Contact: Stephanie Burns
BMJ-British Medical Journal
Use of sunbeds leads to 3000+ cases of melanoma a year in Europe and 'tougher actions' are needed
Research: Cutaneous melanoma attributable to sunbed use: Systematic review and meta-analysis

Of 63,942 new cases of cutaneous melanoma (a form of skin cancer) diagnosed each year in Europe an estimated 3,438 (5.4%) are related to sunbed use. Sunbed users are at a 20% increased relative risk of skin cancer compared with those who have never used a sunbed. This risk doubles if they start before the age of 35 and experts warn that "tougher actions" are needed to reduce this risk.

Sun exposure is the most significant environmental cause of skin cancer and sunbeds have become the main non-solar source of UV exposure in Western Europe (UV is the wavelength associated with the occurrence of skin cancer). A study from 2005 found a 75% increased risk of melanoma if sunbed sessions were started during adolescence or early adulthood. But no studies since then have estimated the impact of melanomas (skin cancer tumours) due to sunbeds in Western Europe.

So researchers from the International Prevention Research Institute in France and the European Institute of Oncology in Italy analysed the results of 27 separate studies on skin cancer and sunbed use between 1981 and 2012. Countries included the UK, France and Germany.

The total number of skin cancer cases included in the analysis was 11,428. The authors summarised risk of skin cancer from any sunbed use at 20% which rose to 87% if exposure was before 35 years of age. There was also a 1.8% increase in risk for each additional sunbed session per year.

The authors estimate that from the 63,942 new cases of melanoma diagnosed every year in 18 Western European countries, 3438 and 794 deaths (498 women and 296 men) would be caused by sunbed use.

The authors believe that earlier studies have tended to underestimate the risks of indoor tanning because the use of these devices is relatively new. Furthermore, from 2005 to 2011, most risks have increased. Future studies could therefore demonstrate an even higher risk.

How a low-protein diet predisposes offspring to adulthood hypertension


Public release date: 25-Jul-2012
Contact: Raul Reyes
Society for the Study of Reproduction
How a low-protein diet predisposes offspring to adulthood hypertension

Studies have shown that the offspring of mothers on a low-protein diet are more likely to develop hypertension as adults. Now, Drs. Gao, Yallampalli, and Yallampalli of the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston report that in rats, the high maternal testosterone levels associated with a low-protein diet are caused by reduced activity of an enzyme that inactivates testosterone, allowing more testosterone to reach the fetus and increase the offspring's susceptibility to adulthood hypertension.

Fetal programming is a term used to describe the impact of maternal stress on an unborn child's physical characteristics at birth, as well as its long-term health. The placenta is thought to be a major contributor to fetal programming due to its critical roles in hormone production and nutrient transport, as well as its susceptibility to environmental disruptions.

Recently, a study found that protein restriction doubles the plasma testosterone levels in pregnant rats. Elevated testosterone levels are associated with pregnancy-related complications such as preeclampsia and polycystic ovarian syndrome in humans, and emerging evidence suggests that testosterone may play a role in fetal programming of hypertension.

Mediterranean earthworm species found thriving in Ireland as global temperatures rise

http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2012-07/ucd-mes072412.phpPublic release date: 25-Jul-2012
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Contact: Dominic Martella
University College Dublin
Mediterranean earthworm species found thriving in Ireland as global temperatures rise

Scientists have discovered a thriving population of Mediterranean earthworms in an urban farm in Dublin, Ireland.

The findings by University College Dublin scientists published in the journal Biology Letters on 25 July 2012 suggest that rising soil temperatures due to climate change may be extending the geographical habitat range of the earthworm Prosellodrilus amplisetosus.

"Soil decomposer species including earthworms are frequently introduced into non-native soils by human activities like the transportation of nursery plants or live fish bait," says Dr Olaf Schmidt from the School of Agriculture and Food Science, and the Earth Institute, University College Dublin, one of the authors of the report.

"There have been a few recordings of the earthworm P. amplisetosus outside of its native range in the Aquitaine region of south-western France, but now we have discovered a successfully thriving population in Ireland, about 1,000 km north of its native habitat."

Urban farms have higher temperatures than rural farms so the scientists suggest that this may have helped P. amplisetosus to become established in this new location. The mean yearly air temperature in Aquitaine in south-western France is about 3 degrees higher than in Dublin, Ireland.

Adolescent Sexual Behavior Tied to Motion Picture Sexual Content Exposure, Says MU Researcher


Timothy Wall University of Missouri July 19, 2012

Young people who watch more sexual content from movies also tend to engage in more sexual behavior and begin sexual activity at an earlier age, according to a University of Missouri researcher’s study.

“We can’t say that watching sexual content in movies is directly responsible for adolescents’ sexual behavior,” said Ross O’Hara, currently a post-doctoral fellow at the University of Missouri, who conducted the research with other psychological scientists while at Dartmouth College. “However, there is a correlation between the two. Sensation seeking, or the tendency to seek more novel and intense sexual stimulation, does seem to increase in young people who watched more movies with sexually explicit content.”

Increasing dopamine in brain's frontal cortex decreases impulsive tendency


Public release date: 25-Jul-2012
Contact: Jennifer O’Brien
University of California - San Francisco
Increasing dopamine in brain's frontal cortex decreases impulsive tendency, UCSF-Gallo study finds

Raising levels of the neurotransmitter dopamine in the frontal cortex of the brain significantly decreased impulsivity in healthy adults, in a study conducted by researchers at the Ernest Gallo Clinic and Research Center at the University of California, San Francisco.

"Impulsivity is a risk factor for addiction to many substances, and it has been suggested that people with lower dopamine levels in the frontal cortex tend to be more impulsive," said lead author Andrew Kayser, PhD, an investigator at Gallo and an assistant professor of neurology at UCSF. "We wanted to see if we could decrease impulsivity by raising dopamine, and it seems as if we can."

The study was published on July 4 in the Journal of Neuroscience.

In a double-blinded, placebo-controlled study, 23 adult research participants were given either tolcapone, a medication approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) that inhibits a dopamine-degrading enzyme, or a placebo. The researchers then gave the participants a task that measured impulsivity, asking them to make a hypothetical choice between receiving a smaller amount of money immediately ("smaller sooner") or a larger amount at a later time ("larger later"). Each participant was tested twice, once with tolcapone and once with placebo.

Participants – especially those who were more impulsive at baseline – were more likely to choose the less impulsive "larger later" option after taking tolcapone than they were after taking the placebo.

Magnetic resonance imaging conducted while the participants were taking the test confirmed that regions of the frontal cortex associated with decision-making were more active in the presence of tolcapone than in the presence of placebo.

Sum of the parts? How our brains see men as people and women as body parts


Public release date: 25-Jul-2012
Contact: Sarah Gervais
University of Nebraska-Lincoln
Sum of the parts? How our brains see men as people and women as body parts
Study finds that both genders process images of men, women differently

When casting our eyes upon an object, our brains either perceive it in its entirety or as a collection of its parts. Consider, for instance, photo mosaics consisting of hundreds of tiny pictures that when arranged a certain way form a larger overall image: In fact, it takes two separate mental functions to see the mosaic from both perspectives.

A new study suggests that these two distinct cognitive processes also are in play with our basic physical perceptions of men and women -- and, importantly, provides clues as to why women are often the targets of sexual objectification.

The research, published in the European Journal of Social Psychology, found in a series of experiments that participants processed images of men and women in very different ways. When presented with images of men, perceivers tended to rely more on "global" cognitive processing, the mental method in which a person is perceived as a whole. Meanwhile, images of women were more often the subject of "local" cognitive processing, or the objectifying perception of something as an assemblage of its various parts.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

High dietary antioxidant intake might cut pancreatic cancer risk


Public release date: 23-Jul-2012
Contact: Stephanie Burns
BMJ-British Medical Journal
High dietary antioxidant intake might cut pancreatic cancer risk
If link proves causal, 1 in 12 of these cancers might be prevented, say researchers

Increasing dietary intake of the antioxidant vitamins C, E, and selenium could help cut the risk of developing pancreatic cancer by up to two thirds, suggests research published online in the journal Gut.

If the association turns out to be causal, one in 12 of these cancers might be prevented, suggest the researchers, who are leading the Norfolk arm of the European Prospective Investigation of Cancer (EPIC) study.

Cancer of the pancreas kills more than a quarter of a million people every year around the world. And 7500 people are diagnosed with the disease every year in the UK, where it is the six commonest cause of cancer death.

The disease has the worst prognosis of any cancer, with just 3% of people surviving beyond five years. Genes, smoking, and type 2 diabetes are all risk factors, but diet is also thought to have a role, and may explain why rates vary so much from country to country, say the authors.

Research Links Childhood Obesity to Cancer Risk


Monday, July 23, 2012

Parents are increasingly conscious of the dangers of childhood obesity. There is a growing recognition of health problems associated with extra pounds, including the risk of diabetes, heart disease, and joint and muscle pain.

New research from Tel Aviv University has revealed another significant reason for children to maintain a healthy weight. Dr. Ari Shamiss and Dr. Adi Leiba of TAU's Sackler Faculty of Medicine and the Sheba Medical Center and his fellow researchers found that obesity in adolescence, defined as a Body Mass Index (BMI) in the 85th percentile and above, has a direct link to the incidence of urothelial (bladder and urinary tract) and colorectal cancers in adulthood. According to the American Heart Association, one in three children and teenagers are now considered overweight or obese.

Children above the 84th percentile in BMI have a 1.42% greater chance, representing a 50% higher risk, of developing urothelial or colorectal cancers in adulthood compared to those beneath it, explains Dr. Shamiss, whose research has been published in the journals Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers and Prevention and Obesity.

Women Who Give Birth After Age 30 Lower Their Risk Of Endometrial Cancer


Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Women who last give birth at age 40 or older have a 44 percent decreased risk of endometrial cancer when compared to women who have their last birth under the age of 25, according to strong evidence in a new, international study led by a researcher at the Keck School of Medicine of USC.

Endometrial cancer strikes the endometrium, the tissue lining the uterus (womb), and is the most common gynecological cancer in the United States

Identifying the arrogant boss



Arrogant bosses can drain the bottom line because they are typically poor performers who cover up their insecurities by disparaging subordinates, leading to organizational dysfunction and employee turnover.

A new measure of arrogance, developed by researchers at The University of Akron and Michigan State University, can help organizations identify arrogant managers before they have a costly and damaging impact.


Arrogance is characterized by a pattern of behavior that demeans others in an attempt to prove competence and superiority. Silverman says this behavior is correlated with lower intelligence scores and lower self-esteem when compared to managers who are not arrogant.


Silverman emphasizes that cultivating humility among leaders and promoting a learning-oriented work climate go far in reducing arrogance and increasing productive leadership and employee social interaction.

Basal cell carcinoma risk can be chronic

Sounds like it applies to my father.


July 25, 2012 | Contact: David Orenstein

PROVIDENCE, R.I. [Brown University] — In the powerful sunlight of July, newly published results from a large study of people at high risk for basal cell carcinoma support the emerging view of the nation’s most common cancer as a chronic ailment that often repeatedly afflicts older people but for which the seeds may be planted in youth. The research also found a new association with eczema.

“Basal cell carcinoma is a chronic disease once people have had multiple instances of it, because they are always at risk of getting more,” said Dr. Martin Weinstock, professor of dermatology in the Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University, who practices at the Providence Veterans Affairs Medical Center. “It’s not something at the moment we can cure. It’s something that we need to monitor continually so that when these cancers crop up we can minimize the damage.”

Unplug! Too much light at night may lead to depression


By Laura Blue, Time.com
updated 10:11 AM EDT, Wed July 25, 2012

Here's another reason to log off at a reasonable hour: exposure to dim lighting at night — such as that generated by a TV screen, computer or night-light — may lead to depressive symptoms, new animal research suggests.

A study from Ohio State University Medical Center found that hamsters with chronic exposure to dim light at night showed signs of depression within just a few weeks: reduced physical activity compared with hamsters living in normal light-dark conditions, as well as less interest in sugar water (a treat for the hamsters), greater signs of distress when placed in water, and changes in the brain's hippocampus that are similar to brain changes seen in depressed people.

"The results we found in hamsters are consistent with what we know about depression in humans," Tracy Bedrosian, the first author the on the new study, told reporters.

Former Citigroup CEO Weill: Break up the banks

What this doesn't mention is that Weill engineered the merger of Citibank and Travelers, forming Citigroup, before the law was changed. He and others were working on getting it changed, but the law was still in effect at the time of the merger, so the merger was illegal.


By Roland Jones, NBC News 7/25/2012

Sandy Weill, the former Citigroup chairman and CEO credited with building the bank into a financial superpower, now says big banks should be split up.

In a wide-ranging CNBC interview, Weill suggested investment banks should be split from banks that provide retail and commercial banking services.

That’s an unusual outlook from Weill, who pushed the government to overturn the Glass-Steagall law that requires deposit-taking institutions to separate from risky investment banks.

The law was put in place after the 1929 stock market crash.

Citigroup became one of the nation’s problems during the financial crisis -- a poster-child for “too big to fail” with the government spending $45 billion trying to keep it afloat.

“Have banks do something that’s not going to risk the taxpayer dollars, that’s not going to be too big to fail,” Weill told CNBC.

Expanding Medicaid cuts death rates, study finds


By Lewis Krauskopf
updated 1 hour 22 minutes ago

State expansions of the Medicaid health insurance program for poor Americans reduced adult mortality rates by more than 6 percent compared with states that did not broaden eligibility for their plans, according to a study released on Wednesday.

The findings published in the New England Journal of Medicine could fuel a political furor over new plans for a nationwide expansion of Medicaid that erupted after the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling to uphold President Barack Obama's healthcare law in late June.

In an unexpected move, the high court ruling also left it up to states to decide whether to participate in the law's broader eligibility criteria for Medicaid that would extend insurance coverage to as many as 16 million more Americans starting in 2014. At least five Republican governors who opposed the healthcare law have vowed to opt out of the expansion, saying the program will pose a huge financial burden.


Medicaid expansions were associated with a reduction in mortality from all causes, by 19.6 deaths per 100,000 adults, for a 6.1 percent decrease compared to the states without expansions.
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The mortality declines were greatest among adults between ages 35 and 64, minorities and residents of poor counties.

The expansions also led to decreased rates of uninsurance, lower rates of delayed care because of costs, and an increase in the rate of people reporting their health status as "excellent" or "very good".

"The takeaway is that state expansions of Medicaid coverage to adults appear to be effective at improving both access to care and health for low-income Americans," Sommers said in an interview.

Romney Made Repeated Trips To Bain, Weighed In On Business Decisions After 1999


By Adam Peck on Jul 25, 2012 at 12:01 pm

As news organizations uncover more and more information about Mitt Romney’s tenure at Bain Capital, the Romney campaign has continuously shifted its own goalposts, first standing by its claim that Romney stepped down from Bain in 1999, then settling on the argument that Romney “retroactively” retired in 1999 despite remaining CEO through 2002.

On Wednesday, a new report from the Associated Press reveals that the former Massachusetts governor made several trips to Boston to meet with partners and other key employees at Bain Capital’s headquarters while running the Salt Lake City Winter Olympics. The details contradict Romney’s claim that he did not interact with the company after leaving in February of 1999. From the piece:

Romney’s ‘We Did Build This’ Events Feature Businesses Built With Government Subsidies And Contracts


By Aviva Shen on Jul 25, 2012 at 3:12 pm

Today, the Romney campaign is hosting an entire series of campaign events based on President Obama’s misinterpreted comment about small businesses. While Obama’s full speech made a “no man is an island” argument, the Romney campaign has seized on the quote, “If you’ve got a business, you didn’t build that” as evidence of Obama’s disdain for small business owners.

Romney, ignoring the fact that he has echoed this same sentiment on multiple occasions, organized 24 “We Did Build This” events in the battleground states of Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Virginia, Ohio, Iowa, Florida, Missouri, North Carolina, Michigan, New Hampshire, New Mexico, and Nevada. At each event, local business owners are speaking about their self-sufficiency in running a business and how government is hindering their growth.

But, like the New Hampshire business owner showcased in Romney’s attack ad on the issue, many of these business owners have received significant support from the government, a ThinkProgress analysis finds.

Ball Office Products hosted the “We Did Build This” event in Richmond, Virginia. The company received a loan of $635,000 through the Small Business Administration in 2012, according to USASpending.gov. The company was also awarded a lucrative $52,525 contract with the General Services Administration just a year after its founding.