Sunday, September 30, 2012

Contributions of deaf people to entomology: A hidden legacy

Authors: Harry G. Lang; Jorge A. Santiago-Blay
Source: Terrestrial Arthropod Reviews
Available online: 01 January 2012
Publication Year : 2012
DOI: 10.1163/18749836-05031052

Despite communication challenges, deaf and hard-of-hearing individuals made many new discoveries during the emergence of entomology as a scientific discipline. In the 18th century, Switzerland’s naturalist Charles Bonnet, a preformationist, investigated parthenogenesis, a discovery that laid the groundwork for many scientists to examine conception, embryonic development, and the true, non-preformationist nature of heredity. In the 19th century, insect collectors, such as Arthur Doncaster and James Platt-Barrett in England, as well as Johann Jacob Bremi-Wolf in Switzerland, developed specialized knowledge in several insect orders, particularly the Lepidoptera. In contrast, the contributions to entomology of Fielding Bradford Meek and Leo Lesquereux in the United States stemmed from their paleontological studies, while the work of Simon S. Rathvon and Henry William Ravenel in economic entomology and botany, respectively, was derived from their strong interests in plants. These and other contributors found ways to overcome the isolation imposed upon them by deafness and, as a group, deaf and hard-of-hearing scientists established a legacy in entomology that has not been previously explored.


Study: Exposure to herbicide may increase risk of rare disorder

Public release date: 28-Sep-2012
Contact: Dana Benson
Baylor College of Medicine

HOUSTON – (Sept. 28, 2012) – A common herbicide used in the United States may be linked to an increased risk of a congenital abnormality of the nasal cavity known as choanal atresia, say researchers at Baylor College of Medicine and other Texas institutions.

The study by Dr. Philip Lupo, assistant professor of pediatrics – hematology/oncology at BCM and Texas Children's Cancer Center, is scheduled for publication in The Journal of Pediatrics.

Choanal atresia is a disorder where the back of the nasal passage is blocked by tissue formed during fetal development. It is a rare condition but can be serious because it affects a baby's ability to breath. It is typically treated through surgery.

Very few risk factors for choanal atresia have been identified, however chemicals that disrupt the maternal endocrine system may be associated with risk, according to Lupo. The study focused on atrazine, which is the most commonly used herbicide in the U.S. – especially in corn crops – and is believed to be an endocrine disrupter.

"Endocrine disrupters aren't fully understood, but it is believed they interfere with or mimic certain hormones, thereby blocking their proper function and potentially leading to adverse outcomes," Lupo said.

The study found that mothers who lived in Texas counties with the highest levels of estimated atrazine application were 80 percent more likely to have children with choanal atresia or stenosis compared to women who lived in the counties with the lowest levels. Choanal stenosis is a less severe form of the condition.


Eating cherries lowers risk of gout attacks by 35 percent

Public release date: 28-Sep-2012
Contact: Dawn Peters

A new study found that patients with gout who consumed cherries over a two-day period showed a 35% lower risk of gout attacks compared to those who did not eat the fruit. Findings from this case-crossover study published in Arthritis & Rheumatism, a journal of the American College of Rheumatology (ACR), also suggest that risk of gout flares was 75% lower when cherry intake was combined with the uric-acid reducing drug, allopurinol, than in periods without exposure to cherries or treatment.

'Cranks and crazies' have taken over US Republicans, says Australian treasurer

Reuters in Canberra, Thursday 20 September 2012 23.17 EDT

The Australian treasurer, Wayne Swan, in an unusually blunt criticism of US politics weeks before the presidential election, said "cranks and crazies" had taken over a part of the Republicans and posed the biggest threat to the world's largest economy.

Swan, one of few world leaders able to boast his country had avoided recession during the global financial crisis, also labelled the Tea Party wing of the Republicans as "extreme".

"Let's be blunt and acknowledge the biggest threat to the world's biggest economy are the cranks and crazies that have taken over a part of the Republican party," Swan said in a speech to a conference in Sydney.


"Despite President Obama's goodwill and strong efforts, the national interest was held hostage by the rise of the extreme Tea Party wing of the Republican party," he said.

Australian politicians rarely launch such blunt criticism of their counterparts in the US, a key strategic ally.

Swan, named by banking magazine Euromoney as its finance minister of the year in 2011 and treasurer of a centre-left government, also called on the US Congress to resolve an agreement on the budget to support growth in the short term.


Video Appears to Reveal GOP Voter Registration Worker Screening Out Dems in Colorado

In recent months, I have done voter registration for three different organizations in Georgia. Since the Republican government of Georgia is actively trying to deny the vote to people who are more likely to vote Democratic, and since unregistered voters in this area are much more likely to vote Democratic, it is not surprising that the individuals doing the organizing are for Obama. We often choose places we think will have many potential Democratic voters. But none of us is paid. We are scrupulous about offering registration to everybody, and registering everybody who wants it. We don't ask people what party they are in. We are even required to avoid displaying anything, such as pins and t-shirts, that would indicate whom we ourselves favor. We give everybody information on how to check if they are registered.

By Brad Friedman on 9/25/2012

Over the weekend, this disturbing video of a voter registration worker at a Safeway grocery story in El Paso County, Colorado went somewhat viral...

..... [see link above for video]

The short video shows a young woman attempting to register voters outside the grocery store, but asking first: "I'm polling people. Would you vote for Romney or Obama?"

When the unidentified woman shooting the video tells the young lady she thought she was registering people to vote, the registration worker admits she is. The woman asks who she works for, and the young lady admits, "I'm actually trying to register voters for a particular party, because...we're out here in support of Romney, actually."


As it turns out, the registration worker was not working for the El Paso County Clerk's office, according to responses sent to The BRAD BLOG by the CO Secretary of State's office as well as the El Paso County Clerk. Instead, she was a paid employee of the state Republican Committee, as confirmed by the local GOP Chairman. And, incredibly enough, both the Sec. of State and County Clerk, both Republicans, assert that what the registration worker is seen doing in the video, screening out potential voters based on who they might vote for, is absolutely legal in the state of Colorado...

"There is nothing in state law that would prevent it," Richard Coolidge, Communications Director for Sec. of State Scott Gessler (R) told us, after we'd asked if registration workers are allowed to ask potential registrants, before giving them the chance to register, whether or not they are supporters of one party or one candidate over another.

Coolidge says that what the worker is seen doing in the video is absolutely fine, so long as the screening happens before the registrant starts filling out of the registration form.

"Once the person starts filling out the application," he explained, the registration worker "is required to submit the form to the county clerk."

"We see voter registration drives on both sides of the aisle target specific demographics," Coolidge claimed via email. "But any registrations they receive, regardless of party affiliation, must be submitted timely or face strict penalties."

Colorado Springs NBC affiliate KOAA News 5 noticed the video as well over the weekend. They report that El Paso County Republican Chairman Eli Bremer confirmed the young lady was, indeed, working for them.


He also added that "You don't have to offer a voter registration form to everybody."


Le Lait says that, unlike Republicans, at least in her county, Democrats do not screen out voters, at least not in the same way, when signing up new registrants. "I know for a fact the campaign office is not going out and prescreening the people that are registering," she says. "They will set up a table with an Obama sign but they don't ask you who you're voting for before you register."


the matter certainly appears to walk a precarious legal and ethical line that the GOP would, to quote Bremer, almost certainly "make political hay out of," had the situation been reversed and the video revealed either an ACORN worker or someone from the Democratic Party on video doing the very same thing.


And, of course, there is Nathan Sproul, whose organization was hired by the GOP in 2004 and accused of shredding thousands of Democratic voter registrations in several states before, nonetheless, being hired again by the McCain-Palin campaign in 2008.

Electronic voting is the real threat to elections

As a computer programmer, I know that the voting machines can be programmed to rig an election, then erase the part of the program that does this. Even if there is no deliberate fraud, computer programs are prone to accidental bugs. Officials in a state like Georgia which uses electronic voting machines with no paper trail are either too ignorant for their job or are corrupt.

Updated 9/19/2012

Imagine how easy voting would be if Americans could cast ballots the same way they buy songs from iTunes or punch in a PIN code to check out at the grocery store: You could click on a candidate from a home computer or use a touch screen device at the local polling place.

It's not entirely a fantasy. In many states, some voters can already do both. The process is seductively simple, but it's also shockingly vulnerable to problems from software failure to malicious hacking. While state lawmakers burn enormous energy in a partisan fight over in-person vote fraud, which is virtually nonexistent, they're largely ignoring far likelier ways votes can be lost, stolen or changed.

How? Sometimes, technology or the humans running it simply fail:

•In March, malfunctioning software sent votes to the wrong candidate and the wrong municipal election in Palm Beach County, Fla. The mistake was corrected only after a court-approved hand count.

•In an election in Pennington County, S.D., in 2009, a software glitch almost doubled the number of votes actually cast.

•In Carteret County, N.C., 4,530 electronic votes simply disappeared in 2004 when the voting machine ran out of storage capacity and no one noticed until too late.

•In 2010, a University of Michigan assistant professor of computer science and three assistants hacked into Washington, D.C.'s online voting system during a test. They manipulated it undetected, even programming it to play the Michigan fight song. While inside, the hackers blocked probes from Iran, India and China. Washington officials canceled plans for online voting.

Experiences like these argue for great caution about expanding electronic voting, but too many states are choosing convenience over reliability. Sixteen states, for example, use electronic voting devices with no paper backup, according to a study by the Verified Voting Foundation, Common Cause and the Rutgers School of Law.

This means there's no way to know whether the machine has recorded a vote accurately or, for that matter, recorded it at all. And there's no way for elections officials to conduct a verifiable recount if things go wrong.


We are all cousins

Voter Intimidation is a federal crime

Romney’s Approach To Medicare Reform Will Lead To Higher Costs, Study Finds

By Sy Mukherjee posted from ThinkProgress Health on Sep 28, 2012

A new Urban Institute Health Policy Center study finds that premium support models, such as the proposed Romney/Ryan Medicare plan, are more likely to increase excess costs in the program.

According to the report, turning Medicare into a “premium support” program would encourage private insurers to draw less costly beneficiaries from traditional Medicare, leading to bloated per-beneficiary reimbursements. The study arrives at this conclusion by extrapolating existing trends in Medicare Advantage (MA), which has appreciably higher per-capita costs than traditional Medicare in 75 percent of counties serviced:


Saturday, September 29, 2012

Paul Ryan's View of Social Insurance as a Socialist, Collectivist System That Must Cease to Exist

Paul Ryan's View of Social Insurance as a Socialist, Collectivist System That Must Cease to Exist

Brad DeLong says Paul Ryan's view of social insurance should get more attention:

Paul Ryan: Socialism Must Be Destroyed, and by "Socialism" I Mean Things Like Social Security, Medicare, Food Stamps, and Unemployment Insurance by Brad DeLong: The Paul Ryan audiotape did not get the same attention as the Romney videotape. Yet I find it as damning:

Paul Ryan:

Social Security right now is a collectivist system. It is a welfare transfer system…. And so what we have coming now at the beginning of this century is a fight…. [A]ll they have to do is to stop us from succeeding. Autopilot will get them to where they want to go. It will bring more government, more collectivism, more centralized government if we do not succeed in switching these programs and reforming these programs from what some people call a defined-benefit system to a defined-contribution system--and I am talking about health-care programs as well--from a third-party socialist-based system to an individually-prefunded individually-directed system. We can do this. We are on offense on a lot of these issues…

In Paul Ryan's eyes, Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, Unemployment Insurance, SNAP, etc. are all socialist, collectivist systems that must cease to exist in anything like their present form.

And let me stress that shifting health care to an "individually-prefunded individually-directed system" means that poor people die in the gutter outside the hospital when they get sick: if you are unlucky and get seriously ill, then unless you are rich there is no way that you can have individually-prefunded enough to pay for your treatment. ...

Leaving social insurance to the marketplace -- for example assuming that individuals will rationally prefund their future needs -- has never worked. It didn't work in the US before we had a broad social insurance program, and it hasn't worked in other countries either.

Lack of sleep leads to insulin resistance in teens

Public release date: 29-Sep-2012
Contact: Lynn Celmer
American Academy of Sleep Medicine
Lack of sleep leads to insulin resistance in teens
Extending sleep duration may help to reduce diabetes risk in youth

Darien, IL - A new study suggests that increasing the amount of sleep that teenagers get could improve their insulin resistance and prevent the future onset of diabetes.

"High levels of insulin resistance can lead to the development of diabetes," said lead author Karen Matthews, PhD, of the University of Pittsburgh Department of Psychiatry. "We found that if teens that normally get six hours of sleep per night get one extra hour of sleep, they would improve insulin resistance by 9 percent."


GOP Senate Candidate Akin: ‘Free Enterprise’ Means Being Allowed To Deny Equal Pay To Women

Not so great for men, either, because it can make it more profitable for a company to hire a woman than a man, same as outsourcing, H1-B's. Another way to redistribute wealth upward.

By Aviva Shen posted from ThinkProgress Economy on Sep 28, 2012

Rep. Todd Akin (R-MO) has struggled with a well-established woman problem in his Senate campaign, ever since he claimed women could not get pregnant from “legitimate rape.” After he said his opponent, incumbent Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO), was not “ladylike,” her campaign released a video of Akin suggesting that businesses should be allowed to pay women less than men.

When a man asked him why he voted against the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, Akin said he didn’t support the idea that “government should be telling people what you pay and what you don’t pay.”

AUDIENCE MEMBER: You voted against the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act. Why do you think it is okay for a woman to be paid less for doing the same work as a man?

AKIN: Well, first of all, the premise of your question is that I’m making that particular distinction. I believe in free enterprise. I don’t think the government should be telling people what you pay and what you don’t pay. I think it’s about freedom. If someone what’s to hire somebody and they agree on a salary, that’s fine, however it wants to work. So, the government sticking its nose into all kinds of things has gotten us into huge trouble.

Obama’s Judges Are Confirmed More Than Three Times Slower Than Reagan’s Judges

By Ian Millhiser posted from ThinkProgress Justice on Sep 28, 2012

Over at Slate, Doug Kendall breaks down just how badly President Obama’s judicial nominees have been treated due to filibusters led by one or more Senate Republicans. “The average confirmation time for uncontroversial circuit court nominees rose from 64.5 days under Reagan to 227.3 days under Obama. . . . Similarly, the average waiting time for uncontroversial district court nominees increased from 69.9 days under Reagan to 204.8 days under President Obama. And the number of district court nominees who wait more than 200 days has doubled from George W.’s time to Obama’s.” Kendall uses the Congressional Research Service’s definition of an uncontroversial nominee to reach these numbers, which is a nominee who receives “little or no opposition when votes are actually cast in the Senate Judiciary Committee and on the Senate floor.”

While the rate of judicial confirmations declined steadily since the Reagan Administration, President Obama’s judges have still been singled out for significantly worse treatment than any of his recent predecessors:


GOP Voter Registration Firm Turns in Thousands of 'Invalid' Registration Forms in California

Besides the excuse to pass laws that make it harder to vote, for people who are more likely to vote Democratic, those faulty voter registration can cause a person to believe they have registered to vote, so they don't actually get registered.

By Brad Friedman on 5/4/2012

You're unlikely to hear a peep about this on Fox "News" (unless they happen to have me on), but the California Secretary of State's Election Fraud Division is now reportedly investigating a firm hired by the Sacramento County Republican Party said to have submitted thousands of fraudulent voter registration forms.

According to a report today from Sacramento ABC affiliate News10 [see video posted below], a private, for-profit firm calling itself Momentum Political Services, hired by the local Republican Party "to boost GOP registration ranks in key battleground communities" has turned in more than 3,100 invalid voter registration cards during their recent drive.

[UPDATE 5/7/12: According to Sacramento Bee's 5/5/12 report, the number of bad registration forms is much higher than 3,100. The paper reports that since September, out of some 31,000 cards turned in by Momentum Political Services, "at least one-fourth of them have been thrown out because of inaccuracies," according to the Sacramento Registrar of Voters. That puts the questionable registrations from the GOP's company at more than 7,500.]


The charges of serial voter registration fraud sound very similar to those leveled in 2008 against another outfit hired by the California State GOP to register Republican voters before that year's Presidential election. In that case, the head of the firm was arrested, and eventually pleaded guilty to voter registration charges himself.

In 2006, another firm hired by the CA Republican Party turned in thousands of registration forms with fake names and an error rate as high as 60 percent. And in 2004, a firm hired by the GOP was investigated in a number of states for shredding Democratic voter registrations and tossing them into dumpsters. Despite those allegations, the same folks were later hired by the McCain/Palin campaign in 2008 to run voter registration drives before the Presidential election.

Of course, you probably haven't heard of any of those stories, even while you've heard plenty about a handful of ACORN workers --- no actual ACORN officials, mind you, and they were never hired by the Democratic Party, and never led to a fraudulent vote --- turning in fraudulent registration forms in past years.

But nobody who ever worked for the non-profit ACORN has ever been accused of what these Republican firms continue to do on behalf of the Republican officials who hire them, paying them per Republican registration, year after year, as is once again apparent in the allegations surfacing today against Momentum Political Services.


And in some instances, the voter's party affiliation appears to have been changed, by someone, to Republican.

"The circulator signed in blue ink, and it just happens that the party is checked in a blue ink," said [Sacramento County registrar of voters Jill] LaVine during an examination of one suspicious card. "The voter did the rest [of the card] in black ink."


Contrast that with the non-partisan ACORN which actually developed a system to try and confirm the legitimacy of each and every voter registration form they collected, flag the ones they could not be confirmed as "potentially fraudulent," before turning them in (as required by law), along with the names of workers who had defrauded them to election officials and law enforcement agencies.

Nonetheless, ACORN was described hyperbolically by John McCain himself during the GOP's 2008 version of the "ACORN 'Voter Fraud' Hoax" as "one of the greatest frauds in voter history in this country" which, he said, was "destroying the fabric of democracy."

Never mind that the rates of fraudulent voter registration forms turned in by firms hired by Republicans are far greater than any of those turned in (and flagged as fraudulent!) by ACORN --- 60% versus less than 1% --- or the fact that McCain was the keynote speaker at an ACORN rally in 2006 --- before he became the GOP Presidential nominee --- when he lauded the four-decade old community organization by telling them that they were "what makes America special."

Meanwhile, in California, where the GOP has long paid "bounties" for Republican-only registrations, Momentum Political Services appears to have actually signed voters up as Republicans whether they wished to be affiliated with the party or not,


Fraud by voter registration firms hired by the Republican Party in California seems to be a serial problem, occurring in very similar patterns election year after election year.


All-in-all, the rates of invalid and/or fraudulent registration forms and signatures by these firms, often as high as 60%, have proven far in excess of the "greatest frauds in voter history," as the disingenuous McCain had described ACORN. For the record, after being pressed on that fraudulent claim in the days just prior to the Presidential Election in 2008, a member of what McCain had laughably called his "McCain-Palin Honest and Open Election Committee" was forced to concede that he was unable to cite a single instance in which a fraudulent ACORN registration had led to an illegal vote.

"Do we have a documented instance of voting fraud that resulted from a phony registration form? No, I can't cite one," said the former election official turned member of McCain's committee.


It's a time-tested Republican scam. Claim Democrats are committing voter fraud, even while you're doing it yourself, use the false claims to deny Democrats their right to vote (via disenfranchising polling place Photo ID laws or voter caging) and then, if someone in the media actually bothers to press you on it, admit you can't cite any actual examples of any of it.

After the late Rightwing con-man Andrew Breibart had paid hoaxster James O'Keefe and Hannah Giles to create faked hit videos on ACORN, which eventually brought down the four-decade old advocacy group for low and middle-income Americans, then former Speaker of the House, now former Republican Presidential candidate Newt Gingrich feigned outrage in a 2009 op-ed.


Move the clock forward to 2012 and Gingrich himself, after his campaign had submitted thousands of admittedly fraudulent signatures to the state of Virginia in his unsuccessful attempt to qualify for the GOP Presidential Primary in his home state last March, referred to those 1,500 fraudulent signatures as little more than a "mistake".

"We turned in 11,100 --- we needed 10,000 --- 1,500 of them were by one guy who, frankly, committed fraud," Gingrich is seen and heard saying in video originally aired by CNN.

Gingrich's rate of fraud was far higher, once again, than anything ACORN was ever accused of, even though they were forced to shut their doors after the phony Breitbart/O'Keefe videos which Gingrich had lauded.


Romney Trust Gives Heirs Triple Benefit

By Jesse Drucker - Sep 27, 2012

n January 1999, a trust set up by Mitt Romney for his children and grandchildren reaped a 1,000 percent return on the sale of shares in Internet advertising firm DoubleClick Inc.

If Romney had given the cash directly, he could have owed a gift tax at a rate as high as 55 percent. He avoided gift and estate taxes by using a type of generation-skipping trust known to tax planners by the nickname: “I Dig It.”

The sale of DoubleClick shares received before the company went public, detailed in previously unreported securities filings reviewed by Bloomberg News, sheds new light on Romney’s estate planning -- the art of leaving assets for heirs while avoiding taxes. The Republican presidential candidate used a trust considered one of the most effective techniques for the wealthy to bypass estate and gift taxes. The Obama administration proposed cracking down on the tax benefits in February.

While Romney’s tax avoidance is both legal and common among high-net-worth individuals, it has become increasingly awkward for his candidacy since the disclosure of his remarks at a May fundraiser. He said that the nearly one-half of Americans who pay no income taxes are “dependent upon government” and “believe that they are victims.”

Romney’s effective income tax rate in 2011 was about 14 percent. He has also enhanced his family’s wealth by moving assets worth $100 million into a trust while taking steps to avoid paying any gift taxes. The trust’s value isn’t counted in the $250 million that his campaign cites as Romney’s net worth.


“People like Mitt Romney make a lot of money, but they pay very little income tax,” said Victor Fleischer, a tax law professor at the University of Colorado who has written extensively about private equity and taxes. “Then by dodging the estate and gift tax, they are able to build dynastic wealth. These DoubleClick documents really show that tax planning in action.”

The Obama administration estimates that closing the loophole Romney used would bring the federal government almost $1 billion in the coming decade.

That’s a “laughable” under-estimate, said Stephen Breitstone, co-head of the taxation and wealth preservation group at law firm Meltzer, Lippe, Goldstein & Breitstone LLP. A single billionaire could pay $500 million more in estate taxes if these trusts are shut down by the Obama administration, Breitstone said.


Romney “uses every trick in the book,” Breitstone said. “It’s going to be harder to do tax planning in the future. He’s bringing attention to things that weren’t getting attention.”

19 Crops That Would Disappear Without Bees

And what are such poisons doing to us?|htmlws-main-bb|dl5|sec1_lnk3&pLid=207396

The Daily Meal 9/17/12

Bees have been disappearing at an alarming rate and continue to vanish without a trace. Why should anyone care? Well, they matter a lot more than most people would think. With summer upon us, it’s exciting to see the reemergence of some of our favorite produce, including stone fruit, peppers, sweet, juicy melons, and succulent strawberries. But what if the arrival of these crops each summer were to come to an end?

Honeybees, among other pollinators such as bats, birds, butterflies, and bumblebees, are responsible in one way or another for the pollination of approximately 100 crops, according to Dr. Reese Halter, Ph.D., author of The Incomparable Honeybee and distinguished conservation biologist. And they’re not just the fruits of summer; imagine a Thanksgiving, for example, without sweet potatoes or pumpkin pie.

However, the implications of the disappearance of honeybees are not just gastronomic; they are also economic in scope, and in that respect, the scale is significant. According to the National Resources Defense Council (NRDC), more than $15 billion worth of crops are pollinated by bees each year just in the United States alone. Put another way, one of every three bites of food Americans consume comes from a plant visited by bees or other pollinators.

The problem was first observed in France in 1994, following the debut of a new type of pesticide by Bayer, dubbed Gaucho, which was first used on sunflower crops. Gaucho was part of a new class of pesticides known as systemic pesticides, or as Halter refers to them, neonicotinoids.

Bees collecting pollen from sunflowers treated with Gaucho exhibited confused and nervous behavior; thus, the phenomenon was initially termed the "mad bee disease" — the bees, according to Halter, were literally "shaking to death." Furthermore, the bees abandoned their hives, never to return, leaving only the queen behind. Following massive protests by farmers, the French government suspended the use of the pesticide.

In the United States, the phenomenon was first observed in 2006 by a beekeeper, David Hackenberg. Hackenberg and his fellow beekeeper David Mendes testified before Congress about a problem that had become widespread, by then termed Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) by scientists. No longer were people chalking it up to bad beekeeping; everyone was experiencing the same rapid, catastrophic declines in hive populations in 35 states. And no one could explain why.


The life of a typical bee in this business consists of following the major cash crops around the country as the seasons change, and that means a lot of traveling on trucks. California alone requires half of all the honeybees in the United States for its $2.3 billion almond crop annually, according to the NRDC.

So stress is probably a major issue, but far more relevant is the fact that while on the road, there is no access to local flora to collect nectar for honey. So instead, according to Halter, they subsist on a steady diet of corn syrup, usually genetically modified and laden with residual neonicotinoids. Halter estimates that about 2.5 million hives are trucked around this manner every year.

Just what is so insidious about neonicotinoids? Neonicotinoids differ from older style pesticides which were applied through spraying; instead, they generally come in the form of pellets, which are taken up by the roots of the plant when watered, and end up concentrated in the pollen and nectar that bees pick up when foraging. But, it doesn’t end there. Subsequent generations of the plant will also contain trace amounts of the pesticide and secrete them as well.

Studies performed by companies which produce these neonicotinoids have tested only in lethal doses and observed the bees immediately after exposure. But, in the real world, bees are never really exposed to such high concentrations all at once. Instead, the concern lies with the accumulated effects of repeated exposure in lower concentrations, which are difficult to test, and thus have not been tested. In other words, the use of these systemic pesticides could lead to a delayed detrimental effect on bee populations

However compelling any one theory may be, it is more likely though, that CCD is due to a confluence of factors.


Lying by omission

Truth is not only violated by falsehood; it may be outraged by silence. - Henri Frederick Amiel

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Summer's over, but drought persists; two-thirds of contiguous US affected

Sept. 27, 2012
By Miguel Llanos, NBC News

You'd think the end of summer would mean the end — or at least beginning of the end — of this year's drought, but the nation's official stat keepers on Thursday revealed otherwise.

With the Midwest corn harvest in full swing, the worst U.S. drought in decades actually worsened: 65.45 percent of the lower 48 states was in some form of drought on Tuesday, up from 64.82 percent a week earlier, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor.


Other stats from the latest Drought Monitor were not encouraging:

Areas in extreme or exceptional drought, the two worst categories, were at 21.5 percent, up from 20.7 percent a week earlier.
The worst drought conditions remain in the heart of the U.S. breadbasket, reported: Nebraska at 73 percent, Kansas at 51 percent and Oklahoma at 42 percent.
Iowa: 100 percent of the nation's biggest corn producer is in some form of drought. That's the same as the previous week.
Minnesota: 77 percent is now in drought, up from 64 percent, with extreme conditions in the northwest and spreading into southern areas, noted.
North Dakota: 95 percent is in drought, up from 88 percent the week before.
South Dakota: The entire state is in some form of drought, up from 96 percent.


'Bainport' workers seek Romney-Obama debate on outsourcing

Amy Goodman
Denis Moynihan contributed research to this column, Thursday 27 September 2012

Today, as the African-American president of the United States prepares to debate the candidate from the party of Lincoln, workers in Freeport are staging a protest, hoping to put their plight into the center of the national debate this election season.

"Bainport" is the name the workers have given their protest encampment. A group of workers from Sensata Technologies have set up their tents across the road from the plant where many of them have spent their adult lives working. Sensata makes high-tech sensors for automobiles, including the sensors that help automatic transmissions run safely. Sensata Technologies recently bought the plant from Honeywell, and promptly told the more than 170 workers there that their jobs and all the plant's equipment would be shipped to China.

You may never have heard of Sensata Technologies, but in this election season, you've probably heard the name of its owner, Bain Capital, the company co-founded and formerly run by Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney. When they learned this, close to a dozen Sensata employees decided to put up a fight, to challenge Romney to put into practice his very campaign slogans to save American jobs. They traveled to Tampa, Florida, joining in a poor people's campaign at a temporary camp called Romneyville (after the Hoovervilles of the Great Depression). They organized a petition drive, getting 35,000 people to join their demand to Romney to call on his former colleagues, to save their jobs.

Since Freeport is close to two swing states, Iowa and Wisconsin, they traveled to a Romney rally and appealed directly to him there. Ironically, for appealing to Romney to save their jobs from being sent to China, the Sensata workers were jeered as "communists" at the rally, and removed by US secret service.


ROMNEY VIDEO: In 1985, He Said Bain Would "Harvest" Companies for Profits

See the link below for the video:

By David Corn | Thu Sep. 27, 2012

Campaigning for the presidency, Mitt Romney has pointed to his stint as the founder and manager of Bain Capital, a private equity firm, as proof he can rev up the US economy and create jobs at a faster clip than President Barack Obama.


But at Bain, Romney's top priority wasn't to boost employment. As the Wall Street Journal recently noted, creating jobs "wasn't the aim of Bain or other private-equity firms, which measure success by returns produced for investors."


TRANSCRIPT: Bain Capital is an investment partnership which was formed to invest in startup companies and ongoing companies, then to take an active hand in managing them and hopefully, five to eight years later, to harvest them at a significant profit…


GOP Senator Blocks Bill to Increase Benefits for Veterans

Thursday, 27 September 2012

Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), Chairman of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, has announced that an anonymous GOP Senator has blocked a bill to provide veterans and their spouses with a Cost of Living increase in the benefits they receive.

You read that right. What has been since time out of mind a thoroughly non-partisan and non-controversial annual act has been anonymously blocked by some Senate Republican for reasons passing understanding. This bill affects 3.9 million veterans and their families, and the cowardly ball of filth who did this has not come forward.

"This is stunning" said Senator Murray. "Particularly because we still don't have any indication why someone would block a cost-of-living adjustment for veterans and their surviving spouses, many of whom are struggling to make ends meet. This adjustment for our disabled veterans is hard earned and well deserved."

Paul Sullivan, a Gulf War veteran and Director of Veterans Outreach for Bergmann & Moore, LLC, a law firm concentrating on VA disability law, said, "This secret hold is unconscionable: it will take up to $500 next year out of the wallets of disabled veterans and their families: money they need to pay their rent and put food on the
table for their children."

Severe hunger increases breast cancer risk in war survivors

Public release date: 26-Sep-2012
Contact: Annette Whibley

Jewish women who were severely exposed to hunger during World War Two were five times more likely to develop breast cancer than women who were mildly exposed, according to research in the October issue of IJCP, the International Journal of Clinical Practice.

The study also found that women who were up to seven-years-old during that period had a three times higher risk of developing breast cancer than women who were aged 14 years or over.


Voluntary Mind Control

Seen on Facebook:

They don't have to break down our doors to install mind control devices in our homes ... We buy them on our own!

Editorial Page Editors: WSJ Lack Of Romney Advisers Disclosure "Inexcusable" And "Shameless"

It might have gotten worse since it was bought by Rupert Murdoch.

JOE STRUPP Sept. 27, 2012

The Wall Street Journal's failure to disclose that 10 of its op-ed writers are Mitt Romney advisers has drawn criticism from veteran editorial page editors at some of the nation's top newspapers.

In a total of 23 pieces, the op-ed writers attacked President Obama or praised Romney without the paper acknowledging their Romney connections.

Media Matters reached out to several veteran opinion editors who either criticized the Journal directly or noted that their papers handle such disclosures more openly.

"Not disclosing is inexcusable," declared Stephen Henderson, editorial page editor of the Detroit Free Press since 2009. "If you don't know, that is one thing, but if you are hiding it or purposely not disclosing it I am not sure what the rationale would be. We are pretty careful here to disclose any affiliation. There are times we have declined pieces because someone is too close to it. I am pretty shocked by that."

He added that it's the newspaper's responsibility to discover and report conflicts: "The Journal is publishing this stuff, so the responsibility falls on them. I expect my op ed editor to ask anyone who is writing about a campaign or a ballot issue, 'are you involved with the campaign? Are you being paid by someone to write this?' That is our job."

Nicholas Goldberg, Los Angeles Times editorial page editor since 2009, said that providing transparency for the relationships of op-ed writers is "absolutely essential."


This is not the first time the Journal's editorial page has come under fire for lack of transparency. Several of the editorial page editors who spoke with Media Matters had previously criticized the Journal for failing to disclose that weekly columnist Karl Rove is the co-founder of a super PAC, American Crossroads, which raises funds to oppose Democrats. The Journal apparently changed that practice, disclosing Rove's super PAC connection in his latest column published Thursday.

The initial review found the Journal published 20 pieces from the following Romney advisers without disclosing their campaign ties: John Bolton; Max Boot; Lee A. Casey; Paula Dobriansky; Mary Ann Glendon; Glenn Hubbard; Paul E. Peterson; David B. Rivkin Jr.; and Martin West. In several instances, the Journal failed to disclose an op-ed writer's connection despite its own news section reporting that the writer is advising Romney.


Nonetheless, on September 25, the Journal posted an op-ed by Bush administration Attorney General Michael Mukasey that attacked Obama without acknowledging Mukasey's role as a Romney adviser. Further review turned up two additional op-eds in which Mukasey criticized the Obama administration without the paper noting his role with the campaign.



Another great song by Hiro Sasayama
video by Joe Martin

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Search for element 113 concluded at last

Public release date: 26-Sep-2012
Contact: RIKEN Global Relations Office

After many years of painstaking work, Japanese researchers prove third time's a charm

The most unambiguous data to date on the elusive 113th atomic element has been obtained by researchers at the RIKEN Nishina Center for Accelerator-based Science (RNC). A chain of six consecutive alpha decays, produced in experiments at the RIKEN Radioisotope Beam Factory (RIBF), conclusively identifies the element through connections to well-known daughter nuclides. The groundbreaking result, reported in the Journal of Physical Society of Japan, sets the stage for Japan to claim naming rights for the element.

The search for superheavy elements is a difficult and painstaking process. Such elements do not occur in nature and must be produced through experiments involving nuclear reactors or particle accelerators, via processes of nuclear fusion or neutron absorption. Since the first such element was discovered in 1940, the United States, Russia and Germany have competed to synthesize more of them. Elements 93 to 103 were discovered by the Americans, elements 104 to 106 by the Russians and the Americans, elements 107 to 112 by the Germans, and the two most recently named elements, 114 and 116, by cooperative work of the Russians and Americans.


WSU study finds dioxin causes disease and reproductive problems across generations

Public release date: 26-Sep-2012
Contact: Michael Skinner
Washington State University

Effects could extend to 'great-grandchildren'

PULLMAN, Wash.—Since the 1960s, when the defoliant Agent Orange was widely used in Vietnam, military, industry and environmental groups have debated the toxicity of its main ingredient, the chemical dioxin, and how it should be regulated.

But even if all the dioxin were eliminated from the planet, Washington State University researchers say its legacy will live on in the way it turns genes on and off in the descendants of people exposed over the past half century.

Writing in the journal PLoS ONE, biologist Michael Skinner and members of his lab say dioxin administered to pregnant rats resulted in a variety of reproductive problems and disease in subsequent generations. The first generation of rats had prostate disease, polycystic ovarian disease and fewer ovarian follicles, the structures that contain eggs. To the surprise of Skinner and his colleagues, the third generation had even more dramatic incidences of ovarian disease and, in males, kidney disease.

"Therefore, it is not just the individuals exposed, but potentially the great-grandchildren that may experience increased adult-onset disease susceptibility," says Skinner.

Skinner is a professor of reproductive biology and environmental epigenetics - the process in which environmental factors affect how genes are turned on and off in the offspring of an exposed animal, even though its DNA sequences remain unchanged. In this year alone, Skinner and colleagues have published studies finding epigenetic diseases promoted by jet fuel and other hydrocarbon mixtures, plastics, pesticides and fungicides, as well as dioxin.

The field of epigenetics opens new ground in the study of how diseases and reproductive problems develop. While toxicologists generally focus on animals exposed to a compound, work in Skinner's lab further demonstrates that diseases can also stem from older, ancestral exposures that are then mediated through epigenetic changes in sperm.

Buddhist statue, discovered by Nazi expedition, is made of meteorite, new study reveals

Public release date: 26-Sep-2012
Contact: Ben Norman

Priceless thousand year old statue is first carving of a human in a meteorite

It sounds like an artifact from an Indiana Jones film; a 1,000 year-old ancient Buddhist statue which was first recovered by a Nazi expedition in 1938 has been analysed by scientists and has been found to be carved from a meteorite. The findings, published in Meteoritics and Planetary Science, reveal the priceless statue to be a rare ataxite class of meteorite.

The statue, known as the Iron Man, weighs 10kg and is believed to represent a stylistic hybrid between the Buddhist and pre-Buddhist Bon culture that portrays the god Vaisravana, the Buddhist King of the North, also known as Jambhala in Tibet.

The statue was discovered in 1938 by an expedition of German scientists led by renowned zoologist Ernst Schäfer. The expedition was supported by Nazi SS Chief Heinrich Himmler and the entire expeditionary team were believed to have been SS members.


100 Million Could Die Due To Climate Change By 2030

By Igor Volsky on Sep 26, 2012 at 12:15 pm

100 million people could die as a result of climate change by 2030, a new report from DARA, a nonprofit institute based in Spain, concludes. Climate change already contributes to “400,000 deaths on average each year,” mainly due to “hunger and communicable diseases that affect above all children in developing countries,” while “an estimated 4.5 million deaths each year [are] linked to air pollution, hazardous occupations and cancer.”

These numbers will increase substantially by the end of the next decade, with “developing countries and above all the world’s poorest groups” seeing the greatest impacts. As the graphic below demonstrates, the low-emission country group “experiences approximately 40 percent of all its economic losses, and over 80 percent of all climate change-related mortality”:


Climate-fueled extreme weather is already taking an economic toll on the United States. 220 people have died so far this year from weather-related events, and the expected cost ranges upward of $55 billion.

After Warmest 12-Months On Record, U.S. Poised To See Warmest Year Ever In 2012

By Joe Romm on Sep 26, 2012

NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center reports today that this January to August is the warmest year-to-date on record for the contiguous United States. As Climate Central shows in this chart, the U.S. will easily beat the previous record warm year, 1998 — unless the rest of the year is unusually cold:


Finally, January through December is a somewhat arbitrary demarcation. We already blew past the record for warmest 12-months period in August, as NCDC shows in this chart:


And for those who actually care about future generations, there is every reason to believe that the Earth would just keep getting hotter and hotter:

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.”

Dancers Are Genetically Different Than The Rest Of Us

February 1st 2006

What makes dancers different than the rest of us? Genetic variants, says a researcher at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

In a study published in PLoS Genetics, Prof. Richard P. Ebstein of the Department of Psychology and his research associates have shown, through DNA examination, that dancers show consistent differences in two key genes from the general population. Ebstein is the head of the Scheinfeld Center for Human Genetics in the Social Sciences in the Department of Psychology.

This finding is not surprising, says Ebstein, in view of other studies of musicians and athletes, which also have shown genetic differences.

Ebstein and his colleagues found in an examination of 85 dancers and advanced dancing students in Israel variants of two genes that provide the code for the serotonin transporter and arginine vasopressin receptor 1a.


The dancer “type,” says Ebstein, clearly demonstrates qualities that are not necessarily lacking but are not expressed as strongly in other people: a heightened sense of communication, often of a symbolic and ceremonial nature, and a strong spiritual personality trait.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

96 Percent Of People Have Received Some Government Assistance

And most of those young adults went to public schools, supported by tax dollars.

By Annie-Rose Strasser posted from ThinkProgress Economy on Sep 25, 2012

Mitt Romney got himself in trouble when he wrote off 47 percent of Americans who “are dependent upon government.” But he also got his math wrong.

It turns out that 96 percent of Americans have used government assistance at one point or another in their lives, ranging from Social Security to grant programs. In a New York Times op-ed Monday, Professors Suzanne Mettler and John Sides point out that a vast majority of Americans have some tie to the government and that, in 2008, 96 percent of people used government help. The data comes from a 2008 Cornell study of 21 social programs:

The survey asked about people’s policy usage throughout their lives, not just at a moment in time, and it included questions about social policies embedded in the tax code, which are usually overlooked.

What the data reveal is striking: nearly all Americans — 96 percent — have relied on the federal government to assist them. Young adults, who are not yet eligible for many policies, account for most of the remaining 4 percent.

On average, people reported that they had used five social policies at some point in their lives. An individual typically had received two direct social benefits in the form of checks, goods or services paid for by government, like Social Security or unemployment insurance.

As Sides and Mettler are quick to point out, the survey does not include “government activity that benefits everyone — national defense, the interstate highway system, food safety regulations — but only tangible benefits.”


Belief w/o reason

"Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities." - Voltaire

Government freeloaders nobody mentions

It's safe to assume that many people who vote Republican are in the families where the parents donate most of their money to their children so they can get the state to pay for their nursing home care, rather than pay for it themselves.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Eunuchs Outlive Other Men

Since women outlive men (when they have contraceptives available), I wondered if this might be true for Eunuchs.

ScienceDaily (Sep. 24, 2012) — Castrated men living in Korea centuries ago outlived other men by a significant margin. The findings, reported in the September 25 issue of Current Biology, a Cell Press publication, suggest that male sex hormones are responsible for shortening the lives of men, the researchers say.


People in those days kept careful genealogy records as proof that they were of the noble class. By poring over those records, Min and colleague Cheol-Koo Lee of Korea University found that eunuchs lived 14 to 19 years longer than other men did. Amongst the 81 eunuchs they studied, three lived to the ripe old age of 100 or more, a feat of longevity that remains relatively rare even in developed countries today.


Primate Study Adds to Evidence of BPA Harming Human Reproduction

ScienceDaily (Sep. 24, 2012) — A Washington State University researcher has found new evidence that the plastic additive BPA can disrupt women's reproductive systems, causing chromosome damage, miscarriages and birth defects.

Writing in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, WSU geneticist Patricia Hunt and colleagues at WSU and the University of California, Davis, report seeing reproductive abnormalities in rhesus monkeys with BPA levels similar to those of humans. By using an animal with the most human-like reproductive system, the research bolsters earlier work by Hunt and others documenting widespread reproductive effects in rodents.

"The concern is exposure to this chemical that we're all exposed to could increase the risk of miscarriages and the risk of babies born with birth defects like Down Syndrome," says Hunt. "The really stunning thing about the effect is we're dosing grandma, it's crossing the placenta and hitting her developing fetus, and if that fetus is a female, it's changing the likelihood that that female is going to ovulate normal eggs. It's a three-for-one hit."

The research also adds to the number of organs affected by BPA, or bisphenol A, which is found in plastic bottles, the linings of aluminum cans and heat-activated cash register receipts. This May, Hunt was part of another paper in PNAS reporting that the additive altered mammary development in the primate, increasing the risk of cancer.


In monkeys exposed continuously, Hunt saw further complications in the third trimester as fetal eggs were not packaged appropriately in follicles, structures in which they develop. Eggs need to be packaged properly to grow, develop and mature.

"That's not good," says Hunt, "because it looks to us like you're just throwing away a huge number of the eggs that a female would have. It raises concerns about whether or not she's going to have a really short reproductive lifespan."

Millionaire Mitt: It’s ‘Fair’ For Me To Pay Lower Taxes Than Middle Class Americans

By Igor Volsky on Sep 24, 2012 at 10:03 am

Mitt Romney told CBS’s 60 Minutes that it’s “fair” for him to pay a tax rate of just 14.1 percent on his investment income of $20 million, a lower rate than someone earning $50,000 a year in wage income:


There is little economic evidence to support Romney’s argument that higher capital gains and dividend rates will discourage investment. As Paul Krugman has pointed out, the current very low rate of 15 percent, wasn’t enacted until 2003. Between 1986 and 1997 “long-term capital gains were taxed at close to 30 percent” and under President Clinton, the rate sat at 20 percent, while dividends were treated as regular income. “I have worked with investors for 60 years and I have yet to see anyone — not even when capital gains rates were 39.9 percent in 1976-77 — shy away from a sensible investment because of the tax rate on the potential gain,” Warren Buffet explains.

Indeed, investors continued to invest, despite the higher rates, and throughout the Clinton period, the nation actually saw stronger investment.

Corporations’ Argument For Skyrocketing CEO Pay Proves False

By Rebecca Leber posted from ThinkProgress Economy on Sep 24, 2012

CEO pay has increased 725 percent over three decades, while worker pay has essentially remained flat. Corporations argue that the excessive compensation is necessary to retain top talent, but a new study blows a hole in this highly-improbable theory:

It is increasingly apparent that the pay awarded to chief executives is becoming profoundly detached from not just the pay of the average worker, but also from the companies they run.


Company boards rely on a practice where they use loosely defined “peer groups” of supposedly similar companies to set the CEO’s compensation. In reality, few CEOs leave one company for another: Of 1,800 CEO successions between 1993-2005, less than 2 percent had held the position at a competing firm. Their skills, highly specific to the company, are not easily transferrable.

Another issue is the “peer groups” companies use is so loosely defined that it includes firms that are much larger or aren’t in the same industry, much less rivals. In other words, the CEO of IBM is unlikely to jump to AT&T, Ford or Pfizer, even though those companies’ CEOs are included in IBM’s peer group.

A recent example may include Best Buy, which offered its new CEO a three-year compensation package of $32 million, after laying off 2,400 employees this summer. A company spokeswoman defended CEO Hubert Joly’s pay as “in-line with best practice for Fortune 50 companies,” and “is squarely in the mid-range for a CEO of a company the size of Best Buy.”

“It’s a false paradox,,” study co-author Elson told the New York Times. “The peer group is based on the theory of transferability of talent. But we found that C.E.O. skills are very firm-specific. C.E.O.’s don’t move very often, but when they do, they’re flops.”

Cat internet?

Seen on Facebook:

What if cats have their own internet,
and it's full of pictures of us?

Romney in Final Push to Alienate Remaining Voters

Click on the link below to read the whole hilarious article. Note for the humor and irony impaired - Andy Borowitz is a humorist :-D

September 24, 2012
Posted by Andy Borowitz

(The Borowitz Report)—With just forty-three days to go until the election, Mitt Romney is in a race against time to offend the few voters he has not already alienated, his campaign manager said today.

“So far, Mitt’s efforts to make voters dislike him have gone exactly as planned,” said the campaign manager Matt Rhoades. “But let’s not kid ourselves—we’ve still got a few supporters out there and we’ve got to find ways to piss them off.”


Romney wants plane windows that open!

Just the thing we need in airplanes - windows that open!

By Seema Mehta September 23, 2012

Romney’s wife, Ann, was in attendance, and the candidate spoke of the concern he had for her when her plane had to make an emergency landing Friday en route to Santa Monica because of an electrical malfunction.

“I appreciate the fact that she is on the ground, safe and sound. And I don’t think she knows just how worried some of us were,” Romney said. “When you have a fire in an aircraft, there’s no place to go, exactly, there’s no — and you can’t find any oxygen from outside the aircraft to get in the aircraft, because the windows don’t open. I don’t know why they don’t do that. It’s a real problem. So it’s very dangerous. And she was choking and rubbing her eyes. Fortunately, there was enough oxygen for the pilot and copilot to make a safe landing in Denver."

Briggs and Stratton to temporarily close plant in Georgia due to drought

September 19, 2012,

Briggs and Stratton (NYSE: BGG) will temporarily close its plant in McDonough, Ga., to help reduce inventory of lawn and garden products produced at the facility, according to a statement released by the company.

The demand for lawn and garden equipment is down as a result of the ongoing drought that has affected a large portion of the United States since May 2012, the company said.

Production will be suspended from Oct. 29 to Nov. 25, 2012. Shipments of products and service parts to customers will continue during that time, the company said.

Approximately 340 hourly employees and 200 temporary employees will be temporarily laid off during this plant shutdown, the company said.


House Passes Sweeping Anti-Environmental Bill As Final Business Before Elections

Well, it would increase jobs for doctors, funeral directors, insurance adjusters, contractors (to replace homes and buildings damaged by storms and floods), people who repair roads and electric lines,...

Jennifer Bendery
Posted: 09/21/2012 12:37 pm EDT Updated: 09/24/2012 3:49 pm EDT

House lawmakers skipped out of town on Friday until after the November elections, but not before pushing through a sweeping anti-environmental package that has no chance of becoming law.

Republican leaders teed up the Stop The War On Coal Act, H.R. 3409, as their last vote before lawmakers hit the campaign trail full time. It passed 233 to 175, with 19 Democrats joining nearly all House Republicans in voting for it.

Despite its title, the bill isn't just about the coal industry: it repackages four previously passed House GOP bills, plus adds in another one, aimed at blocking carbon pollution standards. Specifically, the package would eliminate the Environmental Protection Agency's clean car standards, nullify the EPA's mercury and air toxic standards, weaken the Clean Water Act and block efforts to reduce damage from coal mining.

The bill already has a White House veto threat on it, and there's no chance it would move in the Senate, but Republicans went ahead and passed it anyway. They argued that their package would spur job growth -- the number one message for everyone ahead of the elections -- by removing regulations on the coal industry and on energy development in general.


The reality, though, is that the bills rolled into the package would have next to no effect on job creation. In fact, rather than increasing employment, the package increases the likelihood of fatalities.

"The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that emissions reductions resulting from meeting these standards will prevent as many as 11,000 avoidable premature deaths and 4,700 heart attacks annually," reads a Statement of Administration Policy, issued Thursday by the Office of Management and Budget.

Democrats dubbed the measure "the single worst anti-environmental bill" taken up by the House and wondered aloud why Congress isn't working past Friday to make progress on bills in need of attention, namely the budget, the farm bill and the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act.


The House won't be back in session until Nov. 13. Friday's departure marks one of the earliest dates that Congress has adjourned before Election Day since 1960.

Suicide is now the leading cause of injury-related death in America

And I notice that since extended unemployment benefits ended, there seem to be more reports of people going on shooting rampages, which saddens but doesn't surprise me.

September 23, 2012 3:39 PM
Suicide is now the leading cause of injury-related death in America, and the economy may be to blame

An extremely disturbing new study published in the American Journal of Public Health finds that suicides have replaced car accidents as the leading cause of injury-related death in the U.S. This is partly because deaths from automobile accidents are down — that’s the good news.

But the truly catastrophic news is that the suicide rate has increased dramatically: between 2000 and 2009, according to data from the U.S. National Center for Health Statistics, deaths by suicide went up by 15%, and deaths from poisoning increased by a whopping 128%. Moreover, researchers say that many of the poisoning deaths, which are labeled as “accidental,” may actually be intentional. According to the study’s author, Professor Ian Rockett, an epidemiologist at West Virginia University, “Suicides are terribly undercounted; I think the problem is much worse than official data would lead us to believe.” He added “there may be 20 percent or more unrecognized suicides.”


But there is strong evidence elsewhere that our disastrous economy may be playing a significant role. Last year, a report by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention found that “[s]uicide rates in the U.S. tend to rise during recessions and fall amid economic booms.”


And in the midst of this stunning evidence of overwhelming human devastation and tragedy, we have a major party candidate for president who seems to believe that America’s biggest problem is that too many poor people don’t pay enough income taxes. It chills my blood just thinking about it.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Yet another study confirming gender bias in the sciences

September 23, 2012 11:09 AM
Yet another study confirming gender bias in the sciences — take that, Larry Summers!

Inside Higher Education reports about a disturbing new study that suggests strong gender bias in the hard sciences. It’s the first study that I’m aware of that looks directly at faculty bias as a factor in women’s underrepresentation in the sciences.

Here’s the study’s methodology: a group of researchers from Yale submitted applications for a lab manager position to faculty members in the biology, chemistry, and physics departments at a number of research universities. The application materials were identical, except that half were assigned a female name, and the other half assigned a male name. Science faculty were asked to evaluate the applicants’ competence, hireability, and mentoring potential (how deserving they were of mentoring), and also to recommend a starting salary.

The results were dismaying, to say the least: the researcher report that

Faculty participants rated the male applicant as significantly more competent and hireable than the (identical) female applicant. These participants also selected a higher starting salary and offered more career mentoring to the male applicant

Surprisingly, there were no significant differences in the male and female scientists’ evaluations of the applicants. Women scientists were just as likely as their male counterparts to show bias against the female applicants, and indeed, there was a larger gender gap in the salaries the women scientists recommended than the ones the men recommended. Also alarming is the fact that bias against female applicants was independent of the evaluators’ age, with younger scientists as likely to be biased against women as the older ones. Faculty members’ tenure status and academic discipline didn’t seem to make a difference, either. A separate assessment suggested that the faculty members harbored pre-existing biases against women, albeit largely unconscious ones.


Republican Obstructionism

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Ode to Fall

A variant of my poem/song "Ode to Spring"
copyright 1996 Patricia M. Shannon

Fall is here
flowers appear.
Their pollen flows,
so does my nose,
oh, hear it blow;
how it does glow!

Arctic Sea Ice: What, Why, and What Next

By Ramez Naam | September 21, 2012

On September 19th, NSIDC, the National Snow and Ice Data Center, announced that Arctic sea ice has shrunk as far as it will shrink this summer, and that the ice is beginning to reform, expanding the floating ice cap that covers the North Pole and the seas around it. The Arctic Sea Ice extent this September was far smaller than the previous record set in 2007. At 3.4 million square kilometers of ice coverage, this year’s Arctic minimum was 800,000 square kilometers smaller than the 2007 record. That difference between the previous record and this year’s is larger than the entire state of Texas. An ice-free summer in the Arctic, once projected to be more than a century away, now looks possible decades from now. Some say that it looks likely in just the next few years.

What’s happening in the Arctic? Why is it happening? And does it matter for the bulk of us who live thousands of miles away from it?


When scientists and reporters talk about an ice-free Arctic, they’re usually speaking of the Arctic in summer, and especially in September, when ice coverage reaches its minimum.


As recently as a few years ago, most models of the Arctic ice anticipated that summers would remain icy until the end of the 21st century, and well into the 22nd century. But the trend line above makes that look unlikely. The amount of ice remaining, this year, is about the same as the ice lost between the mid-1990s and today. If ice loss continued at that pace, we’d see an ice free summer sometime around 2030, give or take several years.


On the other end of the spectrum are those who think the melt could happen much sooner. Peter Wadhams, who leads the Polar Ocean Physics Group at the University of Cambridge, has predicted since 2008 that the Arctic ice could be gone in summer by 2015. He now believes there’s a chance that it could happen even sooner.


In 2011, a team led by Chilean scientist Christophe Kinnard published a paper in Nature that used data from 69 sites around the Arctic to reconstruct the extent of the ice over the last 1450 years – all the way back to the 6th century AD. What they found was that late summer ice coverage over that entire fourteen and a half century period stayed between 9 million and 11 million square kilometers, a little higher than it was before satellite observation started in 1979, or roughly three times the minimum that we hit this September.

Kinnard was kind enough to send me the team’s underlying data. Combining it with satellite based observations from 1979 onward, the last few decades pop out. Ice coverage fluctuates for centuries, but stays in a narrow band, until suddenly, in the last few decades, the amount of ice left in late summer plunges.


All the sea ice loss, including that before satellite observation occurred, has happened since the start of the industrial revolution, and the beginning of human emissions of CO2 and other greenhouse gases on a massive scale.

In this context, random variations look rather small. In fact, there are at least three distinctly non-random factors leading to the disintegration of the ice.

1. A Warming Planet. .....

2. Positive Feedback. .....

3. Thin Ice. .....


When we look at volume instead of area, we don’t see that half of all the ice has disappeared since 1980. Instead, we see that almost 80% of the September ice has disappeared in that time. And most of that loss has been in the last 12 years. 70% of the ice volume we saw in 2000 has disappeared. Less than one third of that ice volume – from just 12 years ago – is what we see today.

If the Arctic sea ice loses volume at the same rate that it has over the last 12 years, then the first ice-free Arctic day in September could happen in the next 5 years. If the rate of ice volume loss continues to accelerate, as it has been, then that day could be even sooner. Ice volume tells a story much more like that of Peter Wadhams, the leader of the Polar Ocean Physics Group at Cambridge, who for years has been predicting an ice free Arctic September as early as 2015.


The Good News

So is this the end of the world? Or is it just an interesting but ultimately unimportant phenomenon we get to observe? Could it even be an opportunity?

First, some good news. The melting Arctic ice will not cause sea levels to rise to any noticeable degree. The Statue of Liberty isn’t about to be reduced to a head and single upraised arm, forlornly holding her torch just above water. The Arctic ice cap is sea ice. It floats already.


More good news, or at least the absence of terrible news: The melting Arctic ice is unlikely to suddenly stop the “deep ocean conveyor”, the current that brings warm water to Europe and keeps the continent – much of which is at the same latitude as Canada – fairly warm and temperate. While the deep ocean conveyor belt, also known as the thermohaline circulation, does appear to be slowing a bit, calculations show that the amount of fresh water needed to stop it is far greater than the amount of water currently trapped in Arctic ice.


The Bad News

1. More Extreme Weather .....

2. Accelerated Warming .....

3. The Arctic Methane Bomb .....


“Hope for the best,” goes the English proverb, “but prepare for the worst.”

Let’s hope the Arctic sea ice stabilizes, or reverses course. But let’s not count on it. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Every step we take to cut greenhouse gas emissions today is far easier than fighting the triple whammy we could be facing just a few years in the future.

Record Ocean Temperatures Recorded Off New England Coast

Sept. 22, 2012
by Bob Berwyn, via Summit County Citizens Voice

Federal ocean scientists said this year’s sea surface temperatures along the northeast coast of the U.S. set all-time records, with as-yet unknown consequences for marine ecosystems.

Above-average temperatures were found in all parts of the ecosystem, from the ocean bottom to the sea surface and across the region, and the above average temperatures extended beyond the shelf break front to the Gulf Stream, according to an ecosystem advisory issued by NOAA’s Northeast Fisheries Science Center.

The warm waters led to the earliest, most intense and longest-lasting plankton bloom on record, with implications for marine life, from the smallest creatures to the largest marine mammals like whales. Atlantic cod continued to shift northeastward from its historic distribution center.

“A pronounced warming event occurred on the Northeast Shelf this spring, and this will have a profound impact throughout the ecosystem,” said Kevin Friedland, a scientist in the NEFSC’s Ecosystem Assessment Program. “Changes in ocean temperatures and the timing of the spring plankton bloom could affect the biological clocks of many marine species, which spawn at specific times of the year based on environmental cues like water temperature.”


This year’s record-high ocean temperatures are a spike in a long-term trend that is push many commercial fish farther north and east in a response to ecosystem warming.


Medicare cost increases under Romney-Ryan plan

Friday, September 21, 2012

Republican New Mexico Gov. Requires Women Seeking Childcare Assistance To Prove They Were ‘Forcibly Raped’

After Rep. Todd Akin (R-MO) asserted his belief that “legitimate rape” doesn’t often lead to pregnancy, Republican lawmakers were quick to attempt to configure his radical stance on women’s health as an outlier in their party. However, increasing numbers of GOP politicians’ language about the nature of sexual assault actually echoes Akin’s — including New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez (R), whose state’s policies use language that effectively narrows the definition of rape.

Not only did Martinez refer to “forcible rape” in an announcement instating April as New Mexico’s Sexual Assault Awareness Month — as if some kinds of sexual assault need to be qualified as more or less “legitimate” than others — but, as RH Reality Check reports, the term also appears in the state’s proposed changes to its official applications for childcare assistance. If the proposed changes take effect, women in New Mexico will be required to prove that their sexual assault qualified as “forcible rape” if they are seeking childcare assistance for a child that resulted from rape:

If adopted, this policy will have numerous implications. It establishes in state law a narrow definition of rape that can and will be applied in other areas of law and policy. It puts a heavy burden on women who have been raped and are now struggling economically to support a child or children to prove the manner in which they were raped and to meet a test set up by the state to exclude many women in need of childcare assistance who would otherwise qualify.

It would force women who have left violent domestic partnerships, who were date-raped, who were impregnated as a result of incest, or through other “non-forcible” but nonetheless equally violent and denigrating means of sexual violation to first re-engage with their abusers to seek child support, putting control of their lives back into the hands of someone by whom they were violated in the most profound sense of the term.



RH Reality Check has received confirmation from New Mexico’s Children, Youth, and Families Department that Martinez has requested the removal of the “forcible rape” language from the state’s childcare assistance applications. A statement from department explained, “The Governor feels the language is redundant and unnecessary, and she does not support its usage.”

Every State Taxes Its 1 Percent At A Lower Rate Than Low-Income Households

By Pat Garofalo posted from ThinkProgress Economy on Sep 21, 2012

As ThinkProgress has noted, the “47 percent” that Mitt Romney derided for paying no federal income tax, and thus taking no “personal responsibility and care for their lives,” actually pay a slew of other taxes at rates higher than Romney himself pays. The lion’s share of the tax breaks handed out by the U.S. don’t go to low-income households or the middle class, but to the rich.

And according to a new report from the Institute for Taxation and Economic Policy, things are even worse at the state and local level level. In fact, all 50 states impose higher tax rates on low-income households than their richest 1 percent, when state and local taxes are taken into account:

The fact is that nearly every state and local tax system takes a much greater share of income from middle- and low-income families than from the wealthy. This “tax the poor” strategy is problematic because hiking taxes on low-income families pushes them further into poverty and increases the likelihood that they will need to rely on safety net programs. From a state budgeting perspective, this “soak the poor” strategy also doesn’t yield much revenue compared to modest taxes on the rich. It’s no wonder that so many states with regressive tax structures are facing long-term structural budget deficits. They‘re continually imposing higher taxes on people without much money.


In the entire U.S., only the District of Columbia charges the richest 1 percent a higher tax rate than the poorest 20 percent, according to the report.

Greenland’s ‘Ice Quakes’ May Set a Record

September 21, 2012, 2:24 pm3 Comments

One of the more amazing facts about the ongoing destruction of the Greenland ice sheet is that it is producing earthquakes that can be detected worldwide. Now, fresh evidence is at hand to show that these “ice quakes” are spreading to previously quiescent parts of Greenland. We’re only in September, but it seems increasingly likely that 2012 will set a record for such quakes.


While the analysis in the paper stops in 2010, Dr. Nettles is keeping count, and she sent me the plot above, showing that for all of Greenland, 2011 had the second-highest number of glacial earthquakes, after the record year of 2005. And, as is obvious from the graph, it now seems quite likely that 2012 will surpass the 2005 record.

Coupled with recent news about the loss of Arctic sea ice and the possible long-term effect that will have on the Greenland ice sheet, this paper is a sobering reminder that all is not well in the Arctic region.

'Alarming': Life span drops sharply for least-educated whites

link to article

updated 9/21/2012

For generations of Americans, it was a given that children would live longer than their parents. But there is now mounting evidence that this enduring trend has reversed itself for the country’s least-educated whites, an increasingly troubled group whose life expectancy has fallen by four years since 1990.

Researchers have long documented that the most educated Americans were making the biggest gains in life expectancy, but now they say mortality data show that life spans for some of the least educated Americans are actually contracting. Four studies in recent years identified modest declines, but a new one that looks separately at Americans lacking a high school diploma found disturbingly sharp drops in life expectancy for whites in this group. Experts not involved in the new research said its findings were persuasive.


The dropping life expectancies have helped weigh down the United States in international life expectancy rankings, particularly for women. In 2010, American women fell to 41st place, down from 14th place in 1985, in the United Nations rankings. Among developed countries, American women sank from the middle of the pack in 1970 to last place in 2010, according to the Human Mortality Database.


Ms. Montez, who studies women’s health, said that smoking was a big part of declines in life expectancy for less educated women. Smoking rates have increased among women without a high school diploma, both white and black, she said. But for men of the same education level, they have declined.

This group also has less access to health care than before. The share of working-age adults with less than a high school diploma who did not have health insurance rose to 43 percent in 2006, up from 35 percent in 1993, according to Mr. Jemal at the American Cancer Society. Just 10 percent of those with a college degree were uninsured last year, the Census Bureau reported.

The shift should be seen against the backdrop of sweeping changes in the American economy and in women’s lives, said Lisa Berkman, director of the Harvard Center for Population and Development Studies. The overwhelming majority of women now work, while fertility has remained higher than in European countries. For women in low-wage jobs, which are often less flexible, this could take a toll on health, a topic that Professor Berkman has a grant from the National Institute on Aging to study.

In Britain and the US, Economic Mysticism Endures

Friday, 21 September 2012 09:23 By Paul Krugman, Krugman & Co.

In a lot of ways George Osborne, the chancellor of the Exchequer (or finance minister) is Britain's answer to Paul Ryan, the Republican nominee for vice president.


Mr. Osborne's big idea in 2010 was that Britain should turn to fiscal austerity now now now, even though the economy remained deeply depressed; it would all work out, he insisted, because the confidence fairy would come to the rescue.

Never mind those whining Keynesians who said that premature austerity would send Britain into a double-dip recession.

Strange to say, Britain's recovery stalled soon after Prime Minister David Cameron and Mr. Osborne began their new policies, and the country is now in a double-dip recession.


[See the link above for a chart showing real GDP in Britain vs. US.]

Genetics of eye color

July 2, 2004

These are excellent questions. People are often very confused by eye color genetics because reality seems to fly in the face of the simple genetics we are taught in school.

First, the answer is yes to both questions: two blue-eyed parents can produce green or brown-eyed children. Eye color is not the simple decision between the brown (or green) and blue versions of a single gene. There are many genes involved and eye color ranges from brown to hazel to green to blue to.

How does eye color work? Eye color comes from a combination of two black and yellow pigments called melanin in the iris of your eye. If you have no melanin in the front part of your iris, you have blue eyes. An increasing proportion of the yellow melanin, in combination with the black melanin, results in shades of colors between brown and blue, including green and hazel.

What we are taught in high school biology is generally true, brown eye genes are dominant over green eye genes which are both dominant over blue eye genes. However, because many genes are required to make each of the yellow and black pigments, there is a way called genetic compensation to get brown or green eyes from blue-eyed parents.

The best way to illustrate how this might happen is with an example. Let's say there is a genetic pathway made up of four genes (cleverly named A, B, C, and D) that are needed to make brown eyes. A mutation in both copies of any one of these genes results in blue eyes (these mutations are denoted with lower case letters, a, b, c, and d).

Now let's say that dad has blue eyes because of a mutation in both his copies of gene A and mom because of a mutation in both her copies of gene D. As I am sure you know, we have two copies of each gene, one from our mom and one from our dad. If either parent gives you a brown version of a gene, it will be dominant over the blue copy.

Let's suppose that mom gives you a brown copy of gene A and dad gives you a brown copy of gene D. What color eyes would you have? Brown. (The same argument works for green eyes as well.)

Another common genetic process that could be responsible for brown eyes from blue-eyed parents is called recombination. When eggs and sperm are made, only one of a pair of chromosomes gets put into an egg or sperm. Before this happens, there is a bunch of DNA swapping that goes on between the pair of chromosomes. Sometimes when the DNA is swapped or recombined, DNA mutations get fixed.


[See link above for other mechanisms that can produce unexpected eye colors.]

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Nutrient in Eggs and Meat May Influence Gene Expression from Infancy to Adulthood

ScienceDaily (Sep. 20, 2012) — Just as women are advised to get plenty of folic acid around the time of conception and throughout early pregnancy, new research suggests another very similar nutrient may one day deserve a spot on the obstetrician's list of recommendations.

Consuming greater amounts of choline -- a nutrient found in eggs and meat -- during pregnancy may lower an infant's vulnerability to stress-related illnesses, such as mental health disturbances, and chronic conditions, like hypertension, later in life.

In an early study in The FASEB Journal, nutrition scientists and obstetricians at Cornell University and the University of Rochester Medical Center found that higher-than-normal amounts of choline in the diet during pregnancy changed epigenetic markers -- modifications on our DNA that tell our genes to switch on or off, to go gangbusters or keep a low profile -- in the fetus. While epigenetic markers don't change our genes, they make a permanent imprint by dictating their fate: If a gene is not expressed -- turned on -- it's as if it didn't exist.

The finding became particularly exciting when researchers discovered that the affected markers were those that regulated the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal or HPA axis, which controls virtually all hormone activity in the body, including the production of the hormone cortisol that reflects our response to stress and regulates our metabolism, among other things.

More choline in the mother's diet led to a more stable HPA axis and consequently less cortisol in the fetus. As with many aspects of our health, stability is a very good thing: Past research has shown that early exposure to high levels of cortisol, often a result of a mother's anxiety or depression, can increase a baby's lifelong risk of stress-related and metabolic disorders.


Pressman, who advises pregnant women every day, says choline isn't something people think a lot about because it is already present in many things we eat and there is usually no concern of choline deficiency. Though much more research has focused on folate -- functionally very similar to choline and used to decrease the risk of neural tube defects like spina bifida -- a few very compelling studies sparked her interest, including animal studies on the role of choline in mitigating fetal alcohol syndrome and changing outcomes in Down syndrome.


While more research is needed, Caudill says that her message to pregnant women would be to consume a diet that includes choline rich foods such as eggs, lean meat, beans and cruciferous vegetables like broccoli. For women who limit their consumption of animal products, which are richer sources of choline than plant foods, she adds that supplemental choline may be warranted as choline is generally absent in prenatal vitamin supplements.