Thursday, January 31, 2013

More Severe Flu Seasons Predicted Due to Climate Change

Jan. 28, 2013 — The American public can expect to add earlier and more severe flu seasons to the fallout from climate change, according to a research study published online Jan. 28 in PLOS Currents: Influenza.

A team of scientists led by Sherry Towers, research professor in the Mathematical, Computational and Modeling Sciences Center at Arizona State University, studied waves of influenza and climate patterns in the U.S. from the 1997-1998 season to the present.

The team's analysis, which used Centers for Disease Control data, indicates a pattern for both A and B strains: warm winters are usually followed by heavy flu seasons.

"It appears that fewer people contract influenza during warm winters, and this causes a major portion of the population to remain vulnerable into the next season, causing an early and strong emergence," says Towers. "And when a flu season begins exceptionally early, much of the population has not had a chance to get vaccinated, potentially making that flu season even worse."


Eating Bright-Colored Fruits and Vegetables May Prevent or Delay Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis

Jan. 29, 2013 — New research suggests that increased consumption of foods containing colorful carotenoids, particularly beta-carotene and lutein, may prevent or delay the onset of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) [also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease]. The study, published by Wiley in Annals of Neurology, a journal of the American Neurological Association and Child Neurology Society, found that diets high in lycopene, beta-cryptoxanthin, and vitamin C did not reduce ALS risk.

Carotenoids give fruits and vegetables their bright orange, red, or yellow colors, and are a source of dietary vitamin A. Prior studies report that oxidative stress plays a role in the development of ALS. Further studies have shown that individuals with high intake of antioxidants, such as vitamin E, have a reduced ALS risk.


Excessive Alcohol Use When You’re Young Could Have Lasting Impacts On Your Brain

Jan. 30, 2013 — There is growing evidence for the lasting impact of alcohol on the brain. Excessive alcohol use accounts for 4% of the global burden of disease, and binge drinking particularly is becoming an increasing health issue. A new review article published in Cortex highlights the significant changes in brain function and structure that can be caused by alcohol misuse in young people.

Functional signs of brain damage from alcohol misuse in young people mainly include deficits in visual learning and memory as well as executive functions. These functions are controlled by the hippocampus and frontal structures of the brain, which are not fully mature until around 25 years of age. Structural signs of alcohol misuse in young people include shrinking of the brain and significant changes to white matter tracts.

Age of first use may be considered to trigger alcohol misuse. According to the researchers however, changing the legal drinking age is not the answer. In Australia the legal drinking age is 18, three years earlier than in the US. Despite the difference in legal drinking age, the age of first use (and associated problems) is the same between the two countries.

Instead, the authors stressed the need for early intervention, by identifying markers and thresholds of risky drinking behaviour at an early stage, while individuals are in vulnerable stages of brain development.

Academic Gains, Improved Teacher Relationships Found Among High Risk Kids in Head Start

Jan. 30, 2013 — A new study by Oregon State University researchers finds that Head Start can make a positive impact in the lives of some of its highest risk children, both academically and behaviorally.


"Children in non-parental care tend to struggle with socio-emotional development, likely due to the risk factors they experience such as transitioning between homes, special needs, and behavioral problems," she said. "Perhaps as a result of Head Start's whole-child focus and standards for teacher qualifications, their teachers may be more effective than caregivers in other types of programs in establishing positive relationships with children who have high needs."

Rude Behavior at Work Is Increasing and Affects the Bottom Line

Jan. 30, 2013 — Rudeness at work is rampant, and it's on the rise. In 2011, half of the workers surveyed by Professors Christine Porath of Georgetown University's McDonough School of Business and Christine Pearson of Thunderbird School of Global Management said they were treated rudely at least once a week -- up from a quarter in 1998. New research from Porath and Pearson shows the tangible cost of this bad behavior.

Among workers who've been on the receiving end of incivility:

• 48% intentionally decreased their work effort • 47% intentionally decreased the time spent at work • 38% intentionally decreased the quality of their work • 80% lost work time worrying about the incident • 63% lost work time avoiding the offender • 66% said that their performance declined • 78% said that their commitment to the organization declined • 12% said that they left their job because of the uncivil treatment • 25% admitted to taking their frustration out on customers

Experiments and other reports offer additional insights about the effects of incivility. Here are some examples of what can happen.

1) Creativity suffers -----

2) Performance and team spirit deteriorate -----

3) Customers turn away -----

4) Managing incidents is expensive -----

Bonobos Predisposed to Show Sensitivity to Others

Jan. 30, 2013 — Comforting a friend or relative in distress may be a more hard-wired behavior than previously thought, according to a new study of bonobos, which are great apes known for their empathy and close relation to humans and chimpanzees. This finding provides key evolutionary insight into how critical social skills may develop in humans.


"Our findings suggest that for bonobos, sensitivity to the emotions of others emerges early and does not require advanced thought processes that develop only in adults," Clay says.

Starting at around age two, human children usually display consolation behavior, a sign of sensitivity to the emotions of others and the ability to take the perspective of another. Consolation has been observed in humans, bonobos, chimpanzees and other animals, including dogs, elephants and some types of birds, but has not been seen in monkeys.


Exposure to Antiepileptic Drug in Womb Linked to Autism Risk

I had a friend with epilepsy who didn't take medication for it. She died in her sleep when she had a seizure and chocked on her own vomit. So if you are a woman of child-bearing age with epilepsy, please read the whole article at the following link, and if necessary consult with your doctor over the best medication.

Jan. 30, 2013 — Children whose mothers take the antiepileptic drug sodium valproate while pregnant are at significantly increased risk of autism and other neurodevelopmental disorders, suggests a small study published online in the Journal of Neurology Neurosurgery and Psychiatry.


those children whose mums had taken valproate singly or in combination with other drugs while pregnant were significantly more likely to have been diagnosed with a neurodevelopmental condition than were those whose mums taking other drugs to treat their condition.

When all the figures were analysed and factors likely to influence the results accounted for, the findings showed that children exposed to valproate alone in the womb were six times more likely to be diagnosed with a neurodevelopmental disorder. Those exposed to valproate plus other drugs were 10 times more likely to do so than were children whose mums did not have the condition.


The authors point out that other research has pointed to the potentially harmful effects of valproate on the developing fetus, and that the findings of the current study back other preliminary research. But further research would be needed before definitive conclusions could be reached, they caution.


"But on no account should pregnant women just stop taking the drug for fear of harming their developing child," urge the authors.

Humans to Blame for Demise of Extinct Tasmanian Tiger

Jan. 30, 2013 — Humans alone were responsible for the demise of Australia's iconic extinct native predator, the Tasmanian Tiger or thylacine, a new study led by the University of Adelaide has concluded.

Using a new population modelling approach, the study contradicts the widespread belief that disease must have been a factor in the thylacine's extinction.

The thylacine was a unique marsupial carnivore found throughout most of Tasmania before European settlement in 1803. Between 1886 and 1909, the Tasmanian government encouraged people to hunt thylacines and paid bounties on over 2000 thylacine carcasses. Only a handful of animals were located after the bounty was lifted and the last known thylacine was captured from the wild in 1933.


A Positive Family Climate in Adolescence Is Linked to Marriage Quality in Adulthood

Jan. 31, 2013 — Experiencing a positive family climate as a teenager may be connected to your relationships later in life, according to new research published in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science.

While research has demonstrated long-term effects of aggression and divorce across generations, the impact of a positive family climate has received less attention. Psychological scientist Robert Ackerman of the University of Texas at Dallas and colleagues wanted to examine whether positive interpersonal behaviors in families might also have long-lasting associations with future relationships.


Participants who showed and experienced more positive engagement in their families showed more positive engagement in their marriages 17 years later. Interestingly, their spouses also showed more positive engagement. Participants who came from families that expressed more positive engagement also expressed less hostility toward their spouses, and their spouses displayed less hostile behavior toward them.

Greater levels of positive engagement at the family level in adolescence also predicted more relationship satisfaction for both partners.


Lindsey Graham: GOP-Forced Budget Cuts Will Mean Fewer Cops, So People Need To Arm Themselves

By Josh Israel posted from ThinkProgress Justice on Jan 30, 2013

Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC), who has been among the Senate’s most vocal backers of draconian budget cuts and has opposed increasing funds to put more police officers on the streets, said Wednesday that he will oppose gun violence prevention legislation because budget cuts will mean inadequate police forces to protect the public.

Graham told Baltimore Chief of Police James Johnson and former naval Captain Mark Kelly (husband of former Rep. Gabby Giffords) that he planned to oppose the gun violence measures because people will need high-capacity magazines to compensate for the police response times these austerity measures will force:


‘Fundamentally Unfair’: How States Tax The Richest 1 Percent At Half The Rate Of The Poor

By Travis Waldron posted from ThinkProgress Economy on Jan 30, 2013

The poorest Americans are subject to a tax rate at the state and local level that is twice as high as the tax rate paid by the wealthiest earners thanks to “fundamentally unfair” state tax laws, according to a new report from the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy (ITEP). Middle-class taxpayers also pay higher effective rates than the wealthy.

When state, local, property, and sales taxes are taken into account, the poorest 20 percent of Americans pay an average effective tax rate of 11.1 percent, the report found. The middle 20 percent pays a 9.4 percent rate, while the rate for the top 1 percent is just 5.6 percent. The lack of progressive income taxes and an over-reliance on consumption taxes are the primary culprit, the report says.


In the 10 most regressive states, the poorest 20 percent pay a rate as much as six times as high as the rate for the richest 1 percent. Four of those states — Washington, Texas, Florida, and South Dakota — have no income tax; one, Tennessee, has a limited income tax that only applies to dividends and interest. In these five states, half to two-thirds of revenue comes from sales and excise taxes, well above the national average of one-third.


Still, Republicans across the country are pushing tax plans that would replace income taxes — typically the only form of progressive taxation at the state level — with sales taxes. Republicans in Nebraska, Kansas, North Carolina, and Louisiana have advanced such plans, even though their state tax systems are already regressive.

In Louisiana, worst of the four, the poorest 20 percent pay 9.2 percent of their income in sales taxes, while the wealthiest 1 percent pay just 1.3 percent. Even in North Carolina, the best of the four, the poor pay six times as much of their income in sales taxes as the richest one percent. Shifting to a tax code that relies solely on sales taxes would make these states even worse.

Hackers in China attacked New York Times for last 4 months

updated 1/31/2013 8:36:00 AM ET

For the last four months, Chinese hackers have persistently attacked The New York Times, infiltrating its computer systems and getting passwords for its reporters and other employees.

After surreptitiously tracking the intruders to study their movements and help erect better defenses to block them, The Times and computer security experts have expelled the attackers and kept them from breaking back in.

The timing of the attacks coincided with the reporting for a Times investigation, published online on Oct. 25, that found that the relatives of Wen Jiabao, China’s prime minister, had accumulated a fortune worth several billion dollars through business dealings.

Security experts hired by The Times to detect and block the computer attacks gathered digital evidence that Chinese hackers, using methods that some consultants have associated with the Chinese military in the past, breached The Times’s network. They broke into the e-mail accounts of its Shanghai bureau chief, David Barboza, who wrote the reports on Mr. Wen’s relatives, and Jim Yardley, The Times’s South Asia bureau chief in India, who previously worked as bureau chief in Beijing.

“Computer security experts found no evidence that sensitive e-mails or files from the reporting of our articles about the Wen family were accessed, downloaded or copied,” said Jill Abramson, executive editor of The Times.


The attacks appear to be part of a broader computer espionage campaign against American news media companies that have reported on Chinese leaders and corporations.

Last year, Bloomberg News was targeted by Chinese hackers, and some employees’ computers were infected, according to a person with knowledge of the company’s internal investigation, after Bloomberg published an article on June 29 about the wealth accumulated by relatives of Xi Jinping, China’s vice president at the time. Mr. Xi became general secretary of the Communist Party in November and is expected to become president in March. Ty Trippet, a spokesman for Bloomberg, confirmed that hackers had made attempts but said that “no computer systems or computers were compromised.”


While computer security experts say China is most active and persistent, it is not alone in using computer attacks for a variety of national purposes, including corporate espionage. The United States, Israel, Russia and Iran, among others, are suspected of developing and deploying cyberweapons.


After The Times learned of warnings from Chinese government officials that its investigation of the wealth of Mr. Wen’s relatives would “have consequences,” executives on Oct. 24 asked AT&T, which monitors The Times’s computer network, to watch for unusual activity.


Investigators still do not know how hackers initially broke into The Times’s systems. They suspect the hackers used a so-called spear-phishing attack, in which they send e-mails to employees that contain malicious links or attachments. All it takes is one click on the e-mail by an employee for hackers to install “remote access tools” — or RATs. Those tools can siphon off oceans of data — passwords, keystrokes, screen images, documents and, in some cases, recordings from computers’ microphones and Web cameras — and send the information back to the attackers’ Web servers.

Michael Higgins, chief security officer at The Times, said: “Attackers no longer go after our firewall. They go after individuals. They send a malicious piece of code to your e-mail account and you’re opening it and letting them in.”


Vegetarians cut heart disease risk

Jan. 31, 2013
By Maggie Fox, Senior Writer, NBC News

Vegetarians are nearly a third less likely than meat-eaters to die or be hospitalized from heart disease, British researchers report this week in another study supporting a plant-based diet.

Vegetarians have lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels, weigh less and are less likely to have diabetes, as well, the researchers report in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

The study, which covers 45,000 people over an average of 11 years from the 1990s through 2009, shows that vegetarians were 28 percent less likely to develop heart disease over that time.


The researchers said they accounted for age, smoking, drinking, exercise, educational level and socioeconomic background in making their calculations.


Legislators in Oklahoma, Colorado And Arizona Push ALEC Bill To Require Teaching Climate Change Denial In Schools

The members of ALEC are traitors to the U.S., the human race, and other life on our planet, for the sake of short-term profits. This shows the fallacy of the idea that being rich is any kind of indication of good character. These people are pure evil.

I suppose next ALEC will be pressuring state to include in textbooks material disclaiming negative health effects from mercury, lead, etc.

By Climate Guest Blogger on Jan 31, 2013
By Steve Horn Via DeSmogBlog

The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) - known by its critics as a “corporate bill mill” – has hit the ground running in 2013, pushing “models bills” mandating the teaching of climate change denial in public school systems.

January hasn’t even ended, yet ALEC has already planted its ”Environmental Literacy Improvement Act“ - which mandates a “balanced” teaching of climate science in K-12 classrooms - in the state legislatures of Oklahoma, Colorado, and Arizona so far this year.

In the past five years since 2008, among the hottest years in U.S. history, ALEC has introduced its “Environmental Literacy Improvement Act” in 11 states, or over one-fifth of the statehouses nationwide. The bill has passed in four states, an undeniable form of “big government” this “free market” organization decries in its own literature.

ALEC’s “model bills” are written by and for corporate lobbyists alongside conservative legislators at its annual meetings. ALEC raises much of its corporate funding from the fossil fuel industry, which in turn utilizes ALEC as a key - though far from the only – vehicle to ram through its legislative agenda through in the states.


Wed, 2012-03-21
Steve Horn

The month of March has seen unprecedented heat and temperatures. A rational thinking, scientifically-grounded individual could only posit, "Well, hmm, I bet climate change has something to do with the fact that in Madison, WI, it is 80 degrees in mid-March. Sometimes it's 60 or 70 degrees colder than this!"

While that individual would be positing something that is the well-accepted scientific consensus, in some states, under law, that is only a "controversial theory among other theories."

Welcome to Tennessee, which on March 19th became the fourth state with a legal mandate to incorporate climate change denial as part of the science education curriculum when discussing climate change.

First it was Louisiana, back in 2009, then Texas in 2009, South Dakota in 2010 and now Tennessee has joined the club, bringing the total to four U.S. states that have mandated climate change denial in K-12 "science" education.

Many other states could follow in their footsteps as well, given that, as DeSmogBlog exposed in late-January, this is an American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) model bill, a near miror image of its Orwellian-titled "Environmental Literacy Improvement Act."[PDF]

The machinations of ALEC are best explained by the Center for Media and Demoracy's "ALEC Exposed" project.


"Maneuvering to dupe schoolchildren is about as cynical as it gets. Neuroscience explains that young brains are like sponges, ready to soak in knowledge (and disinformation, for that matter), and thus, youth are an ideal target for the "merchants of doubt."

The corporations behind the writing and dissemination of this ALEC model bill, who are among the largest polluters in the world, would benefit handsomly from a legislative mandate to sow the seeds of confusion on climate science among schoolchildren."

Police in Maryland say person found dead in flooded tent city inhabited by homeless

A rare mention in the media of the tent cities of h0meless people in our country.

LAUREL, Md. (AP) — Police in Maryland say a person was found dead in a flooded camp where homeless people live in tents.

Lt. T.J. Smith says a body was found Thursday morning. The person apparently drowned. Smith says the person died before officials opened dams to ease pressure on the swollen Patuxent River.

New Research Finds that Most Monthly Heat Records Today are Due to Global Warming

Posted on 30 January 2013 by dana1981

New Research Finds that Most Monthly Heat Records Today are Due to Global Warming
Posted on 30 January 2013 by dana1981

A new paper published in Climatic Change by Coumou, Robinson, and Rahmstorf (CRR13) examines the increased frequency of record-breaking monthly temperature records over the past 130 years, finding that these records are now five times more likely to occur due to global warming, with much more to come.

"...worldwide, the number of local record-breaking monthly temperature extremes is now on average five times larger than expected in a climate with no long-term warming. This implies that on average there is an 80% chance that a new monthly heat record is due to climatic change ... Under a medium global warming scenario, by the 2040s we predict the number of monthly heat records globally to be more than 12 times as high as in a climate with no long-term warming."


As lead author Coumou noted, this is even worse than it sounds, because breaking a heat record in 2040 will require much higher temperatures than breaking a record today.

"Now this doesn’t mean there will be 12 times more hot summers in Europe than today – it actually is worse. To count as new records, they actually have to beat heat records set in the 2020s and 2030s, which will already be hotter than anything we have experienced to date. And this is just the global average – in some continental regions, the increase in new records will be even greater."

The results of this research are consistent with those of Hansen et al. (2012), which found that global warming is shifting the temperature distribution to make extreme heat waves more likely to occur, similar to the findings of several other studies such as Donat and Alexander (2012) and Meehl et al. (2009).


This would of course be bad news. For example, as shown by Hawkins et al. (2012), crops tend not to respond well to extreme heat, so these findings could pose a significant problem for global food production, as well as increasing heat fatalities, requiring costly adaptive measures to prepare people for more frequent extreme heat waves. In January of 2013, Australia has been trying to cope with this sort of extreme heat, which has resulted in devastating wildfires and other nasty consequences.

Being Poor and sick in Georgia

Wednesday, January 30, 2013
Russell Edwards

I thought Rick was less than a man. I would see him perched like a gargoyle outside Walker’s Coffee every day and think, “Doesn’t that guy have a job?”

A mutual friend introduced us in 2009 and encouraged me to get to know Rick. I cautiously sat near him and grew amazed by the sheer quantity of folks he greeted by first name. Most people stopped for a moment and talked with us. The glint in their eyes showed they loved Rick. I write about Rick in response to Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus’s recent commentary in the Athens Banner-Herald that, in effect, encouraged abolishing Medicaid and other social programs as the right way forward for our country.

Rick’s steady gaze and encyclopedic knowledge of Athens music and history drew my curiosity as a newcomer to the area. Back in the ‘70s, Rick had a recording studio in Oconee County and actually put down some of the B-52s best recordings. Rick always introduced me to his friends and encouraged me to collaborate with them on projects. He played a productive role in our community that he took seriously. He connected people. I felt ashamed that I once thought Rick did not deserve my respect.

Rick suffered a crippling stroke a couple of years before I met him. His speech is slurred. He saunters the best he can despite limited mobility on his right side. The Athens Housing Authority evicted him from his spartan apartment last year because he could not clean it to their standards. Since eviction, Rick has lived on the street.

He suffered two more debilitating strokes around Thanksgiving, and the onset of diabetes sent him to the emergency room several times during Christmas and New Year’s for lack of nutrition. Rick tries to find a place to rest during the day and does his best to check in to the Bigger Vision shelter every evening.


In Republican Gov. Nathan Deal’s Georgia, people like Rick are falling through the cracks to an uncertain life apart, forcibly separated from the community. Our governor derides Medicaid expansion as socialistic — even though the federal government will pay 100 percent of the cost the first three years and 90 percent thereafter — so people like Rick needlessly suffer. Medicaid helps ensure people like Rick get the care they need. Funny how it’s decidedly not socialistic that Deal’s buddy Chip Rogers quit the state Senate in disgrace to take a job at Georgia Public Broadcasting that pays a $150,000 salary funded by the state. These Republican priorities are Georgia’s stain.

Our prosperity is intertwined like the connections Rick has woven through our community. Our community, state, and nation only succeed when everyone can live a life of dignity. Without a vibrant middle class able to purchase goods, our economy suffers. Without a lower class able to purchase a few necessities, our economy suffers. This fact has been proven innumerable times throughout our country’s history.


Deal and Priebus employ freedom, liberty, and individual opportunity to butcher Medicaid and other programs that help Americans like Rick. Deal’s rejection of federal Medicaid dollars does in fact provide Rick just a little more freedom than he currently enjoys — the freedom to starve to death.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Cold Snaps, Global Warming Go Hand-in-Hand

January 29, 2013

Even though much of the eastern and southern U.S. is experiencing much warmer than average weather this week, a wide swath of the country is still in the deep freeze, with wind chills in the teens and single digits across much of the Plains, the Southwest and the Northwest.

Frigid temperatures like these are sometimes used to refute the idea that the planet as a whole is getting warmer with each passing year. That's just not so, say NASA scientists, who point out that even on a warming planet, bitterly cold temperatures and harsh winter weather will still be possible and even commonplace.

One of the reasons they can coexist is a phenomenon known as Arctic Oscillation, a phrase used to describe the interaction of the jet stream and Arctic air during the winter. It can cause unseasonably cold air masses to sweep over what are normally temperate latitudes, NASA reports, making for unusually cold and severe winter weather across many parts of the U.S.

This bitterly cold air even can make it too cold to snow across regions of the country that normally see double-digit snowfall amounts each year, the Guardian newspaper of London reported last week. Because colder air has a lower capacity for holding water than warmer air, it can be more difficult for snow to form when temperatures reach the teens and single digits.

Read the full story at NASA and the Guardian.

If you don't like Windows 8

From Facebook.
Some one posted about not liking Windows 8, and planning to downgrade to Windows 7. Someone replied:
just ignore the win8 interface until it becomes useful. invest $5 in start8 which makes it work like win7 and avoid the work of downgrading. Been using it for 2 months now without problem.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Nicholas Stern: ‘I Got It Wrong On Climate Change–It’s Far, Far Worse,’ An ‘Existential’ Threat For Many

There are already legal water wars in the U.S. Eg., between the U.S. & Mexico. And between some states, like that between Georgia and Alabama, Georgia and Florida.

By Joe Romm on Jan 28, 2013

Another day, another climate expert explains the deadly combination of inaction and faster-than-expected impacts.

This time the man ringing the bell is Lord Nicholas Stern, the author of the famous Stern Review on the Economics of Climate Change. The UK Guardian reports:

Stern … said: “Looking back, I underestimated the risks. The planet and the atmosphere seem to be absorbing less carbon than we expected, and emissions are rising pretty strongly. Some of the effects are coming through more quickly than we thought then.”

The Stern review, published in 2006, pointed to a 75% chance that global temperatures would rise by between two and three degrees above the long-term average; he now believes we are “on track for something like four “. Had he known the way the situation would evolve, he says, “I think I would have been a bit more blunt. I would have been much more strong about the risks of a four- or five-degree rise.”

That would be 4° to 5°C aka 7° to 9°F aka the end of civilization as we know it (see World Bank Climate Report: ‘A 4°C [7°F] World Can, And Must, Be Avoided’ To Avert ‘Devastating’ Impacts). Stern continues:

“This is potentially so dangerous that we have to act strongly. Do we want to play Russian roulette with two bullets or one? These risks for many people are existential.”

Stern was not alone in raising concerns at the World Economic Forum:

Stern’s comments came as Jim Yong Kim, the new president of the World Bank, also at Davos, gave a grave warning about the risk of conflicts over natural resources should the forecast of a four-degree global increase above the historical average prove accurate.

There will be water and food fights everywhere,” Kim said as he pledged to make tackling climate change a priority of his five-year term.

The time to act was a long time ago but now is infinitely, existentially better than later.

Drought Is Worsening In Midwest And Plains States, Putting Crops At Risk

By Jeff Spross on Jan 29, 2013

Cold snap or not, drought will continue to be the norm for the U.S. Plains and Midwest, receiving only light showers and snowfall this week. [HuffPo]

U.S. hard red winter wheat in Plains at risk
Corn, soybean crops grown in the west also at risk

… Officials in north-central Oklahoma this month declared a state of emergency due to record-low reservoir conditions. Public and private interests throughout the central United States were examining measures to cope with the drought.

The government on Jan. 9 declared much of the central and southern U.S. Wheat Belt a natural disaster area.

The U.S Department of Agriculture made growers in large portions of four major wheat-growing states of Kansas, Colorado, Oklahoma and Texas eligible for low-interest emergency loans.

The unpredictable precipitation and weather fluctuations that come with climate change are hitting India’s coffee farmers hard. [Seattle Times]

After a Minneapolis utility shut down their $4.7 million battery bank for wind energy over fire concerns, the battery’s manufacturer rebuilt it, and it’s about to come back online. [Clean Technia]

Wind energy has surpassed nuclear as China’s third largest source of electricity. [Clean Technia]

Russia, Belarus, Ukraine, and Kazakhstan have agreed to an undisclosed “set of measures” to push back against requirements in the Kyoto Protocol that they reduce emissions. [RTCC]

Tax-Aide program, help on filling out income taxes

I'll probably be posting less this week because I will be working on practice problems and tests to qualify as a volunteer for the Tax-Aide program, which fills out income taxes for low to moderate income people, and for senior citizens.

They can use more volunteers. If you don't feel up to filling out the electronic tax returns, they also need facilitators to help people fill out an initial questionnaire that will expedite the filing process, and to check that people have necessary forms with them. Facilitators still need training.

If you are not currently a VITA/TCE volunteer and would like to become a volunteer, please send an e-mail to the IRS at indicating the city and state where you want to become a volunteer. You will receive and acknowledgement e-mail from the IRS. Your information along with your e-mail address will be forwarded to sponsoring partners in your area for further contact.

AARP Foundation has classes. See:

If you need help, the IRS can show you locations near to you:

New ERCOT Report Shows Texas Wind And Solar Are Highly Competitive With Natural Gas

By Climate Guest Blogger on Jan 29, 2013
by Colin Meehan via EDF

An interesting fact seemed to go unnoticed in all the press around the Electric Reliability Council of Texas’s (ERCOT) Long Term System Assessment, a biennial report submitted to the Texas Legislature on “the need for increased transmission and generation capacity throughout the state of Texas.”

ERCOT found that if you use updated wind and solar power characteristics like cost and actual output to reflect real world conditions, rather than the previously used 2006 assumed characteristics, wind and solar are more competitive than natural gas over the next 20 years.


Finally, one ERCOT statement in particular stands out from this analysis, in direct contradiction to renewable energy opponents who say that renewable energy is too expensive: “the added renewable generation in this sensitivity results in lower market prices in many hours [of the year].” This means that when real-world assumptions are used for our various sources of power, wind and solar are highly competitive with natural gas. In turn, that competition from renewables results in lower power prices and lower water use for Texas.

As state leaders look for ways to encourage new capacity in the midst of a drought, it’s important to realize that renewable energy is now competitive over the long term with conventional resources. The fact that renewable energy resources can reduce our water dependency while hedging against higher long-term prices means that however state leaders decide to address the energy crunch, renewables need to be part of the plan.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Research ties lightning to onset of headache, migraines

Public release date: 24-Jan-2013
Contact: Katie Pence
University of Cincinnati Academic Health Center

CINCINNATI—University of Cincinnati (UC) researchers have found that lightning may affect the onset of headache and migraines.

These results, published in the Jan. 24, 2013 online edition of the journal Cephalalgia, are the first tying lightning to headache and could help chronic sufferers more efficiently anticipate headache and migraine arrival and begin preventive treatment immediately.

Geoffrey Martin, fourth-year medical student at UC, and his father Vincent Martin, MD, professor in the division of general internal medicine, UC Health physician and headache expert, led the study which showed that there was a 31 percent increased risk of headache and 28 percent increased risk of migraine for chronic headache sufferers on days lighting struck within 25 miles of study participant's homes.

In addition, new-onset headache and migraine increased by 24 percent and 23 percent in participants.


False Beliefs Persist, Even After Instant Online Corrections

Not surprising.

Jan. 24, 2013
Written by Jeff Grabmeier, Ohio State University

It seems like a great idea: Provide instant corrections to web-surfers when they run across obviously false information on the Internet.

But a new study suggests that this type of tool may not be a panacea for dispelling inaccurate beliefs, particularly among people who already want to believe the falsehood.

“Real-time corrections do have some positive effect, but it is mostly with people who were predisposed to reject the false claim anyway,” said R. Kelly Garrett, lead author of the study and assistant professor of communication at Ohio State University.

“The problem with trying to correct false information is that some people want to believe it, and simply telling them it is false won’t convince them.”

For example, the rumor that President Obama was not born in the United States was widely believed during the past election season, even though it was thoroughly debunked.


Garrett noted that, while instant corrections were slightly more effective than delayed corrections, the problem is that instant corrections actually increase resistance among those whose attitudes are supported by the falsehood.

“We would anticipate that systems like Dispute Finder would do little to change the beliefs of the roughly one in six Americans who, despite exhaustive news coverage and fact checking, continue to question whether President Obama was born in the U.S.,” he said.

Garrett said it may be better to find a way to deliver corrections later, when people may not be so defensive about their beliefs.

Don't ignore the snore: Snoring may be early sign of future health risks

Public release date: 24-Jan-2013
Contact: Krista Hopson
Henry Ford Health System

DETROIT – Here's a wake-up call for snorers: Snoring may put you at a greater risk than those who are overweight, smoke or have high cholesterol to have thickening or abnormalities in the carotid artery, according to researchers at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit.

The increased thickening in the lining of the two large blood vessels that supply the brain with oxygenated blood is a precursor to atherosclerosis, a hardening of the arteries responsible for many vascular diseases.

"Snoring is more than a bedtime annoyance and it shouldn't be ignored. Patients need to seek treatment in the same way they would if they had sleep apnea, high blood pressure or other risk factors for cardiovascular disease," says lead study author Robert Deeb, M.D., with the Department of Otolaryngology-Head & Neck Surgery at Henry Ford.

"Our study adds to the growing body of evidence suggesting that isolated snoring may not be as benign as first suspected. So instead of kicking your snoring bed partner out of the room or spending sleepless nights elbowing him or her, seek out medical treatment for the snorer."

The study reveals changes in the carotid artery with snorers – even for those without sleep apnea – likely due to the trauma and subsequent inflammation caused by the vibrations of snoring.


Migraines and FL-41 Tinted Lenses

Mr. Patrick Shaw, University of Utah Health Care

Fl-41 is a rose colored filter that we have found to be useful in patients with migraine headaches, blepharospasm, and other light-sensitive conditions. FL-41 was first described in a research project that took place in Birmingham, England. In this study, children with migraine headaches wore FL-41 filtered spectacles. The researchers found that wearing FL-41 improved the light sensitivity in these children and also the frequency and severity of their migraine headaches. Since that time, we have successfully used FL-41 filtered lenses at the Moran Eye Center to treat this and other conditions.


Vocabulary instruction failing U.S. students

Published: Jan. 24, 2013
Contact(s): Tanya Wright , Andy Henion , Nicole Geary

Vocabulary instruction in the early years is not challenging enough to prepare students for long-term reading comprehension, argues a study led by a Michigan State University education researcher.

The study, which appears in Elementary School Journal, analyzed commonly used reading curricula in U.S. kindergarten classrooms. It found that, generally, the programs do not teach enough vocabulary words; the words aren’t challenging enough; and not enough focus is given to make sure students understand the meaning of the words.


The research by Wright and Susan Neuman from the University of Michigan comes on the heels of a National Assessment of Educational Progress report that showed poor and minority students struggle with vocabulary achievement. Low vocabulary scores were associated with low reading comprehension scores on the NAEP test.

Wright said low-income children may start school with 10,000 fewer words than other students and are then exposed to reading programs that teach as few as two vocabulary words per week. She said more than 10 vocabulary words should be taught every week – not just in reading class but across all subject areas including math, science and social studies.

The words should also be more challenging, Wright said. For example, “hysterical” could be used instead of “funny.”

“We found that most of the words that are being taught are common words that the kids will learn in everyday language anyway,” Wright said.

Further, the study found that not enough attention was given to reviewing vocabulary words – or going back over the words in different contexts – and to monitoring whether the students truly grasped their meanings.

“So you’re spending time teaching something,” Wright said, “but not spending time checking if the kids ever learned it.”

Abuse during childhood linked to uterine fibroids in African-American women

The reference to an earlier study suggests that this association is not limited to African-American women.

Public release date: 24-Jan-2013
Contact: Jenny Eriksen Leary
Boston University Medical Center

(Boston) – According to a new study from the Slone Epidemiology Center (SEC) at Boston University, African-American women who reported sexual or physical abuse before age 11 had a greater risk of uterine fibroids in adulthood compared with women who had no such abuse history. The association was strongest for women who experienced sexual abuse.

The study, which is published online in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, was led by Lauren A. Wise, ScD, senior epidemiologist at SEC and associate professor of epidemiology at the Boston University School of Public Health.


This study followed 9,910 premenopausal African-American women from the Black Women's Health Study. In 2005, participants provided information on lifetime experiences of physical and sexual abuse during childhood (up to age 11), adolescence (ages 12-18), and adulthood (19 and older). The incidence of fibroids was ascertained from 2005 through 2011.

The results indicate that the incidence of uterine fibroids was increased by 16 percent among women who had been physically abused during childhood and by 34 percent among women who had been sexually abused during childhood. The risk of fibroids increased with increasing severity of child abuse. The results were weaker among women who reported high levels of coping, which is consistent with previous research showing that emotional support may buffer the negative health effects of violence. There was also little indication that abuse during adolescence and adulthood increased the risk of fibroids.

"This is the second prospective study to show an association between childhood abuse and uterine fibroids diagnosed during adulthood," said Wise. She noted that mechanisms might involve the influence of psychosocial stress on the biosynthesis or metabolism of sex steroid hormones, which are thought to be involved in fibroid development and growth. In addition, child sexual abuse is associated with sexually transmitted infections, which may also increase fibroid risk.

The lifetime risk of clinically-relevant uterine fibroids is 30 percent and they are a major contributor to gynecologic morbidity, including heavy menstrual bleeding, pelvic pain and infertility. In the U.S., fibroids account for more than $9.4 billion in health care costs annually and black women are two to three times more likely to be affected by the condition.

"Given the high prevalence of fibroids in African-American women, the association is of public health importance," Wise added.

Why the weatherman is often wrong

Even if there were enough sensors to measure all the information needed there might not be enough computer power to analyze it in time to make a timely weather forecast.

Jan. 24, 2014
Todd Hollingshead
Brigham Young University

Have you ever woken up to a sunny forecast only to get soaked on your way to the office? On days like that it's easy to blame the weatherman.

But BYU mechanical engineering professor Julie Crockett doesn’t get mad at meteorologists. She understands something that very few people know: it’s not the weatherman’s fault he’s wrong so often.

According to Crockett, forecasters make mistakes because the models they use for predicting weather can’t accurately track highly influential elements called internal waves.

Atmospheric internal waves are waves that propagate between layers of low-density and high-density air. Although hard to describe, almost everyone has seen or felt these waves. Cloud patterns made up of repeating lines are the result of internal waves, and airplane turbulence happens when internal waves run into each other and break.

“Internal waves are difficult to capture and quantify as they propagate, deposit energy and move energy around,” Crockett said. “When forecasters don’t account for them on a small scale, then the large scale picture becomes a little bit off, and sometimes being just a bit off is enough to be completely wrong about the weather.”


Internal waves also exist in oceans between layers of low-density and high-density water. These waves, often visible from space, affect the general circulation of the ocean and phenomena like the Gulf Stream and Jet Stream.

Both oceanic and atmospheric internal waves carry a significant amount of energy that can alter climates.


Prenatal inflammation linked to autism risk

Public release date: 24-Jan-2013
Contact: Ed Kang
NIH/National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences

Maternal inflammation during early pregnancy may be related to an increased risk of autism in children, according to new findings supported by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS), part of the National Institutes of Health. Researchers found this in children of mothers with elevated C-reactive protein (CRP), a well-established marker of systemic inflammation.

The risk of autism among children in the study was increased by 43 percent among mothers with CRP levels in the top 20th percentile, and by 80 percent for maternal CRP in the top 10th percentile. The findings appear in the journal Molecular Psychiatry and add to mounting evidence that an overactive immune response can alter the development of the central nervous system in the fetus.

"Elevated CRP is a signal that the body is undergoing a response to inflammation from, for example, a viral or bacterial infection," said lead scientist on the study, Alan Brown, M.D., professor of clinical psychiatry and epidemiology at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons, New York State Psychiatric Institute, and Mailman School of Public Health. "The higher the level of CRP in the mother, the greater the risk of autism in the child."

Brown cautioned that the results should be viewed in perspective since the prevalence of inflammation during pregnancy is substantially higher than the prevalence of autism.

"The vast majority of mothers with increased CRP levels will not give birth to children with autism," Brown said. "We don't know enough yet to suggest routine testing of pregnant mothers for CRP for this reason alone; however, exercising precautionary measures to prevent infections during pregnancy may be of considerable value."


'Cool' kids in middle school bully more, UCLA psychologists report

Not a big surprise to those who remember these years.

Public release date: 24-Jan-2013
Contact: Stuart Wolpert
University of California - Los Angeles

Study of seventh and eighth graders finds no difference between boys, girls

Bullying, whether it's physical aggression or spreading rumors, boosts the social status and popularity of middle school students, according to a new UCLA psychology study that has implications for programs aimed at combatting school bullying. In addition, students already considered popular engage in these forms of bullying, the researchers found.


"The ones who are cool bully more, and the ones who bully more are seen as cool," said Jaana Juvonen, a UCLA professor of psychology and lead author of the study. "What was particularly interesting was that the form of aggression, whether highly visible and clearly confrontational or not, did not matter. Pushing or shoving and gossiping worked the same for boys and girls.

"The impetus for the study was to figure out whether aggression promotes social status, or whether those who are perceived as popular abuse their social power and prestige by putting other kids down," she said. "We found it works both ways for both 'male-typed' and 'female-typed' forms of aggression."


The rumors middle school students spread often involve sexuality (saying a student is gay or sexually promiscuous) and family insults, she said.

Like middle school students, Juvonen noted, non-human primates also use aggression to promote social rank (although gossiping is obviously limited to humans).

Co-authors of the new study are former UCLA psychology graduate student Yueyan Wang and UCLA psychology doctoral student Guadalupe Espinoza.

In previous research, Juvonen and her colleagues have reported that nearly three in four teenagers say they were bullied online at least once during a recent 12-month period, and only one in 10 reported such cyber-bullying to parents or other adults; that nearly half of the sixth graders at two Los Angeles–area public schools said they were bullied by classmates during a five-day period; that middle school students who are bullied in school are likely to feel depressed, lonely and miserable, which in turn makes them more vulnerable to further bullying incidents; and that bullying is pervasive.

"Bullying is a problem that large numbers of kids confront on a daily basis at school; it's not just an issue for the few unfortunate ones," Juvonen has said. "Students reported feeling humiliated, anxious or disliking school on days when they reported incidents, which shows there is no such thing as 'harmless' name-calling or an 'innocent' punch.'"

Juvonen advises parents to talk with their children about bullying before it ever happens, to pay attention to changes in their children's behavior and to take their concerns seriously.

Students who get bullied often have headaches, colds and other physical illnesses, as well as psychological problems.

Common anti-fever medications pose kidney injury risk for children

Public release date: 25-Jan-2013
Contact: Eric Schoch
Indiana University

Sick children, especially those with some dehydration from flu or other illnesses, risk significant kidney injury if given drugs such as ibuprofen and naproxen, Indiana University School of Medicine researchers said Friday.

In an article published online Jan. 25 by the Journal of Pediatrics, Jason Misurac, M.D., and colleagues from IU and Butler University reported that nearly 3 percent of cases of pediatric acute kidney injury over a decade could be traced directly to having taken the common nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, or NSAIDs.

Although relatively few in terms of percentage of total kidney damage cases, the children with problems associated with NSAIDs included four young patients who needed dialysis, and at least seven who may have suffered permanent kidney damage, the researchers said.

"These cases, including some in which patients' kidney function will need to be monitored for years, as well as the cost of treatment, are quite significant, especially when you consider that alternatives are available and acute kidney injury from NSAIDs is avoidable," Dr. Misurac, a fellow in pediatric nephrology, said.

Although such drugs have been linked to kidney damage in small, anecdotal reports, the study reported Thursday is believed to be the first large-scale study of the incidence and impact of acute kidney injury caused by NSAIDs.


Diet, Parental Behavior, and Preschool Can Boost Children’s IQ

Flaxseed oil is another source of Omega-3.

January 25, 2013
Contact: Anna Mikulak
Association for Psychological Science

Supplementing children’s diets with fish oil, enrolling them in quality preschool, and engaging them in interactive reading all turn out to be effective ways to raise a young child’s intelligence, according to a new report published in Perspectives on Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science.


Supplementing pregnant women and newborns with long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids, foods rich in Omega-3, were found to boost children’s IQ by more than 3.5 points. These essential fatty acids may help raise intelligence by providing the building blocks for nerve cell development that the body cannot produce on its own.

There is insufficient research, however, to determine whether other types of supplements — including iron, B-complex vitamins, riboflavin, thiamine, niacin, and zinc — have beneficial effects on intelligence.

Enrolling an economically disadvantaged child into an early education intervention was found to raise his or her IQ by more than four points; interventions that specifically included a center-based education component raised a child’s IQ by more than seven points.

The researchers hypothesize that early education interventions may help to raise children’s IQ by increasing their exposure to complex environments that are cognitively stimulating and demanding. It’s not clear, however, whether these results apply more broadly to kids from different socioeconomic backgrounds.

Surprisingly, Protzko, Aronson, and Blair found no evidence to support the idea that early education interventions that take place earlier in childhood are more effective than those that begin later.

Interventions focused on interactive reading — teaching parents how to engage their children while reading with them — were found to raise children’s IQ by over 6 points. These interventions do not seem to have an effect for children over 4 years old, suggesting that the interventions may accelerate language development, which, in turn, boosts IQ.

Sending a child to preschool was found to raise his or her IQ by more than four points, and preschools that include a language development component were found to boost IQ by more than seven points. The link between preschool and intelligence could be a function of increased exposure to language or the result of the overall cognitive complexity of the preschool environment.

Cows fed flaxseed produce more nutritious dairy products

Oregon State University
Jan. 24, 2013

Dairy cows that are fed flaxseed produce more nutritious milk, according to a new study by Oregon State University.

Their milk contained more omega-3 fatty acids and less saturated fat, the study found. Diets high in saturated fat can increase cholesterol and cause heart disease, while those rich in omega-3 and other polyunsaturated fatty acids may reduce the risk of heart disease, studies have shown.

Traditional cattle feed mixtures of corn, grains, alfalfa hay and grass silage result in dairy products with low concentrations of omega-3 and other polyunsaturated fats, according to Gerd Bobe, the lead scientist on the study, which has been published online in the Journal of Dairy Science.


Poor sleep in old age prevents the brain from storing memories

Public release date: 27-Jan-2013
Contact: Yasmin Anwar
University of California - Berkeley

Findings suggest boosting 'slow wave' sleep could restore memory as we age

The connection between poor sleep, memory loss and brain deterioration as we grow older has been elusive. But for the first time, scientists at the University of California, Berkeley, have found a link between these hallmark maladies of old age. Their discovery opens the door to boosting the quality of sleep in elderly people to improve memory.

UC Berkeley neuroscientists have found that the slow brain waves generated during the deep, restorative sleep we typically experience in youth play a key role in transporting memories from the hippocampus – which provides short-term storage for memories – to the prefrontal cortex's longer term "hard drive."

However, in older adults, memories may be getting stuck in the hippocampus due to the poor quality of deep 'slow wave' sleep, and are then overwritten by new memories, the findings suggest.

"What we have discovered is a dysfunctional pathway that helps explain the relationship between brain deterioration, sleep disruption and memory loss as we get older – and with that, a potentially new treatment avenue," said UC Berkeley sleep researcher Matthew Walker, an associate professor of psychology and neuroscience at UC Berkeley and senior author of the study to be published this Sunday, Jan. 27, in the journal Nature Neuroscience.

The findings shed new light on some of the forgetfulness common to the elderly that includes difficulty remembering people's names.


The discovery that slow waves in the frontal brain help strengthen memories paves the way for therapeutic treatments for memory loss in the elderly, such as transcranial direct current stimulation or pharmaceutical remedies. For example, in an earlier study, neuroscientists in Germany successfully used electrical stimulation of the brain in young adults to enhance deep sleep and doubled their overnight memory.

UC Berkeley researchers will be conducting a similar sleep-enhancing study in older adults to see if it will improve their overnight memory. "Can you jumpstart slow wave sleep and help people remember their lives and memories better? It's an exciting possibility," said Bryce Mander, a postdoctoral fellow in psychology at UC Berkeley and lead author of this latest study.


Cold spells were dark times in Eastern Europe

Now global warming is causing food shortages, leading to social unrest.

By Erin Wayman
Web edition: January 14, 2013
Print edition: February 9, 2013; Vol.183 #3 (p. 18)

Some of Eastern Europe’s greatest wars and plagues over the last millennium coincided with cold periods, scientists report online January 14 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Ulf Büntgen of the Swiss Federal Institute for Forest, Snow and Landscape Research in Birmensdorf and his colleagues reconstructed temperatures using tree rings from 282 living larch trees and 263 construction timbers from historical buildings in northern Slovakia. Because the width of tree rings varies with the temperature during the growing season, the researchers could estimate changes in May and June temperatures from 1040 to 2011. The Black Death in the mid-14th century, the Thirty Years’ War in the early 17th century, the French invasion of Russia in the early 19th century and other social upheavals occurred during cold spells. The team suggests food shortages could explain the timing of some of these events.

The First Prison Sentence Related To Gitmo Torture Goes To Someone Who Spoke Out Against It

Sometimes patriotism requires exposing wrongdoing by the government.

By Andrea Peterson posted from ThinkProgress Security on Jan 26, 2013

Ex-CIA officer John C. Kiriakou became the first person to be sentenced to prison for issues related to torture at Guantanamo Bay on Friday– because he talked about, but did not participate in, “enhanced interrogation” techniques. Kiriakou pleaded guilty to one count of violating the Intelligence Identities Protection Act in October for revealing the name of a former operative involved the Bush era’s brutal interrogation of detainees at Guantanamo to a reporter.

Kiriakou worked as a CIA operative for more than two decades and led a March 2002 raid that captured high-ranking Al Qaeda suspect Abu Zubaydah. He was also a vocal torture opponent who revealed his knowledge of U.S. enhanced interrogation techniques, including waterboarding, in an ABC interview in 2007. A confidential 2004 International Committee of the Red Cross report stated that the intentional physical and psychological harm done to detainees at Guantanamo was “tantamount to torture.” While several soldiers involved in the Abu Graib prison scandal were prosecuted and sentenced, the conviction of the only officer court-martialed was thrown out in 2008, and no one has ever been prosecuted for abuse at Guantanamo Bay. Leonie M. Brinkema, the judge who sentenced Kiriakou called his punishment “way too light.”

Kiriakou is the first ever CIA agent to be prosecuted under the Intelligence Identities Protection Act, and the first successful conviction under the statute in 27 years. His case continues a trend of harsh, but selective, crackdowns on whistle-blowers and intelligence leaks by the Obama administration; The Justice Department has prosecuted more government officials for alleged leaks under the World War I-era Espionage Act under Attorney General Eric Holder than under all his predecessors combined.

Republicans’ Effort To Rig Electoral College Gets National Backing

Maybe the earlier report about this shameful behavior losing steam was premature.
If districts were fairly drawn, going to choosing the electoral college by district instead of winner-take-all in a state would be reasonable. But the reality is that districts are subject to gerrymandering, which resulted in a majority of Republicans being elected to the U.S. House even though the majority of voters voted for Democrats. And the next census is not until 2020, which is when redistricting is normally done. So the Republicans are hoping to be able to steal the next two elections for President and the U.S. House. So now the U.S. Senate is more representative of the people of the U.S. than the House!

By Scott Keyes posted from ThinkProgress Justice on Jan 26, 2013

Former Ohio Secretary of State Ken Blackwell (R), who was the chief elections officer when the state experienced massive voting problems in 2004, is planning to lead a national effort to rig the electoral college in favor of the 2016 Republican presidential candidate.

Republicans who hold power in states that have voted Democratic in the last few presidential contests, including Virginia and Pennsylvania, are considering a change to their apportionment of electoral votes. Instead of a winner-take-all system for the state, electoral votes would be doled out by congressional district, using highly-gerrymandered maps. The result is that a state like Pennsylvania, which voted for President Obama by more than 5 percent in 2012, would have given most of its electoral votes to Mitt Romney.

That plan is now receiving national backing, thanks to Blackwell and GOP operative Jordan Gehrke. The two men detailed their effort in an interview with the Atlantic and conceded that the effort could make it easier for Republicans to win the White House:

ATLANTIC: You are a Republican operative, though. And it’s Republican legislators who are pushing this in all the states where it’s come up so far. You can claim this is about policy, but doesn’t it really make it easier for Republicans to win presidential elections?

BLACKWELL & GEHRKE: That could be a byproduct, depending on who drew the lines last and who’s running – a lot of different things. What it’s really about is making sure that more people in more congressional districts get attention.

Though Blackwell and Gehrke argued that allocating electoral votes by congressional district is more representative, that doesn’t mean they support the much simpler, fairer system of a national popular vote. “Abolishing the electoral college is very difficult to do,” they claimed.

What’s both true and sad, though, is that rigging the system to ensure the Republican candidate wins, no matter how Americans actually vote, is far easier to accomplish in Republican-controlled states.

Beekeepers expect "worst year for bees"

Hardly surprising if insecticides kill bees, which are insects. I suspect global warming is making this problem even worse.
Many crops depend on bees for pollination.

Wed, 2013-01-16 12:00
Paul Towers

“We’re facing the extinction of a species.” That’s what one Midwest-based large-scale commercial beekeeper told me last week at the annual gathering of the American Honey Producers Association (AHPA). And he meant it.

Bee losses have been dramatic, especially in recent years. And beekeepers are feeling the sting. According to many who manage hives, commercial beekeeping won’t pencil out in the future unless things change, and soon.


As one beekeeper told me, “On average, 40% over-wintering losses across the country. That’s what we’re facing. And my losses are closer to 70% — this is likely gonna be the worst year for bees.”

But it isn’t just this year; USDA reports major bee population declines since 2006. Another beekeeper told me he lost over $250,000 in honey business last year alone, and he’s no longer pollinating melon and cherries. As he reminded me, this not only has direct impacts on him, but his employees, their communities, suppliers, vendors, the food system and agricultural economy.


Workshops on pesticides were more common than ever at this annual AHPA conference, as evidence mounts showing pesticides to be a key catalyst in bee declines. And representatives from chemical giants like Arysta, Bayer and Monsanto made their presence known, even hosting workshops to pacify concerned beekeepers.

These corporations have a lot at stake. With the market becoming increasingly consolidated, just a few companies manufacture many of the same seeds and pesticides implicated in honey bee losses. If history is any guide, these corporations will likely continue to object to finding healthy, sustainable and commonsense solutions to bee declines.


Some beekeepers have taken matters into their own hands, forming the National Pollinator Defense Fund. With a commitment to protecting bees and their livelihood, this new band of beekeepers will “defend managed and native pollinators vital to a sustainable and affordable food supply from the adverse impacts of pesticides.”

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Why Wall Street CEOs have escaped fraud prosecution

There are a series of videos on this subject at this link.
I wonder if the current Republican supreme court would uphold a conviction in these cases.

At the time I posted this, the following was the most recent entry.

January 22, 2013
by Nathan Tobey

More than four years after the financial crisis, not one senior Wall Street executive has faced criminal prosecution for fraud.

Are Wall Street bankers simply “too big to jail?”

In The Untouchables, FRONTLINE producer and correspondent Martin Smith investigates why the U.S. Department of Justice has failed to act on credible evidence that Wall Street knowingly packaged and sold toxic mortgage loans to investors, loans that brought the U.S. and world economies to the brink of collapse.

So, after talking with top prosecutors, government officials and industry whistleblowers, what did he find? Is there a chance some prosecutions may still take place? What do we really know about the criminal cases that could be have been pursued? And what does this investigation reveal about Wall Street and its relationship with the government?

There is a question and answer chat.

Reporting Factory Farm Abuses to be Considered “Act of Terrorism” if New Laws Pass

Another thing I'll have to check on when deciding where to relocate. No way I'll move to a state with these evil laws.
It is an admission of bad behavior that these depraved laws are being passed.
I became a vegetarian in 1978 because of the inhumane treatment of farm animals.

Reporting Factory Farm Abuses to be Considered “Act of Terrorism” if New Laws Pass
Ronnie Cummins
Published: Saturday 26 January 2013

How do you keep consumers in the dark about the horrors of factory farms? By making it an “act of terrorism” for anyone to investigate animal cruelty, food safety or environmental violations on the corporate-controlled farms that produce the bulk of our meat, eggs and dairy products.

And who better to write the Animal and Ecological Terrorism Act, designed to protect Big Ag and Big Energy, than the lawyers on the Energy, Environment and Agriculture Task Force at the corporate-funded and infamous American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC).

New Hampshire, Wyoming and Nebraska are the latest states to introduce Ag-Gag laws aimed at preventing employees, journalists or activists from exposing illegal or unethical practices on factory farms. Lawmakers in 10 other states introduced similar bills in 2011-2012. The laws passed in three of those states: Missouri, Iowa and Utah. But consumer and animal-welfare activists prevented the laws from passing in Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Minnesota, Nebraska, New York and Tennessee.

In all, six states now have Ag-Gag laws, including North Dakota, Montana and Kansas, all of which passed the laws in 1990-1991, before the term “Ag-Gag” was coined.

Ag-Gag laws passed 20 years ago were focused more on deterring people from destroying property, or from either stealing animals or setting them free. Today’s ALEC-inspired bills take direct aim at anyone who tries to expose horrific acts of animal cruelty, dangerous animal-handling practices that might lead to food safety issues, or blatant disregard for environmental laws designed to protect waterways from animal waste runoff. In the past, most of those exposes have resulted from undercover investigations of exactly the type Big Ag wants to make illegal.

Wyoming’s HB 0126 is the perfect example of a direct link between an undercover investigation of a factory farm and the introduction of an Ag-Gag law. The bill was introduced mere weeks after nine factory workers at Wheatland, WY-based Wyoming Premium Farms, a supplier to Tyson Foods, were charged with animal cruelty following an undercover investigation by the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS). HSUS activists videotaped workers kicking live piglets, swinging them by their hind legs and beating and kicking mother pigs. Charges were filed in late December. In January, State Rep. Sue Wallis and Senator Ogden Driskill introduced Wyoming’s Ag-Gag bill which would make it a criminal act to carry out investigations such as the one that exposed the cruelty at Wyoming Premium Farms.


Most of the Ag-Gag laws introduced since 2011 borrow the premise, if not the exact language, from model legislation designed by ALEC. ALEC’s sole purpose is to write model legislation that protects corporate profits. Industry then pushes state legislators to adapt the bills for their states and push them through. The idea behind the Animal and Ecological Terrorism Act is to make it illegal to “enter an animal or research facility to take pictures by photograph, video camera, or other or other means with the intent to commit criminal activities or defame the facility or its owner.”

In other words, these laws turn journalists and the investigators of crimes into criminals.

Successful and Schizophrenic

Published: January 25, 2013

¶ THIRTY years ago, I was given a diagnosis of schizophrenia. My prognosis was “grave”: I would never live independently, hold a job, find a loving partner, get married. My home would be a board-and-care facility, my days spent watching TV in a day room with other people debilitated by mental illness. I would work at menial jobs when my symptoms were quiet. Following my last psychiatric hospitalization at the age of 28, I was encouraged by a doctor to work as a cashier making change. If I could handle that, I was told, we would reassess my ability to hold a more demanding position, perhaps even something full-time.

¶ Then I made a decision. I would write the narrative of my life. Today I am a chaired professor at the University of Southern California Gould School of Law. I have an adjunct appointment in the department of psychiatry at the medical school of the University of California, San Diego, and am on the faculty of the New Center for Psychoanalysis. The MacArthur Foundation gave me a genius grant.

¶ THIRTY years ago, I was given a diagnosis of schizophrenia. My prognosis was “grave”: I would never live independently, hold a job, find a loving partner, get married. My home would be a board-and-care facility, my days spent watching TV in a day room with other people debilitated by mental illness. I would work at menial jobs when my symptoms were quiet. Following my last psychiatric hospitalization at the age of 28, I was encouraged by a doctor to work as a cashier making change. If I could handle that, I was told, we would reassess my ability to hold a more demanding position, perhaps even something full-time.

¶ Then I made a decision. I would write the narrative of my life. Today I am a chaired professor at the University of Southern California Gould School of Law. I have an adjunct appointment in the department of psychiatry at the medical school of the University of California, San Diego, and am on the faculty of the New Center for Psychoanalysis. The MacArthur Foundation gave me a genius grant.

Conventional psychiatric thinking and its diagnostic categories say that people like me don’t exist. Either I don’t have schizophrenia (please tell that to the delusions crowding my mind), or I couldn’t have accomplished what I have (please tell that to U.S.C.’s committee on faculty affairs). But I do, and I have. And I have undertaken research with colleagues at U.S.C. and U.C.L.A. to show that I am not alone. There are others with schizophrenia and such active symptoms as delusions and hallucinations who have significant academic and professional achievements.


One of the most frequently mentioned techniques that helped our research participants manage their symptoms was work. “Work has been an important part of who I am,” said an educator in our group. “When you become useful to an organization and feel respected in that organization, there’s a certain value in belonging there.” This person works on the weekends too because of “the distraction factor.” In other words, by engaging in work, the crazy stuff often recedes to the sidelines.


I don’t want to sound like a Pollyanna about schizophrenia; mental illness imposes real limitations, and it’s important not to romanticize it. We can’t all be Nobel laureates like John Nash of the movie “A Beautiful Mind.” But the seeds of creative thinking may sometimes be found in mental illness, and people underestimate the power of the human brain to adapt and to create.


ALEC’s Fingerprints Are All Over the Electoral College Rigging Efforts in Blue States

This is no surprise to me and others who are familiar with what ALEC has been doing. The surprise would have been if ALEC had not been involved.

By: RmuseJan. 26th, 2013

One of the benefits of living in a democracy is knowing, with relative certainty, that the people choose a representative to lead the country through the electoral process, and although not every voter is pleased with the results of an election, they can rest easy the leader was chosen by the people and not appointed by special interests. Republicans hate democracy and fair elections, and to ensure future presidents are chosen by conservative fascist committee, they have been on a two-and-a-half year crusade to rig the electoral process to guarantee a Republican will win the White House with fewer votes than their opponent. In the last election, although Democrats garnered 1.4 million more votes than Republicans, redistricting and gerrymandering enabled the GOP to hang on to the House of Representatives. Republicans are notorious for using revolting tactics to win elections, and the current coup d’état by electoral college rigging is a travesty, but like every dirty trick Republicans use to steal elections, the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) is behind Electoral College rigging efforts in Republican-controlled states that overwhelmingly voted for President Obama.

One of the benefits of living in a democracy is knowing, with relative certainty, that the people choose a representative to lead the country through the electoral process, and although not every voter is pleased with the results of an election, they can rest easy the leader was chosen by the people and not appointed by special interests. Republicans hate democracy and fair elections, and to ensure future presidents are chosen by conservative fascist committee, they have been on a two-and-a-half year crusade to rig the electoral process to guarantee a Republican will win the White House with fewer votes than their opponent. In the last election, although Democrats garnered 1.4 million more votes than Republicans, redistricting and gerrymandering enabled the GOP to hang on to the House of Representatives. Republicans are notorious for using revolting tactics to win elections, and the current coup d’état by electoral college rigging is a travesty, but like every dirty trick Republicans use to steal elections, the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) is behind Electoral College rigging efforts in Republican-controlled states that overwhelmingly voted for President Obama.


Study finds growing evidence of global warming threat to future food supplies

January 15, 2013

High temperatures are having an increasingly damaging effect on maize (sweetcorn) in France – the largest supplier of the crop to the UK – which may explain a recent slowdown in the trend towards higher yields, according to researchers at the Universities of Leeds, Reading and Exeter.

Improvements in agricultural technology, such as fertilisers and new crop varieties, will need to increase yields by up to 12% by the 2020s to be confident about offsetting future decreases in yield from heat stress.

However, the current rate of improvement, driven by technological innovation, is not quick enough to meet such a high target, says research published today in the journal Global Change Biology.

Professor Andrew Challinor, from the University of Leeds' School of Eearth & Environment, said: "Feeding a growing population as climate changes is a major challenge, especially since the land available for agricultural expansion is limited. Supplies of the major food crops could be at risk unless we plan for future climates."

Dr Ed Hawkins, from the National Centre for Atmospheric Science (NCAS) at the University of Reading, said: "Our research rings alarm bells for future food security. Over the last 50 years, developments in agriculture, such as fertilisers and irrigation, have increased yields of the world's staple foods, but we're starting to see a slowdown in yield increases. Our research into maize suggests the increasing frequency of hot days across the world might explain some of this slowdown. "We expect hot days to become more frequent still, and our work on maize suggests that current advances in agriculture are too slow to offset the expected damage to crops from heat stress in the future."


The number of days with temperatures over 32 degrees C [89.6 F] has more than doubled in some parts of France over the last 50 years. Many other land areas show similar increases. By the 2020s, temperatures over 32 degrees C could occur over large areas of France where previously they were uncommon. Without agricultural development, this increase in hot days could decrease yields of French maize by more than 10% relative to current yield, the research found.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Union-Made Beers

I personally can't stand the taste of most beers, but if you do, here is a link to a list of union-made beers.

When you're reaching for a beer, why not buy union-made?

Here's a brief list of beers and ales made by members of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAM), the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW), the International Brother of Teamsters (IBT), the United Autoworkers (UAW) and the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW). If we’re missing any, let us know at


Larry Selman, Who Aided Others $1 at a Time, Dies at 70

Larry was a true success.

Published: January 24, 2013

Larry Selman weighed three pounds when he was born on April 2, 1942, and was not expected to survive the day. He rallied, though, grew to become a friendly, husky boy and attended public school until he was about 16, when a teacher explained to him that he would probably never earn a high school diploma because, by all measures, Larry was — in the parlance of the 1950s — mentally retarded.

Mr. Selman dropped out of school soon afterward. He lived in Brooklyn with his parents, Phillip and Minnie, while working as a laborer for the parks department. After the death of his mother in 1968, following close upon the death of his father, Mr. Selman moved into a small apartment in Greenwich Village with the help of an uncle, Murray Schaul. He spent the rest of his life there, most of it in obscurity, though in his final years he enjoyed a gentle fame among filmgoers familiar with the 2002 documentary about him, “The Collector of Bedford Street.”


Mr. Selman’s life would have remained invisible except for his outsize talent for connection. It earned him friends in the Village, including Alice Elliott, the director of “The Collector of Bedford Street,” which was nominated for an Academy Award.

The film chronicled a period of crisis in Mr. Selman’s life, in the late 1990s, when Mr. Schaul was ailing and Mr. Selman felt himself at the precipice of homelessness.

Mr. Schaul, 81, had visited him daily and helped him financially. Faced with the loss of his uncle, Mr. Selman was considering suicide, he told friends. In desperation, and out of loneliness, he began giving homeless men the key to his Bedford Street apartment. Some fellow tenants took him to court, seeking his eviction.

The “collector” in the title refers to Mr. Selman’s prodigious work as a neighborhood fund-raiser. From 1970 until his death he collected more than $300,000 by some estimates — from people he approached in the Village, one at a time, requesting donations of $1 and $2 each. He collected money for St. Vincent’s Hospital, the families of Sept. 11 victims, Muscular Dystrophy research, AIDS research, Kiwanis International projects and animal rescue groups, among others.

“Collector” also suggests how Mr. Selman’s daily conversations with neighbors and passers-by, and his dogged way of reminding them of the needs of others, brought people together and shepherded them toward civic-mindedness.

“Larry, in effect, made our community,” Ms. Elliott said in a phone interview on Wednesday. “He was our glue.”


“Larry, in effect, made our community,” Ms. Elliott said in a phone interview on Wednesday. “He was our glue.”

About 100 neighbors established a $30,000 trust fund for Mr. Selman, administered by the UJA-Federation of New York. It supplemented his income from Social Security disability funds, and later replaced some of the money he had been receiving from Mr. Schaul, who died in 2005.

The neighbors also helped him settle his eviction problem. (He agreed not to let homeless people use his apartment anymore.)


The GOP scheme to rig the electoral vote loses momentum

People who want to suppress the progressive vote keep saying their is no difference between the parties. Balderdash! Eg., Democrats and Republicans have both engaged in gerrymandering, but the Democrats didn't try to change the way their state allocates electoral votes for president.
If there is a change, it should be to make the electoral votes more representative of the popular vote, not less. These actions by the Republicans are giving strength to the argument that we should do away with the electoral college and go to a direct vote for president.
A problem with the direct vote was shown in the last election, where super storm Sandy devastated a large area, interfering with voting. Because of the electoral system, these areas still got their fair number of electoral votes.

January 25, 2013
Taegan Goddard

Republican legislators in several states have begun to push changes to the way their states allocate electoral college votes.

These states -- which include Florida, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Virginia -- have one thing in common: They all voted for President Obama in last year’s presidential election but are controlled by Republican governors and legislators.

Until now, Molly Ball reports these efforts “appear to have sprouted independently as the work of individual lawmakers” but now a Republican operative “has a plan to take the idea national.” ["appear to have sprouted independently". Like other things that turn out to be orchestrated by groups such as ALEC.]

GOP strategist Jordan Gehrke has teamed up with former Ohio Secretary of State Ken Blackwell (R) to “raise money for an effort to propose similar electoral reforms in states across the country.”

The Washington Post notes Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus even voiced support for the effort, saying it is something that “a lot of states that have been consistently blue that are fully controlled red ought to be looking at.”

But while support for the move seems to be growing nationally, several Republican lawmakers in key states are balking at the idea.


In malpractice case, Catholic hospital argues fetuses aren’t people

By John Tomasic
Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Lori Stodghill was 31-years old, seven-months pregnant with twin boys and feeling sick when she arrived at St. Thomas More hospital in Cañon City on New Year’s Day 2006. She was vomiting and short of breath and she passed out as she was being wheeled into an examination room. Medical staff tried to resuscitate her but, as became clear only later, a main artery feeding her lungs was clogged and the clog led to a massive heart attack. Stodghill’s obstetrician, Dr. Pelham Staples, who also happened to be the obstetrician on call for emergencies that night, never answered a page. His patient died at the hospital less than an hour after she arrived and her twins died in her womb.

In the aftermath of the tragedy, Stodghill’s husband Jeremy, a prison guard, filed a wrongful-death lawsuit on behalf of himself and the couple’s then-two-year-old daughter Elizabeth. Staples should have made it to the hospital, his lawyers argued, or at least instructed the frantic emergency room staff to perform a caesarian-section. The procedure likely would not have saved the mother, a testifying expert said, but it may have saved the twins.

The lead defendant in the case is Catholic Health Initiatives, the Englewood-based nonprofit that runs St. Thomas More Hospital as well as roughly 170 other health facilities in 17 states. Last year, the hospital chain reported national assets of $15 billion. The organization’s mission, according to its promotional literature, is to “nurture the healing ministry of the Church” and to be guided by “fidelity to the Gospel.” Toward those ends, Catholic Health facilities seek to follow the Ethical and Religious Directives of the Catholic Church authored by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. Those rules have stirred controversy for decades, mainly for forbidding non-natural birth control and abortions. “Catholic health care ministry witnesses to the sanctity of life ‘from the moment of conception until death,’” the directives state. “The Church’s defense of life encompasses the unborn.”


But when it came to mounting a defense in the Stodghill case, Catholic Health’s lawyers effectively turned the Church directives on their head. Catholic organizations have for decades fought to change federal and state laws that fail to protect “unborn persons,” and Catholic Health’s lawyers in this case had the chance to set precedent bolstering anti-abortion legal arguments. Instead, they are arguing state law protects doctors from liability concerning unborn fetuses on grounds that those fetuses are not persons with legal rights.

As Jason Langley, an attorney with Denver-based Kennedy Childs, argued in one of the briefs he filed for the defense, the court “should not overturn the long-standing rule in Colorado that the term ‘person,’ as is used in the Wrongful Death Act, encompasses only individuals born alive. Colorado state courts define ‘person’ under the Act to include only those born alive. Therefore Plaintiffs cannot maintain wrongful death claims based on two unborn fetuses.”