Thursday, October 31, 2013

Sedentary Behavior Linked to Recurrence of Precancerous Colorectal Tumors

Oct. 29, 2013 — Men who spend the most time engaged in sedentary behaviors are at greatest risk for recurrence of colorectal adenomas, benign tumors that are known precursors of colorectal cancers, according to results presented here at the 12th Annual AACR International Conference on Frontiers in Cancer Prevention Research, held Oct. 27-30.


Weight at Time of Diagnosis Linked to Prostate Cancer Mortality

Oct. 29, 2013 — Men who are overweight or obese when they are diagnosed with prostate cancer are more likely to die from the disease than men who are of healthy weight, according to a Kaiser Permanente study published in the journal Obesity Research & Clinical Practice. In patients with more aggressive forms of prostate cancer, the researchers also found an even stronger correlation between obesity and mortality.


Negative Consequences of Noise On Overall Health

Oct. 29, 2013 — The combined toll of occupational, recreational and environmental noise exposure poses a serious public health threat going far beyond hearing damage, according to an international team of researchers writing today in The Lancet. The review team, including a Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania expert, examined the latest research on noise's impact on an array of health indicators -- hearing loss, cardiovascular disease, cognitive performance and mental health, and sleep disturbance -- in order to inform the medical community and lay public about the burden of both auditory and non-auditory effects of noise.


Relating to non-auditory effects, the authors conclude that because of the ubiquitous exposure of environmental and social noise, its public health effect is easily underestimated. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), more than one million disability adjusted life years are lost in western European member states alone due to environmental noise exposure, most of these caused by sleep disturbance and community annoyance.

Accordingly, the authors found evidence that long-term exposure to environmental noise affects the cardiovascular system, with connections to hypertension, ischemic heart diseases, and stroke. In addition, numerous studies pointed to associations between environmental noise exposure and sleep disturbance, children's cognition, and negative effects in hospitals for both patients and staff.


U.S. Study Gives Catholic Schools Poor Marks

Oct. 31, 2013 — A national U.S. study led by a Michigan State University economist suggests Catholic schools are not superior to public schools after all.

Math scores for Catholic students dropped between kindergarten and eighth grade, while math scores for public school students increased slightly. In addition, Catholic students saw no significant increase in reading scores or better behavioral outcomes between kindergarten and eighth grade.

"Across many outcomes, both academic and behavioral, we don't find anything that seems to point to a real benefit of Catholic schools over public schools," said Todd Elder, MSU associate professor of economics.


While previous research has noted that Catholic school students generally outperform public students academically, it has missed the point that Catholic students essentially start off in kindergarten with an advantage that has nothing to do with the schooling itself, he said.

One possible explanation for lower Catholic school achievement is that Catholic school teachers typically make less than public teachers. The study notes that in 2008, private elementary school teachers had an average salary of $35,730 compared to $51,660 in public schools -- a 45 percent difference.

"Some people say Catholic schools are doing more with less," Elder said. "But these findings suggest they're not doing more with less -- that they may, in fact, be doing less with less."

Another possible explanation is that public schools have better designed curriculum, the study says.


Ratio of Job Seekers to Job Openings Slips Below 3-to-1 for First Time in Nearly Five Years, but Is Still as High as in Worst Month of Early 2000s Downturn

On Bob Edwards radio show last weekend, [Oct. 27, 2013] Edwards interviewed Doyle McManus, Washington columnist for the Los Angeles Times.
McManus explained how "Congress" had acted in ways that are slowing economic recovery, eg. sequestration. Either McManus did not mention, or Edwards edited out such comments, all of these are due to Republicans in Congress.

By Heidi Shierholz | October 24, 2013
With research assistance from Alyssa Davis

The Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey (JOLTS) data released this morning by the Bureau of Labor Statistics showed that the total number of job openings increased by 75,000 in August. That, along with the upward revision of 119,000 job openings to earlier data, brought the August level of job openings to 3.9 million. However, there were 11.3 million job seekers in August (unemployment data are from the Current Population Survey and can be found here). That means there were 2.9 job seekers for every job opening in August. In other words, for nearly two out of every three job seekers, there simply were no jobs.

August was the first time in nearly five years that the ratio of job seekers to job openings fell below 3.0-to-1, but the level is still extremely high. To put today’s ratio of 2.9-to-1 in perspective, it matches the highest the ratio ever got in the early 2000s downturn (the ratio stood at 2.9-to-1 in September 2003). In a labor market with strong job opportunities, the ratio would be close to 1-to-1, as it was in December 2000 (when it was 1.1-to-1).

Furthermore, the improvement in the ratio of job seekers to job openings in this recovery overstates the improvement in job opportunities. Most of the decline in the number of job seekers is because more than 5 million would-be workers are sidelined; they are neither employed nor looking for work due to the weak labor market. These “missing workers” are thus not counted as unemployed, but many will become job seekers when a robust jobs recovery finally begins, so job openings will be needed for them, too. [However, many are older people who are leaving the work force voluntarily.]

Figure A shows the number of unemployed workers and the number of job openings by industry. This figure is extremely useful for diagnosing what’s behind our sustained high unemployment. If our current elevated unemployment were due to skills shortages or mismatches, we would expect to find some sectors where there are more unemployed workers than job openings, and some where there are more job openings than unemployed workers. What we find, however, is that unemployed workers dramatically outnumber job openings across the board.

----- [see link above for graphs and further info]

This demonstrates that the main problem in the labor market is a broad-based lack of demand for workers—not, as is often claimed, available workers lacking the skills needed for the sectors with job openings.


Study: Arctic Sea Ice Loss Shifts Jet Stream, Driving Deluges In NW Europe, Drought In Mediterranean

By Joe Romm on October 30, 2013

Yet another study finds Arctic sea ice loss can shift the jet stream and alter the climate.

Scientists predicted a decade ago that Arctic ice loss would shift storm tracks and bring on worse western droughts of the kind we are now seeing. Recent studies find that Arctic sea ice loss may well usher changes in the jet stream that lead to more U.S. extreme weather events (see here and here).

Several studies also suggest that in Arctic sea ice loss is driving more extreme weather in other parts of the world (see review here).

Now a new study in Environmental Research Letters, “Influence of Arctic sea ice on European summer precipitation” finds a “a causal link between observed sea ice anomalies, large-scale atmospheric circulation and increased summer rainfall over northern Europe.” The University of Exeter news release explains:

A new study offers an explanation for the extraordinary run of wet summers experienced by Britain and northwest Europe between 2007 and 2012. The study found that loss of Arctic sea ice shifts the jet stream further south than normal resulting in increased rain during the summer in northwest Europe.


Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Media's Attack On ACA Ignores Consequences Of Underinsurance

Also, as noted by a news item on NPR, these cheap policies often do not cover cancer, and are subject to cancellation if a person actually gets sick and needs them.

Oct. 29, 2013

----- [examples of such media stories are given]

Individuals Being Highlighted By Media Are Underinsured

Wemple: Woman Featured On CBS Had A "Pray-That-You-Don't-Get-Really-Sick" Plan. In a post on the Washington Post's Erik Wemple blog, Wemple noted that Dianne Barrette, a woman highlighted on a CBS report on plan cancellation, had coverage that would not have covered hospitalization and "could well have bankrupted" her:

More coverage may provide a deeper understanding of the ins and outs of Barrette's situation: Her current health insurance plan, she says, doesn't cover "extended hospital stays; it's not designed for that," says Barrette. Well, does it cover any hospitalization? "Outpatient only," responds Barrette. Nor does it cover ambulance service and some prenatal care. On the other hand, says Barrette, it does cover "most of my generic drugs that I need" and there's a $50 co-pay for doctors' appointments. "It's all I could afford right now," says Barrette.

In sum, it's a pray-that-you-don't-really-get-sick "plan." When asked if she ever required hospitalization, Barrette says she did. It happened when she was employed by Raytheon, which provided "excellent benefits." Ever since she left the company and started working as an independent contractor, "I haven't been hospitalized since then, thank God." Hospitalization is among the core requirements for health-care plans under Obamacare. [Washington Post, Erik Wemple Blog, 10/28/13]


Underinsurance Carries Many Of The Same Risks As Uninsurance

KFF: Underinsurance Can Lead To Lack Of Care, Medical Debt, "Other Severe Financial Problems." In a post titled "The 'Underinsurance' Problem Explained," the Kaiser Family Foundation pointed out that lack of adequate health insurance can lead to poor health outcomes and financial problems:

Some of the underinsured avoid going to the doctor or getting prescriptions filled because they can't afford it. Others end up with medical debt and other severe financial problems.

Often, sicker or older (those just short of qualifying for Medicare) people are underinsured because they can't afford comprehensive coverage. One reason? Only 18 states limit how much insurers can base premiums on factors such as age, health status and gender. [Kaiser Family Foundation, 9/28/09]


Access to Care
Relative to those with more adequate insurance, the underinsured were significantly more likely to go without care because of costs. In fact, they reported rates of cost-related, forgone care close to those of the uninsured.

More than one-half of the underinsured (54%) and uninsured (59%) went without needed care during the year: they failed to fill a prescription, skipped a test or follow-up, failed to visit a doctor for a medical problem, and/or did not get specialist care.

Medical Bills
Levels of financial stress among the underinsured rivaled levels among the uninsured and were four times the rates observed among the more adequately insured.


Early Skin-To-Skin Contact Linked to Higher Breastfeeding Rates

Oct. 28, 2013 — Skin-to-skin contact between mother and infant in the delivery room is associated with an increased likelihood for exclusive breastfeeding, according to an abstract presented Oct. 28 at the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) National Conference and Exhibition in Orlando. When combined with a mother's intent to breastfeed, the likelihood was even greater.


Nurturing May Protect Kids from Brain Changes Linked to Poverty

Oct. 28, 2013 — Growing up in poverty can have long-lasting, negative consequences for a child. But for poor children raised by parents who lack nurturing skills, the effects may be particularly worrisome, according to a new study at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis.

Among children living in poverty, the researchers identified changes in the brain that can lead to lifelong problems like depression, learning difficulties and limitations in the ability to cope with stress. The study showed that the extent of those changes was influenced strongly by whether parents were nurturing.

The good news, according to the researchers, is that a nurturing home life may offset some of the negative changes in brain anatomy among poor children. And the findings suggest that teaching nurturing skills to parents -- particularly those living in poverty -- may provide a lifetime benefit for their children.


Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Much breast milk bought online is contaminated, analysis shows

JoNel Aleccia NBC News
Oct. 21, 2013


Nearly 75 percent of breast milk bought through the site was tainted with high levels of disease-causing bacteria, including germs found in human waste.

That’s according to Sarah A. Keim, a researcher at Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio, where her team purchased more than 100 samples of human milk last year, compared them to unpasteurized samples donated to a milk bank and then tested them for safety. She's the lead author of a study published Monday in the journal Pediatrics.


But what the researchers found was worrisome: more colonies of Gram-negative bacteria including coliform, staphylococcus and streptococcus bacteria in the milk purchased online, and, in about 20 percent of samples, cytomegalovirus, or CMV, which can cause serious illness in premature or sick babies. The contamination was associated with poor milk collection, storage or shipping practices, the analysis showed.

“We were very surprised by our findings,” said Keim. “Besides bacterial contamination and viruses that could be in the milk, you could be exposing your infant to chemical contaminants, pharmaceuticals or drugs as well.”


America's Worst Charities

See the following link for the list compiled by the Tampa Bay Times

The 50 worst, ranked by money blown on soliciting costs

Last updated 09/18/2013

Keeping Emotions in Check May Not Always Benefit Psychological Health

Oct. 28, 2013 — Being able to regulate your emotions is important for well-being, but new research suggests that a common emotion regulation strategy called "cognitive reappraisal" may actually be harmful when it comes to stressors that are under our control. The study is published in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science.


"When stressors are controllable, it seems that cognitive reappraisal ability isn't just less beneficial, it may be harmful," explains Troy.


Moderate Exercise Not Only Treats, but Prevents Depression

Oct. 28, 2013 — Physical activity is being increasingly recognized as an effective tool to treat depression. PhD candidate George Mammen's review published in the October issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine has taken the connection one step further, finding that moderate exercise can actually prevent episodes of depression in the long term.


DIY, Gardening Can Cut Heart Attack/Stroke Risk by 30 Percent, Prolong Life for Seniors

Oct. 28, 2013 — A spot of DIY or gardening can cut the risk of a heart attack/stroke and prolong life by as much as 30 per cent among the 60+ age group, indicates research published online in the British Journal of Sports Medicine.

These routine activities are as good as exercise, which is ideal for older people who don't often do that much formal exercise, say the researchers.


Thawing Permafrost: The Speed of Coastal Erosion in Eastern Siberia Has Nearly Doubled

Oct. 29, 2013 — The high cliffs of Eastern Siberia -- which mainly consist of permafrost -- continue to erode at an ever quickening pace. This is the conclusion which scientists of the Alfred Wegener Institute, Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research have reached after their evaluation of data and aerial photographs of the coastal regions for the last 40 years. According to the researchers, the reasons for this increasing erosion are rising summer temperatures in the Russian permafrost regions as well the retreat of the Arctic sea ice. This coastal protection recedes more and more on an annual basis. As a result, waves undermine the shores.


The Coming Food Stamp Cut Will Hit 900,000 Veterans

By Bryce Covert on October 29, 2013

enefits from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), otherwise known as food stamps, will automatically drop come Friday thanks to the loss of additional funds from the 2009 stimulus bill. That cut will hit about 900,000 of the country’s veterans, according to an analysis by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

“Nationwide, in any given month, a total of 900,000 veterans nationwide lived in households that relied on SNAP to provide food for their families in 2011,” CBPP writes. The number varies state to state, with over 100,000 veterans in households that rely on the benefits in Florida and Texas each.

The coming cut will range from $36 a month for a family of four to $11 a month for a single person. Food stamps will average less than $1.40 per person per meal next year with the cut. Benefits were already sparse, at just $133 a month on average.

Veterans can face a lot of challenges finding work when they return from service. While overall the unemployment rate for veterans is 6.5 percent, those who have served since 2001 to the present have an unemployment rate of 9.7 percent. Nearly one in 10 veterans with disabilities were without employment in 2010. They are also disproportionately likely to live in poverty and to be homeless. In 2010, nearly a million veterans ages 18 to 64 had experienced poverty over the past year. As of 2011, nearly one in seven homeless adults was a veteran and more than four in ten homeless veterans were without shelter. They are therefore heavily impacted by cuts to the social safety net.


Massive Cut to Food Stamps Coming Friday

Posted on October 29, 2013

An enormous cut to the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP) will come into effect on Friday, November 1st, and the reason why may astonish you.

According to a new report from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, nearly 1 million veterans will be among the 48 million who will experience a benefit cut as of Friday.

The reason the program will see a reduction on that day is because that part of the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (the stimulus) is set to expire.


Without the Recovery Act’s boost, SNAP benefits in fiscal year 2014 will average less than $1.40 per person per meal. This is a serious cut, especially considering that over 80 percent of SNAP participants live in poverty.


As you may recall, Congress still hasn’t passed a comprehensive farm bill, however the House has passed a bill that cuts another $40 billion from SNAP over the next 10 years. Because House Republicans really, really hate poor people.


Here’s how GOP Obamacare hypocrisy backfires

GOP base doesn't understand right wants to turn Medicare, Social Security and more into a very similar program

Monday, Oct 28, 2013
By Michael Lind


If Congress had passed Medicare for All, the left’s preferred simple, universal alternative to the kludgeocratic ACA mess, signing up would have been a lot easier and the potential for website snafus correspondingly less.


Konczal’s second point is even more important — the worst features of Obamacare are the very features that conservatives want to impose on all federal social policy:


This point is worth dwelling on. Conservatives want all social insurance to look like Obamacare. The radical right would like to replace Social Security with an Obamacare-like system, in which mandates or incentives pressure Americans to steer money into tax-favored savings accounts like 401(k)s and to purchase annuities at retirement, with means-tested subsidies to help the poor make their private purchases. And most conservative and libertarian plans for healthcare for the elderly involve replacing Medicare with a totally new system designed along the lines of Obamacare, with similar mandates or incentives to compel the elderly to buy private health insurance from for-profit corporations.


U.S. broadband among most expensive worldwide

See link below for informative graphs and explanations of why our system is so expensive:

Tom Geoghegan wrote for BBC News 27 October 2013, Why is broadband more expensive in the US?

Home broadband in the US costs twice as much as it does in Europe and three times as much as it does in South Korea, according to a new report.

Because we let the duopoly get away with it, as Susan Crawford has been reminding us for a while now.

The price of basic broadband, TV and phone packages—or bundles as they are known—is much higher in American cities than elsewhere, suggests the New America Foundation think tank, which compared hundreds of available packages worldwide….

This research echoes the findings of another report earlier in the summer by the OECD, which compared countries in terms of their broadband-only prices. Across all 10 download speeds and capacities, it consistently ranked the US near the bottom.

For instance, at high speeds of 45 Mbps and over, the OECD report has the US ranked 30th out of 33 countries, with an average price of $90 a month. With phone and TV thrown in, plus some premium channels, these packages often cost $200.


Sunday, October 27, 2013

American adults score below average on worldwide test measuring math, reading and problem-solving

By Associated Press and Daily Mail Reporter
PUBLISHED: 09:13 EST, 8 October 2013 | UPDATED: 12:24 EST, 8 October 2013

It's long been known that America's school kids haven't measured well compared with their international peers, but now there's a new twist: its adults don't either.

In math, reading and problem-solving using technology, American adults scored below the international average on a global test, according to results released on Tuesday.

Adults in Japan, Canada, Australia, Finland and multiple other countries scored significantly higher than the U.S. in all three areas. The findings were equally grim for many European countries.

Beyond basic reading and math, respondents were tested on activities such as calculating mileage reimbursement due to a salesman, sorting email and comparing food expiration dates on grocery store tags.

All the skills tested are considered critical for global competitiveness and economic strength.

Not only did Americans score poorly compared to many international competitors, the findings reinforced just how large the gap is between the nation's high- and low-skilled workers and how hard it is to move ahead when your parents haven't.


Among the other findings:

- Americans scored toward the bottom in the category of problem solving in a technology rich environment.

The top five scores in the areas were from Japan, Finland, Australia, Sweden and Norway, while the U.S. score was on par with England, Estonia, Ireland and Poland.

In nearly all countries, at least 10 percent of adults lacked the most basic of computer skills such as using a mouse.


Nebraska approves climate-denying study; scientists refuse to conduct it

Thursday, Oct 24, 2013
By Lindsay Abrams

A study on the impact of climate change on Nebraska, recently approved by the state, may not be carried out — because its own scientists are refusing to be a part of it.

The problem, according to members of the governor-appointed Climate Assessment and Response Committee, is that the bill behind the study specifically calls for the researchers to look at “cyclical” climate change. In so doing, it completely leaves out human contributions to global warming.

At a discussion yesterday, the Omaha World-Herald Bureau reports, Barbara Mayes, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service, pointed out that “cyclical” isn’t even a scientific term.

And it’s not just a misuse of language: State Sen. Beau McCoy, who added the word to the bill, is a known climate denier. “I don’t subscribe to global warming,” McCoy said during an earlier debate about the legislation. ”I think there are normal, cyclical changes.”

At the meeting, a number of scientists stood up to declare that they refused to take part in the study:


Unprecedented Arctic Warming: Average Summer Temperatures in Last 100 Years May Be Warmest in 120,000 Years

Oct. 24, 2013 — The heat is on, at least in the Arctic. Average summer temperatures in the Eastern Canadian Arctic during the last 100 years are higher now than during any century in the past 44,000 years and perhaps as long ago as 120,000 years, says a new University of Colorado Boulder study.


"The key piece here is just how unprecedented the warming of Arctic Canada is," said Miller, also a fellow at CU-Boulder's Institute of Arctic and Alpine Research. "This study really says the warming we are seeing is outside any kind of known natural variability, and it has to be due to increased greenhouse gases in the atmosphere."


Saturday, October 26, 2013

New Links Between Sleep Deprivation, Immune System Discovered

Oct. 23, 2013 — Population-level studies have indicated that insufficient sleep increases the risk of cardiovascular diseases and type 2 diabetes. These diseases are known to be linked to inflammatory responses in the body.


"These results corroborate the idea that sleep does not only impact brain function, but also interacts with our immune system and metabolism. Sleep loss causes changes to the system that regulates our immune defence. Some of these changes appear to be long-term, and may contribute to the development of diseases that have been linked to sleep deprivation in epidemiological research," Aho states.

Depression Key Link Between Intimate Partner Violence, Food Insecurity

Oct. 25, 2013 — Women who experience physical, mental or sexual abuse at the hands of their partners have an increased likelihood of being food insecure. That's according to a new study out of the University of Houston Texas Obesity Research Center (TORC), which may prove valuable to those creating interventions for those populations.

"The bridge between the two issues is depression," said assistant professor and TORC researcher Daphne Hernandez. "Our study found that women experiencing intimate partner violence are more likely to be depressed, which impacts their ability to ensure a food-secure household."


Monkey That Purrs Like a Cat Is Among New Species Discovered in Amazon Rainforest

Oct. 25, 2013 — At least 441 new species of animals and plants have been discovered over a four year period in the vast, underexplored rainforest of the Amazon, including a monkey that purrs like a cat.

Found between 2010 and 2013, the species include a flame-patterned lizard, a thumbnail-sized frog, a vegetarian piranha, a brightly coloured snake, and a beautiful pink orchid, according to World Wildlife Fund (WWF).


Under Bush, Republicans Vigorously Defended Health Care Reform Despite Serious Glitches

By Igor Volsky on October 24, 2013


Not only was Bush’s rollout “anything but smooth,” but administration officials had “some trouble getting the [online] tool up and running” and had to delay its debut for weeks. What’s more, computer glitches caused low-income beneficiaries to go without needed medications and sent pharmacies the wrong drug information. Before it was all resolved, Dr. Mark McClellan, Bush’s head of the Center for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), appeared at hearings before the House Committee On Energy And Commerce, laying out the flaws in the law’s implementation and detailing how the administration would address them.

As the House Energy and Commerce Committee holds its first hearing on the implementation of the the Affordable Care Act on Thursday, it’s worth noting that some of the very same Republicans who are lashing out against Obamacare, arguing that the botched rollout is proof that the government cannot implement effectively and should repeal the law entirely, gave the Bush administration a pass and urged Americans not to pre-judge such a complicated process. At least four of the Republicans still on the committee had argued that early implementation hurdles should not taint the entirety of reform:


The Number Of Homeless Students In The United States Hits A Record

By Scott Keyes on October 24, 2013

More than 1.1 million students in the United States were homeless last year, a record high, according to new data released by the U.S. Department of Education.

During the 2011-12 school year, there were 1,168,354 homeless students enrolled in preschool or K-12, a 10 percent increase over the previous year. A total of 55.5 million students were enrolled in preschool or K-12 that year, meaning nearly 2 percent of all students were homeless.

According to First Focus, a children’s advocacy organization, “the number of homeless children in public schools has increased 72 percent since the beginning of the recession.” The states with the largest increase in student homelessness include North Dakota (212 percent), Maine (58 percent), and North Carolina (53 percent).

It’s important to note that the number of homeless students in the United States doesn’t capture the full extent of youth homelessness. Many young homeless people are infants, weren’t properly identified as homeless by the survey, or have dropped out (or been kicked out) of school.


the situation could soon become even worse if food stamps are cut. Currently, 45 percent of food stamp recipients are children. In 2011 alone, 4.7 million households were lifted out of poverty thanks to food stamps. If Republicans succeed in their quest to cut the program, the number of children living in poverty would increase substantially. And even if the GOP is held at bay, automatic cuts to food stamps will kick in on November 1, returning the program to pre-stimulus levels and likely resulting in even more homeless students in the wealthiest country in the world.

Over 10 Percent Of America’s Largest Companies Pay Zero Percent Tax Rates

By Alan Pyke on October 25, 2013

Among companies listed on the S&P 500, almost one in nine paid an effective tax rate of zero percent — or even lower — over the past year, according to an analysis by USA Today.

There are 57 separate companies listed on the index that paid a zero percent rate from the past year. Those companies include both household names like Verizon and News Corp. and lesser-known corporate giants like the data storage manufacturer Seagate (market value $15.9 billion) and Public Storage (market value $29.5 billion). Many of the companies USA Today identified in its analysis as paying negative rates make the list because they lost money, but several were profitable. Previous analyses have shown that the typical corporation pays a lower effective tax rate than most middle-class families, and a far lower one than the statutory corporate tax rate against which business interests disingenuously rail.


But the more common gambit involves moving revenues from parent companies to offshore subsidiaries based in tax haven countries in the Caribbean, Europe, and elsewhere.


Earth's 4th Warmest September on Record

By: Dr. Jeff Masters, 2:26 PM GMT on October 25, 2013

September 2013 was the globe's 4th warmest September since records began in 1880, according to NOAA's National Climatic Data Center (NCDC). The year-to-date period of January - September has been the 6th warmest such period on record. September 2013 global land temperatures were the 6th warmest on record, and global ocean temperatures were the 4th warmest on record. September 2013 was the 343nd [more than 28 years] consecutive month with global temperatures warmer than the 20th century average.


The number of families with children living in deep poverty has gone up 130 percent since 1996

By Katie Mcdonough
Oct. 23, 2013

Funding for the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families block grant hasn’t increased since welfare was “reformed” in 1996. Since then, as revealed by a new report from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, the number of families with children living on $2 a day or less has gone up nearly 130 percent.

The report also shows how inadequate assistance from the program has pushed America’s poorest families deeper into poverty during the same time period. As Stephanie Mencimer at Mother Jones notes, there isn’t a single state in the country where welfare benefits provide enough to bring a poor single mother with two kids above 50 percent of the poverty line. In many Southern states, the program doesn’t even provide enough assistance to get a poor family above 10 percent of the poverty line. Even when Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits are factored in, most families with no other income are still below the poverty line.


Thursday, October 24, 2013

Bank of America loses fraud trial over shoddy mortgages

People can go to jail for stealing a loaf of bread, but these bankers stole huge amounts of money, and get bonuses. The companies may have to pay fines and restitution, but the money comes out or workers salaries, and shareholder dividends, if they give dividends.

Nate Raymond
Oct. 23, 2013

Bank of America was found liable for fraud on Wednesday over defective mortgages sold by its Countrywide unit, a major win for the U.S. government in one of the few trials stemming from the financial crisis.

After a four-week trial, a federal jury in New York found the bank liable on one civil fraud charge. Countrywide originated shoddy home loans in a process called "Hustle" and sold them to government mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the government said.


The government continues to investigate banks for conduct related to the financial crisis. The verdict comes as the government is negotiating a $13 billion settlement with JPMorgan Chase to resolve a number of probes and claims arising from its mortgage business, including the sale of mortgage bonds.

Growing Up Poor Changes Children’s Brains And May Even Shorten Their Lives

By Alan Pyke on October 22, 2013

Growing up in poverty changes a person’s brain in long-lasting ways that harm emotional processing and increase a child’s odds of mental health problems. The neurological impacts of childhood poverty may even include higher mortality rates, according to a new study by scientists at the University of Denver.


While this study examined what growing up poor does to a person over decades, other research released over the summer zeroed in on the near-term consequences of poverty on adult brains. The stress of poverty has the same effect on a person’s cognitive ability as pulling an all-nighter every night, knocking as much as 13 percent off of a person’s IQ.


Wednesday, October 23, 2013

U.S. steps up investigation as pet death toll hits 580; imported food from China implicated

And surely many more cases have not been reported.

Posted by Rob Hotakainen on October 23, 2013

The Food and Drug Administration says 580 dogs and cats have died after eating jerky pet treats --- and imported pet food from China is suspected of causing the deaths.

The agency said that most of the jerky treats implicated have been made in China, but the exact cause for the deaths is unknown. Manufacturers of pet foods are not required to state the country of origin for each ingredient in their products.

The FDA said it has received reports involving 3,600 dogs and 10 cats getting ill from jerky pet treat-related illnesses.

As part of its probe, the FDA’s Center for Veterinary Medicine (CVM) has conducted more than 1,200 tests and visited jerky pet treat manufacturers in China.

Now the agency is reaching out to pet owners and veterinarians, asking them to provide blood, urine and tissue samples from animals that get sick from the treats. And the FDA said it would cover the costs


The FDA said the jerky treats are sold as jerky tenders or strips made of chicken, duck, sweet potatoes or dried fruit.

Many jerky pet treat products were removed from the market in January after a New York lab reported finding evidence of up to six drugs in pet treats made in China.

Read more here:

Texas Judge Almost Blocked From Voting Because Of New Voter ID Law

By Aviva Shen on October 23, 2013

A Texas district judge who has been voting for the past five decades was almost barred from the polls Tuesday, thanks to the state’s newly implemented, stricter voter ID law. The law kicked in on Tuesday as early voting in Texas’ November 5 election began.

As she told local channel Kiii News, 117th District Court Judge Sandra Watts was flagged for possible voter fraud because her driver’s license lists her maiden name as her middle name, while her voter registration form has her real middle name. This was the first time she has ever had a problem voting in 49 years. “What I have used for voter registration and for identification for the last 52 years was not sufficient yesterday when I went to vote,” she said.

Watts worried that women who use maiden names or hyphenated names may be surprised at the polls. “I don’t think most women know that this is going to create a problem,” the judge said. “That their maiden name is on their driver’s license, which was mandated in 1964 when I got married, and this. And so why would I want to use a provisional ballot when I’ve been voting regular ballot for the last 49 years?”

Many married women do not update their IDs after taking their spouse’s surnames, as the process is arduous and costly. Women must present original documents verifying their name change, such as a marriage license, or pay $20 to obtain new copies. Under the new voter ID law, these women are potential voter fraud risks.

Watts is hardly the only woman who has encountered problems. ThinkProgress’ Scott Keyes interviewed 84-year-old Dorothy Card, who was denied a voter ID three times even though she has voted for more than 60 years and provided extensive proof of identity.


Extreme Heat Is Proving Deadly In Sweden

By Katie Valentine on October 23, 2013

Climate change has resulted in about 1,500 premature deaths in Sweden over the last 30 years, according to a new study.

The study, published in Nature Climate Change, found that temperature increases between 1980 and 2009 caused 300 premature deaths in Stockholm, which researchers say translates into about 1,500 deaths across Sweden. The researchers found that, compared to climate data for 1900 to 1929, instances of extremely hot weather signifigantly increased over the 30-year period, causing deaths due to extreme heat to double. They also found that, even though winters as a whole were milder over the 30-year span, there were more instances of extreme cold events, which contributed to a slight increase of deaths over the winter.


Sweden, with its usually temperate climate, is not the only region facing early deaths from heat waves. In China, temperatures surpassing 105 degrees Fahrenheit killed dozens of people this summer. In 2003, the hottest summer on record in Europe was responsible for the deaths of an estimated 70,000 people. The heat in Europe created unbearable conditions for the young and elderly especially, and it coupled with the lack of wind made pollutants like car exhaust hang in the air, creating dangerous environments for those with asthma.

In the U.S., heat is the leading cause of weather-related death, responsible for the deaths of 155 people in 2012 alone. In 2006, a brutal heat wave that spread throughout most of the U.S. was responsible for or contributed to the deaths of 140 people in New York City alone, most of whom were older and lacked air conditioning. In May, a study predicted that by the 2020s, heat-related deaths in New York City could increase by 20 percent — by the 2080s, under some extreme scenarios, they could jump by 90 percent.

As the climate warms, heat waves are becoming longer, more frequent and more intense — since the 1950s, the duration of heat waves has increased worldwide.


And though air conditioners can be a lifesaver in a heatwave, they ultimately are bad news for the climate: during the 2013 heat wave, New York City broke its record for energy use in a single day, as residents with access to A.C. cranked it up to stay cool.

Shipping lanes are getting too noisy for the whales, coastal survey shows

Elizabeth Howell
Oct. 23, 2013

Humpback whales and killer whales are losing up to 94 percent and 97 percent, respectively, of their communication space in the busiest areas of the ocean off the British Columbia coast, according to a new study.


Shipping noise is an easy problem to fix, compared with acidification, a warming climate and other situations that would take decades to address, Williams added. To cut down on the cacophony, ships could slow down or avoid whale-filled areas, or manufacturers could construct quieter vessels, he suggests.



I heard on the radio that a bunch ofcontract programmers had worked on the Obamacare web site. Shows the the wonders of privatization and low bid contracts, sounds like.

Stronger Sexual Impulses May Explain Why Men Cheat More Than Women

Not stunning news. Although I think the women's reaction would depend on the circumstances, esp. if they are in love.

Shows why societies where women have more equality tend to be more advanced. We can spend more time thinking about things other than sex.

Sep. 21, 2013 — A recently published study strongly suggests men succumb to sexual temptations more than women -- for example, cheating on a partner -- because they experience strong sexual impulses, not because they have weak self-control.

Previous research has shown that men are more likely than women to pursue romantic partners that are "off limits." However, until now, the explanation for this sex difference was largely unexplored.

One possible explanation for this effect is that men experience stronger sexual impulses than women do. A second possibility is that women have better self-control than men. The current study's results support the former explanation and provide new insight into humans' evolutionary origins.


Texas Republicans Find A Way To Disenfranchise Women Voters

by Jean Ann Esselink on October 17, 2013

They’ve targeted Blacks, Latinos and college students. Now Texas has come up with a Voter ID law that will disproportionately affect women – the constituency they most fear will support Wendy Davis.


Think Progress reports that as of November 5, Texans must show a photo ID with their up-to-date legal name. It sounds like such a small thing, but according to the Brennan Center for Justice, only 66% of voting age women have ready access to a photo document that will attest to proof of citizenship. This is largely because young women have not updated their documents with their married names, a circumstance that doesn’t affect male voters in any significant way. Suddenly 34% of women voters are scrambling for an acceptable ID, while 99% of men are home free.

As of November 5, a birth certificate is not enough. Women voters will have to show legal proof of a name change: a marriage license, a divorce decree, or court ordered change; and they have to be the original documents. No photocopies allowed. This means thousands of women face the hassle of figuring out what they need and how to get it. Then they face at least a $20 fee, more if a woman doesn’t have the time to stand in line and wants it mailed. As a result, many women who are eligible to vote, won’t.


Australia's hottest September on record

Recently an elderly relative claimed he hadn't noticed that the weather has changed, obviously quoting denialist propaganda. The thing is, he has never lived anywhere long enough to know whether or not it has changed. I have, and it has definitely gotten warmer.

By: Dr. Jeff Masters, 2:26 PM GMT on October 23, 2013

Sydney, Australia and the Blue Mountains to its west endured extreme fire weather conditions on Wednesday without catastrophe, as "aggressive" and "high-risk" fire fighting strategies kept the 71 fires burning in New South Wales from causing major devastation.


Australia has just had its hottest September on record, and the 12-month period ending in September 2013 set a record for the hottest 12-month period in Australian history. Australia's warmest summer and 3rd warmest winter on record occurred during this 12-month period. It has also been quite dry in the fire region over the past few months, with soil moisture levels in the lowest 10% historically for this time of year.


“Climate change is increasing the risk of more frequent and longer heat waves and more extreme hot days, as well as exacerbating bushfire conditions.” So said the independent non-profit Australia Climate Council in a report on the record September 2013 heat in Australia.


Australia's Climate Commission was defunded after the new government led by Prime Minister Tony Abbott took power in September 2013, writes Brian Kahn at However, the commissioners banded together and used crowd-funding to raise $1 million to start the non-profit Climate Council, a nonprofit organization aimed at providing climate information on Australia to the public. The Council is planning to release a report specifically about wildfires in November 2013.


Monday, October 21, 2013

Fox Deflects From GOP Role In Problems

The point of Feaux Noise coverage is to increase profits for their insurance company advertisers

Oct. 21, 2013

Fox News is preemptively deflecting blame from Republicans for their refusal to set up state-based health insurance exchanges, which media reports say contributed to problems with the federal health insurance exchange website


States had to notify the federal government by mid-February if they intended to create their own exchanges. A February 18 post on The Washington Post's Wonkblog explained that nearly all of the states that failed to set up their own exchanges were Republican-led, as demonstrated by the following graph:


Media reports show that this partisan decision by Republican governors has contributed to the federal government's problems launching, but Fox has already worked to prevent Republicans from shouldering any of the blame for those issues.


New book reveals Fox News PR’s dirty trick

Not surprising. The fossil fuel industry pays people to post global warming denialist comments on the internet.

Monday, Oct 21, 2013
By Sarah Gray

The new book “Murdoch’s World” written by NPR media reporter David Folkenflik, offers surprising details about the Fox News PR machine. Media Matters reported that in the late 2000s Fox News public relations staff engaged in an elaborate attempt to portray the conservative site in a positive light. Staffers created multiple untraceable aliases and posted positive comments about their employer on unfavorable or neutral blogs.

The book’s endnotes say that four former Fox News employees spoke to Folkenflik about this tactic;


Spanking linked to later aggression in children

Consistent with my experience when I was babysitting. The children who were the hardest to deal with were those whose parents were into spanking.

Genevra Pittman
Oct. 21, 2013

Think spanking will help teach an out-of-control child to stay in line? A new study suggests the opposite may be true.

Researchers found kids who were spanked as 5-year-olds were slightly more likely to be aggressive and break rules later in elementary school.

Those results are in keeping with past research, said Elizabeth Gershoff. She studies parental discipline and its effects at the University of Texas at Austin.

"There's just no evidence that spanking is good for kids," she told Reuters Health.

"Spanking models aggression as a way of solving problems, that you can hit people and get what you want," said Gershoff, who wasn't involved in the new study.

"When (children) want another kid's toy, the parents haven't taught them how to use their words or how to negotiate."

Despite mounting evidence on the harms tied to spanking, it is "still a very typical experience" for U.S. children, the study's lead author said.


Kids also tended to score lower on vocabulary tests when they had been regularly spanked by their fathers at age 5, MacKenzie and his colleagues write in Pediatrics.


When it comes to disciplining children, she said there's more evidence on what doesn't work long-term than what does.

"We know that spanking doesn't work, we know that yelling doesn't work," Gershoff said. "Timeout is kind of a mixed bag. We know that reasoning does work."

MacKenzie said spanking continues to seem effective to parents in the short term, which makes it hard to change their minds about it.

"It's strongly associated with immediate compliance," he told Reuters Health. "Children will change their behavior in the moment."


Sunday, October 20, 2013

Fox Column Shrugs Off Unprecedented Obstruction Of Obama's Judicial Nominees

October 18, 2013

Right-wing media continue to deny that President Obama's judicial nominees have faced unparalleled obstruction from congressional Republicans, and is mischaracterizing the legal philosophies of those nominees. contributor John Lott not only misled on the overwhelming hurdles President Obama's nominees have faced, he also rather bizarrely branded one nominee as "controversial," even though his legal opinions are based on well-established Supreme Court precedent.


But As Lott himself acknowledges, numerous analyses (including one by the non-partisan Congressional Research Service) have shown that President Obama's "rhetoric" is true -- his nominees have been blocked at unprecedented levels. Lott dismisses these studies by highly reputable sources because supposedly their "numbers are fundamentally flawed," a bold claim from a source whose research on gun violence has been repeatedly and seriously discredited.

Lott also mysteriously concludes that "when President Obama was a Senator, Democrats gave George W. Bush's Circuit Court nominees much tougher confirmations."

This claim is highly questionable. Although both Republicans and Democrats have engaged in filibusters to block judicial nominees, Democrats typically use this tactic for truly controversial nominees. As The Wall Street Journal has reported, President Obama's mainstream and bipartisan-supported nominees are far more likely to be filibustered than were George W. Bush's:


Disrupted sleep may make heavy drinkers particularly prone to liver disease


Disrupted sleep and circadian rhythm — the body's internal clock — may play a role in the development of liver disease for those who are vulnerable due to heavy drinking, according to research conducted at Rush University Medical Center. For purposes of the study, was defined as receiving 29 percent of all daily calories from alcohol.

The study, which was published in the August issue of the journal PLOS ONE, showed that disruption of circadian rhythms, which is often seen in shift workers and those suffering from jet lag, weakened the lining of the gut (a condition known as leaky gut) in a clinical lab setting. People with leaky gut are vulnerable to illnesses such as liver disease because the weakening of the intestinal wall allows toxins to enter the bloodstream.


Saturday, October 19, 2013

News Corp.'s CEO Reportedly Tried To Suppress WSJ Coverage Of Company's Phone Hacking Scandal

October 18, 2013

Before he was promoted to his current role as chief executive officer of News Corp., Robert Thomson used his position at The Wall Street Journal to hobble the paper's reporting of the parent company's phone hacking scandal, according to a new book.

According to a report in Capital New York, Murdoch's World, the forthcoming book on Rubert Murdoch's empire by NPR media reporter David Folkenflik, alleges that as the phone-hacking story broke in the summer of 2011, Thomson, then the Journal managing editor, "tried to prevent the publication" of a "damaging" article on the scandal.

Thomson was later promoted to CEO of News Corp.


Folkenflik writes that "Thomson tried to kill the story several different times," and that "several reporters and editors" believed he was "intentionally trying to set impossible standards so the story would not see the light of day."

According to Capital New York, the story "was eventually published on August 20, 2011, but the revelations about the altered News of the World article were buried in paragraph nine."

Previous reports have described Thomson as "one of Rupert Murdoch's closest confidants and, some say, best friend."

The News Corp. phone hacking scandal, the fallout of which continues to this day, involves a pattern of allegations of hundreds of instances of phone hacking, police bribery, and other crimes by reporters at News of the World and other London tabloids owned by the company.


The Journal was not the only U.S.-based Murdoch property to offer controversial coverage of the story.Media Matters has documented that Fox News was late to the phone hacking story and devoted far less time to it than other cable news networks. When Fox finally did cover the story the network did its best to do damage control for its parent company's behavior.


Hamsters tackle energy crisis :)

IN A Feedback item on scam conference invitations last year (18 August 2012), marine biologist Phil Clapham told us he got so tired of receiving these that in response he started submitting ridiculous paper titles under his dog's name, Cleo V Borzoi. Now he tells us about his dog's "latest triumph".

Last month, Phil received an email inviting him "to be a Speaker at Forum 4: Ocean Energy, at the 3rd New Energy Forum, which is one of the most crucial parallel meetings of EAFE-2013, during September 26-28, 2013, at Xi'an Qujiang International Conference Center, China."

Sensing another scam, he replied: "Re: Entitled to be Speaker at New Energy Forum-2013 (September 26-28, China), I would like to submit the following paper:

'Borzoi, Cleo V. Harnessing angular kinetic energy from colossal cloned Rodenta: re-envisioning the hamster wheel model in green energy management.'

Please let me know if this is appropriate



He got an e-mail back saying they thought the "research is very interesting and novel."
He got a following e-mail asking for payment of a $1299 "Registration Fee".

Napping may boost preschoolers' memory skills

By Michelle Castillo /
CBS News/ September 23, 2013

Naps don't just provide children with much-needed rest: They may aid in learning too.

New research shows that children who had a midday nap performed better on memory recall tests than those who weren't able to get any extra snooze time.


College-educated workers are taking jobs that don't require degrees,0,4465594.story

By Alana Semuels
September 20, 2013


"I have a master's in economics and I'm bartending in New York," he said with a shrug. "It's a good way to make money."

A college degree once all but guaranteed a well-paying job and higher earnings than high school graduates. But fewer of these good jobs are now available because of both long-term economic changes and the lingering effects of the Great Recession.

People such as Flagherty with college and advanced degrees are working jobs that don't require them, whether by choice or necessity. That in turn pushes people without college degrees out of those jobs.

In 1970, only 2% of firefighters had college degrees; now 18% do, according to Richard Vedder, an economist at Ohio University. Fewer than 1% of taxi drivers had a college degree in 1970; now 15% do. About 25% of retail sales clerks have college degrees, Vedder said.

"The main reason is a pretty simple one," he said. "The number of college graduates has grown vastly faster than the number of jobs that require high-level education skills."


Because college is so expensive, many students are facing a dilemma: If they go to college, they still might not get a job that requires a college degree, and they'll be on the hook for big student loan payments. But if they don't go to college, they might be pushed out of entry-level jobs by overqualified college graduates who can't find other work.


Study strengthens link between low dietary fiber intake and increased cardiovascular risk

Contact: Jane Grochowski
Elsevier Health Sciences

Results reported in The American Journal of Medicine

Philadelphia, PA, October 18, 2013 – A new study published in the December issue of The American Journal of Medicine shows a significant association between low dietary fiber intake and cardiometabolic risks including metabolic syndrome, cardiovascular inflammation, and obesity. Surveillance data from 23,168 subjects in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) 1999-2010 was used to examine the role dietary fiber plays in heart health.


Brain May Flush out Toxins During Sleep

I have noticed that when don't get enough sleep, I start feeling as if I'm getting Alzheimers.

Oct. 17, 2013 — A good night's rest may literally clear the mind. Using mice, researchers showed for the first time that the space between brain cells may increase during sleep, allowing the brain to flush out toxins that build up during waking hours. These results suggest a new role for sleep in health and disease. The study was funded by the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS), part of the NIH.


Previous studies suggest that toxic molecules involved in neurodegenerative disorders accumulate in the space between brain cells. In this study, the researchers tested whether the glymphatic system controls this by injecting mice with labeled beta-amyloid, a protein associated with Alzheimer's disease, and measuring how long it lasted in their brains when they were asleep or awake. Beta-amyloid disappeared faster in mice brains when the mice were asleep, suggesting sleep normally clears toxic molecules from the brain.

"These results may have broad implications for multiple neurological disorders," said Jim Koenig, Ph.D., a program director at NINDS. "This means the cells regulating the glymphatic system may be new targets for treating a range of disorders."

Pacific Ocean Temperature Influences Tornado Activity in US

Oct. 17, 2013 — Meteorologists often use information about warm and cold fronts to determine whether a tornado will occur in a particular area. Now, a University of Missouri researcher has found that the temperature of the Pacific Ocean could help scientists predict the type and location of tornado activity in the U.S.

Laurel McCoy, an atmospheric science graduate student at the MU School of Natural Resources, and Tony Lupo, professor and chair of atmospheric science in the College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources, surveyed 56,457 tornado-like events from 1950 to 2011. They found that when surface sea temperatures were warmer than average, the U.S. experienced 20.3 percent more tornados that were rated EF-2 to EF-5 on the Enhanced Fuijta (EF) scale. (The EF scale rates the strength of tornados based on the damage they cause. The scale has six category rankings from zero to five.)

McCoy and Lupo found that the tornados that occurred when surface sea temperatures were above average were usually located to the west and north of tornado alley, an area in the Midwestern part of the U.S. that experiences more tornados than any other area. McCoy also found that when sea surface temperatures were cooler, more tornadoes tracked from southern states, like Alabama, into Tennessee, Illinois and Indiana.


Foliage Season Under Fire from Climate Change

October 14th, 2013
By Brian Kahn

Clocks aren’t the only things falling back at this time of year. The start to foliage season is also on the move, with the season starting later and later in the U.S. since 1982. Other threats from climate change could also cost states that rely on the billions from leaf peepers in lost tourism revenues and have ecological impacts that extend well beyond the season.

The U.S. Forest Service estimates that fiery foliage in the Berkshires and Green and White Mountains generates $8 billion in tourism revenue annually for New England alone. Foliage season is so important to Vermont that the state employs a leaf forecaster. States in other parts of the country also depend on foliage season to bring in tourism dollars, though specific numbers are harder to come by.

Warmer weather is contributing to a later ending to the growing season in the U.S. according to research from Seoul National University. The end of the season is marked by the point when satellites see the overall greenness of foliage start to decline, was over two weeks later in 2008 compared to 1982.


There Are 4 Million Songs on Spotify That Have Never Been Played Once

Friday, October 11, 2013
by Rochell

Spotify is a wonderful place to spread your music and get discovered. But that assumes that anyone knows you exist.

According to data just released by Spotify, 80 percent of the 20 million songs on the service have been streamed at least once. Which also means that 4 million tracks have never been played — not once.


I have some songs at

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Homeless Man Learning Computer Programming Arrested For Sleeping In Public

What would Jesus think?

By Scott Keyes on October 16, 2013

A well-known homeless man was arrested this week for sleeping on a New York City park bench, becoming perhaps the most high-profile case of the ongoing criminalization of homelessness.

“Journeyman” Leo became Internet famous in August when a local computer programmer, Patrick McConlogue, wrote an article about his plan to offer the homeless man either $100 or free computer programming lessons. Though McConologue was widely ridiculed for the tone of his piece — he later said he regretted some of the words he used — Leo chose to learn how to code and has been grateful for the opportunity. After just one month, he’d already built an app that tracks the carbon dioxide emissions one would save by carpooling; it will be released in the coming weeks. He was, for all intents, making remarkable progress towards a new career and helping get off the streets.

And yet, even for people showing such promise, the cycle of homelessness isn’t easily vanquished.

On Monday morning, the New York Police Department arrested Leo “for sleeping on a bench that he normally doesn’t sleep on.” By city ordinance, all parks are closed between the hours of 1AM and 5AM. He was charged with trespassing, a violation that could carry a fine of up to $250. If that doesn’t sound like much, try paying it off when you already don’t have enough money for bare essentials like food or shelter.

There are approximately 55,000 homeless people in New York City, a record high. There is very little affordable housing and not enough shelter beds for everyone. But even people who can’t afford a home and don’t have a shelter are biologically compelled to sleep. So making it illegal to sleep on park benches effectively criminalizes homelessness and saddles poor people with fines they can’t afford. This creates a cycle where homeless people, already struggling to scrape together enough resources to get off the street, instead have to first figure out some way to pay off their fine.


Photos of Earth from space

The following link has a slide show of beautiful photos of Earth taken from space.

Sea Level Rise Swamping Florida's Everglades

By By Becky Oskin
Oct. 17, 2013

Rising sea levels are transforming the Florida Everglades, a new study shows. Plant communities that thrive in salt water are expanding along the coast, leaving less room for plants that depend on fresh water.

Salt-loving mangroves in the Everglades have marched inland in the past decade, while freshwater plants — such as saw grass, spike rush and tropical hardwood trees — lost ground, according to a study published in the October 2013 issue of the journal Wetlands.

The findings, which come from an analysis of satellite imagery from 2001 through 2010, match long-term trends tracked on the ground for the past 70 years, said lead study author Douglas Fuller, a geographer at the University of Miami.


30 million people still live in slavery, human rights group says

Oct. 17, 2013
By Alexander Smith, NBC News contributor

Almost 30 million people across the globe are living in modern-day slavery, according to a report published Thursday.

The inaugural Global Slavery Index, published by the Australia-based Walk Free Foundation, said the African nation of Mauritania, Haiti, Pakistan, and India have the highest number of slaves in proportion to population.

But taken in absolute terms, global powers such as China and Russia were near the top of the list of countries with the largest total of people living in slavery.

The index says the term "slavery" is used mean a variety of conditions, such as forced labor, human trafficking, the sale and exploitation of children, and forced marriage.


The U.S. came in at 134th, worse off than Barbados (135), South Korea (137), Hong Kong (141), Costa Rica (146), and Cuba (149).

While deeming the U.S. and Canada "very low risk," it said they were prime destinations for human trafficking because of "their demand for cheap labour and relatively porous land borders."

The U.K., Ireland, and Iceland were given the best ratings and came in at joint 160th.

“This does not mean these countries are slavery free,” the report said. “On the contrary, it is estimated that there are between 4,200 -- 4,600 people in modern slavery in the United Kingdom alone.”The U.S. came in at 134th, worse off than Barbados (135), South Korea (137), Hong Kong (141), Costa Rica (146), and Cuba (149).

While deeming the U.S. and Canada "very low risk," it said they were prime destinations for human trafficking because of "their demand for cheap labour and relatively porous land borders."

The U.K., Ireland, and Iceland were given the best ratings and came in at joint 160th.

“This does not mean these countries are slavery free,” the report said. “On the contrary, it is estimated that there are between 4,200 -- 4,600 people in modern slavery in the United Kingdom alone.”


The Heritability of Intelligence: Not What You Think

If you read this blog regularly, you will know that scientists have found that such things as nutrition before one is even born, exposure to pollution, stress to your mother while you are in utero, can all affect intelligence. When due to epigenetic changes, the effects may last for more than one generation.

By Scott Barry Kaufman | October 17, 2013


To be clear: these findings do not mean that differences in intelligence are entirely determined by culture. Numerous researchers have found that the structure of cognitive abilities is strongly influenced by genes (although we haven’t the foggiest idea which genes are reliably important). What these findings do suggest is that there is a much greater role of culture, education, and experience in the development of intelligence than mainstream theories of intelligence have assumed.


But these recent findings by Kees-Jan Kan and colleagues suggest just the opposite: The bigger the difference in cognitive ability between blacks and whites, the more the difference is determined by cultural influences.**


WHO agency: Air pollution causes cancer

WHO : World Health Organization

It has long been known that air pollution damages the lungs in ways other than cancer.
It is disheartening to see people jogging for exercise beside a heavily trafficked road. They think they are making themselves healthier, when they are damaging themselves.

Maria Cheng, The Associated Press
Oct. 17, 2013

ONDON — What many commuters choking on smog have long suspected has finally been scientifically validated: air pollution causes lung cancer.

The International Agency for Research on Cancer declared on Thursday that air pollution is a carcinogen, alongside known dangers such as asbestos, tobacco and ultraviolet radiation. The decision came after a consultation by an expert panel organized by IARC, the cancer agency of the World Health Organization, which is based in Lyon, France.

"We consider this to be the most important environmental carcinogen, more so than passive smoking," said Kurt Straif, head of the IARC department that evaluates cancer-causing substances.


Other experts emphasized the cancer risk from pollution for the average person was very low — but virtually unavoidable.

"You can choose not to drink or not to smoke, but you can't control whether or not you're exposed to air pollution," said Francesca Dominici, a professor of biostatics at Harvard University's School of Public Health. "You can't just decide not to breathe," she said. Dominici was not connected to the IARC expert panel.

A person's risk for cancer depends on numerous variables, including genetics, exposure to dangerous substances and lifestyle choices regarding issues such as drinking alcohol, smoking and exercising.


Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Climate Sensitivity Is High, Burning All Fossil Fuels Would Make Most Of Planet ‘Uninhabitable’

If we choose to put the future of our species at severe risk, why does our species deserve to exist?

By Joe Romm on September 17, 2013

James Hansen, the country’s most prescient climatologist, is out with another must-read paper, “Climate sensitivity, sea level and atmospheric carbon dioxide.” The paper, co-authored by a number of Hansen’s former colleagues at NASA, is an antidote to the rosy scenarios the mainstream media have recently been pushing.

The key findings are

The Earth’s actual sensitivity to a doubling of CO2 levels from preindustrial levels (to 550 ppm) — including slow feedbacks — is likely to be larger than 3–4°C (5.4-7.2°F).
Given that we are headed towards a tripling (820 ppm) or quadrupling (1100 ppm) of atmospheric CO2 levels, inaction is untenable.
“Burning all fossil fuels” would warm land areas on average about 20°C (36°F) and warm the poles a stunning 30°C (54°F). This “would make most of the planet uninhabitable by humans, thus calling into question strategies that emphasize adaptation to climate change.”

Burning all or even most fossil fuels would be a true scorched Earth policy.

Given that James Hansen has been right about global warming for more than 3 decades, his climate warnings need to be taken seriously.


If we stay anywhere near our current emissions path, we face catastrophic levels of warming.


Hansen et al. note that this may not even require burning all of fossil fuels. It could happen on our current emissions path — if the slower (decadal) feedbacks are as strong as some paleoclimate analysis suggests. Back in 2011 we reported on a paleoclimate paper in Science that found we are headed towards CO2 levels in 2100 last seen when the Earth was 29°F (16°C) hotter.


Dartmouth study shows difference in cognitive ability between low-income rural, urban children

Public release date: 14-Oct-2013

Contact: Shea Drefs
Dartmouth College

Kids in rural poverty score lower on visual, higher on verbal tests of working memory than urban counterparts

Studies have long shown a difference in cognitive ability between high- and low-income children, but for the first time, scientists have found a difference between low-income children growing up in rural areas and those growing up in urban environments.

Researchers at Dartmouth College have found that children growing up in rural poverty score significantly lower on visual working memory tests than their urban counterparts. However, children in urban poverty score slightly lower on tests of verbal working memory.

Working memory is the ability to keep information in mind while using that information to complete a task. It is a better predictor of academic success than IQ and is crucial to skills as diverse as reading, math processing, and decision making.

The results of the Dartmouth study appear online in the Journal of Cognition and Development and will be included in the journal's next print edition. A PDF is available now upon request.


For example, rural areas tend to have less noise pollution than urban ones, and chronic noise pollution has been shown to hurt verbal working memory. On the other hand, rural areas lack visual stimuli common in cities – such as traffic, crowds, and signs – and this may give rural children less opportunity to develop their visual working memory, Tine surmises.

Prior research has shown environmental factors do not impact the cognitive ability of high-income children as much as low-income children, which is consistent with Tine's finding that wealthy children had almost identical working memory abilities, regardless of whether they lived in urban or rural environments.

Iraqi death toll from 2003-2011 war and subsequent conflict estimated at half a million

Public release date: 15-Oct-2013
Contact: Fiona Godwin
Public Library of Science

A scientific study calculating Iraqi deaths for almost the complete period of the US-led war and subsequent occupation published in PLOS Medicine this week reports that close to half a million Iraqi deaths are directly or indirectly attributable to the conflict. A team of researchers from Iraq and the US led by Amy Hagopian, of the University of Washington, conducted a survey in 2000 households across Iraq and used the data to estimate death rates for the two year-period before the war began in March 2003 and the subsequent years until mid-2011.


Pain of poverty sticks, despite support of neighbors or spouses

15 October 2013

Being married or having the support of neighbors to rely on does little to alleviate the symptoms of depression associated with economic hardship often experienced by poor mothers. With these findings, published in Springer’s American Journal of Community Psychology, Sharon Kingston of Dickinson College in the US challenges the growing perception that marriage and other forms of interpersonal support can buffer the negative effects of poverty.


Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Helps Lower Blood Pressure, Study Finds

Oct. 15, 2013 — Blood pressure is effectively lowered by mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) for patients with borderline high blood pressure or "prehypertension," according to new research.

The finding is reported in the October issue of Psychosomatic Medicine: Journal of Biobehavioral Medicine, the official journal of the American Psychosomatic Society. The journal is published by Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, a part of Wolters Kluwer Health.


Patients in the mindfulness-based intervention group had significant reductions in clinic-based blood pressure measurements. Systolic blood pressure (the first, higher number) decreased by an average of nearly 5 millimeters of mercury (mm Hg), compared to less than 1 mm Hg with in the control group who did not receive the mindfulness intervention.

Diastolic blood pressure (the second, lower number) was also lower in the mindfulness-based intervention group: a reduction of nearly 2 mm Hg, compared to an increase of 1 mm Hg in the control group.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Air Pollution Increases Heart Attacks

Oct. 7, 2013 — Air pollution increases heart attacks, according to research presented at the Acute Cardiac Care Congress 2013 by Dr Savina Nodari from Brescia, Italy.


The study found a significant association between PM10 levels and admission for acute cardiovascular events such as acute coronary syndromes, heart failure, worsening heart failure, paroxysmal atrial fibrillation and ventricular arrhythmias. The effect was linear, with a 3% increase in admissions for every 10 microgram increase in PM10.


Irregular Bedtimes Linked to Behavioral Problems in Children

Oct. 14, 2013 — Researchers from UCL have found that children with irregular bedtimes are more likely to have behavioural difficulties.

The study, which is published in the journal Pediatrics, found that irregular bedtimes could disrupt natural body rhythms and cause sleep deprivation, undermining brain maturation and the ability to regulate certain behaviours.

Professor Yvonne Kelly (UCL Epidemiology & Public Health), said: "Not having fixed bedtimes, accompanied by a constant sense of flux, induces a state of body and mind akin to jet lag and this matters for healthy development and daily functioning."


Reagan-Appointed Judge Recants His Decision Upholding Voter ID

Republican states, including Georgia, passed voter id laws, saying they were needed to prevent voter fraud. At the same time, they installed electronic voting machines which had no paper trail, and made absentee voting easier.

By Ian Millhiser on October 14, 2013

Judge Richard Posner authored a federal appeals court decision upholding the nation’s first voter ID law, a common voter suppression law that disproportionately disenfranchises people of color, students and low income voters. The Supreme Court, while technically deciding the case on a narrower grounds than Posner’s opinion, later ensured that voter ID laws would flourish by making them virtually impossible to challenge under the Constitution.

In an interview with Huffington Post Live’s Mike Sacks on Friday, however, Judge Posner said he made a mistake in the voter ID case, pointing to the fact that there was too little evidence of the harms voter ID would inflict at the time he handed down his decision. “[T]he problem,” Posner explained, “is that there hadn’t been that much activity with voter identification.” He blames his erroneous decision on the fact that the evidence presented to him at the time didn’t provide “strong indications that requiring additional voter identification would actually disfranchise people entitled to vote.”

Now, however, there are numerous studies examining the impact of voter ID, and even the more conservative estimates suggest that these laws will prevent 2 to 3 percent of registered voters from actually casting their ballots. Meanwhile, while voter ID’s defenders claim that the laws are necessary to prevent voter fraud at the polls, such fraud is virtually non-existent. One Wisconsin study found that just 0.00023 percent of votes stem from in-person voter fraud.

UFO? Astro ghost? Find out what that spooky space cloud really was

Alan Boyle, Science Editor NBC News
Oct. 14, 2013

UFO reports from Russia and spooky pictures from the International Space Station have been traced to the same phenomenon: a Russian missile launch that took place last Thursday.

One of the spookiest things about the UFO sightings is that they were predicted in advance.

"Russia just test-fired a Topol ICBM from the Kapustin Yar range on the lower Volga, to the Shary Shagan impact zone in Kazakhstan," NBC News space analyst James Oberg reported Thursday on the Above Top Secret forum. "In the past, such launches have been seen over a wide area, as far away as Israel and Syria, and reported as UFOs. ... If the weather was clear, we might expect some spectacular videos to show up on YouTube and RUTube."

----- [see the link above for neat photos]

Tenn. spike in drug-dependent newborns is warning to nation

JoNel Aleccia NBC News
Oct. 11, 2013

On an average day, neonatal nurse practitioner Carla Saunders faces two dozen babies born hooked on drugs, infants so sick with the pain of withdrawal that they cry nonstop, claw their faces and writhe in agony at the sound of a voice or the touch of hand. But that’s just the average.

“Today, it may be even higher,” says Saunders, who staffs the 60-bed intensive care unit at East Tennessee Children’s Hospital in Knoxville, Tenn. “It’s been as high as 37.”

The babies are part of a grim trend in Tennessee, where a new report shows that the number of newborns dependent on drugs their mothers took during pregnancy is higher than ever — and experts say it should be a warning to the rest of the nation.

“At the current rate this epidemic is progressing, we are projecting more than 800 drug-dependent newborns by the end of this year,” said Dr. John Dreyzehner, the commissioner for the Tennessee Department of Health.

Already this year, the Volunteer state has counted more babies born with symptoms of withdrawal from opiates — a condition known as neonatal abstinence syndrome, or NAS — than they saw in all of 2011.


Overall, an estimated 13,539 babies were born with NAS in the U.S. in 2009 -- or about one every hour-- according to a 2012 study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association. That’s nearly triple the number in 2000, researchers said.


America’s prescription drug abuse problem is no secret. Drug overdoses have exceeded motor vehicle crashes as the leading cause of accidental death in the U.S. since 2009. Some 17,000 people die each year from opiate overdoses, more than quadruple the number a decade ago, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.


“In general, they are crying 24/7. They are inconsolable,” Saunders said. They claw at their faces, they have tremors, they go rigid with pain and stress. The babies have trouble eating and suffer from frequent diarrhea, which leaves their bottoms bleeding and raw.

Caregivers try to ease the babies through withdrawal, which can take about a week, with soothing care, including swaddling and rocking in dark, quiet rooms. But many infants have to be dosed with morphine or methadone, also opiates, and then slowly weaned off the drugs.


Anger is the natural reaction of many who encounter drug-affected babies writhing in pain, but Saunders and other health experts said that reaction doesn’t help anyone. Even a short course of opiates can lead to dependence and many pregnant women can’t stop ‘cold turkey,’ she said.

“Any one of us is an accident away from being an addict,” she said.


Thursday, October 10, 2013

Aircraft Noise Linked to Heart Disease, Study Suggests

Surely it is not just aircraft noise that is damaging.

Oct. 9, 2013 — Exposure to high levels of aircraft noise is associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease, find two new studies.


The researchers found increased risks of stroke, coronary heart disease, and cardiovascular disease for both hospital admissions and mortality, especially among the 2% of the study population exposed to the highest levels of daytime and night time aircraft noise.

Factors that could have affected the results, such as age, sex, ethnicity, social deprivation, smoking, air pollution, and road traffic noise were also taken into account.


However, the authors were unable to distinguish between night time and daytime noise and say more research is needed to determine if night time noise that disrupts sleep may be a mechanism underlying these associations.