Saturday, May 31, 2014

Brazen Corruption At The World Cup

MAY 31, 2014

The New York Times has obtained a shocking report from FIFA, soccer's worldwide regulator, that suggests the World Cup may be incredibly vulnerable to match-fixing.
The Times published its findings on the non-public report and the results of the paper's own investigation on Saturday, a little less than two weeks before the massive soccer tournament is slated to begin in Brazil.

According to the Times article, FIFA found a notorious match-fixing syndicate had infiltrated the last World Cup in South Africa and fixed at least 5 matches. FIFA also found the syndicate was probably helped by South African officials, who were either "easily duped or extremely foolish."

When an official did try to put a stop to the match-fixing, the syndicate made a death threat against the official, according to the Times' account of the FIFA report.


Kentucky Utility Has Been Discharging Coal Ash Into Ohio River On A Daily Basis, photos show


Two environmental groups are alleging that a Kentucky utility has been dumping coal ash into the Ohio River on an almost daily basis, based on time-lapse images that were taken over the course of a year.

The Sierra Club and Earthjustice filed a lawsuit Wednesday against Louisville Gas & Electric, claiming that the utility has violated the Clean Water Act and a state permit that allowed the utility’s Mill Creek Generating Station in Louisville an “occasional” discharge into the river. The lawsuit is based on time-lapse photos that were taken by a camera set up by Sierra Club members in front of the discharge site at the Mill Creek station. The photos documented a year’s worth of discharges, but the Sierra Club says Google Earth images prove the discharges may have started as early as 1993.

“As far as we can tell, it’s been going on since the beginning of Google Earth,” Thomas Pearce, Western Kentucky’s regional organizing representative for the Sierra Club, told ThinkProgress. “It’s millions of gallons a day — it’s constantly flowing, 24 hours a day in the Ohio River.”

Pearce said the constant discharge likely means a host of chemicals — some of them harmful — are entering the river each day, including mercury, selenium, arsenic and lead. Those chemicals contribute to the stress Kentucky’s waterways are already under due to pollution, he said.

In the state of Kentucky — and in a lot of other states too — we can’t eat fish out of any of our rivers or streams, and it’s mainly because of the coal industry,” he said.

“Mill Creek’s permit allows it to return treated water to the river through either of two permitted outflow areas after the water has been treated through the ash pond settling process. Both of these outflow points are legally permitted for the release of treated water back into the river as confirmed by the Kentucky Division of Water,” the utility said. “The Kentucky Division of Water, the state regulator that oversees the utilities’ water discharge, publicly stated Mill Creek is operating within compliance of its water discharge permit. Water is important in the process of generating electricity and is used throughout the plant in steam generation, in the cooling towers and the transport of coal combustion residuals. The company regularly monitors this water and reports the results to the regulatory agency.”

Dick Brown, spokesman for the Kentucky Energy and Environment Cabinet, told the Lexington Herald-Leader that the discharges don’t violate the utility’s state permit, which the lawsuit states allows “occasional” discharges into the river. Brown said that, in fact, the “permit and permit conditions were drafted under the assumption that the discharge would in fact be constant as opposed to occasional.”

Friday, May 30, 2014

What STEM shortage? Electrical engineering lost 35,000 jobs last year

By Patrick Thibodeau
January 16, 2014

Computerworld - Despite an expanding use of electronics in products, the number of people working as electrical engineers in U.S. declined by 10.4% last year.

The decline amounted to a loss of 35,000 jobs and increased the unemployment rate for electrical engineers from 3.4% in 2012 to 4.8% last year, an unusually high rate of job losses for this occupation.


The number of employed software developers, the largest IT occupation segment, increased by only 1.75%, to 1.1 million, a gain of 19,000. The unemployment rate for developers last year was 2.7%, which is still elevated, according to Hira.

Jobs for computer systems analysts increased by 35,000, to 534,000, an increase of 7%, but Hira said it is the most common H-1B occupation and that nearly all those gains went to H-1B visa holders.

IT hiring increase overall last year, according to labor analysts, but nearly all the increases were in IT services categories and consulting work. These are occupations more closely associated with offshore outsourcing, which may be one of the problems affecting electrical engineering.


Citing historical data going back more than 40 years, Hira said, at full employment, electrical and electronics engineers should have an unemployment rate of approximately 1.5%. The current unemployment rate is more than three times that level.

The unemployment rate for electrical engineers exceeded other engineering categories. For mechanical engineers, the unemployment rate was 2.7%, and for civil engineers, 3.4%.

In the computer hardware engineering field, which employs about 90,000, there was a decline of 1,000 jobs from 2012, setting the unemployment rate at 2.7%.

"The fact that these key occupations are faring worse than the average professional is a bad omen for the future of U.S. technological superiority," Hira said. "The widespread offshoring of the semiconductor industry appears to be taking its toll on the job market for American electronics engineers both upstream, in the equipment makers and designers, and downstream in the systems integrators."

Claims of shortages of STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) workers "have no support in fact and no connection to reality, " Hira said. "The NASDAQ is at its record high in more than a decade, only at the height of the dot-com bubble was it higher." adding that hiring for electronics engineers should be booming.


Senate to get a second chance to do right by veterans

May 30, 2014
By Steve Benen

One of the most important congressional votes of the year was held three months ago, though most of the political world didn’t even notice. There will be a similar vote next week, and chances are excellent that this one won’t be ignored.

In late February, Senate Democrats pushed a bill on expanded veterans’ benefits. It would have expanded VA health care access, tuition assistance, and job training, and the legislation’s sponsors, led by Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Chris Coons (D-Del.), were optimistic about its chances.

Their hopes were misplaced. Despite majority support and the backing of major veterans’ organizations, Senate Republicans wouldn’t even allow a vote. A filibuster from the GOP minority killed the bill, insisting Democrats hadn’t done enough to ensure the bill was paid for – because helping veterans matters, but making sure the deficit isn’t slightly larger really matters.


Species going extinct at fastest rate in ages

May 30, 2014

Species of plants and animals are becoming extinct at least 1,000 times faster than they did before humans arrived on the scene, and the world is on the brink of a sixth great extinction, a new study says.

The study looks at past and present rates of extinction and finds a lower rate in the past than scientists had thought. Species are now disappearing from Earth about 10 times faster than biologists had believed, said study lead author noted biologist Stuart Pimm of Duke University.

"We are on the verge of the sixth extinction," Pimm said from research at the Dry Tortugas. "Whether we avoid it or not will depend on our actions."

The work, published Thursday by the journal Science, was hailed as a landmark study by outside experts.


Numerous factors are combining to make species disappear much faster than before, said Pimm and co-author Clinton Jenkins of the Institute of Ecological Research in Brazil. But the No. 1 issue is habitat loss. Species are finding no place to live as more places are built up and altered by humans.

Add to that invasive species crowding out native species, climate change affecting where species can survive, and overfishing, Pimm said.


Pimm and Jenkins said there is hope. Both said the use of smartphones and applications such as iNaturalist will help ordinary people and biologists find species in trouble, they said. Once biologists know where endangered species are they can try to save habitats and use captive breeding and other techniques to save the species, they said.

One success story is the golden lion tamarin. Decades ago the tiny primates were thought to be extinct because of habitat loss, but they were then found in remote parts of Brazil, bred in captivity and biologists helped set aside new forests for them to live in, Jenkins said.

"Now there are more tamarins than there are places to put them," he said.

Record May Heat Wave in Northeast China, Koreas

By: Christopher C. Burt , 7:27 PM GMT on May 30, 2014

An unprecedented late May heat wave has baked northeastern China and the Koreas the past several days. Beijing observed an all-time May monthly high temperature record of 41.1°C (106.0°F) on May 30th. Last week flooding rains caused serious flooding in southern and central China.


The heat has been notable in the Koreas as well. In South Korea the temperature peaked at 36.3°C (97.3°F) at Taegu on May 30th and in North Korea 36.1°C (97.0°F) at Hamheung on May 29th. The latter figure may be a May national record for North Korea.

Elsewhere in China, flooding has receded in the southern and central provinces following a week of torrential rains. Guangdong Province was especially hard hit accounting for 17 of the 37 flood-related fatalities reported in the region. 25,000 homes were also reportedly destroyed. Shanwei City (about 75 miles east of Hong Kong)measured 400 mm (15.75”) of rainfall during the period of May 17-20 and 844 mm (33.23”) for the entire month as of May 30th.


GOP ‘Runs Out the Clock’ on Unemployment Insurance

BY ROB GARVER, The Fiscal Times
May 30, 2014

Barring an unexpected change of direction from the Republican leadership, the House of Representatives on Friday evening will go into recess yet again without taking action on extending emergency unemployment compensation benefits for millions of the long-term jobless.

It’s not the first time the House has left town without delivering financial help for the more than 3 million Americans who have exhausted their state-level benefits. But this exodus has a special significance. The extension approved by a bipartisan majority in the Senate – but never voted on in the House – authorized benefits only through May 31.

The Senate bill, which passed two months ago, renewed a federal extension of state-level unemployment benefits through the EUC program for five months, retroactive to when Congress allowed the previous extension to expire at the end of December.

The Senate bill will still be available for a House vote when members return on June 9, after a week’s time off – but it appears, for all practical purposes, to be dead. The chances of a purely retroactive extension of benefits passing the House at this point are extremely slim.


The House Republicans’ refusal to allow a vote on an extension of jobless benefits has incensed advocates of the long-term unemployed, who point out that the federal extension of state benefits has never been ended when the level of long-term unemployment (defined as 27 weeks or more) was at high as it is right now. In the past, the program has never been cut off when long-term unemployment affected more than 1.3 percent of the workforce. It currently affects almost twice that percentage.


Thursday, May 29, 2014

Heavy Rain Pummels Southeast And It Might Not Even Stop The Drought


Clusters of severe storms rolling through the South since Memorial Day have caused widespread flash flooding in Texas and Louisiana. Cars stalled out and were abandoned on flooded highways in Houston and in a single day, rainfall deficits for parched southeast Texas were eliminated. Flights were grounded throughout area airports. According to measurements taken at Houston’s Hobby Airport, this is now the fifth-wettest May on record thanks to the last three days of rain.

In Louisiana, more than a foot of rain in just a few hours on Wednesday caused a dozen caskets to float away from their graves In Belle Rose.


In Lafayette, Louisiana, more rain fell on Wednesday than had fallen in the past three months combined.

In the latest National Climate Assessment, scientists listed an increase in heavy rainfall events as one of the most visible consequences the country will encounter as the climate changes. The southeast is expected to see a 27 percent increase in the amount of precipitation that falls in very heavy rainfall events — the heaviest one percent of events. These rainfall events often cause flash flooding as drainage systems are overwhelmed, and do little to alleviate drought, as soils are unable to absorb large quantities of water all at once.

This change in the distribution of precipitation can be explained through basic physics. As the world’s oceans and air warm up, more water is transferred from the ocean into the atmosphere. That’s because warmer water leads to more evaporation, and warmer air can hold more water. The air holds about 7 percent more moisture for every 1 degree Celsius increase in temperature. That moisture can then be concentrated into fronts, which unleash torrential downpours when they encounter disturbances in the air or land.


Earlier this spring, the southern and eastern portions of the U.S. were hit by devastatingly heavy rains with the panhandle of Florida and southern Alabama getting drenched by more than two feet of rain in 24 hours. On April 30, Pensacola, FL experienced its rainiest day ever recorded, receiving almost as much rain in 24 hours as L.A. has gotten since January 1, 2012.


The Fishing Industry Is Poised To Lose Billions Due To Climate Change


The global fishing industry is poised to lose $17 to $41 billion by 2050 due to climate change’s effects on the marine environment, according to a new report.
The report, published by the Sustainable Fisheries Partnership and the University of Cambridge, outlines the range of challenges that increasing ocean temperatures and acidification will bring to the seafood industry, based on findings from the IPCC’s Fifth Assessment Report. The authors found that climate change puts the 400 million people who depend heavily on fish for food at risk, especially small-scale fishermen in the Tropics. That’s because yields are expected to fall by 40 to 60 percent in the Tropics and Antarctica — in the high latitudes, however, the report said yields are likely to increase 30 to 70 percent.

Some fish stocks will be able to migrate to cooler or more food- or oxygen-rich waters, which is good news for those fish populations but can lead to conflicts among countries as to which nations are entitled to the displaced stocks, and also could lead to more illegal fishing. The report singles out the recent shift of Atlantic mackerel to Icelandic waters over the last few summers as one example — with these new fish stocks, Iceland and the Faroe Islands have been fishing mackerel outside of international agreements. Top predators like tuna are some of the most likely to move, putting economic strain on small island nations in particular.


The report also highlighted the danger ocean acidification and warming waters pose to coral reefs, with those in Southeast Asia and parts of the Pacific as some of the most at risk. Reefs serve as nurseries or habitats to 10 to 12 percent of fish caught in tropical countries, and coral reef fisheries around the world are already being fished unsustainably. The report estimates coral reef fish production in the Pacific could decrease by up to 20 percent by 2050, due in part to the habitat damage climate change will inflict on reefs.

Aquaculture, too, is at risk. On the East Coast of the U.S., oyster farmers have already been hit by the impacts of ocean acidification — Goose Point Oyster Co. in Willapa Bay, Washington, was forced to move their oyster larvae operations to Hawaii after high acidity levels off the coast of Washington caused larvae to start dying in 2006.

“We took a production hit because we couldn’t get enough oyster larvae to set out in oyster beds — two years of not having enough oyster larvae was a big hit for our company,” Kathleen Nisbet-Moncy, plant manager for Goose Point Oyster Co. told ThinkProgress. “We’re just now getting back into real full-time production.”


Restoring coastal and marine environments can also help mitigate climate change — the report notes that mangrove forests, salt marshes, and sea grass beds act as major carbon sinks, representing almost 50 percent of the organic carbon burial in ocean sediment. These habitats also serve as fish nurseries, so restoring their health can also help restore fish stocks.

Are tipped workers getting left behind?


As the debate over raising the federal minimum wage continues, there's a significant segment of the low-paid workforce that advocates say are getting left out of the conversation: Tipped workers.

The federal tipped wage hasn't budged since 1991, with waitresses, hairdressers and other workers who rely on tips guaranteed only $2.13 an hour. And as some states raise their minimum wages, tipped workers are left with meager increases that leave them trailing far behind other employees.

Take Michigan, which on Tuesday became the eighth state to raise its minimum wage this year. While the baseline wage will raise to $9.25 an hour by 2018, tipped workers were given a small increase that will leave them earning just 38 percent of the regular minimum wage. While some argue that tipped workers make up the difference thanks to gratuities, research has found that tipped workers are more than twice as likely to live in poverty than other employees.


Increasingly, the debate over the tipped wage is being framed as a gender issue, given that almost 73 percent of tipped workers are women, according to a study from the Economic Policy Institute.

That means that women are "disproportionately impacted by the tipped minimum wage," according to a March report from the White House. Average hourly wages for people working in tipped occupations are about 40 percent lower than overall hourly wages, the report found.


While employers are by law required to make up an employee's pay if their tips don't reach the federal $7.25 per-hour rate, that often doesn't happen, the White House report said. Failure to "top up" tipped workers' pay is "one of the most prevalent violations," the report noted.

Music streaming services losing money

By Kapitall, May 28, 2014

Pandora ( P ) , the largest and best known music streaming service, has 250 million registered users and increased its revenue 56% from FY 2012 to 2013.

This, however, seems to obscure the inefficiencies of streaming services: the more users they gain the greater their financial losses widen. Pandora's rose to $38 million in 2013.

Spotify, another player in the industry, also does not turn a profit, as just 25% of its 40 million person user base actually pays for the service - a key metric Spotify must raise in order to make its operations viable in the long term.


How a Singer Got His Way to the Top

Monday, May 26, 2014
by Nina Ulloa

The following comes from Rawcus, an anonymous rapper who has recently gone viral.

How and why I created a Rawcus:

The Rawcus idea was built from years of struggle.

I’m a mid level artist with a decent sized fan base of around 10,000 people. Not being able to grow as an independent artist became frustrating. I could make around $4 thousand by releasing an album, but how do I live and tour off of that?

I learned that talent is only a small piece of what makes a mainstream artist. I learned I had to play the game to win the game in the music business. I couldn’t write intellectually stimulating music that is emotional and thought provoking. I couldn’t make music with real instruments. There is no fighting it.

When you are a poor, broke artist, shit out of luck… You realize you have to do whatever it takes if you want that dream to happen.

I didn’t want to sell out and conform in my artistry because it would alienate my hard earned fan base. So, I decided to create another artist, tailor-made to fit today’s culture with mainstream appeal.

I created the Rawcus brand, decided his niche, image, and mystery.

I put this guy together from scratch, like a Mr. Potato Head that makes music.

It was really easy. All I had to do was be melodic while rapping about money, girls, clubs, drugs, and making fun of white people. In reality, I am the complete antithesis of what Rawcus is.

I predicted that if I dumbed it down and conformed with my songwriting, talent, and understanding of today’s society, I could be an overnight success. Guess what happened next…

I released the “White People Crazy” music video on January 10th 2014.

Within 4 days I was on TMZ Live, MSNBC, BuzzFeed, Huffington Post, Gawker, Slate, CollegeHumor, Complex, Vanyaland, The Daily Dot, TV Guide, Bossip, and more.


Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Cynical? You may be hurting your brain health

Contact: Rachel Seroka
American Academy of Neurology
Cynical? You may be hurting your brain health

MINNEAPOLIS – People with high levels of cynical distrust may be more likely to develop dementia, according to a study published in the May 28, 2014, online issue of Neurology®, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology.

Cynical distrust, which is defined as the belief that others are mainly motivated by selfish concerns, has been associated with other health problems, such as heart disease. This is the first study to look at the relationship between cynicism and dementia.


Toxins in the environment might make you older than your years

Contact: Mary Beth O'Leary
Cell Press
Toxins in the environment might make you older than your years

Why are some 75-year-olds downright spry while others can barely get around? Part of the explanation, say researchers writing in the Cell Press journal Trends in Molecular Medicine on May 28, is differences from one person to the next in exposure to harmful substances in the environment, chemicals such as benzene, cigarette smoke, and even stress.


From a public health perspective, cigarette smoke is likely the most important gerontogen, Sharpless said. Cigarettes are linked with cancers but also with atherosclerosis, pulmonary fibrosis, and other diseases associated with age. UV radiation from the sun makes us older too, and Sharpless and his colleagues recently showed that chemotherapy treatment is also a strong gerontogen.


Indoor tanning, even without burning, increases the risk of melanoma

Melanoma is a dangerous type of skin cancer. It can be fatal if not treated in time.

Contact: Zachary Rathner
Oxford University Press USA
Indoor tanning, even without burning, increases the risk of melanoma

People sometimes use indoor tanning in the belief that this will prevent burns when they tan outdoors. However, indoor tanning raises the risk of developing melanoma even if a person has never had burns from either indoor or outdoor tanning, according to a study published May 29 in the JNCI: Journal of the National Cancer Institute.


they found that melanoma patients reporting zero lifetime burns were nearly four times more likely to be indoor tanners than control subjects. In addition, melanoma patients with zero sunburns reported having started tanning indoors at younger ages and used indoor tanning over more years than other patients who had experienced sunburn, suggesting that greater total exposure contributed to the findings.

Most physicians would forgo aggressive treatment for themselves at the end of life

Contact: Tracie White
Stanford University Medical Center
Most physicians would forgo aggressive treatment for themselves at the end of life

STANFORD, Calif. — Most physicians would choose a do-not-resuscitate or "no code" status for themselves when they are terminally ill, yet they tend to pursue aggressive, life-prolonging treatment for patients facing the same prognosis, according to a study from the Stanford University School of Medicine to be published May 28 in PLOS ONE.


"A big disparity exists between what Americans say they want at the end of life and the care they actually receive," the study said. "More than 80 percent of patients say that they wish to avoid hospitalizations and high-intensity care at the end of life, but their wishes are often overridden."

In fact, the type of treatments they receive depends not on the patients' care preferences or on their advance directives, but rather on the local health-care system variables, such as institutional capacity and individual doctors' practice style, according to the study.

"Patients' voices are often too feeble and drowned out by the speed and intensity of a fragmented health-care system," Periyakoil said.

Other results from the study showed that because of the Self-Determination Act, doctors now feel they are less likely to be sued for not providing the most aggressive care if a patient has an advance directive. The law requires hospitals to inform patients about advance directives, but it doesn't ensure that the directives be followed.

Physicians' attitudes toward end-of-life care also differed depending on their ethnicity and gender. Emergency physicians, pediatricians, obstetrician-gynecologists and those in physical medicine and rehabilitation had more favorable attitudes toward advance directives. Radiologists, surgeons, orthopaedists and radiation oncologists were less favorable. Caucasian and African American doctors were the most favorable; Latino physicians were the least favorable.

An overwhelming percentage of the 2013 doctors surveyed — 88.3 percent — said they would choose "no-code" or do-not-resuscitate orders for themselves.


"Our current default is 'doing,' but in any serious illness there comes a tipping point where the high-intensity treatment becomes more of a burden than the disease itself," said Periyakoil, who trains physicians in palliative medicine. "It's tricky, but physicians don't have to figure it out by themselves. They can talk to the patients and their families and to the other interdisciplinary team members, and it becomes much easier.

"But we don't train doctors to talk or reward them for talking. We train them to do and reward them for doing. The system needs to be changed."

The brain's reaction to male odor shifts at puberty in children with gender dysphoria

Contact: Gozde Zorlu
The brain's reaction to male odor shifts at puberty in children with gender dysphoria

The brains of children with gender dysphoria react to androstadienone, a musky-smelling steroid produced by men, in a way typical of their biological sex, but after puberty according to their experienced gender, finds a study for the first time in the open-access journal Frontiers in Endocrinology.

Around puberty, the testes of men start to produce androstadienone, a breakdown product of testosterone. Men release it in their sweat, especially from the armpits. Its only known function is to work like a pheromone: when women smell androstadienone, their mood tends to improve, their blood pressure, heart rate, and breathing go up, and they may become aroused.

Previous studies have shown that, in heterosexual women, the brain region that responds most to androstadienone is the hypothalamus, which lies just above the brainstem and links the nervous system to the hormonal system. In men with gender dysphoria (formerly called gender identity disorder) – who are born as males, but behave as and identify with women, and want to change sex – the hypothalamus also reacts strongly to its odor. In contrast, the hypothalamus of heterosexual men hardly responds to it.

Girls without gender dysphoria before puberty already show a stronger reaction in the hypothalamus to androstadienone than boys, finds a new study by Sarah Burke and colleagues from the VU University Medical Center of Amsterdam, the Netherlands, and the University of Li├Ęge, Belgium.

The researchers used neuroimaging to also show for the first time that in prepubescent children with gender dysphoria, the hypothalamus reacts to the smell of androstadienone in a way typical of their biological sex. Around puberty, its response shifts, and becomes typical of their experienced gender.


These results suggest that as children with gender dysphoria grow up, their brain naturally undergoes a partial rewiring, to become more similar to the brain of the opposite sex – so corresponding to their experienced gender.

Dads who do chores bolster daughters’ aspirations

Media Release | May 28, 2014

Fathers who help with household chores are more likely to raise daughters who aspire to less traditional, and potentially higher paying, careers.

So finds a new study that suggests how parents share dishes, laundry and other domestic duties plays a key role in shaping the gender attitudes and aspirations of their children, especially daughters.

While mothers’ gender and work equality beliefs were key factors in predicting kids’ attitudes toward gender, the strongest predictor of daughters’ own professional ambitions was their fathers’ approach to household chores.


Flame retardant exposure linked to lower IQs -- study

Contact: Bruce Lanphear
Simon Fraser University
Flame retardant exposure linked to lower IQs -- study

A new study involving Simon Fraser University researchers has found that prenatal exposure to flame retardants can be significantly linked to lower IQs and greater hyperactivity in five-year old children. The findings are published online today in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives.

The researchers found that a 10-fold increase in PBDE concentrations in early pregnancy, when the fetal brain is developing, was associated with a 4.5 IQ decrement, which is comparable with the impact of environmental lead exposure.

SFU health sciences professor Bruce Lanphear is part of the research team that measured the levels of flame retardants, or polybrominated diphenyl ethers, (PBDEs) in 309 U.S. women at 16 weeks of pregnancy, and followed their children to the age of five.

Researchers say their results confirm earlier studies that found PBDEs, which are routinely found in pregnant women and children, may be developmental neurotoxicants.

PBDEs have been widely used as flame retardants in furniture, carpet padding, car seats and other consumer products over the past three decades. While most items containing PBDEs were removed voluntarily from the market a decade ago, some are still in commerce and others persist in the environment and human bodies. Nearly all homes and offices still contain some PBDEs.


Global Tropical Cyclones Shifting Poleward as the Climate Warms

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 2:46 PM GMT on May 28, 2014

Over the past 30 years, the location where tropical cyclones reach their maximum intensity has been shifting toward the poles in both the northern and southern hemispheres at a rate of about 35 miles (1/2° of latitude) per decade, according to a May 2014 study published in the journal Nature. Tropical cyclones include tropical storms, hurricanes, and typhoons. "Historical intensity estimates can be very inconsistent over time, but the location where a tropical cyclone reaches its maximum intensity is a more reliable value and less likely to be influenced by data discrepancies or uncertainties," said NOAA/University of Wisconsin lead author Jim Kossin in a NOAA press release. The researchers used data only from 1982 - 2012, the era when accurate global satellite data makes a full study of tropical cyclone intensities most feasible.

The poleward shift in tropical cyclones was likely due to observed changes in vertical wind shear and tropical cyclone potential intensity over the past 30 years, which changed the regions most favorable for tropical cyclone development, the researchers said. Wind shear has been decreasing closer to the poles, and the potential intensity has been increasing (the potential intensity of a tropical cyclone depends upon the sea surface temperature underneath the storm and the amount of atmospheric instability, with warm air near the surface and cold air aloft giving higher instability and potential intensity.) Interestingly, these shifts were primarily observed in the Western North Pacific Ocean and the Southern Hemisphere's ocean areas. The North Atlantic Ocean and Eastern North Pacific exhibited only small poleward trends; the North Indian Ocean did not show any poleward trends. The researchers proposed that the poleward migration of tropical cyclones is linked to the observed poleward migration of the tropics over the past 30 years, since both have migrated similar distances. The causes of the expansion of the tropics are not certain, but a 2013 study led by Christopher Lucas of the Centre for Australian Weather and Climate Research/Bureau of Meteorology, The expanding tropics: a critical assessment of the observational and modeling studies, found that including increasing greenhouses gases, stratospheric ozone depletion, and pollution in the form of small particles were likely to blame, with no single factor by itself explaining the full expansion.

As tropical cyclones move poleward, some regions closer to the Equator may experience reduced risk of damage, while coastal populations and infrastructure poleward of the tropics may experience increased risk. With their devastating winds and flooding, tropical cyclones can especially endanger coastal cities not adequately prepared for them. Additionally, regions in the tropics that depend on cyclones' rainfall to help replenish water resources may be at risk for lower water availability as the storms migrate away from them.

Cyberattack that locked Apple devices in Australia reaches U.S.

May 28, 2014
First came reports of a widespread hack of Apple devices in Australia -- the attacker locked the devices remotely and demanded ransom from the owners. Now, CBS Los Angeles reports the scam appears to have reached the U.S.

Earlier this week, many Australian owners of Apple devices began discovering that their iPhones, iPads and Macs had been hacked by someone using the name Oleg Pliss. They were directed to a PayPal account and told to send money to have them unlocked, the Sydney Morning Herald reported.

A majority of victims affected by the hack so far appear to be from Australia, according to an Apple support thread, but there were also owners affected in New Zealand, the U.S. and Canada. One Australian user commented that they had been in London when the threatening message appeared.

"I'm in the U.S. Never been to Australia. Hacked last night by the Oleg Pliss nonsense. Currently restoring to try and get back online," wrote user wheelman2188.

The hacker is reportedly targeting Apple products that do not have passcodes -- allowing for them to use the "Find My iPhone" function to remotely lock the devices.


Just like their Australian counterparts, American victims of the hack are being advised to bring in their locked device to an Apple store to be reset. However, this will cause the user to lose everything stored on the device, an employee from a California Apple store told CBS Los Angeles.

On Wednesday, an Apple representative told ZDNET that iCloud was not compromised, and urged users to change their Apple passwords.


Tuesday, May 27, 2014

The US labor market is not working

See link below for charts.

George W. Bush took office as U.S. President in 2001

THURSDAY, MAY 22, 2014
Antonio Fatas

In a recent post Paul Krugman looks at the dismal performance of US labor markets over the last decade. To make his point, he compares the employment to population ratio for all individuals aged 25-54 for the US and France. The punch line: even the French work harder than the Americans! And this is indeed a new phenomenon, it was not like that 13 years ago [Just to be clear, there are other dimensions where the French are not working as hard: they retire earlier, they take longer vacations,... but the behavior of the 25-54 year old population is indeed a strong indicator of how a society engages its citizens in the labor market. ]

So are the French the exception? Not quite. Among OECD economies, the US stands towards the bottom of the table when it comes to employment to population ratio for this cohort (#24 out of 34 countries).


What is interesting is that most of the countries of the top of the list are countries with a large welfare state and very high taxes (including on labor). So the negative correlation between the welfare state and taxes and the ability to motivate people to work (and create jobs) that some bring back all the time does not seem to be present in the data.

What is interesting is that the US looked much better 13 years ago (see numbers for 2000 below, the US was 10 out of 34).


The US has gone through a major crisis after 2008 with devastating effects on the labor market but so have other countries. In fact, most European countries have done much worse than the US in terms of GDP growth during the last 6 years. In fact, with the exception of Portugal, Greece and Ireland, the US is the country with the worst labor market record for this age group if we compare the 2012 to the 2000 figures.

Maintaining mobility in older adults can be as easy as a walk in the park

Contact: Karen N. Peart
Yale University
Maintaining mobility in older adults can be as easy as a walk in the park

With just a daily 20-minute walk, older adults can help stave off major disability and enhance the quality of their later years, according to results of the Lifestyle Interventions and Independence for Elders (LIFE) Study, conducted by researchers at Yale School of Medicine in collaboration with seven other institutions around the country. The study is published in the May 27 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Mobility, the ability to walk without assistance, is key to functioning independently. Reduced mobility is common in older adults and is a risk factor for illness, hospitalization, disability, and death.


Recovery from Sports-Related Concussion Slower than Believed

MAY 21, 2014
University of Gothenburg

Scientists at the Sahlgrenska Academy have shown that analysis of the cerebrospinal fluid after concussion can be used to determine the magnitude of brain injury and to follow its course. The studies show that recovery from concussion takes much longer time than previously known, and this may be of major significance for athletes of all ages in return to play considerations.


“It has previously been believed that concussion heals in 7-10 days, and the Swedish Boxing Federation has decided the rest period to be of one month after a concussion, in order to be on the safe side. But our studies show that a concussion, such as may be experienced after being knocked out, can take more than four months to heal,” says Sanna Neselius, who is herself a former boxer.

Further, the results show that repetitive head trauma in boxing, damages nerve cells in the brain, even though the boxer may not show any concussion symptoms.


Sanna Neselius points out that the brains of children and adolescents are more sensitive and require longer time to heal.


Rules to Cut Carbon Emissions Also Reduce Air Pollution Harmful to People and the Environment

May 27, 2014

SYRACUSE, N.Y., May 27, 2014 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Setting strong standards for climate-changing carbon emissions from power plants would provide an added bonus – reductions in other air pollutants that can make people sick; damage forests, crops, and lakes; and harm fish and wildlife. This, according to a first-of-its-kind study released today by scientists at Syracuse University and Harvard who mapped the potential environmental and human health benefits of power plant carbon standards.

The authors of the new study, Co-benefits of Carbon Standards: Air Pollution Changes under Different 111d Options for Existing Power Plants, use three policy options for the forthcoming EPA rule as a guide to model changes in power plant emissions of four other harmful air pollutants: fine particulate matter, nitrogen oxides, sulfur dioxide, and mercury. The scientists compared the model results with a business-as-usual reference case for the year 2020.

Of the three scenarios simulated, the top-performing option decreased sulfur dioxide and mercury emissions by 27% and nitrogen oxide emissions by 22% by 2020 compared to the reference case. This option reduced carbon dioxide emissions from the power sector by 35% from 2005 levels by 2020. The scientists state that the resulting air quality improvements are likely to lead to significant gains in public and environmental health.

"When power plants limit carbon dioxide emissions, they can also release less sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxide and other pollutants," said Dr. Charles Driscoll of Syracuse University. "One of the policy options we analyzed cut emissions of these non-carbon pollutants by approximately 75,000 tons per year by 2020," Driscoll said.

"We know that these other pollutants contribute to increased risk of premature death and heart attacks, as well as increased incidence and severity of asthma and other health effects. They also contribute to acid rain, ozone damage to trees and crops, and the accumulation of toxic mercury in fish," added Driscoll. "This new analysis shows that there is a real opportunity to help reverse decades of environmental damage from power plant emissions and to improve human health," he said.


Keeping active pays off even in your 70s and 80s

Contact: Philippa Walker
University of Bristol
Keeping active pays off even in your 70s and 80s

Older people who undertake at least 25 minutes of moderate or vigorous exercise everyday need fewer prescriptions and are less likely to be admitted to hospital in an emergency, new research has revealed.

The findings, published in the journal PLOS ONE, reinforce the need for exercise programmes to help older people stay active. It could also reduce reliance on NHS services and potentially lead to cost savings.

In the first study of its kind looking at this age group, researchers from the University of Bristol looked at data from 213 people whose average age was 78.

Those who carried out less than 25 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity per day – such as walking quickly, cycling or swimming - received 50 per cent more prescriptions over the following four to five years than those who were more active.

Such physical activity leads to a higher metabolism and better circulation, reducing the risk of conditions and diseases common in older age such as high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, coronary heart disease and strokes.

The study also found that being physically active reduced the risk of unplanned hospital admissions. Those who were in the most active third of the sample were on average achieving 39 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous activity and were at half the risk of emergency hospital admissions than those in the low active group.

These results remained significant even when other factors affecting health were taken into account, such as socio-economic status, education, weight, existing disease and level of physical function.


Exercise should be targeted and tailored to those in their 70s and 80s, aiming to increase muscle strength, balance, coordination and aerobic fitness to maintain mobility and prevent falls and further disease.


What Role Does MSG Play in Obesity and Fatty Liver Disease?

Vicki Cohn
May 27, 2014

The commonly used food additive monosodium glutamate (MSG) has been linked to obesity and disorders associated with the metabolic syndrome including progressive liver disease. A new study that identifies MSG as a critical factor in the initiation of obesity and shows that a restrictive diet cannot counteract this effect but can slow the progression of related liver disease is published in Journal of Medicinal Food, a peer-reviewed journal from Mary Ann Liebert, Inc., publishers. The paper is available on the Journal of Medicinal Food website.


Learning Early in Life May Help Keep Brain Cells Alive

Monday, May 26, 2014
By Robin Lally

Using your brain – particularly during adolescence – may help brain cells survive and could impact how the brain functions after puberty.

According to a recently published study in Frontiers in Neuroscience, Rutgers behavioral and systems neuroscientist Tracey Shors, who co-authored the study, found that the newborn brain cells in young rats that were successful at learning survived while the same brain cells in animals that didn’t master the task died quickly.
“In those that didn’t learn, three weeks after the new brain cells were made, nearly one-half of them were no longer there,” said Shors, professor in the Department of Psychology and Center for Collaborative Neuroscience at Rutgers. “But in those that learned, it was hard to count. There were so many that were still alive.”

The study is important, Shors says, because it suggests that the massive proliferation of new brain cells most likely helps young animals leave the protectiveness of their mothers and face dangers, challenges and opportunities of adulthood.


“It’s not that learning makes more cells,” says Shors. “It’s that the process of learning keeps new cells alive that are already present at the time of the learning experience.”

Since the process of producing new brain cells on a cellular level is similar in animals, including humans, Shors says ensuring that adolescent children learn at optimal levels is critical.

“What it has shown me, especially as an educator, is how difficult it is to achieve optimal learning for our students. You don’t want the material to be too easy to learn and yet still have it too difficult where the student doesn’t learn and gives up,” Shors says.


International Medical Corps Teams in Balkans Responding Following Deadly Floods

27 May 2014
REPORT from International Medical Corps

Following massive flooding that has killed more than fifty people and displaced tens of thousands more, International Medical Corps teams are on the ground in the Balkans assessing humanitarian needs and coordinating with local partners. International Medical Corps will distribute over €1 million worth of food items donated by Luftfahrt Ohne Grenzen Germany with support from the Red Cross.

The heaviest rains in more than a century sparked floods across Bosnia and Serbia, leading to the evacuations of more than 930,000 people. Up to two million people could potentially be affected. Rainfall also caused more than 4,000 landslides in Bosnia and Herzegovina, prompting a landmine warning as 120,000 unexploded mines remain and could be unearthed by the waters.


International Medical Corps is working with partners including local ministries, local authorities, the World Health Organization, the United Nations Development Program (and other UN agencies) and the Red Cross to provide a comprehensive response throughout the region.

----- [I'm very glad to aid groups working together.]

New York Federal Judge: Tens Of Thousands Of Innocent People Have Likely Pleaded Guilty


A prominent New York federal judge said this week that a broken guilty plea system is sending too many people innocent people to prison, coerced by the threat of long prison sentences and not enough information.

U.S. District Judge Jed Rakoff said the modern American system in which 97 percent of defendants plead guilty “is totally different from what the founding fathers had in mind.” Rakoff elaborated on his concerns during an interview with the New York Daily News, a month after he first raised the issue during a speech at the University of Southern California.

Rakoff blamed draconian mandatory minimum sentences for coercing defendants into accepting plea deals, forcing defendants to “choose between Satan and Lucifer.” He cited estimates that between 1 and 8 percent of those who plead guilty are actually innocent. Even if that percentage were just 0.5 percent, that would be 10,000 people, he tells the New York Daily News.

We only know about a fraction of this population, and they are particularly difficult to identify, since many defendants their case finalized once they make the calculation to enter a plea. In 2013, 87 people were exonerated — 17 percent for false guilty pleas.

Chris Ochoa, now exonerated, explained that he was coerced by a threat even greater than a mandatory minimum — capital punishment — if he didn’t confess. “After many hours of interrogation and threats I was just worn down and I told them what I wanted to hear,” he said, noting that he later agreed to plead guilty.


Meriam Ibrahim, sentenced to die in Sudan over her Christianity, reportedly gives birth in jail

This is barbaric, uncivilized, evil. If we are giving aid to Sudan, it should immediately be ended. Any religion that says this is right is evil.

May 27, 2014

Meriam Ibrahim, the woman sentenced to death for apostasy in Sudan while heavily pregnant, gave birth to a baby girl in jail, according to reports.

Ibrahim, 27, gave birth to a girl early Tuesday in the hospital wing of a prison near Khartoum, one of her lawyers, Elshareef Ali, told Bloomberg.

"They didn't even take Meriam to a hospital - she just delivered inside a prison clinic," the lawyer told The Telegraph. "Neither her husband nor I have been allowed to see them yet."

Ibrahim already has a 20-month-old son who is staying with her in her prison cell, according to multiple reports.

Ibrahim was sentenced to death by hanging by a Shariah court in Khartoum earlier this month because she is a Muslim by birth who married a Christian man and refused to recant her Christian faith.


As in many Muslim nations, Muslim women in Sudan are prohibited from marrying non-Muslims, though Muslim men can marry outside their faith. By law, children must follow their father's religion.

Sudan introduced Islamic shariah laws in the early 1980s, a move that contributed to the resumption of an insurgency in the mostly animist and Christian south of Sudan. An earlier round of civil war lasted 17 years and ended in 1972. The south seceded in 2011 to become the world's newest nation, South Sudan.

Sudanese President Omar Bashir, who seized power in a 1989 military coup, is an Islamist who says his country will implement Islam more strictly now that the non-Muslim south is gone.

Ibrahim's husband is an American citizen, and some American politicians have called for granting her asylum here.

Apple, Google, others agree to $324.5 million settlement in wage case

May 23, 2014

e dollar amount is now on the record. Apple, Google and other tech giants accused of artificially suppressing wages by conspiring not to poach each other's talent have agreed to settle a lawsuit filed by their employees for $324.5 million.


It still needs to be approved by U.S. District Judge Lucy Koh in San Jose. If she does, there will surely be grumbling among tech employees who have publicly complained that Apple, Google, Intel Corp. and Adobe Systems Inc. would be losing just a fraction of the $3 billion they allegedly saved by suppressing wages.

Each class member is estimated to get a few thousand dollars.


The lawsuit, filed on behalf of more than 64,000 technical employees, claimed that Apple, Google, Intel and Adobe Systems had a pact not to recruit one another's workers. That alleged conspiracy, spanning four years from 2005 to 2009, kept salaries down, the employees said.


If the documents that have surfaced publicly are any indication, the trial would have caused serious embarrassment for the four tech giants. In a 2007 internal email that has already gone public, the chairman of Google, Eric Schmidt, emailed then-Apple Chief Executive Steve Jobs to let him know that his company was going to fire a recruiter who tried to poach an Apple employee.

Upon hearing the news of the lowly recruiter's imminent termination, Jobs expressed his reaction with a smiley face: ":)"


The lawsuit has shed light on other embarrassing exchanges. Google co-founder Sergey Brin, for example, sent a message to other officials at the company to alert them that Jobs was upset about their recruiting of Apple talent. He recalled Jobs telling him, "If you hire a single one of these people, that means war," according to the email.

Jobs was assured that a Google executive got personally involved "and firmly stopped all efforts to recruit anyone from Apple."

Their alleged conspiracy, however, faltered in part because executives at Facebook were reluctant to join. In a deposition, Facebook chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg, who herself left Google for Facebook, said she refused to stop poaching talent: "I declined at that time to limit Facebook's recruitment or hiring of Google employees."

Sunday, May 25, 2014

The science of success

New Scientist March 8, 2014
Michael Bond


The genes people inherit matter, but so does their environment. Even IQ, which has been claimed to measure innate intelligence, can be changed by a person’s upbringing. This means that there are plenty of things that can be done to make people more successful – but are governments, schools and parents doing the right things?


Edward Melhuish of Birkbeck, University of London, who studies child development, warns that children under 5 who don’t receive consistent affection and responsive communication from their parents or care-givers have impaired social and emotional development. Crucially, this affects their language skills, which Melhuish says is a major reason why children from disadvantaged families generally do poorly at school. “Improved language development helps boost cognitive development, literacy and educational attainment as well as social skills,” he says.

The effects of the environment, in other words, are profound. An impoverished upbringing can dent a child’s cognitive ability by as much as nine IQ points (Child Development, vol 65, p 296). By contrast, a privileged background can boost IQ. Adopted children born into poverty but brought up in well-off households have shown big gains in IQ compared with their non-adopted siblings.


Developmental psychologists have shown that having a fixed mindset – viewing attributes such as intelligence and personality as set in stone – causes people to fear failure, react badly to criticism and avoid new or difficult assignments, hardly a recipe for success. The belief that your traits are malleable, on the other hand, makes you more willing to stretch yourself and learn new skills.

Over the last decade, a team led by Carol Dweck at Stanford University has improved the grades and attendance records of thousands of school and college students across the US simply by teaching them that intelligence isn’t fixed, that hard work can make you smarter, and that struggling to adjust to college is a normal learning process and not a sign of poor intellect. A “growth” mindset is advantageous at all stages of life, says Dweck. “It allows you to take on more challenges, and you don’t get discouraged by setbacks or find effort undermining.”


Encourage dreaming? That may not seem like a recipe for success to some, but it is perhaps the most important factor of all. US psychologist Ellis Paul Torrance followed the lives of several hundred creative high-achievers from high school into middle age, among them academics, writers, inventors, teachers, consultants, business executives and a song-writer. He noticed that it wasn’t scholastic or technical abilities or achievements at school that set them apart, but characteristics such as having a sense of purpose, the courage to be creative, delighting in deep thinking and feeling comfortable in a minority of one. Most important of all, he thought, was to “fall in love with a dream”, preferably at a young age, and then pursue it with intensity.


Social Security is not going broke

By David Cay Johnston MAY 4, 2012

Which federal program took in more than it spent last year, added $95 billion to its surplus and lifted 20 million Americans of all ages out of poverty?

Why, Social Security, of course, which ended 2011 with a $2.7 trillion surplus.

That surplus is almost twice the $1.4 trillion collected in personal and corporate income taxes last year. And it is projected to go on growing until 2021, the year the youngest Baby Boomers turn 67 and qualify for full old-age benefits.

So why all the talk about Social Security “going broke?” That theme filled the news after release of the latest annual report of the Federal Old-Age and Survivors Insurance and Federal Disability Insurance Trust Funds, as Social Security is formally called.

The reason is that the people who want to kill Social Security have for years worked hard to persuade the young that the Social Security taxes they pay to support today’s gray hairs will do nothing for them when their own hair turns gray.

That narrative has become the conventional wisdom because it is easily reduced to a headline or sound bite. The facts, which require more nuance and detail, show that, with a few fixes, Social Security can be safe for as long as we want.

Let’s look at how Social Security taxes have grown in the last half century — a little-known tale of tax burdens shifted off the rich and onto workers.


Poor diet before pregnancy is linked with preterm birth

Contact: Dr. Jessica Grieger
University of Adelaide
Poor diet before pregnancy is linked with preterm birth

University of Adelaide research has for the first time confirmed that women who eat a poor diet before they become pregnant are around 50% more likely to have a preterm birth than those on a healthy diet.

Researchers at the University of Adelaide's Robinson Research Institute investigated the dietary patterns of more than 300 South Australian women to better understand their eating habits before pregnancy.

It's the first study of its kind to assess women's diet prior to conception and its association with outcomes at birth.

The results, published in The Journal of Nutrition, show that women who consistently ate a diet high in protein and fruit prior to becoming pregnant were less likely to have a preterm birth, while those who consistently ate high fat and sugar foods and takeaway were about 50% more likely to have a preterm birth.

"Preterm birth is a leading cause of infant disease and death and occurs in approximately one in 10 pregnancies globally. Anything we can do to better understand the conditions that lead to preterm birth will be important in helping to improve survival and long-term health outcomes for children," says the lead author of the paper, Dr Jessica Grieger, Posdoctoral Research Fellow with the Robinson Research Institute, based at the Lyell McEwin Hospital.

"In our study, women who ate protein-rich foods including lean meats, fish and chicken, as well as fruit, whole grains and vegetables, had significantly lower risk of preterm birth.

"On the other hand, women who consumed mainly discretionary foods, such as takeaway, potato chips, cakes, biscuits, and other foods high in saturated fat and sugar were more likely to have babies born preterm," Dr Grieger says.

"It is important to consume a healthy diet before as well as during pregnancy to support the best outcomes for the mum and baby," Dr Grieger says.

"Diet is an important risk factor that can be modified. It is never too late to make a positive change. We hope our work will help promote a healthy diet before and during pregnancy. This will help to reduce the number of neonatal deaths and improve the overall health of children," she says.

Dr Grieger will present her research findings at the upcoming SA Annual Scientific Meeting of the Australian Society for Medical Research during ASMR Medical Research Week on Wednesday 4 June.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

VA wait times are bad. The private sector isn’t much better

By Timothy Noah

The Department of Veterans Affairs, long touted by experts as providing health care superior to most private providers, is suddenly engulfed in scandal.

Records on wait times for appointments were allegedly falsified at the Phoenix VA, and the department is investigating whether long wait times contributed to the deaths of 40 veterans at that facility. Similar stories about other VA facilities have been bubbling up for months. This is a ghastly problem involving potentially criminal behavior.

But while VA wait times for appointments are bad, private sector wait times aren’t appreciably better.

Conservative commentators have been quick to claim the VA scandal as decisive proof that the VA was never the model for excellence (and, by implication, the argument for socialized medicine) claimed by liberals like Paul Krugman, Ezra Klein, and yours truly, all of us citing reporting by Philip Longman, who later expanded it into a book. But the VA scandal does not raise questions about the quality of VA care, which continues to rank highly; it raises questions about the availability of VA care.

To conclude from the VA scandal that VA hospital care was poor would be like concluding from Harvard’s 6% admission rate that Harvard did a lousy job educating students.

The difference, of course, is that Harvard isn’t supposed to admit everybody, whereas the VA is supposed to book appointments for already-qualified veterans within 14 days. It isn’t doing that. News stories about the Phoenix VA and some other bad actors indicate the wait can be many months, but an internal VA estimate—one based on “hard” time stamps and therefore less vulnerable to manipulation than the records allegedly falsified — puts the average wait at about 21 days.

Directly comparable data for the private sector are unavailable. But a 2014 survey of physician wait times found the average private-sector wait time to be 18.5 days – two and a half days less than at the VA. In Boston, which has a high concentration of top-quality private-sector hospitals, the average wait time was 45.4 days.

This private-sector survey almost certainly skews low because it was conducted in 15 cities rather than the entire country, and because it was limited to five specialties (cardiology, dermatology, obstetrics-gynecology, orthopedic surgery, and family practice). Also, the survey was limited to Medicare and Medicaid patients, many of whom—a quarter of the Medicare patients and more than half of the Medicaid patients — the doctors declined to treat at all, reducing their wait times artificially to zero. Since everyone requesting a VA appointment comes pre-approved, VA health providers must make appointments for 100% of those who request one.

Granted, Medicare and Medicaid aren’t the private sector, they’re government insurers. But that’s immaterial to wait times. Patients wait as long for a Medicare-insured appointment as they would for a Blue Cross-insured appointment. The survey data come from Medicare and Medicaid because comparable data from private insurers is much harder to get.

It’s worth remembering that 13% of Americans still have no health insurance of any kind, making it extremely difficult for them even to contemplate scheduling a doctor’s appointment.


Donations to help victims of Balkans flooding

When I make donations for disaster relief, I do not designate a specific problem, because often what happens is that a disaster which gets a lot of news gets more money than they need, and other disasters don't get enough
When I make donations for disaster relief, I do not designate a specific problem, because often what happens is that a disaster which gets a lot of news gets more money than they need, and other disasters don't get enough.

Red Cross teams working in close cooperation with the emergency management sector and local emergency headquarters have been helping evacuate the population affected by severe floods in Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina. The region has suffered unprecedented rainfall in recent weeks.

More than 4,000 have been evacuated so far as a result of what government sources have called the biggest Serbian disaster in recent history.

In Serbia, 420 Red Cross staff and volunteers assissted with evacuations in Valjevo and Lazarevac. 820 blankets, 130 rubber boots and 4,430 meat cans have already been distributed in affected municipalities. The operation was hindered in some parts of the country due to broken bridges and inaccessible roads. The urgent distribution of ready-to-eat meals, drinking water, blankets, mattresses, cots, rubber boots, hygiene items will continue over the weekend.

This is the third response operation the Serbia Red Cross has been involved in this year and the resources are stretched to the maximum as a result.

In Bosnia and Herzegovina authorities have declared a state of emergency as hundreds of people were evacuated from their homes in 14 municipalities, including Doboj, Maglaj, Brcko District, Olovo, Bijeljina, Lukavac, Kladanj, Srebrenica, Gradacac and Zvornik. The Red Cross Society of Bosnia and Herzegovina delivered food parcels and drinking water on foot where the roads are blocked but also by jeep and boat. The society said it would continue to provide daily meals and drinking water for the affected population.

In the northern part of Bosnia, the society’s multi-purpose rescue teams, in cooperation with the BiH Departments of Public Security, set up temporary accommodation for the people who were evacuated. In Brcko District, the Red Cross teams performed medical evacuations and built sand bag flood defences.

The worst flood was reported in the capital Sarajevo and Tuzla regions, in the central parts of the country, as well as in the cities of Gorazde and Bijeljina. More flooding continues to threaten other parts of the country blocking the road access to some of the main cities.

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies appeals for funds for both countries to replenishing stocks and for early recovery measures and materials through the Disaster Relief Emergency Fund, which will be used to replenish stocks and to cover early recovery measures and materials.

National Security and the Accelerating Risks of Climate Change

The report of research into climate disruption and its consequences for National Security, by 16 retired high-level military officers.
General Paul Kern, USA (Ret.) CNA MAB Chairman
Former Commanding General, Army Materiel Command

Brigadier General Gerald E. Galloway Jr., USA (Ret.) CNA MAB Vice Chairman
Former Dean at the United States Military Academy
Former Dean at the Industrial College of the Armed
Forces, National Defense University

Vice Admiral Lee Gunn, USN (Ret.) CNA MAB Vice Chairman
Former Inspector General of the Department of the Navy

Admiral Frank “Skip” Bowman, USN (Ret.)
Former Director of the Naval Nuclear Propulsion Program
Former Chief of Naval Personnel

General James Conway, USMC (Ret.)
Former Commandant of the Marine Corps

The nature and pace of observed climate changes—and an emerging scientific consensus on their projected consequences—pose severe risks for our national security. During our decades of experience in the U.S. military, we have addressed many national security challenges, from containment and deterrence of the Soviet nuclear threat during the Cold War to political extremism and transnational terrorism in recent years. The national security risks of projected climate change are as serious as any challenges we have faced

Since we published our first report in 2007 on the national security implications of climate change, we have witnessed nearly a decade of scientific discoveries in environmental science, a burgeoning scholarly literature on global complex interdependence among nations, and a series of reactions (or in many cases, failures to react) to projected climate change. Hence, we were compelled to provide an update to our report. Over several months and meetings, we listened to scientists, security analysts, government officials, industry representatives, and the military. We viewed their information through the lens of our military experience as warfighters, planners, and leaders. Our discussions have been lively, informative, and very sobering.
At the end of the day, we validate the findings of our first report and find that in many cases the risks we identified are advancing noticeably faster than we anticipated. We also find the world becoming more complex in terms of the problems that plague its various regions.


Each citizen must ask what he or she can do individually to mitigate climate change, and collectively what his or her local, state, and national leaders are doing to ensure that the world is sustained for future generations. Are your communities, businesses, and governments investing in the necessary resilience measures to lower the risks associated with climate change? In a world of high complex interdependence, how will climate change in the far corners of the world affect your life and those of your children and grandchildren? If the answers to any of these questions make you worried or uncomfortable, we urge you to become involved. Time and tide wait for no one.


Actions by the United States and the international community have been insufficient to adapt to the challenges associated with projected climate change. Strengthening resilience to climate impacts already locked into the system is critical, but this will reduce long-term risk only if improvements in resilience are accompanied by actionable agree­ments on ways to stabilize climate change.


Some in the political realm continue to debate the cause of a warming planet and demand more data. Yet MAB member General Gordon Sullivan, United States Army, Retired, has noted: “Speaking as a soldier, we never have 100 percent certainty. If you wait until you have 100 percent certainty, some­thing bad is going to happen on the battlefield.”

Climate mitigation and adaptation efforts are emerging in various places around the world, but the extent of these efforts to mitigate and adapt to the projections are insufficient to avoid significant potential water, food,
and energy insecurity; political instability; extreme weather events; and other manifestations of climate change. Coordinated, wide-scale, and well-executed actions to limit heat-trapping gases and increase resil­ience to help prevent and protect against the worst pro­jected climate change impacts are required—now.

The potential security ramifications of global climate change should be serving as catalysts for cooperation and change. Instead, climate change impacts are already accelerating instability in vulnerable areas of the world and are serving as catalysts for conflict.


The world has added more than half a billion people since we began the research for our 2007 report. During this period, hundreds of millions of people have settled in urban areas and coastal regions—areas that are at increased risk to climate change effects.


The projected impacts of climate change—heat waves, intense rainfall, floods and droughts, rising sea levels,
more acidic oceans, and melting glaciers and arctic sea ice—not only affect local communities but also, in the aggregate, challenge key elements of our National Power.* Key elements of National Power include political, military, economic, social, infrastructure, and information systems.

Military. The projected impacts of climate change could be detrimental to military readiness, strain base resilience both at home and abroad, and may limit our ability to respond to future demands.

The projected impacts of climate change will strain our military forces in the coming decades. More forces will be called on to respond in the wake of extreme weather events at home and abroad, limiting their ability to respond to other contingencies. Pro­jected climate change will make training more dif­ficult, while at the same time, putting at greater risk critical military logistics, transportation systems, and infrastructure, both on and off base.

Infrastructure. The impacts of projected climate change can be detrimental to the physical compo­nents of our national critical infrastructure, while also limiting their capacities.

The nation depends on critical infrastructure for economic prosperity, safety, and the essentials of everyday life. Projected climate change will impact all 16 critical infrastructure sectors identi­fied in Homeland Security planning directives.


Economic. The projected impacts of climate change will threaten major sections of the U.S. economy.


Social. The projected impacts of climate change will affect major sections of our society and stress social support systems such as first responders.



The CNA Military Advisory Board:

General Paul Kern, USA (Ret.) CNA MAB Chairman
Former Commanding General, Army Materiel Command

Brigadier General Gerald E. Galloway Jr., USA (Ret.) CNA MAB Vice Chairman
Former Dean at the United States Military Academy Former Dean at the Industrial College of the Armed Forces, National Defense University

Vice Admiral Lee Gunn, USN (Ret.) CNA MAB Vice Chairman
Former Inspector General of the Department of the Navy

Admiral Frank “Skip” Bowman, USN (Ret.)
Former Director of the Naval Nuclear Propulsion Program Former Chief of Naval Personnel

General James Conway, USMC (Ret.)
Former Commandant of the Marine Corps

Lieutenant General Ken Eickmann, USAF (Ret.)
Former Commander, U.S. Air Force Aeronautical Systems Center

Lieutenant General Larry Farrell, USAF (Ret.)
Former Deputy Chief of Staff for Plans and Programs, Headquarters, U.S. Air Force

General Don Hoffman USAF (Ret.)
Former Commander, U.S. Air Force Materiel Command
General Ron Keys, USAF (Ret.)
Former Commander, U.S. Air Force Air Combat Command

General Ron Keys, USAF (Ret.)
Former Commander, U.S. Air Force Air Combat Command

Rear Admiral Neil Morisetti, British Royal Navy (Ret.)
Former UK Foreign Secretary’s Special Representative for Climate Change
Former Commandant, UK Joint Services Command and Staff College

Vice Admiral Ann Rondeau, USN (Ret.)
Former President, National Defense University
Former Deputy Commander, U.S. Transportation Command

Lieutenant General Keith Stalder, USMC (Ret.)
Former Commanding General, U.S. Marine Corps Forces, Pacific

General Gordon Sullivan, USA (Ret.)
Former Chief of Staff, U.S. Army

Rear Admiral David W. Titley, USN (Ret.)
Former Oceanographer of the Navy

General Charles “Chuck” Wald, USAF (Ret.)
Former Deputy Commander, U.S. European Command

Lieutenant General Richard Zilmer, USMC (Ret.)
Former Deputy Commandant for Manpower and Reserve Affairs Former Commanding General of Multi-National Force–West in Al Anbar Province, Iraq

MAB Executive Director:
Ms. Sherri Goodman, Senior Vice President and General Counsel, CNA Corporation
Former Deputy Under Secretary of Defense for Environmental Security

tags: military

Antarctic wind vortex is strongest for 1000 years

New Scientist magazine
14 May 2014
Magazine issue 2969

OUR greenhouse gas emissions are boosting a vortex of winds around Antarctica. As this maelstrom accelerates, it shrinks, dragging rain away from Western Australia.

Earlier studies suggested that the hole in the ozone layer above Antarctica was boosting the winds. Now Nerilie Abram of the Australian National University in Canberra and her colleagues have shown that global warming is just as important.

The team reconstructed Antarctic temperatures over the past 1000 years using an ice core. The temperatures correlate with wind strength, and the team found that the winds are now the strongest they have been in the past millennium. But the gain in strength began in the 1940s, decades before the ozone hole. So the team simulated weather patterns in the last 1000 years using climate models and greenhouse gas levels from ice cores. All the models predicted that the winds would pick up by the 1940s, suggesting that greenhouse gases were playing a role (Nature Climate Change,

As the ozone hole heals, its effect on the winds will weaken. But rising temperatures will counteract this. The two factors may balance until 2045, says Wenju Cai from the CSIRO, Australia's national research agency, in Melbourne. After that, unless we reduce emissions, greenhouse gases will boost the winds further, and Western Australia will lose even more of its rain.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Cheese-eating Job Creators

Not surprising. If older people and college age people are less likely to be working, there will be more jobs for people age 25-54.

MAY 21, 2014
Paul Krugman

People are pretty down on European economic performance these days, with good reason. But mainly what we’re looking at is bad macroeconomic policy, the result of premature monetary union plus austerity mania. That’s a very different story from the old version of Eurotrashing, which focused on Eurosclerosis — persistent low employment allegedly caused by excessive welfare states.

Now, people like John Schmitt and Dean Baker began pointing out a long time ago that this story was out of date. If you looked at Europe in general and France in particular, you saw that yes, people retired earlier than in America, and also that fewer young people worked — in part because they didn’t have to work their way through college. But on the eve of the economic crisis employment rates among prime-working-age adults had converged.

Well, I hadn’t looked at this data for a while; and where we are now is quite stunning:

Since the late 1990s we have completely traded places: prime-age French adults are now much more likely than their US counterparts to have jobs.

Strange how amid the incessant bad-mouthing of French performance this fact never gets mentioned.

US female genital mutilation petition passes 100,000 signatures

The wonderful effects of male domination. [sarcasm]

Friday 23 May 2014

A petition to help end female genital mutilation (FGM) in the US has crossed a significant milestone of 100,000 signatures.

Jaha Dukureh, a 24-year-old survivor of FGM, created the petition, which urges the US government to commission a report that would update statistics on the prevalence of women subjected to FGM in the US. It collected its 100,000th signature on Friday afternoon.


Her campaign is supported by UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon, prominent Muslim cleric and activist Imam Baba Leigh, US congressman Joe Crowley and the Guardian.


The petition calls on the federal government to commission research on the prevalence of FGM in the US to enable it create a comprehensive plan to end the practice and provide services to women who have already been subjected to it. The practice was outlawed in the US in 1996, but at least 228,000 women in the US are thought to be affected, according to research from Brigham and Women’s hospital in Boston.


FGM survivors: 'It happens on US soil, but it happens in secret'

Alexandra Topping, Tuesday 13 May 2014


Campaign groups and survivors of FGM warn that despite legislation against female genital mutilation – which involves removing part or all of a girls outer sexual organs and can result in physical complications, death in childbirth and lifelong trauma – American girls are being taken out of the country to be cut, and may be subjected to mutilation on US soil.


A lack of widespread knowledge and information about FGM put girls like Leyla at risk, says Shelby Quast, policy advisor at the campaign group Equality Now. “One of our biggest concerns is that girls are being taken out of the country for vacation cutting during school vacations,” she says. “We look at the various diaspora communities and as they grow, the number of girls at risk grows as well.”

Mariama Diallo, African community specialist at Sanctuary for Families, a New York-based nonprofit, said there was anecdotal evidence that cutters were flown over by families to cut a number of girls, often babies. “There is a big lack of knowledge about FGM. It’s seen as a cultural issue, but it is a harmful practice that amounts to child abuse and it is happening to US citizens,” she says. She has clients with children in some communities who are terrified of taking their children to their birth country, and are ostracized for refusing to get their daughters cut.


FGM has been illegal in the US under federal law since 1996, and “vacation cutting” has been outlawed since last year. But a lack of prosecutions and desire to hold on to what is seen as a deep-rooted cultural practice, means American girls are still being cut, according to experts. At least 228,000 American women and girls are at risk of the practice, according to research from the African Women’s Health Center of the Brigham and Women’s Hospital.

Having had a typical American upbringing, Leyla, now 23, was horrified and scared at the idea of going through surgery in a remote area. Choking back tears, she describes the moment she was taken to the house of the cutter: “They had to hold me down. There was no anaesthetic, no gloves, no pain medication after, no nurse to take care of you. It was the most painful thing I have ever experienced. They cut you like they are cutting paper. It’s like you die. I was screaming and crying.”


The consequences of FGM can be life-changing and, in some cases, fatal.


Other complications include an increased risk of death during childbirth, recurrent infection and pain during sex. Types of FGM range from type one, which involves the removal of the clitoris, to type three, the removal of clitoris, labia and sewing up of a girl so only a small hole remains to urinate and menstruate. Lesha was subjected to type three. “Sex is painful, and I hate, hate, hate it,” she says. “I hate being touched. It feels like rape every time.”


The survivors the Guardian spoke to were adamant that in their own communities in the US making sure girls were cut – and therefore kept ”pure” before marriage – was common.

“This is absolutely an American problem. We have vacation cutting, we have people sending money home so their relatives daughters can have the ceremony,” says Naima Abdullahi, 36. She went through FGM in Kenya as a nine-year-old. “It absolutely happens on US soil, but it happens in secret.”


But the consequences of speaking out can be severe. Several of the FGM survivors the Guardian spoke to would only speak anonymously. “When someone speaks out about FGM, the whole community turns against them,” says Lesha. “Plus, we have no protection. No one understands what I go through or what it means.”

Naima, who is openly identifying herself as a survivor for the first time, hopes that with more women coming forward to tell their stories the taboo around FGM can at last be challenged. “Silence is a huge problem. Yes this is a cultural issue, but it’s a cultural problem,” she says. “ I need Americans to hear this. Because every girl that died, or ends ends up in an emergency room because of FGM – they are paying the price for that silence.”


Most villagers said they thought the practice was prescribed by Islamic law. But female genital mutilation is not mentioned in the Qur'an and has been outlawed by Egypt's grand mufti, one of the country's most senior Islamic clerics. It is also practised in Egypt's Christian communities – leading activists to stress that it is a social problem rather than a religious one.

"It's not an Islamic issue – it's cultural," said Suad Abu-Dayyeh, regional representative for Equality Now, a rights group that lobbied Egypt to follow through with Fadl's prosecution. "In Sudan and Egypt the practice is widespread. But in most of the other Arab countries – which are mostly Muslim countries – people don't think of it as a Muslim issue. In fact, there has been a fatwa that bans FGM."


New meteor shower visible this weekend

May 23, 2014

A never-before-seen meteor shower will put on a cosmic show this weekend. Astronomers aren't sure just how big it will be, but NASA says it could rival the impressive Perseid meteor shower that lights up the skies every August.

It will happen early Saturday, as the Earth passes by debris from Comet 209P/Linear. The dusty debris is what creates the meteor shower. Scientists believe the shower could produce three, four or more - possibly a few hundred more - shooting stars per minute.

North American sky-gazers will have the best views, as long as the weather cooperates and skies are clear. The shower should peak from around 2 a.m. local time until nearly dawn.

The experts at NASA say you don't need to look in any particular direction, just straight up. Meteors can appear all over the sky.

Comet 209P/Linear was discovered in 2004. It will be about 7.6 million miles from Earth on Saturday.

The shower's name is a mouthful: Camelopardalids (pronounced CA-mull-oh-PAR-duh-lids). It's named after the giraffe constellation.

As Debate Goes On, the Military Prepares for Climate Change

Patrick Tucker May 7, 2014


But there’s little debate over climate change at the Pentagon, where the realities of temperature increases are now a part of everyday planning.

“We have to be concerned about all of the global impacts [of climate change], including here at home, where the Defense Department does have a mission in supporting civil authorities in the event of natural disasters. We have to be concerned about all of it,” Sharon Burke, Assistant Secretary of Defense for Operational Energy Plans and Programs told Defense One.

“We have to be pragmatic about it,” Burke said. “The question is, how is this changing facts on the ground? If we’re seeing salt water intrusion at an aquifer at a base in North Carolina, we have to deal with it.”

The report’s broadest points mirror those of the 2013 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change: There will be a rise in global temperature that varies significantly depending on how much more CO2 is released into the atmosphere in the coming decades. Projections vary from a few degrees’ rise to more than 10 degrees by the year 2100. The hottest days of the year would be as much as 15 degrees hotter on average. Sea levels could rise by as much as four feet.


“I’m not seeing intransigence [on the issue] in the Pentagon,” retired Army Brig. Gen. John Adams told Defense One. Adams is an advisor to the Center for Climate Security, which looks at the intersection of climate change and national security. ‘The Pentagon is seeing this as a problem. Instability is accelerating. Climate change is an accelerator of instability. The Pentagon understands that. They’re looking at what sorts of force structures and equipment they’re going to need to have available to deal with increasing instability that will be most effected by climate change.”

Adams, who lives in Pensacola, Fla., spoke specifically about how climate change is influencing military decision-making near him. “We have major installations in this area. We predict the sea level will rise here. That means that Navy ship berths will have to change, because they’re not floating docks, they’re built into the land. And when the sea level rises above the point where it’s safe to berth a Navy ship, then you have to change the berthing structure … so climate change will have an effect on our basing structures.”


Climate change is already influencing the military mission, Burke said, as the U.S. builds up its military-to-military relationships around the world. “We had 14,000 people who deployed to support [relief] efforts for Hurricane Sandy. We also had a lot of people who deployed to support relief efforts for the typhoon in the Philippines. We’re already seeing increased demands on our time,” she said.


tags: military