Monday, June 30, 2014

Saskatchewan flooding: 36 communities declare state of emergency

Some say we can't afford to stave off global warming. I guess they stand to make money off of recovering & rebuilding from the increase in incidents of flooding & wildfires.

Jun 30, 2014

There's less rain today, but the situation in flood-wracked southeastern Saskatchewan continues to be dire, with another 20 communities declaring a state of emergency.

Some areas got as much as 200 millimetres (7.87 inches) of rain from Friday to Monday, causing bridges, roads and culverts to be washed out.

Some farm families were stuck in their homes — or in towns away from their homes — after flood waters rose on Sunday.

Highways and grid roads on the east side the province near the Saskatchewan-Manitoba border were under water in spots and some routes have been closed.

The area includes a big chunk of Saskatchewan's farm belt and for many farmers, the weekend rain will mean a poor crop or no crop at all this year.


Wanted: Great New Gov’t Workers (Good Luck!)

This is what the Republicans want, because it degrades the ability of government agencies to do their job & serve the public, and gives an excuse for privatizing these services, rewarding the CEOs who contribute to the lawmakers, while the workers get their pay & benefits cut.

BY BRIANNA EHLEY, The Fiscal Times
June 29, 2014

Top managers at federal agencies are bailing out of their senior-level jobs at an increasingly rapid rate, amid pay freezes and budget cuts – while the government struggles to recruit new workers to fill those presumably valued positions.

A new study by students at George Washington University’s Trachtenberg School of Public Policy in D.C., in conjunction with Senior Executives Association, a nonprofit professional organization, found a “notable increase in the separation rate” of senior executives in recent years. There was a 44 percent increase in departures between 2009 and 2013, the study said.

The turnover rate among Senior Executive Service (SES) members also increased, from 7.2 percent in 2009 to 9.8 percent in 2013. SES members are defined as “a cadre of over 7,000 career federal employees who serve in executive-level leadership roles throughout the federal government,” the report says.

As might be expected at a time when waves of baby boomers are reaching retirement, the age of the senior executives tended to be the main reason for their exit – about 80 percent of those leaving said they were retiring voluntarily. But here’s what’s noteworthy: Fourteen percent of people resigned, 4 percent accepted early retirement and 3 percent left under other circumstances, the report said.

Of those leaving for non-retirement-related reasons, senior executives said that pay, the suspension of awards, and sequestration were the main factors behind their decisions.

“The current Congress and administration need to realize that politics as usual will only exacerbate these trends, with the net result being a growing brain drain that hurts our government and the American people it serves,” Carol Bonosaro, president of SEA, said in a statement.

The report’s authors said that federal agencies should be doing more to retain senior executive service employees as well as to better recruit and prepare a new group of leaders.


Saturday, June 28, 2014

The so-called “free market” is a myth

From Facebook post by economist Robert Reich.

[Copied the text below, for when the Facebook post becomes inactive.]

The so-called “free market” is a myth perpetrated by those who have disproportionate influence in determining its rules. In the United States, for example, corporate law gives shareholders only an advisory say in CEO pay, and powerful CEOs along with their Wall Street buddies have kept it that way. Billionaire Larry Ellison got $78.4 million as CEO of Oracle last year, prompting Oracle shareholders to reject the company’s executive pay plan, but that made no difference because Ellison controls the board. In Australia, by contrast, shareholders have the right to force an entire corporate board to stand for re-election if at least 25 percent of shareholders vote against a CEO pay plan two years in a row. As a result, CEOs in Australia have got only modest pay rises, last year averaging 70 times the pay of typical Australian workers. The average pay of US CEOs last year was 331 times that of the typical American worker. The next time you hear a conservative talk about the wonders of free-market capitalism, ask him who makes the rules. Even better, mobilize and organize so the U.S. has a "say on pay" law that gives investors and also workers the right to nix exorbitant CEO pay.

17 Homeless Atlanta Families Finally Found A Place To Call Home, But Now The Government Is Forcing Them Out

Please read the whole article at the following link.

Typical Atlanta & Georgia shenanigans.


Their children are on the local school soccer team. They serve on the Parent-Teacher Association. Their neighbors admire them and want them to stay. Yet because of a bureaucratic dispute between the city and the suburbs, Friday will be the last day that 17 formerly-homeless mothers and their families are allowed to call the Vine City neighborhood of Atlanta home.

The decision by Fulton County, GA officials to relocate these families would seem to run exactly counter to the purpose of the federally-funded permanent supportive housing program that put Natasha Jones and her son in their cramped but tidy apartment a few blocks from the stadium where the Atlanta Falcons play football on autumn Sundays. But because a county and city that once worked together closely are now at odds over how to tackle homelessness, dozens of once-marginalized people are about to be uprooted.
“One night they came out on their vans and started passing out a letter saying that the program was moving because of maintenance issues,” said Jones, one of 17 Vine City moms who posted a petition through Occupy Our Homes to fight the move. “They stood inside my home and told me, you deserve to be living in a neighborhood you can be proud of.” But Jones and her friends are proud of the lives they’ve made in Vine City. “I’ve been here since July, but this program is two years old. One of them is the PTA president for her child’s school, another two are officers on the PTA. You have people who are very involved in the community,” Jones said. “We are definitely woven into the fabric of the community.”

Jones and her fellow petitioners are demanding the stability and support they were promised when they enrolled in the program that gave them a home, which is a program specifically tailored to homeless families with disabilities. Jones’ 12-year-old son had his kidneys removed at the beginning of May and must be on dialysis every night, something that would be impossible in the homeless shelters where the two would be without the federally-funded Permanent Supportive Housing program.
When the Joneses first enrolled in that program, the bureaucratic authority that put federal anti-homelessness money into action was called the Tri-Jurisdictional Collaborative or Tri-J. Under the Tri-J, the local governments of Atlanta, Fulton County, and DeKalb County jointly applied for Housing and Urban Development (HUD) funds to fight homelessness and jointly administered the resulting programs. It didn’t matter that the Vine City housing set-up for homeless families with disabilities was administered through Fulton County but located inside city limits, because the Tri-J rendered those jurisdictional boundaries effectively meaningless.


Then, in 2013, the Tri-J partnership blew up. DeKalb County pulled out, citing disputes over how the roughly $12 million per year in HUD funds were being distributed among the three partners. Facing HUD deadlines to apply for renewed funding, Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed (D) chose to form his own organization. Fulton County declined to join the new Atlanta group, and suddenly all those jurisdictional lines that didn’t matter for a decade became very important.
Fulton County can’t keep operating in Vine City, and budget cuts in recent years have led Fulton to close down other facilities for the homeless. But according to Jones, county officials have repeatedly shifted the schedule for the move and misled the women about what was going on. At first they were told it was a maintenance issue with the Vine City property. “It wasn’t until we got this meeting on February 15 that we found out that it was because of the [jurisdictional changes], that that’s why we were actually moving,” Jones said.

In April, officials told the women that they would have to relocate immediately. “At first they were just gonna move the kids right then and there, they weren’t gonna let the kids finish school or anything,” Jones said. Her son’s surgery was scheduled for just a week after that meeting, and when Jones pointed out that they couldn’t move right away “he told me, ‘I don’t have any resources for you and you’re going to have to go back to a shelter.’” After some outcry, the county set a new move date of July 31, but did not tell anyone where the new location for the program would be. “Nobody was telling us, where are they going? How can you say, I’m going to work over here, or my child will go to school over there, or find a doctor’s office? Nothing could be done because nobody knew where they were going,” Jones said, until early June. Then the county moved the deadline up to Friday, June 27.

Vine City’s longer-term residents don’t want their new neighbors forced out either. “In neighborhoods like Vine City, which is definitely a struggling neighborhood, there’s usually a dynamic of homeowners versus renters, homeowners versus section 8,” said Tim Franzen of Occupy Our Homes Atlanta, the local arm of a movement that fights wrongful foreclosures and evictions and that is supporting the petition to prevent the relocations in Vine City. “What brought this to our attention is that the Vine City Civic Association, the organization for homeowners that are advocating for a better community in Vine City, they were the ones who reached out to us.” Rather than resenting the once-homeless people who were dropped into their community near the Georgia Dome, Vine City’s long-time residents have formed communal bonds with Jones and the others.


DNA Evidence Overturns Conviction Of Florida Man Who Spent 28 Years On Death Row

A prisoner in Florida who has spent 28 years on death row has had his murder conviction and death sentence overturned after DNA evidence destroyed the prosecution case used against him almost three decades ago.

Paul Hildwin, 54, will remain on death row as he waits to find out whether the Florida authorities intend to prosecute him for a second time after the state’s supreme court vacated his conviction and sentence and ordered a retrial. In a 5-2 ruling, the majority of the court said that “we cannot turn a blind eye to the fact that a significant pillar of the state’s case, as presented to the jury, has collapsed.”

In 1990, Hildwin came close to losing his life at the hands of Florida after a death warrant was issued and a date set for his execution. But tenacious legal work by the Innocence Project of Florida fended off his death, and painstakingly revealed crucial details pointing to his wrongful conviction.


The state said the tests showed that the source of the material had to have been a “nonsecretor” – a man who did not secrete blood into other bodily fluids, which narrowed the field of possible suspects to 11% of white males. Hildwin was a “nonsecretor”, the jury was told, while Haverty, who the defence claimed was the true culprit, was a “secretor”.

In 2003, the “nonsecretor” argument used as a central tenet of the prosecution case was conclusively undermined after DNA tests of the samples proved that Hildwin could not have been the source. But it still took the Innocence Project a further seven years of legal tussling to force the state of Florida to check the semen and saliva remains against a national crime database.

In 2010, the Florida supreme court ordered the check to be done, and that in turn revealed a positive match from the semen sample to Haverty. Now aged 50, Haverty is currently serving a 20-year sentence for attempted child sexual assault.

Were Hildwin to be exonerated, it would add to Florida’s long history of wrongful death sentences. It has exonerated 24 death row prisoners – more than any other state.


“The DNA evidence, Mr. Haverty’s criminal background and statements by witnesses who prove the crime couldn’t have occurred when originally thought, make it obviously clear that law enforcement went after the wrong person,” said Marty McClain, the local court-appointed lawyer who worked with the Innocence Project.

Friday, June 27, 2014

US rich get richer on stock market investments while modest investors are left behind

A factor they don't mention is that the rich are more likely to have insider information that allows them to make better decisions on when to buy & sell stock.

Contact: Maxine Myers
Imperial College London
US rich get richer on stock market investments while modest investors are left behind

In a new study, researchers from Imperial College Business School, Columbia University and the University of Maryland found that wealthy individuals in the US can get in relative terms up to 70 per cent times greater returns on their investments than those with modest wealth, when the yields on assets such as stocks and bonds are calculated. The team say that this further widens the income gap between rich and poor and potentially creates disparities in society.

Income inequality in the US has been steadily rising. According to a report by Oxfam International released earlier this year, the wealthiest one per cent has captured 95 per cent of post-financial crisis growth since 2009, while the bottom 90 per cent became poorer in the US.

The research is the first to offer a consistent explanation of income inequality generated from financial markets.


The expert consensus on global warming is 97%±1%

I have observed that people are fully capable of believing things that go against their own personal experience, even when the belief is to their own detriment.

Why we care about the 97% expert consensus on human-caused global warming

Posted on 24 June 2014 by dana1981

Three distinct studies using four different methods have independently shown that the expert consensus on human-caused global warming is 97 ± 1%. The result is the same whether we ask the experts’ opinions, look at their public reports and statements, or examine their peer-reviewed science. Even studies that quibble about the precise percentage have accidentally reinforced the 97 ± 1% consensus.

The evidence is crystal clear that humans are the main cause of the current global warming, and the expert consensus reflects the strength of that body of evidence. It’s not easy to convince 97% of scientific experts about anything – that requires some powerful scientific evidence.

And yet public opinion is a very different story. Americans think experts are evenly split on the causes of global warming. The public is likewise split on the cause of global warming, with just over half understanding that humans are primarily responsible. As a result, Americans don’t see global warming as an urgent issue, putting climate policy low on the list of priorities.

The sources of this disparity and how it can be corrected are the subjects of an intense debate amongst social scientists. One school of thought says that we have a problem with ‘information deficit’ as well as what climate scientist Michael Mann calls ‘misinformation surplus.’

For example, experimental evidence shows that if people are presented with a basic explanation of how global warming works, they’re more likely to accept the reality of human-caused global warming. Other research has shown that if people are told about the expert consensus, they’re also more likely to accept the science. In both cases, presenting people with certain pieces of information trims the gap between what the scientific evidence and experts say, and what the public believes.

The other school of thought, led by Dan Kahan at Yale, argues that the problem boils down to cultural biases. In essence, liberals feel as though they’re on Team ‘global warming is a problem caused by humans’ while conservatives identify with Team ‘no it’s not.’ Kahan feels that people will take any new information and pass it through their cultural filter; if it conforms to their cultural identity, they’ll accept it, or otherwise they’ll just reject it. In fact, Kahan argues that giving people information that doesn’t conform to their cultural identity (like the 97% consensus) may just act to polarize them further.

In a recent editorial for The Guardian, Adam Corner made a similar argument, asking 'who cares about the climate change consensus?'. Corner suggested that climate information is ineffective if it’s not coming from “communicators whose cultural credentials are congruent with the audience they are speaking to.” Both Kahan and Corner have also argued that if consensus messaging could work, then it should have worked by now, whereas American public acceptance of human-caused global warming in 2014 is lower than in 2003.

Parts Of America Will Be 'Unsuited For Outdoor Activity' Thanks To Climate Change, Report Finds

And what will happen to animals who don't have air conditioning?

Posted: 06/24/2014
By Sharon Begley

NEW YORK, June 24 (Reuters) - The old adage, "it's not the heat, it's the humidity," will come into play more often and in more places because of climate change, with life-altering results in southern U.S. cities from Miami to Atlanta to Washington and even northern ones such as New York, Chicago and Seattle.

"As temperatures rise, toward the end of the century, less than an hour of activity outdoors in the shade could cause a moderately fit individual to suffer heat stroke," said climatologist Robert Kopp of Rutgers University, lead scientific author of the report. "That's something that doesn't exist anywhere in the world today."

That result emerges from the heat-and-humidity analysis in "Risky Business," the report on the economic consequences of climate change released on Tuesday. The analysis goes beyond other studies, which have focused on rising temperatures, to incorporate growing medical understanding of the physiological effects of heat and humidity, as well as research on how and where humidity levels will likely rise as the climate changes.

The body's capacity to cool down in hot weather depends on the evaporation of sweat. That keeps skin temperature below 95 degrees Fahrenheit (35 Celsius). Above that, core temperature rises past 98.6F. But if humidity is also high, sweat cannot evaporate, and core temperature can increase until the person collapses from heat stroke.

"If it's humid you can't sweat, and if you can't sweat you can't maintain core body temperature in the heat, and you die," said Dr Al Sommer, dean emeritus of the Bloomberg School of Public Health at Johns Hopkins University and author of a chapter on health effects in the new report.


If climate change continues on its current trajectory, the report concluded, Midwesterners could see deadly heat-and-humidity pairings (which meteorologists call "wet-bulb temperature") two days every year by later this century.

"It will be functionally impossible to be outside, including for things like construction work and farming, as well as recreation," said climate scientist Michael Oppenheimer of Princeton University.

Even without killer humidity, heat waves are expected to take a larger and larger toll.

The Southeast is expected to be hit with an additional 17 to 52 extremely hot days per year by mid-century and an additional 48 to 130 days by 2100. That could prove deadly for thousands: "Risky Business" projects an additional 15 to 21 deaths per 100,000 people every year from the heat, or 11,000 to 36,000 additional deaths at current population levels.

Study: Teachers More Likely to Use Ineffective Instruction When Teaching Students with Mathematics Difficulties

It is my observation over the years that, like any other human activity, fads come and go and come back in education, with people looking for a magic bullet to solve current problems.

June 26, 2014
Contact: Tony Pals

First-grade teachers in the United States may need to change their instructional practices if they are to raise the mathematics achievement of students with mathematics difficulties (MD), according to new research published online today in Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, a peer-reviewed journal of the American Educational Research Association.


The study, funded by the U.S. Department of Education and the National Institutes of Health, found that first-grade teachers in classrooms with higher percentages of students with MD were more likely to be using ineffective instructional practices with these students.

When first-grade classes had larger percentages of students with MD, their teachers were more often using non-traditional instructional practices, in which students use manipulatives, calculators, movement, and music to learn mathematics. The researchers found these types of practices were not associated with achievement gains. These practices were ineffective for both MD and non-MD students.

Instead, the researchers found that only use by first-grade teachers of more traditional, teacher-directed instruction — in which teachers used textbooks, worksheets, chalkboards, and routine practice to instruct students in mathematics facts, skills, and concepts — was associated with achievement gains for students with MD.

According to study findings, the most effective instructional practice that first-grade teachers could use for students with MD was to provide them with routine practice and drill opportunities to learn mathematics. The findings held true for first-grade students who had shown either persistent or transitory MD in kindergarten. Results were extensively controlled for students’ prior mathematics and reading achievement, family income, and other factors.


“Effectively instructing students with MD at an early age matters immensely to their future academic achievement and opportunities in life,” said Morgan. “We know that students who continue struggling to learn mathematics in the primary grades are highly likely to continue to struggle throughout elementary school. Others have reported that students who subsequently complete high school with relatively low mathematics achievement are more likely to be unemployed or paid lower wages, even if they have relatively higher reading skills.”

For students without a history of MD, teacher-directed instruction is also associated with achievement gains. However, unlike their schoolmates with MD, the mathematics achievement for these students is also associated with some, but not all, types of student-centered instruction, which focuses on giving students opportunities to be actively involved in generating mathematical knowledge. Student-centered activities associated with achievement gains by first graders without MD include working on problems with several solutions, peer tutoring, and activities involving real-life math. Students without MD benefited about equally well from either more traditional teacher-directed instruction or less traditional student-centered instruction.


Chimps like listening to music with a different beat, research finds

Contact: Lisa Bowen
American Psychological Association
Chimps like listening to music with a different beat, research finds

Nonhuman primates preferred African, Indian tunes over strong beats typical of Western music

WASHINGTON – While preferring silence to music from the West, chimpanzees apparently like to listen to the different rhythms of music from Africa and India, according to new research published by the American Psychological Association.

"Our objective was not to find a preference for different cultures' music. We used cultural music from Africa, India and Japan to pinpoint specific acoustic properties," said study coauthor Frans de Waal, PhD, of Emory University. "Past research has focused only on Western music and has not addressed the very different acoustic features of non-Western music. While nonhuman primates have previously indicated a preference among music choices, they have consistently chosen silence over the types of music previously tested."

Previous research has found that some nonhuman primates prefer slower tempos, but the current findings may be the first to show that they display a preference for particular rhythmic patterns, according to the study. "Although Western music, such as pop, blues and classical, sound different to the casual listener, they all follow the same musical and acoustic patterns. Therefore, by testing only different Western music, previous research has essentially replicated itself," the authors wrote. The study was published in APA's Journal of Experimental Psychology: Animal Learning and Cognition.

When African and Indian music was played near their large outdoor enclosures, the chimps spent significantly more time in areas where they could best hear the music. When Japanese music was played, they were more likely to be found in spots where it was more difficult or impossible to hear the music. The African and Indian music in the experiment had extreme ratios of strong to weak beats, whereas the Japanese music had regular strong beats, which is also typical of Western music.

[I myself enjoy oriental music in limited doses, but find listening to it for too long to be unpleasant.]

"Chimpanzees may perceive the strong, predictable rhythmic patterns as threatening, as chimpanzee dominance displays commonly incorporate repeated rhythmic sounds such as stomping, clapping and banging objects," said de Waal.


Are conservatives more obedient and agreeable than their liberal counterparts?

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Contact: Jennifer Santisi
Society for Personality and Social Psychology
Are conservatives more obedient and agreeable than their liberal counterparts?

Over the last few years, we've seen increasing dissent among liberals and conservatives on important issues such as gun control, health care and same-sex marriage. Both sides often have a difficult time reconciling their own views with their opposition, and many times it appears that liberals are unable to band together under a unifying platform. Why do conservatives appear to have an affinity for obeying leadership? And why do conservatives perceive greater consensus among politically like-minded others? Two studies publishing in Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin shed light on these questions.

Historically, conservatives are viewed as being more obedient and more respectful of leadership. Whereas, liberals tend to be associated with protests and blatant acts of rebellion. Previous research has seemed to suggest that the act of obedience is divisive, and that this cultural war among liberals and conservatives may stem from the fact that obedience elicits different emotional responses. Researchers at the University of Winnipeg delved further into this perception of obedience to authority with three studies, and found that liberals and conservatives are more similar than they may appear.

Lead researcher Jeremy Frimer explains that "beneath the surface of some of these ideological debates is a fundamental need to belong to a group that has a strong leader. Both sides feel the need. And both sides believe that people should do as their leader tells them to do. The difference between the groups is not whether they value obedience to authority. Rather, the difference is about which authority they think is worthy of obedience."

In surveying participants, the researchers found that the act of obedience itself elicits similar moral sentiments from both conservatives and liberals; the differences sparked only when participants perceived the authorities to advance a political agenda. Testing the participants perceptions proved trickier than expected, because the researchers found that the concepts of authority and obedience automatically elicit thoughts of a conservative authority. This finding may explain why obedience to authority appears to be a concept conservatives favor over liberals.

Once researchers were able to move beyond the cognitive baggage of the term 'authority' in the first two studies, the third and final study illustrates that liberals and conservatives do value obedience equally. Authorities with a conservative agenda, such as religious leaders and commanding military officers, elicit a positive moral response from participants who are politically conservative. Authorities with liberal agendas, such as environmentalists and civil rights activists, elicited positive moral sentiment from liberal participants. Neutral leaders, like office managers and janitors, were equally positive for both liberals and conservatives. Obedience itself is not ideologically divisive, but rather depends on how similar the authority is in their viewpoints and opinions, and conservatives will call for rebellion when the authorities are from the 'other team.'

Researchers at New York University and the University of Toronto explored the concept that conservatives desire to share reality more strongly than liberals. The perception of in-group consensus can help mobilize group members toward collective efforts and a stronger intention to vote in a particular election.

"Individuals can attain a sense of shared reality through perceiving that other people hold similar beliefs as they personally do," lead researcher Chadly Stern explains. "For example, we found that conservatives, more than liberals, perceived that politically like-minded others made similar judgments concerning whether a target person was born in November or December, simply based on seeing a picture of the person. Even though this judgment was devoid of political meaning, conservatives' perceptions of similarity were associated with the feeling that they "shared reality" with other conservatives."

The findings suggest that perceiving consensus on non-political judgments, like guessing someone's birth month, has implications for outcomes that are politically meaningful. Liberals appear to be more motivated to perceive their beliefs as relatively unique, which can undermine the development of a cohesive movement. A stronger desire for shared reality among conservatives may be why the Tea Party gained more momentum than the Occupy Wall Street movement.


What Happens When Lightning Hits Your Car? Here's How to Stay Safe

By: By Chrissy Warrilow
Published: June 26, 2014

It is a widespread myth that the reason vehicles provide protection from lightning is due to the tires.

In actuality, lightning flows around the outside of a car, and the majority of the current flows from the car's metal cage into the ground below. In essence, a car acts like a mobile Faraday cage.

However, not all vehicles are created equal.

Convertibles do not have metal roofs, which compromises the Faraday cage affect. In addition, some vehicles are manufactured out of non-metal parts, which impedes electricity's ability to flow through the car.

Another caveat with regards to lightning safety within vehicles is the fact that some portions of the current can flow through the vehicle's electrical systems and metal appendages including radios, cell phone chargers, GPS units as well as car door handles, foot pedals, the steering column and the steering wheel. The National Lightning Safety Institute reports that some vehicles struck by lightning experience external damage, including pitting and arcing, as well as internal damage to electronic systems and components.

Bottom line, if you're away from home, the best way to stay safe during a lightning storm is to head for a metal-topped vehicle. However, it is important to fold your hands in your lap and avoid touching anything metal within the car. You also should not to touch the radio or talk on the cell phone, especially if it is connected to your vehicle. If you are driving, pull to the side of the road, turn on your hazard lights, turn off the engine and wait out the storm.

At what point is it safe to exit the vehicle?

Once the electrical current has passed through the vehicle and entered into the ground, it is technically safe to exit the vehicle. However, it is best to wait until the thunderstorm has passed before getting out of your car.

Before USA-Germany World Cup Match, Recife, Brazil, Gets Several Inches of Heavy Rain

June 26, 2014

Rain has been falling for hours in Recife, Brazil, the site of today's World Cup match between the United States and Germany, a critical game that will determine whether the U.S. team advances to the next round of the tournament.


Flooding and landslides marred the start of the World Cup opener in the coastal city Natal, where torrential rains in the days leading up to the opening match destroyed homes, inundated streets and forced the evacuations of dozens of people.

Dozens of American fans on their way to today's match were forced to abandon their cars and try to make it to the stadium on foot:

Today's heavy rain follows several days of precipitation for Recife, a coastal city in northern Brazil of about 1.5 million people.


Rob Lowe, Family Rescued After Torrential Rains Flood French Vacation Home

June 26, 2014

Actor Rob Lowe, star of television shows "The West Wing" and "Parks and Recreation," and his family were rescued from their vacation home in the south of France on Wednesday after torrential rains flooded the first floor of their home.

The New York Daily News reported that the 50-year-old Lowe, along with his wife Sheryl Berkoff and son John, had to be rescued after a massive storm struck where they were staying in Grasse, France, dropping three months' worth of rainfall in four hours.


Severe Flooding in Alaska’s Denali National Park

By: Christopher C. Burt , 6:43 PM GMT on June 27, 2014

Severe flooding has affected portions of Denali National Park and Preserve in interior Alaska. A large area of rain impacted most of mainland and southeast Alaska on Wednesday and Thursday June 25-26 with some historical accumulations. This is a guest blog courtesy of Brian Brettschneider of Borealis Scientific, LLC in Anchorage, Alaska.

The three most prominent NWS stations in Alaska (Anchorage, Juneau, and Fairbanks) all received greater than 3/4” precipitation for the first time on record for a same single day of the year.


While the precipitation totals in the table above would not be all that impressive for most places in the U.S., they are highly anomalous for interior Alaska. Many of the 24-hour rainfall totals are greater than the 10-year recurrence interval and in some case approach the 25-year recurrence interval according to the NOAA Precipitation Frequency Atlas for Alaska (e.g., the 24-hour total at Wonder Lake is slightly less than the 25-year recurrence interval).


All-time June 24-hour Precipitation Record Broken in Savannah, Georgia

By: Christopher C. Burt, Weather Historian , 7:08 PM GMT on June 24, 2014

UPDATE June 25: All-time June 24-hour Precipitation Record Broken in Savannah, Minneapolis, Sioux City, and Omaha this June

An intense cluster of thunderstorms dropped 6.65” of rainfall in about a four-hour period on Monday afternoon and evening at Savannah’s International Airport. This is a new calendar day record for the month of June in Savannah. Radar estimated rainfall reached 10.45” in some areas of the Savannah metro region.

The previous June monthly record was 6.60” on June 29, 1999 and the daily record of 3.29”, set in 1884, was smashed. Official precipitation records for Savannah began in 1871, although monthly measurements exist for the years of 1840-1859 as well (before resuming for good in 1871). Savannah’s average June monthly precipitation is 5.95”.


The rain continued to accumulate in portions of Iowa, South Dakota, and Minnesota this past week. Sioux Falls, South Dakota improved upon its moniker of ‘wettest month on record’ with a June total of 13.44” as of June 23rd (+10.40” above normal for the month to date). This has obliterated their previous wettest month of 9.42” set back in May 1898 (by an extraordinary 43%!). The figure of 13.44” is also close to what Sioux Falls would normally receive for the entire year-to-date as of June 23rd. It is also considerably more than what fell during the city’s driest year on record: 10.44” in all of 1894.

Sioux City, Iowa has also surpassed its former all-time wettest month (any month) on record with 13.25” as of June 23rd (+10.23” above normal for the month to date). The previous monthly record for the city was 11.78” in May 1903. On June 14th, Sioux City picked up 5.05” of rainfall, its 2nd heaviest calendar day rainfall on record and just short of its all-time 24-hour record (for any month) of 5.50” set on July 17, 1972. The 5.05” was also a new June monthly calendar day record. Over the three-day period of June 14-16, 8.27” of rain fell.

Precipitation records date back to 1889 in Sioux City and 1893 in Sioux Falls.


And this from NWS-Omaha, Nebraska: An old report from earlier this month concerning a new June monthly calendar day record rainfall. The resulting flash flood caused one fatality.


Not to be outdone, Minneapolis, Minnesota also broke their June calendar day precipitation record on June 19th:


Toronto Is Underwater, Again


A dramatic night of storms in Toronto on Wednesday flooded subway stations, turned a major freeway into a river and knocked out power to thousands of people.
On Wednesday, Environment Canada issued a special weather warning for heavy rain in Toronto Wednesday evening. Some parts of the city received nearly three inches of rain in just three hours.

Large sections of the Don Valley Parkway, a major freeway, were submerged Wednesday evening, and all lanes and ramps were closed for much of the night.

Dozens of people had to be rescued from their cars as water lapped at windows. One driver, who tried to get on the DVP after seeing that his normal route home from work was closed, told the Toronto Star, that his car died just moments after he noticed water under his tires.

“When you’re in it, it’s too late, it’s way too late,” the driver, Len Lal, said.
Water was up to Lal’s waist in the car before he was rescued. “It’s like a scene out of Terminator: Salvation,” Lal said after his rescue.


This kind of torrential downpour, where weeks or even a month of rain falls in just a couple of hours has become more common in recent years and is predicted to increase in frequency and intensity as the planet warms. 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.


The Insurance Bureau of Canada says claims related to catastrophic weather events have surpassed $1 billion in every year since 2009.

A study warns of the risk entailed when night owls—"evening-type" people—drive early in the morning

Definitely true for this night owl. When I had to commute more than a short distance, I would struggle to stay awake while driving to work. Sometimes I would have to get off the road & take a brief nap. But I usually had no trouble staying awake when I drove home in the evening.

Researchers from the University of Granada have shown that individual chronotype—that is, whether you are a "morning-type" or an "evening-type", depending on the time of day when your physiological functions are more active—markedly influences driving performance.

In fact, evening-types are much worse drivers—they pay less attention—at their "non-optimal" time of day (early in the morning) by comparison with their optimal time (during the evening). However, in this experiment morning-types were more stable drivers than evening-types and drove relatively well both in the morning and the evening.


“A particular time of day can be a good or a bad time to perform these tasks as a function of the chronotype of the individual involved, although there are times that are bad for everyone, like siesta time or in the early hours between 3.00 and 5.00”, he warns.

The University of Granada researchers warn that driving after more than 18 hours wakefulness—say, at 2.00 in the early morning after waking at 8.00 the previous morning, which is quite common—“entails the same level of risk as driving with the legal maximum level of blood alcohol, because our level of vigilance declines considerably”.

Homeless Alcoholics Typically Began Drinking as Children

WASHINGTON, June 27, 2014 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- A phenomenological study offers detailed insights into homeless, alcohol-dependent patients often stigmatized by the public and policymakers as drains on the health care system, showing the constellation of reasons they are incapable of escaping social circumstances that perpetuate and exacerbate their problems The study, published online yesterday in Annals of Emergency Medicine, was conducted at Bellevue Hospital in New York City, which has a long history of service to the city's indigent population (

"One hundred percent of patients enrolled in the study began drinking alcohol as children, becoming alcohol-dependent shortly thereafter," said study author Ryan McCormack, MD, of New York University School of Medicine in New York, N.Y. "For people who have homes and jobs, it is difficult to imagine the level of despair these people experience day in and day out, or the all-consuming focus on getting the next drink that overrides even the most basic human survival instinct. Most do not come to my ER voluntarily, but end up there because of public intoxication. The majority of patients in this study consistently left the hospital prior to the completion of medical care."

Dr. McCormack and his team interviewed 20 homeless, alcohol-dependent patients who had four or more annual visits to Bellevue Hospital's emergency department for two consecutive years. All began drinking in childhood or adolescence, and 13 reported having alcoholic parents. Thirteen patients reported abuse in their childhood homes. Nineteen were either forced to or chose to leave home by age 18. Only one was married. None of the subjects was employed. The three who were military veterans said that military life amplified their alcohol use.

Alcoholism was cited as the primary reason for living on the street. Eleven patients had definitive psychiatric diagnoses in the psychotic, mood or anxiety spectrums. All 20 reported having entered detoxification programs at some point in the past. Within a year of being interviewed for this study, one-quarter of the patients had died as a direct result of their alcoholism from liver or lung cancer, vehicular trauma, assault or hypothermia.

"As their capacity to envision a future diminishes, they increasingly lose motivation for personal recovery," said Dr. McCormack. "An alcoholic is first a human being. We hypothesize that more accessible, lower-barrier, patient-centered interventions that support alcohol harm reduction and quality of life improvement can be translated into the emergency department setting and this population."

Early life stress can leave lasting impacts on the brain

Contact: Seth Pollak
University of Wisconsin-Madison
Early life stress can leave lasting impacts on the brain

For children, stress can go a long way. A little bit provides a platform for learning, adapting and coping. But a lot of it — chronic, toxic stress like poverty, neglect and physical abuse — can have lasting negative impacts.

A team of University of Wisconsin-Madison researchers recently showed these kinds of stressors, experienced in early life, might be changing the parts of developing children's brains responsible for learning, memory and the processing of stress and emotion. These changes may be tied to negative impacts on behavior, health, employment and even the choice of romantic partners later in life.


Yet, early life stress has been tied before to depression, anxiety, heart disease, cancer, and a lack of educational and employment success, says Pollak, who is also director of the UW Waisman Center's Child Emotion Research Laboratory.


For the study, the team recruited 128 children around age 12 who had experienced either physical abuse, neglect early in life or came from low socioeconomic status households.

Researchers conducted extensive interviews with the children and their caregivers, documenting behavioral problems and their cumulative life stress. They also took images of the children's brains, focusing on the hippocampus and amygdala, which are involved in emotion and stress processing. They were compared to similar children from middle-class households who had not been maltreated.

Hanson and the team outlined by hand each child's hippocampus and amygdala and calculated their volumes. Both structures are very small, especially in children (the word amygdala is Greek for almond, reflecting its size and shape in adults), and Hanson and Pollak say the automated software measurements from other studies may be prone to error.

Indeed, their hand measurements found that children who experienced any of the three types of early life stress had smaller amygdalas than children who had not. Children from low socioeconomic status households and children who had been physically abused also had smaller hippocampal volumes. Putting the same images through automated software showed no effects.

Behavioral problems and increased cumulative life stress were also linked to smaller hippocampus and amygdala volumes.

Why early life stress may lead to smaller brain structures is unknown, says Hanson, now a postdoctoral researcher at Duke University's Laboratory for NeuroGenetics, but a smaller hippocampus is a demonstrated risk factor for negative outcomes. The amygdala is much less understood and future work will focus on the significance of these volume changes.

"For me, it's an important reminder that as a society we need to attend to the types of experiences children are having," Pollak says. "We are shaping the people these individuals will become."

But the findings, Hanson and Pollak say, are just markers for neurobiological change; a display of the robustness of the human brain, the flexibility of human biology. They aren't a crystal ball to be used to see the future.

"Just because it's in the brain doesn't mean it's destiny," says Hanson.

Study: To address climate change, nothing substitutes for reducing CO2 emissions

Reducing methane emissions wouldn't substitute for reducing CO2, but it should help some, at least. Methane breaks down to CO2. Even a relatively short-lived increase in temperature due to methane, etc. will have feedback effects. Eg., melting polar ice increases the absorption of heat by the earth. I think his point is that people want a quick and easy fix, that entails little inconvenience to them, and will use the reduction of methane, etc. as a means of making themselves feel they can ignore the need to reduce CO2. Also, most people, by training or nature, are not deep thinkers, and will go for simplistic answers.

Contact: Steve Koppes
University of Chicago
Study: To address climate change, nothing substitutes for reducing CO2 emissions

The politically expedient way to mitigate climate change is essentially no way at all, according to a comprehensive new study by University of Chicago climatologist Raymond Pierrehumbert.

Among the climate pollutants humans put into the atmosphere in significant quantities, the effects of carbon dioxide (CO2) are the longest-lived, with effects on climate that extend thousands of years after emissions cease. But finding the political consensus to act on reducing CO2 emissions has been nearly impossible. So there has been a movement to make up for that inaction by reducing emissions of other, shorter-lived gasses, such as methane, hydrofluorocarbons, and nitrous oxide, and particulates such as soot and black carbon, all of which contribute to warming as well.

Pierrehumbert 's study shows that effort to be, as he puts it, a delusion. "Until we do something about CO2, nothing we do about methane or these other things is going to matter much for climate," he said.


"Ray convincingly shows the benefit and importance of doing everything we can to lower CO2 emissions, and as soon as possible," said Katherine H. Freeman, professor of geosciences at Pennsylvania State University. "We should lower short-lived pollutants like methane too. But, as he makes clear, we should not let them distract us from the urgent need to stop burning fossil fuels."

The basic physics of climate pollutants has been well known for a long time. The warming effect of methane and other short-lived climate pollutants disappears quite quickly after the pollutants are removed from the atmosphere. When you remove them, you get a one-time-only, lump-sum benefit. CO2, on the other hand, lingers in the atmosphere. And if you are still emitting CO2 while you are reducing methane and its fellows, that additional CO2 continues to affect the climate for thousands of years.

Perhaps as a result of wishful thinking, the policy implications of those facts had become confused, said Pierrehumbert. Part of the problem is that the statistical tool used to compare the climate effect of gasses is badly flawed. The measure, called Global Warming Potential (GWP), predicts the effect on climate by comparing the emission rate of carbon dioxide with the emission rate of methane. But a one-ton-per-year reduction in the amount of methane emitted translates into a single lowering of the global thermostat, while a one-ton-per-year reduction in CO2 yields a climate benefit that increases over time. That's because each extra ton of CO2 that would have been emitted would have irreversibly ratcheted up the global thermostat by an additional increment.


Pierrehumbert himself hopes that his work will help lead policymakers to abandon Kyoto-style multi-gas trading schemes, which treat the gasses equivalently, and put the emphasis on CO2 for the next 50 years or so. "I see puncturing the excessive enthusiasm about short-lived climate pollution control as a step in the right direction," he said, "because it takes away one of the grounds for procrastination on CO2. If you're serious about protecting climate, it's the CO2 you've got to deal with first."

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Remembering Gerry Goffin, the ’60s Poet of Teen Heartbreak

Such wonderful songs. How many great songs are we missing because of the current state of the music business. It surely helped Goffin to be married to Carole King, but at that time, it was more possible than today to be a successful non-performing songwriter. You could get a few songs recorded and send them to a bunch of music publishers. You might not need a great recording, the people in the music business were musically inclined and could hear the potential, not like today, where it's all about profits. Today, most music publishers no longer accept unsolicited work. For one thing, profits in the music business are so low, publishers and record companies can no longer risk a lot on undiscovered talent, the way they could when they made enough from their big stars to pay for taking a chance on new talent. Plus, they would be overwhelmed with submissions from songwriters who believe their songs are as good as what is on the radio. Which is true. Many people can write at the ok level of what is on the radio, which is uninteresting and not memorable.

Richard Corliss June 20, 2014

In the 1960s, before the Beatles made singer-songwriters fashionable, few people cared who wrote the songs they loved. The composers’ names were just part of the small print on a 45 r.p.m. disc. And if people know the writer behind such girl-group classics as “Will You Love Me Tomorrow,” “One Fine Day” and “I’m Into Something Good,” or The Drifters’ “Up on the Roof” or Aretha Franklin’s “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman,” it’s probably because their composer, Carole King, eventually became a pop star — permanent brand for her songs about love, longing and romantic renewal.

King wrote the music for all those perennials, but Gerry Goffin, her husband in the ’60s, wrote the words. Goffin, who died at his Los Angeles home June 19, at 75, never achieved his ex-wife’s renown. His triumph was almost private: the accomplishment of giving performers such as the Monkees (“Pleasant Valley Sunday”) and balladeer Steve Lawrence (“Go Away, Little Girl”) lyrics that expanded the pop lexicon and often reached a plainspoken profundity. After he and King parted professionally and maritally, Goffin teamed with Michael Masser to write poignant hits for Diana Ross (“Do You Know Where You’re Going To”) and Whitney Houston (“Saving All My Love for You”).


Why Audiences Hate Hard News—and Love Pretending Otherwise

I hope my blog makes the vegetables of news interesting and understandable!


You may not realize this, but we can see you. Yes, you. The human reading this article. We have analytics that tells us roughly where you are, what site you've just arrived from, how long you stay, how far you read, where you hop to next. We've got eyeballs on your eyeballs.

Why is it so important that digital news organizations track which articles you're reading on our websites? The obvious answer is that it teaches us what you're interested in. The less-obvious, but equally true, answer is that it teaches you what you're interested in.

If we merely asked what you wanted, without measuring what you wanted, you'd just keep lying to us—and to yourself.

Here's what I mean by lying. This year, the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism asked thousands of people around the world what sort of news was most important to them. The graph below shows the responses from Americans. International news crushed celebrity and "fun" news by a margin of two-to-one. Economic and political news finished even higher.

------ [See link above for graph]

But what happens when we stop asking readers what's important and start looking at what they actually read?

Let's start with today. The most important story in the world, according to every major American newspaper this morning, is the violent splintering of Iraq. It was the front-page and top-of-the-homepage story in the Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, and more.

Surely, there are millions of people who are reading about Iraq, because they're fascinated in the Middle East, in foreign policy, or in the general news cycle. But despite Iraq's prominent location on every major newspaper, the most-read stories on those papers' websites aren't about Iraq, at all.


Iraq is a uniquely difficult news story. But there's nothing unique about U.S. readers side-stepping the news cycle. Last year, BuzzFeed released a review of traffic to sites within its partner network, including the New York Times and The Atlantic. Of the 20 most viral stories across those sites, just three dealt with recent news events—the Miss America Pageant, a Netflix announcement, and the Video Music Awards —but the vast majority weren't news. They were quizzes, lists, and emotional poppers.


Ask audiences what they want, and they'll tell you vegetables. Watch them quietly, and they'll mostly eat candy.


The culprit isn't Millennials, or Facebook, or analytics software like Chartbeat. The problem is our brains. The more attention-starved we feel, the more we thirst for stimuli that are familiar. We like ice cream when we're sad, old songs when we're tired, and easy listicles when we're busy and ego-depleted. The Internet shorthand for this fact is "cat pictures." Psychologists prefer the term fluency. Fluency isn't how we think: It's how we feel while we're thinking. We prefer thoughts that come easily: Faces that are symmetrical, colors that are clear, and sentences with parallelisms. In this light, there are two problems with hard news: It's hard and it's new. (Parallelism!)

Fluency also explains one of the truisms of political news: That most liberals prefer to read and watch liberals (because it feels easy), while conservatives prefer to read and watch conservatives (because it feels easy). It's a not-even-industry-secret that down-the-middle political reporting that doesn't massage old biases is a hard sell for TV audiences. Fox News has monopolized the market of 60-and-overs watching cable news, predominantly because that group watches the most cable news and naturally skews conservative. Grappling with new information is exhausting, so we prefer to consume it in explicitly digestible lists or wrapped in old viewpoints we already have.


In Punishing IRS, GOP Is Harming Honest Taxpayers

If he thinks this is hard to imagine, he hasn't been paying attention to politics for a good while.

BY ROB GARVER, The Fiscal Times
June 27, 2014

It’s hard to imagine Republicans in Congress actively championing legislation that would make it easier for criminals to get away with breaking the law and make it harder for law-abiding citizens to get help from the government all while simultaneously increasing the federal deficit, but that’s exactly what a bill marked up in the House Appropriations Committee on Wednesday would do.

The legislation in question is the spending bill that appropriates money for the Treasury Department, the White House, the federal judiciary and number of other federal agencies. Over the past five years, House Republicans have used the appropriations process to pummel the Internal Revenue Service with cuts that have left the agency funded at a lower level than it operated under in 2008.


But the nation needs tax revenues to be collected fairly and efficiently in order to function, and both the agency itself and outside observers say that the constant budget cuts have damaged its ability to do its job. Even doing something as seemingly basic as answering taxpayers’ phone calls has become a struggle, according to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration, which cited “long customer wait times” and “customers abandoning calls” in a report issued earlier this year.


The more far-reaching damage to the country, though, may come as a result of the revenue that is foregone by crippling the agency’s enforcement division. Every dollar the IRS collects in tax payments is a dollar the Treasury doesn’t have to borrow to meet the country’s spending needs. To be blunt, making it harder for the IRS to do its job is fiscal stupidity distilled to its essence. It’s the equivalent of leaving money on the table, then borrowing the same amount of money and agreeing to pay it back with interest.

And the amount of the money sitting on the table is huge. The “tax gap” — that is, the difference between the amount of money the government collects and the amount it is actually owed — is more than $40 billion a year domestically. Add in unpaid taxes from companies and individuals doing business overseas and it balloons to more than $100 billion.

Every $1 spent on the IRS Enforcement Division, which is in charge of making sure that people and corporations pay what they owe in taxes, yields $6 in increased revenue. And, to be clear, that’s not revenue gained by squeezing law-abiding taxpayers for more of their money. It’s getting people breaking the law to pay what they owe. Yet the Enforcement Division has had to cut its staff by 15 percent since 2010. The result has been a decline in audits, a decline in examination, and the loss of billions of dollars in revenue.

The damage isn’t just fiscal, either, notes Marr of CBPP. It’s fundamentally unjust to those who do pay their taxes. “Honest people deserve to have less-than-honest people pay their taxes, too,” he said.


Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Nigeria family forces atheist son into mental ward, lawyer says

June 25, 2014

LAGOS, Nigeria -- A staunchly Muslim family in northern Nigeria has forced their son into a mental hospital for declaring himself an atheist, according to a lawyer and supporters who have started an online campaign to #FreeMubarak.

Chemical engineer Mubarak Bala, 29, alerted people to his plight with tweets allegedly from a smuggled phone that he used in the toilet of Kano city's Aminu Kano Teaching Hospital, where he says he is being drugged and held against his will in a psychiatric ward.

In his tweets, Bala said on Friday his father and three uncles beat him up and his brother injected him with a sedative. He woke up 30 hours later in the hospital.

"My neck still hurts from the stranglehold of my father, and the beat(ing) of uncles dislocated my finger and arm," he said in one message.

Lawyer Muhammad Bello Shehu said Bala's father told him he committed his son for his own safety.

"He said that the reason he had to take him to the hospital is for his own security because once people got glimpse that he is denouncing the existence of God ... he could be lynched and the house set on fire," Shehu said.

Bala said that while he was sedated his family used his phone to post on Facebook that he had returned to the Muslim faith. He described his father as an Islamic leader who "can't afford to have a non-Muslim family member, so he declared me insane."


Adeneye said the case is just one example of how passionate many Nigerians are about religion - be they Christians or Muslims. He said he reached out for help to a legislator and a civil rights activist but they ignored his appeal, he believes "because of the stigma, they believe that an atheist gets what he deserves."

So Adeneye turned to friends abroad and Bala's case now is being pursued by the London-based International Humanist and Ethical Union, which has started an online petition.

"It appears that a warped notion of family honor is the motivation to pressure Bala in this appalling manner, to conform to religious views that he simply doesn't hold. This is an abhorrent violation of his freedom of thought and belief," the union's Bob Churchill said in a statement posted online.


For the next generation: Democracy ensures we don't take it all with us

Contact: Bill Hathaway
Yale University
For the next generation: Democracy ensures we don't take it all with us

Given the chance to vote, people will leave behind a legacy of resources that ensures the survival of the next generation, a series of experiments by Yale and Harvard psychologists show. However, when people are left to their own devices, the next generation isn't so lucky.

"People want to do the right thing; they just need a little help from their institutions," said David Rand, assistant professor of psychology at Yale and a co-author of the study appearing June 25 in the journal Nature.

The experiments shed light on the psychology underlying issues such as Social Security funding or resource conservation, in which the interests of future generations are at stake.

The study builds upon "public goods" economics experiments that consistently show that people are willing to forego immediate reward if convinced the group as a whole will benefit. But Rand and Harvard colleagues Martin Nowak, Oliver Hauer, and Alexander Peysakhovich wanted to know if people would be willing to sacrifice resources if the benefit accrues not to individuals in a group, but to people not yet born.

In their experiments, they broke subjects into groups of five and gave them 100 units to spend. In one experiment, each individual could take out up to 20 units, but if the group as a whole used more than 50 units, all successor groups would get nothing. If a given group showed restraint, a line-up of successor groups — new generations each consisting of five new people — would be given the same choices.

The good news was that more than two out of three people were willing to take only 10 units — the sustainable "fair share" allotment — for their own use and preserve resources for the next generation. The bad news was that the minority of selfish individuals consistently destroyed the resource for future generations. Even one or two people in the group taking more than their "fair share" was enough to push the group over the 50 unit threshold, exhausting the resource. In 18 experiments in which individuals were free to extract more than 10 units, only four groups left enough resources to support a second generation, and by the fourth generation, all resources were exhausted.

The results changed dramatically when democratic principles were introduced. All five members of the group voted for a number of units to take. The median vote was then taken out for all group members. In this scenario, all groups passed on enough resources to sustain future generations. Even when researchers made the sacrifice more costly — reducing the "sustainable" level of units available to the group to 40 or even 30 — a majority of groups passed resources down through generations.

Problems arose in a third scenario when only three of five members voted on how many units to take. The results of the vote were not binding for the other two subjects. Here sustainability failed, because a selfish person not bound by the vote could over-consume and destroy the resource.

The latter results would be equivalent to Kyoto protocols, a non-binding attempt to get nations to reduce carbon emissions, the authors noted.

"You are wasting your time if voting results are not binding on everyone," Rand said.

While voting may be potentially challenging for global-level international agreements, it is much more promising for local- or national-level sustainability policies, note the researchers. In a final analysis of real-world data, Rand and colleagues show that democratic countries of the world have made most advances toward sustainability, even when accounting for factors such as wealth, population size, economic output, and inequality.

Contact: Peter Reuell
Harvard University
A vote for cooperation


Though clearly designed to encourage players to preserve resources for subsequent generations, when Nowak and Rand began recruiting players, they found a curious result – in nearly every game, players quickly exhausted the resource.

"Typically, the way it played out was four players acted generously, while one person chose maximum defection," Nowak said.

Though the test revealed many people might be willing to pay some costs to benefit future generations, it also highlighted a problem with what researchers call "conditional cooperation," which suggests people are only willing to cooperate if they believe others are doing the same. Often, Rand and Nowak said, players who chose to maximize their own benefit did so because they feared other players were taking a larger share of the resource.

"In some sense, this illustrates why the free market fails to solve problems like climate change," Nowak added. "Even if you want to cooperate with the future, you may not do so because you are afraid of being exploited by the present."


To ward off that problem, Nowak and Rand re-wrote the rules of the game to allow each player to vote on how much of the resource to extract, and giving each player the median of all five votes.

"Democracy is a powerful institution," Nowak explained. "When we implemented this system, virtually every resource was saved. The surprising observation is that while there is a minority of people who don't want to cooperate, the majority of people vote altruistically. They are not voting to maximize their own benefit, and that's what allows for cooperation with the future."

Importantly, Nowak and Rand said, for the voting system to work, the winning extraction amount had to be the median of all the votes cast.

"Another way to implement a voting system would be to extract the average of all the votes, but the problem with that system is it forces people to vote strategically," Rand explained. "You may be willing to harvest the resource sustainably, but if you think someone else is going all in, you have to vote for zero to balance out the average. If instead you use the median of the votes, then players can just vote for what they really want."

The finding that people are willing to vote altruistically, Rand said, runs counter to the oft-cited notion that people will ultimately act in their own interests when they go to the ballot box.

"A huge amount of public policy is built around the assumption that everyone is selfish," Rand explained. "The question for policy-makers has always been how to set up an institution that encourages people to do good things even though they're selfish.

"The key take-home message of our paper is that policy makers can take advantage of the fact that many people are not actually selfish," he continued. "A lot of people are altruistic, and you can have more efficient and more effective policies if you take this into account."

Watching too much TV may increase risk of early death in adults

June 25, 2014

Study Highlights:

•∙Adults who watch TV three hours or more a day may double their risk of premature death from any cause.

•∙Researchers suggest adults should consider getting regular exercise, avoiding long sedentary periods and reducing TV viewing to one to two hours a day.


The risk of death was twofold higher for participants who reported watching three or more hours of TV a day compared to those watching one or less hours. This twofold higher risk was also apparent after accounting for a wide array of other variables related to a higher risk of death.

Researchers found no significant association between the time spent using a computer or driving and higher risk of premature death from all causes. Researchers said further studies are needed to confirm what effects may exist between computer use and driving on death rates, and to determine the biological mechanisms explaining these associations.


The lowdown on triclosan's effects on health and the environment

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Contact: Michael Bernstein
American Chemical Society
The lowdown on triclosan's effects on health and the environment

Earlier this year, mounting concerns over the potential health effects of triclosan, a common antimicrobial ingredient, prompted Minnesota to ban the germ-killer from consumer soaps statewide starting in 2017. Are these concerns warranted? An article in Chemical & Engineering News (C&EN), the weekly news magazine of the American Chemical Society, investigates.

Jyllian Kemsley, a senior editor at C&EN, notes that when it was first patented, triclosan was used as an antimicrobial agent in health care settings. It was a much more benign option as a surgical scrub than the biocides used at the time. But then, it hit the mass market. Now, companies add the compound to deodorants, toothpastes, cosmetics, detergents, cutting boards, toys, carpets and many other everyday products. As a result, in one study, triclosan was found in 75 percent of the urine samples from participants. The question is, what does this mean?

The article notes that the answer is not simple. The Environmental Protection Agency has concluded that the chances triclosan will cause problems for most people are probably minimal. However, those who aren't able to metabolize triclosan could end up with higher levels of the compound in their blood. In animal studies, the antimicrobial disrupts the heart, muscles and hormones.

These results don't bode well for the most vulnerable among us: fetuses and breastfeeding babies. Triclosan's potential to contribute to antibiotic resistance is also a cause for concern. It's not even clear if the substance reduces infections. All of these considerations and more have led the Food and Drug Administration to propose regulations that would require manufacturers to show a clinical benefit to adding the controversial compound to products.

Researchers treat incarceration as a disease epidemic, discover small changes help

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Contact: Tiffany Trent
Virginia Tech
Researchers treat incarceration as a disease epidemic, discover small changes help

Virginia Bioinformatics Institute researchers apply infection-modeling to incarceration

The incarceration rate has nearly quadrupled since the U.S. declared a war on drugs, researchers say. Along with that, racial disparities abound. Incarceration rates for black Americans are more than six times higher than those for white Americans, according to the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics.

To explain these growing racial disparities, researchers at Virginia Tech are using the same modeling techniques used for infectious disease outbreaks to take on the mass incarceration problem.

By treating incarceration as an infectious disease, the scientists demonstrated that small but significant differences in prison sentences can lead to large differences in incarceration rates. The research was published in June in the Journal of the Royal Society Interface.

Incarceration can be "transmitted" to others, the researchers say. For instance, incarceration can increase family members' emotional and economic stress or expose family and friends to a network of criminals, and these factors can lead to criminal activity.


Harsher sentencing may actually result in higher levels of criminality.


Billions Will Have To Breathe More Dangerous Stagnant Air As World Warms


By the end of the century, over half of the world’s population will be battling to breathe, as climate change increases the frequency of stagnant air days — dramatically decreasing air quality.

That’s the takeaway message of a new study published this week in Nature Climate Change. While many studies have shown how our continued dependence on the burning of fossil fuels will fill our air with harmful pollutants, this study examined how the changing climate itself will lead to weather patterns that will make bad air even worse for billions of people around the world.


The models predicted that by 2099, 55 percent of the world’s population will experience more air stagnation days each year. Much of India, Mexico, the Amazon, and the western U.S. are expected to see 40 more stagnant air days every year by the end of the century. For India, that’s a 40 percent increase in stagnation events.

Air stagnation occurs when winds are light, the lower atmosphere is stable and little or no precipitation occurs. While it is not dangerous by itself, under these weather conditions, soot, dust, and ozone build up in the lower atmosphere and can become trapped over cities for days. The disturbing smog in Paris this spring, which blotted out the Eiffel tower and drove city officials to set up check points limiting access to the city by car, was the result of just such an air stagnation event.

“Much of the air-quality community focuses on pollutants,” writes Horton in the study. “This study takes a step back and looks at the weather or climate component that can lead to the formation of hazardous air quality.”

According to the World Health Organization, outdoor air pollution caused 3.7 million premature deaths globally in 2012. Fine particulate matter air pollution can lead to heart disease, stroke, lung cancer, respiratory infections, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Ground-level ozone can make asthma and other respiratory conditions much worse and over time can permanently scar the lungs. As climate change makes heat waves more frequent and intense, ground-level ozone is expected to increase as it forms when certain pollutants bake in the sun.

President Obama highlighted some of the health benefits of curbing greenhouse gases as one of the driving reasons behind the EPA’s new proposed rule that will cut power plant carbon emissions 30 percent by the year 2030. The proposed rule is expected to result in up to 100,000 fewer asthma attacks and 2,100 fewer heart attacks in its first year alone.

What is your air quality?

Find out the air quality where you live. You can click on maps for more detail. Eg., in the U.S. map, click on Georgia to get SE area, with details for several cities on the right. Click on "Atlanta" on the right to get a map of the Atlanta area.
In the regional map, click on Georgia to show major Atlanta cities on the right, which can be clicked on.

The city page allows you to also look at air quality for the past.

Deep brain stimulation improves non motor symptoms in Parkinson's disease

Contact: Daphne Watrin
IOS Press
Deep brain stimulation improves non motor symptoms in Parkinson's disease

According to new review published in the Journal of Parkinson's Disease

Amsterdam, NL, 25 June 2014 – Deep brain stimulation (DBS) has become a well-recognized non-pharmacologic treatment that improves motor symptoms of patients with early and advanced Parkinson's disease. Evidence now indicates that DBS can decrease the number and severity of non motor symptoms of patients with Parkinson's disease (PD) as well, according to a review published in the Journal of Parkinson's Disease.

"Non motor features are common in PD patients, occur across all disease stages, and while well described, are still under-recognized when considering their huge impact on patients' quality of life," says Lisa Klingelhoefer, MD, a fellow at the National Parkinson Foundation International Centre of Excellence, Department of Neurology, King's College Hospital and King's College, London.

For example, DBS of the subthalamic nucleus (STN) is effective for alleviating sleep problems and fatigue associated with PD, producing noticeable long-term improvements in sleep efficiency and the quality and duration of continuous sleep. DBS also decreases nighttime and early morning dystonia and improves nighttime mobility. "DBS can contribute to better sleep, less daytime somnolence, improved mobility, and less need for dopamine replacement therapy," says Dr. Klingelhoefer.

The effects of DBS on some other non motor symptoms of PD are less clear cut and transient worsening of neuropsychological and psychiatric symptoms have been reported. For instance, behavioral disorders such as impulsivity (e.g. hypersexuality, pathological gambling, and excessive eating) can occur or worsen in PD patients after STN DBS. While pre-existing drug-induced psychotic symptoms like hallucinations often disappear after STN DBS, transient psychotic symptoms such as delirium may emerge in the immediate post-operative period. Similarly, conflicting reports have found that STN DBS improves, worsens, or does not change mood disorders such as depression, mania, or anxiety.


Toxic Battery Factory Threatens The Health Of Thousands In Kenya

Lead pollution could be making the violence in that area worse, because of effects on the brain before birth and in childhood.


While the biggest United Nations environmental meeting in history entered its second day on Tuesday in Nairobi, Human Rights Watch called on the Kenyan government to stop toxic lead from threatening thousands of lives in a poor district of Mombasa.

“At least three people have died and thousands of others are under threat from toxic lead because the Kenyan authorities didn’t enforce their own environmental laws and regulations,” said Jane Cohen, senior environmental researcher at Human Rights Watch. The group says the “urgent and on-going crisis” is the result of the Kenyan government’s failure to regulate lead smelter from a battery recycling plant that contaminated Mombasa’s Owino Uhuru district for years after it began operating in 2007.

All 193 U.N. member states are participating in this year’s Environmental Assembly meeting, which is being held under the theme of “A Life of Dignity for All.” While chemical waste features prominently on the agenda for discussion, the Kenyan government has made no statement responding to the report by Human Rights Watch yet.

A man who formerly worked at the factory claimed the management manipulated workers into continuing to risk their lives by telling them they would inevitably die from lead poisoning. “Whether we quit or kept working we would die, so we were better off just working,” he explained, relaying the message handed down by management.


Today, children living in the district still suffer fainting spells, seizures, and chronic pain, and water used for drinking and washing has high levels of contamination, according to the film.


Kenya has made significant strides in adopting renewable energy, promising to generate over half its electricity through solar power by 2016. However, lead-acid batteries play an important role in making solar power storage possible. For this reason, it is unlikely a shift to clean energy will put an end to battery recycling plants and the threats they pose to unprotected workers.


Fracking flowback could pollute groundwater with heavy metals


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ITHACA, N.Y. – The chemical makeup of wastewater generated by “hydrofracking” could cause the release of tiny particles in soils that often strongly bind heavy metals and pollutants, exacerbating the environmental risks during accidental spills, Cornell University researchers have found.

Previous research has shown 10 to 40 percent of the water and chemical solution mixture injected at high pressure into deep rock strata, surges back to the surface during well development. Scientists at the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences studying the environmental impacts of this “flowback fluid” found that the same properties that make it so effective at extracting natural gas from shale can also displace tiny particles that are naturally bound to soil, causing associated pollutants such as heavy metals to leach out.


Drought In North Korea Brings Back Fears Of Widespread Famine


North Korea is an isolated, repressive and opaque dictatorship with little information exchange with the outside world. However, as the impoverished country dangles precariously on the edge of a return to famine, some news reports of the severity of the current drought are sifting across the border.

On Monday, Reuters reported that North Korea’s state media said the prolonged drought has catalyzed the country to deploy some of its million-person army to protect crops. The drought is the worst in over a decade, with some areas experiencing the lowest rainfall levels in over 50 years. As a result, the country is experiencing the worst spring drought in more than three decades. State media also said that higher-than-average temperatures are exacerbating crop damage.

Linda Lewis, of the American Friends Service Committee, a Quaker-led NGO, confirmed the media reports to Reuters by email. “They expressed concern about ‘serious drought’ conditions and the impact this was having on spring ploughing and paddy field preparation,” Lewis said.


The unpredictable regime under Kim Jong-un is dipping the country further into a dilapidated state of poverty, and according to at least one defector, leading to an increase in prostitution, drug abuse, and human trafficking — often driven by the desperation of not having enough to eat. In the meantime, the government continues to push an ill-begotten facade of superiority by building things like a shiny new water park to distract from the struggles of everyday life.

New study quantifies the effects of climate change in Europe

Contact: Barbara Piotrowska
New study quantifies the effects of climate change in Europe

If no further action is taken and global temperature increases by 3.5°C, climate damages in the EU could amount to at least €190 billion, a net welfare loss of 1.8% of its current GDP. Several weather-related extremes could roughly double their average frequency. As a consequence, heat-related deaths could reach about 200 000, the cost of river flood damages could exceed €10 billion and 8000 km2 of forest could burn in southern Europe. The number of people affected by droughts could increase by a factor of seven and coastal damage, due to sea-level rise, could more than triple. These economic assessments are based on scenarios where the climate expected by the end of the century (2080s) occurs in the current population and economic landscape.

These are just some of the findings of a new report by the European Commission's in-house science service, the Joint Research Centre, which has analysed the impacts of climate change in 9 different sectors: agriculture, river floods, coasts, tourism, energy, droughts, forest fires, transport infrastructure and human health. The report also includes a pilot study on habitat suitability of forest tree species.

Connie Hedegaard, European Commissioner for Climate Action said: "No action is clearly the most expensive solution of all. Why pay for the damages when we can invest in reducing our climate impacts and becoming a competitive low-carbon economy? Taking action and taking a decision on the 2030 climate and energy framework in October, will bring us just there and make Europe ready for the fight against climate change.


These results relate to no action taken to mitigate global warming. The project also looks at the scenario where strong greenhouse gas reduction policies are implemented and temperature rise is kept below 2 degrees Celsius (3.6°F) (the current international target). In this case, impacts of climate change would reduce by €60 billion, a 30% decrease. In addition, some significant biophysical impacts would be substantially reduced: the increased burned area would halve and 23 000 annual heat-related deaths would be spared.


If future population and economic growth projections would be taken into account, the negative effects would multiply. The study simulated this for the impacts of river floods and results show that they could multiply tenfold.

One Quarter Of India Is Turning Into Desert


In India, an area about the size of California and Texas combined is degraded and one quarter of the country is facing desertification, according to the country’s environment minister, Prakash Javadekar. The overgrazing of land combined with changing rainfall patterns and worsening drought is believed to be behind the dramatic numbers. As more land becomes unusable, the food security of the Indian population — about 17 percent of the world’s population — is increasingly endangered.

According to Forbes, in 2007, India’s Council of Scientific and Industrial Research predicted that by 2050 a little less than 10 percent of the country would have desertified beyond use. Javadekar’s estimate puts the country ahead of schedule — in the worst way — by about 100 to 140 years.

“Land is becoming barren, degradation is happening,” Javadekar told The Economic Times. “A lot of areas are on the verge of becoming deserts.”

The desertification numbers released by the environment minister match with a report by the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) Secretariat which estimated that 81.45 million hectares, or 24.8 percent of the country’s geographic area, is undergoing desertification.

Recent heat waves across several northern and eastern Indian states over the last month have killed hundreds and caused widespread power outages and riots.
In a sign of the times, authorities in northern India last week ordered the closure of a Coca-Cola bottling plant, citing water shortages.

India receives 80 percent of its precipitation during the monsoon season, which usually stretches from the beginning of June through September. But over just the last 50 years, as the climate has warmed, the monsoon has become increasingly erratic and interspersed with extreme weather events that can lead to deadly flooding when parched areas are suddenly hit with massive amounts of rain.

A 2009 report by the Indian Meteorological Department’s Mumbai office found that temperatures in the city had risen by 1.62°C (2.9°F) over the last 100 years and that there has been a tripling of natural disasters compared to the 1960s.


Rainfall from June 1-18 has been deficient across India — on average, 45 percent less than usual. Rainfall was 53 percent below the average in northwest India. In many areas of the country, conditions are on par with those of June in 2009, which was the worst drought to strike the country in 30 years.