Monday, September 29, 2014

The young women taking aim at ISIS

By Holly Williams September 29, 2014



The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) controls territory on both sides of the border -- land the group refers to as the "Islamic State." But in northeastern Syria, they're meeting resistance from a rag-tag army of Kurdish fighters, and we wanted to meet them.


a Kurdish commander, Omran Hussein, has set up camp.

A strapping former tailor who never stops smiling and pairs his military fatigues with a flower-patterned headscarf, Commander Hussein has just 40 soldiers to hold off ISIS.

"Not enough," he told us, "but they're all I have."

Ten of his fighters are women -- some of them teenagers -- and according to Commander Hussein, they're some of his best soldiers.

"There's no difference between the men and the women," he said. "Some of them are even better fighters than I am."

One of them is 19-year-old Akina Akin, a five-foot tall dynamo who's already battle hardened after two years of fighting.

We asked her if she was frightened of being captured by ISIS -- which has become notorious for kidnapping and raping women and girls in its territory.

"I'm not afraid," she said with a defiant toss of her head. "I'll blow myself up before I let them catch me."

In ISIS territory women must cover their faces, and everyone is subject to a strict version of Islamic law. The Kurdish fighters are also Muslims, but they follow a very different version of Islam.

Asked if ISIS -- as it claims -- practices a "pure" form of Sunni Islam, Commander Hussein guffawed.

"I might be a bit Westernized, but I'm still a Muslim," he told us. "ISIS is killing people, and real Muslims don't kill innocent civilians."


But Commander Hussein told us that, so far, the air campaign has had little impact on the ground.

He's still hopeful, though, that the U.S. will come to the rescue -- with more airstrikes, and a desperately-needed infusion of weapons to battle the well-armed extremists.

"Tell America we need weapons," he said. "If we can't defeat ISIS, their next target will be Europe and the U.S."

War in the land of women

By Holly Williams September 29, 2014



What we didn't expect to find was a society that -- unusual in the Middle East -- appeared to be dominated by women.

A mile away from ISIS positions we met four young female soldiers. The oldest was 24, the youngest only 19. All of them were students before they joined up.

Middle Eastern communities tend to be more conservative than those in the West. Segregation is common, and many Muslim women cover their heads as an act of religious piety.

But dressed in combat fatigues, their heads uncovered and mixing freely with the male soldiers, the women fighters saw nothing unusual in playing a role in active combat. Their commander told us that about a third of the fighting force in Syrian Kurdistan is made up of women.

"I'll stay and fight for as long as it takes to defeat them, as long as I live," said Akina Akin, who at 19 is already a battle-hardened warrior.


In the nearby Kurdish town of Rmaylan, however, the regional government seemed to be almost entirely staffed by women. The head of the government is Hadiya Yusuf, who told us she spent two years in a Syrian government prison after pushing for democratic reforms.

Yusuf pulled no punches when we asked her about the American airstrikes in Syria, which began a week ago.

"We don't think they're hitting the right targets," she told us, suggesting the U.S. might want to communicate with her administration.

Over cups of sweet tea after our interview, one of Yusuf's assistants told us her team was "fighting for all women, everywhere."

The powerful role of Kurdish women in Syria is no aberration. Across the border to the north in Turkey, where the Kurdish minority has a tense relationship with Turkish authorities, Kurdish women also play key roles in the political leadership.

Our Kurdish translator Omar Omar has a theory about why women have become more powerful in Kurdish communities than in many other Middle Eastern societies.

"We've spent centuries fighting wars with Arabs and Persians," he told us, "and they've always tried to force their version of Islam on us. In reaction, we've gone the other way, and become more liberal."

Sunday, September 28, 2014

How to become a rich doctor - kickbacks

Jay Bookman
September 23rd, 2014

> News
> Opinion

Jay Bookman

Posted: 10:04 am Tuesday, September 23rd, 2014
Yet another reason why health care can’t be left to the marketplace

3 54 6 194

< C’mon. Even Darrell Issa admits jobless numbers weren’t manipulated. Warmest August on record, warmest summer on record …. >

By Jay Bookman

In an article in the New York Times on Sunday, we are introduced to Peter Drier, a 37-year-old man in need of neck surgery. He and his insurance company negotiate fees with his surgeon and anesthesiologist, both of whom are in his insurance network. His surgeon, for example, agreed to charge $6,200 for the procedure.

At some point, however, an assistant surgeon was called in without Drier’s knowledge, and from outside his insurance network. Afterward, the assistant surgeon sent Drier a bill for his services: $117,000, almost 19 times as much as the in-network primary surgeon had charged. Rather than fight the bill, Drier’s insurance company chose to pay the full amount.

And Drier’s experience is far from unique.


” …. in an increasingly common practice that some medical experts call drive-by doctoring, assistants, consultants and other hospital employees are charging patients or their insurers hefty fees. They may be called in when the need for them is questionable. And patients usually do not realize they have been involved or are charging until the bill arrives.


As Rosenthal points out, the cheaper, in-network surgeon in such cases often gets a share of the enormous payment to the out-of-network colleague that he or she calls in to “assist”. In most other lines of work, that would be called a kickback, but in the medical industry it is perfectly legal in most states.


Such stories add to the mountainous evidence that the self-correcting features of the free enterprise system that work fine in other areas are absolutely incapable of regulating the medical industry. The information imbalance between the patient and the provider is much too vast; the power discrepancy between patient and provider is much too vast; the process is too complex. In short, when medical decisions are left “to the patient and his or her doctor,” the patient is at a huge disadvantage.

Floods, forest fires, expanding deserts: the future has arrived

Robin McKie Science Editor
Saturday 27 September 2014

Climate change is no longer viewed by mainstream scientists as a future threat to our planet and our species. It is a palpable phenomenon that already affects the world, they insist. And a brief look round the globe certainly provides no lack of evidence to support this gloomy assertion.

In Bangladesh, increasingly severe floods – triggered, in part, by increasing temperatures and rising sea levels – are wiping out crops and destroying homes on a regular basis. In Sudan, the heat is causing the Sahara to expand and to eat into farmland, while in Siberia, the planet's warming is causing the permafrost to melt and houses to subside.

Or consider the Marshall Islands, the Pacific archipelago that is now struggling to cope with rising seas that are lapping over its streets and gardens. Even the home of the country's president Christopher Loeak is feeling the effects. "He has had to build a wall around his house to prevent the salt water from inundating," Tony de Brum, the islands' foreign minister, revealed recently.


Across the planet, it is getting harder and harder to find shelter from the storm. And things are only likely to get worse, say researchers.

As Europe continues to heat up, energy demands are expected to drop in northern countries, but equally they are destined to soar around the Mediterranean and in the south where there will be a desperate need for cooling and air-conditioning that will drive up power costs.

By the middle of the century, forest fires and severe heatwaves will be increasingly common while crops will be devastated and vineyards will be scorched.

Similarly, in the Alps, lack of snow and melting ice will make skiing, walking and climbing far less enticing for tourists.


Other parts of the world face different problems created by the billions of tonnes of carbon dioxide that we now pump into the atmosphere from factories, power plants and cars. In Asia the main issue concerns the presence and absence of water. In the south-east of the region, continued sea-level rises threaten to further erode farmlands and coastal towns and cities, while inland it will be water scarcity that will affect most people's lives. In this latter case, higher temperatures will combine with lack of water to trigger major reductions in rice yields.

In its latest report, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change estimates that up to 139 million people could face food shortages at least once a decade by 2070.

Perhaps most alarming of all the forecasts that concern the future warming of our planet is the work of Camilo Mora at the University of Hawaii. His research – which involved using a range of climate models to predict temperatures on a grid that covered the globe – suggests that by 2047 the planet's climate systems will have changed to such an extent that the coldest years then will be warmer than even the hottest years that were experienced at any time in the 20th century.

"Go back in your life to think about the hottest, most traumatic event you have experienced," Mora said in an interview with the New York Times recently. "What we are saying is that very soon, that event is going to become the norm."


California harvest much smaller than normal across crops

By Dale Kasler, The Sacramento Bee
Published: Sunday, Sep. 28, 2014

It’s harvest time in much of California, and the signs of drought are almost as abundant as the fruits and nuts and vegetables.

One commodity after another is feeling the impact of the state’s epic water shortage. The great Sacramento Valley rice crop, served in sushi restaurants nationwide and exported to Asia, will be smaller than usual. Fewer grapes will be available to produce California’s world-class wines, and the citrus groves of the San Joaquin Valley are producing fewer oranges. There is less hay and corn for the state’s dairy cows, and the pistachio harvest is expected to shrink.

Even the state’s mighty almond business, which has become a powerhouse in recent years, is coming in smaller than expected. That’s particularly troubling to the thousands of farmers who sacrificed other crops in order to keep their almond orchards watered.

While many crops have yet to be harvested, it’s clear that the drought has carved a significant hole in the economy of rural California. Farm income is down, so is employment, and Thursday’s rain showers did little to change the equation.

An estimated 420,000 acres of farmland went unplanted this year, or about 5 percent of the total. Economists at UC Davis say agriculture, which has been a $44 billion-a-year business in California, will suffer revenue losses and higher water costs – a financial hit totaling $2.2 billion this year.


The human cost shows up at rural food banks, which are reporting higher demand for assistance from farmworkers and their families. At the Bethel Spanish Assembly of God, a church in the Tulare County city of Farmersville, the number of families receiving food aid every two weeks has jumped from about 40 last year to more than 200. Farmersville, a city of 10,000, is at the heart of a region that grows an array of crops, from lemons to pistachios to grapes.

“Some of them are working ... but they’re not putting in the hours,” said the Rev. Leonel Benavides, who is also Farmersville’s mayor.


The effect goes beyond the farm fields. N&S Tractor, which sells Case IH brand farm equipment throughout the Central Valley, has seen business tail off as farmers conserve cash.

“It’s not just our dealership,” said N&S marketing director Tim McConiga Jr., who works out of the company’s sales office in Glenn County. “You talk to John Deere, you talk to Caterpillar, everyone is going to tell you their numbers are down.”


Friday, September 26, 2014

Breast Cancer and Night Light

November 13, 2013

The results of several studies suggest that women who work at night -- factory workers, doctors, nurses, and police officers, for example -- have a higher risk of breast cancer compared to women who work during the day. Other research suggests that women who live in areas with high levels of external light at night (street lights, for example) have a higher risk of breast cancer.

Researchers think that this increase in risk is linked to melatonin levels.


It's not clear how much darkness is required to turn on melatonin production. Closing your eyes does a fairly good job of blocking light, but thick curtains or an eye mask can make sure you're sleeping in darkness. If you're concerned about excess light exposure at night, you may want to:

install blackout shades on your bedroom windows
don't turn on lights if you wake up at night
use low-wattage or red bulbs in nightlights
install a low-wattage or red-bulb nightlight in your bathroom(s)


Record Fall Heat in the U.S. and Canadian High Plains

By: Christopher C. Burt , 7:53 PM GMT on September 26, 2014

Temperatures on Thursday, September 25th, soared to record levels for this time of the year in Montana, Wyoming, western North Dakota, and the south-central Canadian Plains. Here are a few details.

After a relatively cool summer, an early fall heat wave engulfed the U.S. and Canadian High Plains on Thursday sending temperatures close to 100°F in North Dakota and Montana.


In Canada, Esteven, Saskatchewan hit 34.3°C (93.7°F) and Brandon, Manitoba 34.0°C (93.2°F). Both sites are near 50°N latitude so it goes without saying that these were the warmest temperatures ever observed for so late in the year at those sites. Jonathan Erdman at The Weather Channel pointed out that these temperatures were actually warmer than any location in Texas (93°F/33.9°C at Cotulla) for September 25th. Regina, the capital of Saskatchewan reached 33.1°C (91.6°F). Amazingly, this was the hottest temperature measured so far this year in the city! UPDATE: The 90°F (32.2°C) isotherm pushed as far north as Swan River, Manitoba (52° 07’ N) where on Friday, September 26th 35.1° (95.1°F) was observed. This may be the hottest temperature ever measured so far north so late in the year on the North American continent. The average high temperature for Swan River on September 26th is 60°F.

Jakarta, Indonesia Observes its Hottest Temperature on Record

While on the topic of heat records, it is worth noting that Maximiliano Herrera has informed me that Jakarta, Indonesia’s largest city, measured a temperature of 37.0°C (98.6°F) on September 24th at the Jakarta Observatory. This is the hottest temperature ever recorded at this site and ties the record from any of the city’s various other official weather stations (for any date of the year).


COPD patients breathe easier with Lung Flute

By Ellen Goldbaum
Release Date: September 26, 2014

Patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) report improved symptoms and health status when they use a hand-held respiratory device called the Lung Flute®, according to a new study by the University at Buffalo. Usually caused by smoking, COPD, which includes chronic bronchitis and emphysema, is the third leading cause of death in the U.S.

The Lung Flute, manufactured by Medical Acoustics, (Buffalo), uses sound waves to break up mucus in the lungs. The device allows patients to clear lung mucus simply by blowing into the hand-held respiratory device, which produces a low frequency acoustic wave.

Published on Sept. 23 in Clinical and Translational Medicine, the 26-week study demonstrates that patients using the Lung Flute experience less difficulty breathing and less coughing and sputum production than a control group, which saw no change in COPD symptoms.


The device is approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to treat COPD and other lung diseases characterized by retained secretions and congestion. It also is approved by FDA to obtain deep lung sputum samples for “laboratory analysis and pathologic examination.”

Colleagues of Sethi’s in the UB medical school are now studying the Lung Flute for use in improving symptoms in asthma. The device is also being investigated for diagnostic use in tuberculosis and lung cancer.


Sethi notes that while similar devices have been developed for cystic fibrosis, the Lung Flute is the only one that has undergone extensive testing specifically for COPD patients. In a previous study comparing a device developed for cystic fibrosis with the Lung Flute, the Lung Flute was superior for COPD patients.


New molecule found in space connotes life origins

By Blaine Friedlander
Sept. 25, 2014

Hunting from a distance of 27,000 light years, astronomers have discovered an unusual carbon-based molecule – one with a branched structure – contained within a giant gas cloud in interstellar space. Like finding a molecular needle in a cosmic haystack, astronomers have detected radio waves emitted by isopropyl cyanide. The discovery suggests that the complex molecules needed for life may have their origins in interstellar space.


This detection opens a new frontier in the complexity of molecules that can be formed in interstellar space and that might ultimately find their way to the surfaces of planets, says Garrod. The branched carbon structure of isopropyl cyanide is a common feature in molecules that are needed for life – such as amino acids, which are the building blocks of proteins. This new discovery lends weight to the idea that biologically crucial molecules, like amino acids that are commonly found in meteorites, are produced early in the process of star formation – even before planets such as Earth are formed.


Koch brothers’ group targets voters - and cats - in North Carolina

By Steve Benen
Sept. 26, 2014


Hundreds of North Carolinians – and one cat – have received incorrect voter registration information, according to the N.C. State Board of Elections.

The information – an “official application form” – was sent by Americans for Prosperity, a national conservative group with a state chapter based in Raleigh.

The News & Observer in Raleigh talked to Joshua Lawson, a public information officer for the state Board of Elections, who said the Koch brothers’ group has “caused a lot of confusion for people in the state.”

Well, yes, if someone sent my cat voter-registration materials, I’d be confused, too.

Of course, the problem goes much deeper than feline foul-ups. The far-right group also provided voters with contradictory information about the registration schedule, mislabeled envelopes, incorrect contact information for the state Board of Elections, and incorrect information about county-clerk notifications.

The materials go on to encourage North Carolinians to refer questions to the Secretary of State’s elections division. In North Carolina, the Secretary of State’s office doesn’t have an elections division.


GOP rep urges US generals ‘behind the scenes’ to resign

By Steve Benen
Sept. 26, 2014

Congressional Republican condemnations of President Obama’s foreign policy are as common as the sunrise. Congressional Republicans urging active-duty U.S. generals to resign, during a war, to protest President Obama’s foreign policy is something else entirely.

As U.S.-led airstrikes continue Friday near the Syrian border with Iraq, it’s hard to imagine what would make the situation worse than the military suddenly losing all its generals.

But that is exactly what Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-Colo.) told a group of voters he wants to see happen, the Colorado Independent reported.

“A lot of us are talking to the generals behind the scenes, saying, ‘Hey, if you disagree with the policy that the White House has given you, let’s have a resignation,’” Lamborn said Tuesday, adding that if generals resigned en masse in protest of President Barack Obama’s Middle East policy, they would “go out in a blaze of glory.”


Lamborn is running for re-election against retired Air Force Gen. Irv Halter (D), who told the Colorado Independent, “Our elected officials should not be encouraging our military leaders to resign when they have a disagreement over policy. Congressman Lamborn’s statement shows his immaturity and lack of understanding of the American armed forces. Someone who serves on the House Armed Services Committee should know better.”



Tech Executive Brags He Was Able To Hire Talented Women ‘Relatively Cheap’ Compared To Men

by Bryce Covert Posted on September 26, 201

Evan Thornley, an Australian tech executive and former politician, told a technology startup conference that when he ran a previous company, he was able to get talented women who were “relatively cheap” because of the gender wage gap.

He started out by saying that the undervaluation of women in technology presented an opportunity for his online advertising company LookSmart. “Call me opportunistic, I just thought I could get better people with less competition because we were willing to understand the skills and capabilities that many of these women had,” he said

But then he went on to say, “There’s a great arbitrage there, we would give [women] more responsibility and a greater share of the rewards than they were likely to get anywhere else and that was still often relatively cheap to someone less good of a different gender.” He said he didn’t want the gender wage gap to necessarily continue, but that it provides “an opportunity for forward thinking people.” He also drew blowback for including a slide that sarcastically said: “Women: Like men, only cheaper.”


He said he doesn’t hire the overrated, over-paid men in the sector and “others may find it a good decision for their business to hire talented women and pay them properly rather than hire less talented men and over-pay them.”


There’s also a surplus of women to choose from if a company wants to hire them. Women hold 41 percent of science and engineering degrees but fill just over a quarter of all technology jobs. A handful of big name tech companies — Apple, eBay, Facebook, Google, Pinterest, Twitter, and Yahoo — recently released their workforce demographics and no company had more than a quarter women among their technology employees.


In El Salvador: Miscarriage is A Crime

This is what happens with an absolute ban on abortion. A result of a lack of separation of religion and government.

María Teresa is serving a 40-year prison sentence for having a miscarriage. Beatriz nearly died because the government refused to let her terminate the pregnancy that was going to kill her. Liliana, who became pregnant after being raped by gang members when she was 13 years old, was forced by her government to give birth.

If you are a woman or girl in El Salvador, it doesn’t matter if you’re pregnant as a result of rape, whether you’re a child, or whether the pregnancy is a risk to your life: the government demands you give birth.




Working too much may lead to diabetes

By Robert PreidtHealthDaySeptember 26, 2014

Working long hours may increase your risk for diabetes, a new study suggests. But the finding seems to depend on your job.

Researchers examined data from prior studies involving more than 222,000 men and women in the United States, Europe, Japan and Australia who were followed for an average of 7.6 years.

The initial analysis revealed no difference in the risk of type 2 diabetes among people who worked more than 55 hours a week and those who worked 35 to 40 hours a week.

However, further analyses showed that people who worked more than 55 hours a week at manual labor or other types of "low socioeconomic status jobs" were 30 percent more likely to develop diabetes than those who worked 35 to 40 hours a week.

This increased risk remained even after the researchers accounted for diabetes risk factors such as smoking, physical activity levels, age, sex and obesity, and after the researchers excluded shift work, which increases the risk of obesity and diabetes.

Although the study, published Sept. 24 in The Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology, found an association between long work weeks and diabetes, it didn't establish a cause-and-effect relationship.

Further research is needed to learn more about the seeming link between working long hours and increased diabetes risk, the study authors said.

Possible explanations include the fact that people who work long hours have little time for healthy behaviors such as exercise, relaxation and adequate sleep.


62 percent of employers think minimum wage should be increased

I have had some small business owners tell me they thing the government should mandate something like health care or higher minimum wage because they would like to provide it for their employees, but can't afford to because their competitors don't do it, and they would not be competitive.

CHICAGO, Sept. 25, 2014 /PRNewswire/ -- With state, local, and midterm elections just five weeks away, the minimum wage remains one of the nation's top socioeconomic and political issues. Recent national polls have shown support for minimum wage increases among voters at large, and according to a new CareerBuilder survey, many businesses are right there with them.

The survey found that a strong majority of employers (62 percent) think the minimum wage in their state should be increased, including 58 percent of company senior leaders.

The nationwide survey, which was conducted online by Harris Poll on behalf of CareerBuilder from May 13 to June 6, included a representative sample of 2,188 full-time hiring and human resource managers and 3,372 full-time workers in the private sector across industries and company sizes.


Why do employers say the minimum wage should be increased? Among employers who want an increase in their state, improving the standard of living of workers led all business-related reasons for their support. A majority say a higher minimum wage helps the economy and helps them retain employees.


Interestingly, employers currently hiring minimum wage workers are more likely to support a minimum wage increase than those who are not by an 11-point margin (70 percent vs. 59 percent).


Yahoo Joins in Exodus, Ends ALEC Membership and Cuts Ties to ALEC

Posted by Jay Riestenberg on September 24, 2014

Yahoo issued the following statement to Common Cause Wednesday night:

"We’ve decided to discontinue our membership in ALEC. We periodically review our membership in organizations and, at this time, we will no longer participate in the ALEC Task Force on Communications and Technology."

Google announced that it had left ALEC on Monday, after Chairman Eric Schmidt said the organization is lying about climate change and funding them was a mistake. Facebook soon announced that is was unlikely that it would renew its ALEC membership, and Yelp confirmed to Common Cause on Wednesday that it had left the organization months ago. Microsoft also left ALEC last month.


Muslims protest ISIS at UN

Sept. 22, 2014

A group of French speaking Muslims gathered at the Place des Nations on Saturday to protest the violence being committed by ISIS and other radical Islamic groups.


The group says Islam condemns torture and oppression and the jihadist fighters are not true Muslims.


Oklahoma Muslims Rally against ISIS

OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla.- Oklahoma Muslims insist their beliefs do not coincide with those of radical extremists in the Middle East.

Today, they take a stand and say enough of being grouped with terrorists.

A rally was held at Penn Square Mall to protest ISIS and promote peace.

The rally was planned last week by people who feel passionately about their religion.


“ISIS that what you see on TV, the radical group to Islam is like the KKK to Christianity. You might claim that the KKK is not a Christian organization but they went to church every Sunday and the cross was the biggest there is and they quoted the Bible they justify killing African-Americans through verses in the Bible,” senior Imam at the Greater Oklahoma Islamic Society, Imad Enchassi said.


Members of CAIR say they’ll continue to hold protests to promote peace.


German Muslims Turn Out In Force For Nationwide Protest Against Islamic State

By Carol Kuruvilla
Sept. 20, 2014

German Muslims are fighting extremism with prayer.

Muslims from more than 2,000 mosques across Germany came out in force on Friday, using their traditional day of prayer to the counter Islamic State propaganda and draw attention to the rising tide of Islamophobia in their own country.

The show of solidarity was organized by Germany’s four main Muslim advocacy groups and attracted thousands of supporters in Berlin, Hamburg, Mölln, Bielefeld, Oldenburg, Frankfurt, and Stuttgart.

About 1,000 Muslims laid prayer mats down outside a Berlin mosque that had been damaged by an arsonist in August.

More than five German mosques have been torched in the past three weeks, Aiman Mazyek, chairman of the Central Council of Muslims told The Local.


“We want to make clear terrorists and criminals do not speak in the name of Islam, they have trampled on the commandments of our religion, and that murderers and criminals have no place in our ranks, in our religion," Mazyek said during a news conference.


French Muslims Hold Nationwide Protest Marches After Beheading

By Gregory Viscusi
Sept. 26, 2014

France’s Muslims held marches today to express their disgust after a radical Algerian group allied with Islamic State beheaded a French hostage.

Dalil Boubakeur, President of the French Council of Muslim Faith, held a gathering outside the Paris Mosque, where he is the rector.

“We, Muslims of France, are shocked by the murder of innocents; we are horrified by this barbarism, by this terrorism,” Boubakeur told a crowd of several thousand gathered after Friday prayers before a minute of silence. “With such blind barbarity, how can they talk of Islam,” He was flanked by Paris mayor Anne Hidalgo and a Catholic monseigneur.

Similar events to condemn Islamic State were held at mosques in Lyon, Nantes, and Bordeaux.

“These people don’t understand the religion,” Abdelkerim Janah, the imam of Nantes told the crowd.

Hassen Chalghoumi, the imam of Drancy, a Paris suburb with a large immigrant population, has called for a rally on Sept. 28 at Paris’s Place de la Republique.

“It is crucial that the Muslims of France and Europe come out and condemn this barbarity,” Chalghoumi said in an interview yesterday on France Info radio. “It is a duty.”


“There is the world of human beings and then there is the world of these people,” Boubakeur said on France Info radio yesterday. “I don’t know how their brains work. They are monsters.”


The rector of the Lyon mosque, Kamel Kabtane, wrote a joint letter entitled “We are dirty French too” published on newpaper Le Figaro’s website and signed by 19 French Muslims including university professors, lawyers, and doctors.

“These savages have no right to claim to be Muslim and to speak in our name,” the letter said.

Meanwhile, the #notinmyname Twitter campaign that began in Britain earlier this month, has hit France, with 56,000 tweets in the past five days, according to

The campaign, which began after a British hostage was murdered in Syria, involves individual Muslims posting photos or videos and holding signs saying “notinmyname,” to disassociate themselves from the Islam preached by Islamic State.

The Union of Islamic Organizations of France, which has been accused of being close to the hard-line Muslim Brotherhood, issued a statement two days ago “condemning with the greatest firmness the horrible assassination of our compatriot Herve Gourdel” and saying that “the Muslims of France and of the world reject any association with these crimes.”

Individual Muslim organisations have condemned Islamic State ever since it went on the offensive over the summer, threatening the stability of Iraq, and as the press reported the growing number of French youth in their ranks.

On Sept. 9, three of the largest French Muslim organizations jointly signed a statement of solidarity with Christian Iraqis threatened by Islamic State, and told mosques to read a statement in support of Arab Christians at the following Friday’s prayers.


Welfare for the super-rich at GM

A Facebook post from economist Robert Reich


Taxpayers lost $11.2 billion on the GM bailout, and we won’t get it back because the government sold its final GM shares last December. If we saved enough jobs at GM and kept the regional economy afloat, the cost was probably worth it. But I don’t get why we paid GM executives so much. Today, the Special Inspector General for the bailout program charged the Treasury Department with approving “excessive” compensation for top GM executives last year – some $3 million in pay increases for each of nine GM executives, amounting to raises ranging from 4% to 20%, The Treasury Department says it forced GM to shift more of its executive pay to stock-based compensation instead of cash, but the Inspector General reports that the Treasury approved cash salaries for 19 of 21 GM executives that were above the U.S. auto industry’s median salaries for executives at comparable levels in other companies.

It’s not as if these executives did such sterling jobs. Given GM’s failure to recall cars it knew to be unsafe, perhaps the Treasury ought to claw back these fat paychecks. Just saying.

‘Shellshock’ Threatens 500M Computers

Maybe this is why Microsoft & Firefox had updates in the last few days.

By Andrew Lumby, The Fiscal Times
September 25, 2014


Now another exploit, going by the name Shellshock, looks to pose a similar threat to machines worldwide. The impact looks to be even greater than Heartbleed’s: Where Heartbleed only affected some 500,000 machines in total, conservative estimates place Shellshock’s influence at over 500 million compromised machines.

The main problem is the location of the vulnerability – a small piece of software called Bash, which stands for Bourne-Again SHell. Bash is a fundamental element of many Unix-based operating systems – including many Linux distributions and Mac OSX. It’s the terminal where commands that are issued for controlling the system – installing software, monitoring networks, and executing code – are run.

If you’re on a Windows box, you’re not out of the woods, either. The servers of most sites that you visit run on Apache, which, as you’ve probably guessed by now, also uses Bash.

This means that a malicious hacker armed with the Shellshock code (a tiny exploit at just three lines) can execute his own malicious code on any vulnerable system. The full extent of this potential vulnerability is yet to be seen, but in theory could allow a hacker unfettered access to any data on the system – including passwords, personal files, and other sensitive information.

“Whereas something like Heartbleed was all about sniffing what was going on, this [is] about giving you direct access to the system,” security researcher Prof Alan Woodward told the BBC.

Luckily, the vulnerability is easily fixed: Several patches were released this morning that claim to eliminate the vulnerability. Yet as with Heartbleed, it may take awhile for IT administrators to actually apply these fixes. Meanwhile, many news outlets are reporting that hackers are starting to use the vulnerability for malicious purposes, with concern rising about the potential development of a worm that jumps from one vulnerable system to the next, executing code wherever it can.

The main difficulty in patching this Bash bug is the sheer widespread nature of it, from the highest point in a piece of system architecture all the way down to a WiFi-enabled toaster.

This is a growing concern for the end user as we rocket towards the oft-quoted Internet of Things, with our entire livelihoods based on our personal networks of Wi-Fi enabled devices. As software architect Troy Hunt says in his excellent primer to the exploit, many household items that have been adapted for the Internet of Things are running Bash. This vulnerability even extends to home routers, which also often have Bash shells.

So what’s a poor user to do until this whole thing dies down? Unfortunately, not a lot, short of hunkering down and waiting for fixes to materialize.

As Hunt tellingly reiterates: “Watch for security updates, particularly on OS X. Also keep an eye on any advice you may get from your ISP or other providers of devices you have that run embedded software. Do be cautious of emails requesting information or instructing you to run software – events like this are often followed by phishing attacks that capitalize on consumers’ fears.”
- See more at:

Thursday, September 25, 2014

How physical exercise protects the brain from stress-induced depression


Contact: Press Office
Karolinska Institutet
How physical exercise protects the brain from stress-induced depression

Physical exercise has many beneficial effects on human health, including the protection from stress-induced depression. However, until now the mechanisms that mediate this protective effect have been unknown. In a new study in mice, researchers at Karolinska Institutet in Sweden show that exercise training induces changes in skeletal muscle that can purge the blood of a substance that accumulates during stress, and is harmful to the brain. The study is being published in the prestigious journal Cell.

"In neurobiological terms, we actually still don't know what depression is. Our study represents another piece in the puzzle, since we provide an explanation for the protective biochemical changes induced by physical exercise that prevent the brain from being damaged during stress," says Mia Lindskog, researcher at the Department of Neuroscience at Karolinska Institutet.


Perfectionism is a bigger than perceived risk factor in suicide

TORONTO, September 25, 2014 – Perfectionism is a bigger risk factor in suicide than we may think, says York University Psychology Professor Gordon Flett, calling for closer attention to its potential destructiveness, adding that clinical guidelines should include perfectionism as a separate factor for suicide risk assessment and intervention.


In a research article, Flett and his co-authors Professor Paul Hewitt of the University of British Columbia and Professor Marnin Heisel of Western University note that physicians, lawyers and architects, whose occupations emphasize on precision, and also those in leadership roles are at higher risk for perfectionism-related suicide, citing the recent cases of prominent perfectionists who died by suicide.


The authors document how being exposed to relentless demands to be perfect, a concept they refer to as socially prescribed perfectionism, is linked consistently with hopelessness and suicide. Other key themes discussed are: how perfectionistic self-presentation and self-concealment can lead to suicides that occur without warning; and how perfectionists often come up with thorough and precise suicide plans.

“We summarize data showing consistent links between perfectionism and hopelessness and discuss the need for an individualized approach that recognizes the heightened risk for perfectionists,” Flett says adding, “They also tend to experience hopelessness, psychological pain, life stress, overgeneralization, and a form of emotional perfectionism that restricts the willingness to disclose suicidal urges and intentions.”


Goats better than chemicals for curbing invasive marsh grass


Contact: Tim Lucas
Duke University
Goats better than chemicals for curbing invasive marsh grass
Periodic livestock grazing keeps invasive plant in check, helps restore views and biodiversity

Herbivores, not herbicides, may be the most effective way to combat the spread of one of the most invasive plants now threatening East Coast salt marshes, a new Duke University-led study finds.

Phragmites australis, or the common reed, is a rapid colonizer that has overrun many coastal wetlands from New England to the Southeast. A non-native perennial, it can form dense stands of grass up to 10 feet high that block valuable shoreline views of the water, kill off native grasses, and alter marsh function.

Land managers traditionally have used chemical herbicides to slow phragmites' spread but with only limited and temporary success.

Now, field experiments by researchers at Duke and six other U.S. and European universities have identified a more sustainable, low-cost alternative: goats.

"We find that allowing controlled grazing by goats or other livestock in severely affected marshes can reduce the stem density of phragmites cover by about half in around three weeks," said Brian R. Silliman, lead author of the new study and Rachel Carson associate professor of marine conservation biology at Duke's Nicholas School of the Environment.

"The goats are likely to provide an effective, sustainable and much more affordable way of mowing down the invasive grass and helping restore lost ocean views," he said.

In fenced-in test plots at the USDA Beltsville Agricultural Research Center in Maryland, Silliman and his colleagues found that a pair of the hungry herbivores could reduce phragmites cover from 94 percent to 21 percent, on average, by the end of the study. Separate trials showed that horses and cows would also readily eat the invasive grass.

In addition to restoring views, the controlled grazing allowed native plant species to re-establish themselves in the test plots over time. The native species diversity index increased five-fold.


The approach has been used for nearly 6,000 years in parts of Europe and recently has been successfully tested on small patches of heavily phragmites-invaded marshes in New York, he notes. "Now, it just has to be tested on a larger spatial scale."

The only drawback, he added, is that "people have to be okay with having goats in their marsh for a few weeks or few months in some years. It seems like a fair trade-off to me."


G.O.P. Error Reveals Donors and the Price of Access



sometimes, a simple coding mistake can lay bare documents and data that were supposed to be concealed from the prying eyes of the public.

Such an error by the Republican Governors Association recently resulted in the disclosure of exactly the kind of information that political committees given tax-exempt status usually keep secret, namely their corporate donors and the size of their checks. That set off something of an online search war between the association and a Washington watchdog group that spilled other documents, Democratic and Republican, into the open.

The documents, many of which the Republican officials have since removed from their website, showed that many of America’s most prominent companies, from Aetna to Walmart, had poured millions of dollars into the campaigns of Republican governors since 2008. One document listed 17 corporate “members” of the governors association’s secretive 501(c)(4), the Republican Governors Public Policy Committee, which is allowed to shield its supporters from the public.


At a policy committee symposium last year at the Omni La Costa Resort and Spa in Carlsbad, Calif., committee members included the health insurers Aetna and WellPoint, the insurance lobby America’s Health Insurance Plans, the utility giant Southern Company, and the lobbying firms Dutko Grayling (now known as Grayling), BGR Group and Leavitt Partners.

With Congress producing so little legislation, governors’ offices have become attractive targets, Mr. Wertheimer said. Last year, the Republican Governors Public Policy Committee allowed corporate donors to make their cases on how to carry out the Affordable Care Act; discuss hydraulic fracturing, an oil- and gas-exploration method regulated at the state level; and hash over state budgets just as coffers began to loosen.


Among the R.G.A. documents is a 21-page schedule of the policy committee’s Carlsbad meeting last year that lists which companies attended, who represented them and what they contributed. The most elite group, known as the Statesmen, whose members donated $250,000, included Aetna; Coca-Cola; Exxon Mobil; Koch Companies Public Sector, the lobbying arm of the highly political Koch Industries; Microsoft; Pfizer; UnitedHealth Group; and Walmart. The $100,000 Cabinet level included Aflac, Blue Cross Blue Shield, Comcast, Hewlett-Packard, Novartis, Shell Oil, Verizon Communications and Walgreen.

Other documents detail, in part, what they received in return.

One 2009 document states the benefits of a Governors Board membership, for a $50,000 annual contribution or a one-time donation of $100,000, saying it “offers the ability to bring their particular expertise to the political process while helping to support the Republican agenda.”


2014 Arctic Sea Ice Minimum Sixth Lowest on Record

Sept. 22, 2014

Arctic sea ice coverage continued its below-average trend this year as the ice declined to its annual minimum on Sept. 17, according to the NASA-supported National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) at the University of Colorado, Boulder.

Over the 2014 summer, Arctic sea ice melted back from its maximum extent reached in March to a coverage area of 1.94 million square miles (5.02 million square kilometers), according to analysis from NASA and NSIDC scientists. This year’s minimum extent is similar to last year’s and below the 1981-2010 average of 2.40 million square miles (6.22 million square km).

"Arctic sea ice coverage in 2014 is the sixth lowest recorded since 1978. The summer started off relatively cool, and lacked the big storms or persistent winds that can break up ice and increase melting," said Walter Meier, a research scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland.

“Even with a relatively cool year, the ice is so much thinner than it used to be,” Meier said. “It’s more susceptible to melting.”


Video blinds us to the evidence, NYU, Yale study finds


Contact: James Devitt
New York University
Video blinds us to the evidence, NYU, Yale study finds

Where people look when watching video evidence varies wildly and has profound consequences for bias in legal punishment decisions, a team of researchers at New York University and Yale Law School has found. This study raises questions about why people fail to be objective when confronted with video evidence.

In a series of three experiments, participants who viewed videotaped altercations formed biased punishment decisions about a defendant the more they looked at him. Participants punished a defendant more severely if they did not identify with his social group and punished him less severely if they felt connected to the group—but only when they looked at the defendant often.

"Our findings show that video evidence isn't evaluated objectively—in fact, it may even spur our existing biases," explains Emily Balcetis, an assistant professor in NYU's Department of Psychology and one of the study's authors. "With the proliferation of surveillance footage and other video evidence, coupled with the legal system's blind faith in information we can see with their own eyes, we need to proceed with caution. Video evidence is seductive, but it won't necessarily help our understanding of cases, especially when it's unclear who is at fault."


"One might think that the more closely you look at videotape, the more likely you are to view its contents objectively," says Balcetis. "But that is not the case—in fact, the more you look, the more you find evidence that confirms your assumptions about a social group


In order to rule out the possibility that these findings apply only to police, the researchers conducted another experiment with a new set of participants. This time, however, they watched a videotape of an orchestrated fight between two college-aged white men: one wearing a blue shirt and another wearing a green shirt. Prior to viewing the videotape, participants answered personality questions, and the experimenter told them their answers seemed more similar to either the blue group or the green group.

Consistent with the first two experiments, the results showed that close visual attention enhanced biased interpretations of what transpired and influenced punishment decisions. For instance, those who fixated more on the outgroup member (blue or green) were more likely to recommend stiffer punishment than those who looked elsewhere. Again, attention shifted punishment decisions by changing the accuracy of participants' memory of the behaviors that the outgroup member performed.

"We think video evidence is a silver bullet for getting at truth, but it's not," NYU doctoral candidate and lead author on the paper, Yael Granot, observes. "These results suggest that the way in which people view video evidence may exaggerate an already pervasive 'us versus them' divide in the American legal system."


Eating five a day may keep the blues away

Sept. 23, 2014

Fruit and vegetable consumption could be as good for your mental as your physical health, new research suggests.

The research, conducted by the University of Warwick’s Medical School using data from the Health Survey for England, and published by BMJ Open focused on mental wellbeing and found that high and low mental wellbeing were consistently associated with an individual’s fruit and vegetable consumption.

33.5% of respondents with high mental wellbeing ate five or more portions of fruit and vegetables a day, compared with only 6.8% who ate less than one portion. Commenting on the findings Dr Saverio Stranges, the research paper’s lead author, said: “The data suggest that higher an individual’s fruit and vegetable intake the lower the chance of their having low mental wellbeing”.

31.4% of those with high mental wellbeing ate three-four portions and 28.4% ate one-two.


Low mental wellbeing is strongly linked to mental illness and mental health problems, but high mental wellbeing is more than the absence of symptoms or illness; it is a state in which people feel good and function well. Optimism, happiness, self-esteem, resilience and good relationships with others are all part of this state. Mental wellbeing is important not just to protect people from mental illness but because it protects people against common and serious physical diseases.


Lack of sleep increases risk of failure in school


Contact: Christian Benedict
Uppsala University
Lack of sleep increases risk of failure in school

A new Swedish study shows that adolescents who suffer from sleep disturbance or habitual short sleep duration are less likely to succeed academically compared to those who enjoy a good night's sleep. The results have recently been published in the journal Sleep Medicine.


"Another important finding of our study is that around 30 percent of the adolescents reported regular sleep problems. Similar observations have been made in other adolescent cohorts, indicating that sleep problems among adolescents have reached an epidemic level in our modern societies", says Christian Benedict.

Wealthiest older Americans worse off than poorest counterparts in other countries


an independent comparative study of healthcare systems in six Western countries, published last month in Social Science and Medicine, supports a move away from privatized medicine toward state-sponsored healthcare systems. In her research, Dina Maskileyson of Tel Aviv University's Gershon H. Gordon Faculty of Social Sciences found that privatized medical care in the U.S. has contributed to greater wealth-health inequality than state-sponsored healthcare systems in Sweden, the U.K., Israel, Germany, and the Czech Republic. According to her new study, the wealthiest older people in the U.S. surprisingly suffered from worse health than the poorest older people in the other countries reviewed. Moreover, household wealth has a far more powerful effect on the state of an older person's health in the U.S. than in any of the other countries.

"The positive association between household wealth and health is about twice as strong in the U.S. than in the other countries examined," said Ms. Maskileyson. "In the U.S., every additional percentage point in household wealth increased physical health by about twice as much as it did in the other countries. Among the six countries, household wealth was the most important factor in predicting health outcomes of older Americans."


According to the study, the U.S.'s private-based healthcare system not only produced poorer health outcomes and increased the wealth-health inequality gap, it also left the wealthiest Americans, with access to the "best money can offer," still worse off than the poorest citizens in the U.K., Germany, Sweden, and the Czech Republic.


Nature group walks linked to improved mental health

In my experience, you don't have to be in a group to have your spirits lifted by a walk in the woods.

Sept. 23, 2014


Group nature walks are linked with significantly lower depression, less perceived stress and enhanced mental health and well-being, according to the study conducted by the University of Michigan, with partners from De Montfort University, James Hutton Institute, and Edge Hill University in the United Kingdom. The findings appear in a special issue of Ecopsychology devoted to ‘Ecopsychology and Public Health’.

People who had recently experienced stressful life events like a serious illness, death of a loved one, marital separation or unemployment especially saw a mood boost after outdoor group walks.


The lead author of the study was Melissa R. Marselle, Ph.D., M.Sc., of the Department of Psychology at Edge Hill University in Ormskirk, UK and the Institute of Energy and Sustainable Development at De Montfort University in Leicester, UK.

Warber’s long-time collaborator, Katherine Irvine, Ph.D., a graduate of the U-M School of Natural Resources and Environment and senior researcher of the Social, Economic and Geographical Sciences Research Group at the James Hutton Institute in Aberdeen, UK, also contributed significantly to this study.


Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Brain scans reveal 'gray matter' differences in media multitaskers


Contact: Jacqui Bealing
University of Sussex

Brain scans reveal 'gray matter' differences in media multitaskers

Simultaneously using mobile phones, laptops and other media devices could be changing the structure of our brains, according to new University of Sussex research.

A study published today (24 September) reveals that people who frequently use several media devices at the same time have lower grey-matter density in one particular region of the brain compared to those who use just one device occasionally.

The research supports earlier studies showing connections between high media-multitasking activity and poor attention in the face of distractions, along with emotional problems such as depression and anxiety.

But neuroscientists Kep kee Loh and Dr Ryota Kanai point out that their study reveals a link rather than causality and that a long-term study needs to be carried out to understand whether high concurrent media usage leads to changes in the brain structure, or whether those with less-dense grey matter are more attracted to media multitasking.


Scientists have previously demonstrated that brain structure can be altered upon prolonged exposure to novel environments and experience. The neural pathways and synapses can change based on our behaviours, environment, emotions, and can happen at the cellular level (in the case of learning and memory) or cortical re-mapping, which is how specific functions of a damaged brain region could be re-mapped to a remaining intact region.

Other studies have shown that training (such as learning to juggle, or taxi drivers learning the map of London) can increase grey-matter densities in certain parts of the brain.

"The exact mechanisms of these changes are still unclear," says Kep kee Loh. "Although it is conceivable that individuals with small ACC are more susceptible to multitasking situations due to weaker ability in cognitive control or socio-emotional regulation, it is equally plausible that higher levels of exposure to multitasking situations leads to structural changes in the ACC. A longitudinal study is required to unambiguously determine the direction of causation."


Higher Risk of Autism Found in Children Born at Short and Long Interpregnancy Intervals

Sept. 24, 2014

A study published in the MONTH 2014 issue of the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry found that children who were conceived either less than 1 year or more than 5 years after the birth of their prior sibling were more likely to be diagnosed with autism than children conceived following an interval of 2-5 years.


The study found that the risk of an autism diagnosis among children conceived less than 12 months following a sibling's birth was one and a half times as high as those conceived following an interval of 24-59 months. Children conceived following an interval of 60-120 months were almost 30% more likely to be diagnosed with autism. For intervals of more than 120 months, the risk of autism was over 40% higher.

The analysis accounted for certain factors that might explain the association, such as parents' age, prior number of children, and parental history of psychiatric disorders.


Fracking wastewater that is treated for drinking produces potentially harmful compounds


Contact: Michael Bernstein
American Chemical Society
'Fracking' wastewater that is treated for drinking produces potentially harmful compounds

Concerns that fluids from hydraulic fracturing, or "fracking," are contaminating drinking water abound. Now, scientists are bringing to light another angle that adds to the controversy. A new study, appearing in the ACS journal Environmental Science & Technology, has found that discharge of fracking wastewaters to rivers, even after passage through wastewater treatment plants, could be putting the drinking water supplies of downstream cities at risk.

William A. Mitch, Avner Vengosh and colleagues point out that the disposal of fracking wastewater poses a major challenge for the companies that use the technique, which involves injecting millions of gallons of fluids into shale rock formations to release oil and gas. The resulting wastewater is highly radioactive and contains high levels of heavy metals and salts called halides (bromide, chloride and iodide). One approach to dealing with this wastewater is to treat it in municipal or commercial treatment plants and then release it into rivers and other surface waters. The problem is these plants don't do a good job at removing halides. Researchers have raised concern that halide-contaminated surface water subsequently treated for drinking purposes with conventional methods, such as chlorination or ozonation, could lead to the formation of toxic byproducts. Mitch's team set out to see if that was indeed the case.

The researchers diluted river-water samples of fracking wastewater discharged from operations in Pennsylvania and Arkansas, simulating real-world conditions when wastewater gets into the environment. In the lab, they then used current drinking-water disinfection methods on the samples. They found that even at concentrations as low as 0.01 percent up to 0.1 percent by volume of fracking wastewater, an array of toxic compounds formed. Based on their findings, the researchers recommend either that fracking wastewater should not be discharged at all into surface waters or that future water treatment include specific halide-removal techniques.

Lower Buffet Prices Lead to Less Taste Satisfaction

David Just, Ozge Sigirci and Brian Wansink (2014).

Does the price you pay at a buffet influence how much you like the food? Surprisingly, yes! In a new Cornell Food and Brand Lab study published in the Journal of Sensory Studies, researchers found that when charged more for an all-you-can-eat buffet diners rated the food higher than when charged less for the same food.


Alzheimer's patients can still feel the emotion long after the memories have vanished

By: John Riehl
Sept. 24, 2014

A new University of Iowa study further supports an inescapable message: caregivers have a profound influence—good or bad—on the emotional state of individuals with Alzheimer’s disease. Patients may not remember a recent visit by a loved one or having been neglected by staff at a nursing home, but those actions can have a lasting impact on how they feel.

The findings of this study are published in the September 2014 issue of the journal Cognitive and Behavioral Neurology, and can be viewed online for free here.


“Our findings should empower caregivers by showing them that their actions toward patients really do matter,” Guzmán-Vélez says. “Frequent visits and social interactions, exercise, music, dance, jokes, and serving patients their favorite foods are all simple things that can have a lasting emotional impact on a patient’s quality of life and subjective well-being.”


UK warns that climate change could trigger violent conflict in India

Kounteya Sinha,TNN | Sep 24, 2014

A British report has warned that climate change could trigger violent conflict in India - similar to the Arab Spring where climate change, drought, water mismanagement and food prices contributed to the outbreak of civil unrest.

The Global Sustainability Institute at Anglia Ruskin University in Cambridge has said that water availability is closely tied to food production and with India's population expected to reach 1.4 billion by 2050, the country could face a "perfect storm" of challenges.

The report specifically looks at the specific socio-political, economic, cultural and environmental characteristics of the Cauvery and Indus catchments and the potential for both climate change and scarcity of natural resources to destabilise social and political systems.


Dr Aled Jones, director of the Institute, said "Although unlikely to be the primary cause of violent conflict, natural resource scarcity and climate change can be a catalyst that exacerbates simmering tensions and existing conditions for instability. A decreased availability of water and a rise in food prices in already water-stressed regions can create the perfect storm for civil unrest and conflict. Climate change, population increase and water mismanagement stresses on the Indus are therefore a relevant factor in the ongoing peace negotiations between India and Pakistan.


Climate Change as Catalyst of Conflict

Sept. 22, 2014
Reporting credits: Bud Ward and ChavoBart Digital Media.

A respected military advisory board, with highly ranked retired officers from all branches of the armed forces, evaluated the effects of climate change on national security. They found that climate change is becoming a catalyst for conflict.

Retired Navy Captain Leo Goff points to the 2010 drought in Russia that prompted their government to ban all exports of wheat. This contributed to conflict in the Middle East.

GOFF: “Sustained drought in Russia led to a ban on the export of wheat. This in turn caused the price of bread in Egypt to spike. This resulted in the food riots that we saw on TV, and eventually it was those riots that led to the over-throw of the Egyptian government.”

Those food riots fed what became known as the Arab Spring.

GOFF: “We need to recognize that if we do nothing, these types of conflicts are going to become increasingly prevalent, especially in certain parts of the world where there are vulnerable countries that have challenges already with respect to food, water, and energy.”

The military advisory board says many future conflicts could be avoided if global leaders act now to reduce climate change. I’m Anthony Leiserowitz.


Coca Cola, Heinz And Other Major Food Companies Warn Climate Change Threatens Business

by Emily Atkin Posted on September 15, 2014


While politicians continue to bicker over whether or not climate change exists, companies now have no choice in the matter — they must acknowledge the science and the risk and disclose the reality of that risk to their investors’ pocketbooks. Whether that risk actually manifests itself is another matter, but the fact that companies are increasingly putting climate change on their threat lists speaks volumes to the severity of the problem.

Here are seven other big food companies that disclose to investors that climate change poses a threat to their products and bottom lines.

Keurig Green Mountain


It’s long been known that both coffee and tea crops are threatened by climate change. Severe drought has negatively impacted Brazil’s coffee bean crop, and pest invasions have affected Sri Lanka’s tea.


Michael Foods Group

You probably know Michael Foods Group’s products even if you don’t know their parent company’s name. The $2 billion company produces the AllWhites egg whites, Better’n Eggs, and Simply Potatoes brands. It also says climate change and some of the known effects of climate change pose a risk to its business.




Big Heart Pet Brands

If you can’t get worried about climate change for humans, then at least think about the puppies and kittens. Big Heart Pet Brands is another one of those parent company names you might not know, but you probably know their brands: Milk-Bone, Meow Mix, Kibbles ‘n Bits, and 9 Lives to name a few. And in that company’s most recent 10-K, it acknowledged that adverse weather events “caused by climate change or otherwise” could drive up the price of its ingredients.


Omega Protein




Marine Harvest ASA


Couple Who Let Homeless People Sleep On Their Porch Threatened With Daily Fine

by Scott Keyes Posted on September 19, 2014


Brenda Konkel and her partner Robert Bloch didn’t expect to be rewarded for their decision to open up their front porch to any homeless person who needed a place to rest or store their belongings, but the last thing they could have imagined was that their good deed would go punished.

According to the Madison Capital Times, for the past 18 months the couple have let homeless Madison residents secure their stuff in the dozen lockers they put on their front porch. And when someone needed a safe place to rest at night, Konkel and Bloch welcomed them to stay.

But their selflessness could soon meet an abrupt end after a neighbor complained about the presence of homeless people at their home. The city agreed with the neighbor. According to the zoning code, only people who “are part of a dwelling unit – who have access to and share the interior for housekeeping services – can legally elect to sleep outside of a dwelling unit,” Zoning Administrator Matt Tucker told the Capital Times.

If the couple doesn’t get rid of the lockers this week, they could face fines of as much as $300 per day. The deadline for evicting the porch-dwellers is mid-October.

Homelessness is a growing problem in Madison. A citywide count in 2013 found 831 homeless people living in the city, an increase of 47 percent since 2010. Among those 831 homeless residents were 110 families with children.

Konkel estimated on Facebook that she and her partner have helped more than 60 people over the past year and a half. She noted that many of those they’d helped “were working, but just can’t afford housing or were between homes.” What especially surprised her, though, was how many people they’d helped who were either under 25 years old or over 50.


People being threatened or assessed with fines for helping the homeless is becoming a trend recently. Earlier this year, a Florida couple was fined $746 for feeding homeless people, while a Birmingham pastor was prevented from doing so because he didn’t have a $500 permit. Even church groups based in St. Louis and Raleigh have been blocked and threatened with arrest for handing out meals to their homeless neighbors.


Less posting for awhile

I will not be posting as often because I am doing voter registration and canvassing until after the election. I'll do what I can for those who find my posts interesting, informative, and/or helpful.

Facebook To Join Google In Cutting Ties With ALEC

by Katie Valentine Posted on September 24, 2014

Facebook is likely cutting ties with the conservative American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a decision that would follow the lead of Google, which announced its intention to break with ALEC this week.

Facebook confirmed plans of the split to the Guardian after the news was first reported in the San Francisco Chronicle.

“We reevaluate our memberships on an annual basis, and are in that process now. While we have tried to work within ALEC to bring that organization closer to our view on some key issues, it seems unlikely that we will make sufficient progress so we are not likely to renew our membership in 2015,” the social media giant said in a statement.

The news comes a day after Google announced on Monday that the company’s decision to fund ALEC — a group which, among other things, works to undermine renewable energy progress in states and is known for its climate denial — was a “mistake” and that the company would be cutting ties with ALEC at the end of the year.

“Everyone understands climate change is occurring and the people who oppose it are really hurting our children and our grandchildren and making the world a much worse place,” Google chairman Eric Schmidt said on NPR’s Diane Rehm show. “And so we should not be aligned with such people — they’re just, they’re just literally lying.”


Though Google and Facebook are the most recent — and among the most well-known — companies to cut ties with ALEC, they aren’t the first. Microsoft stopped providing funds to ALEC last month, and before Microsoft, Coca-Cola, Pepsi, McDonald’s, Walmart, and Kraft decided to end their ALEC memberships.


With Facebook’s recent announcement, the number of corporations that have cut ties with ALEC has risen to at least 87. As the Guardian notes, Facebook and Google’s high-profile departure from ALEC will likely put pressure on corporations still sending funds to the conservative group, such as Yahoo and eBay.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Live stream of Flood Wall Street

CO2 emissions set to reach new 40 billion ton record high in 2014


Contact: Lisa Horton
University of East Anglia
CO2 emissions set to reach new 40 billion ton record high in 2014
Remaining CO2 emission 'quota' may be used up in one generation and more than half of all fossil fuel reserves may need to be left untapped

Carbon dioxide emissions, the main contributor to global warming, are set to rise again in 2014 - reaching a record high of 40 billion tonnes.

The 2.5 per cent projected rise in burning fossil fuels is revealed by the Global Carbon Project, which is co-led in the UK by researchers at the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research at the University of East Anglia and the College of Engineering, Mathematics and Physical Sciences at the University of Exeter.


This latest annual update of the Global Carbon Budget shows that total future CO2 emissions cannot exceed 1,200 billion tonnes – for a likely 66 per cent chance of keeping average global warming under 2°C (since pre-industrial times).

At the current rate of CO2 emissions, this 1,200 billion tonne CO2 'quota' would be used up in around 30 years. This means that there is just one generation before the safeguards to a 2oC limit may be breached.

The international team of climate scientists say that to avoid this, more than half of all fossil fuel reserves may need to be left unexploited.

Prof Corinne Le Quéré, Director of the Tyndall Centre at UEA, said: "The human influence on climate change is clear. We need substantial and sustained reductions in CO2 emissions from burning fossil fuels if we are to limit global climate change. We are nowhere near the commitments necessary to stay below 2°C of climate change, a level that will be already challenging to manage for most countries around the world, even for rich nations.


Narrow focus on physical activity could be ruining kids' playtime


Contact: William Raillant-Clark
University of Montreal
Narrow focus on physical activity could be ruining kids' playtime
Innovative study looks at how children define play

While public health authorities focus on the physical activity benefits of active play, a new study from the University of Montreal reveals that for children, playing has no goal – it is an end in itself, an activity that is fun, done alone or with friends, and it represents "an opportunity to experience excitement or pleasure, but also to combat boredom, sadness, fear, or loneliness." "By focusing on the physical activity aspect of play, authorities put aside several aspects of play that are beneficial to young people's emotional and social health," explains Professor Katherine Frohlich of the university's Department of Social and Preventive Medicine, who supervised the study. "Play is a way to achieve various objectives, including the improvement of physical health and the development of cognitive and social aptitudes. Obviously, we must ensure children's development and combat obesity. But to get there, must we distort play?"


The semi-structured interviews allowed Alexander to better understand the meaning of play for the children. "Play reframed as a way for improving physical health removes the spontaneity, fun, and freedom in children's play, which is also important for their well-being," Alexander said. "Active play alone does not make up many children's preferences." It is also clear that risk-taking is an integral part of children's play preferences. "Allowing children to take acceptable risks while remaining vigilant is indeed beneficial to their development," Alexander added. "An overemphasis on safety may contribute to the emergence of a generation of young people that is less and less able to cope with the unpredictable."

In summary, the researchers identified four dimensions of play particularly important to children: play as an end in itself (children play for fun, not for exercise or for developing their mental and social skills); play isn't necessarily active (many children also enjoy more sedentary games); children feel ambiguous about scheduled play activities (children have little time for free play); and risk is considered a pleasurable component of their play. "Despite the abundance of messages targeting children and play and health, children's perspectives are rarely taken into account within public health, although they have social and scientific value," Frohlich said. "We hope that our findings will inform and improve the way authorities and indeed parents approach playtime."


Arctic sea ice helps remove CO2 from the atmosphere

University of South Denmark
Sept. 22, 2014

Due to global warming, larger and larger areas of sea ice melt in the summer and when sea ice freezes over in the winter it is thinner and more reduced. As the Arctic summers are getting warmer we may see an acceleration of global warming, because reduced sea ice in the Arctic will remove less CO2 from the atmosphere, Danish scientists report. "If our results are representative, then sea ice plays a greater role than expected, and we should take this into account in future global CO2 budgets", says Dorte Haubjerg Søgaard, PhD Fellow, Nordic Center for Earth Evolution, University of Southern Denmark and the Greenland Institute of Natural Resources, Nuuk.

Only recently scientists have realized that sea ice has an impact on the planet's CO2 balance.
"We have long known that the Earth's oceans are able to absorb huge amounts of CO2. But we also thought that this did not apply to ocean areas covered by ice, because the ice was considered impenetrable. However, this is not true: New research shows that sea ice in the Arctic draws large amounts of CO2 from the atmosphere into the ocean", says Dorte Haubjerg Søgaard.


"The chemical removal of CO2 in sea ice occurs in two phases. First crystals of calcium carbonate are formed in sea ice in winter. During this formation CO2 splits off and is dissolved in a heavy cold brine, which gets squeezed out of the ice and sinks into the deeper parts of the ocean. Calcium carbonate cannot move as freely as CO2 and therefore it stays in the sea ice. In summer, when the sea ice melts, calcium carbonate dissolves, and CO2 is needed for this process. Thus, CO2 gets drawn from the atmosphere into the ocean - and therefore CO2 gets removed from the atmosphere", explains Dorte Haubjerg Søgaard.

The biological removal of CO2 is done by algae binding of carbon in organic material.

Another important discovery is that every winter flower-like ice formations are formed on the surface of newly formed sea ice. They are called frost flowers. Dorte Haubjerg Søgaard has discovered that these frost flowers hold extremely high concentrations of calcium carbonate, which can have a further significant impact on the potential CO2 uptake in the Arctic.


Nurse survey shows longer working hours impact on quality of care


Contact: Becky Attwood
University of Southampton
Nurse survey shows longer working hours impact on quality of care

Results of a survey of more than 30,000 nurses across Europe show that nurses who work longer shifts and more overtime are more likely to rate the standard of care delivered on their ward as poor, give a negative rating of their hospitals safety and omit necessary patient care.




Flood Wall Street continues climate protest in New York City

Most TV stations chose to give little or no attention to the peaceful giant People's Climate March yesterday. So some people are doing a civil disobedience protest today. Maybe it will get more TV coverage!

Just one day after more than 300,000 people took part in the world’s largest climate-related protest, thousands of more rebellious activists risked arrest to shut down part of New York City’s financial district to demand action against global warming.

United under the “Flood Wall Street” banner, some 2,000 demonstrators streamed into New York’s financial district Monday afternoon and promptly sat down in the streets. The sit-in, which organizers say is aimed at confronting “corporate polluters and those profiting from the fossil fuel industry,” completely shut down traffic in the area.

Activists, many of whom took part in the Occupy Wall Street protests three years ago, did not have a permit for the demonstration from the New York Police Department, meaning they risked arrest for participating. National Lawyers Guild members sprinkled through the crowd handed out legal advice to those at the scene, and several people have already been arrested.


Hold on, tiger mom


Contact: Sean Nealon
University of California - Riverside
Hold on, tiger mom
Research by a UC Riverside assistant professor refutes the idea that the traditional, strict 'Chinese' upbringing, advocated for in the book 'Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother,' is superior

Less supportive and punitive parenting techniques used by some Chinese parents might lead to the development of low self-esteem and school adjustment difficulties in their children and leave them vulnerable to depression and problem behaviors, according to a paper recently published by a University of California, Riverside assistant professor and other researchers.

The study, believed to be the first that provides empirical support to this idea, refutes the idea that the traditional, strict "Chinese" upbringing, which gained widespread attention in the 2011 book "Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother" by Amy Chua, is superior.

"Our research shows that Tiger Mother type of parenting, specifically controlling, punitive, and less supportive type of parenting is really not working in this sample of Chinese adolescents," said Cixin Wang, an assistant professor at UC Riverside's Graduate School of Education. "It also shows that it is important for Chinese parents, who tend to be less emotionally expressive and use less praise in parenting, to show their approval, love and support for their children."


Previous research has shown that Chinese parents are less likely to show support for their children through affection. Instead, they express support through efforts to control and govern their youngsters.

Previous research on Western cultures has found that when parents exert strong psychological control over their children it leads to problem behavior, low self-esteem and low grades among the children. However, the impact of psychological control and strictness in Chinese culture has been less clear.

Wang and her co-authors show the findings from the sample of Chinese students are consistent with those from the Western students. Parental support and monitoring were associated with positive adolescent adjustment, but permissiveness and punitiveness were linked to negative adolescent adjustment. Psychological control, specifically love withdrawal techniques, did not predict any adolescent outcomes after controlling for other parenting practices.

The study also has implications for Chinese Americans and other Asian Americans, who are often trying to balance traditional cultural norms with popular parenting practice in American society today. Future work by Wang will focus on mental health literacy among Asian Americans students, specifically around the stigma of seeking help related to depression and other mental health difficulties.

She is interested in these issues in part because of her upbringing in China. Growing up in Shanghai, she was not frequently praised by her parents. She remembers being in first grade, getting a 99 percent on an assignment and her mother being upset she didn't get 100 percent.

"I hear Asian parents saying that they are concerned about using too much praise with their children because they were not brought up this way," Wang said. "In a way, I missed out on getting parental praise and approval. And, in a way, I don't want a whole generation of Asian kids to miss that really important piece too."


Iron deficiency during pregnancy linked to increased autism risk

I forgot to include a link when I posted this. Likely from
There is an article about this at

By Barbara Bronson Gray
Sept. 22, 2014

New research suggests that taking iron supplements as prescribed may play a role in reducing the risk of having a child with autism spectrum disorder (ASD).

The researchers found that mothers of children with autism were significantly less likely to have taken iron supplements before and during pregnancy than those whose children seem to be developing normally.


The study authors also discovered that mothers 35 years of age and older who had low iron intake had a five times greater risk of having a child with autism. Others at that higher level of risk were women with metabolic conditions, such as obesity, high blood pressure or diabetes.

For all participants, having a healthy amount of dietary and supplemental iron appeared to generally reduce the risk of autism, which is a neurodevelopmental disorder characterized by social deficits, language impairments and repetitive behaviors.


Homelessness on the rise among school-age children

The number of homeless school children is rising in U.S. schools.

New Education Department statistics say 1.3 million homeless children were enrolled in U.S. schools in the 2012-2013 school year. That's an 8 percent increase from the previous school year.

School districts reported that nearly 76,000 of these students were living on their own.

A vast majority of all the homeless children were living in "doubled-up" quarters, meaning multiple families were living together not by choice. About 70,000 were identified as living in a hotel or motel.

The statistics likely underestimate the true number of homeless kids. The numbers don't include homeless infants, toddlers, young children not enrolled in public preschool programs or homeless children not identified by school officials.