Saturday, February 28, 2015

Coloring in cola linked to potentially higher risk for cancer

ByJessica Firger February 27, 2015

It's well established that regularly consuming soft drinks -- even low-calorie ones -- is a proven fast track to weight gain, diabetes and obesity. Some people call soda the new smoking and it may be for good reason.

Research has found that 4-methylimidazole (4-Mel), the chemical that gives cola its appealing caramel color is a potential carcinogen. There aren't any federal regulations that restrict use of 4-Mel, but according to the report, more than half of Americans between age 6 to 64 drink enough soda on a regular basis to elevate their cancer risk.


All of the samples, except for the clear beverages, contained 3.4 to 352.5 micrograms of 4-Mel per 12-ounce bottle or can.


In recent years, research on 4-Mel has prompted soda drink manufacturers to make some changes to their formulas to reduce the levels of the chemical in their beverages. In 2012, Coca Cola announced it would be switching to a low-4-Mel formula, while still maintaining the product has always been safe.

But cracking down on the soft drink industry won't completely eliminate the chemical from the American diet. Unfortunately, dark-colored carbonated beverages are not the only source of 4-Mel. The chemical is also used in soy and barbecue sauce, pancake syrup and some soups.

Many experts believe the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's approval guidelines for food additives, especially those used to change or improve color of foods and beverages, are too lenient compared with the regulations set up in other countries. Many chemicals commonly used in food in the U.S. are banned elsewhere because of their potential health risk. Recent research links many different food dyes approved for use in the U.S. to increased risk for ADHD, allergies and cancer.

Baby formula poses higher arsenic risk to newborns than breast milk

Public Release: 23-Feb-2015
Dartmouth College

In the first U.S. study of urinary arsenic in babies, Dartmouth College researchers found that formula-fed infants had higher arsenic levels than breast-fed infants, and that breast milk itself contained very low arsenic concentrations.


The researchers measured arsenic in home tap water, urine from 72 six-week-old infants and breast milk from nine women in New Hampshire. Urinary arsenic was 7.5 times lower for breast-fed than formula-fed infants. The highest tap water arsenic concentrations far exceeded the arsenic concentrations in powdered formulas, but for the majority of the study's participants, both the powder and water contributed to exposure.


Arsenic occurs naturally in bedrock and is a common global contaminant of well water. It causes cancers and other diseases, and early-life exposure has been associated with increased fetal mortality, decreased birth weight and diminished cognitive function. The Environmental Protection Agency has set a maximum contaminant level for public drinking water, but private well water is not subject to regulation and is the primary water source in many rural parts of the United States.

"We advise families with private wells to have their tap water tested for arsenic," says senior author Professor Margaret Karagas, principal investigator at Dartmouth's Children's Environmental Health and Disease Prevention Research Center. Added study co-lead author Courtney Carignan: "We predict that population-wide arsenic exposure will increase during the second part of the first year of life as the prevalence of formula-feeding increases."

Vitamin D deficiency linked more closely to diabetes than obesity

Public Release: 23-Feb-2015
The Endocrine Society

People who have low levels of vitamin D are more likely to have diabetes, regardless of how much they weigh, according to a new study published in the Endocrine Society's Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism.

The results help clarify the connection between vitamin D, obesity and diabetes. According to the Society's Scientific Statement on the Non-skeletal Effects of Vitamin D, studies have found that people who have low levels of vitamin D are more likely to be obese. They also are more likely to have Type 2 diabetes, prediabetes and metabolic syndrome than people with normal vitamin D levels.

Vitamin D helps the body absorb calcium and maintain bone and muscle health. The skin naturally produces this vitamin after exposure to sunlight. People also absorb smaller amounts of the vitamin through foods, such as milk fortified with vitamin D. More than 1 billion people worldwide are estimated to have deficient levels of vitamin D due to limited sunshine exposure.


The analysis found that obese subjects who did not have glucose metabolism disorders had higher levels of vitamin D than diabetic subjects. Likewise, lean subjects with diabetes or another glucose metabolism disorder were more likely to have low levels of vitamin D. Vitamin D levels were directly correlated with glucose levels, but not with BMI.

"Our findings indicate that vitamin D is associated more closely with glucose metabolism than obesity," said one of the study's authors, Manuel Macías-González, PhD, of Complejo Hospitalario de Málaga (Virgen de la Victoria) and the University of Málaga. "The study suggests that vitamin D deficiency and obesity interact synergistically to heighten the risk of diabetes and other metabolic disorders. The average person may be able to reduce their risk by maintaining a healthy diet and getting enough outdoor activity."

Water fluoridation above a certain level linked to higher rates of underactive thyroid

Public Release: 23-Feb-2015

Water fluoridation above a certain level is linked to 30 per cent higher than expected rates of underactive thyroid (hypothyroidism) in England, suggests research published online in the Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health.

The findings prompt the researchers to call for a rethink of public health policy to fluoridate the water supply in a bid to protect the nation's tooth health.

In England, around 10 per cent of the population (6 million) live in areas with a naturally or artificially fluoridated water supply of 1 mg fluoride per litre of drinking water.


In areas with fluoride levels above 0.7 mg/l, they found higher than expected rates of hypothyroidism than in areas with levels below this dilution.


"Consideration needs to be given to reducing fluoride exposure, and public dental health interventions should stop [those] reliant on ingested fluoride and switch to topical fluoride-based and non-fluoride-based interventions," they conclude.

Study finds peanut consumption in infancy prevents peanut allergy

Public Release: 23-Feb-2015
NIH/National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases

Introduction of peanut products into the diets of infants at high risk of developing peanut allergy was safe and led to an 81 percent reduction in the subsequent development of the allergy, a clinical trial has found. The study was supported by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), part of the National Institutes of Health, and was conducted by the NIAID-funded Immune Tolerance Network (ITN). The results appear in the current online issue of the New England Journal of Medicine and were presented today at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology.

Researchers led by Gideon Lack, M.D., of King's College London, designed a study called Learning Early About Peanut Allergy (LEAP), based on observations that Israeli children have lower rates of peanut allergy compared to Jewish children of similar ancestry residing in the United Kingdom. Unlike children in the UK, Israeli children begin consuming peanut-containing foods early in life. The study tested the hypothesis that the very low rates of peanut allergy in Israeli children were a result of high levels of peanut consumption beginning in infancy.


Keep calm, anger and anxiety can trigger a heart attack!

Public Release: 23-Feb-2015
University of Sydney

University of Sydney research reveals that the risk of a heart attack is 8.5 times higher in the two hours following a burst of intense anger.

Published today in European Heart Journal: Acute Cardiovascular Care, this is the first Australian study to investigate the link between acute emotional triggers and high risk of severe cardiac episodes.

"Our findings confirm what has been suggested in prior studies and anecdotal evidence, even in films - that episodes of intense anger can act as a trigger for a heart attack," said lead author Dr Thomas Buckley, Sydney Nursing School, University of Sydney, and researcher at Royal North Shore Hospital.

"The data shows that the higher risk of a heart attack isn't necessarily just while you're angry - it lasts for two hours after the outburst.


"The triggers for these burst of intense anger were associated with arguments with family members (29 per cent), argument with others (42 per cent), work anger (14 per cent) and driving anger (14 per cent)," said Dr Buckley.

"The data also revealed that episodes of anxiety can also make you more likely to have heart attack.

"High levels of anxiety were associated with a 9.5 fold increased risk of triggering a heart attack in the two hours after the anxiety episode.

"Increased risk following intense anger or anxiety is most likely due to increased heart rate, blood pressure, tightening of blood vessels and increased clotting, all associated with triggering heart attacks," he said.


Long-term nitrogen fertilizer use disrupts plant-microbe mutualisms

Public Release: 23-Feb-2015
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

When exposed to nitrogen fertilizer over a period of years, nitrogen-fixing bacteria called rhizobia evolve to become less beneficial to legumes - the plants they normally serve, researchers report in a new study.

These findings, reported in the journal Evolution, may be of little interest to farmers, who generally grow only one type of plant and can always add more fertilizer to boost plant growth. But in natural areas adjacent to farmland, where fertilizer runoff occurs, or in areas where nitrogen oxides from the burning of fossil fuels settle, a change in the quality of soil rhizobia could have "far-reaching ecological and environmental consequences," the researchers wrote.

"The nitrogen that we apply to agricultural fields doesn't stay on those fields, and atmospheric nitrogen deposition doesn't stay by the power plant that generates it," said University of Illinois plant biology professor Katy Heath , who led the study with Jennifer Lau , of Michigan State University. "So this work is not just about a fertilized soybean field. Worldwide, the nitrogen cycle is off. We've changed it fundamentally."

Not that long ago, before the advent of industrial fertilizers and the widespread use of fossil fuels, soil nitrogen was a scarce commodity. Some plants, the legumes, found a way to procure the precious nitrogen they needed - from rhizobia.

"The rhizobia fix nitrogen - from atmospheric nitrogen that we're breathing in and out all the time - to plant-available forms," Heath said. "Plants can't just take it up from the atmosphere; they have to get it in the form of nitrate or ammonium."

In return, legumes shelter the rhizobia in their roots and supply them with carbon. This partnership benefits the bacteria and gives legumes an advantage in nitrogen-poor soils. Previous studies have shown that nitrogen fertilizers can affect the diversity of species that grow in natural areas, Heath said. In areas polluted with fertilizer runoff, for example, legumes decline while other plants become more common.


A genetic analysis of the microbes revealed that the composition of the bacterial populations was similar between fertilized and unfertilized plots: The same families of rhizobia were present in each. But rhizobia from the fertilized plots had evolved in a way that made them less useful to the legumes, Heath said.


Tests reveal under-reported exposure to tobacco smoke among preemies with lung disease

Public Release: 23-Feb-2015
Johns Hopkins Medicine

Public health experts have long known that tobacco smoke exposure (TSE) can be harmful for children with bronchopulmonary dysplasia, a lung disease that often accompanies premature birth.

Now a small study led by Johns Hopkins Children's Center investigators using hair samples to measure nicotine levels not only affirms that TSE is common in this population, but also reveals significant exposure among children whose caregivers claim not to smoke at home. The findings are published online Feb. 2 in the journal Pediatrics.

"We found that more than one-fifth of children whose caregivers report nonsmoking households have significant exposure," says investigator Sharon McGrath-Morrow, M.D., M.B.A., professor of pediatrics and a lung specialist at Johns Hopkins Children's Center. "The hope is that our study will lead to better ways to protect this vulnerable population of children."


However, the study reports, 22 percent of children whose caregivers said lived in nonsmoking households showed significant TSE that was similar to children who did live in smoking households, suggesting that either parents weren't correctly reporting smoking habits or that children were getting TSE elsewhere.

The investigators say some of the children may have been getting exposure in multiunit housing, where about one-half of the study participants lived. The researchers cautioned, however, that this finding was not statistically significant and may have been due to chance. But they said they observed a trend toward higher nicotine levels in patients of nonsmoking families who lived in multiunit buildings that allowed smoking when compared to those living in buildings that didn't.

Nicotine exposure had a measurable effect on the most vulnerable of these children -- the ones who required supplemental oxygen or mechanical ventilation at home. The researchers saw a six to seven-fold uptick in the risk for inpatient hospitalization and activity limitations within this group as the nicotine levels in their hair increased.






Star Buzzed Our Solar System during Human Prehistory

If humans are still here when comets displaced by this get here, there are likely to be some people claiming they are a sign by God of his displeasure of their current society.

February 21, 2015 |By Ron Cowen and Nature magazine

A recently discovered stellar neighbour of the Sun penetrated the extreme fringes of the Solar System—the closest encounter ever documented—at around the time that modern humans began spreading from Africa into Eurasia.


The red dwarf star, which has a mass about 8% that of the Sun and is orbited by a 'brown dwarf' companion—a body with too little heft to sustain the thermonuclear reactions that enable stars to shine—was discovered in 2013 in images recorded by NASA’s Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) mission. It is relatively nearby, at about 6 parsecs (19.6 light years) away.


Tracing the trajectory of the star and its brown dwarf companion back in time, Mamajek’s team found with 98% confidence that Scholz’s star passed within the Solar System's Oort cloud, a reservoir of comets, about 70,000 years ago.

The star sped through the outer Solar System at 83 kilometres per second, and came within 0.25 parsecs of the Sun (or 52,000 times the Earth–Sun distance), the team reports in the February 10 issue of Astrophysical Journal Letters. By comparison, the closest star to the Solar System known today, Proxima Centauri, lies 1.3 parsecs from the Sun. The encounter is the closest-known passage of a star that has a well-documented velocity and distance, the team says.


Because Scholz’s star is puny and sped by quickly, it would have had a negligible impact on the Oort cloud, Mamajek notes. And any comets that the star might have sent hurtling towards the inner Solar System will not arrive for another few hundred thousand years, says Tremaine. However, more-massive stars penetrating the Oort cloud in the distant past might have triggered major comet showers that pummelled the planets and led to some of the mass extinction events on Earth, says Mamajek.

10 Simple Things That Will Make You Happier, Backed By Science

1. Exercise more – 7 minutes might be enough •••
Exercise has such a profound effect on our happiness and well-being that it’s actually been proven to be an effective strategy for overcoming depression.

2. Sleep more – you’ll be less sensitive to negative emotions •••

3. Move closer to work – a short commute is worth more than a big house •••

4. Spend time with friends and family – don’t regret it on your deathbed •••

5. Go outside – happiness is maximized at 13.9°c (157.02 f) •••

6. Help others – 100 hours a year is the magical number •••

7. Practice smiling – it can alleviate pain •••

A new study led by a michigan state university business scholar suggests customer-service workers who fake smile throughout the day worsen their mood and withdraw from work, affecting productivity. But workers who smile as a result of cultivating positive thoughts – such as a tropical vacation or a child’s recital – improve their mood and withdraw less. •••

8. Plan a trip – but don’t take one ••• •••

9. Meditate – rewire your brain for happiness •••

10. Practice gratitude – increase both happiness and life satisfaction •••

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Intoxicated on YouTube

Public Release: 20-Feb-2015
University of Pittsburgh analysis finds popular YouTube videos drown viewers with positive portrayals of drunkenness
University of Pittsburgh Schools of the Health Sciences

The 70 most popular videos depicting drunkenness on YouTube account for more than 330 million views, with little portrayal of the negative outcomes of excessive alcohol consumption, according to an analysis led by the University of Pittsburgh Center for Research on Media, Technology, and Health (CRMTH).


There were a total of 333,246,875 views for all 70 videos combined.

• Humor was juxtaposed with alcohol use in 79 percent of the videos.
• Motor vehicle use was present in 24 percent.
• Although 86 percent of the videos showed active intoxication, only 7 percent contained references to alcohol dependence.
• An average of 23.2 "likes" were registered for every "dislike."
• While 89 percent of the videos involved males, only 49 percent involved females.
• A specific brand of alcohol was referenced in 44 percent of the videos.


Dr. Primack found it concerning that nearly half the videos contained specific brand references. While this could indicate industry influence, the researchers did not note any clear indication of intentional advertising. Past research has linked exposure to brand references in popular media to encouraging alcohol consumption.

A lower IQ has been linked to greater and riskier drinking among young adult men

Public Release: 20-Feb-2015
Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research

Although several studies have shown an association between intelligence and various health-related outcomes, the research on cognitive abilities and alcohol-related problems has been inconsistent. A new study of the association between IQ-test results and drinking, measured as both total intake and pattern of use, has found that a lower IQ is clearly associated with greater and riskier drinking among young adult men, although their poor performance on the IQ-test may also be linked to other disadvantages.


"We found that lower results on IQ tests in Swedish adolescent men are associated with a higher consumption of alcohol, measured in both terms of total intake and binge drinking," said Sjölund. "It may be that a higher IQ results in healthier lifestyle choices. Suggested explanations for the association between IQ and different health outcomes, could be childhood conditions, which could influence both IQ and health, or that a socio-economic position as an adult mediates the association."

"By taking into account as little as four measured characteristics of the men, including their backgrounds," added Falkstedt, "the authors seem to be able to explain a large part of the association between IQ and heavy drinking. I think this may be a main message of this large cohort study: poor performance on IQ tests tend to go along with other disadvantages, for instance, poorer social background and emotional problems, which may explain the association with risky alcohol consumption. In reality, other differences of importance are likely to exist among the men, which could further explain the IQ-alcohol association."


another important explanation of 'bad choices' among lower-IQ individuals may be feelings of inadequacy and frustration, I think. A number of studies have shown that a lower IQ in childhood or adolescence is associated with an increased risk of suicide over many years in adulthood."


Powder vs. crack: NYU study identifies arrest risk disparity for cocaine use

Public Release: 20-Feb-2015
Socioeconomically disadvantaged adults are more likely to use crack over powder cocaine, and are thus more likely to be subject to arrest
New York University

In light of the current sentencing disparity(18:1) between crack and powder cocaine possession in the United States, researchers from New York University's Center for Drug Use and HIV Research (NYU CDUHR) examined socioeconomic correlates of use of each, and relations between use and arrest, to determine who may be at highest risk for arrest and imprisonment.


In their analysis, now in the on-line edition of Drug and Alcohol Dependence, crack users were at higher risk than powder cocaine users for reporting a lifetime arrest or multiple recent arrests. Racial minorities were at low risk for powder cocaine use, but they tended to be at high risk for crack use.

"Much of the public literature simply focuses on racial minorities being at high risk for arrest and incarceration due to drug possession" said Dr. Palamar. Our research shows it is much more complex than that. Crack users are much more likely to experience arrest than powder cocaine users, and being poor is the true overwhelming correlate, not being black or a minority."

Dr. Palamar and his team noted that individuals with higher education, higher income or full-time employment were much less likely to use crack; however, these were sometimes risk factors for powder cocaine use, which is often more associated with affluence. The researchers found that blacks were in fact at increased risk for lifetime and recent crack use, but not when controlling for other socioeconomic variables. However, blacks who did use either powder cocaine or crack tended to use at higher frequencies, possibly placing them at even higher risk for arrest.


The research study confirms that crack tends to be used by a more marginalized segment of society, and it is this socioeconomically disadvantaged segment of society who is at higher risk for arrest and subject to the 18:1 sentencing disparity. Since black individuals in the US are so much more likely to live in poverty, disproportionate numbers have been incarcerated for crack offenses, while more educated and affluent individuals are less likely to be subject to legal consequences for powder cocaine use.

"We wrote this paper to inform the public and Congress about the disparities in the sentencing laws between crack and powder cocaine which continue to have profound legal and social consequences for users," said, Dr. Palamar who is also an assistant professor of population health at NYU's Langone Medical Center. "The sentencing laws appear to unfairly target the poor, with blacks ultimately experiencing high incarceration rates as a result."


Safety and life-saving efficacy of statins have been exaggerated, says USF scientist

Public Release: 20-Feb-2015
University of South Florida (USF Health)

Hailed as miracle drugs when they hit the market two decades ago, statins, the cholesterol-lowering drugs prescribed to prevent heart attacks, are not as effective nor as safe as we have been led to believe, say Dr. David M. Diamond, a professor of psychology, molecular pharmacology and physiology at the University of South Florida, and Dr. Uffe Ravnskov, an independent health researcher and an expert in cholesterol and cardiovascular disease.

According to Diamond and Ravnskov, statins produce a dramatic reduction in cholesterol levels, but they have "failed to substantially improve cardiovascular outcomes." They further state that the many studies touting the efficacy of statins have not only neglected to account for the numerous serious adverse side effects of the drugs, but supporters of statins have used what the authors refer to as "statistical deception" to make inflated claims about their effectiveness.


The authors emphasized that low cholesterol levels related to statin use have frequently been associated with an increased risk of cancer. They also noted that most statin trials are terminated within two to five years, a period too short to see most cancers develop. Nevertheless, studies have shown a greater incidence of cancer in people who take statins, and one long-term study demonstrated a dramatic increase in the incidence of breast cancer among women who had used statins for more than 10 years.

They emphasized that the public needs to be wary of conflicts of interest in the medical community and pharmaceutical industry when it comes to touting the benefits of statins and skewing the data in such a way as to make the drugs seem more effective at lowering cardiovascular disease and heart attack risks than they may actually be.


The authors advocate other health beneficial strategies that are known to reduce cardiovascular risk, such as cessation of smoking, weight control, exercise and stress reduction. They also emphasized the great value of a low carbohydrate diet for normalizing all of the biomarkers of cardiovascular risk, with excellent outcomes, especially for people with type 2 diabetes.


Education 'experts' may lack expertise, study finds

Public Release: 20-Feb-2015
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

The people most often cited as "education experts" in blogs and news stories may have the backing of influential organizations - but have little background in education and education policy, a new study suggests.

The findings are cause for concern because some prominent interest groups are promoting reform agendas and striving to influence policymakers and public opinion using individuals who have substantial media relations skills but little or no expertise in education research, say the authors of the study, Joel R. Malin and Christopher Lubienski, both at the University of Illinois.


affiliation with a policy or advocacy organization also substantially increased an expert's media presence. People associated with the American Enterprise Institute were nearly 2.5 times more likely to be cited in education media.

Likewise, experts were 1.78 and 1.5 times more likely to be mentioned in blogs if they were affiliated with Cato or the American Enterprise Institute, respectively.

[Both are conservative think tanks.]


While the three people in the sample who were affiliated with Cato each received the maximum number of points for blog mentions, these individuals' average estimated expertise score was 4.67 - substantially lower than the average score for the full sample, which was greater than 20.

Perhaps the most troubling finding was that possession of a doctoral degree was associated with 67 percent fewer blog citations and 60 percent fewer newspaper mentions, and fewer Klout points, which indicates that academic researchers with empirical expertise in education are often far removed from popular and policy conversations, Malin and Lubienski said.

"Our findings suggest that individuals with less expertise can often have greater success in media penetration," said Malin, a curriculum specialist with the Pathways Resource Center and a doctoral candidate in educational administration and leadership at the university. "Although some individuals might not have formal training in research methods for analyzing the issues about which they are speaking, they possess skills and orientations that make them accessible and appealing to the media. And when these people are affiliated with organizations that have strong media arms or outreach efforts, they have the support and the incentive to engage broader and policy audiences."


People with multiple sclerosis may have lower levels of key nutrients

The study was done on women, I would guess because more women than men have MS, but it seems likely it could apply to men also.

Public Release: 19-Feb-2015
American Academy of Neurology


On average, the women who had MS had lower levels of five nutrients with antioxidant or anti-inflammatory properties: food folate, vitamin E, magnesium, lutein-zeaxanthin and quercetin. For food folate, the women with MS had average intake of 244 micrograms (mcg), while the healthy women had an average intake of 321 mcg. The recommended daily allowance is 400 mcg. For magnesium, the women with MS had average intake of 254 milligrams (mg), while the healthy women met the recommended daily allowance of 320 mg with an average of 321 mg. The women with MS also had a lower average percentage of their calories from fat than the healthy participants.

"Since MS is a chronic inflammatory disorder, having enough nutrients with anti-inflammatory properties may help prevent the disease or reduce the risk of attacks for those who already have MS," said study author Sandra D. Cassard, ScD, with John Hopkins University in Baltimore, MD. "Antioxidants are also critical to good health and help reduce the effects of other types of damage that can occur on a cellular level and contribute to neurologic diseases like MS. Whether the nutritional differences that we identified in the study are a cause of MS or a result of having it is not yet clear."


Flame retardants found to cause metabolic, liver problems

Public Release: 19-Feb-2015
University of New Hampshire

Chemicals used as synthetic flame retardants that are found in common household items such as couches, carpet padding, and electronics have been found to cause metabolic and liver problems that can lead to insulin resistance, which is a major cause of obesity, according to new research from the University of New Hampshire.

"Being obese or overweight increases one's risk of many diseases including Type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, coronary heart disease, stroke, gall bladder disease, osteoarthritis, sleep apnea and certain cancers," said Gale Carey, professor of nutrition and the lead researcher.


Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Rep. IL Governor Rauner Gets $750,000 Tax Break, Proposes Slashing Services to Middle Class and Poor

Robert Creamer
Feb. 24, 2015

Illinois' new GOP Governor, Bruce Rauner, will personally receive a $750,000 per year tax cut as a result of his decision not to continue the state's temporary 1.25% income tax surcharge that expired last year.

His taxes were cut by an amount equal to the annual income of 14 families of four making the median income. And remember that after adjusting for inflation, that median income number has not materially increased in about 35 years, since virtually all of the income growth resulting from the massive increase in worker productivity over that period has been siphoned off by speculators like Rauner.

Rauner, who made $61 million in 2013 - or $29,000 per hour - is one of a small group of multi-millionaire speculators who would directly benefit enormously from lower state tax rates. Among them is his friend Ken Griffin, reputedly the wealthiest man in Illinois, who contributed $2.5 million to Rauner's campaign for Governor - and has also pitched in $10 million to a $20 million campaign war chest that Rauner plans to use to run opponents to members of the Legislature that oppose his policies.


Just by way of comparison, remember that a highway worker for the state of Illinois who makes an average income of $49,000 a year laying hot asphalt and filling pot holes, would take about 244 years to make $12 million. But Griffin's pal, Rauner, says he wants to cut the pay for such workers - claiming they make too much and should be paid something closer to the $39,000 a year he says they make in surrounding states.

None of this seems to bother Rauner one bit, since at the same time he and his friends get that big tax cut, Rauner's new state budget promises draconian cuts in services that benefit the middle class and the poor.

Rauner proposed six billion dollars in cuts for state spending on universities, health care, local governments and pensions for state employees.

Here are some high points:

Limiting eligibility for Department of Aging Community Care Programs.
Cutting health care benefits for homecare workers.
Slashing funding for the Department of Children and Family Services.
Eliminating all Department of Children and Family services for youths 18-21.
[See article for many more examples]


The fact is, of course, that Illinois - like most other states - are not in the midst of dramatic declines in economic performance that would require this kind of "belt tightening." In fact, Illinois, like most of America, is wealthier today per person, than at any other time in its history.

The problem is that the wealthy have rigged the economic rules of the game to allow people like Bruce Rauner and the millionaires who got him elected to siphon off most of the wealth for themselves and leave middle income incomes flat.

One of those rigged rules is found in the Illinois State Constitution. It would make sense to get much of the money needed to finance public services from those who have benefited most from the state's economy - rather than those whose incomes have been flat. You'd do that with higher income tax rates on millionaires and billionaires than the one charged for ordinary working people.

But when the state constitution was rewritten in the 1970's, the wealthy organized to insert a provision preventing State Government from having progressive income tax rates. They wanted to keep their own share of taxes low, and to shrink state revenue in general by requiring that if tax rates go up for them, they have to go up for ordinary people as well.





Older adults with limited mobility may lessen heart problems with activity

Public Release: 18-Feb-2015
American Heart Association
Older adults with limited mobility may lower their risk of heart attack and coronary death for every minute of physical activity, according to research in the Journal of the American Heart Association.

"Reducing time spent being sedentary even by engaging in low-intensity activities could have important cardiovascular benefits for older adults with mobility limitations," said Thomas W. Buford, Ph.D., senior author of the study and director of the Health Promotion Center of the University of Florida Institute on Aging in Gainesville, Florida.


Unhealthy eating habits outpacing healthy eating patterns in most world regions

Public Release: 18-Feb-2015
The Lancet

Worldwide, consumption of healthy foods such as fruit and vegetables has improved during the past two decades, but has been outpaced by the increased intake of unhealthy foods including processed meat and sweetened drinks in most world regions, according to the first study to assess diet quality in 187 countries covering almost 4.5 billion adults, published in The Lancet Global Health journal.

The findings reveal that diet patterns vary widely by national income, with high-income countries generally having better diets based on healthy foods (average score difference +2.5 points), but substantially poorer diets due to a higher intake of unhealthy foods compared with low-income countries (average score difference -33.0 points). On average, older people and women seem to consume better diets.

The highest scores for healthy foods were noted in several low-income countries (eg, Chad and Mali) and Mediterranean nations (eg, Turkey and Greece), possibly reflecting favourable aspects of the Mediterranean diet. In contrast, low scores for healthy foods were shown for some central European countries and republics of the former Soviet Union (eg, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, and Kyrgyzstan).


"By 2020, projections indicate that non-communicable diseases will account for 75% of all deaths. Improving diet has a crucial role to play in reducing this burden", says Dr Imamura.


Sardines move north due to ocean warming

Public Release: 18-Feb-2015
FECYT - Spanish Foundation for Science and Technology

Sardines, anchovies and mackerels play a crucial role in marine ecosystems, as well as having a high commercial value. However, the warming of waters makes them vanish from their usual seas and migrate north, as confirmed by a pioneering study analysing 57,000 fish censuses from 40 years. The researchers warn that coastal towns dependent on these fishery resources must adapt their economies.

The continued increase in water temperature has altered the structure and functioning of marine ecosystems across the world. The effect has been greater in the North Atlantic, with increases of up to 1.3 ºC (2.3 ºF) in the average temperature over the last 30 years.


In a warmer world, ticks that spread disease are arriving earlier, expanding their ranges

Public Release: 18-Feb-2015
Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies

(Millbrook, NY) In the northeastern United States, warmer spring temperatures are leading to shifts in the emergence of the blacklegged ticks that carry Lyme disease and other tick-borne pathogens. At the same time, milder weather is allowing ticks to spread into new geographic regions. Findings were published this week in a special issue of the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B dedicated to climate change and vector-borne diseases.

Conclusions on blacklegged tick emergence were based on nineteen years of data collected at the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies in Millbrook, NY. Located in Dutchess County, the 2,000-acre research campus sits at an epicenter for tick-borne disease. Cary Institute ecologist Dr. Richard S. Ostfeld and his team have amassed one of the most comprehensive field studies on how environmental conditions influence vector-borne disease risk.

Ostfeld, a co-author on the paper, comments, "Nearly two decades of data revealed climate warming trends correlated with earlier spring feeding by nymphal ticks, sometimes by as much as three weeks. If this persists, we will need to move Lyme Disease Awareness Month from May to April."


Can you judge a man by his fingers?

Public Release: 18-Feb-2015
McGill University

Men with short index fingers and long ring fingers are on average nicer towards women, and this unexpected phenomenon stems from the hormones these men have been exposed to in their mother's womb, according to a new study by researchers at McGill University. The findings might help explain why these men tend to have more children.

The study, showing a link between a biological event in fetal life and adult behaviour, was published in the journal Personality and Individual Differences.

Men's index fingers are generally shorter than their ring fingers. The difference is less pronounced in women. Previous research has found that digit ratio - defined as the second digit length divided by the fourth digit length - is an indication of the amount of male hormones, chiefly testosterone, someone has been exposed to as a fetus: the smaller the ratio, the more male hormones. The McGill study suggests that this has an impact on how adult men behave, especially with women.


"When with women, men with smaller ratios were more likely to listen attentively, smile and laugh, compromise or compliment the other person," says Debbie Moskowitz, lead author and Professor of Psychology at McGill. They acted that way in sexual relationships, but also with female friends or colleagues. These men were also less quarrelsome with women than with men, whereas the men with larger ratios were equally quarrelsome with both. For women though, digit ratio variation did not seem to predict how they behaved, the researchers report.


A previous study had found that men with smaller digit ratios have more children. "Our research suggests they have more harmonious relationships with women; these behaviors support the formation and maintenance of relationships with women," Moskowitz says. "This might explain why they have more children on average."


Popular soda ingredient poses cancer risk to consumers

Public Release: 18-Feb-2015
Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health

Public health researchers have analyzed soda consumption data in order to characterize people's exposure to a potentially carcinogenic byproduct of some types of caramel color. Caramel color is a common ingredient in colas and other dark soft drinks. The results show that between 44 and 58 percent of people over the age of six typically have at least one can of soda per day, possibly more, potentially exposing them to 4-methylimidazole (4-MEI), a possible human carcinogen formed during the manufacture of some kinds of caramel color.


Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Study shows beneficial effect of electric fans in extreme heat and humidity

Public Release: 17-Feb-2015
The JAMA Network Journals

Although some public health organizations advise against the use of electric fans in severe heat, a new study published in the February 17 issue of JAMA demonstrated that electric fans prevent heat-related elevations in heart rate and core body temperature.

One review of previous research concluded "no evidence currently exists supporting or refuting the use of electric fans during heat waves" for mortality and illness. However, public health guidance typically warns against fan use in hot weather, with some research suggesting that fan use could potentially accelerate body heating, according to background information in the article.

Ollie Jay, Ph.D., of the University of Sydney, New South Wales, Australia, and colleagues examined the effect of fan use at temperatures and humidities that can no longer be physiologically tolerated without rapid increases in heart rate and core body temperature. Sweat evaporation declines with increasing humidity, so in more humid environments fans may not prevent heat­induced elevations in cardiovascular and thermal (core temperature) strain.


The researchers found that the electric fans prevented heat-related elevations in heart and core temperature up to approximately 80 percent relative humidity at 97°F and 50 percent relative humidity at 108°F. "Thus, contrary to existing guidance, fans may be effective cooling devices for those without air conditioning during hot and humid periods," the authors write. "Advice to the public to stop using fans during heat waves may need to be reevaluated."

The authors note that only young participants were assessed, so similar results would need to be derived for other populations (e.g., elderly with illnesses) and those with diminished sweat production.


Increased DNA mutations in children of teenage fathers

Public Release: 17-Feb-2015
University of Cambridge

A genetic study of over 24,000 parents and their children has shown that the children of teenage fathers have unexpectedly high levels of DNA mutations.

Mutations, the result of DNA copying errors during cell division, can occur in different cells of the body and at different times during life. Some, such as those that occur in 'germ cells' - which create sperm or eggs - cause changes affecting the individual's offspring.

Previously, it was thought that germ cells in both boys and girls go through a similar number of cell divisions, and should have roughly the same rates of DNA mutation by the time an individual reaches puberty.

Now, a new study shows that the number of cell divisions - and consequently DNA mutation rates - experienced by the germ cells of teenage boys is six times higher than for those of girls, and that DNA mutations passed down to the children of teenage fathers are higher as a result.

Researchers say the increased DNA mutations in the reproductive cells of adolescent boys could explain why the children of teenage fathers have a higher risk for disorders such as autism, schizophrenia and spina bifida.

Men produce germ cells throughout their lives, and it was previously assumed that DNA mutation in germ cells increased as men get older - more cell division and greater DNA mutation has occurred as men age.

However, the latest results show that the germ cells of adolescent boys are an exception to this aging rule.


Individuals with type 2 diabetes should exercise after dinner

Public Release: 17-Feb-2015
University of Missouri-Columbia

Individuals with Type 2 diabetes have heightened amounts of sugars and fats in their blood, which increases their risks for cardiovascular diseases such as strokes and heart attacks. Exercise is a popular prescription for individuals suffering from the symptoms of Type 2 diabetes, but little research has explored whether these individuals receive more benefits from working out before or after dinner. Now, researchers at the University of Missouri have found that individuals with Type 2 diabetes can lower their risks of cardiovascular diseases more effectively by exercising after a meal.

"This study shows that it is not just the intensity or duration of exercising that is important but also the timing of when it occurs," said Jill Kanaley, professor in the MU Department of Nutrition and Exercise Physiology. "Results from this study show that resistance exercise has its most powerful effect on reducing glucose and fat levels in one's blood when performed after dinner."


Women active a few times weekly have lower risk of heart disease, stroke and blood clots

Public Release: 16-Feb-2015
American Heart Association

Middle-aged women who are physically active a few times per week have lower risks of heart disease, stroke and blood clots than inactive women, according to research in the American Heart Association journal Circulation. Surprisingly, more frequent physical activity didn't result in further reductions in risk, researchers said.

In the study:

• Women who performed strenuous physical activity-- enough to cause sweating or a faster heart beat -- two to three times per week were about 20 percent less likely to develop heart disease, strokes or blood clots compared to participants who reported little or no activity.

• Among active women, there was little evidence of further risk reductions with more frequent activity.

Physical activities associated with reduced risk included walking, gardening, and cycling.


How income fraud made the housing bubble worse

Public Release: 16-Feb-2015
Princeton University, Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs


The researchers reveal that, in low-income zip codes, IRS-reported incomes and earnings reported on mortgages in fact differed wildly from 2002 to 2005. The researchers place the blame for falsified earnings listed on mortgage applications -- which the researchers call "buyer income overstatement" -- on brokers producing mortgages intended to be sold as securities. They found that this type of mortgage fraud spiked in low-income zip codes from 2002 to 2005, and originated from private-label issuers, not government-sponsored enterprises.

The research shows that fraud -- not economic prosperity -- was the reason people in low-income areas received a greater number of mortgages in the early 2000s, said paper coauthor Atif Mian, the Theodore A. Wells '29 Professor of Economics and Public Affairs and director of the Julis-Rabinowitz Center for Public Policy and Finance. At the time, credulous media and officials chalked up spikes in home purchases and approved mortgages in impoverished areas to gentrification, he said.


"I think one of the most interesting questions raised by our analysis is: why did mortgage fraud explode from 2002 to 2005? One potential answer is that the outward shift in mortgage credit supply itself was responsible for higher fraud. Press reports show that fraudulent overstatement was perpetrated by brokers originating mortgages designed to be sold into the non-agency securitization market.


Hearing experts break sound barrier for children born without hearing nerve

Public Release: 13-Feb-2015
University of Southern California - Health Sciences

A multi-institutional team of hearing and communication experts led by the Keck School of Medicine of the University of Southern California (USC) is breaking sound barriers for children born without a hearing nerve in a clinical trial backed by the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Launched in March 2014, the three-year study has enrolled five of 10 participants and successfully implanted an auditory brainstem implant (ABI) device in four children who previously could not hear.

The research team will present preliminary findings at the American Association for the Advancement of Sciences (AAAS) 2015 Annual Meeting in San Jose, California, on Feb. 14.

"Initial activation of the ABI is like a newborn entering the world and hearing for the first time, which means these children will need time to learn to interpret what they are sensing through the device as 'sound,'" said audiologist Laurie Eisenberg, Ph.D., a Keck School of Medicine of USC otolaryngology professor and study co-leader. "All of our study participants whose ABIs have been activated are progressing at expected or better rates. We are optimistic that, with intensive training and family support, these children will eventually be able to talk on the phone."


Marijuana use is associated with excessive daytime sleepiness in adolescents

Public Release: 13-Feb-2015
Nationwide Children's Hospital

A study published by researchers from Nationwide Children's Hospital, found 10 percent of adolescents sent to a Sleep Center for evaluation of excessive daytime sleepiness with testing results consistent with narcolepsy had urine drug screens positive for marijuana, confounding the results.

"Our findings highlight and support the important step of obtaining a urine drug screen, in any patients older than 13 years of age, before accepting test findings consistent with narcolepsy, prior to physicians confirming this diagnosis," said Mark L. Splaingard, MD, director of the Sleep Disorders Center at Nationwide Children's Hospital and senior-author on the study. "Urine drug screening is also important in any population studies looking at the prevalence of narcolepsy in adolescents, especially with the recent trend in marijuana decriminalization and legalization."


Sunday, February 22, 2015

Health care registration deadline extended for some

ByArden FarhiCBS NewsFebruary 16, 2015,

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) said it will extend Sunday's registration deadline for anyone who recently started but did not complete registration on the federally-administered health care marketplace.

"For those consumers who were unable to complete their enrollment because of longer than normal wait times at the call center in the last three days or because of a technical issue such as being unable to submit an application because their income could not be verified, we will provide them with a time-limited special enrollment period," HHS spokesman Aaron Albright said in an emailed statement.

The extended enrollment period - from Feb. 16-22 - will give consumers who encountered delays this weekend an extra week to complete registration on or over the phone. Health care coverage for those users would kick in Mar. 1.

High call volume and a glitch in the software used to verify users' income were blamed for the slowdown, the Associated Press reported.

The extension does not apply to new applicants - only to those who were "in line" on February 13-15., which tracks Obamacare enrollment numbers, reported that in addition to the 37 states participating in the federal exchange, many states that run their own exchanges have extended their registration periods, including California, Colorado, the District of Columbia, Maryland, Massachusetts, New York, and Washington, among others. Last week, HHS reported that 10.6 million people had either submitted a new application or renewed their 2014 plan. The Obama Administration hoped to see 9.1 million signed up for health care by the end of 2015. While it appears to have hit that number, there is some attrition expected.

Networks speed up TV shows to play more ads

By Anthony Mason February 20, 2015,


"My voice sounds so different because I think they speed it up a little bit, they speed it up a few frames to get another commercial in there," Cox told Conan O'Brien.

She's right. With ad growth slowing and ratings slipping at some cable channels, some broadcasters are shortening their shows to have room for more ads.

A viewer noticed it while watching "Seinfeld" and posted to YouTube a side-by side comparison of the same episode played on different channels. One version is sped up, so it's 15 seconds shorter than the original.

John Pellicano, CEO of Duplication Services, speeds up shows for some cable and broadcast networks.

"We can take a 30 minute 'I Love Lucy' show and make it 28 minutes without editing out any of the content at all," Pellicano says.

With a 30-second ad for the top cable channels selling for more than $17,000, adding two minutes of commercials can add another $68,000 in revenue.

"If there's a lot of movement in the program, you'll see stuttering, or stepping, people's voices speed up, so there are limitations," Pellicano says.


More than a thousand join Muslim "ring of peace" at Oslo synagogue

OSLO, Norway -- More than 1,000 people formed a "ring of peace" Saturday outside Oslo's main synagogue at the initiative of a group of young Muslims.

The event in the Norwegian capital follows a series of attacks against Jews in Europe, including the killings of 17 people in Paris last month and two fatal shootings in Copenhagen, Denmark a week ago.

One of the eight independent organizers of Saturday's event in Oslo, Hajrah Arshad said the gathering shows "that Islam is about love and unity."

"We want to demonstrate that Jews and Muslims do not hate each other," co-organizer Zeeshan Abdullah told the crowd, standing in a half-circle before the white synagogue. "We do not want individuals to define what Islam is for the rest of us."

"There are many more peace-mongers than warmongers," he added.


Friday, February 20, 2015

Women make more effective legislators than men

Bloomberg NewsFebruary 20, 2015

Everyone knows that Congress does very, very little. The Washington Post crunched the numbers last year and found that, mathematically,"no Congress in 40 years has been paid more to pass less legislation." It's also a fact that Congress is heavily male. The current, 114th Congress has a record 104 women - but that's 104 of 535 lawmakers inall. (And somehow we're supposed to cheer.) But what if these things are connected - that men are less likely to introduce legislation and cut deals than women? It turns out that women have been considerably more likely than their male counterparts to get bills through, and to achieve that near-unicorn of modern Washington:bipartisan agreement.

Thenumbers, as publishedThursdayby a new startup called Quorum, founded not a month ago by two Harvard seniors, seemto bear this out. Over the last seven years, in the Senate, the "average" female senator has introduced 96.31 bills, while the "average" male introduced 70.72. In the House, compare 29.65 for women, and 27.2 for men. And women were more likely to gain co-sponsorship: In the Senate, women had an average of 9.10 co-sponsors, men 5.94. In the House, the difference was smaller - but women still proved better, or more interested, in sponsoring together: Female Representatives averaged 16.84 co-sponsors, and men 14.64.


Women are also more likely to co-sponsor with other women than men are with other men. From the 111thCongress to the present one, the typical female senator cosponsored 6.29 bills with another female senator, as opposed to 4.07 bills cosponsored by male senators with a male peer.


There's also an unusual streak of bipartisanship. Susan Collins co-sponsored a whopping 740 bills with opposite party sponsors. Lisa Murkowski co-sponsored 445, Kelly Ayotte 217, Klobuchar 200, and Mazie Hirono 172.


Last December, in something of a holiday wish-list, Michael Lewis wrotefor Bloomberg View that women should "henceforth make all Wall Street trading decisions." They are less prone to egregious risk-taking, and overconfidence. Lewis compared trading to pornography: "Women may like it, but they don't like it nearly as much as men, and they certainly don't like it in ways that create difficulties for society. Put them in charge of all financial decision-making and the decisions will be more boring, but more sociable."

Boring, sociable - how about just plain effective?

The Year Without a Summer Was a Bizarre Weather Disaster in 1816

By Robert McNamara
19th Century History Expert

The Year Without a Summer, a peculiar 19th century disaster, played out during 1816 when weather in Europe and North America took a bizarre turn that resulted in widespread crop failures and even famine.

The weather in 1816 was unprecedented. Spring arrived but then everything seemed to turn backward, as cold temperatures returned. The sky seemed permanently overcast. The lack of sunlight became so severe that farmers lost their crops and food shortages were reported in Ireland, France, England, and the United States.


It would be more than a century before anyone understood the reason for the peculiar weather disaster: the eruption of an enormous volcano on a remote island in the Indian Ocean a year earlier had thrown enormous amounts of volcanic ash into the upper atmosphere.

The dust from Mount Tambora, which had erupted in early April 1815, had shrouded the globe. And with sunlight blocked, 1816 did not have a normal summer.


In Ireland the summer of 1816 was much rainier than normal, and the potato crop failed. In other European countries wheat crops were dismal, leading to bread shortages.

In Switzerland, the damp and dismal summer of 1816 led to the creation of a significant literary work. A group of writers, including Lord Byron, Percy Bysshe Shelley, and his future wife Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin, challenged each other to write dark tales inspired by the gloomy and chilly weather.

During the miserable weather Mary Shelley wrote her classic novel Frankenstein.


When the volcano at Mount Tambora erupted it was a massive and terrifying event which killed tens of thousands of people. It was actually a larger volcanic eruption than the eruption at Krakatoa decades later.

The Krakatoa disaster has always overshadowed Mount Tambora for a simple reason: the news of Krakatoa traveled quickly by telegraph, and appeared in newspapers quickly. By comparison, people in Europe and North America only heard about Mount Tambora months later. And the event did not hold much meaning for them.

It was not until well into the 20th century that scientists began to link the two events, the eruption of Mount Tambora and the Year Without a Summer. There have been scientists who dispute or discount the relationship between the volcano and the crop failures on the other side of the world the following year, but most scientific thought finds the link credible.


Middle-aged men at highest risk of suicide after breathing poor air

Public Release: 12-Feb-2015
University of Utah Health Sciences

(Feb. 12, 2015)--A new study from the University of Utah is adding to the small, but growing body of research that links air pollution exposure to suicide.

In research published today in The American Journal of Epidemiology, investigator Amanda Bakian, Ph.D., an assistant professor of psychiatry at the University of Utah, and her colleagues outline chemical and meteorological variables that are risk factors for suicide. Their study, titled "Risk assessment of air pollution and suicide," examines how those factors play out among different genders and age groups. The findings build on other research by Bakian released in April 2014, when she found that fine particulates and nitrogen dioxide in air pollution are linked with an increased risk for suicide.

In the latest study, Bakian and researchers found an increased risk of suicide associated with short-term exposure to nitrogen dioxide and fine particulate matter among Salt Lake City residents who died by suicide between 2000 to 2010. In particular, men and Salt Lake City residents between 36 to 64 years of age experienced the highest risk of suicide following short-term air pollution exposure.


Bakian examined the records of more than 1,500 people who died by suicide in Salt Lake County between Jan. 1, 2000, and Dec. 31, 2010, and found that the odds of completing suicide were 20 percent higher for people exposed to increased levels of nitrogen dioxide in the two to three days before their deaths. Similarly, individuals exposed to high concentrations of fine particulate matter (PM2.5) in the two to three days before a suicide experienced 5 percent higher odds of suicide. Research found the risk was highest during the spring and fall --not the winter months when inversions are most common.

Data from the records also revealed that men experienced a 25 percent increase in the odds of suicide following short-term exposure to nitrogen dioxide and a 6 percent increase in the odds of suicide following short-term exposure to fine particulate matter. In addition, the odds of suicide in people between the ages of 36 to 64 increased by 20 percent following short-term exposure to nitrogen dioxide and 7 percent following short-term exposure to fine particulate matter.


Growth in Real Average Income for the Bottom 90%


Growth in real average income for the bottom 90%


Share of income earned by top 1%, 1975–2013


Pentagon report calls for military to prepare for climate change

Mary Caperton Morton
Feb. 2015

The U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) is charged with ensuring national security against threats, both domestic and foreign. Now the Pentagon has released a report detailing its strategy against a developing foe: climate change. The 20-page “Climate Change Adaptation Roadmap” outlines actions the military can take to adapt to and mitigate the effects of climate change, both at home and internationally.

“Climate change does not directly cause conflict, but it can significantly add to the challenges of global instability, hunger, poverty and conflict. Food and water shortages, pandemic disease, disputes over refugees and resources, more severe natural disasters — all place additional burdens on economies, societies and institutions around the world,” wrote then-Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel in a foreword to the report.


More specifically, the report breaks down a few of the potential threats from climate change, which the report called a “threat multiplier” and an “immediate risk to national security.” For example:

Rising sea levels may lead to increased storm surges and flooding of coastal defense structures and military bases, as well as impact the execution of amphibious landings in combat situations.

The opening of formerly frozen Arctic sea lanes will increase the need for air, sea and land capabilities and capacity in the Arctic region in order for the DOD to monitor events, safeguard freedom of navigation, and ensure stability in this resource-rich area.

Increased frequency of extreme weather could impact aviation as well as intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capability. Recovery from extreme weather events could require increased intervention from the National Guard.

Drought may impact operations, creating water shortages and fire hazards. Dust may become more of a factor during training activities, which may interfere with sensitive equipment, or may require more extensive dust control measures to meet environmental compliance requirements.

Stressed, threatened and endangered species and related ecosystems, on and adjacent to DOD installations, may result in changing land management requirements that could affect training and operations protocols.

Climate change is a global phenomenon and accordingly, the scope of the report is international: “The impacts of climate change may cause instability in other countries by impairing access to food and water, damaging infrastructure, spreading disease, uprooting and displacing large numbers of people, compelling mass migration, interrupting commercial activity, or restricting electricity availability,” the report states.

In addition, the report states, “these developments could undermine already fragile governments that are unable to respond effectively or challenge currently stable governments, as well as increasing competition and tension between countries vying for limited resources. These gaps in governance can create an avenue for extremist ideologies and conditions that foster terrorism.”

The report was presented during Hagel’s speech at the 11th Conference of Defense Ministers of the Americas, held in Peru in October.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Low vitamin D predicts more severe strokes, poor health post-stroke

Public Release: 11-Feb-2015
Low vitamin D predicts more severe strokes, poor health post-stroke
American Stroke Association Meeting Report Abstract W MP62
American Heart Association

Stroke patients with low vitamin D levels were found to be more likely than those with normal vitamin D levels to suffer severe strokes and have poor health months after stroke, according to research presented at the American Stroke Association's International Stroke Conference 2015.

Low vitamin D has been associated in past studies with neurovascular injury (damage to the major blood vessels supplying the brain, brainstem, and upper spinal cord).

"Many of the people we consider at high risk for developing stroke have low vitamin D levels. Understanding the link between stroke severity and vitamin D status will help us determine if we should treat vitamin D deficiency in these high-risk patients," said Nils Henninger, M.D., senior study author and assistant professor of neurology and psychiatry at University of Massachusetts Medical School in Worchester.


Lower systolic blood pressure reduces risk of stroke

Public Release: 11-Feb-2015
Lower systolic blood pressure reduces risk of stroke
American Stroke Association Meeting Report Abstract 79
American Heart Association

People 60 or older, especially minorities and women, have a lower risk of stroke if the top number (systolic) in their blood pressure is below 140 millimeters of mercury (mm Hg), according to a study presented at the American Stroke Association's International Stroke Conference 2015.

A report published in JAMA in 2014, advised doctors to aim for blood pressure readings of less than 150/90 mm Hg when treating patients 60 or older who do not have diabetes or chronic kidney disease. That raised the standard for systolic blood pressure, by 10 points from previous guidance, stirring controversy among healthcare providers, agencies and professional groups.

While the 2014 report relied on evidence from clinical trials, it did not consider data from various other types of studies that support a systolic blood pressure goal for these patients of less than 140, said Chuanhui Dong, Ph.D., lead author of the new study and research associate professor at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine.

The new study, by researchers at Miami and Columbia University, involved 1,706 people older than 60 (average age 72) in the Northern Manhattan Study in New York City. None of the participants had a previous stroke, diabetes or kidney disease. After adjustment for age, sex, race/ethnicity and use of blood pressure medications, stroke risk was 70 percent higher for people with systolic pressure in the 140-149 range, compared with those whose readings fell below 140.

The results support what some health experts had feared, Dong said: "Raising the treatment bar could lead to more strokes."


Stem cell transplants for severe multiple sclerosis

Public Release: 11-Feb-2015
Stem cell transplants may work better than existing drug for severe multiple sclerosis
American Academy of Neurology

Stem cell transplants may be more effective than the drug mitoxantrone for people with severe cases of multiple sclerosis (MS), according to a new study published in the February 11, 2015, online issue of Neurology®, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology.


Mancardi noted that the serious side effects that occurred with the stem cell treatment were expected and resolved without permanent consequences.


Supermarket promotions boost sales of less healthy foods more than healthier foods

Public Release: 11-Feb-2015
University of Cambridge

UK supermarket price promotions are more likely to lead to an increase in sales of less healthy foods than healthier choices in supermarkets, according to a study published today. However, the study of almost 27,000 UK households found that supermarkets were no more likely to promote less healthy over healthier foods.


Published today in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, the results show - perhaps surprisingly - that on the whole less healthy items were no more frequently promoted than healthier ones. However, after accounting for price, price discount, and brand characteristics, the magnitude of the sales increase was larger in less healthy than in healthier food categories. A 10% increase in the frequency of promotions led to a 35% sales increase for less healthy foods and a just under 20% sales increase for healthier foods. The researchers believe this may be because products from less healthy food categories are often non-perishable, while those from healthier food categories - in particular fruit and vegetables - are perishable: stockpiling during promotion may therefore be more likely to happen in less healthy food categories.

The study also found that households of a higher socioeconomic status tended to respond to price promotions more than those from disadvantaged backgrounds, for both healthier and less healthy foods. The researchers suggest a number of reasons, including the fact that making the most of promotions may involve stockpiling items while they are on offer, requiring financial resources and more space to store products.


Network of links between public health scientists and sugar industry

Public Release: 11-Feb-2015
BMJ-British Medical Journal

Public health scientists and a government committee working on nutritional advice receive funding from the very companies whose products are widely held to be responsible for the obesity crisis, an investigation by The BMJ reveals today.

Findings from the special report raise important questions about the potential for bias and conflict of interest among public health experts as the UK faces a growing obesity epidemic.


Of the 40 scientists affiliated with SACN between 2001 and 2012, only 13 have had no interests to declare.

David Stuckler, professor of political economy and sociology at Oxford University, says the engagement of companies such as Coca-Cola with the work of public health organisations "falls into the category of efforts to crowd out public regulation, to try to weaken public health by working with it".

The BMJ also reports evidence that the Responsibility Deal is not working. Not only do industry's pledges made under the deal not add up to the government's target of a 5% reduction in calorie consumption, but the UK's most comprehensive survey of shopping habits shows that between 2006 and 2014 the number of calories in the national weekly shop has increased by almost 12 %.


Caring youth-parent relations can be vital to preventing adolescent suicide attempts

Public Release: 11-Feb-2015
University of British Columbia

Positive relations between youth and their parents can be key to preventing adolescent suicide attempts, according to the University of British Columbia (UBC) research.

Suicide is the third-leading cause of adolescent death worldwide, and is responsible for a quarter of all adolescent deaths in Canada. The research examines the link between parental bonding - a term describing the quality of a parent-child relationship - and a history of suicidal thoughts and attempts.


The research used two U.S.-based samples: adolescent psychiatric patients and high school students. Parental bonding was divided into two categories: parental care and parental overprotection. The patients and students completed several questionnaires measuring parental care and overprotection, as well as other known suicide risk factors such as loneliness, emotional distress, and self-worth.

Results indicated that adolescents with a history of suicide attempts reported lower parental care than non-suicidal adolescents and adolescents with a history of suicidal thoughts. The other variables assessed - parental overprotection, loneliness, emotional distress and self-worth - were no different in those who made suicide attempts compared to those who only thought about suicide.

"These findings indicate that caring parent-adolescent relationships reduce the likelihood that suicidal thoughts lead to suicide attempts," says Saffer. "Therefore, increasing parental care might represent an important opportunity to reduce suicide risk in adolescents, especially in adolescents already experiencing suicidal thoughts."


Meth messes up brains of youths far more than those of adults

Adolescents who chronically use methamphetamine suffer greater and more widespread alterations in their brain than adults who chronically abuse the drug-and damage is particularly evident in a part of the brain believed to control the "executive function," researchers from the University of Utah and South Korea report.


"It's particularly unfortunate that meth appears to damage that part of the brain, which is still developing in young people and is critical for cognitive ability," says In Kyoon Lyoo, M.D., Ph.D., of Ewha W. University in Seoul, South Korea. "Damage to that part of the brain is especially problematic because adolescents' ability to control risky behavior is less mature than that of adults. The findings may help explain the severe behavioral issues and relapses that are common in adolescent drug addiction."


Air pollution affects short-term memory, IQ and brain metabolic ratios

Public Release: 11-Feb-2015
The University of Montana

City smog lowers children's IQ. This is among findings from a recent University of Montana study that found children living in cities with significant air pollution are at an increased risk for detrimental impacts to the brain, including short-term memory loss and lower IQ.

Findings by UM Professor Dr. Lilian Calderón-Garcidueñas, MA, MD, Ph.D., and her team of researchers reveal that children with lifetime exposures to concentrations of air pollutants above the current U.S. standards, including fine particulate matter, are at an increased risk for brain inflammation and neurodegenerative changes, including Alzheimer's and Parkinson's diseases.


"A IQ difference of 10 points will likely have a negative impact on academic and social issues, including bullying and teen delinquency," she said.


Air pollution is a serious public health issue, and exposures to concentrations of air pollutants at or above the current standards have been linked to neuroinflammation and neuropathology. In the U.S. alone, 200 million people live in areas where pollutants such as ozone and fine particulate matter exceed the standards.

There are significant associations between exposures to particulate matter and increased mortality due to stroke, cardiovascular disease and respiratory events. The problem in children living in megacities like Mexico City is much worse.


Cop buys "desperate and hungry" suspect sandwich before arrest

Feb. 18, 2015

MANCHESTER, N.H. -- A police officer performed an act of kindness when she bought a "desperate and hungry" suspect a sandwich before arresting her on Friday, reports CBS Boston.

Officers from the Manchester Police Department in southern New Hampshire were investigating the theft of a purse when they noticed the suspects' vehicle in a local McDonald's parking lot. The two officers -- Lisa Mackey and Kevin Gelinas -- found a needle and the stolen purse in the car, according to the station.

After police identified the driver as 22-year-old Christopher Greene, Greene told them that his girlfriend was inside the fast food restaurant.

Mackey entered the McDonald's, and reportedly spoke with the suspect -- identified as Holly Solans. Police told reporters that the 20-year-old was "disheveled and upset" and was living with Greene in her car.

The officer then bought food for Solans before taking her into custody for receiving stolen property, while Greene was arrested for possession of heroin, according to CBS Boston.

Mackey, who is set to retire next month, told the station that she was embarrassed by the attention, adding that it wasn't a "big deal."


Wednesday, February 18, 2015

A coast-to-coast picture of America's cacophony of sounds

By Susan Milius
Magazine issue: Vol. 187, No. 4, February 21, 2015
February 16, 2015

An ambitious National Park Service project exploits computer algorithms to predict the loudness of a typical summer day from coast to coast. The project’s newest map (above, with yellow representing the loudest noise) includes natural sounds, but it’s the human-made features that jump out.

The eastern half of the United States is louder than the West, according to the map, released February 16 at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in San Jose, Calif. The map shows an average volume, the sound level that’s exceeded about half the time at particular spots. (Typical conversation registers at roughly 50 to 60 decibels.) Airplanes arcing high over the continent don’t show up well, but cities and loud highways are clearly visible.


Man punched self in face, blamed cops

Feb. 18, 2015

Police say a suspect brought in for questioning later punched himself in the face and then signed an assault complaint against detectives.

But unfortunately for the suspect, a video recorder was running in a holding room where he'd been left after questioning. The sheriff's department said Tuesday the footage shows 33-year-old Aleksander Robin Tomaszewski hitting himself, leaving two black eyes.

Investigators say he told them he hoped filing a complaint would get him released.

Authorities say the Lucerne, California, man was brought in for questioning Jan. 9 on an unrelated case that's under investigation.

He was charged with initiating a false report and attempted coercion, and found guilty last week. He was sentenced to 20 days in jail and fined $500.

Review finds 'significant link' between cannabis use and onset of mania symptoms

Public Release: 10-Feb-2015
University of Warwick

Researchers from the University of Warwick have found evidence to suggest a significant relationship between cannabis use and the onset and exacerbation of mania symptoms.

In a paper published in the Journal of Affective Disorders, mental health researchers from Warwick Medical Schoolcarried out a review of scientific literature examining the effect of cannabis use. The literature sampled 2,391 individuals who had experienced mania symptoms.

Mania symptoms are part of bipolar disorder and can include feelings of persistent elation, heightened energy and hyperactivity and a reduced need for sleep. Mania can also make people feel angry and aggressive with extreme symptoms including becoming delusional or hearing voices.


The researchers looked at a number of previous studies and concluded that cannabis use preceded the onset of mania symptoms.

Dr Marwaha said: "The observed tendency for cannabis use to precede or coincide with rather than follow mania symptoms, and the more specific association between cannabis use and new onset manic symptoms, suggests potential causal influences from cannabis use to the development of mania. It is a significant link."

Dr Marwaha also said the review suggested that cannabis use significantly worsened mania symptoms in people who had previously been diagnosed with bipolar disorder.


Smoking thins vital part of brain

Public Release: 10-Feb-2015
McGill University

Years ago, children were warned that smoking could stunt their growth, but now a major study by an international team including the Montreal Neurological Institute at McGill University and the University of Edinburgh shows new evidence that long-term smoking could cause thinning of the brain's cortex. The cortex is the outer layer of the brain in which critical cognitive functions such as memory, language and perception take place. Interestingly, the findings also suggest that stopping smoking helps to restore at least part of the cortex's thickness.


"We found that current and ex-smokers had, at age 73, many areas of thinner brain cortex than those that never smoked. Subjects who stopped smoking seem to partially recover their cortical thickness for each year without smoking," says the study's lead author Dr. Sherif Karama, assistant professor of psychiatry at McGill University, psychiatrist at the Douglas Mental Health University Institute and an affiliate of the Montreal Neurological Institute. The apparent recovery process is slow, however, and incomplete. Heavy ex-smokers in the study who had given up smoking for more than 25 years still had a thinner cortex.

Although the cortex grows thinner with normal aging, the study found that smoking appears to accelerate the thinning process. A thinner brain cortex is associated with adult cognitive decline.


NASA study shows global sea ice diminishing, despite Antarctic gains

Public Release: 10-Feb-2015
NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center

Sea ice increases in Antarctica do not make up for the accelerated Arctic sea ice loss of the last decades, a new NASA study finds. As a whole, the planet has been shedding sea ice at an average annual rate of 13,500 square miles (35,000 square kilometers) since 1979, the equivalent of losing an area of sea ice larger than the state of Maryland every year.

Furthermore, the global ice decrease has accelerated: in the first half of the record (1979-96), the sea ice loss was about 8,300 square miles (21,500 square kilometers) per year. This rate more than doubled for the second half of the period (1996 to 2013), when there was an average loss of 19,500 square miles (50,500 square kilometers) per year - an average yearly loss larger than the states of Vermont and New Hampshire combined.

"This doesn't mean the sea ice loss will continue to accelerate," Parkinson said. "After all, there are limits. For instance, once all the Arctic ice is gone in the summer, the Arctic summertime ice loss can't accelerate any further."


"One of the reasons people care about sea ice decreases is that sea ice is highly reflective whereas the liquid ocean is very absorptive," Parkinson said. "So when the area of sea ice coverage is reduced, there is a smaller sea ice area reflecting the sun's radiation back to space. This means more retention of the sun's radiation within the Earth system and further heating."


"When I give public lectures or talk with random people interested in the topic, often somebody will say something in the order of 'well, the ice is decreasing in the Arctic but it's increasing in the Antarctic, so don't they cancel out?'" Parkinson said. "The answer is no, they don't cancel out."

Crocodiles just wanna have fun, too

Public Release: 10-Feb-2015
University of Tennessee at Knoxville

Turns out we may have more in common with crocodiles than we'd ever dream. According to research by a psychology professor at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, crocodiles think surfing waves, playing ball and going on piggyback rides are fun, too.

Vladimir Dinets, a research assistant professor in psychology, has studied crocodiles for a decade. While doing so, he has observed the animals engaging in play-like behavior. To get more data, he conducted an informal survey of crocodilian-themed groups on social media and various conferences.

His results show a softer side of the intimidating creatures--one that includes romping around with river otters and people. The findings could shed light on how intelligence has evolved.

The research shows that crocodilians engage in all three main types of play distinguished by behavior specialists: locomotor play, play with objects and social play. Play with objects is reported most often. Crocodilians have been spotted playing with wooden balls, noisy ceramic bits, streams of water, their prey and debris floating in the water. Cases of locomotor play include young alligators repeatedly sliding down slopes, crocodiles surfing ocean waves and caimans riding currents of water in their pools. Observed cases of social play include baby alligators riding on their older friends' backs, baby caimans playfully "courting" each other and a male crocodile giving his lifetime mate rides on his back.

Crocodiles have also been seen playing with other animals. Dinets observed a juvenile alligator playing with a river otter. In rare cases, individual crocodilians have been known to bond so strongly with people that they become playmates for years. For example, a man who rescued a crocodile that had been shot in the head became close friends with the animal. They happily played every day until the crocodile's death 20 years later.

"The croc would swim with his human friend, try to startle him by suddenly pretending to attack him or by sneaking up on him from behind, and accept being caressed, hugged, rotated in the water and kissed on the snout," said Dinets.


"Hundreds of thousands of crocodilians are now kept in captivity in zoos, commercial farms and breeding centers set up for endangered species. Providing them with toys and other opportunities for play makes them happier and healthier," Dinets said.


Previous research by Dinets discovered that crocodiles are able to climb trees, work as a team and use lures such as sticks to hunt prey. More of his crocodile research can be found in his book "Dragon Songs."