Sunday, May 31, 2015

Is Peanut Butter Safe For Dogs? Please Beware – Some Could Be Deadly!

Authored by Jason Nicholas, BVetMed
May 28, 2015

If you're like many people, you might want to give your dog some peanut butter as an occasional treat. Or you might want to use peanut butter as a trick or reward to get your dog to take their medications? In many cases this is perfectly fine (so long as it's not in excess — as too much can cause pancreatitis and/or contribute to obesity).

However, with the introduction of a unique line of peanut and other nut butters onto the market — Nuts ’N More — the answer to the question of whether or not it’s safe to give, even a small quantity of, peanut butter to your dogs is no longer a straightforward one. Why? Because of the sweetener that’s been used to replace the sugar in this line of peanut and other nut butters. That sugar substitute is called xylitol.

Xylitol is a sweetener that's gaining in popularity because of its dental benefits for people as well as its suitability as a sugar substitute for people with diabetes. Because of its ability to help prevent cavities and tooth decay and its low glycemic index, xylitol is proving to have some good dental and other health benefits for people. Unfortunately, while xylitol appears to be perfectly safe for people, it is extremely dangerous for dogs — even in small quantities.

Ingestion of as little as 0.1 gram (g) of xylitol per kilogram (kg) of body weight (0.1 g/kg) can cause a rapid and dangerous drop in a dog’s blood sugar (a condition called “hypoglycemia”). Hypoglycemia can show as staggering, appearing disoriented, collapse, weakness, and seizures.

Just slightly more than that, approx. 0.5 g/kg xylitol ingestion, can lead to debilitating, and sadly often deadly, destruction of a dog’s liver cells.

These quantities, or toxic doses, are based on the data that the animal-specific poison control hotlines have collected from reported cases. To highlight that these are reported cases is important, because not every case of toxicity makes it to the vet, and not everyone that does go to the vet is called into the animal poison control hotlines. So the actual toxic doses could be even lower, and dogs with certain pre-existing medical conditions (such as diabetes, hepatitis, and others) are likely to be even more sensitive to the toxic effects of xylitol.

The gaining popularity of xylitol as an ingredient in a growing number of products (incl. gums, mints, chewable vitamins, and many others) highlights the importance of reading ingredient labels, as well as the danger of assuming that what's safe for you, or even your kids, is also safe for your pets.


If you think your dog has eaten xylitol...
Please contact a pet poison control hotline right away and they'll be able to guide you as to what to do next.


North American Moose dying in droves as climate warming fuels disease, pests

By Mary Papenfuss
International Business Times
May 9, 2015

North American moose are dying by the thousands as they struggle with soaring temperatures and health problems linked to disease and parasites that thrive in the heat, scientists are finding.

In north east Minnesota alone, moose numbered about 8,000 a decade ago. Today, the population is down to 3,500. The story is similar throughout Canada, New Hampshire and Maine.

"All across the southern edge of the range, from Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Minnesota, Michigan, all across the southern fringe of their range, moose numbers are in a significant decline," Eric Orff, biologist with the National Wildlife Federation, told PBS.

Biologist Seth Moore has been taking samples of the Minnesota population since 2009. Of the 80 percent of collared moose that have died, 40 percent died from an infection known as brain worm, 20 percent died from a heavy winter tick load that sucks the blood from the animals, and the rest died from a combination of both, reports Motherboard. Both scourges are linked to warmer temperatures.

Minnesota has had unusually warm winters for the last few years. Warmer temperatures also overheat the shaggy, cold-loving animals.

In addition, calves appear to be far weaker now, or abandoned, leaving them more vulnerable to predators.

The population of moose in New Hampshire has fallen from 7,600 in 1996 to 4,000 last year. But the tick population and calf deaths seem to be down this season. But the Kristine Rines, the state's moose biologist, believes the moose will be in danger as long as climate change is a factor.

"There's no mystery at all as far as I'm concerned," said Rines, who believes climate change is clearly to blame for plunging moose populations. "It's as clear cut as you can get in examining the natural world."


Saturday, May 30, 2015

Scientists discuss how strongly a warming Arctic is implicated in extreme weather

So the evidence is that global warming is causing an increase in extreme weather, but whether and how much the warming arctic is a direct cause is still unknown.
Of course, it doesn't have to be an either/or situation. It is likely to be a combination of effects, including warmer arctic causing a wavy jet stream and warmer Pacific ocean temperatures.

May 29, 2015

The possibility that a warming Arctic could be influencing extreme weather elsewhere in the world seemed to receive a boost this week. A new paper presented further evidence linking diminishing Arctic sea ice to extreme cold winters elsewhere in the northern hemisphere.

Lead author, Prof Jennifer Francis from Rutgers University, tells us: "Our new results, together with other new studies in this field of research, are adding substantial evidence in support of the connection."

But not everyone is so sure. We asked a few scientists in the field how strong they consider the evidence linking Arctic sea ice and extreme weather to be. Here's what they told us.

Arctic amplification

The US, Canada, Japan and UK have all experienced very cold and snowy winters in recent years. In 2012, a paper by Francis and Dr Stephen Vavrus suggested that this extreme weather was a result of rapid warming in the Arctic.

Temperatures in the Arctic are increasing around twice as fast as the global average. As Arctic sea-ice diminishes, energy from the sun that would have been reflected away by sea-ice is instead absorbed by the ocean, a phenomenon known as Arctic amplification.

Francis and Vavrus suggested that warmer Arctic temperatures weaken the jet stream, a fast-flowing river of air high up in the atmosphere. The theory goes that a weaker jet stream becomes 'wavier' and leads to more persistent weather conditions, such as long cold spells in winter and heatwaves in summer.

The new paper by the same authors, published this week in Environmental Research Letters, offers further evidence to support the link.


Scientists also haven't ruled out other factors being involved in the extreme weather, as Screen tells us:

"Correlation and trends doesn't tell you cause and effect. It is still impossible to pin the blame on the Arctic, so to speak."

A paper published in October last year, for example, finds that temperature changes in the Atlantic ocean could be triggering warm conditions in the Arctic, and cold weather over Europe and Asia. Simmonds says findings such as these mean there is still doubt regarding the Arctic's influence:

"Seen in this light, the magnitude of the direct influence of a warm Arctic on mid-latitude extremes becomes more problematic."


tags: extreme weather

Removing more breast tissue reduces by half the need for second cancer surgery

Public Release: 30-May-2015
Yale University

Removing more tissue during a partial mastectomy could spare thousands of breast cancer patients a second surgery, according to a Yale Cancer Center study. The findings were published online May 30 in the New England Journal of Medicine and presented at the 2015 Annual Meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology in Chicago.


"Despite their best efforts, surgeons could not predict where the cancer was close to the edge," said the study's lead author, Dr. Anees Chagpar, associate professor of surgery (oncology) at Yale School of Medicine and director of The Breast Center at Smilow Cancer Hospital at Yale-New Haven. "Taking cavity shave margins cut the positive margin rate in half, without compromising cosmetic outcome or increasing complication rates." Patients in the study will be followed for five years to evaluate the impact of the technique on recurrence rates.


Climate Change, a Factor in Texas Floods, Largely Ignored

by Neena Satija and Jim Malewitz May 27, 2015
Patrick Svitek contributed reporting.

Climate change is taking a toll on Texas, and the devastating floods that have killed at least 15 people and left 12 others missing across the state are some of the best evidence yet of that phenomenon, state climatologist John Nielsen-Gammon said in an interview Wednesday.

"We have observed an increase of heavy rain events, at least in the South-Central United States, including Texas," said Nielsen-Gammon, who was appointed by former Gov. George W. Bush in 2000. "And it's consistent with what we would expect from climate change."


Climate Change, a Factor in Texas Floods, Largely Ignored

by Neena Satija and Jim Malewitz May 27, 2015 39Comments


A flood-damaged house in Wimberley, May 25, 2015.
photo by: Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon/KUT News
A flood-damaged house in Wimberley, May 25, 2015.

Climate change is taking a toll on Texas, and the devastating floods that have killed at least 15 people and left 12 others missing across the state are some of the best evidence yet of that phenomenon, state climatologist John Nielsen-Gammon said in an interview Wednesday.

"We have observed an increase of heavy rain events, at least in the South-Central United States, including Texas," said Nielsen-Gammon, who was appointed by former Gov. George W. Bush in 2000. "And it's consistent with what we would expect from climate change."

But the state's Republican leaders are deeply skeptical of the scientific consensus that human activity is changing the climate, with top environmental regulators in Texas questioning whether the planet is warming at all. And attempts by Democratic lawmakers during the 2015 legislative session to discuss the issue have come up short.

"In part, it's ideologically driven and intellectually lazy," said state Rep. Rafael Anchia, D-Dallas, who earlier this year invited national security experts to the state Capitol to testify at a hearing on the risks of climate change. “My question is: What are people scared of? Are they scared of the truth?"

Asked about the role of climate change in the floods, U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz declined to weigh in Wednesday. "At a time of tragedy, I think it's wrong to try to politicize a natural disaster," the Republican presidential candidate said during a news conference in San Marcos after surveying damage.

Extreme weather events, and more of them, are among the most agreed-upon effects of global warming in all the scientific literature on the subject, said Nielsen-Gammon, who is also a professor at Texas A&M University. Part of the explanation is that ocean temperatures are rising, bringing more moist air into the state that can create storm systems. In the past century, precipitation in Texas is up 7 to 10 percent, and the frequency of two-day heavy rainfall spells has nearly doubled.

The scientific consensus is much stronger on this point than on whether climate change can directly cause droughts. Nielsen-Gammon's own research has shown that warmer temperatures due to global warming did make the drought in Texas measurably worse than it otherwise would have been.


tags: extreme weather

Friday, May 29, 2015

A Group Of CEOs Managing $12 Trillion Want A Strong Global Climate Deal

by Emily Atkin Posted on May 28, 2015

Turns out environmental activists aren’t the only people who want to eliminate the risk of catastrophic global warming.

A group of more than 120 CEOs and other institutional investors who manage more than $12 trillion in assets sent an open letter to seven of the world’s wealthiest countries on Tuesday, asking them to make bold commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions during the U.N. climate talks later this year. The reason, the letter said, was because of the uncertainty surrounding how bad climate change would be and how it would affect their businesses.

“As institutional investors responsible for managing the retirement savings and investments of millions of people or managing endowments, we believe climate change is one of the biggest systemic risks we face,” the letter read, urging the countries’ financial ministers to support a long-term global emissions reduction goal that limits warming to a 2° Celsius.


Aside from how climate change might impact business, the letter also stated that reducing carbon emissions would come with numerous financial incentives. Along with giving investors clarity about the future, the letter said a strong goal to reduce emissions would “serve to reduce policy risk, incentivize [research and development], facilitate the deployment of new technologies, and ultimately create new jobs.”

The letter also said that reducing carbon emissions to meet the 2°C target would be cheap, citing an International Energy Agency report that showed energy and transportation systems across the world could meet the goal with existing technology without harming economic growth. It noted that carbon emission reductions are already taking place in some sectors without harming the economy — indeed, last year energy-related carbon dioxide emissions flatlined globally while the world economy grew, something that had never before happened.

“The benefits of addressing climate change outweigh the costs,” the letter read.

The group of CEOs was organized by five responsible investment groups from around the world, but it is far from the first group representing monetary interests to come out and ask for action on climate change. Last month, a group of big insurance companies and consumer organizations asked the United States to strengthen its disaster policies in the face of increasingly extreme weather due to human-caused climate change. And last week, one of the world’s largest insurance companies pledged to drop its remaining investment in coal assets, saying climate change was already driving an increase in weather-related risks, which threaten business.


Patients with cognitive impairment can have increased pain processing

Public Release: 29-May-2015
Wolters Kluwer Health

People with dementia and other forms of cognitive impairment (CI) have altered responses to pain, with many conditions associated with increased pain sensitivity, concludes a research review in PAIN®, the official publication of the International Association for the Study of Pain. The journal is published by Wolters Kluwer.

The available evidence questions the previous notion that people with CI have reduced pain sensitivity to pain. Rather, "It appears that those with widespread brain atrophy or neural degeneration...all show increased pain responses and/or greater pain sensitivity," write Ruth Defrin, PhD, of University of Tel Aviv, Israel, and colleagues.


It's time to wean ourselves off the fairytale version of farming

And this doesn't even address the barbaric practices in many slaughter houses.

In 1978, I had been considering becoming a vegetarian. I had studied it, and found that I could be healthy w/o eating meat. After reading a description of conditions in slaughterhouses, I became an ova-lacto vegetarian, and remain on to this day.

George Monbiot
May 29, 2015

he way that meat, eggs and milk are produced is surrounded by one of our great silences, in which most people collaborate. We don’t want to know, because knowing would force anyone with a capacity for empathy to change their diet.

You break this silence at your peril. After I published an article on chicken farming last week, I had to re-read it to check that I hadn’t actually proposed the slaughter of the firstborn by terrorist devil worshippers – so outraged and vicious were some of the responses. And that was just the consumers.


In my view, the Red Tractor standard is a classic example of an almost meaningless label, whose purpose is to reassure customers in a vague and fuzzy way while holding producers to standards that scarcely rise above the legal minimum. That’s a long-winded way of saying bullshit.

Take the key welfare issue, stocking density. Here’s what the government recommendations say:

The maximum stocking density for chickens kept to produce meat for the table should be 34 kg/m2, which should not be exceeded at any time during the growing period.

But the standard for broiler chickens set by the Red Tractor scheme is actually worse:

Planned stocking densities must not exceed 38kg/m2 for broilers

Incidentally, this stocking density – 38kg/m2 – gives each bird an area the size of a piece of A4 paper (8.3 x 11.7 in).


So now to the real question: how do they get away with it? How is it that we, who regard ourselves as a nation of animal lovers, accept such terrible standards of meat production? If dogs and cats were treated as pigs and chickens are, there would be a deafening outcry: in fact there are plenty of people in Britain who campaign against the raising of dogs and cats for food in Asia. But what’s the difference? Why is it acceptable to treat some animals – even creatures as intelligent and capable of suffering as pigs – so brutally, but not others?

In part, this reflects the deep disavowal in which we tend to engage when we eat meat. But I also believe that a major part of the problem is the fairytale view of farming implanted in our minds from the very onset of consciousness.

Many of the books produced for very young children are about farms; and most tell broadly the same story. The animals – generally just one or two of each species – live in perfect harmony with the rosy-cheeked farmer, roaming around freely and talking to each other, almost as if they were members of the farmer’s family. Understandably enough, none of the uncomfortable issues – slaughter, butchery, castration, tusking, separation, battery production, farrowing crates – ever feature.

So deeply embedded is this image that I believe many people go through life unable to dismiss it from their minds. It is not easy to unlearn what we are taught when we’re very young, and even the grim realities of industrial farming cannot displace the storybook images from our minds. At a deep, subconscious level, the farm remains a place of harmony and kindness – and this suits us very well if we want to keep eating meat.


Alaska sets new record for earliest day with temperatures in the 90s

May 28, 2015

It’s been a warm, dry spring for much of interior Alaska. On the afternoon of May 23, a new statewide record was set for the earliest day in the year with a temperature in the 90s. A daytime high of 91°F was noted by a cooperative observer in Eagle, where temperatures have been recorded (with some breaks) since the 1890s.


The 91° temperature at Eagle smashed that location’s all-time record for May. It was 30.1° hotter than the average daily high temperature in May (59.5°F), and 18.1° warmer than the average high temperature in July, Eagle’s warmest month of the year. So far this month, Eagle has set or tied ten daily high temperature records.


One Man's Millions Turn a Community in Florida Around

by Randy Hammer
May 27, 2015

A couple of decades ago nearly half of the students dropped out of school in Tangelo Park, a community just outside Orlando.

Today, nearly all of Tangelo’s seniors graduate.

An article ran in The New York Times on Monday that profiled how a wealthy Orlando businessman pumped $11 million into the troubled community and created a turnaround that the reporter described as a “striking success story.”

Harris Rosen made his fortune in the hotel businesses and decided 21 years ago to see if he could make a difference Tangelo Park.

Some the key takeaways from the article:

— Nearly all seniors graduate from high school and most go on to college on full scholarships Rosen has financed.
— Young children head to kindergarten ready to learn, and many are reading already because of free day-care centers and a prekindergarten program Rosen also finances.
— Property values have risen in community.
— Crime has plummeted.

Rosen said the program he created in Tangelo Park is rooted in something that’s missing in many U.S. neighborhoods: Hope.

Here’s Rosen’s quote that stood out to me:

“If you don’t have any hope, then what’s the point?”

This reminded me of something Malcolm Thomas said during a CEO roundtable that the Studer Community Institute held in April.

“I used to talk about it’s poverty, poverty,” said Thomas, Escambia County School District superintendent. “I’ve really changed my tune in the last couple of years. Now I’m talking about a culture of low expectations. There are pockets of people in our community who don’t expect to do any better than what they’re currently doing. That is the problem.”


Tangelo Park, however, is a community of just 3,000 people. And as Alvarez points out, “While heartwarming, can it be replicated?’

The piece that’s particularly relevant for Pensacola is Tangelo Park’s focus on early childhood education, which Thomas and others in Escambia say is critical issue here.

You can read the story here:

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Wide use of antibiotics allows bacteria to flourish

By Jane E. Brody / New York Times News Service
Published May 28, 2015


C. diff. is a spore-forming, toxin-producing bacterium that can colonize the large intestine and wreak havoc there, causing frequent watery stools and severe dehydration. The spores are resistant to heat, acid and antibiotics; they can be washed away with soap and water but not the alcohol-based hand sanitizers widely used in health facilities. Thus, poor bathroom hygiene can spread the organism.

Dr. Dale Gerding, an infectious diseases specialist at Loyola University Chicago, said in an interview: “C. diff. is found in soil and water, even chlorinated water, and is a low-level contaminant in food. Most of us ingest C. diff. every day.”

In most people, the microorganisms that normally reside in the gut protect against C. diff. infection, he explained. That is, until antibiotics disrupt the healthy balance of microorganisms. Freed of competition, C. diff spores can germinate and reproduce unchecked, and not only in people with compromised immune systems.


Since the early 2000s, hospitals have reported drastic increases in severe C. diff. infections, Dr. Daniel Leffler and Dr. J. Thomas Lamont of Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston reported in the journal. The predominant virulent strain, NAP1, has a mortality rate three times as high as that associated with the less virulent forms most prevalent in decades past.

“The most important risk factor for C. difficile infection remains antibiotic use,” the doctors wrote. “Ampicillin, amoxicillin, cephalosporins, clindamycin and fluoroquinolones are the antibiotics that are most frequently associated with the disease, but almost all antibiotics have been associated with infection.”

Gerding said most antibiotics “are being used inappropriately, for things like upper respiratory infections that are caused by viruses.” Eating yogurt or taking commercially available probiotics while on an antibiotic have not proved protective, he said. But in England, where a program of more judicious use of antibiotics was put into effect, C. diff. infections have declined.


Baltimore gets bloodier as arrests drop post-Freddie Gray

Something like this usually doesn't have a simple, single cause. I think something that is not talked about is that young people in this area have been given the message that they shouldn't be expected to behave in a law-abiding way, that they are just helpless victims. For sure, they have the deck stacked against them, but the the way they behave affects their future. It doesn't help that they live in a culture that worships material success, with media that glorifies anti-social behaviour.

May 28, 2:33 PM (ET)

A 31-year-old woman and a young boy were shot in the head Thursday, becoming Baltimore's 37th and 38th homicide victims so far this month, the city's deadliest in 15 years.

Meanwhile, arrests have plunged: Police are booking fewer than half the number of people they pulled off the streets last year.

Arrests were already declining before Freddie Gray died on April 19 of injuries he suffered in police custody, but they dropped sharply thereafter, as his death unleashed protests, riots, the criminal indictment of six officers and a full-on civil rights investigation by the U.S. Justice Department that has officers working under close scrutiny.

"I'm afraid to go outside," said Antoinette Perrine, whose brother was shot down three weeks ago on a basketball court near her home in the Harlem Park neighborhood of West Baltimore. Ever since, she has barricaded her door and added metal slabs inside her windows to deflect gunfire.

"It's so bad, people are afraid to let their kids outside," Perrine said. "People wake up with shots through their windows. Police used to sit on every corner, on the top of the block. These days? They're nowhere."

West Baltimore residents worry they've been abandoned by the officers they once accused of harassing them, leaving some neighborhoods like the Wild West without a lawman around.

"Before it was over-policing. Now there's no police," said Donnail "Dreads" Lee, 34, who lives in the Gilmor Homes, the public housing complex where Gray, 25, was chased down. "People feel as though they can do things and get away with it. I see people walking with guns almost every single day, because they know the police aren't pulling them up like they used to."

Police Commissioner Anthony Batts said his officers "are not holding back," despite encountering dangerous hostility in the Western District.

"Our officers tell me that when officers pull up, they have 30 to 50 people surrounding them at any time," Batts said.

Batts provided more details at a City Council meeting Wednesday night, saying officers now fear getting arrested for making mistakes.

"What is happening, there is a lot of levels of confusion in the police organization. There are people who have pain, there are people who are hurt, there are people who are frustrated, there are people who are angry," Batts said. "There are people, and they've said this to me, 'If I get out of my car and make a stop for a reasonable suspicion that leads to probable cause but I make a mistake on it, will I be arrested?' They pull up to a scene and another officer has done something that they don't know, it may be illegal, will they be arrested for it? Those are things they are asking."


Baltimore was seeing a slight rise in homicides this year even before Gray's death April 19. But the 38 homicides so far in May is a major spike, after 22 in April, 15 in March, 13 in February and 23 in January.

With one weekend still to go, May 2015 is already the deadliest month in 15 years, surpassing the November 1999 total of 36.

Ten of May's homicides happened in the Western District, which has had as many homicides in the first five months of this year as it did all of last year.

Non-fatal shootings are spiking as well — 91 so far in May, 58 of them in the Western District.


Veronica Edmonds, a 26-year-old mother of seven in the Gilmor Homes, said she wishes the police would return, and focus on violent crime rather than minor drug offenses.


High levels of cynicism associated with lower income levels later in life

Public Release: 28-May-2015
American Psychological Association

Holding cynical beliefs about others may have a negative effect on your income according to research published by the American Psychological Association.

"While previous research has associated cynicism with detrimental outcomes across a wide range of spheres of life, including physical health, psychological well-being and marital adjustment, the present research has established an association between cynicism and individual economic success," says Olga Stavrova, PhD, a research associate at the Institute of Sociology and Social Psychology, University of Cologne, Germany, and lead author on the study which appears in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.


In both studies, a high level of cynicism was associated with lower income.

Another study, focusing on a nationally representative sample of approximately 16,000 people in Germany, found that after nine years people with low levels of cynicism earned on average $300 per month more than their more cynical counterparts.

The final study examined the potential universality of these findings, looking at survey data from 41 countries to see if societal factors could play a role. The negative association between cynicism and lower income was strongest in countries with higher levels of altruistic behavior, lower homicide rates and lower levels of overall societal cynicism.

"There are actually some countries where cynical individuals do not necessarily earn less than their less cynical compatriots," said Stavrova. "These countries are those with pervasively high societal cynicism scores, rare pro-social behavior (e.g., charity donations) and widespread antisocial behavior (as indicated by high homicide rates) - in other words, countries where cynicism might be justified or even somewhat functional."

One reason for these findings could be that cynical individuals are less likely to trust others and therefore forgo cooperation opportunities, said Stavrova. They are more likely to suspect mean motives behind other people's behavior, might be less likely to join collaborative efforts and may avoid asking for help in case of need, which may eventually undermine their economic success.

"For example, employees who believe others to be exploitative and dishonest are likely to avoid collaborative projects and to forgo the related opportunities," said Stavrova. Similarly, cynical individuals might be likely to overinvest resources on protecting themselves from potential deceit, "covering their backs" at costs of focusing on their jobs.


Sleep quality influences the cognitive performance of autistic and non-autistic children

Public Release: 28-May-2015
University of Montreal

One night of poor sleep significantly decreases performance on intelligence tests in children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and also in neurotypical children (without ASD). This is the conclusion made by researchers at the Hôpital Rivière-des-Prairies, affiliated with the Institut universitaire en santé mentale de Montréal and Université de Montréal.


Component in green tea may help reduce prostate cancer in men at high risk

This does not mean the pills will have the desired effect. There are other cases where foods containing chemicals, such as certain vitamins, reduce the incidence of cancer, but extracts of the active ingredients actually increase the risk.

Public Release: 28-May-2015
H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center & Research Institute

Prostate cancer is the second most common type of cancer in men and is predicted to result in an estimated 220,00 cases in the United States in 2015. In recent years, an emphasis has been placed on chemoprevention - the use of agents to prevent the development or progression of prostate cancer. A team of researchers led by Nagi B. Kumar, Ph.D., R.D., F.A.D.A. at Moffitt Cancer Center recently published results of a randomized trial that assessed the safety and effectiveness of the active components in green tea to prevent prostate cancer development in men who have premalignant lesions. The results will be presented at the 2015 American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) Annual Meeting in Chicago.

Twenty percent of green tea is consumed in Asian countries where prostate cancer death rates are among the lowest in the world and the risk of prostate cancer appears to be increased among Asian men who abandon their original dietary habits upon migrating to the U.S.

Laboratory studies have shown that substances in green tea called, "catechins" inhibit cancer cell growth, motility and invasion, and stimulate cancer cell death. Green tea catechins also prevent and reduce tumor growth in animal models. Epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG) is the most abundant and potent catechin found in green tea responsible for these cancer prevention effects.


The Moffitt researchers observed a significant increase in the levels of EGCG in the blood plasma of men on Polyphenon E, and the capsules at this dose were tolerated in this group of men.


Your Instagram photos aren’t really yours

If you think it's ok to steal music, don't boo-hoo about this.

By Jessica Contrera
May 25, 2015

The Internet is the place where nothing goes to die.

Those embarrassing photos of your high school dance you marked “private” on Facebook? The drunk Instagram posts? The NSFW snapchats? If you use social media, you’ve probably heard a warning akin to “don’t post anything you wouldn’t want your employer (or future employer) to see.”

We agree, and are adding this caveat: Don’t post anything you wouldn’t want hanging in an art gallery.

This month, painter and photographer Richard Prince reminded us that what you post is public, and given the flexibility of copyright laws, can be shared — and sold — for anyone to see. As a part of the Frieze Art Fair in New York, Prince displayed giant screenshots of other people’s Instagram photos without warning or permission.

The collection, “New Portraits,” is primarily made up of pictures of women, many in sexually charged poses. They are not paintings, but screenshots that have been enlarged to 6-foot-tall inkjet prints. According to Vulture, nearly every piece sold for $90,000 each.


In other words, Prince could make slight adjustments to the photos and call them his own.

This is what he did with the Instagram photos. Although he did not alter the usernames or the photos themselves, he removed captions. He then added odd comments on each photo, such as “DVD workshops. Button down. I fit in one leg now. Will it work? Leap of faith” from the account “richardprince1234.” The account currently has 10,200 followers but not a single picture — perhaps so you can’t steal his images in return?


Are antidepressants more effective than usually assumed?

I am not endorsing or opposing this. This article doesn't name any of the symptoms the researchers think should not be considered when judging the effectiveness of the drugs.

Public Release: 27-May-2015
University of Gothenburg

Many have recently questioned the efficacy of the most common antidepressant medications, the selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). The conclusion that these drugs are ineffective is however partly based on a misinterpretation of the outcome of the clinical trials once conducted to demonstrate their efficacy. This was the finding of a study conducted by researchers at the Sahlgrenska Academy.

In order to shed further light on this controversial issue, researchers at the Sahlgrenska Academy have now analyzed the data from all major company-sponsored placebo-controlled studies addressing the effect of any of three SSRIs - citalopram, sertraline and paroxetine - for major depression in adults.

"In order to measure the antidepressant effect, the pharmaceutical companies have unwisely assessed the reduction in the sum score for a large number of symptoms listed on a rating scale. However, the sensitivity of this instrument is markedly marred by the fact that many of these symptoms occur also in subjects without depression, while others are absent also in many depressed patients. For this and other reasons, the usefulness of this rating scale, which was constructed already during the 1950s, has since long been questioned."

"We investigated what happens if one instead analyzes the effect of the treatment on the key item of the scale - depressed mood."

According to Elias Eriksson, the results are noteworthy:

With the conventional measure of efficacy, only 44 percent of the 32 comparisons reveal a significant superiority of the SSRIs over placebo.

When the Gothenburg researchers instead examined the efficacy on depressed mood, 29 of the 32 comparisons (91 percent) showed a significant difference favoring the active drug.

"Our conclusion is that the questioning of the antidepressant efficacy of SSRIs is to a large extent based on an unfortunate misinterpretation of the available data. The truth is that the scientific support for these drugs exerting an antidepressant impact is very robust across studies", comments Elias Eriksson.

Homely men who misbehave can't win for losing

Public Release: 27-May-2015

Women tolerate an unattractive man up to a point, but beware if he misbehaves. Then they'll easily shun him. So says Jeremy Gibson and Jonathan Gore of the Eastern Kentucky University in the U.S., after finding that a woman's view of a man is influenced by how handsome and law-abiding he is.

Discovering how someone can make a positive first impression is an important field of study, because of its role in forming relationships. It is often based on physical appearance and whether someone sticks to social norms or not. Such impressions are made in a flash, but are not always correct. In what is called the 'halo effect,' people warm up to others with positive characteristics, such as handsomeness. The 'devil effect' or 'negative halo effect' comes into play when people assume that others possess so-called 'bad' characteristics, such as unattractiveness.


The researchers found that whether a man transgressed a social norm was a much greater put-off than whether he was unattractive. Normally women do not feel differently towards a homely man who toes the line. If that same ugly duckling, however, transgresses the boundaries of right or wrong, a magnified or 'double' devil effect comes into play. He is then viewed in an extremely negative light, much more so than would have been the case if he were handsome.

'The unattractive male is tolerated up to a point; his unattractiveness is OK until he misbehaves,' says Gibson.


In the judicial system, unattractive defendants are also known to receive more severe penalties than more attractive ones, even if they committed the same crime.

'A man who stands trial has already shown himself to have violated social norms in one way or another. If he is also unattractive, the magnified devil effect may result in a larger fine or sentence, as it could influence how negatively jurors view him and, as a result, the degree to which they believe him guilty of the crime,' explains Gore.

Pinpointing natural cancer drug's true origins brings sustainable production a step closer

Public Release: 27-May-2015
University of Michigan

or decades, scientists have known that ET-743, a compound extracted from a marine invertebrate called a mangrove tunicate, can kill cancer cells. The drug has been approved for use in patients in Europe and is in clinical trials in the U.S.

Scientists suspected the mangrove tunicate, which is a type of a sea squirt, doesn't actually make ET-743. But the precise origins of the drug, which is also known as trabectedin, were a mystery.

By analyzing the genome of the tunicate along with the microbes that live inside it using advanced sequencing techniques, researchers at the University of Michigan were able to isolate the genetic blueprint of the ET-743's producer--which turns out to be a type of bacteria called Candidatus Endoecteinascidia frumentensis.


"These symbiotic microbes have long been thought to be the true sources of many of the natural products that have been isolated from invertebrates in the ocean and on the land. But very little is known about them because we're not able to get most of them to grow in a laboratory setting," said study senior author David Sherman, the Hans W. Vahlteich Professor of Medicinal Chemistry in the College of Pharmacy and a faculty member of the U-M Life Sciences Institute, where his lab is located.


Notre Dame paper examines how students understand mathematics

Public Release: 27-May-2015
University of Notre Dame

t's both the bane of many parents and what has been called a major national vulnerability: the inability of many children to understand mathematics. Understanding that problem and developing strategies to overcome it is the research focus of Nicole McNeil, Alliance for Catholic Education (ACE) Associate Professor of Psychology at the University of Notre Dame, and the researchers in her lab.

A new paper by McNeil and Emily Fyfe, a former Notre Dame undergraduate who's now a doctoral student at Vanderbilt University, examines if the labels educators use to identify patterns affects preschoolers' understanding of patterns.

"Patterns are things, such as words or numbers that repeat in a logical way," McNeil said. "For example, the stripes on an American flag are laid out in a repeating pattern of red, white, red, white, etc. Children's ability to identify and create patterns is an important early math skill that supports their social and cognitive development. In fact, research has shown that teaching children about patterns improves their achievement in reading and mathematics."

Members of the CLAD (Cognition, Learning and Development) Lab that McNeil directs at Notre Dame recently collaborated with Fyfe and other colleagues at Vanderbilt University to examine if the labels educators use to identify patterns affects preschoolers' understanding of patterns. They compared concrete labels, which refer to the changing physical features of the pattern (e.g., "red, white, red, white"), to abstract labels, which describe the pattern using an arbitrary system that mimics the pattern (e.g., "A, B, A, B"). Children in the study solved a set of patterning problems in which they watched an experimenter explain a model pattern using either concrete labels or abstract labels and then tried to recreate the same pattern using a different set of materials.

"Children who were randomly assigned to the abstract labels condition solved more problems correctly than those assigned to the concrete labels condition," McNeil said. "Thus, even though concrete labels seem better because they are more familiar and accessible to children, abstract labels may help focus attention on the deeper structure of patterns. These findings suggest that something as minor as the types of labels used during instruction can affect children's understanding of fundamental early math concepts."

This research result converges with several other findings from McNeil's lab in recent years that have shown that relatively minor differences in the structure of children's input can play a role in shaping and constraining children's understanding of fundamental math concepts.


Roadside air can be more charged than under a high-voltage power line

Actually, I think most people who are concerned about living under high-voltage power lines are concerned about direct effects from the radio waves themselves. And why would we assume, w/o research, that ions themselves are safe? They would be expected to be chemically active.

Public Release: 27-May-2015
Queensland University of Technology

Despite community concerns about living under high-voltage power lines, a world-first QUT study reveals that there are far more charged particles beside busy roads.

The study, published in the international journal Science of the Total Environment was conducted by Dr Rohan Jayaratne, Dr Xuan Ling and Professor Lidia Morawska from QUT's International Laboratory for Air Quality and Health who found that within 10 metres of a freeway, charged particles were up to 15 times more concentrated than beneath high-voltage power lines.

"Although the effects of ions and charged particles generated by high-voltage power lines on human health is still open to conjecture, there has been a lot of attention on increased exposure due to expanding power networks in urban residential areas," said Dr Jayaratne.

"However what people do not realise is that a large number of charged particles in urban environments come from motor vehicle emissions.

"We found that the concentration of charged particles found near the Gateway and South East Freeway near Brisbane was far greater than those under corona ion-emitting overhead power lines. The difference was more than twice even up to a distance of 40 metres.

"This was especially the case when the traffic included heavy-duty diesel trucks and I think it is something to consider when new housing estates are planned."

Dr Jayaratne said that while there was no evidence that breathing in air ions was a health risk, approximately one-half of the fine particles that we inhale during normal breathing are deposited in our lungs. Therefore, it is not surprising that several studies have demonstrated a link between particulate pollution from exhaust fumes and adverse health effects.

"This link is stronger in urban environments where the majority of particulate matter comes from motor vehicles which are known to be harmful. Diesel emissions contain a range of toxic chemicals and have recently been classified as 'probably carcinogenic to humans'," Dr Jayaratne said.

"I feel these findings may have potentially important implications for the atmosphere, climate, urban planning and particularly for human health".

"We do not believe that ions are dangerous - the danger comes from the pollutants. The ions merely assist the particles to stick to the lungs. If there are no dangerous particles in the air to attach to the ions, there is no risk of ill health."

Nation's research funding squeeze imperils patient care, say top medical school deans

Public Release: 27-May-2015
University of Utah Health Sciences

Constraints in federal funding, compounded by declining clinical revenue, jeopardize more than the nation's research enterprise.

These twin pressures have created a "hostile working environment" that erodes time to conduct research, "discourages innovative high-risk science" and threatens to drive established and early-career scientists out of the field. And this, in turn, undermines patient care, proclaimed deans of leading academic medical centers from across the U.S. The group commentary was published in Science Translational Medicine on Wednesday.

"For university medical centers to continue to make the enormous strides in advancing research and helping people prevent and combat disease, the nation needs to invest in research," said co-author, Vivian S. Lee, M.D., Ph.D., MBA, dean of the University of Utah's School of Medicine and senior vice president of health sciences. "As it stands already, university medical centers subsidize federally funded research. Moreover, universities have increasing administrative and bureaucratic burdens, and our clinical reimbursements, which have been used to help support research and teaching, are diminishing."


On average, universities contribute 53 cents for every dollar they receive in research support, and their share of the costs has grown faster than any other funding source (state governments, technology transfer, and philanthropy). Much of that money comes from clinical margins, which are shrinking under efforts to control health spending.

Proliferating federal regulations have added to the cost of research. Seventy member institutions of the Association of American Academic Medical Colleges spent $22.6 million just to comply with rules governing potential financial conflicts of interest.
[How much do financial conflicts of interest cost us? Eg., it could result in hiding the bad side effects of medicines, in order to protect the profits of the institution, or drug companies.]

"The frightening truth is that America will soon forfeit its preeminence in biomedical science. As a country, we have already fallen to tenth in the world in our investment in research and development, and we are slipping further behind.


Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Eating a Mediterranean diet could cut womb cancer risk

Public Release: 27-May-2015
Cancer Research UK

Women who eat a Mediterranean diet could cut their risk of womb cancer by more than half (57 per cent), according to a study published today (Wednesday) in the British Journal of Cancer*.

The Italian researchers looked at the diets of over 5,000 Italian women to see how closely they stuck to a Mediterranean diet and whether they went on to develop womb cancer**.

The team broke the Mediterranean diet down into nine different components and measured how closely women stuck to them. The diet includes eating lots of vegetables, fruits and nuts, pulses, cereals and potatoes, fish, monounsaturated fats but little meat, milk and other dairy products and moderate alcohol intake.

Researchers found that women who adhered to the Mediterranean diet most closely by eating between seven and nine of the beneficial food groups lowered their risk of womb cancer by more than half (57 per cent).

Those who stuck to six elements of the diet's components reduced their risk of womb cancer by 46 per cent and those who stuck to five reduced their risk by a third (34 per cent).

But those women whose diet included fewer than five of the components did not lower their risk of womb cancer significantly.


Challenging students benefit from limit setting

Public Release: 27-May-2015
Academy of Finland

The teacher's interaction style can either foster or slow down the development of math skills among children with challenging temperaments. This was shown in the results of the study "Parents, teachers and children's learning" carried out at the University of Jyväskylä, Finland.

Ph.D. Jaana Viljaranta, along with her colleagues, studied the role of teachers' interaction styles in academic skill development among children with different temperamental characteristics.

A child's challenging temperament may show up in the classroom, for example, as low task-orientation and lack of concentration, or as a tendency to intense negative emotional expressions. Viljaranta et al. found that a child's challenging temperament evokes two kinds of response styles among teachers. On the one hand, teachers try to regulate the child's behavior via clear limit setting and instructions, and on the other hand they try to impact the child's behavior via guilt-inducing techniques and by appealing to his/her emotions. In the study by Viljaranta et al., limit setting was found to be beneficial for children's math skill development, whereas guilt-inducing techniques led to slower math skill development especially with girls.

Iowa researchers find ending Medicaid dental benefit costly

And this does't count costs from other health effects. Eg., tooth & gun problems can cause heart problems, even brain infection.

Public Release: 27-May-2015
University of Iowa

A new study suggests that states may not save as much money as anticipated by eliminating adult dental coverage under Medicaid.

The study from University of Iowa researchers looked at California, which decided to end adult dental coverage under Medicaid in mid-2009. Some 3.5 million low-income adults in the Golden State lost dental benefits.

The researchers found those adults made more than 1,800 additional visits annually to hospital emergency departments for dental care after losing the benefit. In all, California spent $2.9 million each year in Medicaid costs for dental care in emergency departments, up from $1.6 million before the state eliminated the adult dental care benefit. That's a 68 percent increase in costs, when factoring inflation.

Since 2010, five states -- Arizona, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, and South Dakota -- have either curtailed or eliminated adult dental benefits under Medicaid. Other states, notably Illinois and Missouri, are considering some limits to coverage.

"I think the important point here is although the Medicaid dental benefit for adults is optional, savings derived from dropping the benefit are somewhat eaten up by the increased costs from adults seeking dental care in hospital emergency departments," said Astha Singhal, a postdoctoral researcher in the UI College of Dentistry and corresponding author on the paper, published this month in the journal Health Affairs.

Fifteen states, including Iowa, currently offer comprehensive dental benefits for low-income adults.

The states' deliberations come as the federal government, under the Affordable Care Act, will pick up upwards of 90 percent of the Medicaid bill to states that offer dental benefits to adults through 2020. After that, the costs will shift gradually to states.


Other states have shown similar increases, according to other analyses.

Oregon saw a doubling of emergency department visits for unmet adult dental needs after eliminating the Medicaid benefit in 2003. It has since restored the benefit. Meanwhile, Maryland experienced a 12 percent increase in the rate of emergency department visits by adults for dental care after dropping the Medicaid benefit in 1993.

"Providing dental coverage facilitates access to dental care, whereas when cutting dental benefits, patients have no option but to go to hospital emergency departments, which are not equipped to treat them appropriately," said Singhal, who has a research appointment in the UI's Public Policy Center.

'Do' is better than 'don't' when it comes to eating better

Public Release: 27-May-2015
Cornell Food & Brand Lab

Tell your child or spouse what they can eat and not what they can't. Telling your child to eat an apple so they stay healthy will work better than telling them not to eat the cookie because it will make them fat. A new Cornell discovery shows that "Don't" messages don't work for most of us.

These new findings cast a dim light on the many public health campaigns that have used a fear approach to convince us to eat better, such as telling us: don't eat candy or drink chocolate milk, or eat red meat because of harmful consequences. The Cornell study findings show that focusing on Do is better than on Don't. That is, stressing the benefits of eating healthy foods is more effective than warning against the harms of eating unhealthy foods.


Lives lost for the same preventable reason

I have always worn a seatbelt, but when I first started driving, cars did not yet have shoulder harnesses. I have been saved by serious injury by my seatbelt, and a shoulder harness helps significantly more.

By David Rutter
May 26, 2015

Reeve Mathew was 10. John Forbes Nash Jr. was 86.

One was a bright child from Gurnee. The other was a famed Nobel Prize winning mathematician.

They shared nothing obvious in life except for the manner in which their lives ended Saturday.

They were killed in car crashes in which the drivers of vehicles in which they were passengers lost control and crashed into medians on turnpikes. Mathew died on I-94. Nash died in New Jersey.

Then they were ejected from their cars. The impact of their bodies hurtling from the vehicle, and crashing into a protective barrier near the roadside killed them.

One was a child on his way to church. Another was the Princeton mathematician whose strange, odd, but fulfilling life was profiled in the movie "A Beautiful Mind." Russell Crowe played Nash in the movie.

What Reeve and Nash also shared was the way in which they could have survived the crash had they exercised the option.

They could have worn their seat belts, but police investigators said they did not.
State police: Boy, 10, dies, another badly hurt in Gurnee wreck

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State police: Boy, 10, dies, another badly hurt in Gurnee wreck

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Nash's wife, Alicia, also perished Saturday for the same lack. She, too, was ejected from the backseat of a taxi as it sped down the New Jersey Turnpike on Saturday before careening out of control and striking a median.


Americans involved in motor vehicle crashes who didn't wear safety belts are an astounding 47 times more likely to die than those who did, a Federal Highway and Safety Administration study found.

The death rate for those wearing a seat belt in crashes was less than 1 in 2,000. But for those not secured, the rate was almost 22 in 1,000 — 46.9 times higher than those buckled up. Those not wearing belts were also 10 times more likely to suffer an incapacitating injury.


Of course, the lack of seat belts also causes $50 billion in medical costs for those who survive.


India Heat Wave Death Toll May Be Vastly Underestimated

In addition, the heat may cause a medical condition that doesn't cause immediate death, but results in the person dying sooner than they would have. Eg., a heart attack or kidney failure.

by Tia Ghose, Staff Writer | May 27, 2015

A heat wave scorching India this week has already killed at least 1,000 people, according to Indian authorities, but that number may be a huge underestimate, one researcher says.

It's possible that thousands more have died as a result of the blistering conditions but that their deaths might not have been attributed to the heat wave, said Dr. Gulrez Shah Azhar, a community health researcher and policy analyst at Rand Corp. in Santa Monica, California.

Heat waves can be especially harsh on people with pre-existing health conditions, such as heart disease and dehydration. That's because heat waves can overtax the body, making it difficult for people with these conditions to deal with the illness and they often are more likely to die as a result, Azhar said.

And this heat wave could be a harbinger, as climate models suggest heat waves may become more frequent and intense in the coming decades, researchers say.

Right now, the central-southern states of Telangana and Andhra Pradesh in India are scorching hot, with temperatures reaching a peak of 118 degrees Fahrenheit (48 degrees Celsius) in the state of Telangana last week, the BBC reported.


But as shocking as the death toll seems, it may be a huge underestimate, Azhar said. That's because people who die as a result of heat don't necessarily die of heatstroke or heat rash. Instead, they die of heart attacks, kidney failure, dehydration or other medical conditions that were exacerbated by the heat, Azhar said.

For instance, in the western Indian city of Ahmedabad in 2010, authorities reported 50 deaths attributed to a weeklong heat wave. But in a 2010 study detailed in the journal PLOS ONE, Azhar and his colleagues found that 1,344 more people died during the hottest week than is typical for the region during cooler periods. (Two-thirds of these excess deaths were of women, though Azhar doesn't know why that is.)

What's more, India may be more prone to undercounting because authorities rely on death certificates to ascertain the cause of death. The homeless and those with no property to dispense are often not issued death certificates, Azhar said.


"Our lifestyle is making us more vulnerable to heat," Azhar said.

People in India used to stay indoors or in the shade during the hottest part of the day, drinking cold yogurt; if they had to venture outdoors, they would cover their heads with white cloth. Historically, houses in desert regions were built with high roofs, insulation and windows that kept out most of the sun's punishing rays. Nowadays, however, people have lost their knowledge of what to do during heat waves, he noted. Many also live in tin shacks in overcrowded megacities that, as urban heat islands, are several degrees warmer than nearby locales.


India Heat Wave Death Toll May Be Vastly Underestimated
by Tia Ghose, Staff Writer | May 27, 2015 10:57am ET
man in heat wave in kolkata
A local man in Kolkata, India covers his face to avoid the extreme heat on May 23, 2015. A heat wave in India has claimed at least 1,118 lives so far this year.
Credit: Saikat Paul/
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A heat wave scorching India this week has already killed at least 1,000 people, according to Indian authorities, but that number may be a huge underestimate, one researcher says.

It's possible that thousands more have died as a result of the blistering conditions but that their deaths might not have been attributed to the heat wave, said Dr. Gulrez Shah Azhar, a community health researcher and policy analyst at Rand Corp. in Santa Monica, California.

Heat waves can be especially harsh on people with pre-existing health conditions, such as heart disease and dehydration. That's because heat waves can overtax the body, making it difficult for people with these conditions to deal with the illness and they often are more likely to die as a result, Azhar said.

And this heat wave could be a harbinger, as climate models suggest heat waves may become more frequent and intense in the coming decades, researchers say. [The 8 Hottest Places on Earth]

Heat wave

Right now, the central-southern states of Telangana and Andhra Pradesh in India are scorching hot, with temperatures reaching a peak of 118 degrees Fahrenheit (48 degrees Celsius) in the state of Telangana last week, the BBC reported. So far, at least 1,118 people have died in India as a result of the heat, according to authorities in India.

The furnacelike conditions are a result of weird wind circulation. By April, the atmospheric circulation above India usually reverses course, and air hovering over Somalia blows across the Arabian Sea, picks up moisture and then dumps that water over the subcontinent in the form of monsoon rains, said Raghu Murtugudde, an atmospheric and oceanic scientist at the University of Maryland in College Park.

But that hasn't happened yet.

"If you look at surface winds and wind anomalies, they're coming straight from the northwestern deserts of India into this region, so it's just bringing dry, hot air instead of the moist air that should be coming off the Arabian Sea and bringing some showers," Murtugudde told Live Science.

As in other heat waves, many of the victims were working outdoors during the hottest part of the day, or were homeless. The elderly and the very young are also more susceptible to heatstroke.

Vast undercount

But as shocking as the death toll seems, it may be a huge underestimate, Azhar said. That's because people who die as a result of heat don't necessarily die of heatstroke or heat rash. Instead, they die of heart attacks, kidney failure, dehydration or other medical conditions that were exacerbated by the heat, Azhar said.

For instance, in the western Indian city of Ahmedabad in 2010, authorities reported 50 deaths attributed to a weeklong heat wave. But in a 2010 study detailed in the journal PLOS ONE, Azhar and his colleagues found that 1,344 more people died during the hottest week than is typical for the region during cooler periods. (Two-thirds of these excess deaths were of women, though Azhar doesn't know why that is.)

What's more, India may be more prone to undercounting because authorities rely on death certificates to ascertain the cause of death. The homeless and those with no property to dispense are often not issued death certificates, Azhar said.

Adapting to the heat

India has always been hot, yet people didn't routinely die of heatstroke, where the body can't keep its body temperature low enough to maintain functioning. And some of the hottest places on Earth, where the mercury routinely reaches temperatures similar to those seen in India, don't see such dramatic heat-related death tolls. So why are so many people dying as a result of the heat in India?

"Our lifestyle is making us more vulnerable to heat," Azhar said.

People in India used to stay indoors or in the shade during the hottest part of the day, drinking cold yogurt; if they had to venture outdoors, they would cover their heads with white cloth. Historically, houses in desert regions were built with high roofs, insulation and windows that kept out most of the sun's punishing rays. Nowadays, however, people have lost their knowledge of what to do during heat waves, he noted. Many also live in tin shacks in overcrowded megacities that, as urban heat islands, are several degrees warmer than nearby locales. [What 11 Billion People Mean for the Planet]

However, there's some progress being made. After the deadly summer of 2010, when hundreds of people in India died a result of the blazing heat, Azhar and his colleagues worked with city officials in Ahmedabad to develop simple ways to prevent heat-related deaths.

In unpublished work, they found that simple interventions, such as sending people text messages alerting them of high temperatures, or keeping parks and homeless shelters open on the hottest days, could reduce the number of deaths during heat waves, Azhar said. Authorities could also limit the problem by avoiding scheduled blackouts or water cuts on the hottest days, Azhar added.

India should figure out how deal with the heat waves, as the high temperatures are not going away anytime soon, said Subimal Ghosh, a civil engineer at the Indian Institute of Technology Bombay, in what is now Mumbai. In a study published in April in the journal Regional Environmental Change, Ghosh and his colleagues found that heat waves may come earlier in the year, and may affect regions normally not plagued by extreme temperatures.

"With the increase of global warming, the occurrence of heat waves will increase," Ghosh told Live Science.

Intense heatwave in India continues, death toll rises to 1412

May 27, 2015

The death toll due to intense heat wave sweeping across many parts of the country continued to mount and reached 1412 on Wednesday, with only Andhra Pradesh and Telangana accounting for 1360 deaths.


The plains of Uttar Pradesh continued to reel under scorching heat with mercury in Agra on Wednesday crossing the 46 degrees (117F) mark, making it the hottest place in the state.


Fact or Fiction?: A "Base Tan" Can Protect against Sunburn

An SPF of 2 means it takes twice as long to burn. So if it takes you a half hour w/o a tan, a tan of SPF 2 should mean it takes an hour. Which is not inconsiderable.

By Dina Fine Maron | May 22, 2015


Scientists came to this conclusion after studying the tanned buttocks of dozens of volunteers. In study after study they have found that a base tan affords almost no protection against future ultraviolet exposure. In fact, it actually puts otherwise pale people at risk of developing skin cancers. A base tan only provides an SPF, or sun protection factor, of 3 or less, according to the U.S. surgeon general. For beachgoers, that means if a person would normally turn pink after 10 minutes in the sun, an SPF 2 base tan would theoretically buy her another 10 minutes—or 20 minutes in total—before she burns. That, says David Leffell, the chief of dermatologic surgery and cutaneous oncology at Yale University School of Medicine, is “completely meaningless” in terms of providing protection.


Getting a base tan from a tanning bed appears to be an even worse idea than preemptively exposing yourself to the sun. One study published this year looked at tanning from UVA light (the main staple of tanning beds) and found that the protection from future burn would not even meet an SPF 1.5 threshold. What’s worse, the body does not protect itself very effectively against the UVA rays that predominate in most tanning beds so indoor tanning can cause serious damage to your skin. Recent estimates suggest indoor tanning causes about 419,000 cases of skin cancer in the U.S. every year, which is almost double the number of cases of lung cancer linked to smoking. Still, UVA is often chosen for tanning beds because its longer wavelength penetrates deeper into the skin and is less likely to cause sunburn. The body will readily redistribute its existing melanin in response to UVA exposure—which results in immediate skin darkening—but UVB rays are better at triggering several more long-term protective mechanisms in response to cellular damage. Those include the production of more melanin, skin thickening and signaling DNA repair systems that try to correct for mutations before they are carried forward, says Heather Rogers, professor of dermatology at the University of Washington School of Medicine.


Number of extremely hot temperatures are increasing

James Hansen, Makiko Sato (National Aeronautics and Space Administration Goddard Institute for Space Studies and Columbia University Earth Institute, New York, NY 10025)
Reto Ruedy (Trinnovim Limited Liability Company, New York, NY 10025)

March 29, 2012


“Climate dice,” describing the chance of unusually warm or cool seasons, have become more and more “loaded” in the past 30 y, coincident with rapid global warming. The distribution of seasonal mean temperature anomalies has shifted toward higher temperatures and the range of anomalies has increased. An important change is the emergence of a category of summertime extremely hot outliers, more than three standard deviations (3σ) warmer than the climatology of the 1951–1980 base period. This hot extreme, which covered much less than 1% of Earth’s surface during the base period, now typically covers about 10% of the land area. It follows that we can state, with a high degree of confidence, that extreme anomalies such as those in Texas and Oklahoma in 2011 and Moscow in 2010 were a consequence of global warming because their likelihood in the absence of global warming was exceedingly small. We discuss practical implications of this substantial, growing, climate change.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Free-Market Dogma has Jacked Up our Electricity Bills

May 26, 2015
David Cay Johnston

Free-market dogma has jacked up our electricity bills: A new analysis shows that people pay 35 percent more for electricity in states that abandoned traditional regulation of monopoly utilities in the 1990s compared with states that stuck with it. ....

You might think that the higher prices in the 15 states with markets would encourage investment, creating an abundance of new power plants. That, at any rate, is what right-wing Chicago School economic theories on which the electricity markets were created say should happen. The validity of these theories, and flaws in how they were implemented, matter right now because Congress is considering a raft of energy supply bills that include some expansion of the market pricing of wholesale electricity. ...

Yet just 2.4 percent of new electric generating capacity in 2013 “was built for sale into a market,” electricity-market analyst Elise Caplan showed in a study last fall... The rest were built in states with traditional regulation or under long-term supply contracts that essentially guaranteed repayment of loans to build the plants.

Here’s another measure of failure: Areas covered by electricity markets have 60 percent of America's generating capacity, but enjoyed just 6 percent of new generation built in 2013.

If unregulated markets are invariably better, as the Chicago School holds, why was 94 percent of new generating capacity built in traditionally regulated jurisdictions? ...

SEC charges Atlanta investment firm, two executives accused of defrauding city's police, firefighter pension funds

These are not the only public employee pension funds that have suffered from such behaiour by private consultants.

Phil W. Hudson
May 21, 2015

The Securities and Exchange Commission charged an Atlanta-based investment advisory firm and two executives with fraud.

According to the SEC, Gray Financial Group, its founder and president Laurence O. Gray, and its co-CEO Robert C. Hubbard IV are accused of selling unsuitable investments to pension funds for the city’s police and firefighters, transit workers and other employees.

The SEC’s Enforcement Division alleges the company and its two executives breached their fiduciary duty by steering these public pension fund clients to invest in an alternative investment fund offered by the firm despite knowing the investments did not comply with state law. Georgia law allows most public pension funds in the state to purchase alternative investment funds, but the investments are subject to certain restrictions that Gray Financial Group’s fund allegedly failed to meet.

The SEC’s Enforcement Division alleges that Gray Financial Group has collected more than $1.7 million in fees from the pension fund clients as a result of the improper investments.


Babies can think before they can speak

Public Release: 26-May-2015
Babies can think before they can speak

Humans are able to learn abstract relations even before the first year of life

Northwestern University

Two pennies can be considered the same -- both are pennies, just as two elephants can be considered the same, as both are elephants. Despite the vast difference between pennies and elephants, we easily notice the common relation of sameness that holds for both pairs.

Analogical ability -- the ability to see common relations between objects, events or ideas -- is a key skill that underlies human intelligence and differentiates humans from other apes.

While there is considerable evidence that preschoolers can learn abstract relations, it remains an open question whether infants can as well. In a new Northwestern University study, researchers found that infants are capable of learning the abstract relations of same and different after only a few examples.


Dedre Gentner, a co-author of the study and professor of psychology at Weinberg, said, "The infants in our study were able to form an abstract same or different relation after seeing only 6-9 examples. It appears that relational learning is something that humans, even very young humans, are much better at than other primates."

For example, she noted that in a recent study using baboons, those animals that succeeded in matching same and different relations required over 15,000 trials.


Cannabis use can be prevented, reduced or delayed

Public Release: 26-May-2015
University of Montreal

Responding to rapidly shifting legal and cultural environments, researchers at the University of Montreal and CHU Sainte-Justine Children's Hospital have found a way to prevent, reduce or delay cannabis use amongst some at-risk youth. Cannabis users are at risk of neurocognitive deficits, reduced educational and occupational attainment, motor vehicle accidents, exacerbation of psychiatric symptoms, and precipitation of psychosis. Adolescents are particularly at risk due to the developing nature of their brain. Youth who have used marijuana have been shown to have less ability to sustain their attention and control their impulse control and have impaired cognitive processes. "Marijuana use is highly prevalent among teenagers in North America and Europe," explained Dr. Patricia Conrod, who led the study. "As attitudes and laws towards marijuana are changing, it is important to find ways to prevent and reduce its use amongst at-risk youth. Our study reveals that targeted, brief interventions by trained teachers can achieve that goal."


People who are sensitive to anxiety or negative thinking, or who are impulsive or sensation-seeking are known to be at greater risk of substance abuse.


What is the most humane way to kill a cane toad?

Public Release: 26-May-2015
University of Sydney

Like many pests, cane toads are killed in their thousands in Australia every year, especially by community-based 'toad-busting' groups. New research has now revealed the most humane way to do it.

"We need to offer a humane death to the toads - it's not their fault they were brought to Australia 80 years ago - but until now nobody has been sure how to do it," said Professor Rick Shine, from the University of Sydney's School of Biological Sciences.

He is lead author on research showing that a once-popular method, currently outlawed nationally and internationally by animal ethics committees as inhumane, is actually a simple and ethical way to kill a toad. The research by the University of Sydney, Monash University and the University of Wollongong is published today in the journal Biology Open (paper attached).

The researchers implanted small data-loggers in the brains of cane toads to measure any pain responses. They then put the toads into a refrigerator for a few hours, before transferring them to a household freezer. The toads quietly slipped into unconsciousness as they froze, and their brains did not register any evidence of pain during the process.

Professor Shine said: "This procedure was a widespread method for humanely killing amphibians and reptiles for many years until about 20 years ago, but animal ethics committees decided it was inhumane because the animals' toes might freeze while their brains were still warm enough to detect pain. However, our work shows that in cane toads at least, the toad just drifts off into torpor as it cools down, and its brain is no longer functioning by the time its body begins to freeze."


At least 800 have died in a heat wave that has melted roads in India

Vivek Nemana
May 26, 2015

At least 800 people have died in a major heatwave that has swept across India, melting roads in New Delhi as temperatures neared 50 degrees Celsius (122 Fahrenheit).


Large parts of India, including the capital New Delhi, have endured days of sweltering heat, prompting fears of power cuts as energy-guzzling air conditioners work overtime.

The Hindustan Times daily said the maximum temperature in the capital hit a two-year high of 45.5 degrees Celsius (113.9F) on Monday -- five degrees higher than the seasonal average. [that's 9 degrees Fahrenheit higher.]


The paper carried a front-page photo of a main road in the city melting in the heat, its zebra pedestrian crossing stripes curling and spreading into the asphalt.


Honesty can keep companies' stock prices up during hard times

So now we might start seeing fake honesty, where company executives say the take responsibility, while really blaming others, which means they won't take steps to improve their own practices.

Public Release: 26-May-2015
University of Missouri-Columbia

Honesty is the best policy, and a new study from the University of Missouri finds that companies can benefit when they publicly accept the blame for poor performance. Researchers found companies that performed poorly yet blamed other parties -- such as the government, competitors, labor unions or the economy -- experienced a significant blow to their stock and had difficulty recovering. Companies that accepted blame and had a plan to address their problems stopped the decline in their share prices after their announcement, but those companies that blamed others continued to experience falling share prices for the entire year following their public explanation.

"Honesty is appreciated, especially when it's a difficult message from leaders," said Stephen Ferris, professor and senior associate dean at the MU Trulaske College of Business. "Investors will accept a forthright recognition of an honest mistake, expecting that corrective actions are likely to follow. When firms explain a negative event as due to an external cause, company leaders can appear powerless or dishonest to shareholders."


Ferris said that just taking responsibility was not the entire solution. When companies accepted the blame, they also had to explain how they were going to fix the problem.


"Typically, we found firms that blamed themselves also wanted investors to know that they had identified the problem and that they were expecting to improve their performance in the future," Ferris said. "Following these announcements, we noticed a striking separation between companies that accepted responsibility for their performance problems and those that blamed others. Those companies accepting responsibility saw their share price stabilize over the next several months, while those that blamed others continued to experience falling share prices."

Ferris said several factors could be the cause of trying to lay blame on external forces. Those factors include arrogance, pride, fear of litigation, and the inability of company leaders to see their own shortcomings. Of those companies that blamed external factors, 44 percent replaced their CEOs in the following year compared to only 32 percent of companies who accepted responsibility.

Tall Trees Sucked Dry by Global Warming

By Elizabeth Harball and ClimateWire | May 26, 2015

A well-known scientific principle describing how water moves through plants can help explain why trees may struggle to survive as the planet warms, scientists say in a new study.

Using an equation called Darcy’s law, the research also helps explain why iconic giant trees like the California redwood could be especially vulnerable to rising temperatures. The concept was outlined in a paper published this month in the journal Nature Climate Change.

Plants’ vascular systems can be likened to bunches of straws, explained lead author Nathan McDowell, a researcher at Los Alamos National Laboratory’s Earth and Environmental Sciences Division, meaning water moves from the roots to the branches through tension.

The atmosphere pulls water through plants’ systems, and “the warmer and drier the air is—which is what climate change is doing—it’s increasing the evaporative demand,” said McDowell. “The warmer the air is, the more water it can hold, so it sucks harder on those straws.”

To keep from dehydrating, plants start to close their stomata—the openings in leaves through which they take in CO2.

But as stomata close during a drought, they can’t photosynthesize as effectively, McDowell said, preventing trees from taking advantage of more CO2 in the atmosphere.

“It’s like going to a buffet with duct tape over your mouth,” said McDowell.

Bigger trees, of course, have longer “straws” moving water through their systems than shorter trees, meaning they have to close their stomata even more, resulting in greater stress to the plant, McDowell explained.

For this reason, the study states, Darcy’s law shows that “shrubby, low-statured plants are most likely to survive, whereas tall, old-growth forests are particularly vulnerable to warming climate.”


But McDowell said it’s important to note that his paper has consequences that apply to more places than just today’s current drought hot spots.

“The big punch line of the paper is that globally, everywhere, temperatures are going up,” he said.

Because Darcy’s law applies to all plants, tall tree species around the world could be vulnerable to climate change. That includes many beyond the U.S. Southwest and other regions where scientists are already fairly certain forest ecosystems are likely to suffer.


Glancing at greenery on a city rooftop can markedly boost concentration levels

Public Release: 25-May-2015
University of Melbourne

A University of Melbourne study shows that glancing at a grassy green roof for only 40 seconds markedly boosts concentration.

The study, published in the Journal of Environmental Psychology, gave 150 students a boring, attention-sapping task. The students were asked to press a key as a series of numbers repeatedly flashed on a computer screen, unless that number was three.

They were given a 40-second break midway through the task to view a city rooftop scene. Half the group viewed a flowering meadow green roof, the other half looked out onto a bare concrete roof.

After the break, students who glanced at the greener vista made significantly less errors and demonstrated superior concentration on the second half of the task, compared to those who viewed the concrete roof.

The green roof provided a restorative experience that boosted those mental resources that control attention, researchers concluded.


"It's really important to have micro-breaks. It's something that a lot of us do naturally when we're stressed or mentally fatigued," Dr Lee added. "There's a reason you look out the window and seek nature, it can help you concentrate on your work and to maintain performance across the workday.

"Certainly this study has implications for workplace well-being and adds extra impetus to continue greening our cities. City planners around the world are switching on to these benefits of green roofs and we hope the future of our cities will be a very green one."


Governor says deadly flooding is worst ever seen in Texas area

Global warming is causing more extreme rainfalls and snowfalls. Warmer water evaporates faster. Warmer air hold more moisuture. The atmosphere has more moisture than it used to. When conditions change, this results in heavier precipitation, rain or snow.

By voting for climate denialists, by not changing our own habits, we have chosen this.

Jim Forsyth
May 25, 2015

Texas Governor Greg Abbott on Monday likened the ferocity of flash flooding that killed at least three people to a tsunami, and authorities said a dam had given way in a state park.

Abbott declared states of disaster in 24 counties and flew over the area south of Austin to assess the damage caused by tornadoes, heavy rainfall, thunderstorms and flooding that forced evacuations and rooftop rescues and left thousands of residents without electricity.

"This is the biggest flood this area of Texas has ever seen," Abbott said.

"It is absolutely massive - the relentless tsunami-type power of this wave of water," he said.

He described homes that were "completely wiped off the map" by the dangerous weather system that struck Texas and Oklahoma.


The National Weather Service reported 4.5 inches (11.5 cm) of rain fell in 90 minutes at Marquette, in central Kansas, washing out roads.

The bodies of a 14-year-old boy and his dog were found in a storm drain in the Dallas suburb of DeSoto on Monday, police said. Two other people killed in the storm were described as an unidentified man found dead in San Marcos, Texas, and a firefighter who was swept into a storm drain in Oklahoma.

The New York Times said a Tulsa, Oklahoma, woman also died on Saturday after her automobile hydroplaned on a highway.

Twelve people were listed as missing in Texas, including eight from an extended family from Corpus Christi who were vacationing in a home in Wimberley. The building was washed into the raging Blanco River, according to officials and the family's church.


Parts of the area have received more than 1-1/2 feet (46 cm)of rain since May 1, six times what it typically receives in all of May, said.


tags: extreme weather,

Global warming is causing more extreme storms

John Abraham
Feb. 9, 2015

Scientists have known for decades (more than a century actually) that increases in greenhouse gases will cause the Earth to warm. What is less clear is how this warming will impact the weather we experience on a daily, monthly, or yearly basis. Recent research shows that we are already feeling the changes.

So, how might a warm planet be different from the planet we inherited? Increased temperatures can cause more heat waves, more droughts, more intense rainfall, higher water-vapor levels, sea-level rise, changes to ocean acidity, more intense winds, etc. Of course, some of these are not “weather” (ocean acidification and sea-level rise), but I include them because they are well-known and significant ways in which climate change expresses itself.

It is not correct to think these are future changes that will impact our children or their children. Rather, these changes can be detected now. And, as the years progress, we are detecting more significant changes.

This new paper provides up-to-date understanding of how extreme weather is changing in the USA. The paper looks at the USA, partly because there are excellent records there. We show that increases in intense precipitation have occurred in all regions of the continental USA and “further changes are expected in the coming decades”. It is a second of two papers that were published to the community of civil engineers so that future infrastructure can be designed with changing weather patterns in mind.

The physical mechanism that influences changes to precipitation is largely the moisture-carrying ability of the atmosphere. (For those of us who are sticklers for exactness, the atmosphere doesn’t “carry” moisture but this is the common phrase which represents the saturation pressure changes with temperature). Basically, when it gets warmer, the air “has” more water (humidity). But that water doesn’t stay in the atmosphere forever, it rains [or snows] out quickly.

So, more moisture equals more rain. Not only that but when you increase moisture in the atmosphere, you tend to get heavier downpours. So, when it rains, it really rains. There are other aspects to changes in precipitation that are noted, for instance, changes to large-scale atmospheric wind patterns push wet and dry regions to different parts of the planet. So, this is complicated, a lot of things are happening at the same time.

Every part of the continental United States has experienced increased very intense precipitation events. The further northwest you go, the larger the increase. As you travel to the Southwest, the increases become much smaller.

But haven’t scientists also told us that the drier areas will become drier and the wetter areas will become wetter? How does this adage conform to the recent paper? Well, it turns out that if you get an increase in intense precipitation, it doesn’t mean that your location will be wetter. It may just mean that the rain you get falls in heavier downpours. Also, the “wetness” and “dryness” of an area doesn’t just depend on how much precipitation occurs. It also depends on temperature, areas that heat up will see their water evaporate more.


tags: extreme weather