Friday, July 31, 2015

Omega-3 fatty acids may help improve treatment and quality of life in cancer patients

Public Release: 28-Jul-2015
Omega-3 fatty acids may help improve treatment and quality of life in cancer patients
American Society for Parenteral and Enteral Nutrition (A.S.P.E.N.)

Adding omega-3 fatty acids to anti-tumor medications may improve treatment response and quality of life for cancer patients according to a new study by researchers at the University Hospitals of Leicester in the United Kingdom.

The study, published today in the OnlineFirst version of the Journal of Parenteral and Enteral Nutrition (JPEN), the research journal of the American Society for Parenteral and Enteral Nutrition (A.S.P.E.N.), examined 50 patients with advanced pancreatic cancer.


Earth now halfway to UN global warming limit

Even with several factors that usually would lead to cooling, the earth has continued to warm, just more slowly than it otherwise would.

29 July 2015

IT’S the outcome the world wants to avoid, but we are already halfway there. All but one of the main trackers of global surface temperature are now passing more than 1 °C of warming relative to the second half of the 19th century, according to an exclusive analysis done for New Scientist.

We could also be seeing the end of the much-discussed slowdown in surface warming since 1998, meaning this is just the start of a period of rapid warming. “There’s a good chance the hiatus is over,” says Kevin Trenberth of the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colorado.
[We never had a slowdown in global warming. Much of the warming has been going into the oceans, which can't go on forever, and is not be a good thing anyway.]

Last year was the hottest since records began, but only just. With an El Niño now under way – meaning warm surface waters in the Pacific are releasing heat into the atmosphere – and predicted to intensify, it looks as if the global average surface temperature could jump by around 0.1 °C in just one year. “2015 is shaping up to smash the old record,” says Trenberth.

The UN negotiations on climate change aim to limit warming to 2 °C above pre-industrial temperatures. There is, however, no agreement on how to define pre-industrial temperature, says Ed Hawkins of the University of Reading, UK.

Because some global temperature records only begin in 1880, the period 1880 to 1899 is the easiest “pre-industrial” baseline for measuring warming. It is somewhat misleading, though, because the 1880s were particularly cold after the eruption of the Krakatoa volcano. The period 1850 to 1899 is a better baseline, says Hawkins.

What’s more, there are several long-term records of global annual average surface temperatures. All differ slightly because they use slightly different data sets and have their own ways of adjusting for


And if climate talks do not lead to drastic action, we could pass the 2 °C mark around the middle of the century. The planet may continue to warm fast in the coming years, at a rate more like those from 1984 to 1998, when it warmed at 0.26 °C per decade.

From 1998 to 2012, the rate slowed to about 0.04 °C per decade, according to the last International Panel on Climate Change report. This was due to a combination of factors: a less active sun, higher levels of cooling aerosols from volcanoes and Asian factories, and increased heat uptake by the oceans.
[And even with several factors that usually would lead to cooling, the earth continued to warm.]

One reason the oceans took up more heat was because of a phenomenon known as the Pacific Decadal Oscillation. The surface of the northern Pacific tends to flip between being extra cold and extra hot every two or three decades. It was in a cold, negative phase but now appears to have switched to a positive one, Trenberth says.

So temperatures might briefly drop next year after the current El Niño ends, he says, but the average warming rate over the next decade or so could be closer to the 0.2 °C per decade predicted for the business-as-usual pathway we are on.

We are also on the cusp of another ominous milestone: the level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is starting to edge past 400 parts per million. And with global emissions of greenhouse gases rising ever faster, there’s no end in sight to the grim trend.


Study finds unexpected biases against teen girls' leadership

Public Release: 28-Jul-2015
Study finds unexpected biases against teen girls' leadership
Researchers at the Harvard Graduate School of Education find that not only many teen boys but many teen girls and some parents appear to have biases against teen girls as leaders
Harvard University

CAMBRIDGE, Mass.-- Making Caring Common (MCC), a project of the Harvard Graduate School of Education, today released new research that suggests that many teen boys and teen girls--and some of their parents--have biases against teen girls as leaders. These biases could be powerful barriers to leadership for a generation of teen girls with historically high levels of education who are key to closing our nation's gender gap in leadership. The report also suggests that much can be done to prevent and reduce gender biases in children.

Titled "Leaning Out: Teen Girls and Gender Biases," the research report assesses the explicit (conscious) and implicit (unconscious) biases of teen girls, teen boys, and parents with regard to gender and leadership. Findings suggest that many teen boys and teen girls have biases against female leaders in powerful professions such as politics, that many teen girls have biases against other teen girls as leaders, and that many teens perceive their peers as biased against female leaders. Further, the research suggests that some mothers have implicit biases against teen girls as leaders.


Chimpanzees binge on clay to detox and boost the minerals in their diet

Public Release: 28-Jul-2015
Chimpanzees binge on clay to detox and boost the minerals in their diet
The chimps in Ugandan Budongo forest have recently started to boost the minerals in their diet by eating the clay which also helps them 'detox' and digest their food
University of Oxford

Wild chimpanzees in the forests of Uganda are increasingly eating clay to supplement the minerals in their diet, according to a long-term international study published in the early version of the journal PLOS ONE. The paper led by the University of Oxford describes how the researchers observed wild chimpanzees in the Budongo forest eating and drinking from clay pits and termite mounds. The paper concludes that this change in diet may be partly due to the widespread destruction of raffia palm trees that chimps relied on for their minerals in the past. However, the main reason seems to be the chimps have recently started to boost the minerals in their diet by eating the clay which also helps them 'detox' and digest their food.

The research was led by Emeritus Professor of Biological Anthropology at Oxford University, Vernon Reynolds, with a team of researchers from the universities of St Andrews, Brighton, Kent, Neuchatel, and Utrecht. Researchers observed the chimps using leaves like clay 'sponges', dipping the leaves in the clay water and returning to their mouths where they squeezed the liquid out with their tongues. They were also seen using their fingers to extract lumps of clay directly from the ground before eating it.

Studies of wild chimpanzees in the Budongo Forest, Western Uganda, have been continuing uninterrupted since 1990, when Professor Reynolds set up the Budongo Conservation Field Station there.

An analysis of the clay and termite soils shows they are very high in a range of minerals, but the clay was particularly high in aluminium - a feature of kaolinite clays eaten by a range of species, including humans, to aid digestion and detoxification. The chimps' diet, which consists mainly of fruits and leaves, is very high in tannins and the researchers believe that the clay provides an important way for chimpanzees to neutralize these. It is common practice for local women in Budongo to drink or eat forest clay mixed with water for stomach problems and during pregnancy. Clays, such as kaolinite, also contain sodium, calcium, iron, magnesium and potassium, says the paper, which the Budongo chimps seem to have discovered they can access with their leaf sponges. Accessing the clay with the leaf sponges was also found to provide higher mineral concentrations than taking clay-water or clay directly from the ground.

Before 2000 feeding on raffia palms was commonly observed among the Sonso chimps, but after 2005 it started to decline. Meanwhile, after 2005, clay soil feeding in Budongo seems to have increased, possibly because of the scarcity of raffia-palm trees which are now used in the local tobacco industry with the leaf stems being used for tying and curing tobacco leaves. The decaying pith of these palm trees was previously an important source of minerals for the chimpanzees.

Lead author Professor Reynolds, from Oxford University, said: 'Raffia is a key source of sodium, but to our surprise the sodium content was very low in the diet so this does not appear to be the main reason for the new clay-bingeing. Instead the wide range of minerals present in their diet suggests that clay is eaten as a general mineral supplement.'

A marked improvement in health and healthcare for Medicare patients

Public Release: 28-Jul-2015
A marked improvement in health and healthcare for Medicare patients

Yale University

In a 15-year study of older Medicare patients, Yale School of Medicine researchers saw an estimated 20% drop in mortality, about 30% fewer hospitalizations, and 40% reduction in deaths after hospitalization.

While these results are encouraging, they should not lead to complacency, the researchers caution.


The team found that annual mortality rates from all causes across the Medicare population declined from 5.3% in 1999 to 4.5% in 2013. Among hospitalized fee-for-service beneficiaries, in-hospital mortality declined, as did 30-day and 1-year mortality.


Krumholz and his team also found that the total number of hospitalizations for major surgery decreased over the course of the study. The average length of time spent in the hospital declined from 5 to 4 days, and the average inpatient costs per Medicare fee-for-service recipient declined from $3,290 to $2,801. The findings were consistent across geographic and demographic groups.


Diabetics who skip breakfast provoke hazardous blood sugar spikes

Public Release: 28-Jul-2015
Diabetics who skip breakfast provoke hazardous blood sugar spikes
Type-2 diabetics who 'fast' until noon risk day-long consequences, says Tel Aviv University researcher
American Friends of Tel Aviv University

More and more Americans on-the-go are skipping the "most important meal of the day," not eating until lunch. This tendency to miss breakfast has already been linked to the growing epidemic of obesity and cardiovascular problems in the US -- and it may put the health of diabetics at risk as well.

Very little was known regarding the effect of skipping breakfast on the health of diabetics -- until now. A new Tel Aviv University study reveals the substantial impact of skipping breakfast on type-2 diabetics. "Fasting" until noon triggers major blood sugar spikes (postprandial hyperglycemia) and impairs the insulin responses of type-2 diabetics throughout the rest of the day, researchers say.


"Despite the fact that many studies have previously demonstrated the benefits of a high-caloric breakfast for weight loss and to regulate the glucose metabolism, very little was known regarding the effect of skipping breakfast on glycemic spikes after meals throughout the entire day," said Prof. Jakubowicz. "It is quite remarkable that, for type-2 diabetic individuals, the omission of breakfast is associated with a significant increase in all-day blood sugar spikes and of HbA1C, which represents average blood glucose levels over the preceding three months."


Doctor warns about lead poisoning risk from recycling older electronic equipment

Public Release: 28-Jul-2015
Doctor warns about lead poisoning risk from recycling older electronic equipment
Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center

The disposal and recycling of electronic devices has increased exposure to lead and other toxicants and created "an emerging health concern," according to a pediatrician who directs the Environmental Health and Lead Clinic at Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center.

In a recent Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, published by the Centers for Disease Control, Dr. Nick Newman reports on two children, ages 1 and 2, whose father worked at an e-scrap recycling company crushing cathode ray tubes (CRTs). CRTs, made from leaded glass, were commonly used in televisions and computer monitors but largely have been replaced by newer technologies.

The children had blood lead levels of 18 micrograms per deciliter and 14 micrograms per deciliter. Although no safe blood lead level in children has been identified, a reference level of 5 micrograms per deciliter is now used to identify children for whom parents, doctors and public health officials should take action to reduce exposure to lead.

The father left his job soon after the elevated blood lead levels were detected, the levels subsequently decreased to 8.7 and 7.9 parts per deciliter over the next three months.

"Pediatricians should ask about parents' occupations and hobbies," says Dr Newman. "Not only is this a conversation starter with the family, but it also is an opportunity to perform primary prevention activities to avoid take-home exposures of lead, other metals, and toxicants that may be present at work. If a pediatrician has a question about whether a parent's occupation could be risky, they can find answers through the national Pediatric Environmental Health Specialty Unit network. The list of regional contacts can be found at"

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) has found that take-home exposure to hazardous chemicals and substances, including lead, is a widespread problem. Among the measures found to be effective in preventing these exposures in the home are:

Changing clothes and shoes before going home and leaving soiled clothing at work for laundering

Storing street clothes in separate areas of the workplace to prevent contamination

Showering before leaving work

Prohibiting removal of toxic substances or contaminated items from the workplace

"Preventing take-home exposure is key because decontaminating homes and vehicles isn't always effective in the long-term," says Dr. Newman. "Normal house cleaning and laundry methods are inadequate, and decontamination can potentially lead to hazardous exposures among workers doing the cleaning."


Lead affects the developing nervous system of children, and elevated levels in the blood are associated with hyperactivity, attention problems, conduct problems and impairments in thinking, understanding and learning. Although deteriorating lead paint in pre-1979 housing is the most common source of lead exposure in children, data indicate that at least 30 percent of children with elevated blood lead levels were exposed through a source other than paint.

"For the most part, older electronics at home are safe, but when they break they can potentially expose children to a number of toxicants, including lead," says Dr. Newman. "Families should take care with these older devices. If one breaks, such as an old TV falling and breaking the picture tube, they should immediately ventilate the area with fresh air, leave the area temporarily and contact their local health department for guidance with cleanup and disposal."

Hormones influence unethical behavior

Public Release: 28-Jul-2015
Hormones influence unethical behavior
University of Texas at Austin

AUSTIN, Texas -- Hormones play a two-part role in encouraging and reinforcing cheating and other unethical behavior, according to research from Harvard University and The University of Texas at Austin.

With cheating scandals a persistent threat on college campuses and financial fraud costing businesses more than $3.7 trillion annually, UT Austin and Harvard researchers looked to hormones for more answers, specifically the reproductive hormone testosterone and the stress hormone cortisol.

According to the study, the endocrine system plays a dual role in unethical acts. First, elevated hormone levels predict likelihood of cheating. Then, a change of hormone levels during the act reinforces the behavior.

"Although the science of hormones and behavior dates back to the early 19th century, only recently has research revealed just how powerful and pervasive the influence of the endocrine system is on human behavior," said the corresponding author and UT Austin professor of psychology Robert Josephs.

Researchers asked 117 participants to complete a math test, grade it themselves and self-report the number of correctly completed problems. The more problems they got correct, the more money they would earn.

From salivary samples collected before and after the test, researchers found that individuals with elevated levels of testosterone and cortisol were more likely to overstate the number of correctly solved problems.

"Elevated testosterone decreases the fear of punishment while increasing sensitivity to reward. Elevated cortisol is linked to an uncomfortable state of chronic stress that can be extremely debilitating," Josephs said. "Testosterone furnishes the courage to cheat, and elevated cortisol provides a reason to cheat."

Additionally, participants who cheated showed lowered levels of cortisol and reported reductions in emotional distress after the test, as if cheating provided some sort of stress relief.

"The stress reduction is accompanied by a powerful stimulation of the reward centers in the brain, so these physiological psychological changes have the unfortunate consequence of reinforcing the unethical behavior," Josephs said.

Because neither hormone without the other predicted unethical behavior, lowering levels of either hormone may prevent unethical episodes. Prior research shows that tasks that reward groups rather than individuals can eliminate the influence of testosterone on performance; and, many stress relieving techniques such as yoga, meditation and exercise reduce levels of cortisol, Josephs said.

"The take-home message from our studies is that appeals based on ethics and morality -- the carrot approach -- and those based on threats of punishment -- the stick approach -- may not be effective in preventing cheating," Josephs said. "By understanding the underlying causal mechanism of cheating, we might be able to design interventions that are both novel and effective."

Scientists discover link between common medications and serious falls in older men

Public Release: 28-Jul-2015
Scientists discover link between common medications and serious falls in older men
Analysis of data from the Irish Longitudinal Study on Ageing revealed that falls causing injury were more than twice as likely in older men taking a particular group of commonly used medicines
Trinity College Dublin

Using data from The Irish Longitudinal Study on Ageing (TILDA), scientists from Trinity College Dublin, St James's Hospital, Dublin, Ireland and three UK Universities have discovered a significant link between serious falls causing injury in older men and a particular group of commonly used medicines. The findings are published today by the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.

Many medicines which are commonly prescribed for older people for bladder problems, depression, psychosis, insomnia, and respiratory problems, have anti-cholinergic effects. The medications affect the brain by blocking a key chemical called acetylcholine which is involved in passing messages between nerve cells. This can lead to side effects including blurred vision, increased heart rate, sedation and confusion.

Previous studies have shown an impact on cognitive function and mortality from taking multiple anti-cholinergic medicines. In this important new study, the researchers led by Dr Kathryn Richardson who carried out the research at the Department of Gerontology in Trinity and at the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences at the University of East Anglia, examined whether the use of such medicines increased the risk of subsequent serious falls (which caused injury) in people aged over 65 years in Ireland.

Using the TILDA data which recorded the medications the participants were taking and the number and type of falls they had experienced, the team found that falls resulting in injury were more than twice as likely in men taking medicines with potent anti-cholinergic activity. The effect remained even after accounting for differences in health and other risk factors for falls. A greater use of such medicines increased the risk for these men further. There was no such association for women, however.


It is however, important that people don't stop taking any medications before speaking with their GP. It is not fully clear why the same link was not found in women and further research is needed to explore this and the reasons behind the findings in men".

Dr Richardson continued: "Experiencing a fall can have a devastating impact on older people's lives and is a major contributor to care home admission and hospitalisation, so it is vitally important for us to find ways to reduce the risk of falls or their severity."


Repetitive thinking

In my personal experience, repetitive thinking, while it can be annoying, has led me to the solution of math and programming problems, and insights into myself and others I would not otherwise have.

Public Release: 28-Jul-2015
Illuminating mechanisms of repetitive thinking
Association for Psychological Science

The ability to engage in mental time travel -- to delve back into past events or imagine future outcomes -- is a unique and central part of the human experience. And yet this very ability can have detrimental consequences for both physical and mental well-being when it becomes repetitive and uncontrolled.

A special series of articles in the July 2015 issue of Clinical Psychological Science (CPS) investigates this kind of repetitive thinking, exploring the core psychological processes that underlie maladaptive thought processes like worry and rumination. The series highlights cutting-edge research and methodology with the aim of advancing our understanding of the processes that contribute to mental health and illness.

"Our interest (as a journal) in repetitive thinking is in the role it may play in clinical dysfunction but also in mental health and physical health more generally. Apart from the role of repetitive thinking in clinical dysfunction, such thinking plays a pervasive role in everyday life and more broadly is central to the human condition," writes CPS Editor Alan Kazdin in his introduction. "This series is rich in the facets of repetitive thinking that are discussed and illustrated, including the role of rumination in dysfunction and therapeutic change."


Firms 'underinvest' in long-term cancer research

An example of why we need both private and "public" (ie. government) work.

Public Release: 28-Jul-2015
Firms 'underinvest' in long-term cancer research
Tweaks to the R&D pipeline could create new drugs and greater social benefit.
Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Pharmaceutical firms "underinvest" in long-term research to develop new cancer-fighting drugs due to the greater time and cost required to conduct such research, according to a newly published study co-authored by MIT economists.

Specifically, drugs to treat late-stage cancers are less costly to develop than drugs for earlier-stage cancers, partly because the late-stage drugs extend people's lives for shorter durations of time. This means that the clinical trials for such drugs get wrapped up more quickly, too -- and provide drug manufacturers more time to control patented drugs in the marketplace.

"There is a pattern where we get more investment in drugs that take a short time to complete, and less investment in drugs that take a longer time to complete," says MIT economist Heidi Williams, co-author of a new paper in the American Economic Review that details the findings of the study.

The social cost is significant: The researchers estimate that the lack of investment in longer-term drugs resulted in a loss of 890,000 life-years among people diagnosed with cancer in the year 2003 alone. The paper also suggests three policy adjustments that might produce more long-term research on anti-cancer drugs.

The finding "doesn't mean that the private firms are doing anything wrong," Williams adds, given the incentives they face. However, she observes, "The public sector is more willing to invest in these long-term projects than is the private sector," suggesting that new policies could produce more types of drugs for patients.

Cellphones can steal data from 'air-gapped computers'

Public Release: 28-Jul-2015
Cellphones can steal data from 'air-gapped computers' according to Ben Gurion University researchers

BGU's Mordechai Guri to present findings at the 24th USENIX Security Conference in Washington, DC

American Associates, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev

Researchers at the Ben-Gurion University of the Negev (BGU) Cyber Security Research Center have discovered that virtually any cellphone infected with a malicious code can use GSM phone frequencies to steal critical information from infected "air-gapped" computers.

Air-gapped computers are isolated -- separated both logically and physically from public networks -- ostensibly so that they cannot be hacked over the Internet or within company networks.

Led by BGU Ph.D. student Mordechai Guri, the research team discovered how to turn an ordinary air-gapped computer into a cellular transmitting antenna using software that modifies the CPU firmware. GSMem malicious software uses the electromagnetic waves from phones to receive and exfiltrate small bits of data, such as security keys and passwords.

"GSMem takes the air out of the gap and will force the world to rethink air-gap security," says Dudu Mimran, chief technology officer of BGU's Cyber Security Research Center. "Our GSMem malicious software on Windows and Linux has a tiny computational footprint, which makes it very hard to detect. Furthermore, with a dedicated receiver, we were successful exfiltrating data as far as 90 ft. (30 meters) in distance from the computer."

URL For YouTube video:

According to Guri, "Many companies already restrict the use of cell phones or limit the capabilities (no camera, video or Wi-Fi on cell phones) around air-gapped computers. However, phones are often otherwise allowed in the vicinity of air-gapped computers thought to be secure. Since modern computers emit some electromagnetic radiation (EMR) at various wavelengths and strengths, and cellular phones easily receive them, this creates an opportunity for attackers."

The researchers recommend that countermeasures to mitigate the issue use the "Zone" approach: defined areas or zones around these computers where mobile phones and simple devices are prohibited. Insulation of partition walls may help to mitigate signal reception distance growth if a dedicated hardware receiver is used. Additionally, anomaly detection and behavioral dynamic analysis may help.

This is the third threat the BGU cyber team has uncovered related to what are supposed to be secure, air-gapped computers. Last year, the researchers created a method called Air-Hopper, which utilizes FM waves for data exfiltration. Another research initiative, BitWhisper, demonstrated a covert bi-directional communication channel between two close-by air-gapped computers using heat to communicate.


Why conformity can often be a good thing

We need a certain proportion of people who don't conform, in order to progress. But we also need to use what has already found to work. So we need diverse kinds of people in this respect, as in many others.

Public Release: 28-Jul-2015
Majority rule: Why conformity can actually be a good thing
University of British Columbia

Like to go your own way? Most of us actually prefer to follow the pack, according to UBC research.

That's one of the outcomes from a study published in Evolution and Human Behavior that examines how mathematical models predict human behaviour.

The research tested theories about when people should rely on "social information" - information that we learn vicariously from others - and when we should choose to go it alone.

"People are conformist - and that's a good thing for cultural evolution," said Michael Muthukrishna, a Vanier and Liu Scholar and recent PhD recipient from UBC's department of psychology. "By being conformist, we copy the things that are popular in the world. And those things are often good and useful."

For example, most people don't understand how germs can cause disease - but they know they should wash their hands after using the bathroom. "Our whole world is made up of things that we do that are good for us, but we don't know why," said Muthukrishna. "And we don't need to know why. We just need to know that most people do those things."

The research also found that people with higher IQs don't follow the pack as much as others - but when they do, they do so more strategically. In other words, smarter people tend to take their own path most of the time, because they think they have the correct answer. When they're unsure, however, they are more willing than those with average IQs to follow the majority.

In addition, the more diversity there is in behaviour, the more likely people are to copy the majority. As the number of available options increases, this creates more uncertainty - and in such circumstances, a majority sends an even stronger signal.

"These mathematical theories and experiments contribute to a greater understanding of what it is that makes our species so unique - culture," said Muthukrishna. "Our smarts are acquired, not hardwired."

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Many new mothers report no physician advice on infant sleep position, breastfeeding

When I was between IT jobs several years ago, I worked for a couple of weeks at a day care center. The lady who took care of the infants put them on their stomachs. When a baby was crying for a long time, I went over and picked it up and soothed it, and the attendant expressed surprise that the baby stopped crying when I picked it up.

Public Release: 27-Jul-2015
Many new mothers report no physician advice on infant sleep position, breastfeeding
NIH-funded survey finds consistent advice lacking on infant care recommendations
NIH/Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development

Many new mothers do not receive advice from physicians on aspects of infant care such as sleep position, breastfeeding, immunization and pacifier use, according to a study funded by the National Institutes of Health.

Health care practitioner groups have issued recommendations and guidelines on all these aspects of infant care, based on research which has found that certain practices can prevent disease and even save lives.


Roughly 20 percent of mothers said they did not receive advice from their doctors regarding current recommendations on breastfeeding or on placing infants to sleep on their backs--a practice long proven to reduce the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). More than 50 percent of mothers reported they received no advice on where their infants should sleep. Room-sharing with parents--but not bed-sharing--is the recommended practice for safe infant sleep.


"Earlier studies have shown that new mothers listen to their physicians," said Marian Willinger, Ph.D.., of the Pregnancy and Perinatology Branch at NIH's Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD), which funded the study. "This survey shows that physicians have an opportunity to provide new mothers with much-needed advice on how to improve infant health and even save infant lives."

African American women, Hispanic women and first time mothers were more likely to receive advice from their physicians than were white women and mothers of two or more children.


the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that caregivers always place a baby on his or her back for sleep at night and for naps.


Some adverse drug events not reported by manufacturers to FDA by 15-day mark

Public Release: 27-Jul-2015
The JAMA Network Journals

About 10 percent of serious and unexpected adverse events are not reported by drug manufacturers to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration under the 15-day timeframe set out in federal regulations, according to an article published online by JAMA Internal Medicine.

Health care professionals and consumers can voluntarily report adverse drug events directly to the FDA or the drug manufacturer. Adverse events that are serious (including death, life-threatening, hospitalization, disability and birth defects) and unexpected (any adverse experience not listed in the current labeling) are classified as "expedited" and manufacturers receiving such reports are mandated to forward them to the FDA "as soon as possible but in no case later than 15 calendar days of the initial receipt of the information" under federal regulation, according to background information in the research letter.


Home births lead to higher infant mortality at least for mothers living in poorer areas

Public Release: 27-Jul-2015
Home births lead to higher infant mortality at least for mothers living in poorer areas
Dutch mothers in poorer areas at risk
VU University Amsterdam

Home births lead to higher infant mortality than hospital births, at least for mothers living in poorer areas. This is the conclusion of a new study conducted by N. Meltem Daysal (University of Southern Denmark and IZA), Mircea Trandafir (University of Southern Denmark and IZA) and Reyn van Ewijk (VU University Amsterdam and University of Mainz) that examines 356,412 low-risk Dutch women who delivered between 2000 and 2008 and who were allowed to choose between a home and a hospital birth.


Maternal language has strong effect on children's social skills

Public Release: 27-Jul-2015
Mum's the word: Maternal language has strong effect on children's social skills
Psychologists at the University of York have revealed new evidence showing how specific language used by parents to talk to their babies can help their child to understand the thoughts of others when they get older.
University of York

Psychologists at the University of York have revealed new evidence showing how specific language used by parents to talk to their babies can help their child to understand the thoughts of others when they get older.

Studying the effects of maternal mind-mindedness (the ability to 'tune in' to their young child's thoughts and feelings), lead author Dr Elizabeth Kirk observed 40 mothers and their babies when they were 10, 12, 16, and 20 months old.

Keeping a record of parental language while a mother and her child played for 10 minutes, psychologists logged every time the mother made 'mind related comments' - inferences about their child's thought processes through their behaviour (for example, if an infant had difficulty with opening a door on a toy car, they could be labelled as 'frustrated').

Revisiting 15 mother-child pairs when children reached 5 - 6 years old, the child's Theory of Mind (ToM) or socio-cognitive ability was assessed. Using the 'strange stories' method, the level at which the child was able relate to others and understand another person's thoughts was recorded.

The strange stories method involves reading a fictional vignette to the child which poses one of 12 social scenarios (contrary emotions, lies, white lies, persuasion, pretend, joke, forget, misunderstanding, double-bluff, figure of speech, appearance versus reality or sarcasm). Children are then asked a comprehension question followed by a test to prove whether they have understood the mental manipulation covered in the story.

Results showed a strong, positive correlation between mind-related comments at 10, 12 and 20 months old and a child's score on the strange stories task. Therefore, children's ability to understand the thoughts of other people when they were aged 5 was related to how mind-minded their mothers were when they were babies.

Dr Kirk, Lecturer in York's Department of Psychology, said: "These findings show how a mother's ability to tune-in to her baby's thoughts and feelings early on helps her child to learn to empathise with the mental lives of other people. This has important consequences for the child's social development, equipping children to understand what other people might be thinking or feeling.


Greenhouse gas source underestimated from the US Corn Belt, University of Minnesota-led study shows

Public Release: 27-Jul-2015
University of Minnesota

Estimates of how much nitrous oxide, a significant greenhouse gas and stratospheric ozone-depleting substance, is being emitted in the central United States have been too low by as much as 40 percent, a new study led by University of Minnesota scientists shows.

The study, published today in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, measured how much nitrous oxide is emitted from streams in an agriculturally dense area in southern Minnesota. Agriculture, and specifically nitrogen fertilizers used in row-crop farming, is a major contributor to nitrous oxide emissions from streams, the paper notes.


Study finds mandatory education boosted economy, workforce

Public Release: 27-Jul-2015
University of Kansas

Providing two years of free community college to qualifying students is expected to be a hot topic during the 2016 presidential campaign.

President Barack Obama introduced the plan earlier this year, aimed at boosting educational attainment and workforce opportunities of thousands of students -- especially those from low-income families. Support for expanded education is not the purview of one party, however; President George W. Bush also frequently referenced the significance of two-year colleges. Tennessee and Oregon are offering free community college to qualifying students.

A University of Kansas researcher has found -- as part of a recent study published in the journal Social Forces -- that educational expansion worked once before in creating better jobs and upgrading the opportunities of the American workforce.

Emily Rauscher, a KU assistant professor of sociology, examined state-level data from 1850 to 1930, when states began instituting compulsory schooling laws requiring students to attend school up to a certain age. She found that compulsory schooling laws significantly increased school attendance rates, especially among lower-class children, and also shifted the occupational distribution toward skilled and non-manual occupations.

"These findings suggest that building a more educated workforce helped create more skilled jobs and raised the occupational distribution," Rauscher said.

Even though the findings of her study centered on data that is decades old, it could provide useful insights today regarding economic development and the potential benefits of creating a skilled workforce, she said. As states adopted compulsory schooling laws, those most affected were students of lower socio-economic status, whose parents worked in mostly non-skilled and manual labor jobs.

Access to more education gave these students broader opportunities to pursue careers that weren't limited to non-skilled and manual labor. Importantly, Rauscher noted that the benefits were not limited to the students affected by the laws. The types of jobs available changed for everyone.


Sleep makes our memories more accessible, study shows

Public Release: 26-Jul-2015
University of Exeter

Sleeping not only protects memories from being forgotten, it also makes them easier to access, according to new research from the University of Exeter and the Basque Centre for Cognition, Brain and Language. The findings suggest that after sleep we are more likely to recall facts which we could not remember while still awake.

In two situations where subjects forgot information over the course of 12 hours of wakefulness, a night's sleep was shown to promote access to memory traces that had initially been too weak to be retrieved.


Diagnosis of psychiatric disorders not as important as outcomes

Public Release: 24-Jul-2015

Nailing the diagnosis of a psychiatric disorder may not be important in prescribing effective treatment, according to Mark Zimmerman, M.D., a clinical researcher at Rhode Island Hospital. His opinion editorial was published online today in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry.

"During the past 35 years, we have witnessed a revolution in the treatment of psychiatric disorders," said Zimmerman, director of outpatient psychiatry and the partial hospital program at Rhode Island Hospital and director of the Rhode Island Methods to Improve Diagnostic Assessment and Services (MIDAS) project, a study that integrated assessment tools and procedures of researchers into a hospital-affiliated outpatient practice. "Prescription medicine and therapy are effective for a wide range of psychiatric disorders, thus the need for precise diagnosis is often unnecessary."


"Even if misdiagnosed, patients' outcomes may not be worse because the medications prescribed are effective for a variety of conditions," said Zimmerman. "Most outpatients will find relief via antidepressant or antipsychotic medications. Medications such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), and serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors are effective for depression, almost all anxiety disorders, eating disorders, impulse-control disorders, substance use disorders, attention deficit disorder and some somatoform disorders. Thus, it is possible that accurate and comprehensive diagnostic evaluations are not as critical once the provider determines the gross diagnostic distinction (i.e., distinguishing between psychotic, mood and/or substance use disorders)."

While a diagnostic determination is an important function of the intake evaluation, it is not the sole objective, opined Zimmerman. Comprehensive diagnostic evaluations may be associated with greater patient satisfaction and adherence to prescribed courses of treatments, he pointed out.


Wind energy provides 8 percent of Europe's electricity

Public Release: 24-Jul-2015
European Commission Joint Research Centre

The global cumulative capacity of installed wind turbines has gone from 3 GW to 370 GW over two decades.

EU's grid connected cumulative capacity in 2014 reached 129 GW, meeting 8% of European electricity demand, equivalent to the combined annual consumption of Belgium, the Netherlands, Greece and Ireland. According to a JRC report, the impressive growth of the industry will allow at least 12% electricity share by 2020, a significant contribution to the goal of the European energy and climate package of 20% share of energy from renewable sources.


Stadium lighting affects bat behavior and may threaten biodiversity

Public Release: 24-Jul-2015

A new Animal Conservation study shows that sports stadium lighting can alter patterns of bat species activity and feeding, which may in turn have cascading effects on other organisms and the ecosystem as a whole.

Using a novel field experiment, Dr. M. Corrie Schoeman demonstrates that urban exploiter bats are more likely to hunt insects attracted to bright light pollution sources such as stadiums than urban avoider bats. (Exploiter organisms can take advantage of food or resources supplied by humans, while avoider organisms have either a history of conflict with humans or very specific habitat requirements that are unattainable in human settlements.)

"Increasing light pollution is a major feature of global change that's attributable to humans, and it is a potential threat to biodiversity," said Dr. Schoeman. "Although stadiums are an integral part of the urban and social environment, light pollution from these structures could lead to biotic homogenization, which may ultimately threaten native biodiversity."

Attention-control video game curbs combat vets' PTSD symptoms

Public Release: 24-Jul-2015
NIH/National Institute of Mental Health

A computerized attention-control training program significantly reduced combat veterans' preoccupation with - or avoidance of -- threat and attendant PTSD symptoms. By contrast, another type of computerized training, called attention bias modification - which has proven helpful in treating anxiety disorders - did not reduce PTSD symptoms. NIMH and Israeli researchers conducted parallel trials in which the two treatments were tested in US and Israeli combat veterans.


Brain structure reveals ability to regulate emotions

Public Release: 24-Jul-2015
Karolinska Institutet

We all vary in how often we become happy, sad or angry, and also in how strongly these emotions are expressed. This variability is a part of our personality and can be seen as a positive aspect that increases diversity in society. However, there are people that find it so difficult to regulate their emotions that it has a serious impact on their work, family and social life. These individuals may be given an emotional instability diagnosis such as borderline personality disorder or antisocial personality disorder.

Previous studies have shown that people diagnosed with emotional instability disorders exhibit a decrease in the volume of certain brain areas. The scientists wanted to know if these areas are also associated with the variability in the ability to regulate emotions that can be seen in healthy individuals. In the current study, 87 healthy subjects were given a clinical questionnaire and asked to rate to what degree they have problems with regulating emotions in their everyday lives. The brains of the subjects were then scanned with MRI. The scientists found that an area in the lower frontal lobe, the so-called orbitofrontal cortex, exhibited smaller volumes in the healthy individuals that reported that they have problems with regulating emotions. The greater the problems, the smaller the volume detected. The same area is known to have a smaller volume in patients with borderline personality disorder and antisocial personality disorder. Similar findings were also seen in other areas of the brain that are known for being important in emotional regulation.

"The results support the idea that there is a continuum in our ability to regulate emotions, and if you are at the extreme end of the spectrum, you are likely to have problems with functioning in society and this leads to a psychiatric diagnosis", says Associate Professor Predrag Petrovic, first author of the study and researcher at the Department of Clinical Neuroscience, Karolinska Institutet. "According to this idea, such disorders should not be seen as categorical, that you either have the condition or not. It should rather be seen as an extreme variant in the normal variability of the population".

Research links premature birth to withdrawn personality

Public Release: 24-Jul-2015
University of Warwick

New research indicates that adults born very premature are more likely to be socially withdrawn and display signs of autism.


The results showed that the adults born very preterm scored highly for displaying a socially withdrawn personality, indicated by autistic features, neuroticism, introversion and decreased risk taking.

Prof. Wolke said: "Personality characteristics are very important because they help people to develop into adult roles and form and maintain social relationships. Very premature and very low birth weight adults who have a socially withdrawn personality might experience difficulty dealing with social relationships with their peers, friends and partners."


Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Mammoths killed by abrupt climate warming like that humans are causing now

Public Release: 23-Jul-2015
University of Adelaide

New research has revealed abrupt warming, that closely resembles the rapid man-made warming occurring today, has repeatedly played a key role in mass extinction events of large animals, the megafauna, in Earth's past.

Using advances in analysing ancient DNA, radiocarbon dating and other geologic records an international team led by researchers from the University of Adelaide and the University of New South Wales (Australia) have revealed that short, rapid warming events, known as interstadials, recorded during the last ice age or Pleistocene (60,000-12,000 years ago) coincided with major extinction events even before the appearance of man.

Published today in Science, the researchers say by contrast, extreme cold periods, such as the last glacial maximum, do not appear to correspond with these extinctions.


"Even without the presence of humans we saw mass extinctions. When you add the modern addition of human pressures and fragmenting of the environment to the rapid changes brought by global warming, it raises serious concerns about the future of our environment."


"Even without the presence of humans we saw mass extinctions. When you add the modern addition of human pressures and fragmenting of the environment to the rapid changes brought by global warming, it raises serious concerns about the future of our environment."


tags: historical global warming, historical climate change,

Georgia claims that publishing its state laws for free online is 'terrorism'

Georgia provides state legislatures with only printed copies of proposed bills. So when a change is made to a large bill, it is hard to be aware of it.

Michael Hiltzik, Los Angeles Times
July 27, 2015

Government officials have threatened "rogue archivist" Carl Malamud with legal action many times for his efforts to make public government documents widely available for free, but the state of Georgia has set a new standard for fighting this ridiculous battle: It's suing Malamud for infringing its copyright of state laws by -- horrors -- publishing them online.

The state's lawsuit, filed last week in Atlanta federal court, accuses Malamud of piracy -- and worse, of "a form of 'terrorism.'" His offense: Through his website,, he provides members of the public access to a searchable and downloadable scan of the Official Code of Georgia Annotated -- that is, the entire body of state law. The state wants a court order forcing Malamud to stop.


This isn't the first such battle Malamud has waged. For roughly two decades he's been working to make public laws, codes and court documents, well, public. At almost every turn he's been fought by government agencies that prefer to extract a fee from taxpayers for access, even though, as Malamud points out, the public pays for the work in the first place, via taxes.


Georgia has gone further than any other state, Malamud says, by actually filing an infringement lawsuit. The state claims that Malamud has done more than merely publish public statutes. The texts of state laws, it agrees, should be "free to the public."

His offense, the lawsuit asserts, is the inclusion in his download of the "annotations" attached to those texts. These include "synopses of cases" interpreting the law, "summaries of Opinions of the Attorney General of Georgia" and other summaries. Each is "an original and creative work of authorship that is protected by copyrights owned by the state of Georgia," the suit claims.

Malamud doesn't accept the distinction. The whole package, he says, is "the official code of the state of Georgia" and to fully understand the law one needs to refer to the annotations too. To say you can have free access to one but pay for the other, he says, is like saying "you can have a sandwich for free but you have to pay for the mayonnaise, and the mayonnaise comes on all the sandwiches." He also points out that the free online version of the statutory texts isn't all that useful: As maintained by LexisNexis on a state contract, it can't be copied or downloaded, according to the attached copyright notice.


The state's own lawsuit acknowledges that the annotations are "valuable analysis and guidance regarding ... state law." And the core of its case isn't that the annotations shouldn't be broadly accessible, only that the state doesn't want to pay the cost itself. LexisNexis shoulders the cost and in return gets the right to charge users, earning a profit.

If LexisNexis can't recoup those costs because Malamud is providing a free alternative, the lawsuit asserts, the state "will be required to either stop publishing the annotations altogether or pay ... using tax dollars."

Well, yes. Isn't that what taxes are for?


Pesticides found in most pollen collected from foraging bees in Massachusetts

Public Release: 23-Jul-2015
Harvard School of Public Health

More than 70% of pollen and honey samples collected from foraging bees in Massachusetts contain at least one neonicotinoid, a class of pesticide that has been implicated in Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD), in which adult bees abandon their hives during winter, according to a new study from Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

The study will be published online July 23, 2015 in the Journal of Environmental Chemistry.

"Data from this study clearly demonstrated the ubiquity of neonicotinoids in pollen and honey samples that bees are exposed to during the seasons when they are actively foraging across Massachusetts. Levels of neonicotinoids that we found in this study fall into ranges that could lead to detrimental health effects in bees, including CCD," said Chensheng (Alex) Lu, associate professor of environmental exposure biology in the Department of Environmental Health at Harvard Chan School and lead author of the study.

Since 2006, there have been significant losses of honey bee colonies. Scientists, policymakers, farmers, and beekeepers are concerned with this problem because bees are prime pollinators of roughly one-third of all crops worldwide.


Stressed young birds stop learning from their parents and turn to wider flock

This obviously occurs in humans, but not always. Eg., abused children usually do not abuse their own children, but they do have a larger proportion of abusers than those who were not abused in childhood.

Public Release: 23-Jul-2015
University of Cambridge

Highly-social zebra finches learn foraging skills from their parents. However, new research has found that when juvenile finches are exposed to elevated stress hormones just after hatching, they will later switch strategies and learn only from unrelated adult birds - ignoring their parents' way of doing things and instead gaining foraging skills from the wider network of other adult finches.

Researchers say that spikes in stress during early development may act as a cue that their parents are doing something wrong, triggering the young birds to switch their social learning strategy and disregard parental approaches in favour of acquiring skills exclusively from other birds in the flock.

This stress cue and subsequent behavioural change would then allow the juveniles to bypass a "potentially maladaptive source of information" - possibly the result of low-quality parental investment or food scarcity at birth - and consequently avoid a "bad start in life", say the researchers.


Lifestyle, nutrition and breast cancer: facts and presumptions for consideration


Breast cancer is the most common cancer in women worldwide, and the high incidence of this cancer coupled with improvements in initial treatments has led to an ever-increasing number of breast cancer survivors. Among the prospective epidemiological studies on diet and breast cancer incidence and recurrence, to date, there is no association that is strong, reproducible and statistically significant, with the exception of alcohol intake, overweight, and weight gain. Nevertheless, many beliefs about food and breast cancer persist in the absence of supporting scientific evidence.


Evidence of body weight and breast cancer

Increased body mass index (BMI) is associated with a significant increase in the risk of breast cancer, although with some differences in age and menopausal status. The association between being overweight (defined as a BMI of 25 to 29.9 kg/m2) or obese (BMI of 30 kg/m2 or greater) and breast cancer incidence has been found in many studies.


Evidence of alcohol consumption and breast cancer

A number of epidemiological studies have provided convincing evidence that alcohol consumption is an important risk factor for the incidence and mortality of breast cancer


the Million Women Study showed that the relative risk of developing breast cancer increases by 7.1% for each 10 g/day of alcohol [24]. The relationship between breast cancer and alcohol was confirmed by the reanalysis of 53 epidemiological studies performed by Hamajima et al


Evidence of lifestyle and breast cancer

Many behavioural choices during life are likely to enhance the risk of developing breast cancer. There is strong scientific evidence that not having children or having them after 30 years, avoiding breast feeding, prolonged use of the contraceptive pill, and having hormone replacement therapy after menopause all increase the incidence of mammary tumours. Other aspects of lifestyle have also been investigated. Among these, physical activity is associated with lower risk of invasive breast cancer


These results were confirmed in the recent European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC) study which demonstrated that moderate and high physical activity are associated with modest reduction in breast cancer risk [30]. According to these results, the Breast Cancer Report of WCRF and American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) states that the evidence for reduction in cancer incidence in physically active women is probable


Pierce et al have also shown that patients that consume a healthy diet and are physically active may increase their years of survival after diagnosis of breast cancer and those who reported eating a minimum of 5 vegetable and fruit servings daily and performing weekly physical activity equivalent to 30 minutes of walking at a moderate pace for 6 days a week had a higher 10-year survival rate than those who did not adhere to these lifestyle practices


Presumptions of a plant-based diet and the risk of breast cancer

Substances contained in vegetable foods are studied as possible ways to prevent cancer, since a number of studies have suggested that people who eat more fruit and vegetables are less likely develop cancer.


However, a more recent meta-analysis, which reviewed fifteen prospective studies, revealed a lower risk of breast cancer for the highest versus the lowest intake of fruit and vegetables combined, but when fruit and vegetable were separated, data were significant only for fruit consumption


the Pooling Project of Prospective Studies of Diet and Cancer analysed 20 studies and reported that only for oestrogen receptor-negative (ER−) breast cancer, there was a statistically significant inverse trend for total fruit and vegetable consumption; in this case, when intakes of fruit and vegetables were examined separately, statistically inverse associations were observed only for vegetable intake
[i.e., there was less cancer for those who ate more vegetables.]


Continued domestic abuse facilitated by post-separation contact

If the results had been otherwise, that is what would be surprising.

Public Release: 23-Jul-2015
Trinity College Dublin

Contact between children and fathers following parental separation facilitates the continued abuse of women and children, according to new research focusing on the experiences of families with a prior history of domestic abuse conducted by social work experts at Trinity College Dublin.

The research, which explored the experiences of post-separation fathering in families with prior history of domestic abuse perpetrated by the father against the mother, involved the completion of survey questionnaires 219 mothers regarding their 449 children as well as face-to-face interviews of 61 children, mothers, fathers and legal, health and social care professionals. The work was conducted by Dr Stephanie Holt, Assistant Professor at the School of Social Work and Social Policy in Trinity and has been just published in the journal Child Abuse Review.

The findings highlight clear evidence of post-separation contact facilitating the continued abuse of women and children. The research also highlighted a lack of attention from support services to the parenting of abusive men who were struggling to realise their fathering aspirations.

The research also raised questions about whether contact should automatically be considered to be in children's best interests where there has been a history of domestic violence. The challenge, according to Dr Holt, is to promote contact in a way which delivers benefits to children while not jeopardising their safety or wellbeing.


Dr Holt commented: "The weight of both domestic and international evidence challenges those charged with professional responsibility for supporting, protecting or regulating the lives of the key players involved in the phenomenon of post-separation contact where there has been a prior history of male perpetrated domestic violence, to focus on the reality of abusive men's behaviour rather than an ideology of involved fatherhood in children's lives. This demands a significant paradigm shift to prioritise the construction of fathers as 'risk' in the context of post-separation father-child contact. Doing so does not mean finding ways to exclude fathers from children's lives; rather what is critical is to find ways to ensure and be assured that children are safe and that abusive men can be 'good enough' fathers."

Cannabis psychosis: Gender matters

Public Release: 23-Jul-2015
University of York

New research by health scientists at the University of York has revealed that a greater proportion of men than women suffer from cannabis psychosis.

There has been much research exploring the nature of the relationship between cannabis -- the most widely used illicit drug in the United Kingdom -- and psychosis, however the role of gender in relation to cannabis psychosis is less well explored and understood.

A new study by researchers in the Department of Health Sciences at York used large datasets over a period of 11 years to investigate the differences in men and women as they progress from exposure to cannabis through to developing cannabis psychosis. The research is published in the Journal of Advances in Dual Diagnosis.

Trends in cannabis use suggest that twice as many males as females use the drug. This gender ratio is mirrored in rates of psychosis with males outnumbering females by 2:1. But the research team of Ian Hamilton, Dr Paul Galdas and Dr Holly Essex found there is a significant widening of this ratio for cannabis psychosis, where males outnumber females by four to one.
Ian Hamilton said: "The marked gender difference in rates of cannabis psychosis is puzzling It is possible that mental health and specialist drug treatment services, which have a disproportionate number of men, are identifying and treating more males with combined mental health and cannabis problems. However it is also possible that women with cannabis psychosis are not being identified and offered treatment for the problems they develop.
[Several other possibilities occur to me. Maybe men are more susceptible to brain damage from cannabis. Maybe they use more.]

"When it comes to cannabis psychosis gender does matter."

tags: marijuana, cannabis

Body fat can send signals to brain, impairing stress response

Public Release: 23-Jul-2015
University of Florida

The brain's effect on other parts of the body has been well established. Now, a group that includes two University of Florida Health researchers has found that it's a two-way street: Body fat can send a signal that affects the way the brain deals with stress and metabolism.

While the exact nature of those signals remains a mystery, researchers say simply knowing such a pathway exists and learning more about it could help break a vicious cycle: Stress causes a desire to eat more, which can lead to obesity. And too much extra fat can impair the body's ability to send a signal to the brain to shut off the stress response.

The findings are important and unique because they show that it's not simply the brain that drives the way the body responds to stress, said James Herman, Ph.D., a co-author of the paper and a professor in the department of psychiatry and behavioral neuroscience at the University of Cincinnati,.

"It moved our understanding of stress control to include other parts of the body. Before this, everyone thought that the regulation of stress was mainly due to the brain. It's not just in the brain. This study suggests that stress regulation occurs on a much larger scale, including body systems controlling metabolism, such as fat," Herman said.


June 2015: Earth's Warmest June on Record

By: Jeff Masters , 4:10 PM GMT on July 20, 2015

June 2015 was Earth's warmest June since global record keeping began in 1880, said NOAA's National Centers for Environmental Information (NCEI) on Monday. NASA also rated June 2015 as the warmest June on record. June 2015's warmth makes the year-to-date period (January - June) the warmest such period on record, according to both NOAA and NASA. A potent El Niño event in the Eastern Pacific that crossed the threshold into the "strong" category in early July continues to intensify, and strong El Niño events release a large amount of heat to the atmosphere, typically boosting global temperatures by at least 0.1°C. This extra bump in temperature, when combined with the long-term warming of the planet due to human-caused emissions of heat-trapping gases like carbon dioxide, makes it likely that 2015 will be Earth's second consecutive warmest year on record. Four of the six warmest months in recorded history (for departure from average) have occurred this year, according to NOAA:


[click on the picture to see the continuing increase in temperature more recent years.]


For the oceans, the June global sea surface temperature was 0.74°C (1.33°F) above the 20th century average, the highest for June on record, and tied with September 2014 as the highest monthly departure from average for any month. Nine of the ten highest monthly departures from average have occurred since May 2014. Global land temperatures during June 2015 were also the warmest on record.


Arctic sea ice extent during June 2015 was the 3rd lowest in the 36-year satellite record, and June snow cover was the 2nd lowest


Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Man killed by escort possibly linked to missing women

Jul 28, 9:09 AM (ET)

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — A man killed by an escort he met online is being investigated for possible links to the unsolved disappearances or slayings of women nationwide, authorities said.

Neal Falls, of Springfield, Oregon, was carrying axes, a shovel and bleach when he was killed July 18, and authorities said Monday he had been stopped, interviewed or investigated by police in at least 20 states.

Police say Falls was fatally shot as he attacked and choked the escort in Charleston, West Virginia, and she grabbed his handgun off the ground and fired it.

Police found axes, knives, handcuffs, a shovel, bleach and other items in Falls' car, raising suspicions this wasn't the first time he had attacked a woman.

"The fact that he was 45 years old and carrying tools like he was and committing a crime that was so organized and so violent, it's unlikely that this was his first violent crime," Charleston police Lt. Steve Cooper said.

Cooper said Falls had a list of 10 other women in his pocket. Nine were in West Virginia; one was in San Diego. Similar to the Charleston woman, whom police are calling Heather, all were escorts active online, he said. They are all alive, he said.

Heather had a separated shoulder, broken vertebrae, strangulation marks around her throat and other injuries, Cooper said.

No history of major crimes in Falls' record has surfaced. However, police said records show that authorities in states including Arizona, Kentucky and Virginia had interactions with Falls such as stopping him, running his license plate or checking his Social Security number.

"We are sharing this information with law enforcement across the country in hopes that we may be able to help solve cold cases or bring closure to some families if Mr. Falls has been involved in anything like this before," Cooper said.

Charleston police have notified southern Nevada authorities, who said they are investigating Falls' possible involvement in a series of killings long believed to be connected. Police have said Falls rented a room in the Las Vegas suburb of Henderson when four prostitutes went missing in the area. In three cases, young women working as prostitutes went missing and were found dismembered on the side of a road.


Cooper said Falls had "many contacts with law enforcement" across the country.

"He has been stopped and investigated by the police in upwards of 20 states," Cooper said.

He said Charleston police also have been communicating with authorities in the small southern Ohio city of Chillicothe, where four women died in suspicious circumstances and two others are missing. He said there has been no evidence placing Falls there, but it's been considered because of the proximity to Charleston, less than a two-hour drive away.


"He had no cash, no credit cards," Cooper said. "It's a mystery how he had traveled across the country to us right now. There's something that we haven't discovered yet."

High rollers: Dealers describe special treatment, abuse

Jul 28, 12:13 PM (ET)

UNCASVILLE, Conn. (AP) — One high roller requests a refrigerator full of bananas that he squeezes and throws as he gambles. Another urinates against a wall. Other high-stakes players described by a pit manager at Mohegan Sun, one of the world's largest casinos, throw chairs, scream at dealers and expect rules to be bent at the tables.

In the increasing competition for the biggest spenders, casinos are known to pull out all the stops with comped hotel rooms, meals and rebates for a percentage of their losses. But some dealers say efforts to satisfy and retain the players — known as "whales" — go much further, with casinos tolerating abuse and extending courtesies that test the integrity of the games.

"All men are created equal except in the casino," said Glen Costales, the pit manager, in a recent hearing before the tribal gaming commission. "If it's a premium player, he gets away with a lot more than the five-dollar player would get away with."

Costales was testifying in support of a pit boss, Maria DeGiacomo, who was fired this year after the casino accused her of helping a high roller cheat by allowing late bets at a blackjack table. DeGiacomo and other employees say dealers frequently grant similar requests from top players.

The player, golf professional Matthew Menchetti, was a regular who lost as much as $50,000 on visits to Mohegan Sun, and a lifetime total of more than $1 million. Casino security flagged his play as suspicious in February and asked state police to arrest him and two dealers, but the detective concluded DeGiacomo and another dealer apparently took it upon themselves to allow rule violations to keep Menchetti happy and playing, according to a police report, and no charges were filed.

Mohegan Sun's president, Raymond Pineault, said its termination of the dealers involved and its ejection of Menchetti demonstrate it does not tolerate any bending of the rules.

Shane Kaufmann, a vice president for a branch of the Transport Workers Union in Las Vegas, which represents several thousand casino dealers, said rules are frequently ignored at high-stakes tables.

"The casinos pretend they have rules that are set in stone, like going into a bank or dealing with a police station. Are they supposed to allow late bets? Absolutely not. Do they do it all the time? All the time," said Kaufmann, a dealer who sees plenty of crude behavior himself. "The abuse, the screaming, the cheating, the sexual harassment. Throwing things around. It's worse all the time."


DeGiacomo, who is still fighting her dismissal, said rules shifted depending on the player and pit bosses were encouraged to keep high rollers happy. She testified during her hearing: "I have to make sure that we get our money, which we did, every time he played. There's maybe two times he won."

As part of the state police investigation, the detective interviewed several dealers who said Menchetti would hit the table, curse and yell at them. They told the detective that in cases where he or other high rollers asked to post a late bet or for other considerations, they would defer to a superior.

The Determinants of the Intergenerational Transmission of Wealth

Wealth is highly correlated between parents and their children; however, little is known about the extent to which these relationships are genetic or determined by environmental factors. We use administrative data on the net wealth of a large sample of Swedish adoptees merged with similar information for their biological and adoptive parents. Comparing the relationship between the wealth of adopted and biological parents and that of the adopted child, we find that, even prior to any inheritance, there is a substantial role for environment and a much smaller role for genetics. We also examine the role played by bequests and find that, when they are taken into account, the role of adoptive parental wealth becomes much stronger. Our findings suggest that wealth transmission is not primarily because children from wealthier families are inherently more talented or more able but that, even in relatively egalitarian Sweden, wealth begets wealth.

Doctor appointment availability went up after Michigan Medicaid expansion

Public Release: 22-Jul-2015
University of Michigan Health System

Getting access to health insurance, and getting access to a doctor, are two very different things.

But a new University of Michigan study suggests that the two have gone hand-in-hand in the state of Michigan, despite a rapid influx of hundreds of thousands of newly insured people under the state's expansion of Medicaid.

In fact, the research shows that the availability of primary care appointments actually improved for people with Medicaid in the first months after the state launched the Healthy Michigan Plan under the Affordable Care Act.

In just those few months, more than 350,000 people -- one-third of the previously uninsured working-age adults in the state -- joined the plan.


A Bad Economy Can Make People More Racist

by Bryce Covert Jun 13, 2014

A new study has found that economic scarcity makes people more likely to see African-Americans as “blacker” and more stereotypical. This perception, according to New York University researchers Amy Krosch and David Amodio, leads people to hold back resources from the those perceived as darker.


A more tolerant America

Public Release: 16-Mar-2015
San Diego State University

As the nation's headlines turn more and more to issues of tolerance -- race, religion, free speech, same sex marriage -- research by San Diego State University Psychology Professor Jean M. Twenge shows that Americans are actually more tolerant than ever before.

In a paper released this month by the journal Social Forces, Twenge, along with Nathan T. Carter and Keith Campbell from the University of Georgia, found that Americans are now more likely to believe that people with different views and lifestyles can and should have the same rights as others, such as giving a speech or teaching at a college.

"When old social rules disappear, people have more freedom to live their lives as they want to, and Americans are increasingly tolerant of those choices," said Twenge, who is also the author of "Generation Me."

"This goes beyond well-known trends such as the increasing support for gay marriage. People are increasingly saying that it's OK for those who are different to fully participate in the community and influence everyone else."

The researchers used data from the General Social Survey, a nationally representative survey of adult Americans conducted from 1972 to 2012. The survey includes a series of questions related to tolerance of people with controversial views or lifestyles including homosexuals, atheists, militarists, communists and racists.

Only tolerance for racists has decreased over time, showing people today are less tolerant of the intolerant.

So why have recent incidents of racism on college campuses garnered so much attention? "A few decades ago, racism would barely have been noticed -- it might have even been rewarded," Twenge said. "Now it's noticed, and the consequences can be swift. It shows how much things have changed."


"American culture has become more individualistic, which has some negative consequences such as overconfidence and social disconnection. This study shows the upside of treating people as individuals: More tolerance for those who are different," Twenge said.

Previous research has shown that Millennials (called "Generation Me" by Twenge), are less empathic and more dismissive than previous generations, so it may be surprising to some that they are also more tolerant than past generations.

"Tolerance and empathy are not the same thing," Twenge said. "Millennials believe that everyone can live their lives as they want to -- thus, they are tolerant -- but that doesn't always extend to taking someone else's perspective or feeling empathy."

The science behind spite

Public Release: 29-Apr-2015
Queen's University

Psychology, biology, and mathematics have come together to show that the occurrence of altruism and spite - helping or harming others at a cost to oneself - depends on similarity not just between two interacting individuals but also to the rest of their neighbours.

According to this new model developed by researchers DB Krupp (Psychology) and Peter Taylor (Mathematics and Statistics, Biology) at Queen's and the One Earth Future Foundation, individuals who appear very different from most others in a group will evolve to be altruistic towards similar partners, and only slightly spiteful to those who are dissimilar to them.

However, individuals who appear very similar to the rest of a group will evolve to be only slightly altruistic to similar partners but very spiteful to dissimilar individuals, often going to extreme lengths to hurt them. Taken together, individuals with 'common' and 'rare' appearances may treat each other very differently.

This finding is a new twist on established evolutionary theory and could help explain racism and corresponding forms of prejudice in humans and other species.


Banned chemical pollutant lowers fertility in UK porpoises

Public Release: 22-Jul-2015
Zoological Society of London

A collaborative study led by international conservation charity the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) has found that harbour porpoises (Phocoena phocoena) are struggling to successfully reproduce as a result of chemical pollutants found in European waters.

The research, published today in PLOS ONE, found that polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), a chemical once used in industrial equipment, such as electrical components and certain paints, accumulates in the fat tissue of whales, dolphins and porpoises - known collectively as cetaceans - and can remain there throughout their lifetime. Exposure to PCBs can weaken cetacean immune systems and reduce breeding success. PCB concentrations in UK porpoises examined in the study were moderately high, despite being banned in the UK over 30 years ago.

The study reported a large number of cases of reproductive failure: almost 20% of sexually mature females showed evidence of stillbirth, foetal death or recent abortion. A further 16.5% had infections or tumours of reproductive organs that could have contributed to breeding failure. The study also found lower pregnancy rates in UK harbour porpoises compared to those living in much less PCB-polluted regions.

Harbour porpoise calves inherit PCB contamination from their mothers through suckling, continuing the problem for future generations.

Dr Sinéad Murphy led the study during her Marie Curie Research Fellowship at ZSL. Dr Murphy said: "Reproductive failure could have occurred in almost 40% of mature females sampled in this study. PCBs may have reduced foetal or newborn survival, something which has also been observed in other mammals. UK harbour porpoises are part of a larger north-east Atlantic population and our research suggests a population-level risk from PCB exposure."

Dr Paul Jepson, co-author of the study at ZSL and lead veterinarian on the UK Cetacean Strandings Investigation Programme (CSIP), said "PCBs were banned in 1981 in the UK, but PCB concentrations only stopped declining in the blubber of UK harbour porpoises around 1998. PCB levels in many UK porpoises are still high, which could mean continued negative effects on health and breeding."

Resolving social conflict is key to survival of bacterial communities

Public Release: 22-Jul-2015
University of California - San Diego

Far from being selfish organisms whose sole purpose is to maximize their own reproduction, bacteria in large communities work for the greater good by resolving a social conflict among individuals to enhance the survival of their entire community.

It turns out that, much like human societies, bacterial communities benefit when they can balance opposing needs within the group.

The discovery of this unusual behavior among bacteria in large communities, detailed in a paper in the July 22 advance online publication of Nature, comes not from any inherent altruism among the bacteria. Instead, it "emerges" spontaneously from the community in which the bacteria grow.

"It's an example of what we call 'emergent phenomena'," explained Gürol Süel, an associate professor of molecular biology at UC San Diego who headed the research effort. "Emergent phenomena are processes that you cannot observe or understand if you are studying individuals. You can only understand the process if you look at the collective."

Süel and his colleagues observed this unusual phenomenon while carefully measuring the growth of a microbial community called a "biofilm." Such communities of bacteria and other microorganisms form thin structures on surfaces--such as the tartar that develops on teeth--that are highly resistant to chemicals and antibiotics.


the researchers discovered that these oscillations resolved a social conflict between individual cells that were cooperating, but also had to compete for food. The reason these biofilms are so hardy is that individuals within the community manage to resolve this internal conflict through coordinating their activities in space and time.


The conflict is essentially this: Bacteria at the outer edges of the biofilm are the most vulnerable within their community to chemical and antibiotic attacks. At the same time, they also provide protection to the interior cells. But the bacteria at the outer edge are the closest to nutrients necessary for growth. So if they grow unchecked, they can consume all the food and starve the sheltered interior cells.

But that doesn't happen, because the biofilm develops an ingenious solution to this problem that the scientists call "metabolic codependence." Essentially, the interior cells produce a metabolite necessary for the growth of the bacteria on the outside. This provides the inner cells with the ability to periodically put the brakes on the growth of outer cells, which otherwise would consume all the food and starve the cells they are protecting from attack. By periodically preventing the growth on the periphery, inner cells ensure that they have sufficient access to nutrients. By keeping the protected inner cells alive, the biofilm has a much higher chance of surviving antibiotic treatment.

This strategy allows bacteria with conflicting needs to take turns, like drivers approaching an intersection from different directions. In many ways, the internal social conflict within bacterial communities is not unlike the conflicts that opposing groups of individuals must find ways to resolve in order to maintain successful nations or communities.

"Here we have simple bacteria that are genetically identical," added Süel, "and yet in the process of forming a community, they develop distinct areas, like a medieval castle with protective walls manned by soldiers that can provide protection for peasant families to ensure survival of their clan. The fact that you're starting a community where individuals will find themselves either manning the walls or being tucked away inside the castle, gives rise to this emergent phenomenon where you have a division of labor. The bacteria are not 'aware' of this division of labor, none of the bacteria are doing anything consciously. It's something that just emerges out of the complexity of a system with social interactions."
[It "emerges" because those who do it survive better than those who don't.]


"We developed new techniques to precisely measure biofilm growth, and then quantitatively perturbed the system," said Süel. "And what we found was that the metabolic pathway in question may have been selected for this process by evolution because it involves a small molecule, ammonium, which can diffuse, that is, can get in and out of the cell quickly and can be shared among bacteria."

The discovery that bacteria essentially signal one another with this ammonium metabolite also allows them to chemically communicate with one another over very long distances.

Because the discovery offers a new way to control the growth of biofilms by eliminating the co-dependence of the interior and exterior bacteria, making them selfish rather than altruistic, UC San Diego has submitted a patent application to license the discovery.

"This is a new way to also think about attacking disease-causing biofilms, which are responsible for two-thirds of infections in hospital clinics and are a thousand times more resistant to antibiotics than the same bacterial cell might be outside the biofilm," Süel explained. "We allow the peripheral cells to become selfish or independent and then they kill the protected interior cells for us."

Beyond the obvious medical and industrial applications, bacterial communities may also offer some other lessons for modern society.

"The social conflict we studied is directly applicable to conflicts that arise in human societies," added Süel. "We all face the social dilemma where supporting others, even our competitors, may ultimately make our society stronger. We may be able to learn more about how to resolve our own social conflicts by studying bacterial societies."

Readiness of America's biology teachers questioned

I know from personal acquaintance that some people go into teaching biology because they want to impose their conservative, anti-science viewpoints on students.

Public Release: 22-Jul-2015
American Institute of Biological Sciences

In recent years, government assessments have raised concerns about the nation's science workforce. Writing in an article for BioScience, Gregory T. Rushton and a team of researchers looked for clues in the National Center for Education Statistics' Schools and Staffing Surveys from 1987 through 2007. These results, combined with those from prior studies, reveal some patterns with serious implications for the future of science pedagogy.

One of the authors' findings was that "biology dominates the science discipline within STEM education." According to the analysis, "in 2007, 44% of science main teaching assignments were occupied by biology educators, more than twice the percentage of educators in chemistry." Moreover, the biology education workforce increased 50% between 1987 and 2007, a result, according to the authors, of biology's position as a gateway to science education in high schools. Over the same period, the female proportion of the workforce increased from 39% to 61%, a greater percentage than in other science, technology, engineering, and math fields.

Less favorable for biology education was the finding that instructors were the "most likely among all science teachers to teach outside of their discipline as part of their workload." Moreover, the authors report, the diversity of degree tracks that might be categorized as "biology" could lead to some biology instructors' teaching subjects that fit poorly with their capabilities, despite a nominal match with their education.

Compounding the problems, "between 1990 and 2007, the proportion of teachers in their 40s with 21-25 years of experience decreased 20%, and teachers in their 50s with more than 26 years of experience fell 27%." This declining trend in teaching experience, which results in part from greater numbers of older teachers entering the workforce after previous careers, may lead to instructors for whom "the biologist identity may be stronger than that of teacher," Rushton and his colleagues write.

The authors support alternatives to the typical calls for more stringent certification and targeted professional development. In their view, it would be better to match curricula to existing expertise. They propose a model in which "instead of offering a static, predetermined slate of science courses at each school, district, or county, the curriculum is chosen largely as a function of the expertise of those teachers who they employ."