Sunday, January 31, 2016

Noise caused disease

Vibroacoustic Disease, or VAD, is a chronic, progressive, cumulative, systemic disease. Exposure to high-intensity/low-frequency sound and infrasound can lead to Vibroacoustic Disease. Studies have shown that environments with high-intensity sound over 110 dB, coupled with low-frequency sounds below 100 Hz, place people at high risk for developing Vibroacoustic Disease. For example, Vibroacoustic Disease has been identified in disk jockeys, due to loud music exposure.
When exposed to high-intensity/low-frequency sound, which includes loud music, the body is subjected to powerful sound vibrations. This noise stressor leads to: homeostatic imbalance, disease, interference with behavior and performance, visual problems, epilepsy, stroke, neurological deficiencies, psychic disturbances, thromboembolism, central nervous system lesions, vascular lesions in most areas of the body, lung local fibrosis, mitral valve abnormalities, pericardial abnormalities, malignancy, gastrointestinal dysfunction, infections of the oropharynx, increased frequency of sister chromatid exchanges, immunological changes, cardiac infarcts, cancer, rage reactions, suicide, and altered coagulation parameters.


In addition, sources of low-frequency noise that place people at risk for developing Vibroacoustic Disease are rock concerts, dance clubs, "Powerful car audio equipment," water jet skies, and motorcycles. (Source: VIBROACOUSTIC DISEASE: THE NEED FOR A NEW ATTITUDE TOWARDS NOISE, by Mariana Alves-Pereira and Nuno Castelo Branco).

"Among the most serious on-the-job consequences of untreated VAD are rage-reactions, epilepsy, and suicide. VAD patients do not have the usual suicidal profile: after the event, if unsuccessful, they remember nothing, and are confused about the entire episode (Castelo Branco et al, 1999). Similarly, patients who suffer rage-reactions also appear confused and seem to remember nothing (Castelo Branco et al, 1999). These events can have dire consequences if they occur on the job. Not only can other individuals be injured, but also costly sophisticated equipment could become irreparably damaged." (Source - VIBROACOUSTIC DISEASE: THE NEED FOR A NEW ATTITUDE TOWARDS NOISE, by Mariana Alves-Pereira and Nuno Castelo Branco)


The SUN AND WEEKLY HERALD ( recently interviewed Dr. Robert Fifer, the Director of Audiology and Speech Language Pathology, at the Mailman Center for Child Development at the University of Miami. He discussed Vibroacoustic Disease and its relation to infrasound and boom cars. The article states, "But the physical vibration so prized by car audio fanatics, and despised by their victims, is largely produced by sounds pitched too low to hear, called subsonic or infrasonic sounds. Medical research over the past four decades shows that exposure to infrasound can have devastating effects on the human body and mind that go far beyond mere hearing loss."

The article goes on to discuss the fight-or-flight adrenaline response and how it is also triggered by LPALF (large pressure amplitude - low-frequency noise) or high-intensity/low-frequency sound. In other words, the fight-or-flight adrenaline response can be triggered by sounds you don't even hear!



The social and economic costs of VAD are staggering, and continuously aggravated by the fact that environmental noise assessments pay little attention to the noise that causes VAD - Low Frequency (LF) noise (* 500 Hz), focusing primarily on that which causes hearing impairment. An erroneous assumption justifies these incomplete noise assessment requirements: noise only affects the ear. Thus, all noise protection measures and evaluation procedures focus exclusively on the frequencies affecting the auditory system (* 500 Hz). The Solution. Physical protection against LF noise is not feasible, given the large wavelength of LF (in meters).


Vibroacoustic disease (VAD) is a noise-induced, whole-body pathology, of a systemic nature, caused by excessive and unmonitored exposure to LF noise. It has been identified in aeronautical technicians (GIMOGMA, 1984a ), military pilots (Carmo et al, 1992 and Canas et al, 1993), commercial pilots and cabin crewmembers (Alves-Pereira et al, 1999), and disc-jockeys (Castelo Branco, 1999 and Castelo Branco et al, 1999). VAD evolves over long-term noise exposure, in years, and can lead to severe medical conditions, such as cardiac infarcts (Castelo Branco, 1999 and Castelo Branco et al, 1999), stroke (Castelo Branco, 1999 and Castelo Branco et al, 1999), cancer (Silva et al, 1996 and Castelo Branco et al, 1999), epilepsy (Martinho Pimenta et al, 1999a), rage reactions (Castelo Branco et al, 1999), and suicide (Castelo Branco et al, 1999). When VAD was first identified in professional groups known to be exposed to noise, it was initially thought to be limited to the realm of occupational diseases. However, it has since been diagnosed in individuals exposed to noise in non-occupational settings, or in seemingly non-"noisy" environments (Castelo Branco et al, 1999). This rises the issue of LF noise-induced pathology to the domain ofPublic Health issues.


Among the most serious on-the-job consequences of untreated VAD are rage-reactions, epilepsy, and suicide. VAD patients do not have the usual suicidal profile: after the event, if unsuccessful, they remember nothing, and are confused about the entire episode (Castelo Branco et al, 1999). Similarly, patients who suffer rage-reactions also appear confused and seem to remember nothing (Castelo Branco et al, 1999). These events can have dire consequences if they occur on the job. Not only can other individuals be injured, but also costly sophisticated equipment could become irreparably damaged.


There seems to be no legislation for infrasound.

If this were a situation with light instead of sound, it would be like ignoring x-rays (merely a different frequency of visible light), simply because they can't be seen. Current LF noise protection is analogous to wearing dark glasses against these x-rays.


All the above information must be made public. It is no longer acceptable that individuals have their lives destroyed because of excessive LF noise exposure. Worse than undesirable, it is unethical to keep workers within "noisy" environments, and ignore the potentially devastating, whole-body, acoustic trauma.

LF noise environments abound in modern leisure activities; specifically, rock concerts, dance clubs and powerful car audio equipment, not to mention the ever so popular water jet skis and motorcycles. Just how widespread are the LF noise-induced disorders is unknown. The public must be informed immediately that excessive exposure to these "noisy" activities may limit their professional future.


Europe's recent summers were the 'warmest in 2,000 years'

I notice Google Chrome doesn't put a line break between copied paragraphs. I usually use FireFox, which does, but I'm going to be working on Tax-Aide certification, which doesn't work right on FireFox.

By Matt McGrath
Jan. 29, 2016

The past 30 years in Europe have likely been the warmest in more than two millennia, according to new research.
The study used tree ring records and historical documents to reconstruct yearly temperatures going back 2,100 years.
Scientists say that past natural variability in temperatures was greater than previously thought.
As a result, climate models may be underestimating the frequency and severity of heat waves in the future.
According to the study, Europe has seen an increase in summer warming of 1.3C [2.3F] between 1986 and 2015.
In this period there has also been an increase in severe heat waves, most notably in 2003, 2010 and 2015.
The 2003 event was linked to the extra deaths of thousands of elderly people due to heat stroke, dehydration and increased air pollution.


"We've got 2,000 years of reconstruction where we have values for every year and the big surprise was that there wasn't a single 30-year period that was as warm as the last 30 years; that was unexpected," said Prof Danny McCarroll from Swansea University, UK, who was part of the research group.


Even though the new reconstruction has a wider range of natural variability in summer temperatures than previous attempts, the temperature data recorded in the past 30 years still sits outside it, pointing towards the same inference as made by the IPCC - that the recent warming is mainly caused by humans.


Saturday, January 30, 2016

Using PrtScr

Many people don't understand the PrtScr (Print Screen) button on the computer. It used to print the screen contents. Now it usually copies the screen to the Clipboard, where other copied stuff goes. Alt-PrtScr only captures the active window.
Then you can paste it in documents where you can past a picture.

The Wikipedia link above has a fuller discussion, with additional options.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Rapid warming over the Indian Ocean reduces marine productivity

El Niños are caused by the release of accumulated heat in the Pacific Ocean. The current El Niño is so powerful because of the additional heat added by global warming.

Jan. 21, 2016

By Roxy Mathew Koll

Roxy Mathew Koll is a climate scientist at the Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology in Pune, India, and lead author of the new study, “A reduction in marine primary productivity driven by rapid warming over the tropical Indian Ocean” that was recently published online in Geophysical Research Letters.

Increasing water temperatures in the Indian Ocean are taking a toll on the marine ecosystem, according to our new study.

Almost 90 percent of the extra heat generated by increased greenhouse gases in the atmosphere has been absorbed by the oceans. Among tropical oceans, ocean warming is most prominent in the Indian Ocean. Now, a new study by me and my colleagues suggests rapid warming in the Indian Ocean reduced marine phytoplankton up to 20 percent during the past six decades.

Such a decline in the marine phytoplankton may cascade through the food chain, potentially turning this biologically productive region into an ecological desert. It may also impact food security in the Indian Ocean rim countries and also the global fisheries market.

Almost all life on Earth is directly or indirectly dependent on primary production, whereby organic compounds are produced through photosynthesis.

Marine phytoplankton – microscopic plants in the ocean — generate half of the primary production globally. These phytoplankton sustain the aquatic food web, drive the marine ecosystem, and constrain the global fisheries catch.


“The geopolitical and food security issues also could be important since some of the rim countries like Somalia have been experiencing political instability for some time and a collapse of fisheries in the region could only exacerbate the regional instabilities,” he added.

Major Study Finds The US Is An Oligarchy

No surprise.

Zachary Davies Boren, The Telegraph
April 18, 2014

The U.S. government does not represent the interests of the majority of the country's citizens, but is instead ruled by those of the rich and powerful, a new study from Princeton and Northwestern universities has concluded.

The report, "Testing Theories of American Politics: Elites, Interest Groups, and Average Citizens" (PDF), used extensive policy data collected between 1981 and 2002 to empirically determine the state of the U.S. political system.

After sifting through nearly 1,800 U.S. policies enacted in that period and comparing them to the expressed preferences of average Americans (50th percentile of income), affluent Americans (90th percentile), and large special interests groups, researchers concluded that the U.S. is dominated by its economic elite.

The peer-reviewed study,


Researchers concluded that U.S. government policies rarely align with the preferences of the majority of Americans, but do favour special interests and lobbying organizations: "When a majority of citizens disagrees with economic elites and/or with organized interests, they generally lose. Moreover, because of the strong status quo bias built into the US political system, even when fairly large majorities of Americans favour policy change, they generally do not get it."


Monday, January 25, 2016

Cybercriminals Making Computer Malware at a Record Rate

Cybercriminals Making Computer Malware at a Record Rate: Researchers

Jan. 25, 2016

Last year was a particularly bad year for hacks and computer intrusions, and it looks like 2016 will only get worse, Panda Security says.

The Spain-based Internet security company said its lab researchers detected and disabled more than 84 million new samples of malware in 2015 — 9 million more than the previous year. The figure means cybercriminals were churning out new malware samples at a rate of more than 230,000 a day throughout 2015.

In fact, more than a quarter (27 percent) of all malware samples ever recorded were produced in 2015, Panda Security said in a news release.

"We predict that the amount of malware created by cybercriminals will continue to grow," said Luis Corrons, technical director of PandaLabs. "We also can't forget that the creation of millions of Trojans and other threats corresponds to the cybercriminals' needs to infect as many users as possible in order to get more money."


Clickers Beware: 'CrashSafari' Links Will Kill Your iPhone

I don't call the people doing this "pranksters". I call them f*ing jerks.

Jan. 25, 2016

Pranksters on the social web are sending people to a website that causes smartphones to crash — so you might want to hold off on clicking or tapping random links today.

Don't worry, it isn't some critical bug that Apple or Google needs to patch — it's just ordinary webpage components used maliciously to overload just about any browser.

The website, (and — needless to say, don't visit either), adds numbers to the address bar as fast as it can —, then /01, then /012, /0123, and eventually /0123456789101112131415... and so on. Each time it adds a number, that page is saved to your history — and it adds up fast.

This history and URL overload leads mobile browsers to crash and desktop ones to hang (You should still be able to force-quit the application if it's stalling). "What were you expecting?" reads the only text on the page.

Clicking on the nefarious link could result to a major annoyance — unsaved data could be lost — but it's unlikely to cause any lasting damage to your device.

The bug is old, but the joke is new, so exercise caution in following links until the jokers in your online acquaintance tire of sending friends' phones into death spirals. Like any other joke link (a "Rickroll," for example), this one may be disguised with an URL shortener like or bitly.

Friday, January 22, 2016

America's lead poisoning problem isn't just in Flint. It’s everywhere.

Updated by Sarah Frostenson on January 21, 2016

The city of Flint, Michigan, is in the midst of a terrible and rightly shocking lead poisoning crisis. The number of kids testing positive for elevated lead levels in their bloodstreams has doubled in the past few years, after the city switched to a new, cheaper water source.

This is an extreme case, but the problem of lead exposure among children is not a local Flint story. If you look at public health data, you begin to realize two things. The first is that it's actually really hard to get good data on which kids do and don't experience lead exposure, and which parents should worry about the issue.

Second: The data that is available shows that lead exposure is a pervasive issue in the United States. In some places outside of Flint, more than half of children test positive for lead poisoning.

Houston County, Alabama, is, in a lot of ways, an unremarkable place. It has just over 100,000 residents and sits in the southeast corner of the state, bordering Florida and Georgia. Median household income there is about $40,000, slightly lower than average for the state.

But there is one way Houston County does stand out: In 2014, it reported the highest rate of lead poisoning in the nation of any counties that sent data to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Houston County tested 12 children for lead poisoning in 2014, which it defines as kids who have more than 5 micrograms of lead per deciliter of blood. Seven of those tests came back positive.


That means there are 1,570 counties we don't have any data on at all, because states are not mandated to submit their data to the CDC.
[Anyway, they won't have data to submit if they don't do the tests.]

Childhood lead exposure at nearly any level can lead to permanent learning disabilities, lower IQs, and even ADHD. Blood lead levels once believed to be safe — 30 μg/dL in the 1970s, then 25, then 15, then 10 — are now known to cause irreversible damage. The Environmental Protection Agency now says there is "no demonstrated safe concentration of lead in blood," and even levels as low as 2 μg/dL can reduce a child's IQ. CDC data estimates that almost 500,000 children in the US between the ages of 1 and 5 have a blood lead level above the 5 μg/dL standard.


A 2013 study from the CDC found that lead exposure impacts black communities disproportionately to their white counterparts.

Although blood lead levels among all US children have dropped dramatically since the late 1990s, high blood lead levels among black children were still more than twice as prevalent as among their white counterparts.


Global warming increases extreme precipitation events

People who live in areas of cold winters have noted that it is more like to snow at temperatures somewhat below freezing than it is when the temperature is way below freezing.

Why Big Blizzards In Winter Don’t Disprove Global Warming

by Joe Romm Jan 22, 2016

Another epic blizzard threatens 50 million people on the East Coast, with a bulls-eye on Washington DC. And leading climatologists again explain how human-induced climate change, especially warming-fueled ocean temperatures, are super-charging the amount of moisture in the atmosphere the storm will dump on us.

First, though, I think the name, Winter Storm Jonas, doesn’t do justice to this blizzard, especially since the Jonas brothers are a pretty harmless pop rock band. I’m suggesting the name, Superstorm (Edward) Snowed-In: Because it will turn DC upside down, bring the government to a standstill, and then flee the country.


Mann, Director of Penn State’s Earth System Science Center, explained: “There is peer-reviewed science that now suggests that climate change will lead to more of these intense, blizzard-producing nor’easters, for precisely the reason we’re seeing this massive storm — unusually warm Atlantic ocean surface temperatures (temperatures are in the 70s off the coast of Virginia).”

When you mix extra moisture with “a cold Arctic outbreak (something we’ll continue to get even as global warming proceeds),” as Mann points out, “you get huge amounts of energy and moisture, and monster snowfalls, like we’re about to see here.”

Mann’s bottom line:

While critics like to claim that these massive winter storms are evidence against climate change, they are actually favored by climate change.

Trenberth, former head of the Climate Analysis Section at the National Center for Atmospheric Research, agrees: “At present sea surface temperatures are more the 3F above normal over huge expanses (1000 miles) off the NE coast and water vapor in the atmosphere is about 10 to 15% higher as a result. Up to half of this can be attributed to climate change.”

So Superstorm Snowed-In is able to sweep in vastly more water vapor thanks to human-caused warming.


Before this latest superstorm, we’ve seen a long-term pattern of more extreme precipitation, most especially in Northeast winters. Climate scientists had long predicted this would happen in a warming world. Here’s why.


Like a baseball player on steroids, our climate system is breaking records at an unnatural pace. And also like a baseball player on steroids, it’s the wrong question to ask whether a given home run is “caused” by steroids. As Trenberth wrote in his must-read analysis, “How To Relate Climate Extremes to Climate Change,” the “answer to the oft-asked question of whether an event is caused by climate change is that it is the wrong question. All weather events are affected by climate change because the environment in which they occur is warmer and moister than it used to be.

One of the most robust scientific findings is the direct connection between global warming and more extreme precipitation or deluges. “Basic physics tells us that a warmer atmosphere is able to hold more moisture — at a rate of approximately 7 per cent increase per degree [Celsius] warming,” as the U.K. Met Office explained in its 2014 update on climate science. “This is expected to lead to similar percentage increases in heavy rainfall, which has generally been borne out by models and observed changes in daily rainfall.”

This means that when it is cold enough to snow, snow storms will be fueled by more water vapor and thus be more intense themselves. So we expect fewer snowstorms in regions close to the rain-snow line, such as the central United States, though the snowstorms that do occur in those areas are still likely to be more intense. It also means we expect more intense snowstorms in generally cold regions.


O’Gorman found that there’s a narrow daily temperature range, just below the freezing point, in which extreme snow events tend to occur — a sweet spot that does not change with global warming….

“People may know the expression, ‘It’s too cold to snow’ — if it’s very cold, there is too little water vapor in the air to support a very heavy snowfall, and if it’s too warm, most of the precipitation will fall as rain.”

We’ve long known that warmer-than-normal winters favor snow storms. A 2006 study, “Temporal and Spatial Characteristics of Snowstorms in the Contiguous United States” found we are seeing more northern snow storms and that we get more snow storms in warmer years:


Assessment of the January-February temperature conditions again showed that most of the United States had 71%-80% of their snowstorms in warmer-than-normal years…. a future with wetter and warmer winters, which is one outcome expected, will bring more snowstorms than in 1901-2000. Agee (1991) found that long-term warming trends in the United States were associated with increasing cyclonic activity in North America, further indicating that a warmer future climate will generate more winter storms.

The U.S. Global Change Research Program (USGCRP) U.S. Climate Impacts Report from 2009 reviewed that literature and concluded, “Cold-season storm tracks are shifting northward and the strongest storms are likely to become stronger and more frequent.”

So it is no surprise that a 2012 study found extreme snowstorms and deluges are becoming more frequent and more severe. The 2014 National Climate Assessment (NCA), which is the most comprehensive analysis to date of current and future U.S. climate impacts, pointed out, “The mechanism driving these changes is well understood.”


Climate change also alters characteristics of the atmosphere that affect weather patterns and storms.”

That final point is very important. The worst deluges have jumped not merely because warmer air holds more moisture that in turn gets sucked into major storm systems. Increasingly, scientists have explained that climate change is altering the jet stream and weather patterns in ways that can cause storm systems to slow down or get stuck, thereby giving them more time to dump heavy precipitation (see my literature review here).


What of the future? Trenberth has explained that, “In mid winter, it is expected with climate change that snowfalls will increase as long as the temperatures are cold enough, because they are warmer than they would have been and the atmosphere can hold 4% more moisture for every 1F increase in temperature. So as long as it does not warm above freezing, the result is a greater dump of snow.” On the other hand, “at the beginning and end of winter, it warms enough that it is more likely for rain to result.” The net result is that average total snowfall may not increase.


The War on Coal Exists, but Miners Are the Targets

I suggest reading the whole article at the following link.

by Jeff Nesbit
Jan. 21, 2016

It turns out there is a war on coal. It's just not the one you've heard about.


Yes, it's true that every single one of the world's major coal companies are now either in bankruptcy or right there at the edge. But, as we've seen in other industries whose eras were drawing to a close, a very curious thing happens when a small handful of well-paid executives are pitted against thousands of low-wage workers in bankruptcy proceedings. The workers lose.

This is the real war on coal. And it is now playing out in byzantine bankruptcy court proceedings that virtually no one is covering – perhaps because it's easier to report on what coal executives are saying (and paying for in advertisements from corporate front groups in Washington) rather than the much harder work of discovering what they're actually doing.

As coal plants are shuttered in the face of efforts to clean up the air in major urban cities, and as market forces from natural gas companies exploit that shift, the truth has emerged. In every case, coal company executives are throwing thousands of coal workers under the bus to save their own salaries and bonuses.

The latest comes from a filing from the U.S. Trustee in the bankruptcy case for Alpha Natural Resources – a Virginia coal mining company that became one of the largest in the world after it acquired Massey Energy for $7.1 billion in 2011. Last year, after suffering four years of losses, Alpha laid off 4,000 workers and closed all but 50 mines. The company filed for bankruptcy protection in August more than $4 billion in debt.

The U.S. Trustee is a third party in the court proceedings whose job is to assess the impact of the bankruptcy on high-paid executives and low-wage workers alike. And, boy, did the Trustee weigh in on the Alpha case this week, the Casper Star-Tribune reported.

A secret list of 15 Alpha executives asked the bankruptcy court judge to allow them to give themselves nearly $12 million in salary bonuses for 2016 – while simultaneously denying about $3 million in benefits for more than a thousand retired, low-wage workers who need it for basic things like medical coverage and life insurance.

That didn't sit well with the U.S. Trustee.


According to Alpha, "these executives need these bonuses as an incentive to do the very jobs they were hired to do, that they are already highly compensated for with generous salaries, and which their fiduciary duties already compel them to do," it wrote.

What's more, Alpha's senior executives don't want their names to become public, even as medical and life insurance benefits for more than a thousand retired coal workers are denied.


Coal Executives Take Millions Before Bankruptcies

Dec. 16, 2015


Kevin S. Crutchfield, “Chairman and Chief Executive Officer” of Alpha, just picked up a $2,000,000.00 bonus this spring, as he led the company into bankruptcy. While Alpha’s stock has plunged over the last several years, he picked up over $6,000,000.00 in cash payouts in 2011 and 2012.

“President” Paul Vining walked away with almost $8,000,000.00 for just two years of work as these executives marched Alpha off a cliff. Vining then got away while the getting was good. As “Former President,” he still gets $4,500,000.00!

Peabody Energy, another company on the verge of bankruptcy, thought its corporate leadership so effective it awarded top suit Gregory Boyce well over $10,000,000.00 in 2014. The “President and Chief Operating Officer” got about $5,500,000.00.

Arch Coal was doing so well it rewarded the boss with a $7,300,000.00 payday in 2014. He got paid this stupendous sum while the company lost almost half a billion dollars — “Arch reported a loss of $558.4 million in 2014. In 2014, Arch common stock fell almost 62% and was recently trading at about $1.24 per share” — Imagine what he’d have got if it made money!


Don’t forget Consol, which hands over at least $8,300,000.00 annually to Rich DiIuliis. Remember that number as these guys go to the public talking about the “tough times” for coal.


Lesser-known Cloud Peak Coal pays a raft of executives million dollar salaries, but the top two rake in over $4,000,000.00 per year and for the big man at the head of the table, there is somehow $10,000,000.00 available to “invest” in his services. All of this while miners for CPC get laid off and left out of the financial bonanza reaped by the corporate big-wigs.

All of this occurred despite the key factors in coal’s decline being business factors and things people could see coming miles and miles away. If it doesn’t make sense for these savvy businessmen to have borrowed so much and spent so much in what everyone knew was a tough environment for coal, you’re not thinking about it right. The point was never to save the companies — it was to jack up their paychecks and make sure they cleared a bundle before the inevitable crash.


Oh, and even though the companies are “bankrupt,” they’ve got plenty of money left over to influence politics.

Here’s what happens when you try to replicate climate contrarian papers

And we know that many/most of the denialists are being paid a lot of money by the fossil fuel companies. But I would guess that some are honestly motivated by the same psychological factors that affect non-scientists. Eg., if you acknowledge the fact that we are damaging our environment, you then have a moral obligation to change your habits, which people are resistant to.

Dana Nuccitelli
Aug. 25, 2015

Those who reject the 97% expert consensus on human-caused global warming often invoke Galileo as an example of when the scientific minority overturned the majority view. In reality, climate contrarians have almost nothing in common with Galileo, whose conclusions were based on empirical scientific evidence, supported by many scientific contemporaries, and persecuted by the religious-political establishment. Nevertheless, there’s a slim chance that the 2–3% minority is correct and the 97% climate consensus is wrong.
[Another difference from Galileo is that his theory was a new one, so there was resistance from people who had existing opinions. The consensus on global warming is a fairly new idea, which has so much evidence that it has won over almost all scientists who study it.]

To evaluate that possibility, a new paper published in the journal of Theoretical and Applied Climatology examines a selection of contrarian climate science research and attempts to replicate their results. The idea is that accurate scientific research should be replicable, and through replication we can also identify any methodological flaws in that research. The study also seeks to answer the question, why do these contrarian papers come to a different conclusion than 97% of the climate science literature?


we discovered some common themes among the contrarian research papers.

Cherry picking was the most common characteristic they shared. We found that many contrarian research papers omitted important contextual information or ignored key data that did not fit the research conclusions. For example, in the discussion of a 2011 paper by Humlum et al. in our supplementary material, we note,

The core of the analysis carried out by [Humlum et al.] involved wavelet-based curve-fitting, with a vague idea that the moon and solar cycles somehow can affect the Earth’s climate. The most severe problem with the paper, however, was that it had discarded a large fraction of data for the Holocene which did not fit their claims.

When we tried to reproduce their model of the lunar and solar influence on the climate, we found that the model only simulated their temperature data reasonably accurately for the 4,000-year period they considered. However, for the 6,000 years’ worth of earlier data they threw out, their model couldn’t reproduce the temperature changes. The authors argued that their model could be used to forecast future climate changes, but there’s no reason to trust a model forecast if it can’t accurately reproduce the past.


we examined 38 papers in all. As we note, the same replication approach could be applied to papers that are consistent with the expert consensus on human-caused global warming, and undoubtedly some methodological errors would be uncovered. However, these types of flaws were the norm, not the exception, among the contrarian papers that we examined. As lead author Rasmus Benestad wrote,

we specifically chose a targeted selection to find out why they got different answers, and the easiest way to do so was to select the most visible contrarian papers ... Our hypothesis was that the chosen contrarian paper was valid, and our approach was to try to falsify this hypothesis by repeating the work with a critical eye.

If we could find flaws or weaknesses, then we would be able to explain why the results were different from the mainstream. Otherwise, the differences would be a result of genuine uncertainty.

After all this, the conclusions were surprisingly unsurprising in my mind. The replication revealed a wide range of types of errors, shortcomings, and flaws involving both statistics and physics.

You may have noticed another characteristic of contrarian climate research – there is no cohesive, consistent alternative theory to human-caused global warming. Some blame global warming on the sun, others on orbital cycles of other planets, others on ocean cycles, and so on. There is a 97% expert consensus on a cohesive theory that’s overwhelmingly supported by the scientific evidence, but the 2–3% of papers that reject that consensus are all over the map, even contradicting each other. The one thing they seem to have in common is methodological flaws like cherry picking, curve fitting, ignoring inconvenient data, and disregarding known physics.


Thursday, January 21, 2016

Deep Ocean Waters Trapping Vast Store of Heat

By John Upton
Jan. 18, 2016

A new generation of scientific instruments has begun scouring ocean depths for temperature data, and the evidence being pinged back via satellite warns that the consequences of fossil fuel burning and deforestation are accumulating far below the planet’s surface.
[This is not the same as satellite measurements. The temperature is measured directly at the source, at various parts of the ocean. The devices then radio the information up to satellites which direct it back to us.]

More than 90 percent of the heat trapped by greenhouse gas pollution since the 1970s has wound up in the oceans, and research published Monday revealed that a little more than a third of that seafaring heat has worked its way down to depths greater than 2,300 feet (700 meters).

Plunged to ocean depths by winds and currents, that trapped heat has eluded surface temperature measurements, fueling claims of a “hiatus” or “pause” in global warming from 1998 to 2013. But by expanding cool water, the deep-sea heat’s impacts have been indirectly visible in coastal regions by pushing up sea levels, contributing to worsening high-tide flooding.

“The heat’s going in at the surface, so it’s getting down pretty deep,” said Glen Gawarkiewicz, a Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution scientist who was not involved with the study. “With 35 percent of the heat uptake going below 700 meters, it really points out the importance of continued deep ocean sampling. It was a surprise to me that it was that large of a fraction.”


The researchers concluded that half of overall ocean warming has occurred since 1997 — a date that they noted in their paper was “nearly coincident with the beginning of the observed surface warming hiatus.”


Research groups from around the world have deployed thousands of Argo floats since around the year 2000 to take temperature, salinity and other measurements. Technological advances have allowed a small fleet of deeper-diving floats to be deployed more recently. Some of those have been built to dive as deep as 20,000 feet.


“The oceans as an energy store are really doing a lot of the work,” said Lawrence Livermore researcher Paul Durack, who helped produce the studies that were published Monday and in 2014. “The actual temperature change is relatively small, but due to the huge heat capacity of the oceans this equates to a very, very large heat content change.”

It's Official: 2015 Was Hottest Year on Record

It's Official: 2015 Was Hottest Year Ever

By Katherine Bagley
Jan. 20, 2016

Last year was the hottest year on record, two U.S. agencies announced Wednesday. It clocked in at 1.62 degrees Fahrenheit above the 20th century average, nearly one-third of a degree above the previous record, which was only a year old, set in 2014.

The strong El Niño currently hovering over the Pacific Ocean is only partially to blame, scientists from NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration told reporters Wednesday.

"2015 did not start with an El Niño event," said Gavin Schmidt, director of NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies. "The warmth, it was there right from the beginning."

"This is part of long-term underlying trend" due to the buildup of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, he continued. "There is no evidence that that trend has paused, slowed, or hiatused in the recent decade."

Ten of the last 12 months broke monthly temperature records since recordkeeping began in 1880. It was the United States' second hottest year, behind 2012, and its third wettest. The Northern Hemisphere measured 2.59 degrees Fahrenheit hotter than the 20th century average.

The news from NOAA and NASA comes the same day that the UK Met Office, Britain's climate research agency, also confirmed the new record.

ncreasing atmospheric temperatures are fueling extreme weather events across the planet, the scientists said. Intense rainstorms and heat waves have become more frequent. Wildfires are more severe as hot temperatures and intense droughts dry out forests. Evidence shows that hurricanes are shifting their tracks poleward, hitting communities that historically haven't had to deal with the storms before. Last year played host to a variety of devastating climate change-fueled disasters.

"The result of 2015 being the hottest year on record meant that for millions of people worldwide, the consequences were painful, costly and frightening," Aaron Packard, head of's Climate Impacts Program, said in a statement. "We witnessed terrible consequences that resulted from a warmer atmosphere, including: devastating floods in parts of India, the US, UK and China; deadly heat waves across India, Pakistan and the Middle East, severe drought from Africa to California, and an exacerbated El Niño event."

Odds are 2016 will be even hotter than last year, said Tom Karl, director of NOAA's National Centers for Environmental Information.

World leaders pledged last December in Paris to limit global warming to 2 degrees Celsius, or if possible 1.5 degree Celsius. But the scientists warned on Wednesday that even if nations drastically curb their greenhouse gas emissions immediately, it will take decades before the warming will stop.

Global warming "can't be turned around instantly," said Schmidt. "We need a sustained conversation, discourse and monitoring of the situation for this problem to get under control. That is not something that will be done in one year or two years. It depends on our long-term ability to maintain focus on this issue."

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Groups Sue Over North Carolina’s Ag Gag Law, Saying It Violates The Constitution

by Katie Valentine Jan 15, 2016

Last year, North Carolina made it nearly impossible for citizens to legally gather evidence on and report instances of wrongdoing — animals being mistreated by farm workers, for instance, or pollution being dumped into a stream. Now, a group of organizations is suing over the law, saying it tramples on North Carolinians’ constitutional rights.

In the lawsuit, filed this week against North Carolina’s attorney general, the groups allege that North Carolina’s House Bill 405 “attacks the core values embodied by the federal and state constitutional protections of speech and the press” and “should be declared unconstitutional under the First and Fourteenth Amendments of the United States Constitution.” The law in question allows business owners to sue people who take photos, video, or any other data from their property without their consent. That in and of itself presents constitutional questions, but it’s the law’s breadth that’s so concerning, said lead council for the case David Muraskin.

“This is a law designed to gag North Carolinian citizens,” Muraskin, a food safety and health attorney at Public Justice, said. “If you have a parent in a nursing home or a child in daycare, you should be concerned about this law.”

The law states that any actions that “interfere with the ownership or possession of real property” can be met with legal action. That statement is extrordinarily broad, Muraskin said, and could cover any number of actions, including going onto a property to take photos of wrongdoing or taking photos from outside of the property.


North Carolina’s governor, Pat McCrory (R), agreed with some of these claims back in May of last year. That was when he vetoed the bill, saying that he was “concerned that subjecting these employees to potential civil penalties will create an environment that discourages them from reporting illegal activities.” But the North Carolina legislature, intent on getting the bill through for the sake of tougher controls on property protection, overrode his veto.


“If there was a spill of swine waste due to a lagoon failure, or an equipment malfunction on a hog facility, this would really make an employee second-guess whether they call environment or public health officials to come respond to the problem,” Gray Jernigan, staff attorney and communications coordinator with Waterkeeper Alliance, told ThinkProgress in June.

Muraskin agreed.

“One of the ways we find out about pollution is people going in and investigating, or workers themselves going in and taking samples,” he said. Under the law, an employee can’t take a water sample from a stream and submit that sample to authorities without fear of legal recourse, he said. “There’s an argument that that it conflicts with the Clean Water Act.”

North Carolina is one of seven states that have so-called “ag-gag” laws on the books — laws that criminalize, to varying extents, data collection from private property. Most of the laws are centered around the agriculture industry, and are aimed largely at keeping employees or outside groups from photographing or videotaping animal abuse at large farming operations. Animal rights groups rely on these investigations to bring instances of abuse to light, and the videos published can lead to charges against the abusers and even bring about policy changes. In 2008, for instance, an undercover video exposed the issue of “downer” cows, which can’t stand on their own but, at that time, were still being used for beef. That video led to the largest meat recall in U.S. history, and using downer cows for meat is now banned across the country.

But these laws have been challenged in other states, too. A Federal District Court judge struck down Idaho’s ag-gag law last year, saying it was unconstitutional. Muraskin hopes North Carolina will follow suit.


Monday, January 18, 2016

Southern Africa's drought leaves millions hungry

18 Jan 2016

About 14 million people in Southern Africa are facing hunger because of last year's poor harvest, caused by the El Nino weather pattern, the World Food Programme says.

In a statement released on Monday, the WFP, which is the UN's food-assistance branch, gave warning that the number of people without enough food is likely to rise further in 2016, as the drought worsens throughout the region.

"Worst affected in the region by last year’s poor rains are Malawi (2.8 million people facing hunger), Madagascar (nearly 1.9 million people) and Zimbabwe (1.5 million) where last year's harvest was reduced by half compared to the previous year because of massive crop failure," the WFP statement said.

"In Lesotho, the government last month declared a drought emergency and some 650,000 people - one-third of the population - do not have enough food."

The WFP said that food prices across Southern Africa have risen sharply because of the reduced production and availability.


Al Jazeera weather presenter Richard Angwin says El Nino, which strictly refers to the surface warming of the eastern and central Pacific Basin, has had a knock-on effect across much of the world.

This naturally occurring phenomenon, which appears every two to seven years, was particularly strong in 2015.

"It is certainly the strongest since the last major El Nino of 1997-98, and it stands every chance of being the strongest since at least 1950," he said.


While this El Nino has brought drier conditions to Southern Africa and wetter ones to East Africa, Ethiopia has also been hit by its worst drought in 30 years.

The UN said this week that 400,000 Ethiopian children are suffering from severe acute malnutrition and more than 10 million people need food aid.

Save the Children, an international non-governmental organisation, says the drought in Ethiopia represents as big a potential threat to children's lives as the war in Syria.

Friday, January 15, 2016


I'm still not posting much because I'm working on my Tax-Aide certification.

I finished my on-line poll worker training, still have a classroom class to take.

Utility understated levels of cancer-causing chemical from gas leak

Jan. 14, 2016

The utility whose leaking natural gas well has driven thousands of Los Angeles residents from their homes acknowledged Thursday that it understated the number of times airborne levels of the cancer-causing chemical benzene have spiked during the crisis.

Southern California Gas Co. had been saying on its website and in emails to The Associated Press that just two air samples over the past three months showed elevated concentrations of the compound. But after the AP inquired about discrepancies in the data, SoCalGas admitted higher-than-normal readings had been found at least 14 times.

SoCalGas spokeswoman Kristine Lloyd said it was "an oversight" that was being corrected. The utility continued to assert that the leak has posed no long-term risk to the public.


Public health officials have likewise said they do not expect any long-term health problems. But some outside experts insist the data is too thin to say that with any certainty. For one thing, it is unclear whether the benzene fumes persisted long enough to exceed state exposure limits.

"I have not seen anything convincing that it's been proven to be safe," said Seth Shonkoff, the executive director of an independent energy science and policy institute and a visiting scholar at the University of California, Berkeley. "I'm not going on record as saying this is absolutely an unsafe situation; I'm saying there are a number of red flags."


but the leak has spewed huge amounts of methane, a potent greenhouse gas, and occasionally blanketed neighborhoods about a mile away with a sickening rotten-egg odor.


Natural gas also contains smaller amounts of other compounds, such as benzene, that cause cancer as well as anemia and other blood disorders.

In the Los Angeles area, benzene is normally present at minuscule levels of 0.1 to 0.5 parts per billion, according to the South Coast Air Quality Management District. But SoCalGas has been saying on its website that the typical background level is 2 parts per billion.


The World Health Organization and U.S. government classify benzene as an undisputed cause of leukemia and other cancers. "No safe level of exposure can be recommended," according to WHO.


Madaya Siege: Aid Workers Entering Starving Town Find Shocking Scenes

by Cassandra Vinograd
Jan. 15, 2016

Supplies made it into the starving Syrian town of Madaya this week, but for at least one teenager the aid came too late.

UNICEF workers who entered Madaya found severe malnutrition, overwhelmed health professionals "emotionally distressed and mentally drained" from working around the clock.

"UNICEF is particularly saddened and shocked to have witnessed the death of Ali, a severely malnourished 16-year-old boy who passed away in the town's clinic in front of our eyes," the organization said in a statement. "It is simply unacceptable that this is happening in the 21st century."

Madaya, a town of around 40,000 near Syria's border with Lebanon, has been besieged by pro-government forces for months. Horrific images of gaunt and emaciated locals sparked international outcry, prompting the Syrian government last week to agree on allowing aid into Madaya and two other towns — Kefraya and Foua — where residents were facing starvation.

A first wave of aid reached Madaya on Monday and a second convoy of 44 trucks entered the city on Thursday.


In pitiful animal die-offs across the globe — from antelopes to bees to seabirds — climate change may be culprit

By Sarah Kaplan
January 13, 2016

On the chilly shores of Alaska’s Prince William Sound, tens of thousands of battered bird carcasses are washing up. The birds, all members of a species known as the common murre, appear to have starved to death, wildlife officials said Tuesday. Their black and white bodies lie strewn across the slick rock, or else bob in the shallow waters nearby.

Seven thousand miles away, on a sandy beach in southern India, more than 100 whales were discovered mysteriously stranded on shore this week. Already at least 45 of them are dead, according to the BBC, dried out and overheated by exposure to the sun. More may soon die if they can’t be safely returned to the ocean. The area hasn’t seen this big a stranding in more than 40 years.

These are two isolated incidents, but they’re not unlike others that have been reported in the past year — unexplained die-offs, abnormally large strandings, a worldwide coral bleaching bigger than almost anything else on record. Around the world, animal populations are vulnerable. Huge groups might be killed in a matter of days or weeks. In Kazakhstan in May of last year, more half of the world’s entire population of saiga antelope vanished in less than a month.

Incidents like these are often mysteries to be unraveled, with scientists sorting through various explanations — hunger, habitat loss, disease, disorientation — for the mass deaths. But in a swath of recent cases, many of the die-offs boil down to a common problem: the animals’ environments are changing, and they’re struggling to keep up.


Back in the U.S., the Los Angeles Times reported last August that the drought that has plagued western states for four years was causing a major die-off of vital fish populations like salmon, steelhead and the endangered delta smelt. Water levels were too low, and what’s more, water temperatures were too warm for fish and their offspring to survive.


And last July, researchers reported that global warming is working to “crush bumblebees in a kind of climate vice,” according to Nature.

“Bumblebee species across Europe and North America are declining at continental scales,” Jeremy Kerr, a biodiversity researcher at the University of Ottawa in Canada, told the scientific journal. “Our data suggest that climate change plays a leading, or perhaps the leading, role in this trend.”

It’s not only animals that are at risk. Researchers believe that the western drought killed 12 million trees in California’s forests, and estimated 58 million are so dry they’ve reached the brink of death, according to the San Francisco Chronicle. A study released that last month predicted that climate change would cause massive die-offs of the American southwest’s coniferous trees, like junipers and pinon pines, within the next half century.

In many ways, die-offs are an inevitable aspect of life on Earth. The ebb and flow of species’ success is part of the background noise of existence that drives evolution. Populations have risen and declined long before humans existed. They’re likely to continue to do so long after we’re gone.

But a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences last year suggests that the number of animal die-offs has gotten worse in recent years. And the researchers weren’t talking about small scale problems like the murres deaths or even the saiga die-offs either. They looked at more than 700 mass mortality events in which either 90 percent of the species was wiped out, more than a billion individuals were killed or 700 million tons (nearly 2,000 Empire State Buildings) worth of biomatter was destroyed.

What they found was not heartening. Mass Mortality Events (MMEs) are “rarely placed in a broader context,” the study’s authors reported. But they seem to be happening at an increased rate for birds, marine invertebrates and fish since the 1940s


These die-offs matter not just because of the inherent value of the creatures involved, the authors said, but because whole ecosystems may depend on that species to survive.



Jan. 10, 2016

Life After Death Row

Three unjustly convicted people who spent years in prison and then were exonerated tell Scott Pelley how they are adjusting to being free

The following is a script from "Life After Death Row" which aired on Jan. 10, 2016. Scott Pelley is the correspondent. Henry Schuster, producer.

About 10 times a month now, an innocent person is freed from an American prison. They're exonerated, sometimes after decades, because of new evidence, new confessions or the forensic science of DNA.

There is joy the day that justice arrives, but we wondered, what happens the day after? You're about to meet three people who have returned to life from unjust convictions. One of them, Ray Hinton, was on death row. He remembers, too vividly, the Alabama electric chair and the scent that permeated the cell block when a man was met by 2,000 volts. Hinton waited his turn for nearly 30 years until this past April.


on death row, Hinton spent most of every day, alone.


Scott Pelley: What did the State of Alabama give you to help you get back up on your feet?

Ray Hinton: They dropped all charges and that was it.

Scott Pelley: No money?

Ray Hinton: No.

Scott Pelley: No suit of clothes?

Ray Hinton: Nothing. No.

And that is where many states are failing the growing number of exonerated prisoners. It turns out in Alabama if Ray Hinton had committed murder and was released on parole, he would have been eligible for job training, housing assistance and a bus ticket home. But most states offer no immediate help to the innocent who's convictions can be embarrassing because of misconduct or incompetence by police or prosecutors.


Ken Ireland: It was just absolutely unimaginable and I couldn't even explain the horror of it.

Ken Ireland lost 21 years. He was misidentified by witnesses who collected a $20,000 reward. Convicted in a 1986 rape and murder, DNA proved his innocence.


One thing that made it easier was Connecticut's new law that compensates the wrongly convicted. A year ago, Ireland was the first to get a check.

Scott Pelley: What did the state give you?

Ken Ireland: Six million dollars.


Ken Ireland: That's more than most states are giving.

Scott Pelley: Well it comes to something like 300,000 dollars a year for every year you spent in prison. And you say it's not worth it?

Ken Ireland: Oh, absolutely not. Absolutely not. They could give me five million for every year and it still wouldn't be worth it.

Ken Ireland was fortunate, if you can call it that. Twenty states offer no compensation at all, one, is Julie Baumer's home, Michigan.


Scott Pelley: Other than the time, what have you lost?

Julie Baumer: Everything. Everything. My life is nothing as it was.

In 2003, Baumer was a mortgage broker raising her sister's baby. He became ill so she took him to an emergency room. Doctors there suspected the boy had been shaken until his brain was damaged. Baumer was convicted of child abuse. She was in her fifth year in prison when new evidence showed that the boy had suffered a natural stroke. She was retried, acquitted and the judge apologized. After she was released, for a time, she was homeless.

Scott Pelley: How did you start over?

Julie Baumer: It was very, very, very rough. You start from the bottom reclaiming your identity. I didn't have an ID. And then after I jumped over that hurdle, then you start applying for jobs. And then you have to go through OK, well, now there's a five gap-- year gap on your résumé. Why is this? And then you tell your potential employer the truth. In my case, I never got phone calls back.

Scott Pelley: There was no support for you of any kind.

Julie Baumer: No.

Julie now works for a Detroit-area parish. In her spare time she's lobbying Michigan's legislature for a compensation law.

Julie Baumer: No amount of money can ever bring back everything that I've lost.

Scott Pelley: No one can fail to see the injustice in these cases. But when it comes to compensation, there are people watching this interview who are saying, "You know, it was just bad luck and we don't necessarily owe them for the life that they lost."

Bryan Stevenson: This isn't luck, this was a system, this was actually our justice system, it was our tax dollars who paid for the police officers who arrested Mr. Hinton. Our tax dollars that paid for the judge and the prosecutor that prosecuted him. That paid for the experts who got it wrong. That paid to keep him on death row for 30 years for a crime he didn't commit. This has nothing to do with luck. This has everything to do with the way we treat those who are vulnerable in our criminal justice system.


Of course, they did take Ray Hinton's life. A false conviction isn't about lost time; it's the loss of an education, a marriage, the chance to start a family, settle into a job and build a pension. The only thing Alabama didn't take was the breath from his body.


Thursday, January 14, 2016

Starvation Suspected in Massive Die-off of Alaska Seabirds

By dan joling, associated press
ANCHORAGE, Alaska — Jan 12, 2016

Seabird biologist David Irons drove recently to the Prince William Sound community of Whittier to check on a friend's boat and spotted white blobs along the tide line of the rocky Alaska beach. He thought they were patches of snow.

A closer look revealed that the white patches were emaciated common murres, one of North America's most abundant seabirds, washed ashore after apparently starving to death.

"It was pretty horrifying," Irons said. "The live ones standing along the dead ones were even worse."

Murre die-offs have occurred in previous winters but not in the numbers Alaska is seeing. Federal researchers won't estimate the number, and are trying to gauge the scope and cause of the die-off while acknowledging there's little they can do.

Scientists say the die-offs could be a sign of ecosystem changes that have reduced the numbers of the forage fish that murres depend upon. Warmer water surface temperatures, possibly due to global warming or the El Nino weather pattern, may have affected murre prey, including herring, capelin and juvenile pollock.


An estimated 8,000 of the black and white birds were found dead on the Whittier beach, said John Piatt, research wildlife biologist at the U.S. Geological Survey's Alaska Science Center.

"That's unprecedented, that sheer number in one location is off the charts," he said.


"The length of time we've been seeing dead birds, and the geographic scope, is much greater than before in other die-off events," said Kathy Kuletz, a biologist for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. "We're looking at many times that. So possibly a good chunk of the population."

In 2008, Irons was lead author on a research paper that correlated natural die-offs to climate change and rising ocean temperatures. Using data from murre colonies around the circumpolar north, researchers found murres died in years when ocean surface temperature water increased by just a few degrees.

Murre prey such as capelin, a forage fish in the smelt family, live in a narrow band of cool water, said Irons, who retired last year after 36 years with the Fish and Wildlife Service in Alaska and California.


The USGS National Wildlife Health Laboratory in Madison, Wisconsin, has examined about 100 carcasses and detected no parasites or disease that may have contributed to murres not eating, said wildlife disease specialist Barbara Bodenstein.

If the die-off is tied to low numbers of forage fish brought on by a warming ocean, the rest of 2016 does not bode well for murres, Piatt said.


Wednesday, January 13, 2016

What time will it freeze? is especially useful in the winter. If it's going to get below freezing, you can see the predicted time of day that will be below freezing, so you can know when to leave the water dripping or running slowly.

Go to the weather page for your location, like : Duluth, GA

Near the bottom of the page, click on the menu item or picture “Hourly Weather Graph” to see a graphic representation of the weather forecast by hour, including temperature.

To see a text chart with the temperatures, click on the graph above, or on your main page, click on the menu item “Tabular Forecast”, which is right below the “Hourly Weather Graph” menu item.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

The man who studies the spread of ignorance

By Georgina Kenyon
6 January 2016

In 1979, a secret memo from the tobacco industry was revealed to the public. Called the Smoking and Health Proposal, and written a decade earlier by the Brown & Williamson tobacco company, it revealed many of the tactics employed by big tobacco to counter “anti-cigarette forces”.

In one of the paper’s most revealing sections, it looks at how to market cigarettes to the mass public: “Doubt is our product since it is the best means of competing with the ‘body of fact’ that exists in the mind of the general public. It is also the means of establishing a controversy.”

This revelation piqued the interest of Robert Proctor, a science historian from Stanford University, who started delving into the practices of tobacco firms and how they had spread confusion about whether smoking caused cancer.

Proctor had found that the cigarette industry did not want consumers to know the harms of its product, and it spent billions obscuring the facts of the health effects of smoking. This search led him to create a word for the study of deliberate propagation of ignorance: agnotology.

Agnotology is the study of wilful acts to spread confusion and deceit, usually to sell a product or win favour

It comes from agnosis, the neoclassical Greek word for ignorance or ‘not knowing’, and ontology, the branch of metaphysics which deals with the nature of being. Agnotology is the study of wilful acts to spread confusion and deceit, usually to sell a product or win favour.


Agnotology is as important today as it was back when Proctor studied the tobacco industry’s obfuscation of facts about cancer and smoking. For example, politically motivated doubt was sown over US President Barack Obama’s nationality for many months by opponents until he revealed his birth certificate in 2011. In another case, some political commentators in Australia attempted to stoke panic by likening the country’s credit rating to that of Greece, despite readily available public information from ratings agencies showing the two economies are very different.

Proctor explains that ignorance can often be propagated under the guise of balanced debate. For example, the common idea that there will always be two opposing views does not always result in a rational conclusion. This was behind how tobacco firms used science to make their products look harmless, and is used today by climate change deniers to argue against the scientific evidence.

“This ‘balance routine’ has allowed the cigarette men, or climate deniers today, to claim that there are two sides to every story, that ‘experts disagree’ – creating a false picture of the truth, hence ignorance.”


“We live in a world of radical ignorance, and the marvel is that any kind of truth cuts through the noise,” says Proctor. Even though knowledge is ‘accessible’, it does not mean it is accessed, he warns.

“Although for most things this is trivial – like, for example, the boiling point of mercury – but for bigger questions of political and philosophical import, the knowledge people have often comes from faith or tradition, or propaganda, more than anywhere else.”

Proctor found that ignorance spreads when firstly, many people do not understand a concept or fact and secondly, when special interest groups – like a commercial firm or a political group – then work hard to create confusion about an issue. In the case of ignorance about tobacco and climate change, a scientifically illiterate society will probably be more susceptible to the tactics used by those wishing to confuse and cloud the truth.


"While some smart people will profit from all the information now just a click away, many will be misled into a false sense of expertise. My worry is not that we are losing the ability to make up our own minds, but that it’s becoming too easy to do so. We should consult with others much more than we imagine. Other people may be imperfect as well, but often their opinions go a long way toward correcting our own imperfections, as our own imperfect expertise helps to correct their errors,” warns Dunning.


tags: influence,

Monday, January 11, 2016

For the U.S., 2015 is second-hottest year ever recorded

By Andrea Thompson, Climate Central on January 7, 2016

2015 is officially in the books as the second-hottest year ever recorded for the U.S., with a major boost provided by the incredible warmth that bathed the eastern half of the country in December, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration announced Thursday.

That second-place finish comes as both NOAA and NASA are expected to announce that the year was the hottest on record globally. While that record heat was helped in part by one of the strongest El Ninos on record, it was mainly due to the contributions of manmade global warming, scientists have said.


This was the 19th consecutive year that the overall U.S. temperature exceeded the 20th century average, NOAA said.


And not only was December record warm, it was also record wet, the first time a month has set both records simultaneously, Crouch said.


Four states—Florida, Montana, Oregon, and Washington—saw their all-time warmest year, while three more—Alaska, California, and Idaho—had their second warmest. (California had its record warmest year in 2014.)


While parts of the U.S. were relatively cool at various times during the year, there were very few similar spots on the globe. Overall the planet saw incredible warmth, particularly in the oceans. El Nino helped to push Pacific Ocean temperature to levels rivaling the strongest events on record, but a Climate Central analysis showed that the overwhelming contributor to the year’s record warmth is the excess heat that has built up in Earth’s atmosphere because of the accumulation of greenhouse gases emitted by human activities.

Of the 15 warmest years on record, 14 have occurred in the 20th century. The last time there was a record cold year was 1911.


How many are hungry?

Living on Earth radio show
Air Date: Week of January 8, 2016


Frances Moore Lappé
Typically, what we hear and about all we hear is about the yearly count from the food and agricultural organization of the United Nations, and that count is based on calories alone, and to be among that 800 million roughly now, you have to have experienced hunger for more than a year. In other words, if you are calorie deficient for three months between harvests, but not over the year, your calories average out to adequacy, then you're not counted. The real point here is that this official count is about calories alone. And we live in a world in which calories and nutrition are parting ways. And if you look at it that way, then you have to look at the World Health Organization, for example, who tells us that two billion of us are deficient in at least one nutrient essential to health. For example, one out of five maternal deaths is related to iron deficiency. So we make the case that the world should be focused on what we call nutritional deprivation, and that includes both calorie and nutrient deficiency.


Sunday, January 10, 2016

Want kids to listen more, fidget less? Try more recess

A. Pawlowski
Jan. 8, 2016


The youngest kids at this school now enjoy two 15-minute breaks in the morning and two in the afternoon for a total of one hour of recess a day. That's three times longer and three more breaks than they used to get.

The children always go outside to play games or use the swings and slides, even if it's drizzly or cold.


Some five months into the experiment, McBride's fears have been alleviated. Her students are less fidgety and more focused, she said. They listen more attentively, follow directions and try to solve problems on their own instead of coming to the teacher to fix everything. There are fewer discipline issues.

"We're seeing really good results," she noted.

Parents are seeing them, too. Amy Longspaugh noticed her 6-year-old daughter Maribel, who is in McBride's class, has become more independent and writes with more detail and creativity. Maribel has also made more friends as the kids mingle outside.


The American Academy of Pediatrics agrees, calling recess "a crucial and necessary component of a child's development." Studies show it offers important cognitive, social, emotional, and physical benefits, yet many schools are cutting down on breaks to squeeze in more lessons, which may be counterproductive, it warns.


They key is "unstructured play," which Rhea described as kids being allowed to run, play and make up their own games while teachers mostly stay on the sidelines to make sure everyone is safe.

The breaks should take place outdoors because fresh air, natural light and vivid colors all have a big impact on the brain and its function, she added.


Friday, January 08, 2016

When companies hire temp workers by race, black applicants lose out

By Will Evans / January 6, 2016

By all accounts, Automation Personnel Services Inc. aims to please its customers.

For just over a quarter-century, the Alabama-based temp agency has provided temporary workers to industrial companies and warehouses in the South, and its dedication to clients shines through its motto: “We built our success helping you succeed.”

But that focus on customer service can be treacherous. When its clients wanted to hire temp workers based on race, sex or age, Automation was happy to oblige, according to dozens of former employees.

Often, the practice was blatant. A manager at a Georgia manufacturing plant asked Christie Ragland not to send him “any black thugs,” she said. Ragland, a former Automation office manager until early 2015, said her boss told her to give the client what he wanted. And in Memphis, Tennessee, Josie Hernandez said her branch manager would comment, “Don’t hire that damn nigger,” and ordered her to send only Latinos to a flower delivery company.

Other times, Automation staff members used veiled language. At the company’s Chattanooga, Tennessee, branch, a request for white men was known as an order for “country boys,” according to three former employees.

Whether it was a preference for Latino workers or for whites only, the people on the losing end usually were black, according to former employees at branches in six states. Automation would send out black workers – to the employers who would accept them, they said. Sometimes, they were channeled into inferior positions. And if there wasn’t an opening at willing companies that day, black workers would be out of luck.

As tensions mount over racial injustice in America, Reveal found a pattern endemic to the temp industry of racist, sexist and otherwise discriminatory hiring – a practice the top federal regulator acknowledges is growing and difficult to combat.


The Steep Costs of Keeping Juveniles in Adult Prisons

Jessica Lahey
? Jan. 2016


On any given day, 10,000 juveniles are housed in adult prisons and jails. These children lose more than their freedom when they enter adult prisons; they lose out on the educational and psychological benefits offered by juvenile-detention facilities. Worse, they are much more likely to suffer sexual abuse and violence at the hands of other inmates and prison staff. The National Prison Rape Elimination Commission described their fate in blunt terms in a 2009 report: “More than any other group of incarcerated persons, youth incarcerated with adults are probably at the highest risk of sexual abuse.”


Kids who are placed in the adult system are 34 times more likely to recidivate than their counterparts in the juvenile system.”

Because these kids are less likely than their counterparts imprisoned in juvenile centers to get the vocational training and education they need in order to function after release in an adult prison, society is essentially setting them up to fail, and priming them for recidivism. Most juveniles, even those convicted as adults, are released while they are still young. “Approximately 80 percent of youth convicted as adults will be released from prison before their 21st birthday, and 95 percent will be released by their 25th birthday,” according to the Center for Youth Justice.


the vast majority of kids are imprisoned for non-violent offenses, and we should be working to rehabilitate these youth while they’re still young, as opposed to throwing them away in the adult system.”


Compared to adults, [juveniles] are more likely to be harmed by exposure to stress and trauma, but they are also more likely to benefit from rehabilitation. In view of what we know about conditions of confinement in correctional facilities, it’s no surprise that juveniles who are released from adult facilities are in worse shape, and are more likely to reoffend, than their counterparts with similar criminal histories who are released from facilities designed with adolescents in mind.

Daugherty suggests that it’s difficult to get people to care about the plight of juveniles in prison due to longstanding tolerance of prison sexual abuse. “The joke is that you go to prison, and learn quickly not to drop the soap. The assumption of prison sexual abuse has become so entrenched in American culture that it is assumed to be part of the punishment, but it’s not. You get sentenced to jail and prison, not to be raped and abused behind bars.”
[Anybody who condones sexual abuse against people of any age is warped & evil.]

In 1823: SCOTUS holds Natives have no rights to land ownership

February 28, 2014


That ruling, Johnson v. M’Intosh, was decided 191 years ago today, on February 28, 1823.


In 1773 and 1775, Thomas Johnson purchased two tracts of land from Native Americans. The land was left to Johnson’s heirs. In 1818, William M’Intosh purchased a large swath of land from U.S. Congress.

The two discovered that their ownership claims overlapped (although there is some evidence to suggest that this evidence was fabricated to obtain a court ruling on the matter), and Johnson’s heirs sued M’Intosh in U.S. district court to recover full ownership of the land.

The district court ruled in M’Intosh’s favor, finding that Johnson’s purchases from the Native Americans to be invalid because they were not able to convey title to begin with.

On appeal, the Supreme Court unanimously affirmed the district court, going into great detail as to the reasons why Native Americans were unable to own or convey land.

This lack of property rights was due to a principle called the “doctrine of discovery,” which gave European monarchs the right to claim sovereignty over any lands in the New World “discovered” by their subjects. The Native peoples that were living on these “discovered” lands had a right of occupancy, but nothing more. Furthermore, this “right” could be extinguished at any time by the U.S. government.

Why did European (and later, American) explorers have such rights to claim lands already occupied by Native Americans?

Originally, during the “Age of Discovery,” Europeans felt justified in claiming ownership over lands inhabited by Natives because the Natives’ “character and religion” gave to Europeans “an apology for considering them as a people over whom the superior genius of Europe might claim an ascendency.”

In other words, because the Natives were not Christian, and because their culture and society were quite dissimilar from their European counterparts’, Europeans felt no need to respect the ownership rights of the Natives. According to the Court, these Europeans believed that they provided “ample compensation to the [Native peoples], by bestowing on them civilization and Christianity.”


The case was widely cited by the Supreme Court well into the late 20th century, and the “doctrine of discovery” was cited in 2005’s City of Sherrill, New York v. Oneida Indian Nation as the basis for all land ownership in the United States today.

Of course, it is worth noting that the majority (if not all) of these court opinions do not explicitly voice support for this doctrine, but rather cite it as the longstanding basis for land ownership in the New World.

A rejection of this principle (without the substitution of an analogous principle that reached the same result) would likely lead to the mass reversion of lands back to their original respective Native inhabitants, potentially resulting in the complete loss of land over which the U.S. (and other New World nations) claim sovereignty – a result that all but the most radical of judges would want to avoid.

As such, even though opposition to the racist and ethnocentric rationales underlying the “discovery doctrine” expounded on in Chief Justice John Marshall’s Johnson opinion are near-universal today, there seems to be an unspoken, if not uncomfortable, consensus that the United States’ existence is due entirely because of this doctrine.

Thursday, January 07, 2016

Latest data shows cooling Sun, warming Earth

Jan. 5, 2015

Latest data shows cooling Sun, warming Earth
Posted on 5 January 2016 by MarkR

Lots of studies into the Sun-climate link have reported that recent changes in the heat output by the Sun are simply too small to explain much of the recent global warming. Even 5 years ago it was clear that Earth's temperature isn't tracking solar activity very well.

And now including data up to 2015, that pattern is even clearer.


Earth's surface has continued to warm despite declining solar activity.


The temperature record is from NASA and the solar heat output arriving at the top of Earth's atmosphere, the "Total Solar Irradiance" comes from two sources. From 1978 we have satellite measurements, in this case from PMOD (data here). Before that, the heat output was not measured directly, but instead it has to be estimated from measurements of sunspots,


To try and keep the graph clear, we only showed the results using the NASA GISTemp temperature record and the PMOD satellite solar activity record. Other records do exist: for temperature there is BEST, HadCRUT4 and Cowtan & Way's modification, NOAA and JMO. For solar activity there is ACRIM. For the warming since 1970, all of the records agree on the trend to within 5 % so the big picture is not changed by the choice of temperature record.


A Bailout for Volkswagen? Congress Wants to Do Something Absolutely Crazy

Republicans have said we don't need regulation of such things, because businesses will refrain from doing them in fear of being sued by customers. Of course, we have seen they have not been deterred by this. They can afford to outspend individual consumers and file appeal after appeal until the consumer runs out or run. And they have been working to nullify the ability of consumers to file class action suits. If they succeed, they will encourage higher legal penalties on them. If we started sending CEOs to jail for years, maybe that would have an effect

Please read the whole article at the following link:

Fiscal Times

By David Dayen
January 4, 2016

When Volkswagen admitted to cheating on air pollution standards tests in September, it opened itself up not only to government punishment, but lawsuits from 500,000 U.S. purchasers of its “clean” diesel vehicles. Volkswagen has yet to fix the vehicles to bring them into emissions compliance, and even if it does, that will likely create a lower-performance car than consumers paid for.


The combination of regulatory oversight and class-action litigation can keep companies in line. But a bill in Congress consisting of a little more than 100 words would not only prevent Kaplan from seeking justice but also cripple virtually all class-action lawsuits against corporations. It’s known as the “Fairness in Class Action Litigation Act,” but lawyers and advocates call it the “VW Bailout Bill.”

The bill, which will get a vote on the House floor in the first week of January, follows a series of steps by the judiciary to block the courthouse door on behalf of corporations. “There's no question the Supreme Court has ben moving in that direction to limit access to courts,” said Joanne Doroshow, executive director of the Center for Justice and Democracy. “But Congress has never done something like this, trying to step in and wipe out class-actions.”

The simplicity of the VW Bailout Bill belies the chaos it would create. Proponents like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the bill’s leading lobbyist, say they merely want to get rid of “non-injury” class-action cases, based on potential damages from defective consumer products or corporate actions that have yet to result in harm. Lawyers for class-action litigants argue that defective products deserve compensation even if the consumer hasn’t yet been injured.

But the bill goes much further, stating that courts may not certify class-action suits unless the plaintiff “affirmatively demonstrates that each proposed class member suffered the same type and scope of injury as the named class representative or representatives.”

“This is devastating because it sets up all class-actions to fail,” says attorney Lori Andrus, who represents several Volkswagen plaintiffs. If every class member must have the same type and scope of injury, it forces extensive proofs for class certification — essentially a full-blown trial up front, where plaintiffs will have to prove that their injuries match with their fellow representatives.


Not only would these trials be costly, but they would empower corporate defense lawyers’ schemes to limit damages. While current rules already require class members to have some level of commonality and typicality, the words “same type and scope” offer opportunities to refine that further. “It’s not clear what they mean by same injury,” says Andre Mura, another class-action plaintiff’s attorney. The terms are so vague, Mura argued, that they would have to be interpreted repeatedly, with unpredictable results.

In the Volkswagen case, for example, “it could mean the same model car, the same defeat device, the same emissions system, the same consumer harm,” Mura says. “When really Volkswagen engaged in the same course of conduct on all their vehicles.” Defense attorneys could claim that a class representative who released fewer emissions because they drove fewer miles than their colleagues, or drove in harsher weather, or with lower tire pressure, should be excluded from the case. That could either whittle down classes to limit damages or disqualify them from certification.

And the applications go beyond Volkswagen. “In a mortgage fraud case, the class might have all been deceived in same way, but the documents signed might have been inconsistent,” says Andrus. “Or with for-profit schools, they might have paid different tuition or taken different classes.” Andrus has battled these tactics before, but the congressional bill would codify them into law. “There’s no question this was written by a defense lawyer whose job it is to defend corporations,” she says.

Without a class-action option, VW customers would have little recourse. “The damages are not enormous in the sense that I could hire individual counsel,” says George Farquar, a scientist and small business owner from Livermore, Calif., who is part of a class-action suit against the carmaker. “It’s amazing this legislation is being considered.”


H.R.1927 - Fairness in Class Action Litigation Act of 2015

Sponsor: Rep. Goodlatte, Bob [R-VA-6]

Tuesday, January 05, 2016

Firm to pay up after making workers clock out for bathroom

January 5, 2016

A Pennsylvania company that publishes business newsletters will pay about $1.75 million to thousands of employees who had to clock out while going on short breaks, including for the bathroom.

A federal judge has given the U.S. Department of Labor and the Malvern-based company, American Future Systems Inc., until Thursday to submit proposals on how to manage the payment process, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported ( ).

The bill includes back pay and damages to 6,000 employees who worked at offices in Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Ohio between July 2009 and July 2013.

The Department of Labor filed a lawsuit in November 2012, claiming the company violated the federal Fair Labor Standards Act because employees weren't earning the minimum wage- $7.25 per hour -when the company required them to clock out for breaks.

"No worker should have to face the choice: Do I take a bathroom break, or do I get paid?" said Adam Welsh, an attorney at the U.S. Department of Labor's Philadelphia office.

The law doesn't require companies to give workers personal breaks. But if it does offer breaks, it must pay workers for them.


Composting food waste remains your best option, says UW study

I have been composting since high school or college, because it produces humus which is good for the soil.

Public Release: 16-Dec-2015
Composting food waste remains your best option, says UW study
University of Washington

Many people compost their food scraps and yard waste because they think it's the right thing to do.

A new University of Washington study confirms that sentiment, and also calculates the environmental benefits associated with keeping these organic materials out of landfills.


"You should definitely pay attention to where you put your food waste, and you should feel good you live in a place where compost is an option," said paper author Sally Brown, a UW research associate professor of environmental and forest sciences.

Food waste in particular generates a significant amount of the greenhouse gas methane when it's buried in landfills, but not so when composted. U.S. cities and counties that offer composting prevent otherwise trash-bound food scraps from decomposing in landfills and generating methane -- and they get a significant carbon credit as a result.


composting food scraps and woody yard materials together makes sense because dryer, high-carbon, yard trimmings mix with soggy food scraps to create ideal conditions for the compost process, she added.