Friday, June 25, 2021

Inflatable, shape-changing spinal implants could help treat severe pain

I recently tried a lidocaine wrap for my arthritic hip one night.  It did reduce the pain, but I must have slept in positions I otherwise wouldn't because of the pain, and I had more pain for a few days after that.


News Release 25-Jun-2021
University of Cambridge


A team of engineers and clinicians has developed an ultra-thin, inflatable device that can be used to treat the most severe forms of pain without the need for invasive surgery.

The device, developed by researchers at the University of Cambridge, uses a combination of soft robotic fabrication techniques, ultra-thin electronics and microfluidics.

The device is so thin - about the width of a human hair - that it can be rolled up into a tiny cylinder, inserted into a needle, and implanted into the epidural space of the spinal column, the same area where injections are administered to control pain during childbirth.

Once correctly positioned, the device is inflated with water or air so that it unrolls like a tiny air mattress, covering a large section of the spinal cord. When connected to a pulse generator, the ultra-thin electrodes start sending small electrical currents to the spinal cord, which disrupt pain signals.

Early tests of the device suggest that it could be an effective treatment for many forms of severe pain - including leg and back pain - which are not remedied by painkillers. It could also be adapted into a potential treatment for paralysis or Parkinson's disease. However, extensive tests and clinical trials will be required before the device can be used on patients.


We may finally know how migrating birds sense Earth's magnetic field


23 June 2021
By Clare Wilson

Journal reference: Nature, DOI: 10.1038/s41586-021-03618-9

We may finally know the secret to how migrating birds can sense Earth’s magnetic fields: a molecule in their eyes called cryptochrome 4 that is sensitive to magnetism, potentially giving the animals an internal compass.

The process may result in the animals seeing darker or lighter areas in their vision when they look in the direction of magnetic field lines, says Henrik Mouritsen at the University of Oldenburg in Germany. “You may be able to see where north is as kind of a shading on whatever else you would be seeing.”

Previous work has shown that certain species of birds, such as the European robin (Erithacus rubecula), use Earth’s magnetic fields when they migrate, as well as using visual and other cues. Some European robins migrate south every northern hemisphere winter, for instance from Scandinavia to the UK, and return in spring.

At least part of this ability is thought to lie in their eyes, because their magnetism sensing is disturbed in the absence of light. Mouritsen has previously shown that when birds are using their internal compass, the information is processed in the same parts of the brain that process vision.


Roswitha Wiltschko at the Goethe University Frankfurt in Germany says the case isn’t yet closed because there are other cryptochrome molecules in the eye that could also be responsible for magnetic sensing. “Most cryptochromes would in principle be able to do this,” she says.

And while pigeons don’t migrate, they have been found to be able to navigate using magnetism, suggesting that other cryptochrome molecules may play a role, she says.

Evidence for a Human Geomagnetic Sense

Maybe those of us w/o a sense of direction lack this ability?  Although at least part of my problem is poor visual memory of details.

March 18, 2019 

Many humans are able to unconsciously detect changes in Earth-strength magnetic fields, according to scientists at Caltech and the University of Tokyo.

The study, led by geoscientist Joseph Kirschvink (BS, MS '75) and neuroscientist Shin Shimojo at Caltech as well as neuroengineer Ayu Matani at the University of Tokyo, offers experimental evidence that human brain waves respond to controlled changes in Earth-strength magnetic fields. Kirschvink and Shimojo say this is the first concrete evidence of a new human sense: magnetoreception. Their findings were published by the journal eNeuro on March 18.


"Aristotle described the five basic senses as including vision, hearing, taste, smell, and touch," says Kirschvink, co-corresponding author of the eNeuro study and Nico and Marilyn Van Wingen Professor of Geobiology. "However, he did not consider gravity, temperature, pain, balance, and several other internal stimuli that we now know are part of the human nervous system. Our animal ancestry argues that geomagnetic field sensors should also be there representing not the sixth sense but perhaps the 10th or 11th human sense to be discovered."


The experiments showed that, in some participants, alpha power began to drop from baseline levels immediately after magnetic stimulation, decreasing by as much as 60 percent over several hundred milliseconds, then recovering to baseline a few seconds after the stimulus.


Thursday, June 24, 2021

What is responsible thing to do?

June 24, 2021

Republicans like to say they are for fiscal responsibility.  But republican governors in states that had a financial surplus last year are calling for tax cuts, instead of putting the money in a rainy day fund, repairing failing infrastructure, or using the money in ways that will move their people forward for the long term.

The collapse of the building in Florida shows the need to be proactive.


Serving larger portions of veggies may increase young kids' veggie consumption


News Release 24-Jun-2021
Penn State

It can be difficult to get young kids to eat enough vegetables, but a new Penn State study found that simply adding more veggies to their plates resulted in children consuming more vegetables at the meal.

The researchers found that when they doubled the amount of corn and broccoli served at a meal -- from 60 to 120 grams -- the children ate 68% more of the veggies, or an additional 21 grams. Seasoning the vegetables with butter and salt, however, did not affect consumption.

The daily recommended amount of vegetables for kids is about 1.5 cups a day, according to the official Dietary Guidelines for Americans as set by the U.S. Departments of Agriculture and Health and Human Services.

"The increase we observed is equal to about one third of a serving or 12% of the daily recommended intake for young children," said Hanim Diktas, graduate student in nutritional sciences. "Using this strategy may be useful to parents, caregivers and teachers who are trying to encourage kids to eat the recommended amount of vegetables throughout the day."


Wednesday, June 23, 2021

Switching from Western diet to a balanced diet may reduce skin, joint inflammation


News Release 22-Jun-2021
Foods high in sugar and fat disrupt the gut and trigger psoriasis flares
University of California - Davis Health


The secret to healthier skin and joints may reside in gut microorganisms. A study led by UC Davis Health researchers has found that a diet rich in sugar and fat leads to an imbalance in the gut's microbial culture and may contribute to inflammatory skin diseases such as psoriasis.

The study, published in the Journal of Investigative Dermatology, suggests that switching to a more balanced diet restores the gut's health and suppresses skin inflammation.

"Earlier studies have shown that Western diet, characterized by its high sugar and fat content, can lead to significant skin inflammation and psoriasis flares," said Sam T. Hwang, professor and chair of dermatology at UC Davis Health and senior author on the study. "Despite having powerful anti-inflammatory drugs for the skin condition, our study indicates that simple changes in diet may also have significant effects on psoriasis."


Researchers find signs of inflammation in brains of people who died of COVID-19

Could this be part of the cause of the increased amount of violence last year?


News Release 22-Jun-2021
Stanford Medicine


The most comprehensive molecular study to date of the brains of people who died of COVID-19 turned up unmistakable signs of inflammation and impaired brain circuits.

Investigators at the Stanford School of Medicine and Saarland University in Germany report that what they saw looks a lot like what's observed in the brains of people who died of neurodegenerative conditions such as Alzheimer's disease and Parkinson's disease.

The findings may help explain why many COVID-19 patients report neurological problems. These complaints increase with the severity of infection with SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. And they can persist as an aspect of "long COVID," a long-lasting disorder that sometimes arises following infection. About one-third of individuals hospitalized for COVID-19 report symptoms of fuzzy thinking, forgetfulness, difficulty concentrating and depression, said Tony Wyss-Coray, PhD, professor of neurology and neurological sciences at Stanford.

Yet the researchers couldn't find any signs of SARS-CoV-2 in brain tissue they obtained from eight individuals who died of the disease. Brain samples from 14 people who died of other causes were used as controls for the study.


Western high-fat diet can cause chronic pain


News Release 23-Jun-2021
University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio


A typical Western high-fat diet can increase the risk of painful disorders common in people with conditions such as diabetes or obesity, according to a groundbreaking paper authored by a team led by The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio, also referred to as UT Health San Antonio.

Moreover, changes in diet may significantly reduce or even reverse pain from conditions causing either inflammatory pain - such as arthritis, trauma or surgery - or neuropathic pain, such as diabetes. The novel finding could help treat chronic-pain patients by simply altering diet or developing drugs that block release of certain fatty acids in the body.


Half of young adults with covid-19 have persistent symptoms 6 months after


News Release 23-Jun-2021
The University of Bergen


A paper published in the prestigious journal Nature Medicine on long-COVID, describes persistent symptoms six months after acute COVID-19, even in young home isolated people.

The study from the Bergen COVID-19 Research Group followed infected patients during the first pandemic wave in Bergen Norway.

"The main novel finding is that more than fifty per cent of young adults up to 30 years old, isolated at home, still have persistent symptoms six months after mild to moderate disease", the leader of the group, Professor Nina Langeland explains.

The most common symptoms were loss of smell and/or taste, fatigue, shortness of breath, impaired concentration, and memory problems.

"There was a significant correlation between high antibody levels and symptoms in home isolated patients, other risk factors for symptoms were asthma or other chronic lung disease", says Professor Rebecca Cox, Head of the Influenza Centre at University of Bergen and Haukeland University Hospital and co-leader of the research group.


Study shows surgical face masks provide good protection against aerosols, while plastic face shields provide no protection


News Release 23-Jun-2021
European Society of Clinical Microbiology and Infectious Diseases


**Note this is a special early release from the European Congress of Clinical Microbiology & Infectious Diseases (ECCMID 2021). Please credit the conference if you use this story*

New research presented at this year's European Congress of Clinical Microbiology & Infectious Diseases (ECCMID), held online this year (9-12 July), shows that wearing a surgical face mask can provide similar protection against aerosols as wearing a respirator. Face shields, however, provide little or no protection.


Pandemic drives largest decrease in US life expectancy since 1943

News Release 23-Jun-2021
COVID-19 has widened the life expectancy gap across racial groups and between the US and peer countries
Virginia Commonwealth University

 U.S. life expectancy decreased by 1.87 years between 2018 and 2020, a drop not seen since World War II, according to new research from Virginia Commonwealth University, the University of Colorado Boulder and the Urban Institute.

The numbers are even worse for people of color. On average, whereas life expectancy among white Americans decreased by 1.36 years in 2020, it decreased by 3.25 years in Black Americans and 3.88 years in Hispanic Americans.

The data will be released June 23 in The BMJ, a journal published by the British Medical Association.

Other countries also saw declines in life expectancy between 2018 and 2020, but the loss of life expectancy in the U.S. was 8.5 times that of the average for 16 peer countries. The declines for minority populations were 15 to 18 times larger than other countries.

"When the pandemic came, my naïve assumption was that it would not have a big impact on the preexisting gap between the U.S. and peer countries," said Steven Woolf, M.D., the study's lead author and director emeritus of VCU's Center on Society and Health. "It was a global pandemic, and I assumed that every country would take a hit. What I did not anticipate was how badly the U.S. would fare in the pandemic and the enormous death toll that the U.S. would experience."


Toxic workplaces increase risk of depression by 300%


News Release 23-Jun-2021
University of South Australia


A year-long Australian population study has found that full time workers employed by organisations that fail to prioritise their employees' mental health have a threefold increased risk of being diagnosed with depression.

And while working long hours is a risk factor for dying from cardiovascular disease or having a stroke, poor management practices pose a greater risk for depression, the researchers found.


Insights on the link between chronic stress and Alzheimer's disease


News Release 23-Jun-2021


Chronic psychosocial stress--which involves a pathway called the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis (HPA axis)--may contribute to the development of Alzheimer's disease. A new review published in Biological Reviews describes how environmental and genetic factors can impact individuals' HPA axis, and ultimately their risk of Alzheimer's disease.


Mongooses solve inequality problem


News Release 23-Jun-2021
University of Exeter

A fair society has evolved in banded mongooses because parents don't know which pups are their own, new research shows.

Mothers in banded mongoose groups all give birth on the same night, creating a "veil of ignorance" over parentage in their communal crèche of pups.

In the new study, led by the universities of Exeter and Roehampton, half of the pregnant mothers in wild mongoose groups were regularly given extra food, leading to increased inequality in the birth weight of pups.

But after giving birth, well-fed mothers gave extra care to the smaller pups born to the unfed mothers - rather than their own pups - and the pup size differences quickly disappeared.


Professor Michael Cant, of the University of Exeter said: "We predicted that a 'veil of ignorance' would cause females to focus their care on the pups most in need - and this is what we found.

"Those most able to help offer it to the most needy, and in doing so minimise the risk that their own offspring will face a disadvantage.

"This redistributive form of care 'levelled up' initial size disparities, and equalised the chances of pups surviving to adulthood.


I remember how hypocritical people were about Islamists burning a statue of Buddha, when Christians have done the same thing to other religions.


While some Pentecostal preachers in eastern Nigeria set fire to statues and other ancient artefacts that they regard as symbols of idolatry, one Catholic priest is collecting them instead.

The artefacts are central to the traditional religions practised by the region's Igbo people, who see them as sacred, and possessing supernatural powers.

BBC Igbo's Chiagozie Nwonwu and Karina Igonikon report on the priest's efforts to protect a history that is being lost because of the actions of some preachers.


Arctic heat roasts Finland and Russia, melts sea ice


Andrew Freedman
Wed, June 23, 2021, 9:02 AM


An intense and expansive heat wave has gripped parts of Siberia, northwestern Russia and Scandinavia, inducing a record plunge in sea ice cover in the Laptev Sea, which is part of the Arctic Ocean.

Why it matters: Due largely to human activities such as fossil fuel burning and deforestation, the Arctic is warming at a rate more than twice as fast as the rest of the globe.


The details: In parts of north-central Siberia, temperatures have reached 45°F above average for this time of year, while other parts of Arctic Russia and Scandinavia have baked in record heat as well.


Emmy Noether

By Richard Webb

 was a mathematician who discovered perhaps the most profound idea in contemporary physics. Noether’s theorem, which she formulated in 1915, says that symmetries in the universe give rise to mathematical conservation laws. This statement is a crucial underpinning of physical laws, from those that govern the rotation of a wheel or the orbits of planets around stars, to the intricate mathematical frameworks of general relativity, quantum physics and particle physics.

Noether was born in the small German town of Erlangen, near Nuremberg, in 1882. Despite the fact that her father, Max Noether, was a professor at the University of Erlangen, she was initially forbidden from enrolling there because of her gender.

Such discrimination dogged Noether’s career. Although she eventually gained both an undergraduate degree and a PhD, no university would hire her for a permanent faculty position. She eventually became one of the world’s foremost experts in the fields of abstract algebra, algebraic topology and the mathematics of symmetry, working at the University of Erlangen and subsequently the University of Göttingen.

But for over a decade, she was without appointment, pay or formal title, despite the championing of her work by many of the most prominent mathematicians of the age, chief among them David Hilbert and Felix Klein. That only changed in 1919, when the end of the first world war and the replacement of the German Reich by the liberal Weimar Republic brought a sea change in attitudes towards women’s education.


as ideas in physics go, they don’t come any more fundamental than Noether’s theorem. Sadly, Noether’s life after discovering the theorem wasn’t a happy one. She came from a Jewish family, and on the accession of the Nazis to power in Germany in 1933, her hard-won right to teach at the University of Göttingen was revoked. She emigrated to the US and taught at Bryn Mawr College in Pennsylvania, but died of complications from cancer surgery two years later.


Tuesday, June 22, 2021

It's true: Stress does turn hair gray (and it's reversible)

When I was out of work for more than a year and a half in the recession of 1990 - 1992, I started getting white hairs.  This stopped when I was able to get a job.


News Release 22-Jun-2021
Columbia University Irving Medical Center

Legend has it that Marie Antoinette's hair turned gray overnight just before her beheading in 1791.

Though the legend is inaccurate--hair that has already grown out of the follicle does not change color--a new study from researchers at Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons is the first to offer quantitative evidence linking psychological stress to graying hair in people.

And while it may seem intuitive that stress can accelerate graying, the researchers were surprised to discover that hair color can be restored when stress is eliminated, a finding that contrasts with a recent study in mice that suggested that stressed-induced gray hairs are permanent.
Columbia University Irving Medical Center


More than 16 million Americans undiagnosed with COVID-19 during first wave, es

I might have had it in the spring of 2020.  I got a flat tire on the way to get tested, never got the test.  I did get fully vaccinated several months ago.  I had frequent bouts of fatigue for months afterward.


News Release 22-Jun-2021
More than 16 million Americans undiagnosed with COVID-19 during first wave, estimates antibody analysis
American Association for the Advancement of Science


As many as 16.8 million Americans had undiagnosed SARS-CoV-2 infections - 5 times the rate of diagnosed infections - by the end of July of 2020, according to an analysis of antibodies from more than 8,000 previously undiagnosed adults collected during the pandemic's first wave. The authors calculated that almost 5% of the undiagnosed U.S. population harbored SARS-CoV-2 antibodies, with the highest positivity rates among African Americans, those under the age of 45, urban dwellers, and women. The results suggest a larger spread of COVID-19 in the U.S. than originally suspected in previous reports. SARS-CoV-2 can stealthily cause asymptomatic infections in some individuals, who can still spread the disease to others. This property has frustrated health authorities' efforts to track down the true number of infected people, especially during the pandemic's early stages in the spring and summer of 2020.


Childhood trauma can make people like morphine more


News Release 22-Jun-2021
University of Exeter


People who have experienced childhood trauma get a more pleasurable "high" from morphine, new research suggests.

University of Exeter scientists compared the effects of morphine on 52 healthy people - 27 with a history of childhood abuse and neglect, and 25 who reported no such experiences in childhood.

Those with childhood trauma liked morphine (an opioid drug) more, felt more euphoric and had a stronger desire for another dose.

Those with no childhood trauma were more likely to dislike the effects and feel dizzy or nauseous.


Cannabis use may be associated with suicidality in young adults


News Release 22-Jun-2021
NIH study suggests a link between cannabis use and higher levels of suicidal ideation, plan, and attempt
NIH/National Institute on Drug Abuse


An analysis of survey data from more than 280,000 young adults ages 18-35 showed that cannabis (marijuana) use was associated with increased risks of thoughts of suicide (suicidal ideation), suicide plan, and suicide attempt. These associations remained regardless of whether someone was also experiencing depression, and the risks were greater for women than for men. The study published online today in JAMA Network Open and was conducted by researchers at the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), part of the National Institutes of Health.


tags: drug use, drug abuse

Worrying insights into the chemicals in plastics


News Release 22-Jun-2021
ETH Zurich


Plastic is practical, cheap and incredibly popular. Every year, more than 350 million tonnes are produced worldwide. These plastics contain a huge variety of chemicals that may be released during their lifecycles - including substances that pose a significant risk to people and the environment. However, only a small proportion of the chemicals contained in plastic are publicly known or have been extensively studied.

A team of researchers led by Stefanie Hellweg, ETH Professor of Ecological Systems Design, has for a first time compiled a comprehensive database of plastic monomers, additives and processing aids for use in the production and processing of plastics on the world market, and systematically categorized them on the basis of usage patterns and hazard potential. The study, just published in the scientific journal Environmental Science & Technology, provides an enlightening but worrying insight into the world of chemicals that are intentionally added to plastics.


Of the 10,500 substances identified, the researchers categorized 2,480 substances (24 percent) as substances of potential concern.

"This means that almost a quarter of all the chemicals used in plastic are either highly stable, accumulate in organisms or are toxic. These substances are often toxic to aquatic life, cause cancer or damage specific organs," explains Helene Wiesinger, doctoral student at the Chair of Ecological Systems Design and lead author of the study. About half are chemicals with high production volumes in the EU or the US.

"It is particularly striking that many of the questionable substances are barely regulated or are ambiguously described," continues Wiesinger.

In fact, 53 percent of all the substances of potential concern are not regulated in the US, the EU or Japan. More surprisingly, 901 hazardous substances are approved for use in food contact plastics in these regions. Finally, scientific studies are lacking for about 10 percent of the identified substances of potential concern.


Wang stresses that even more chemicals in plastics could be problematic. "Recorded hazard data are often limited and scattered. For 4,100 or 39 percent of all the substances we identified, we were not able to categorize them due to a lack of hazard classifications" he says.


Joint NASA, NOAA Study Finds Earth's Energy Imbalance Has Doubled


Jun 15, 2021

Researchers have found that Earth’s energy imbalance approximately doubled during the 14-year period from 2005 to 2019.

Earth's climate is determined by a delicate balance between how much of the Sun's radiative energy is absorbed in the atmosphere and at the surface and how much thermal infrared radiation Earth emits to space. A positive energy imbalance means the Earth system is gaining energy, causing the planet to heat up. The doubling of the energy imbalance is the topic of a recent study, the results of which were published June 15 in Geophysical Research Letters.


The study finds that the doubling of the imbalance is partially the result an increase in greenhouse gases due to human activity, also known as anthropogenic forcing, along with increases in water vapor are trapping more outgoing longwave radiation, further contributing to Earth’s energy imbalance. Additionally, the related decrease in clouds and sea ice lead to more absorption of solar energy.

The researchers also found that a flip of the Pacific Decadal Oscillation (PDO) from a cool phase to a warm phase likely played a major role in the intensification of the energy imbalance. The PDO is a pattern of Pacific climate variability. Its fingerprint includes a massive wedge of water in the eastern Pacific that goes through cool and warm phases. This naturally occurring internal variability in the Earth system can have far-reaching effects on weather and climate. An intensely warm PDO phase that began around 2014 and continued until 2020 caused a widespread reduction in cloud coverage over the ocean and a corresponding increase in the absorption of solar radiation.

"It's likely a mix of anthropogenic forcing and internal variability," said Loeb. "And over this period they're both causing warming, which leads to a fairly large change in Earth's energy imbalance. The magnitude of the increase is unprecedented."


Thursday, June 10, 2021

You May Be Paying a Higher Tax Rate Than a Billionaire


by Paul Kiel, Jeff Ernsthausen and Jesse Eisinger

June 8, 4:59 a.m. EDT

The very richest Americans win at the tax game no matter which measure you use. ProPublica has published an article, based on a vast trove of never-before-seen IRS information, that reveals the pittance in taxes the ultrawealthy pay compared with their massive wealth accumulation.

But that trove of IRS data also reveals new information on how little the 25 wealthiest Americans pay in taxes by the most conventional measure: income. Not all are able to minimize their income and avoid taxes; some report very substantial sums. But even then, the data — and a new analysis by ProPublica — shows they still pay strikingly low rates.

On average, they paid 15.8% in personal federal income taxes between 2014 and 2018. They had $86 billion in adjusted gross income and paid $13.6 billion in income taxes in that period.

That’s lower than the rate a single worker making $45,000 a year might pay if you include Medicare and Social Security taxes.


The federal tax system is designed to be progressive: The more money people make, the higher the tax rate they’re supposed to pay. Today, a married couple pays a tax rate of 10% on their first $19,900 in taxable income (after deductions), stepping up to 37% for everything they make above $628,300.


But those are just the rates on paper. To get a more accurate picture, analysts at the IRS look at what taxes people actually pay. This is known as the “effective tax rate.” If you made $10 million, and paid $2.5 million in taxes, you’d have had an effective rate of 25%.

Looking strictly at income taxes, IRS statistics show that effective tax rates do, in fact, climb with income. In 2018, the latest year for which data is available, those earning between $500,000 and $1 million paid a tax rate twice as high, on average, when compared with taxpayers earning between $100,000 and $200,000. Taxpayers earning between $2 million and $5 million paid 27.5%, the highest of all taxpayers. But, at that point, the climb stops.

From there, rates descend as incomes rise. By the time you reach the most rarefied income grouping whose data is released by the IRS — the top .001% of taxpayers, a collection of 1,400 who each disclosed income over $69 million — the rate has fallen to 23%.

But as ProPublica’s new analysis shows, the top 25 pay even less than that.


How a 10-second video clip sold for $6.6 million

Why the super-rich needed that huge tax cut, and can't afford a tax increase now. They need the money to be able to buy virtual stuff.
By Elizabeth Howcroft, Ritvik Carvalho
March 1, 2021  2:21 AM 

In October 2020, Miami-based art collector Pablo Rodriguez-Fraile spent almost $67,000 on a 10-second video artwork that he could have watched for free online. Last week, he sold it for $6.6 million.
 The video by digital artist Beeple, whose real name is Mike Winkelmann, was authenticated by blockchain, which serves as a digital signature to certify who owns it and that it is the original work.

It’s a new type of digital asset - known as a non-fungible token (NFT) - that has exploded in popularity during the pandemic as enthusiasts and investors scramble to spend enormous sums of money on items that only exist online.

Blockchain technology allows the items to be publicly authenticated as one-of-a-kind, unlike traditional online objects which can be endlessly reproduced.


“Non-fungible” refers to items that cannot be exchanged on a like-for-like basis, as each one is unique - in contrast to “fungible” assets like dollars, stocks or bars of gold.

Examples of NFTs range from digital artworks and sports cards to pieces of land in virtual environments or exclusive use of a cryptocurrency wallet name, akin to the scramble for domain names in the early days of the internet.


OpenSea, a marketplace for NFTs, said it has seen monthly sales volume grow to $86.3 million so far in February, as of Friday, from $8 million in January, citing blockchain data. Monthly sales were at $1.5 million a year ago.


America's global image under Biden skyrockets compared to Trump, survey finds


America’s reputation on the global stage appears to have significantly rebounded since former President Donald Trump left office and President Joe Biden became the commander in chief, according to a Pew Research Center survey released Thursday.

As Biden is in Europe attempting to repair relations with America's allies, the poll found that several countries in the region like the current president more than the former. A median of 75 percent of respondents in 12 countries expressed confidence in Biden, compared with 17 percent for Trump last year, according to the survey.

In the United Kingdom, for example, 64 percent of those surveyed said they view the U.S. favorably, up from just 41 percent under Trump.


Pew noted that when former President Barack Obama took office in 2009, favorability increased compared to George W. Bush’s administration. Similarly, when Trump entered the White House in 2017, favorability saw a sharp decline. For instance, a median of 34 percent of those surveyed across 12 nations had a favorable overall opinion of the U.S. last year, the survey found. Now, a median of 62 percent of nations hold the U.S. in glowing regard.

Who wins when we are divided?

June 19, 2021


The power elite is using their influence over the media to try to make African-Americans see all Caucasians as enemies, so they will be less likely to vote for anybody who is Caucasian.  The desired effect is to reduce votes for the Democrats.

Trove of Never-Before-Seen Records Reveal How the Wealthiest Avoid Income Tax

The Secret IRS Files This is an ongoing investigation.

by Jesse Eisinger, Jeff Ernsthausen and Paul Kiel

June 8, 5 a.m. EDT


In 2007, Jeff Bezos, then a multibillionaire and now the world’s richest man, did not pay a penny in federal income taxes. He achieved the feat again in 2011. In 2018, Tesla founder Elon Musk, the second-richest person in the world, also paid no federal income taxes.

Michael Bloomberg managed to do the same in recent years. Billionaire investor Carl Icahn did it twice. George Soros paid no federal income tax three years in a row.
The Secret IRS Files

ProPublica has obtained a vast trove of Internal Revenue Service data on the tax returns of thousands of the nation’s wealthiest people, covering more than 15 years. The data provides an unprecedented look inside the financial lives of America’s titans, including Warren Buffett, Bill Gates, Rupert Murdoch and Mark Zuckerberg. It shows not just their income and taxes, but also their investments, stock trades, gambling winnings and even the results of audits.

Taken together, it demolishes the cornerstone myth of the American tax system: that everyone pays their fair share and the richest Americans pay the most. The IRS records show that the wealthiest can — perfectly legally — pay income taxes that are only a tiny fraction of the hundreds of millions, if not billions, their fortunes grow each year.


Prostate cancer linked to obesity


News Release 10-Jun-2021
Institut national de la recherche scientifique - INRS


Prostate cancer is the most common form of cancer among Canadian men and the third leading cause of cancer death. Abdominal obesity appears to be associated with a greater risk of developing aggressive prostate cancer. This link was demonstrated in a study led by Professor Marie-Élise Parent of Institut national de la recherche scientifique (INRS) and published in the journal Cancer Causes & Control.


New research shows link between politics, boredom and breaking public-health rules

Seems paradoxical at first, since conservatives tend to have stronger fear reactions.  Maybe their fear restricts their activities enough to cause them to have a more restricted life in general, and that causes boredom?


News Release 10-Jun-2021
University of Waterloo


People who are more prone to boredom and who are socially conservative are more likely to break public-health rules, according to new psychology research.

While previous research demonstrated a connection between being highly prone to boredom and breaking social-distancing rules, this study demonstrated the association was more prominent as participants' social conservatism increased.

"Many public-health measures such as wearing a mask or getting a vaccine have become highly politicized," said James Danckert, professor of psychology at the University of Waterloo. "People who find these measures a threat to their identity, and who suffer from boredom a lot, find breaking the rules helps them re-establish a sense of meaning and identity. Boredom threatens our need to make meaning out of life and some things such as politics can strengthen our sense of identity and meaning."


Losing nature impacts Black, Hispanic, and low-income Americans most


News Release 10-Jun-2021
Pioneering study shows loss of nature will exacerbate racial and income inequality
University of Vermont


When nature vanishes, people of color and low-income Americans disproportionally lose critical environmental and health benefits--including air quality, crop productivity and natural disease control--a new study in Nature Communications finds.


Child victims of family abuse and neglect are four times as likely to die before they reach their 16th birthday,


News Release 10-Jun-2021
Hush little baby don't say a word...
Giving a voice to child victims of family abuse and neglect
University of South Australia


Children with documented child protection concerns are four times as likely to die before they reach their 16th birthday, according to confronting new research from the University of South Australia.


Child abuse and neglect are prominent worldwide public health concerns affecting 20-50 per cent of children worldwide. In Australia, 20-25 per cent of children endure child maltreatment.


tags: child abuse,

Headphones, earbuds impact younger generations' future audio health


News Release 10-Jun-2021
Children at highest risk because auditory system maturation incomplete, normal hearing health vital for learning, socialization
Acoustical Society of America


As more and more people are taking advantage of music on the go, personal audio systems are pumping up the volume to the detriment of the listener's hearing. Children, teenagers, and young adults are listening to many hours of music daily at volumes exceeding the globally recommended public health limit of 70 decibels of average leisure noise exposure for a day for a year.


In 2017, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported almost 25% of American adults, age 20-69, have noise-induced hearing loss. Acquired hearing loss is associated with communication difficulties, social isolation, increased risk of falls and accidents, and health complications, including dementia in later life.

Auditory health risk is highest for people using personal audio systems for more than an hour a day at more than 50% volume over a five-year period. Disputing a recent Wall Street Journal article claiming 85 decibels is safe for children and teens, Fink said 85 decibels is not a safe exposure for anyone.

"People think the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health 85 dBA recommended exposure level for noise is safe," he said. "But a noise level that won't prevent hearing loss in factory workers or heavy equipment operators is far too high for a young child whose ears have to last an entire lifetime."

"This isn't just a theoretical problem. Most people get too much noise every day," Fink said, citing studies from Western Michigan University and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, and the University of Michigan School of Public Health and Apple.

COVID-19 creates hearing, balance disorders, aggravates tinnitus symptoms


News Release 10-Jun-2021
Pandemic-related stress and anxiety may increase auditory and vestibular effects associated with COVID-19


Acoustical Society of America

The physiological impacts of COVID-19 seem almost limitless. Complications can range from loss of taste to respiratory distress, with many effects lasting for months. Evidence suggests auditory and vestibular effects should be added to the growing list of symptoms.


People with 'healthy obesity' are still at increased risk of disease


News Release 10-Jun-2021


A new study published in Diabetologia (the journal of the European Association for the Study of Diabetes [EASD]) reveals that having a normal metabolic profile does not mean that a person with obesity is actually healthy (referred to as metabolically healthy obesity), since they face an increased risk of diabetes, heart diseases, strokes, and respiratory diseases.


Documents reveal natural gas chaos in Texas blackouts


Edward Klump, Mike Lee and Carlos Anchondo, E&E News reporters

Thursday, May 20, 2021

Texas' electricity leaders were deeply focused on natural gas shortages days before blackouts crippled the state in February and plunged the state's power industry into chaos, according to documents obtained by E&E News.

A phone log shows more than 100 calls to or from DeAnn Walker, then-chair of the Public Utility Commission of Texas, discussing gas curtailments. It begins Feb. 10 — well before massive power outages started on Feb. 15 — and runs through Feb. 19.

Walker spoke to everyone from the chief of staff of Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) to power company officials. During the cold blast, Abbott promoted fossil fuels and blamed renewable energy before walking back some of that criticism.

The PUC records provide a more detailed picture of how concerned state leaders were about the natural gas industry prior to and during the crisis. While gas is crucial to keeping the lights on in Texas, the industry's powerful lobby has successfully avoided new regulations on its operations for years. The documents also show concern from Texas legislators that electric grid managers didn't push the industry hard enough to weatherize the system after a 2011 storm that caused rotating power outages.

At least 151 people in Texas died in the wake of the winter storm that led to widespread power outages, according to a state tally. Millions of people lost access to clean tap water as treatment plants lost electricity, and there was widespread property damage from frozen pipes.

While numerous wind facilities had issues in Texas, gas-powered generation had the most megawatts of generating capacity offline of any resource during the February power crisis, according to the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, whose region includes about 90% of the state's power load.


Sunday, June 06, 2021

North Dakota, Using Taxpayer Funds, Bailed Out Oil and Gas Companies by Plugging Abandoned Wells


By Nicholas Kusnetz
May 23, 2021

When North Dakota directed more than $66 million in federal pandemic relief funds to clean up old oil and gas wells last year, it seemed like the type of program everyone could get behind. The money would plug hundreds of abandoned wells and restore the often-polluted land surrounding them, and in the process would employ oilfield workers who had been furloughed after prices crashed.

The program largely accomplished those goals. But some environmental advocates say it achieved another they didn’t expect: It bailed out dozens of small to mid-sized oil companies, relieving them of their responsibility to pay for cleaning up their own wells by using taxpayer money instead.

Oil drillers are generally required to plug their wells after they’re done producing crude. But in practice, companies are often able to defer that responsibility for years or decades. Larger companies often sell older wells to smaller ones, which sometimes go bankrupt, leaving the wells with no owner.

These “orphaned wells” become the responsibility of the federal or state governments, depending on where they were drilled. While oil companies are required to post bonds or other financial assurance to pay for plugging them, in reality those bonds cover only a tiny fraction of the costs, leaving taxpayers on the hook. One estimate, by the Carbon Tracker Initiative, a financial think tank, found that those bonds cover only a tiny fraction of the expected costs of cleaning up the nation’s oil and gas wells.


Study finds lower mortality rate for men at high risk for death from prostate cancer who received early postoperative radiation therapy


News Release 4-Jun-2021
Brigham and Women's Hospital


In a large, international retrospective study, men at high risk for death from prostate cancer had a significant reduction in all-cause mortality if treated with radiation shortly after surgery.


Immunotherapy after bladder cancer surgery may reduce recurrence, study shows


News Release 3-Jun-2021
New research found that using nivolumab reduced bladder cancer recurrence after surgery compared to patients who received placebo
Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center


New research from Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center (MSK) medical oncologist Dean Bajorin, MD, and colleagues found that patients who received nivolumab (Opdivo®) after bladder cancer surgery reduced their overall risk for high-grade bladder cancer recurrence. This research was published in the New England Journal of Medicine.


Immune therapy after surgery lowers relapse risk in patients with high-risk melanoma


News Release 3-Jun-2021
Results of SWOG S1404 trial to be reported at ASCO 2021
SWOG Cancer Research Network


Patients with high-risk melanoma who had a course of pembrolizumab after their surgery had a longer time before their disease recurred than patients who got either ipilimumab or high-dose interferon after surgery. These findings of a large SWOG Cancer Research Network clinical trial, S1404, will be presented at the ASCO annual meeting June 6, 2021.

Researchers also measured overall survival and found no statistically significant difference in overall survival rates between the two groups of patients three and one-half years after the last patient enrolled to the trial. They did find, however, that patients taking pembrolizumab had fewer serious side effects than those treated with either high-dose interferon or ipilimumab.


Immunotherapy drug delays recurrence in kidney cancer patients


News Release 3-Jun-2021
Dana-Farber Cancer Institute


Treatment with an immunotherapy drug following kidney cancer surgery, prolonged disease-free survival rates in patients at high risk for recurrence, according to an interim report of a phase 3 clinical trial of adjuvant immunotherapy in this patient population.


People who use methamphetamine likely to report multiple chronic conditions


News Release 3-Jun-2021
Medical, mental, and substance use issues all more prevalent among adults who use methamphetamine
New York University


People who use methamphetamine are more likely to have health conditions, mental illness, and substance use disorders than people who do not use the drug, according to a new study by researchers at the Center for Drug Use and HIV/HCV Research (CDUHR) at NYU School of Global Public Health. The findings are published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine.

The use of methamphetamine--a highly addictive and illegal stimulant drug--has increased in recent years, as have overdose deaths. Methamphetamine can be toxic for multiple organs including the heart, lungs, liver, and neurological system, and injecting the drug can increase one's risk for infectious diseases.


tags: drug use, drug abuse,

Progressive PAC says Fox News refused to air its ad about how law enforcement were treated by rioters on January 6


 Connor Perrett

June 6, 2021

Fox News reportedly refused to air an advertisement created by a progressive PAC that featured testimonials from law enforcement officers about their treatment by the pro-Trump mob that stormed the US Capitol on January 6.

 "We couldn't have fathomed in our wildest imaginations that even a Fox News would reject an ad that simply condemns the insurrection, and condemns people who support the insurrection," Ben Meiselas, a co-founder of the PAC MeidasTouch, told the Los Angeles Times. "What Fox has really become is a fascist echo chamber gatekeeper for their base."

The advertisement features testimony from some of the law enforcement officers who responded to the riot.

"It's been very difficult seeing elected officials and other individuals whitewash the events of that day or downplay what happened," said DC Metropolitan Police Officer Michael Fanone in the advertisement in a clip that was originally from an interview on CNN.


What lessons do police in Europe have for American cops?


CBS News
What lessons do police in Europe have for American cops?


Correspondent Seth Doane asked Lawrence Sherman, a professor of criminology at the University of Cambridge in England, "How different is policing in America from Europe?"

"Oh, it's just like night and day," Sherman replied. In the United States, "If somebody doesn't drop a knife when an officer tells them to, even if they're not threatening somebody, the police can shoot and kill them. It would be murder in Europe."

"Are you saying the law in the U.S. is on the police officer's side and it's the reverse in Europe?"  

"I would say that the law in the United States goes to extraordinary lengths to justify police preemptive use of shooting," he said.


Haberfeld feels many police are willing, but not ready to do their job, because of insufficient training. In the U.S., the average police academy runs 17 weeks, whereas in Norway and Finland, police training runs three years; in Germany, between two and three years.

Doane asked, "What's the effect of this lesser training?"

"We're going to see people pushing back against the enforcement, and the quality of enforcement, that that they're receiving," Haberfeld replied.


According to a recent survey, police in the U.S. spend more than 20 percent of their time responding to people with mental illness. Sweden, facing similar problems, developed a "mental health ambulance," which is dispatched with a police unit when there is a mental health call. Andreas Carlborg explained their service works, in part, because health workers have access to medical records that police do not: "If you would talk to the police department in the United States, I think most of them would agree that they have to deal with these cases, and this should really primarily be dealt with by trained health care professionals, not the police."

Calls for reform in the U.S. are growing louder, but in a country with roughly 18,000 police departments, the hurdles to reform are structural and systemic. 

S.C. death penalty is traumatic for those who have to carry out executions

The State

Ron McAndrew
Sun, June 6, 2021, 1:00 AM

Ron McAndrew served as the Warden of the Florida State Penitentiary from 1996 to 1998, and is a founding member of the Board of Advisors of Death Penalty Action.


Soon, state employees in South Carolina will escort a perfectly healthy prisoner to an execution chamber, strap him to an electric chair or another device to hold him still, and either electrocute or shoot him to death.

It’s hard to imagine a more pointless execution than this, or a more needlessly cruel act of official power. It’s been 10 years since the last execution in S.C., and frankly, it seems like it really hasn’t made a difference in terms of crime rates, or the reality of punishment. What it will do is inflict serious trauma on the many correctional staff responsible for carrying it out.

I speak from experience. I oversaw the final three electric chair executions as warden of the Florida State Penitentiary, and shadowed five lethal injection executions in Texas as Florida transitioned to that practice. I’m a law-and-order guy, an Air Force veteran and a lifelong conservative who voted for President Trump. My opposition doesn’t come from any bleeding heart concern for those who’ve taken innocent lives. It comes from my first-hand knowledge that participating in executions is devastating for the state employees who do so.


Over time, I realized executions serve no purpose in our justice system other than as tools for politicians’ use. The prisoners I helped kill were no danger to anyone in prison, and their executions were an excuse for elected officials to pound their chests. Yet that political gain exacted a heavy price from state workers.

The pointlessness and the traumatizing impact of the practice might well provide a talking point for a governor or a prosecutor to claim they are “tough on crime.” But in reality, there is no good reason for S.C. to resume executions.


Hundreds of lakes in U.S., Europe are losing oxygen



June 2, 2021


Oxygen levels have dropped in hundreds of lakes in the United States and Europe over the last four decades, a new study found.

And the authors said declining oxygen could lead to increased fish kills, algal blooms and methane emissions.

Researchers examined the temperature and dissolved oxygen — the amount of oxygen in the water — in nearly 400 lakes and found that declines were widespread. Their study, published Wednesday in the journal Nature, found dissolved oxygen fell 5.5 % in surface waters of these lakes and 18.6% in deep waters.

The authors said their findings suggest that warming temperatures and decreased water clarity from human activity are causing the oxygen decline.

“Oxygen is one of the best indicators of ecosystem health, and changes in this study reflect a pronounced human footprint,” said co-author Craig E. Williamson, a biology professor at Miami University in Ohio.

That footprint includes warming caused by climate change and decreased water clarity caused in part by runoff from sewage, fertilizer, cars and power plants.


About a quarter of the lakes examined actually showed increasing oxygen in surface waters, which Rose says is a bad sign because it’s likely attributable to increased algal blooms — sudden growth of blue green algae.

In these lakes, he said, dissolved oxygen was “very low” in deep waters and was unlivable for many species.

And the sediment in such oxygen-starved lakes tends to give off methane, a potent greenhouse gas, research shows.


Tuesday, June 01, 2021

The Secret Service is reportedly spending nearly $35,000 to rent portable toilets at Trump's Bedminster golf club

Kelly McLaughlin and Oma Seddiq

June 1, 2021


The Secret Service is spending $34,140 to rent portable toilets in Bedminster, New Jersey, where former President Donald Trump is staying over the summer, according to federal data obtained by The Daily Beast.

The expense report reviewed by the news outlet says the rental bathroom trailers are from Imperial Restrooms of Saugerties, New York, cost about $8,500 a month, and will remain in Bedminster through September.

Trump, who spent his first few months out of the White House at his Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida, plans to stay at his Bedminster golf club until the fall, Trump advisors told Insider in April.

The Washington Post reported in January that Trump's daughter Ivanka and son-in-law Jared Kushner did not allow their Secret Service detail to use any of the six bathrooms at the couple's home in the wealthy Kalorama neighborhood in Washington, DC.

The report said that since September 2017, taxpayers spent about $140,000 to rent a nearby basement studio apartment so the agents could use the bathroom.

While former US presidents enjoy Secret Service protections for the rest of their lives, it's uncommon for them to charge rent to their security details.

Since he left office, Trump has charged the US government at least $40,000 for Secret Service agents to use a single room at his Mar-a-Lago resort, The Washington Post reported.

Anti-vaxxer hospitalised with Covid after saying vaccines would wipe out ‘stupid people’

The Independent

Gustaf Kilander

Gustaf Kilander
Tue, June 1, 2021, 4:23 PM·2 min read

Rick Wiles, a right-wing Christian talk show host and anti-vaxxer has been hospitalised with Covid-19 after saying vaccines would wipe out “stupid people”.

Less than a month ago, Mr Wiles said he would never get vaccinated. His website, TruNews, announced over the weekend that had been infected and taken to hospital where he had been given oxygen. The announcement was reported by Right Wing Watch. 


TruNews suddenly suspended its broadcast last week, announcing that it was “experiencing a sudden cluster of flu and COVID among some employees and their relatives”.

The outlet then said on Sunday that Mr Wiles had been hospitalised.


Republicans are putting America's democracy in mortal danger, more than 100 scholars warn

Obvious to anybody who's paying any attention.


John Haltiwanger

June 1, 2021


Republican efforts to restrict voting across the US are posing an existential threat to democracy in the US, over 100 scholars of democracy warned in a new statement released by the New America think tank on Tuesday.

"We, the undersigned, are scholars of democracy who have watched the recent deterioration of US elections and liberal democracy with growing alarm," the statement said. "Specifically, we have watched with deep concern as Republican-led state legislatures across the country have in recent months proposed or implemented what we consider radical changes to core electoral procedures in response to unproven and intentionally destructive allegations of a stolen election."

The scholars said that the GOP-led initiatives "are transforming several states into political systems that no longer meet the minimum conditions for free and fair elections."

"Our entire democracy is now at risk," the scholars said. "History will judge what we do at this moment."


How news coverage affects public trust in science

The results of the poor science education of our students.


News Release 1-Jun-2021
Negative stories without context can undermine confidence in science
Annenberg Public Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania


News media reports about scientific failures that do not recognize the self-correcting nature of science can damage public perceptions of trust and confidence in scientific work, according to findings by researchers at the Annenberg Public Policy Center (APPC) of the University of Pennsylvania and the University at Buffalo, the State University of New York.

News stories about science follow several specific narratives, the researchers write in a new study in the journal Public Understanding of Science. One is that science is "in crisis" or "broken," a narrative driven in recent years by reports of unsuccessful efforts to replicate findings in psychology, a rise in retractions, failures of peer review, and the misuse of statistics, among other things.

"Attempts and failures to replicate findings are an essential and healthy part of the scientific process," said co-author Yotam Ophir, an assistant professor of communication at the University of Buffalo and a former postdoctoral fellow in APPC's science of science communication program, where the work was conducted. "Our research shows the need for journalists and scientists to accurately contextualize such failures as part of the self-correcting nature of science."


"By labeling problems in scientific research 'a crisis' and by framing scientific failures as indications that science is unreliable, both scientists and journalists are failing to communicate the true values of science," Ophir said. "Making mistakes is part of science. What the news media and scientists themselves often frame as failure is an indicator of healthy science."

The content analysis found that honorable quest story was the most prevalent. But the study noted that when media reports do discuss failures "they tend to ignore scientific attempts to address the problems," the authors write. "We argue that such narratives about individual or systemic scientific failures fail to communicate scientific norms of continuing exploration, scrutiny, and skepticism and could, particularly if being presented regularly and consistently, harm public trust and confidence in scientific work."


Healthy lifestyle linked to better cognition for oldest adults -- regardless of genetic risk


News Release 1-Jun-2021
New study suggests importance of maintaining healthy lifestyle even after age 80


A new analysis of adults aged 80 years and older shows that a healthier lifestyle is associated with a lower risk of cognitive impairment, and that this link does not depend on whether a person carries a particular form of the gene APOE. Xurui Jin of Duke Kunshan University in Jiangsu, China, and colleagues present these findings in the open-access journal PLOS Medicine.

The APOE gene comes in several different forms, and people with a form known as APOE ε4 have an increased risk of cognitive impairment and Alzheimer's disease. Previous research has also linked cognitive function to lifestyle factors, such as smoking, exercise, and diet. However, it has been unclear whether the benefits of a healthy lifestyle are affected by APOE ε4, particularly for adults over 80 years of age.


The analysis confirmed that participants with healthy lifestyles or intermediately healthy lifestyles were significantly less likely to have cognitive impairment than those with an unhealthy lifestyle, by 55 and 28 percent, respectively. In addition, participants with APOE ε4 were 17 percent more likely to have cognitive impairment than those with other forms of APOE.


If countries implement Paris pledges with cuts to aerosols, millions of lives can be saved


News Release 1-Jun-2021
A strategic approach to reducing both greenhouse gas emissions and air pollution can reap major health and temperature benefits, according to new UC San Diego research
University of California - San Diego


Aerosol reductions that would take place as countries meet climate goals could contribute to global cooling and prevent more than one million annual premature deaths over a decade, according to a new study from the University of California San Diego.


Early bird or night owl? Study links shift worker sleep to 'chronotype'


News Release 1-Jun-2021
Sleep styles may hold the key to designing better work schedules
McGill University


Getting enough sleep can be a real challenge for shift workers affecting their overall health. But what role does being an early bird or night owl play in getting good rest? Researchers from McGill University find a link between chronotype and amount of sleep shift workers can get with their irregular schedules.

"Some people seem to be hardwired to sleep early, while others tend to sleep late. This preference, called chronotype, is modulated by our circadian system - each person's unique internal timekeeper," says lead author Diane B. Boivin, a Professor in the Department of Psychiatry at McGill University.


"Our results suggest that the effect of chronotype on sleep duration and napping behavior depends on the shift type. On average early risers sleep 1.1 hours longer on morning shifts, while night owls sleep two hours longer on evening shifts," says co-author Laura Kervezee, a former Postdoctoral Fellow at The Douglas Research Centre affiliated with McGill University.


Corruption in healthcare worsens the health of patients and the quality of nutrition

News Release 1-Jun-2021
This is evidenced by the experience of post-communist countries, including Russia
Ural Federal University


Bribery in the public healthcare does not solve the problem of poor quality of services, and even exacerbates it, researchers argue. The same can be said about the well-being of patients and their own assessment of health. In other words, bribes in the healthcare do not provide good quality services and do not pay off. Such conclusions were reached by an international team of researchers, including Olga Popova, the article's co-author, an associate professor at the Ural Federal University (UrFU, Russia). 


Scientists say active early learning shapes the adult brain


News Release 1-Jun-2021
Virginia Tech


An enhanced learning environment during the first five years of life shapes the brain in ways that are apparent four decades later, say Virginia Tech and University of Pennsylvania scientists writing in the June edition of the Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience.


"Our research shows a relationship between brain structure and five years of high-quality, educational and social experiences," said Craig Ramey, professor and distinguished research scholar with Fralin Biomedical Research Institute at VTC and principal investigator of the study. "We have demonstrated that in vulnerable children who received stimulating and emotionally supportive learning experiences, statistically significant changes in brain structure appear in middle age."

The results support the idea that early environment influences the brain structure of individuals growing up with multi-risk socioeconomic challenges, said Martha Farah, director of the Center for Neuroscience and Society at Penn and first author of the study.


Low levels of omega-3 associated with higher risk of psychosis


News Release 31-May-2021


New research has found that adolescents with higher levels of an omega-3 fatty acid in their blood were less likely to develop psychotic disorder in early adulthood, suggesting that it may have a potential preventative effect of reducing the risk of psychosis.


While there was little evidence that fatty acids were associated with mental disorders at age 17, the researchers found that 24 year olds with psychotic disorder, depressive disorder and generalised anxiety disorder had higher levels of omega-6 than omega-3 fatty acids compared to those without these disorders.

The researchers also found that 24 year olds with psychotic disorder had lower levels of DHA, an omega-3 fatty acid typically found in oily fish or dietary supplements, than 24 year olds without psychotic disorder. In a group of over 2,700 individuals who were tracked over time, adolescents with higher levels of DHA at age 17 were 56% less likely to develop psychotic disorder seven years later at age 24. This suggests that DHA in adolescence may have a potential preventative effect of reducing the risk of psychosis in early adulthood.

These results remained consistent when accounting for other factors such as sex, body mass index, tobacco smoking and socio-economic status.


"The results could also raise questions about the relationship between the development of mental health disorders and omega-6 fatty acids, which are typically found in vegetable oils."


"We need to do more research to learn about the mechanisms behind this effect, but it could possibly be related to reducing inflammation or decreasing inappropriate pruning of brain connections during adolescence," said Dr David Mongan, the study's first author, who is a psychiatry trainee and PhD student at RCSI.

Study shows BPA exposure below regulatory levels can impact brain development


News Release 31-May-2021
University of Calgary


Humans are exposed to a bath of chemicals every day. They are in the beds where we sleep, the cars that we drive and the kitchens we use to feed our families. With thousands of chemicals floating around in our environment, exposure to any number is practically unavoidable. Through the work of researchers like Dr. Deborah Kurrasch, PhD, the implications of many of these chemicals are being thoroughly explored.


Kurrasch's research over the past decade has focused on a chemical that is broadly recognizable: Bisphenol A, also known as BPA. This chemical is commonly found in plastics, canned food linings, and even thermal receipts. Studies from Kurrasch's lab contribute to the collective research that shows the harms of exposure to this industrial compound.

The latest study out of Kurrasch's lab, published in Science Advances, suggests that continued vigilance is needed. A postdoctoral researcher in her lab, Dr. Dinu Nesan, PhD, examined the impact of low levels of BPA exposure to pregnant mice and the brain development of their offspring.

"Our goal was to model BPA levels equivalent to what pregnant women and developing babies are typically exposed to," says Kurrasch. "We purposefully did not use a high dose. In fact, our doses were 11-times and nearly 25-times lower than those deemed safe by Health Canada and the FDA (U.S. Food and Drug Administration), respectively. Even at these low levels, we saw effects on prenatal brain development in the mice."

Using this BPA exposure model, Nesan found striking changes to the brain region responsible for driving circadian rhythms, the suprachiasmatic nucleus, located in the hypothalamus. When prenatally exposed to these low levels of BPA, the suprachiasmatic nucleus failed to develop properly. This change can have implications for sleep, activity levels, and other behaviours.


Global warming already responsible for one in three heat-related deaths


News Release 31-May-2021
London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine


Between 1991 and 2018, more than a third of all deaths in which heat played a role were attributable to human-induced global warming, according to a new article in Nature Climate Change.

The study, the largest of its kind, was led by the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine (LSHTM) and the University of Bern within the Multi-Country Multi-City (MCC) Collaborative Research Network. Using data from 732 locations in 43 countries around the world it shows for the first time the actual contribution of man-made climate change in increasing mortality risks due to heat.

Overall, the estimates show that 37% of all heat-related deaths in the recent summer periods were attributable to the warming of the planet due to anthropogenic activities. This percentage of heat-related deaths attributed to human-induced climate change was highest in Central and South America (up to 76% in Ecuador or Colombia, for example) and South-East Asia (between 48% to 61%).