Friday, July 30, 2021

US subsidies boost the expected profits and development of new oil and gas fields


News Release 29-Jul-2021
Peer-Reviewed Publication
IOP Publishing


Researchers at the Stockholm Environment Institute (Somerville and Seattle, USA) and Earth Track, Inc. (Cambridge, MA, USA) examined 16 subsidies and environmental regulatory exemptions, providing one of the first estimates of how government subsidies will affect investment decisions for new gas fields in the coming decade. Their results are published on 29 July 2021 in the IOP Publishing journal, Environmental Research Letters.
Despite repeated pledges to phase out “inefficient” fossil fuel subsidies, the United States — the world’s largest current oil and gas producer — continues to provide billions of dollars each year to the oil and gas industry through various support measures. The study not only looks at tax incentives, but it is one of the first of its kind to also account for the effects of regulatory exemptions that reduce the costs for hazardous waste and wastewater management for oil and gas producers.
“Besides two federal tax incentives that have existed since 1916, we were surprised to find that less widely recognized forms of government support can also be highly beneficial,” said SEI Scientist Ploy Achakulwisut, a lead author of the paper. “The public ends up footing the bill for services like well closure and hazardous waste disposal – directly with their tax money and indirectly with their health.”


The results show that, depending on future oil and gas prices and the minimum required rates of return, subsidies (including exemptions) either encourage more extraction than would otherwise be economically viable, or flow to excess profits. In the former instance, subsidies would help lock in higher greenhouse gas emissions, as well as increase air and water pollution and health risks. In the latter case, they would not be fulfilling their stated economic purpose.
For example: at 2019 oil and gas prices – or $64 per barrel of oil and $2.6 per mmbtu (million British Thermal Units) of gas – only 4% and 22% of new oil and gas resources would be subsidy-dependent. In this case, over 96% of subsidy value would flow directly to excess profits. This scenario assumes that investors require a 10% minimum rate of return, or “hurdle rate”.
However, if oil and gas prices are as low as they were in 2020 – or $40 per barrel of oil and 2 per mmbtu of gas – then more than 60% of new oil and gas resources would depend on subsidies to be economically viable. This scenario assumes that investors would require a higher 20% hurdle rate, which may already be the case as risks increase for oil and gas investments.


Tuesday, July 27, 2021

Five myths about wildfires


By Diego Arguedas Ortiz
16th September 2020


The devastation wrought by wildfires has become a common horror story for those living in the regions hit by such blazes. A long-running drought in California has only made the likelihood of wildfires worse. But it is far from the only area affected.


But as fires multiply around the world, so do questions about them – and misconceptions. Here are five common myths about wildfires – some of which can undermine our success in fighting them.


Myth #1: Regularly logging forests prevents forest fires

A common assumption is that logging, or removing some trees, would prevent fires. In fact, many forest experts say that logging is ineffective. This is because the tree remnants left over after logging, such as stumps and branches, provide a super-fuel for fire – one that is even drier (and more flammable) in the absence of a forest canopy.

There is plenty of science backing these claims. For instance, a recent study showed that burn severity tended to be higher in areas with higher levels of management. Scholars working on wildfire conservation have also rebuked arguments that logging protects endangered species from forest fires, a common argument in favour of tree removal; in fact, it seems that animals like the iconic spotted owl still benefit from a burned-out forest and that removing the trees could hurt them. Even post-fire logging is counterproductive and can lead to more fires.


Extreme weather events put spotlight on climate change’s toll on US infrastructure


By Pete Muntean and Chandelis Duster, CNN
Updated 8:41 AM EDT, Fri July 23, 2021

America’s infrastructure has taken a beating from extreme weather events in recent weeks spurred by climate change, raising concerns among officials that the nation’s roads, bridges and even commercial flights can’t stand the severe conditions.

With roads buckling in the Pacific Northwest, a deluge drenching a New York City subway station and fatal flooding across Europe, scientists say climate change is here and immediate action is needed. The country’s crumbling infrastructure has commanded attention as the US has faced the unprecedented heat, drought and wildfires and the Biden administration has pushed costly proposals to address it.

“I think people see it, but I’m not sure they realize how much worse it’s going to get and how quickly,” Josh DeFlorio, head of climate resilience for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, told CNN.

On the West Coast, there is concern over the extreme heat that melted some of I-5 in Seattle last month and claimed the lives of hundreds in the Pacific Northwest and British Columbia. Western states have also faced an unprecedented, multi-year drought and as of Sunday, the US was grappling with 80 fires and complexes that had burned 1,157,976 acres so far, according to the National Interagency Fire Center.

Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg has called for improving infrastructure that can endure the effects of climate change. 


New study finds plastic accumulation in food may be underestimated


News Release 27-Jul-2021
Plastic the Trojan Horse
Peer-Reviewed Publication
University of Portsmouth


A new study has found plastic accumulation in foods may be underestimated. There is also  concern these microplastics will carry potentially harmful bacteria such as E. coli, which are commonly found in coastal waters, up the food chain.


Closeness with dads may play special role in how kids weather adolescence


News Release 27-Jul-2021
Peer-Reviewed Publication
Penn State


Adolescence can be an emotionally turbulent time, but new research at Penn State found that close, supportive relationships with parents — especially dads — at key points during adolescence can help stave off certain adjustment problems.

The researchers examined how emotionally close and supportive relationships with parents — referred to in the research as “parental intimacy” — in families with mothers and fathers affected their children’s self-esteem, weight concerns, and depressive symptoms at different points across adolescence.

They found that closeness with fathers had broad, positive effects across adolescence for both daughters and sons. But while close relationships with mothers also had benefits, they were more limited by their children’s age, and weren’t protective against all the adjustment issues measured in the study for both girls and boys.

Anna Hochgraf, doctoral candidate in human development and family studies, said the findings suggest that while close relationships with moms are certainly important, fathers may play an important, distinct role in fostering healthy adjustment in adolescents.


Patients report long-term favorable effects of weight loss surgery in their daily lives


News Release 27-Jul-2021
Significant weight loss and insulin independence drive improvement in general health measures for patients with type 2 diabetes
Peer-Reviewed Publication
Cleveland Clinic


A new analysis from the STAMPEDE trial shows that over the course of five years, patients who had bariatric and metabolic surgery to treat uncontrolled type 2 diabetes reported greater physical health, more energy, less body pain, and less negative effects of diabetes in their daily lives, compared with patients who had medical therapy alone for their diabetes.

Long-term changes in psychosocial and emotional quality of life measures were not significantly different between the surgical and medical groups. The research was published in the Annals of Surgery.


More than 1 in 4 adults with a previous suicide attempt are psychologically flourishing


News Release 27-Jul-2021
Among those with a history of suicide attempts, achieving excellent mental health is more prevalent among older respondents, women, those with higher income, those with a confidant, those without insomnia, and those without chronic pain
Peer-Reviewed Publication
University of Toronto


A new nationally representative Canadian study published in the Archives of Suicide Research found that 28.4% of respondents with a history of suicide attempts reached a state of complete mental health. To be considered in complete mental health, participants had to report: freedom from mental illness, such as substance dependence, psychiatric disorders, suicidality, in the previous year; almost daily happiness or life satisfaction in the past month; and high levels of social and psychological well-being in the past month.

“This is a very hopeful finding for individuals struggling with suicidality and their loved ones,” said lead author Esme Fuller-Thomson, professor at the University of Toronto's Factor-Inwentash Faculty of Social Work and director of the Institute for Life Course and Aging. “Our findings indicate a significant minority of individuals with a history of suicide attempts go on to achieve high levels of happiness and psychological flourishing.” 


How relaxing Covid-19 restrictions could pave the way for vaccine resistance


News Release 27-Jul-2021
Peer-Reviewed Publication
University of East Anglia


Relaxing Covid-19 restrictions could pave the way for new vaccine-resistant virus mutations – according to researchers at the University of East Anglia and the Earlham Institute.
A new article published today warns against relaxing Covid-19 restrictions prematurely.
It describes how we are in an ‘arms race’ with the virus and how rising cases could provide opportunities for it to evolve into even more transmissible variants.
The researchers fear that any new variants could be more virulent, more vaccine resistant, and more dangerous for children and vulnerable groups such as transplant patients.
Lead author and editor in chief of Virulence, Prof Kevin Tyler from UEA’s Norwich Medical School, said: “Over the past 17 months, economies, education and mental well-being have suffered tremendously due to the restrictions imposed in an attempt to stem the spread of the pandemic.


Friday, July 23, 2021

From China to Germany, floods expose climate vulnerability


Aradhana AravindanJames Mackenzie

July 22, 202112:41 PM EDT

July 22 (Reuters) - Deadly floods that have upended life in both China and Germany have sent a stark reminder that climate change is making weather more extreme across the globe.


In Europe, climate change is likely to increase the number of large, slow-moving storms that can linger longer in one area and deliver deluges of the kind seen in Germany and Belgium, according to a study published June 30 in the journal Geophysical Research Letters.

As the atmosphere warms with climate change, it also holds more moisture, which means that when rainclouds break, more rain is released. By the end of the century, such storms could be 14 times more frequent, the researchers found in the study using computer simulations.


In both China and northwestern Europe, the disasters followed a period of unusually heavy rain, equivalent in the Chinese case to a year's rainfall being dumped in just three days, that completely overwhelmed flood defences.


But measures such as improving the resilience of buildings and raising riverbanks and improving drainage are unlikely to be enough on their own to avert the effects of severe flooding. As a last resort, warning systems, which were heavily criticized in Germany for leaving people insufficient time to react, will have to be improved.


Over 100 dead as monsoon rains trigger floods and landslides in India

July 23, 2021, 10:56 AM EDT
By Reuters

At least 112 people have died in the western Indian state of Maharashtra, authorities said on Friday, after torrential monsoon rains caused landslides and flooded low-lying areas, cutting off hundreds of villages.

Parts of India's west coast received up to 23 inches of rainfall over 24 hours, forcing authorities to evacuate people from vulnerable areas as they released water from dams that were threatening to overflow.

"Unexpected very heavy rainfall triggered landslides in many places and flooded rivers," Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray, who heads Maharashtra's state government, told journalists. "Dams and rivers are overflowing. We are forced to release water from dams, and, accordingly, we are moving people residing near the river banks to safer places."


Death toll rises as passengers recount horror of China subway floods

In the awful flooding in Germany the other day, they got two months of rain in two days.  I heard on the radio a couple of days ago that an area of China got the same amount of rain in one hour as Germany did in one day of their flooding.

The global warming denialists are mass murderers.


By Nectar Gan and Zixu Wang, CNN
Updated 4:45 AM ET, Fri July 23, 2021

At least 33 people have died and eight remain missing in central China, as authorities ramp up rescue and recovery efforts following devastating floods that submerged entire neighborhoods, trapped passengers in subway cars, caused landslides and overwhelmed dams and rivers.
Torrential rains have battered Henan province since last weekend, displacing hundreds of thousands of people and causing 1.22 billion yuan (about $190 million) of economic damage, Henan authorities said Thursday.
Home to 99 million residents, Henan is one of China's most populous and poorest provinces, with large swathes of farmlands and factories.


Zhengzhou, the provincial capital of 12 million people, is one of the worst-hit areas, with 12 killed after being trapped for hours on a flooded subway line. But many smaller cities and villages have also been badly ravaged. With more rains forecast for the region, the death toll is expected to rise as rescue work continues.


Stories of heroism have also emerged, with one widely circulated video showing a man, later identified by state media as Yang Junkui, a former special forces solider, repeatedly diving into the flood waters to save five people, some of whom were trapped underwater in their cars. "I practiced in the army," Yang told Xinhua. "My mind is about saving lives, and I turn my face to save lives."
State media also broadcast footage showing rescue workers freeing a baby trapped under the rubble of a collapsed house in Xingyang city. The baby, which state media said had been trapped for 24 hours before being rescued, was taken to hospital for treatment and is reportedly in a stable condition. State media reported that the baby's mother was later found dead.


Though flooding during the summer months is an annual occurrence in parts of China, recent record-breaking rains have alarmed scientists and officials, raising questions as to whether the country is prepared to deal with more extreme and unpredictable weather amplified by climate change.


Henan authorities said the intensity of the downpour was unprecedented, with more than 20 centimeters (7.8 inches) of rain dumping onto Zhengzhou in one hour on Tuesday afternoon -- accounting for one third of the city's annual rainfall recorded last year.


Friday, July 16, 2021

Wildfires continue to scorch West with no letup in sight

I feel a combination of anguish at the people being harmed by extreme weather caused and made worse by global warming, and anger and exasperation that humans have chosen not to address this problem in a timely manner.


Doyle Rice, USA TODAY
Fri, July 16, 2021, 4:34 PM

The ferocious 2021 wildfire season in the West showed no signs of letting up Friday, as thousands of firefighters continued to battle dozens of blazes across the parched, overheated region.

"Currently, 70 wildfires have burned 1,061,516 acres across the United States," the National Interagency Fire Center said Friday. "More than 17,700 wildland firefighters and support personnel are assigned to wildfires."

The nation's largest fire, the Bootleg Fire in southern Oregon, has scorched about 75 square miles, an area larger than New York City, fire officials said. The blaze has stymied firefighters for nearly a week with erratic winds and extremely dangerous fire behavior.


The nation has set 585 all-time heat records in the past 30 days, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Extremely dry conditions and heat waves tied to climate change have swept the West, making wildfires harder to fight. Climate change has made the American West much warmer and drier in the past 30 years and will continue to make weather more extreme and wildfires more frequent and destructive.


California's fire season has already seen more than three times as much land burned as during the same period last year, officials told CNN. And the 2020 record was the worst ever, with some 4.1 million acres burned, according to the National Interagency Fire Center.

Contributing: The Associated Press

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Wildfires in the West: Extreme heat, drought fuel fierce fire season

A Week After the Pacific Northwest Heat Wave, Study Shows it Was ‘Almost Impossible’ Without Global Warming


By Bob Berwyn
July 7, 2021

The high temperatures in late June that killed hundreds of people in Oregon, Washington and Canada were so unusual that they couldn’t have happened without a boost from human-caused global warming, researchers said Wednesday, when they released a rapid climate attribution study of the heat wave in the Pacific Northwest.

The temperatures were so far off the charts that the scientists suggested that global warming may be triggering a “non-linear” climate response, possibly involving drought magnifying the warming, to brew up extreme heat storms that exceed climate projections.

Climate change, caused by greenhouse gas emissions, made the Pacific Northwest heat wave at least 150 times more likely, and increased its peak temperatures by about 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit, the study by World Weather Attribution concluded.

“I think it’s by far the largest jump in the record that I have ever seen,” said Fredi Otto, a University of Oxford climate researcher and co-author of the study. “We have seen temperature jumps in other heat waves, like in Europe, but never this big.”


For people with kidney disease, there is no safe amount of lead in drinking water


News Release 15-Jul-2021
Study reveals that even low levels allowed by the Environmental Protection Agency can impact health.
American Society of Nephrology


Lead levels in drinking water that are permissible by the Environmental Protection Agency have detrimental health effects in individuals with kidney disease, according to a new study. The findings appear in an upcoming issue of JASN.

Despite advances in reducing the amount of lead in drinking water, low levels of contamination remain widespread throughout the United States. This may be especially dangerous for the 30-40 million Americans living with chronic kidney disease, who have heightened susceptibility to the toxic effects of lead.


Pandemic of antibiotic resistance is killing children in Bangladesh


News Release 15-Jul-2021
Massachusetts General Hospital


Resistance to antibiotics is common and often deadly among children with pneumonia in Bangladesh, according to a new study coauthored by researchers from Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) with colleagues at the International Centre for Diarrhoeal Disease Research, Bangladesh (abbreviated as icddr,b). This study, which appears in the journal Open Forum Infectious Diseases, offers an early warning that a pandemic of potentially deadly antibiotic resistance is under way and could spread around the globe.

The study was led by Mohammod Jobayer Chisti, MD, PhD, a senior scientist in icddr,b's Nutrition and Clinical Services Division. Chisti was inspired to conduct the research when he observed that the hospital affiliated with icddr,b was admitting more and more young children with pneumonia who were highly resistant to treatment with standard antibiotics. "At our hospital, dozens of kids died of pneumonia between 2014 and 2017, despite receiving the World Health Organization's recommended antibiotics and enhanced respiratory support," says Chisti.


Study shows diet causes 84% drop in troublesome menopausal symptoms--without drugs


News Release 15-Jul-2021
Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine


A new study, published by the North American Menopause Society in the journal Menopause, found a plant-based diet rich in soy reduces moderate-to-severe hot flashes by 84%, from nearly five per day to fewer than one per day. During the 12-week study, nearly 60% of women became totally free of moderate-to-severe hot flashes. Overall hot flashes (including mild ones) decreased by 79%.

The study, called the WAVS trial--the Women's Study for the Alleviation of Vasomotor Symptoms-shows that diet changes can be much more powerful for treating hot flashes than scientists had thought. Vasomotor symptoms refer to night sweats, hot flashes, and flushes.

The study used no hormone medications or extracts. Instead, the research team tested a combination of a low-fat plant-based diet plus 1/2 cup of ordinary soybeans added to a salad or soup each day.


The effect of acute exercise in humans on cancer cell growth


News Release 15-Jul-2021
The Physiological Society


New research presented at The Physiological Society's Annual Conference Physiology 2021 shows that molecules released into the bloodstream during exercise (such as small proteins) can act directly on bowel cancer cells to slow down their growth.

Previous research has shown that regular physical activity reduces the risk of developing bowel cancer. This is mainly thought to happen because physical activity can help individuals to maintain a healthy body weight.

This new research shows that being physically active may reduce the risk of getting bowel cancer, even if the physical activity does not lead to weight loss.

These are preliminary findings, but having a better understanding of the mechanisms linking physical activity and cancer risk will help develop the most effective exercise programmes for preventing cancer development.


Benzodiazepines, 'z-drugs' increase death risk when taken with opioids


News Release 15-Jul-2021
Vanderbilt University Medical Center


A new study by Vanderbilt University Medical Center researchers of more the 400,000 Medicare patients taking medications for insomnia found that the risk of death is increased when either benzodiazepines or "z-drugs" are taken with opioids.

The study, published July 15 in PLOS Medicine and led by Wayne Ray, PhD, professor of Health Policy at VUMC, compared patients taking these drugs with opioids to comparable patients taking trazodone, another commonly prescribed sleep medication for older patients. The researchers found that those using benzodiazepines had a 221% increase in the risk of death from any cause and those taking non-benzodiazepine hypnotics, or "z-drugs," had a 68% increased risk.


Flooding in Germany, Belgium kills over 125: Where it is, why it's happening and what to know

The fossil fuel executives who suppressed evidence for the fact that the use of fossil fuels is causing an increase in greenhouse gases, and thus an increase in extreme weather events, are mass murderers. And they are still working to slow the switch away from fossil fuels, for the sake of maintaining huge incomes for themselves.

Sarah Elbeshbishi

July 16, 2021


Flooding in west Germany and Belgium has killed over 125 people, with hundreds more missing and thousands now homeless.

Days of heavy rain turned streams and streets into torrents, sweeping away cars and causing houses to collapse with families stuck inside.

Some parts of Western Europe ... received up to two months of rainfall in the space of two days. What made it worse is that the soils were already saturated by previous rainfall,” World Meteorological Organization spokesperson Clare Nullis said.


Residents of Erftstadt, a German town southwest of Cologne, were also trapped in their homes after aerial photos showed what appeared to be a huge landslide at a gravel pit.

Luxembourg, the Netherlands and Switzerland have also seen rivers swell under heavy rains.


Nullis said it was too soon to blame the flooding and the preceding heat wave on global warming, but she did say that “climate change is already increasing the frequency of extreme events. And many single events have been shown to be made worse by global warming.”

Steinmeier blamed climate change for the flooding, calling for greater efforts to combat global warming.

“Only if we decisively take up the fight against climate change will we be able to limit the extreme weather conditions we are now experiencing,” Steinmeier said.

Experts also said that climate change could cause similar disasters to become more frequent.

Malu Dreyer, the governor of Rhineland-Palatinate state, said the disaster showed the need to speed up efforts to curb global warming.



Wildfire smoke exposure linked to increased risk of contracting COVID-19


News Release 15-Jul-2021
New study finds a 17.7 percent rise in COVID-19 cases after a prolonged 2020 wildfire smoke event in Reno, Nev.
Desert Research Institute


Reno, Nev. (July 15, 2021) - Wildfire smoke may greatly increase susceptibility to SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, according to new research from the Center for Genomic Medicine at the Desert Research Institute (DRI), Washoe County Health District (WCHD), and Renown Health (Renown) in Reno, Nev.


New UK study reveals extent of brain complications in children hospitalized with COVID-19


News Release 16-Jul-2021
University of Liverpool


Although the risk of a child being admitted to hospital due to COVID-19 is small, a new UK study has found that around 1 in 20 of children hospitalised with COVID-19 develop brain or nerve complications linked to the viral infection.

The research, published in The Lancet Child and Adolescent Health and led by the University of Liverpool, identifies a wide spectrum of neurological complications in children and suggests they may be more common than in adults admitted with COVID-19.


Common COVID-19 antibiotic no more effective than placebo


News Release 16-Jul-2021
University of California - San Francisco


A UC San Francisco study has found that the antibiotic azithromycin was no more effective than a placebo in preventing symptoms of COVID-19 among non-hospitalized patients, and may increase their chance of hospitalization, despite widespread prescription of the antibiotic for the disease.

"These findings do not support the routine use of azithromycin for outpatient SARS-CoV-2 infection," said lead author Catherine E. Oldenburg, ScD, MPH, an assistant professor with the UCSF Proctor Foundation. SARS-CoV-2 is the virus that causes COVID-19.

Azithromycin, a broad-spectrum antibiotic, is widely prescribed as a treatment for COVID-19 in the United States and the rest of the world. "The hypothesis is that it has anti-inflammatory properties that may help prevent progression if treated early in the disease," said Oldenburg. "We did not find this to be the case."

The study, which was conducted in collaboration with Stanford University, appears July 16, 2021, in the Journal of the American Medical Association.


Wednesday, July 07, 2021

Studies explore links between stress, choline deficiency, preterm births, and mental health


News Release 7-Jul-2021
CU researchers say the data points to a health care disparity when it comes to caring for Black mothers and their children in the U.S.
University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus


In two recent articles published in Schizophrenia Bulletin, Sharon Hunter, PhD, an associate professor in the University of Colorado School of Medicine Department of Psychiatry, and M. Camille Hoffman, MD, MSc, an associate professor in the University of Colorado School of Medicine Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, along with their research group, have uncovered a potential link between choline deficiency in Black pregnant women in the United States and increased risk of developmental and behavioral issues that can evolve into mental illness later in their children's lives.


Choline is an essential nutrient that can be found in foods such as milk, red meats, and eggs. Based on previous studies of choline showing that it is vital for fetal neurodevelopment, including the development of inhibitory neurocircuits in the brain that are abnormal in individuals with schizophrenia and many of their family members, the group launched its first clinical trial in 2004. During the trial, they supplemented pregnant women with a specific form of choline called phosphatidylcholine, then monitored their children until the age of four. Phosphatidylcholine is less likely to cause side effects, such as stomach upset, associated with pure choline. The results of the trial showed that those inhibitory neurocircuits were functioning properly in more children from supplemented moms than in children whose mothers didn't receive the supplement.

"It showed that mothers who had lower choline levels during the second trimester of pregnancy gave birth to babies who were more likely to have worse neurodevelopmental scores, which can be a marker for later mental illness or behavioral problems," Hoffman says.


5 million deaths a year caused by global climate related abnormal temps


News Release 7-Jul-2021
Monash University


More than five million extra deaths a year can be attributed to abnormal hot and cold temperatures, according to a world first international study led by Monash University.

The study found deaths related to hot temperatures increased in all regions from 2000 to 2019, indicating that global warming due to climate change will make this mortality figure worse in the future.


The study, the first to definitively link above and below optimal temperatures (corresponding to minimum mortality temperatures) to annual increases in mortality, found 9.43 per cent of global deaths could be attributed to cold and hot temperatures. This equates to 74 excess deaths for every 100,000 people, with most deaths caused by cold exposure.

The data reveals geographic differences in the impact of non-optimal temperatures on mortality, with Eastern Europe and Sub-Saharan Africa having the highest heat and cold-related excess death rates.

Importantly, cold-related death decreased 0.51 per cent from 2000 to 2019, while heat-related death increased 0.21 per cent, leading to a reduction in net mortality due to cold and hot temperatures.


Study finds boys' dislike for reading fiction is actually fiction!


News Release 6-Jul-2021
Taylor & Francis Group


Gender stereotypes around reading may be holding boys back in the classroom, according to a new study published in the peer-reviewed International Journal of Inclusive Education.

In what is described as an 'unexpected' and 'significant' finding, fiction is the most favoured reading genre for schoolboys compared with non-fiction, comics and magazines.

Well over half (57%) of the boys said they liked fiction or story books 'a lot' according to research based on more than 300 pupils aged from seven to eight in Australia.

Girls were more likely to rate enjoyment of reading non-fiction more highly than boys (55% vs 51%).

The results have important implications for parents, teachers and policy-makers. They suggest that the range of boys' reading preferences may have been underestimated.


Library visits are 'particularly important for emerging readers' according to Scholes who says these may especially broaden the experience of boys and students from under-resourced homes. 

Climate change made North American heatwave 150 times more likely


7 July 2021
By Adam Vaughan

The recent deadly and record-breaking heatwave in North America would have been “virtually impossible” without climate change, according to scientists who say they are very worried about the prospect of similar events occurring around the world.

An international team has found that the heatwave, which may have killed hundreds and saw Canada’s temperature record being broken by nearly 5°C in [9°F] the village of Lytton, was made 150 times more likely by global warming.

The temperature highs were 2°C [3.6°F] hotter than they would have been without the human activity that has warmed Earth, say the researchers at the World Weather Attribution project. By the 2040s, they warn, such a heatwave could be another 1°C [1.8°F] warmer.


The heatwave could have just been bad luck aggravated by climate change, says the team. An alternative, more worrying, explanation is that it could be due to non-linear interactions in the climate, such as the severe drought in the south of the area studied. More research will be needed to show if such non-linearities – sometimes referred to as tipping points in Earth’s systems as the world warms – were to blame. If they were, that would show today’s climate models are too conservative, says van Oldenborgh.


Fish are becoming addicted to methamphetamines seeping into rivers


6 July 2021
By Cameron Duke

Illicit drug use is a growing global health concern that causes a financial burden of hundreds of billions of dollars in the US alone. But hidden beneath the societal costs of this human epidemic is a potential ecological crisis. As methamphetamine levels rise in freshwater streams, fish are increasingly becoming addicted.

“Where methamphetamine users are, there is also methamphetamine pollution,” says Pavel Horký at the Czech University of Life Sciences.

Humans excrete methamphetamines into wastewater, but treatment plants aren’t designed to deal with such substances. Because of this, as treated wastewater flows into streams, so do methamphetamines and other drugs.


“Drug reward cravings by fish could overshadow natural rewards like foraging or mating,” says Horký. “Such contamination could change the functioning of whole ecosystems.”

tags: drug use, drug abuse

Inside Exxon’s playbook: How America’s biggest oil company continues to oppose action on climate change

An example of why I have not bought gas at Exxon for decades.

I suggest reading the whole article at the following link.  He names a Senators whom he targets his lobbying at.


Lawrence Carter 

ExxonMobil continues to fight efforts to tackle climate change in the United States, despite publicly claiming to support the Paris climate agreement, an undercover investigation by Unearthed has found.

A senior lobbyist for Exxon told an undercover reporter that the company had been working to weaken key aspects of President Joe Biden’s flagship initiative on climate change, the American Jobs Plan.

He described Biden’s new plan to slash US greenhouse gas emissions as “insane” and admitted that the company had aggressively fought early climate science through “shadow groups” to protect its investments.

Keith McCoy – a senior director in Exxon’s Washington DC government affairs team – told the undercover reporter that he is speaking to the office of influential Democratic senator Joe Manchin every week, with the aim of drastically reducing the scope of Biden’s climate plan so that “negative stuff”, such as rules limiting greenhouse gas emissions and taxes on oil companies, are removed.


During the undercover meeting, which took place via Zoom in May, McCoy suggested that Exxon’s public support for a carbon tax as its principal climate policy is an “advocacy tool” and “great talking point” that will never actually happen.

“Nobody is going to propose a tax on all Americans and the cynical side of me says, yeah, we kind of know that but it gives us a talking point that we can say, well what is ExxonMobil for? Well, we’re for a carbon tax,” McCoy said.

A second Exxon lobbyist, Dan Easley – who left the company in January after working as its chief White House lobbyist throughout the Trump administration – laughed when asked by an undercover reporter if the company had achieved many policy wins under Trump, before outlining victories on fossil fuel permitting and the renegotiation of the NAFTA trade agreement.

“The wins are such that it would be difficult to categorise them all,” he said, adding that the biggest victory was Trump’s reduction in the corporate tax rate, which was “probably worth billions to Exxon”.


Exxon claims to support global effort to tackle climate change, but it hasn’t always. Throughout the 1990s and early 2000s, the company orchestrated a multimillion-dollar disinformation campaign that manufactured doubt regarding the link between global warming and the burning of fossil fuels.


The reference to “shadow groups” is likely to relate to a powerful network of think tanks and pressure groups through which Exxon fought both the science and political action on climate change. Between 1998 and 2014, the company spent at least $30 million funding climate denial groups, such as the Heartland Institute, Competitive Enterprise Institute, and Heritage Foundation.

This network played a critical role in shifting the Republican Party from a position of support for action to cut emissions in the 1980s to its near-total opposition to tackling climate change from the mid-1990s to today.


He added that other members of the oil industry that have recently announced their support for a carbon tax – such as the American Petroleum Institute (API), an influential lobby group – did so because “they’ve got nothing else, so it’s an easy talking point to say, look I’m for a carbon tax”.


The investigation also revealed one former Exxon lobbyist’s disbelief at the scale of influence the company had during the Trump administration.

Dan Easley, who was a senior director for federal relations at Exxon until February 2021, when he joined a clean technologies firm, laughed when asked by an undercover reporter if the company had achieved many big policy wins under Trump, before outlining victories on fossil fuel permitting and the renegotiation of the NAFTA trade agreement.

“You should Google ‘ExxonMobil announcement’ and ‘Donald Trump’. So he live-Facebooked from the West Wing our big drill in the Gulf project, he mentioned us in two States of the Union, we were able to get investor state dispute settlement protection in NAFTA, we were able to rationalise the permit environment and you know, get tonnes of permits out.”

“The wins are such that it would be difficult to, to categorise them all. I mean, tax has to be the biggest one right, the reduction of the corporate rate was, you know, it’s probably worth billions to Exxon, so yeah there were a lot of wins,” Easley continued.

Climate change has pushed a million people in Madagascar to the edge of starvation, UN says


By Amy Cassidy, David McKenzie and Ingrid Formanek, CNN
Updated 11:32 AM ET, Wed June 23, 2021

Climate change is the driving force of a developing food crisis in southern Madagascar, the UN's World Food Programme (WFP) has warned.
The African island has been plagued with back-to-back droughts -- its worst in four decades -- which have pushed 1.14 million people "right to the very edge of starvation," said WFP executive director David Beasley in a news release Wednesday.
"I met women and children who were holding on for dear life, they'd walked for hours to get to our food distribution points. These were the ones who were healthy enough to make it," Beasley said.

"Families are suffering and people are already dying from severe hunger. This is not because of war or conflict, this is because of climate change. This is an area of the world that has contributed nothing to climate change, but now, they're the ones paying the highest price."An estimated 14,000 people are already in catastrophic conditions, according to the WFP, a number that is predicted to double to 28,000 by October. Thousands in southern Madagascar have left their homes in search

 of food, while those who remain are resorting to extreme measures such as foraging for wild food to survive, the WFP said.

"This is enough to bring even the most hardened humanitarian to tears. Families have been living on raw red cactus fruits, wild leaves and locusts for months now. We can't turn our backs on the people living here while the drought threatens thousands of innocent lives," said Beasley. 


Monday, July 05, 2021

Poorer survival in obese colorectal cancer patients possibly linked to lower chemotherapy doses


News Release 2-Jul-2021

ESMO World Congress on Gastrointestinal Cancer 2021

European Society for Medical Oncology


Obese patients with colorectal cancer receive lower cumulative doses of adjuvant chemotherapy, relative to their body surface area (BSA), than non-obese patients, show results from a large meta-analysis reported at the ESMO World Congress on Gastrointestinal Cancer 2021 (1). Further findings showed that cumulative relative chemotherapy dose was associated with survival so may explain the poorer survival that has been seen in obese patients receiving adjuvant chemotherapy for colorectal cancer. (2)

"Adjuvant chemotherapy is dosed according to a person's body surface area, which is calculated from their height and weight. But in obese patients (with a high body mass index (BMI), and who are more likely to have high BSAs), doses are often capped, or based on an idealised weight, because of concern that large doses might increase side-effects. This means that obese patients may receive proportionately lower doses of chemotherapy" reported lead author Corinna Slawinski, from the Division of Cancer Sciences, University of Manchester, UK. Congress on Gastrointestinal Cancer 2021


Bowel cancer data reinforce need to reduce unnecessary antibiotic use

News Release 2-Jul-2021
ESMO World Congress on Gastrointestinal Cancer 2021
European Society for Medical Oncology


Doctors and patients are being advised to reduce unnecessary antibiotic use following new data suggesting that these medicines may increase the risk of cancer of the large intestine (colon), especially in people under 50 years. (1) The results, presented at the ESMO World Congress on Gastrointestinal Cancer (30 June-3 July) raise fresh concerns about the impact of the estimated 65% increase in global antibiotic consumption reported between 2000 and 2015, despite not showing a direct cause and effect. (2)

"To our knowledge, this is the first study to link antibiotic use with the growing risk of early onset colon cancer - a disease which has been increasing at a rate of at least 3% per year over the last two decades. (3) Junk food, sugary drinks, obesity and alcohol are likely to have played a part in that rise, but our data stress the importance of avoiding unnecessary antibiotics, especially in children and young adults," said Ms Sarah Perrott, from the University of Aberdeen, Aberdeen, UK, presenting the data. 

Using a large Scottish primary care database of up to 2 million people, the study looked at nearly 8000 people with bowel cancer (colon and rectum) matched with people without bowel cancer. It found antibiotic use was associated with an increased risk of colon cancer across all ages, but the risk was increased by almost 50% in the under-50s compared to 9% in the over-50s. In the younger age group, antibiotic use was linked to cancers in the first part of the colon (the right side). Quinolones and sulfonamides/trimethoprim, which are used to treat a wide range of infections, were associated with these right-side cancers. 


New solution for sleep apnoea


News Release 2-Jul-2021
Existing medications can reduce severity by 'at least 30%'
Flinders University


In an Australian world-first, researchers have successfully repurposed two existing medications to reduce the severity of sleep apnoea in people by at least 30 per cent.

Affecting millions around the world, sleep apnoea is a condition where the upper airway from the back of the nose to the throat closes repetitively during sleep, restricting oxygen intake and causing people to wake as often as 100 times or more per hour.

Those with untreated sleep apnoea are more likely to develop cardiovascular disease, dementia and depression, and are two to four times more likely to crash a car than the general population.


Previous research showed two classes of medication, reboxetine and butylbromide, were able to keep muscles active during sleep in people without sleep apnoea, and assist their ability to breathe.

By repurposing the medications, researchers used a multitude of recording instruments to measure whether reboxetine and butylbromide could successfully target the main causes of sleep apnoea.

This included balancing the electrical activity of muscles around the airway, preventing the throat from collapsing while people were sleeping, and improving the regulation of carbon dioxide and breathing during sleep.

Results from the study showed these medications did in fact increase the muscle activity around participants' airways, with the drugs reducing the severity of participants' sleep apnoea by up to one-third.

"Almost everyone we studied had some improvement in sleep apnoea," said Professor Eckert.

"People's oxygen intake improved, their number of breathing stoppages was a third or more less. We were thrilled because the current treatment options for people with sleep apnoea are limited and can be a painful journey for many," he said.


Near-death experiences, a survival strategy ?

When I came home recently, I saw a dead mouse in my driveway, lying on its back with it's feet in the air, motionless, surely having been killed by my cat.  I was going to move it out of the driveway, but it came to life and ran into some yard debris, with my cat chasing it.


News Release 1-Jul-2021
A study in the journal Brain Communications by Danish and Belgian researchers attributes for the first time a biological purpose to near-death experiences (NDEs)
University of Liege


Near-death experiences are known from all parts of the world, various times and numerous cultural backgrounds. This universality suggests they may have a biological origin and purpose, but exactly what this could be has been largely unexplored.

A new study conducted jointly by the University of Copenhagen (Denmark) and the University of Liege (Belgium) and published in Brain Communications shows how near-death experiences in humans may have arisen from evolutionary mechanisms.

"Adhering to a preregistered protocol, we investigated the hypothesis that thanatosis is the evolutionary origin of near-death experiences", says Daniel Kondziella, a neurologist from Rigshospitalet, Copenhagen University Hospital.

When attacked by a predator, as a last resort defense mechanism, animals can feign death to improve their chances of survival, one example being the opossum. This phenomenon is termed thanatosis, also known as death-feigning or tonic immobility. "As a survival strategy," Daniel Kondziella adds, "thanatosis is probably as old as the fight-or-flight response."


Nearly 10 percent of high school students experienced homelessness in Spring 2019

And that was before Covid took hold.  Surely was worse in 2020.


News Release 1-Jul-2021
Findings are three times higher than state education counts


WILMINGTON, Del. (June 29, 2021) - A new report finds that 509,025 (9.17%) public high school students in 24 states experienced homelessness in spring 2019 -- three times the number recognized by the states' education agencies. This under-recognition creates gaps in funding and services needed by this vulnerable population.

Researchers from Nemours Children's Health and the University of Pennsylvania analyzed data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for public schools across 24 states and 12 school districts. During spring 2019, more than 9% of public high school students experienced homelessness during a 30-day period in the 24 states. The rate was even higher in the 12 school districts, analyzed separately, where nearly 14% of students reported homelessness.


Homelessness was more likely among students who were male, LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender), Black/African American, Hispanic/Latinx, or Native American/Hawaiian. Students who experienced homelessness reported higher rates of sexual victimization, physical victimization, and having been bullied. Even when controlling for other risk factors, students who experienced homelessness reported higher rates of severe suicidality, hard drug use, alcohol abuse, risky sexual behavior, and poor grades.

"Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, we saw high rates of homelessness in public high school students and strong links between homelessness and other harmful experiences," said the report's lead author, Danielle Hatchimonji, PhD, of Nemours' Center for Healthcare Delivery Science. "The pandemic's impact on financial and housing stability will have even broader, ripple effects on mental health and academic functioning -- effects that will continue to disproportionately harm students of color."

94% of patients with cancer respond well to COVID-19 vaccinesand

News Release 1-Jul-202
Small subsets of high-risk patients produce few or no antibodies, however

University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio


University of Texas Health SciencIn a U.S. Swiss study, nearly all patients with cancer developed good immune response to the COVID-19 mRNA vaccines three to four weeks after receiving their second dose, but the fact that a small group of the patients exhibited no response raised questions about how their protection against the virus will be addressed moving forward.

Among the 131 patients studied, 94% developed antibodies to the coronavirus. Seven high-risk patients did not. "We could not find any antibodies against the virus in those patients," said Dimpy P. Shah, MD, PhD, of the Mays Cancer Center, home to UT Health San Antonio MD Anderson. "That has implications for the future. Should we provide a third dose of vaccine after cancer therapy has completed in certain high-risk patients?"e Center at San Antonio


Study ties milder COVID-19 symptoms to prior run-ins with other coronaviruses


News Release 1-Jul-2021
Stanford Medicine

A study by Stanford University School of Medicine investigators hints that people with COVID-19 may experience milder symptoms if certain cells of their immune systems "remember" previous encounters with seasonal coronaviruses -- the ones that cause about a quarter of the common colds kids get.

These immune cells are better equipped to mobilize quickly against SARS-CoV-2, the coronavirus responsible for COVID-19, if they've already met its gentler cousins, the scientists concluded.
The findings may help explain why some people, particularly children, seem much more resilient than others to infection by SARS-CoV-2, the coronavirus that causes COVID-19. They also might make it possible to predict which people are likely to develop the most severe symptoms of COVID-19.


Is global plastic pollution nearing an irreversible tipping point?


News Release 1-Jul-2021
Stockholm University


Current rates of plastic emissions globally may trigger effects that we will not be able to reverse, argues a new study by researchers from Sweden, Norway and Germany published on July 2nd in Science. According to the authors, plastic pollution is a global threat, and actions to drastically reduce emissions of plastic to the environment are "the rational policy response".

Plastic is found everywhere on the planet: from deserts and mountaintops to deep oceans and Arctic snow. As of 2016, estimates of global emissions of plastic to the world's lakes, rivers and oceans ranged from 9 to 23 million metric tons per year, with a similar amount emitted onto land yearly. These estimates are expected to almost double by 2025 if business-as-usual scenarios apply. Geotechnical Institute, Alfred Wegener Institute Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research, Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research


On top of the environmental damage that plastic pollution can cause on its own by entanglement of animals and toxic effects, it could also act in conjunction with other environmental stressors in remote areas to trigger wide-ranging or even global effects. The new study lays out a number of hypothetical examples of possible effects, including exacerbation of climate change because of disruption of the global carbon pump, and biodiversity loss in the ocean where plastic pollution acts as additional stressor to overfishing, ongoing habitat loss caused by changes in water temperatures, nutrient supply and chemical exposure.


Right now, we are loading up the environment with increasing amounts of poorly reversible plastic pollution. So far, we don't see widespread evidence of bad consequences, but if weathering plastic triggers a really bad effect we are not likely to be able to reverse it," cautions MacLeod. "The cost of ignoring the accumulation of persistent plastic pollution in the environment could be enormous. The rational thing to do is to act as quickly as we can to reduce emissions of plastic to the environment."

[Sad thing is that humans are not rational.]

Research reveals a new form of brain plasticity


News Release 1-Jul-2021
The interdisciplinary Center, Herzliya (IDC Herzliya)


The adult brain is more malleable than previously thought, according to researchers from the Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya. They trained a 50-year-old man, blind from birth, to "see" by ear, and found that neural circuits in his brain formed so-called topographic maps - a type of brain organization previously thought to emerge only in infancy. This finding reported recently in Neuroimage, sheds new light on the brain's ability for change and holds promise for helping people restore lost function, for example, after a stroke.


Tropical Storm Elsa is the latest evidence climate change is happening now

Tropical Storm Elsa became the earliest fifth named storm on record Thursday, the latest weather-related record this year that climate scientists warn is linked to climate change.

While Elsa, whose maximum sustained winds are 45 miles per hour, is unlikely to inflict the same amount of damage as a stronger hurricane if and when it makes landfall, its formation on July 1 — following Ana, Bill, Claudette and Danny — fits into a pattern in which the changing climate makes conditions for life-threatening storms more favorable.

For the past seven years, named storms have arrived ahead of the official June 1 start of hurricane season, including this year with Tropical Storm Ana, which formed on May 23. In 2020, which tied 2016 as the hottest year recorded by humans, a record 30 named storms formed, including six major hurricanes.

While the continued rise in global surface and water temperatures has expanded the parameters of hurricane season, factors such as stronger wind shear can impede the formation of storms that might have otherwise been named, the New York Times reported. Still, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has forecast 13 to 20 named storms this year, and Elsa’s early arrival means the season is well on its way to fulfilling that prediction.

It has already been a year of unprecedented weather events. Two record-breaking and deadly heat waves in the Western U.S.; record rainfall in Michigan, which overwhelmed Detroit’s aging storm water system; a record-breaking winter storm in Texas, which disabled the state’s power grid; the historic drought gripping nearly the entire western part of the country; and an unusually early start to so-called wildfire season in California — all of these events have been linked to climate change.