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Americans are finally consuming fewer calories

New posts at Many Years Young 7/27/15

Americans are finally consuming fewer calories

Can food mentions in newspapers predict national obesity rates?

Is Your Favorite Grocery Store Making You Fat?

Body Fat Can Send Signals to Brain, Affecting Stress Response

Plus lots more.

Court Smacks Down Pharmacy That Refused To Fill Prescriptions On Religious Grounds

Court Smacks Down Pharmacy That Refused To Fill Prescriptions On Religious Grounds

(ThinkProgress) Pharmacy owners do not have a constitutional right to refuse to dispense medicines that they object to on religious grounds, according to a decision handed down Thursday by a federal appeals court. Had the plaintiffs in this case prevailed, it would have not only permitted them to refuse to fill many birth control prescriptions (which is what these particular plaintiffs hoped to achieve), but it could have also potentially enabled pharmacists to refuse to fill a long list of prescriptions, including “diabetic syringes, insulin, HIV-related medications, and Valium.”

Stormans v. Wiesman concerned a Washington state rule that permits individual pharmacists to refuse to fill a particular prescription “so long as another pharmacist working for the pharmacy provides timely delivery,” but does not generally allow the pharmacy itself to refuse to deliver a prescription “even if the owner of the pharmacy has a religious objection.” Intervenors in the case, who joined on the side of the state officials defending the rule, include an HIV-positive man and a woman with AIDS who feared that they would be denied “timely access to their prescription medications” if the court sided with these plaintiffs.

So shouldn’t the same standard apply to bakers who want to refuse to serve gays?  - Caro

Solar Power And Desalination Join Forces In California’s Central Valley

Solar Power And Desalination Join Forces In California’s Central Valley

(ThinkProgress) Solar power turns the sun’s energy into electricity. Desalination removes unwanted minerals from saltwater so it can be used for drinking or agriculture.

These two technologies have typically been employed separately in the effort to live more sustainably and limit dependence on finite resources. Now in California, a company has found a way to merge the two with the aim of providing long-term relief to farmers suffering the impacts of the state’s devastating four-year drought…

WaterFX, a San Francisco-based water producer for agricultural and commercial users, recently announced that its California subsidiary, HydroRevolution, plans to build the state’s first commercial solar desalination plant. To be located in the agriculture-intensive Central Valley, the plant will ultimately generate up to 5,000 acre-feet, or 1.6 billion gallons, of clean water per year — enough water for 10,000 homes or 2,000 acres of cropland. It will be built on 35 acres of land currently used to grow salt-tolerant crops, and will recycle unusable irrigation water from a 7,000-acre drainage area into a new and much-needed source of freshwater for nearby water districts by removing unwanted mineral and salts.

Terrifying Proof That America’s Infrastructure Is Failing

Terrifying Proof That America’s Infrastructure Is Failing

(Charlie Pierce) What does it look like when America fails to maintain its basic infrastructure? A lot like this scene in Desert City, California, Sunday, when the Tex Wash bridge collapsed after a weekend of heavy rains, injuring one driver and snarling traffic for miles.

The bridge is a vital part of Interstate 10, which connects Southern California to Phoenix. ”Interstate 10 is closed completely and indefinitely,” Terri Kasinga, a spokeswoman for the California Department of Transportation, told the Associated Press…

With I-10 shut down, drivers traveling between California and Phoenix will be forced to either divert to Interstate 8 to the south or Interstate 40 to the north, both of which add hundreds of miles…

According to the American Society of Civil Engineers, one in nine bridges in America was rated “structurally deficient” in 2013. Plus, in the ASCE’s 2013 annual report card, bridges scored a C+, while dams and roads were given a D, and levees received a D-. Said the ASCE of its dismal report: ”Our infrastructure systems are failing to keep pace with the current and expanding needs, and investment in infrastructure is faltering.”

Russian security services are cracking down on alleged corruption in the newly annexed peninsula

Russian security services are cracking down on alleged corruption in the newly annexed peninsula

(Bloomberg) President Vladimir Putin likened Russia’s 2014 annexation of Crimea to a family welcoming home a long-lost relative.

Now the family is showing signs of strain. Russia’s federal security service, the FSB, has opened criminal investigations of three high-ranking Crimean government officials, accusing them of graft and other misdeeds…

The FSB investigations probably reflect a struggle for control of “the main valves of corruption” in Crimea, says Andrew Foxall, director of the Russia Studies Centre at the Henry Jackson Society in London. “This same kind of thing happens in every Russian region.” Moscow tolerates some corruption among regional leaders, Foxall says, but expects them to share the spoils with Kremlin-backed interests. Those who don’t may be subjected to criminal investigation and arrest…

Accusations of rampant corruption could also give Moscow an excuse to scale back some of the $18 billion in promised aid.

One more example of “Be careful what you ask for.” – Caro

More Americans Practicing Yoga, Meditation To Control Pain

New posts at Many Years Young 7/25/15

More Americans Practicing Yoga, Meditation To Control Pain

Expert: Nondrug Therapies May Be Most Effective Treatments for Fibromyalgia Pain

Retirees Represent Major Marijuana Market

Eye drop gives hope for knifeless cataract cure

Plus lots more.

Another week, another mass killing

3 Killed and 7 Wounded During ‘Trainwreck’ Screening at Louisiana Theater

(Truthdig) Three people died and seven others were injured at a Lafayette, La., theater Thursday night after a gunman opened fire during a screening of “Trainwreck.” One of the dead was reported to be the shooter…

Shortly after the shooting, which occurred around 7:30 p.m. local time, [Lafayette’s Daily] Advertiser reported that two people were killed and six were injured in the incident but later upped those numbers to three and seven respectively. The paper also cited City Marshal Brian Pope confirming that the shooter “turned the gun on himself” and was dead.

When will we ever learn? When will we EVER learn? – Caro

Report: Louisiana Theater Shooter’s Online Presence Suggested Admiration For White Supremacy

(ThinkProgress) An investigation by the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Hatewatch found that the man who killed two people and himself in a Louisiana movie theater Thursday night was an active member of online forums that praised white supremacist and anti-gay organizations and espoused right-wing, anti-government conspiracy theories.

The online trail of 59-year-old John Russell Houser, who police publicly identified in a press conference on Friday morning, included comments such as, “Decent people can retake the entire world, as Hitler proved,” and diatribes against “the Black” and “the Jew.” He also expressed admiration for Greece’s neo-Nazi party Golden Dawn as well as the Westboro Baptist Church, which the Southern Poverty Law Center identifies as an anti-gay hate group.

Most tellingly, before committing a so-called “lone wolf” act of violence, Houser wrote extensively about being a “lone wolf”: “I do not want to discourage the last hope for the best, but you must realize the power of the lone wolf, is the power that come forth in ALL situations,” Houser wrote on a forum dedicated to the New York chapter of Golden Dawn. “Look within yourselves.”

New York Times says there was ‘no factual error’ in Hillary Clinton e-mail referral story

New York Times says there was ‘no factual error’ in Hillary Clinton e-mail referral story

(Erik Wemple, Washington Post) Current New York Times lead: “Two inspectors general have asked the Justice Department to open a criminal investigation into whether sensitive government information was mishandled in connection with the personal email account Hillary Rodham Clinton used as secretary of state, senior government officials said Thursday.”

Bold text added to highlight passive voice.

The original lead for the story was much the same, but with a key difference. The requests for a criminal investigation “into whether Hillary Rodham Clinton mishandled sensitive government information on a private email account she used as secretary of state,” as reported by Politico’s Dylan Byers.

Bold text added to highlight active voice.

One of the story’s reporters, Michael Schmidt, told Politico, “It was a response to complaints we received from the Clinton camp that we thought were reasonable, and we made them.”

And yet, the story that will remain and be perpetuated by the vast right-wing conspiracy is that Hillary Rodham Clinton mishandled sensitive government information. Buckle your seat belts, friends, it’s going to be a bumpy ride. – Caro

Former Israeli Security Heads Support Iran Deal

Former Israeli Security Heads Support Iran Deal

(ThinkProgress) Last week a historic deal was struck between world powers over Iran’s nuclear program. The deal has been praised by many but also has its fair share of detractors. And one of the most vocal opponents to the deal was Israel’s leader Benjamin Netanyahu who called the deal a “historic mistake.”

But while Israel’s prime minister continues to fight the deal a collection of former Israeli security figures have come forward to say that things could be much worse.

“No agreement is ironclad, but the inspections provisions provide a high degree of confidence that Iran will not be able to renew the nuclear program without its being detected,” Chuck Freilich, a former deputy National Security Adviser in Israel, wrote in a New York Times op-ed published on Sunday and entitled A Good Deal for Israel. “A regime that has staked so much on this agreement will be reluctant to incur the costs.”

Major-General (res.) Israel Ziv is the former head of the Israeli Army’s Operations Directorate branch and he took a realist’s approach to the deal. “There is no one in Israel who thinks the nuclear agreement is a good agreement, but the discussion should not focus on that,” he wrote in an op-ed for the Israeli news site “Because this agreement is the best among all other alternatives, and any military strike – as successful as it may be – would not have delayed even 20% of what the agreement will delay, not to mention the risk of another flare-up with Hezbollah, which an operation against Iran would have generated. The agreement is an established fact, and it’s not particularly bad as far as Israel is concerned.”

Republicans headed for the wastebasket?

Favorability of the GOP Nosedives

(Political Wire) A new Pew Research survey finds the Republican Party’s image has grown more negative over the first half of this year.

“Currently, 32% have a favorable impression of the Republican Party, while 60% have an unfavorable view… Favorable views of the GOP have fallen nine percentage points since January. The Democratic Party continues to have mixed ratings (48% favorable, 47% unfavorable).”

How Badly Would An Indie Trump Bid Hurt the GOP?

(Political Wire) The Washington Post/ABC poll finds a three-way race would result in Hillary Clinton getting 46%, Jeb Bush getting 30%, and Donald Trump 20% among registered voters.

Good news and bad news about the economy

U.S. jobless claims lowest since 1973; leading index rises

(Reuters) The number of Americans filing new applications for unemployment benefits last week dropped to its lowest level in more than 41-1/2 years, suggesting the labor market maintained a sturdy pace of job growth in July.

Other data on Thursday also offered an upbeat assessment of the economy. A gauge of future economic activity increased solidly in June and another measure suggested growth picked up slightly last month.

The bullish jobs picture, together with a firming housing market brings the Federal Reserve a step closer to hike interest rates this year.

Except for rich, Americans’ incomes fell last year

(AFP) Most Americans’ incomes continued to fall last year, but the richest 20 percent saw theirs rise, a new Labor Department report showed Thursday.

In fresh data that adds fire to a growing debate over income inequality, the department said that Americans on average saw income decline for the second straight year in the 12 months to June 2014.

The average pre-tax income fell 0.9 percent from the same period a year earlier, to $64,432.

But broken down into quintiles, those in the top 20 percent of incomes saw their money stream grow by 0.9 percent to $166,048 on average.

Every other group lost ground, with the bottom 20 percent losing the most: their average income dropped 3.5 percent to $9,818.

Those losses came despite an economy that was picking up pace and generating well over 200,000 jobs a month last year.

The M.I.T. Gang

The M.I.T. Gang

(Paul Krugman) It’s actually surprising how little media attention has been given to the dominance of M.I.T.-trained economists in policy positions and policy discourse. But it’s quite remarkable…

So what distinguishes M.I.T. economics, and why does it matter?…

At M.I.T…, Keynes never went away. To be sure, stagflation showed that there were limits to what policy can do. But students continued to learn about the imperfections of markets and the role that monetary and fiscal policy can play in boosting a depressed economy…

This open-minded, pragmatic approach was overwhelmingly vindicated after crisis struck in 2008. Chicago-school types warned incessantly that responding to the crisis by printing money and running deficits would lead to 70s-type stagflation, with soaring inflation and interest rates. But M.I.T. types predicted, correctly, that inflation and interest rates would stay low in a depressed economy, and that attempts to slash deficits too soon would deepen the slump…

Meanwhile, in the United States, Republicans have responded to the utter failure of free-market orthodoxy and the remarkably successful predictions of much-hated Keynesians by digging in even deeper, determined to learn nothing from experience.

In other words, being right isn’t necessarily enough to change the world. But it’s still better to be right than to be wrong, and M.I.T.-style economics, with its pragmatic openness to evidence, has been very right indeed.

Sex Doesn’t Sell

Sex Doesn’t Sell

(Pacific Standard) “Over 50 studies conducted over several decades using various methodologies suggest that programs featuring violence and sex do not provide the ideal context for effective advertising,” Ohio State University psychologists Robert Lull and Brad Bushman write…

Lull and Bushman looked at studies that addressed three questions: Do sex and destruction (in the ads themselves or in the TV shows, movies, or video games they interrupt) improve memory for the products advertised? Do they improve impressions of those products? And do people say they’re likely to buy them after seeing the ad?

Across 53 studies conducted since 1969, the answer to those questions is usually “no.”…

Advertisers ought to take note, Lull and Bushman argue. ”Brands advertised in violent contexts will be remembered less often, evaluated less favorably, and less likely to be purchased than brands advertised in nonviolent media,” and while the effects aren’t as strong, sex “does not appear to be a successful strategy either.”

Myth of pristine Amazon rainforest busted as old cities reappear

Myth of pristine Amazon rainforest busted as old cities reappear

(New Scientist‎ ) What is today one of the largest tracts of rainforest in the world was, until little more than 500 years ago, a landscape dominated by human activity, according to a review of the evidence by Charles Clement of Brazil’s National Institute of Amazonian Research in Manaus, and his colleagues.

After Europeans showed up, the inhabitants were decimated by disease and superior weaponry, and retreated into the bush, while the jungle reclaimed their fields and plazas. But, thanks to a combination of deforestation and remote sensing, what’s left of their civilisation is now re-emerging.

They reveal an anthropogenically modified Amazonia before the European conquest. “Few if any pristine landscapes remained in 1492,” says Clement. “Many present Amazon forests, while seemingly natural, are domesticated.”

The evidence for this radical rethink has been stacking up for some time. Archaeologists have uncovered dense urban centres that would have been home to up to 10,000 inhabitants along riverbanks, with fields and cultivated orchards of Brazil nuts, palm and fruit trees stretching for tens of kilometres. Remote sensing has revealed extensive earthworks, including cities, causeways, canals, graveyards and huge areas of ridged fields that kept crops like manioc, maize and squash clear of floods and frosts.

Do you plan to age in place? See what’s involved.

New posts at Many Years Young 7/24/15

Do you plan to age in place? See what’s involved.

Social Determinants of Health

Lifestyle changes may guard aging brain against memory loss

Why Is Making The Healthy Choice So Hard?

Plus lots more.

A Saliva Test for Alzheimer’s Disease?

New posts at Many Years Young 7/23/15

A Saliva Test for Alzheimer’s Disease?

Lilly says drug slows Alzheimer’s in patients with mild disease

Kids’ School Grades Tied to Late-Life Dementia Risk

Iron-Containing Inflammatory Cells Seen in Alzheimer’s Brains

Plus lots more.

How the American South Drives the Low-Wage Economy

How the American South Drives the Low-Wage Economy

(Harold Meyerson, The American Prospect)  [T]he more we learn about the conflict between the North and South that led to the Civil War, the more it becomes apparent that we are reliving that conflict today. The South’s current drive to impose on the rest of the nation its opposition to worker and minority rights—through the vehicle of a Southernized Republican Party—resembles nothing so much as the efforts of antebellum Southern political leaders to blunt the North’s opposition to the slave labor system…

The American South before the Civil War was the low-wage—actually, the no-wage—anchor of the first global production chain.

Today, as the auto and aerospace manufacturers of Europe and East Asia open low-wage assembly plants in Tennessee, Alabama, South Carolina, and Mississippi, the South has assumed a comparable role once more. Indeed, the South today shares more features with its antebellum ancestor than it has in a very long time. Now as then, white Southern elites and their powerful allies among non-Southern business interests seek to expand to the rest of the nation the South’s subjugation of workers and its suppression of the voting rights of those who might oppose their policies. In fact, now more than then, the South’s efforts to spread its values across America are advancing, as Northern Republicans adopt their Southern counterparts’ antipathy to unions and support for voter suppression, and as workers’ earnings in the North fall toward Southern levels. And now as then, a sectional backlash against Southern norms has emerged that, when combined with the Southern surge, is again creating two nations within one…

Barack Obama came to national prominence in 2004 hoping to bridge the divisions between blue states and red. Instead, these gulfs have deepened. Federal remedy is stymied; the public policies of the red and blue states are racing apart; and the fundamental divisions that turned one nation into two in 1861 loom larger today than they have in a very long time.

How the ‘Embarrassing’ Gas Tax Impasse Explains Washington

How the ‘Embarrassing’ Gas Tax Impasse Explains Washington

(Alec MacGillis, ProPublica) In 1993, the Dow Jones industrial average was still well under 4,000, the best-selling car in the country was the Ford Taurus, and the average cost of a Major League Baseball ticket was under $10.

That was also the year that Congress last raised the federal tax on gasoline…

As a result, the main U.S. spending account for infrastructure has fallen deep in the red, and the gap gets worse every year. The government, through a series of funding tricks, keeps the Highway Trust Fund on life support with short-term emergency patches. The latest infusion expires at the end of the month, and the argument about how to fix it is coming to a head this week.

The uncertainty has frozen major projects around the country…

That Congress can’t fulfill such a basic purpose of government stands out as a signal example of Washington dysfunction.

Remember What We Learned 4 Years Ago

Remember What We Learned 4 Years Ago

(Political Wire) First Read: “As the political world tries to make sense of Donald Trump and his rise in the polls, it’s worth taking a stroll down memory lane. Four years ago, in the April 2011 NBC/WSJ poll, your early leaders in the national GOP presidential horserace were Mitt Romney, Mike Huckabee and, yes, Donald Trump (!!!). In the July 2011 NBC/WSJ poll, the leaders were Romney and Michele Bachmann. In August, it was Rick Perry and Romney. In October, it was Herman Cain and Romney. A month later, it was Romney and Cain again. And in Dec. 2011, it was Newt Gingrich and Romney.”

What Sandra Bland Illustrates about the “Right to Abuse”

What Sandra Bland Illustrates about the “Right to Abuse”

(Ian Welsh) If you haven’t seen it already, here is a (doctored, by still damning), video of Sandra Bland’s arrest.

Note that she did nothing which would warrant arrest and was taken into custody on what amounts to a freestanding “resisting arrest” warrant.

He real crime was “disrespect of cop”, of course: she didn’t put out her cigarette when asked, she was annoyed to be stopped.

Racism appears to have been operative here, but I want to point out something else.  Being black is also a proxy for, “no one important”.  No one important is proxy for “as a cop or other authority figure I can do what I want to you.”

Sandra Bland clearly knew her rights.  Sandra Bland is dead.

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