Making Unique Observations in a Very Cluttered World

Friday, 31 October 2014

Men are getting fatter because of hormones in plastic and soy, study claims -

Men are getting fatter because of hormones in plastic and soy, study claims - 

Scientists have claimed that the obesity epidemic in the western world could be caused in part by exposure to oestrogen, a female sex hormone.

Exposure to extra oestrogen inhibits the thyroid and affects areas of the brain, leading to more weight gain.

The authors, from the University of Adelaide's School of Medical Sciences noticed that in Western societies the rates of obesity in men is much closer to women than in the third world.

They believe that men are slowly becoming 'feminised' by contact with oestrogen, found for example in the PVC used to make water pipes, and this could even explain the drop in sperm counts amongst Western men.

Study author and medical student James Grantham compared obesity rates among men and women from around the world with measures such as Gross Domestic Product to determine the impact of affluence on obesity. 

He found that while it was normal for women in the developing world to have significantly greater levels of obesity than men, the developed world offers quite a different picture.

He said: "Hormonally driven weight gain occurs more significantly in females than in males, and this is very clear when we look at the rates of obesity in the developing world.

"However, in the Western world, such as in the United States, Europe and Australia, the rates of obesity between men and women are much closer. 

"In some Western nations, male obesity is greater than female obesity.

"While poor diet is no doubt to blame, we believe there is more to it than simply a high calorific intake." 

Co-author Professor Maciej Henneberg added: "Exposure to oestrogen is known to cause weight gain, primarily through thyroid inhibition and modulation of the hypothalamus. 

"Soy products contain xenoestrogens, and we are concerned that in societies with a high dietary saturation of soy, such as the United States, this could be working to 'feminise' the males. 

"This would allow men in those communities to artificially imitate the female pattern of weight gain.

"Another well-established source of xenoestrogen is polyvinyl chloride, known as PVC. This product is in prominent use in most wealthy countries, from plastic medical devices to piping for our water supplies.

"Micro-evolutionary changes may be occurring within Western societies that could also be leading to changes in testosterone and oestrogen in men. 

"This would certainly explain the various concerns about sperm count reductions among men in developed nations." 


90 Pounds of Cocaine Found on Cargo Ship Owned by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s Father-in-Law -

90 Pounds of Cocaine Found on Cargo Ship Owned by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s Father-in-Law - 

Though Foremost has played a pivotal role in McConnell’s life, bestowing the senator with most of his personal wealth and generating thousands in donations to his campaign committees, the drug bust went unnoticed in Kentucky, where every bit of McConnell-related news has generated fodder for the campaign trail. That’s because, like many international shipping companies, Chao’s firm is shrouded from public view, concealing its identity and limiting its legal liability through an array of tax shelters and foreign registrations. Registered through a limited liability company in the Marshall Islands, the Ping May flies the Liberian flag.
From the Nation article: Mitch McConnell’s Freighted Ties to a Shadowy Shipping Company

Well this is interesting. Particularly with the Senate Majority Leader (and major Republican establishment crony) fighting for his life in the Kentucky Senate race.

From the Nation:

Before the Ping May, a rusty cargo vessel, could disembark from the port of Santa Marta en route to the Netherlands in late August, Colombian inspectors boarded the boat and made a discovery. Hidden in the ship’s chain locker, amidst its load of coal bound for Europe, were approximately 40 kilograms, or about 90 pounds, of cocaine. A Colombian Coast Guard official told The Nation that there is an ongoing investigation.

The seizure of the narcotics shipment in the Caribbean port occurred far away from Kentucky, the state in which Senator Mitch McConnell is now facing a career-defining election. But the Republican Senate minority leader has the closest of ties to the owner of the Ping May, the vessel containing the illicit materials: the Foremost Maritime Corporation, a firm founded and owned by McConnell’s in-laws, the Chao family.

Though Foremost has played a pivotal role in McConnell’s life, bestowing the senator with most of his personal wealth and generating thousands in donations to his campaign committees, the drug bust went unnoticed in Kentucky, where every bit of McConnell-related news has generated fodder for the campaign trail. That’s because, like many international shipping companies, Chao’s firm is shrouded from public view, concealing its identity and limiting its legal liability through an array of tax shelters and foreign registrations. Registered through a limited liability company in the Marshall Islands, the Ping May flies the Liberian flag.

McConnell’s ties to the Chaos go back to the late 1980s, when James Chao began donating to the senator. In 1993, McConnell married James’s daughter, Elaine Chao, a Republican activist and then-former Reagan administration official who would later serve as Secretary ofLabor in the George W. Bush cabinet. James Chao emigrated to the United States from Taiwan, and founded the Foremost Maritime Corporation upon settling in New York. The company has grown significantly over the years, from acting as maritime agent during the Vietnam War to controlling a fleet of approximately 16 dry bulk cargo ships in operation today.

Nothing like a neo-feudal love story to make the eyes well up.

The firm, however, leaves a faint online trace. Foremost’s website FMCNY.com is blank. 

Records and court documents obtained by The Nation show that the ownership of the company’s vessels—with names such as Ping May, Soya May, Fu May, and Grain May—is obscured through a byzantine structure of tax entities. Most of Foremost’s vessels are flagged in Liberia, which ensures that crew members of Foremost’s ships work under Liberia’s maritime labor laws, which critics note allow for intimidation in the workplace and few protections for labor unions. In addition, a Liberian “flag of convenience” allows ship owners to pay lower tonnage taxes than ships that fly the U.S. flag. Maritime companies have increasingly used the Marshall Islands to register their vessels. The jurisdiction boasts of “no taxation, lax regulation, and no requirements for disclosure of many corporate details—even to the United States government,” according to a report in the World Policy Journal.

The recent seizure of cocaine on a Foremost coal ship came as authorities in Colombia have stepped up anti-drug trafficking enforcement in the region. The Nation spoke to Luis Gonzales, an official with the Colombian Coast Guard in Santa Marta, who told us that the Ping May’s crew were questioned as part of an ongoing investigation, but that no charges have yet been filed. His team found the cocaine in forty separate packages.

The Republican Senate minority leader’s personal wealth grew seven-fold over the last ten years thanks in large part to a gift given to him and his wife in 2008 from James Chao worth between $5 million and $25 million (Senate ethics forms require personal finance disclosures in ranges of amounts, rather than specific figures). The gift helped the McConnells after their stock portfolio dipped in the wake of the financial crisis that year, and ensured they could pay off more than $100,000 in mortgage debt on their Washington home.

The generous gift made McConnell one of the wealthiest members of the Senate, with a net worth averaging around $22.8 million, according to the Washington Post’s review of his financial disclosures.

Just in case you didn’t think these sorts of relationships have a direct effect on U.S. foreign policy, think again…

The ties between McConnell and his in-laws have come under scrutiny before. In 2001, they were probed in depth by The New Republic in an article that charged that McConnell led an effort to soften his party’s criticism of China. Through James Chao, who was a classmate of Jiang Zemin, the president of China in the 90s, McConnell and his wife met with Jiang several times, both in Beijing and in Washington. McConnell subsequently tempered his criticism of Chinese human rights abuses, and broke with hawks like Senator Jesse Helms to support Most Favored Nation trading status with China. 

As Foremost established closer ties with mainland China, McConnell endorsed the position that the United States should remain “ambiguous” about coming to the defense of Taiwan. In 1999, McConnell and his wife appeared at the University of Louisville with Chinese Ambassador Li Zhaoxing. Li used the opportunity to bash congressional leaders for rebuking China over its repression of the Falun Gong religious sect. “Any responsible government will not foster evil propensities of cults by being over-lenient,” Li reportedly said at the event with McConnell and Chao. Rather than distance himself from the remarks, McConnell reportedly spoke about his “good working relationship” with Li.

Requests for comment to the McConnell team about the Ping May cocaine incident have gone unanswered.

McConnell has positioned himself over the years as a tough on drugs politician. In 1996, McConnell was the sole sponsor of the Enhanced Marijuana Penalties Act, a bill to increase the mandatory minimum sentencing for those caught with certain amounts of marijuana. Apress release noted that his bill would make “penalties for selling marijuana comparable to those for selling heroin and cocaine.”

In recent weeks, McConnell has touted his role in calling for more federal money to be used for drug enforcement.

Readers of Liberty Blitzkrieg will know that I do not think there is such a thing as a “victimless crime,” and I am completely against the government led “war on drugs,” “war on terrorism” and “war on poverty.” Whenever the state declares “war” on something, you naturally get more of it.

All that said, the article above gives voters some important information on McConnell, particularly with regard to how the source of his wealth and his family ties actively impact his policy choices in Washington.

Like the Democratic Party leadership, the Republican Party establishment consists of a cadre of cronies merely trying to enrich themselves. McConnell is a huge part of the problem, and the American public should know more about him.


Wednesday, 29 October 2014

Lake Tahoe Park Officials Warn Hikers To Stop Taking Selfies With Wild Bears -

Lake Tahoe Park Officials Warn Hikers To Stop Taking Selfies With Wild Bears - 

Hike into most California state parks and you’ll be greeted by a slew of signs asking visitors not to feed wild animals. Now, parks officials in South Lake Tahoe are upping their warning: don’t take selfies with bears.
Taylor Creek Visitor Center staff say guests are getting too close to bears to take pictures, leading the US Forest Service to issue advisories warning visitors to keep a distance from the animals.

 “Bears are unpredictable, wild animals and may attack if threatened,” forest Supervisor Nancy Gibson told CBS Sacramento.
And if a bear attacks a human, it may be captured and killed.
Taylor Creek typically sees an increase in bears gathering for the kokanee salmon spawning season, which make their annual swim through the creek.
If the problem continues, park officials have threatened to close off the visitors center.


Need a snuggle? Uber delivers kittens on demand -

Need a snuggle? Uber delivers kittens on demand - 

Cuddly kittens got busted Wednesday at the security desk of the Washington Post.

The Express decided to try out Uber’s Wednesday-only offer to pay $30 to have a kitten delivered to you for 15 minutes of snuggling. The delivery seemed to not be a problem: Two kittens, Sneezy and Sleepy, showed up in a crate at The Washington Post’s main lobby, according to pictures from our Express colleagues.

But apparently The Post’s security wouldn’t let them inside the offices, according to Holley Simmons, dining editor at The Washington Post Express.

She told us in an e-mail “security wouldn’t let us take Sneezy and Sleepy up to our office.”

It was not immediately clear why the fur balls weren’t allowed into the office.

Simmons said that at the end of the 15-minute kitten snuggle time, Uber took the little ones back.

Uber is running its kitten promotion Wednesday from noon to 4 p.m. in seven cities, including D.C. The six other cities — New York, Chicago, Austin, Phoenix, San Francisco and Seattle. But in New York, they say, kittens can be delivered only to offices.

Uber states on its blog, “Once the kittens arrive, you and your friends will get to enjoy 15 minutes of kitten cuteness!” And it gives a tip — “make sure to have an enclosed space purrrfect for playtime!”

Most of the kittens are eligible for adoption — although it is doubtful you can keep them under your cubicle for the rest of the day. Participants are advised to ask the kitten delivery person for more details on adopting the fur balls.

The money from the publicity stunt goes to local shelters participating in the event.


Alan Greenspan: QE Failed To Help The Economy, The Unwind Will Be Painful, "Buy Gold" -

Alan Greenspan: QE Failed To Help The Economy, The Unwind Will Be Painful, "Buy Gold" - 

It appears it is time for some Hillary-Clinton-esque backtracking and Liesman-esque translation of just what the former Federal Reserve Chief really meant... As The Wall Street Journal reports, the Fed chief from 1987 to 2006 says the Fed's bond-buying program fell short of its goals... and had a lot more to add...

Mr. Greenspan’s comments to the Council on Foreign Relations came as Fed officials were meeting in Washington, D.C., and expected to announce within hours an end to the bond purchases.

He said the bond-buying program was ultimately a mixed bag. He said that the purchases of Treasury and mortgage-backed securities did help lift asset prices and lower borrowing costs. But it didn’t do much for the real economy.

“Effective demand is dead in the water” and the effort to boost it via bond buying “has not worked,” said Mr. Greenspan. Boosting asset prices, however, has been “a terrific success.”


He observed that history shows central banks can only prick bubbles at great economic cost. “It’s only by bringing the economy down can you burst the bubble,” and that was a step he wasn't willing to take while helming the Fed, he said.


The question of when officials should begin raising interest rates is “one of those questions I cannot answer,” Mr. Greenspan said.

He also said, “I don’t think it’s possible” for the Fed to end its easy-money policies in a trouble-free manner....

"Recent episodes in which Fed officials hinted at a shift toward higher interest rates have unleashed significant volatility in markets, so there is no reason to suspect that the actual process of boosting rates would be any different, Mr. Greenspan said.


“I think that real pressure is going to occur not by the initiation by the Federal Reserve, but by the markets themselves,” Mr. Greenspan he said.
And finally - while CNBC's audience is told what a terrible thing gold is, "The Maestro" believes otherwise...

Mr. Greenspan said gold is a good place to put money these days given its value as a currency outside of the policies conducted by governments.


Friday, 24 October 2014

Sunlight is key to fighting childhood obesity and diabetes -

Sunlight is key to fighting childhood obesity and diabetes - 

A natural gas called nitric oxide, which is released by the skin after exposure to sunlight, helps people to control their metabolism and slow weight gain.

Rubbing a cream containing nitric oxide on to the skin can have the same effect, experts from the University of Edinburgh have found.

The discovery could lead to a treatment that halts the progress of Type 2 diabetes, which is fuelled by obesity and an unhealthy lifestyle and costs the NHS £9billion a year.

Scientists from Edinburgh and Southampton, led by colleagues at the Telethon Kids Institute in Perth, Western Australia, found applying nitric oxide to the skin of overfed mice had the same effect of curbing weight gain as exposing them to ultra-violet light.

The mice displayed fewer warning signs of diabetes, such as abnormal glucose levels and resistance to insulin.

The findings, published in the journal Diabetes, show the benefits of moderate exposure to the sun’s rays.

Dr Richard Weller, senior lecturer in dermatology at the University of Edinburgh, said: “We know sun-seekers live longer than those who spend their lives in the shade. Studies such as this are helping us to understand how the sun can be good for us. We need to remember that skin cancer is not the only disease that can kill us and should perhaps balance our advice on sun exposure.”

Previous studies have shown that nitric oxide can lower blood pressure after exposure to ultra-violet lamps.


Tuesday, 14 October 2014

Lost parrot that spoke with perfect British accent returned -- but now speaks Spanish! -

Lost parrot that spoke with perfect British accent returned -- but now speaks Spanish! - 

Long gone: African grey parrot Nigel, pictured, had been without his British owner for four years and had picked up Spanish instead

A British-sounding parrot called Nigel went missing for four years - and came home with a Spanish accent.
Nigel, who lived in Torrance, California with his British owner, Darren Chick, flew away one day in 2010, and was gone so long he was given up for lost. 
But, in a case of mistaken identity, Nigel was returned to another pet owner, who was also looking for their African grey parrot, and was able to pass him on to Chick.

Long gone: African grey parrot Nigel, pictured, had been without his British owner for four years and had picked up Spanish instead
However, during his long absence, Nigel had forgotten all about his British roots - and started speaking Spanish.
Rather than swapping pleasantries in English, the bird now fires off a '¿Que pasa?' to passing humans, the Daily Breeze reported.

After Nigel went missing, he lived in the wild - presumably around Torrance - until he was found a few months ago by a local business owner, Julissa Sperling.
After hearing Nigel making noise outside her house, she took him in and searched for potential owners. Instead of his actual owner, she found an ad put out by Teresa Micco, a local vet.
When the mistake emerged, Micco noticed that Nigel had a microchip, and used it to find Chick and reunite the two. 
Sperling, a Panamanian who speaks Spanish, said Nigel might have picked up some of her phrases while waiting in the shop.

Coastal: Nigel went missing in the California town of Torrance, near Los Angeles
She said: 'He was the happiest bird. He was singing and talking without control. He was barking like the dogs. I'm from Panama and he was saying, "What happened?" in Spanish.'
However, when Sperling handed Nigel over to Teresa Micco, a local vet, she realized he wasn't the right bird.
Micco had been searching for her own African grey parrot, Benjamin, who flew away this February.
But Micco was able to track down Chick with information from Nigel's microchip, and brought him home shortly after taking him in.
She said: 'I introduced myself and said, "Have you lost a bird?" He initially said no. But he thought I meant recently.'
When she verified Chick's name and said she had his African grey parrot, 'He looked at me like I was crazy.'
Chick says last week's reunion brought tears of joy to his eyes - despite the fact that Nigel bit him when he first tried to pick him up.
He said: 'He's doing perfect. It's really weird. I knew it was him from the minute I saw him.'
Nigel is the fifth parrot guided home by Micco, who has been running ads for her own missing bird for nine months.

Read more: - 

Saturday, 11 October 2014

Ahead of Halloween, the Sun Resembles a Jack-O’-Lantern -

Ahead of Halloween, the Sun Resembles a Jack-O’-Lantern - 

The sun is in the Halloween spirit early this year.

Scientists at NASA have combined images of the active regions of the sun from Oct. 8, to create a composite photo making the sun look like a jack-o’-lantern. “The active regions appear brighter because those are areas that emit more light and energy—markers of an intense and complex set of magnetic fields hovering in the sun’s atmosphere, the corona,” NASA describes on its website.

The images they used are of two sets of light wavelengths, one at 171 and one at 193 angstroms, typically colorized in gold and yellow, respectively.

According to NASA, specialized instruments  are used to observe light not visible to the naked eye. Extreme ultraviolet light of 171 angstroms can show the sun’s atmosphere, or corona, when it’s quiet. It also shows giant magnetic arcs known as coronal loops. Light of 193 angstroms shows a slightly hotter region of the corona, and also the much hotter material of a solar flare.


Thursday, 9 October 2014

Sounds like the start to a good joke - A Horse walks into Cheshire police headquarters... -

Sounds like the start to a good joke - A Horse walks into Cheshire police headquarters... - 

It sounds like the start of a joke but a horse really did walk into a Cheshire police station early on Monday morning.
The noble steed, who lives in a nearby field, ambled into the force's headquarters in Winsford, much to the surprise of security staff.
A Cheshire Constabulary spokesman said the animal was "quickly escorted" back, adding: "We like to ensure a warm welcome to all our guests at HQ and at neigh point did the horse pose a risk to security!"
This footage has no sound.


49 Brilliant uses for your Smartphone's Camera -

49 Brilliant uses for your Smartphone's Camera - 

I recently read an article about 10 Snapshots You Should Keep In Your Smartphone’s Photo Album that I thought was pretty interesting. But what was fascinating was all the OTHER great ideas I got for using my phone’s camera from the comments! I spent all afternoon reading and digesting them all and decided I would take my favorites and share them with you.

If you’re like me you already use your smartphone to keep notes and lists of things you want to remember…but today I realized not only is my camera phone faster and more accurate than taking notes…..the number of things it can help me keep track of is life-changing! :-)

Camera phone tips 
49 Brilliant Uses For Your Smartphone’s Camera

Take pictures of credit cards, front and back, and store them in a “locker” app on your phone. Whenever buying something on the internet you won’t have to take out your wallet, just take a look at the pic. (Click here for Android.)
Keep a photograph of your driver’s license and/or passport identification page in a “locker” app on your phone.
OR…..take a picture of your wallet opened, showing just enough of each card so you can identify what cards are in there in case it’s ever stolen and you have to call the credit card companies.
Snap a photo of your license plate for use when you are at the DMV or filling out a form for a parking pass. I can NEVER remember my license plate number when I need it! :-)

Camera phone tips 
If you keep a dry erase or chalk board in the kitchen to write down stuff you are out of, instead of transcribing the list to take to the store, simply snap a photo of it!
When grocery shopping for a recipe, snap a photo of the ingredients list before you leave the house for easy access.
Pictures of labels from wine bottles that you’ve tried and loved at a party or a restaurant.
Instead of searching for paper and pen when you see a recipe in a magazine or on TV that you like, snap a picture!

Camera phone tips 
Keep a photo of your pet and their ID/vet tags. That way you don’t have to carry the originals, and you can report it immediately if your kitty or puppy goes missing.
Reward program cards with membership numbers.
Meeting agendas and menus to text to latecomers (e.g. here’s what you’re missing, and can I order something for you?)

Camera phone tips 
Photos of playlists that you like from other iPhones/iPods.
Take pictures of furnishings you are thinking of getting (ideally with price tag showing) to run past a friend or partner for second opinions.
Speaking of furnishings…take photos of the stockroom info tags at IKEA – no golf pencil required.
To go along with IKEA stops, if you keep a picture of the dimensions of the tailgate of your car you’ll know what will fit, and what won’t.

Camera phone tips 
Snap a picture of your kids when you are heading out to a crowded amusement park, mall, sporting event, etc. so that if anyone gets separated you will have an accurate description of exactly what they’re wearing.
A lot of people use their phone’s camera along with Evernote for the ultimate organization. The combination of a camera phone coupled with an App called Camscanner lets you capture anything in a photo and turn it into a PDF file. Send the PDF to your Evernote account, which has OCR, and then you can search for any word in the capture.

Camera phone tips 
When walking through the bookstore, take photos of books you may want to check out from the library.
Snap a photo of your printer cartridges, making sure you can see the model numbers.
Take a screen shot of your iCE – In Case of Emergency – Contact Information and make it the lockscreen of your phone. That way, if you’re in an accident, and incapacitated, someone can easily get to your iCE info.
Keep a photo of your home’s wireless name and password to text to visitors.

Camera phone tips 
In case of a minor fender bender in rush hour traffic, pull out your phone, document the damage, snap pictures of insurance cards and drivers license info and get back on our way. Could help avoid a much more serious situation.
Keep a photo of the ever-changing monthly class schedule at your local spa, gym, recreation center, etc.
Take a picture of all of your appliances, including the manufacturers logos and serial numbers, for future service calls.
Take a picture of the cable placement on any audio/video gear before unplugging anything!

Camera phone tips 
Take pictures of tags on clothing, bar codes, product info etc. You can often find the exact same thing online for a cheaper price.
When traveling to remote areas where it’s likely there will be “No Service” or where roaming is expensive, screenshot online map routes and save them to your phone so they will be accessible offline as well.
When renting a car, take a picture of the car and its license plate. This helps when checking in at a hotel and registering the car, not to mention finding it when you have forgotten what the car looks like!
Take pictures of each room for insurance purposes in the event of theft, fire, or other disaster.
Take pictures of your favorite makeup and hair products (including names and shades) to make it easier when shopping to replace them.

Camera phone tips 
Take pictures of the business hours posted on the door of places you go to occasionally, like the library, post office, etc.
Keep a running Shopping or To Do list while at work on a pad of paper, then before you leave, snap a photo and put it as your screensaver. Instant list that can’t be lost or misplaced!
Snap a picture of the class list on the 1st day of school to help learn your child’s classmates’ names.

Camera phone tips 
Document lovely gardens, interesting yard art, and holiday decorations you drive by to try and duplicate at your own home.
When you find a great artist on Pandora or Spotify, take a screenshot for reference later.
When traveling out of the country, take a screenshot of a currency converter “cheat sheet.”
When buying from a bulk bin at the grocery store, snap a picture of the cooking instructions (for grains or beans).
When you have time, take pictures of yourself trying on different outfits in your closet for mornings when you can’t figure out what to wear!

Camera phone tips 
Take a picture of your spice drawer or rack before heading out to restock so you don’t end up with 5 bottles of dill weed and no cinnamon!
For students:  Take pictures of that particular nights homework assignment so you don’t have to pack all your books home.
Also for students:  If your teachers occasionally “misplace” school papers that you know you have turned in…start taking pictures of your homework before you hand it in and don’t delete it until you get the paper back with a grade on it! Brilliant!
When shopping with the kids, take pics of the toys they want for Christmas or their birthday. Then later they can go through the pictures in your phone and make their lists.
Take a picture of all the hardware and software specifications on your computer screen and save on your phone.

Camera phone tips 
When moving from one apartment/home to another, take pictures of your wall groupings so you can remember how you had them hanging, and can duplicate them in your new place.
Take pictures of your friends with the stuff they borrow from you so you’ll remember who has what.

Camera phone tips 
And last but not least….a few more that just plain made me laugh! ;-)

Take a picture of your coat check ticket (especially if you plan on drinking…)
Take pictures of “Help Wanted” signs to send to your kids.
Before leaving the house for a trip, take a photo of your stove in the “OFF” position for those moments when you freak out, wondering if you left it on.
Keep a copy of your best “selfie” shot for emergency updates to your Facebook profile.


Wednesday, 8 October 2014

China's Economy Just Overtook The U.S. In One Key Measure - GDP is worth $17.6 T vs $17.4 T for the US -

China's Economy Just Overtook The U.S. In One Key Measure - GDP is worth $17.6 T vs $17.4 T for the US - 

This was inevitable, but it still feels momentous: By one important measure, China's economy is now the biggest in the world, topping the United States.
China's gross domestic product is worth $17.6 trillion, adjusted for China's relatively low cost of living, compared with $17.4 trillion for the U.S., the International Monetary Fund estimated as part of its latest World Economic Outlook. Here's how that looks in chart form:
china gdp
Note the chart extends to 2018. The IMF expects this trend to continue indefinitely. (h/t to Business Insider for the news and the idea to use Google Public Data's amazing charts.)
Here's another way of looking at it -- China's share of the global economy is now slightly bigger than America's, at 16.5 percent to 16.3 percent:
china share
It's important to note that these figures are adjusted for the relative costs of living in both countries, known to fancy economists as "purchasing power parity." It's something economists do to try to make comparisons between countries more fair. It is crazy cheap to live in China and crazy expensive to live in the U.S., so a trillion U.S. dollars are worth a lot more in China than in the U.S.
And that has something to do with the fact that China is manipulating its currency to be worth much less than the dollar. It does this to help make Chinese stuff cheaper than U.S. stuff on the global market. American politicians regularly pretend to be super angry about this, but don't much mind getting all the cheap Chinese stuff. And China's booming factory sector has, in turn, helped make China's economy rapidly get bigger and bigger.
In terms of sheer size, however -- meaning, not adjusted for costs of living -- the U.S. economy still dwarfs China's, at $17.4 trillion to $10.4 trillion:
absolute dollars
GDP breaks down to nearly $55,000 per capita per year in the U.S., compared with less than $8,000 per person in China:
per capita
Again, though, that $8,000 goes a long way.

Read  more - 

Monday, 6 October 2014

The US government is spending 1/2 million dollars to find out why obese teenage girls have a hard time getting dates -

The US government is spending 1/2 million dollars to find out why obese teenage girls have a hard time getting dates - 

The federal government is spending nearly a half a million dollars to find out why obese teenage girls have a hard time getting dates.

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) awarded a $466,642 grant last week for the study, which will examine whether social skills have an impact on why obese girls have fewer dating experiences than their less obese counterparts.

“Mounting evidence demonstrates that weight influences intimate (i.e., dating and sexual) relationship formation and sexual negotiations among adolescent girls,” the grant’s abstract states. “Obese girls consistently report having fewer dating and sexual experiences, but more sexual risk behaviors (i.e., condom nonuse) once they are sexually active.”

“The conceptual framework that has guided this research presumes that differences in the social skills for relating to peers and intimate partners along with differences in the relationship experiences of obese and non-obese girls account for these differences,” it said.

“However, no studies have actually examined whether the interpersonal skills and intimate relationships of obese and non-obese girls differ.”

Professors at the Magee-Womens Research Institute and Foundation in Pittsburgh will try to answer this question over the next four years. The end date for the project is listed as May 2018.

The study will specifically look at whether overweight teen girls develop relationship skills later in life, and will compare their “trajectories of romantic and sexual relationship characteristics” with others. The researchers will also contrast “obese and non-obese African American and White adolescent girls.”

The grant called the project “innovative.”


Radioactive reindeer on rise in Norway... -

Radioactive reindeer on rise in Norway... - 

Much higher levels of radioactivity than normal have been found among Norway's grazing animals, especially its reindeer population, a study revealed on Monday.

Almost 30 years after the nuclear plant explosion in Chernobyl, this autumn, more radioactivity has been measured in Norwegian grazing animals than has been noted in many years.

Lavrans Skuterud, a scientist at the Norwegian Radiation Protection Authority (Statens strålevern), said: “This year is extreme.”

In September, 8200 becquerel per kilo of the radioactive substance Caesium-137 was measured in reindeer from Våga reinlag AS, in Jotunheimen, central Norway.

In comparison, the highest amount at the same place was 1500 becquerel among the reindeer in September 2012.

The research also measured radioactivity in Norwegian sheep this year.

Both in Valdres in southwest Norway and Gudbrandsdalen in southeast Norway, 4500 becquerel per kilo meat from sheep was measured at most.

600 becquerel per kilo is the safe limit allowed for sheep meat to be sold for human consumption.

The Radiation Protection scientist is quite certain about the cause.

Lavrans Skuterud said: “This year, there has been extreme amounts of mushroom. In addition, the mushroom season has lasted for a long time. And the mushroom has grown very high up on the mountains.”

Especially the gypsy mushroom (Cortinarius Caperatus) has been a problem. This is a good food mushroom, both for people and animals. But it has one bad trait: It can absorb a lot of radioactivity.

Skuterud is still surprised by the high levels this year.

He reminds that: “The Chernobyl accident happened in 1986. It is nearly 30 years ago.”

The nuclear reactor of Chernobyl was made to be cheap and effective in its operation, but was regrettably also basically unstable, and one day in spring of 1986, everything went wrong.

Caesium-137 has a physical half-life of 30 years. This means that in two years, half of the radioactive dust that came in over Norway after the dramatic spring night in 1986, will be gone.

Skuterud explained: “The level of [radioactivity] in the environment still decreases faster than this. Some of it is washed out and most of it is bound to the soil. Only a small part of it is in circulation throughout the food chain. When we watch the values in the grazing animals in autumn, it bounces up and down, and it seems to be everlasting. But the winter values in reindeer luckily show a stable decrease.”

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Now this is how a street fight should go down in Australia - Two Kangaroos face off in an epic street fight video -

Now this is how a street fight should go down in Australia.

Two kangaroos duked it out in a residential area in New South Wales recently and the bout was caught on video, according to News.com.au.

The two animals throw punches, push and use their tails to hold them up while they kick each other.

It is unclear why the two animals were fighting.

Friday, 3 October 2014

Your Baby Looks Like Your Ex—Shocking New Research Shows Previous Partners' Sperm May Lurk Inside You -

Your Baby Looks Like Your Ex—Shocking New Research Shows Previous Partners' Sperm May Lurk Inside You - 

If you were to spend time in a maternity ward listening to proud new parents, you’d definitely hear them discussing their offspring’s genetic heritage. Does the new baby have her eyes or his? Could that be great Uncle Charlie’s nose? What you won’t often witness is the father turning tenderly to the mother and murmuring, “Hey, he looks just like Phil! You know, your ex? With the motorbike, and sociopathic tendencies?” But new research suggests that this scenario is more plausible than it sounds.

It has been shown that newborns may resemble a mother’s previous sexual partner, after  scientists at the University of South Wales observed an instance of telegony – physical traits of previous sexual partners being passed down to future children.

The researchers found that, for fruit flies, the size of the offspring matched the size of the first male the mother mated with – not its biological father. It is thought that molecules of the semen produced by the first partner might be absorbed by the mother’s immature eggs.

“We don’t know yet whether this applies to other species,” explains author of the study, Dr. Angela Crean. Too late, Dr Crean! I’m already working my way through a mental Powerpoint presentation of my exes and trying to work out whether I can travel back in time with a box of Durex.

The idea of our unborn children resembling partners past might initially fill us with horror, no matter how amicably your relationship ended. Your ex is not supposed to lurk inside you, waiting to burst forth in miniature form. This idea is scarier than Alien.

I’m sure plenty of prospective mothers feel incredibly guilty about the fact that they might be, unwittingly, about to fill the world with children who blow their nose on their sleeves, claim they have a moral objection to booking restaurants, and pronounce the eighth letter of the alphabet “haitch”.

However, if the hypothesis holds, it might not be entirely bad news. Whether we like it or not, the people we choose to date, and sleep with, reflect something of ourselves. It’s easy to write off past relationships in the same way we shudder at old pictures in which you’re wearing embellished, stonewashed denim. “Past me was such an idiot!” I often think. “I’m much wiser now.” But we ought to give our old selves more credit for doing what seemed right at the time – or at least acknowledge the fact that every decision which feels right now could seem just as foolish in five years.

If your children do share some traits with your former partners, it probably only shows the way that you were previously nurtured affects their nature. You’re human, and just as you’ll face difficult choices and make mistakes after they’re born, the way you behaved before they were born could impact on them too. Essentially, you have to accept that your old partners had admirable qualities which drew you to them in the first place, and that you’d be happy to pass them on to a child - or you have to admit that your current partner might also have bad qualities, and you’d be better off if you didn’t have children with anyone.

Despite the fact there’s still no solid evidence that the study applies to human reproduction, small children and exes can be equally irritating. You might, sleep deprived and frazzled, look at the freshly bathed toddler who has just started to massage their scalp with spaghetti hoops and think, “My ex used to make me feel this weepy and panicky! This must be his baby!” – when they don’t really have anything in common, just that your former partner used to act like a big baby and your infant child actually is one.


Wednesday, 1 October 2014

Public Health Agency of Canada deletes information from its website that indicated the “airborne spread” of Ebola -

Public Health Agency of Canada deletes information from its website that indicated the “airborne spread” of Ebola - 

The Public Health Agency of Canada has deleted information from its official website which indicated that the “airborne spread” of Ebola was strongly suspected by health authorities, amidst efforts by officials in Texas to calm concerns about the first outbreak of the virus in America.

The image below shows the original Public Health Agency of Canada website’s information page on the Ebola virus as it appeared on August 20th compared to how it appears now.

Under a section entitled “mode of transmission,” the original text stated that, “airborne spread among humans is strongly suspected, although it has not yet been conclusively demonstrated.”

However, the amended text states that, “airborne transmission has not been demonstrated between non-human primates.”

Both passages refer to a 2012 study by Canadian scientists which indicated that the Ebola virus could be transmitted by air between different species.

“Researchers from the Canadian Food Inspection Agency and the country’s Public Health Agency have shown that pigs infected with this form of Ebola can pass the disease on to macaques without any direct contact between the species,” reported BBC News.

Although there is no confirmation that Ebola has gone airborne, Michael T. Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota, acknowledged in a recent New York Times op-ed that virologists are “loath to discuss openly but are definitely considering in private” the possibility that Ebola has gone airborne.

Some have questioned why hundreds of health workers have become sick and died from Ebola given that they take extreme precautions to avoid bodily contact with victims.


Britons spend more on drugs and prostitutes than on beer and wine -

Britons spend more on drugs and prostitutes than on beer and wine - 

Britons spend more on drugs and prostitutes than on beer and wine, the first official study of money spent on "illegal" activities has found.
The figures were disclosed in data today that showed a 2.2 per cent rise in the amount of money spent by families over the past year as the economy returned to health.
The Office for National Statistics, which tracks changes in spending habits across the country, found miscreants spent an enormous £12.3 billion last year on illegal substances and sexual gratification. This was more than the amount spent on wine and beer in 2013, which was just under £11 billion, according to the ONS data.
The statistics body been forced by the European Union to investigate the amount of money splurged on illegal drugs and prostitution. Today was its final deadline to publicise the findings, which are now included in the national accounts. The EU said such work was necessary to create a fair comparison of different national economies.
David Matthewson, a statistician at the ONS, said: "For a long time we have made adjustments to our calculations to account for smuggling, and some of that would have included alcohol and other substances. But smuggling, of course, is not as commonplace as it once was. This was the first time we have allowed spending on narcotic drugs and prostitution into our calculations for the economy.

"As might be expected, data on this sort of activity is not exactly forthcoming, so we used a number of previous studies which looked at different elements of the equation, from the number of prostitutes in the UK to price at which drugs are bought."
The ONS estimated that including spending on drugs such as cocaine and heroin in the national accounts would add £6.7 billion a year to spending across the UK. The figure was an estimated based on data covering the period between 1997 and 2013 from various sources, including the Home Office and a study undertaken by the United Nations.


US National Institutes of Health spent $2 million to get elderly to join choirs -

US National Institutes of Health spent $2 million to get elderly to join choirs - 

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has spent more than $2 million to promote how joining a community choir can be beneficial to older adults.

The government is currently financing a five-year project that is recruiting 450 “minority elders” to participate in choirs at senior centers in San Francisco.

The premise of the study, entitled, “Community Choirs to Promote Healthy Aging and Independence of Older Adults,” is that the country is facing a demographic crisis and needs to prepare for a larger elderly population.

“The United States is experiencing a rapid increase in the number of older adults. In 2009, there were 39.6 million individuals over age 65, and this number is expected to almost double by 2030,” the NIH grant states. “During the same time period, there will be an increase in the number of older adults with diverse racial/ethnic and socioeconomic status (SES) backgrounds who are at increased risk for poor health outcomes relative to non-minority elders.”

“Thus, there is an immediate need to identify cost-effective, widely applicable, and sustainable programs that promote health and well-being of older adults,” it said.


STUDY: Beer improves memory... -

STUDY: Beer improves memory... - 

Beer is better for the brain than you might believe. A new study finds the frothy beverage can improve memory.
A researcher at Oregon State Universtity points to a compound found in hops, one of the main ingredients in beer, improved cognitive function in a group of mice.
The mice were given large doses of xanthohumol, a flavinoid found in hops. Flavonoids are compounds found in plants that often give them their color.
Then the mice were run through a special maze to determine whether they showed signs of improved spacial memory and cognitive flexibility.
“Xanthohumol can speed the metabolism, reduce fatty acids in the liver and, at least with young mice, appeared to improve their cognitive flexibility, or higher level thinking,” reported Daniel Zamzow, with the University of Wisconsin. “Unfortunately it did not reduce palmitoylation in older mice, or improve their learning or cognitive performance, at least in the amounts of the compound we gave them.”
Lead study author Kathy Magnassun, a professor in the OSU Department of Biomedical Sciences, concludes the results suggest the diets of children can have an impact throughout their lives.
“This flavonoid and others may have a function in the optimal ability to form memories,” Magnusson suggested. “Part of what this study seems to be suggesting is that it’s important to begin early in life to gain the full benefits of healthy nutrition.”
The researchers point out that they gave the mice huge quantities of xanthohumol as dietary supplements and caution people shouldn’t start drinking lots of beer to improve their memories.
“A human would have to drink 2000 liters of beer a day to reach the xanthohumol levels we used in this research,” warned Magnussun.

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