Rising temperatures hinder Indian wheat production

Geographers at the University of Southampton have found a link between increasing average temperatures in India and a reduction in wheat production.Researchers Dr John Duncan, Dr Jadu Dash and Professor Pete Atkinson have shown that recent warmer temperatures in the country’s major wheat belt are having a negative effect on crop yield. More specifically, they found a rise in nighttime temperatures is having the most impact.Dr Jadu Dash comments: “Our findings highlight the vulnerability of India’s wheat production system to temperature rise, which is predicted to continue in the coming decades as a consequence of climate change. We are sounding an early warning to the problem, which could have serious implications in the future and so needs further investigation.”The researchers used satellite images taken at weekly intervals from 2002 to 2007 of the wheat growing seasons to measure ‘vegetation greenness’ of the crop — acting as an indicator of crop yield. The satellite imagery, of the north west Indo-Gangetic plains, was taken at a resolution of 500m squared — high enough to capture variations in local agricultural practices. The data was then compared with climate and temperature information for the area to examine the effect on growth and development of the crop.The study, published in the journal Global Change Biology, found that:warmer temperature events have reduced crop yield in particular, warmer temperatures during the reproductive and grain-filling (ripening) periods had a significant negative impact on productivity warmer minimum daily temperatures (nighttime temperatures) had the most significant impact on yield In some areas of the Indian wheat belt, growers have been bringing forward their growing season in order to align the most sensitive point of the crop growth cycle with a cooler period. However, the researchers have also shown that in the long-term this will not be an effective way of combating the problem, because of the high level of average temperature rise predicted for the future.Dr Dash comments: “Our study shows that, over the longer period, farmers are going to have to think seriously about changing their wheat to more heat tolerant varieties in order to prevent temperature-induced yield losses.”Currently in India, 213 million people are food insecure and over 100 million are reliant on the national food welfare system, which uses huge quantities of wheat. This underlines how crucial it is to consider what types of wheat need to be grown in the coming decades to secure production.”We hope that soon, we will be able to examine agricultural practices in even greater detail — with the launch of the European Space Agency’s Sentinel satellites which will provide regular data at even higher spatial resolution.”Story Source:The above story is based on materials provided by University of Southampton. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

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Soccer-related facial fractures examined

Fractures of the nose and other facial bones are a relatively common and potentially serious injury in soccer players, reports a Brazilian study in Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery — Global Open , the official open-access medical journal of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS).On the eve of the 2014 World Cup, a group of Brazilian plastic surgeons review their experience with soccer-related facial fractures requiring surgery. Dr. Dov Charles Goldenberg, MD, PhD, of University of So Paulo and colleagues write, “Due to exposure and the lack of protection for the face, the occasional maxillofacial trauma sustained during soccer games often entails serious facial injuries requiring hospital admissions and invasive procedures.”Soccer Players at Risk of Nasal and Other Facial FracturesThe researchers assembled data on 45 patients undergoing surgical treatment for soccer-related facial fractures at two large university hospital centers in So Paulo between 2000 and 2013. The 45 soccer injuries accounted for two percent of surgically treated facial fractures during that time. Forty-four of the patients were male; the average age was 28 years. All of the injured players were amateurs.The nose and upper jaw (maxilla) accounted for 35 percent of fractures and the cheekbone (zygomatic bone) for another 35 percent. Most of the remaining fractures were of the lower jaw (mandible) and eye socket (orbit). Eighty-seven percent of the injuries were caused by collision with another player; the rest occurred when the player was struck by the ball.Nasal fractures were treated by repositioning (reducing) the fractured bones to their proper place and splinting until they healed. Other types of facial fractures required open surgery and internal fixation (plates, screws) to reposition the bones. The patients remained in the hospital for about five days on average, and were told they could return to play after six to eight weeks of healing.Emphasis on Awareness and Examination to Detect Soccer-Related FracturesThe results are consistent with previous studies of soccer-related facial injuries. …

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How Australia’s Outback got one million feral camels: Camels culled on large scale

A new study by a University of Exeter researcher has shed light on how an estimated one million-strong population of wild camels thriving in Australia’s remote outback have become reviled as pests and culled on a large scale.Sarah Crowley, of the Environment and Sustainability Institute at the University of Exeter’s Penryn Campus, explored the history of the camel in Australia, from their historic role helping to create the country’s infrastructure through to their current status as unwelcome “invader.”The deserts of the Australian outback are a notoriously inhospitable environment where few species can survive. But the dromedary camel (Camelus dromedarius) prospers where others perish, eating 80% of native plant species and obtaining much of their water through ingesting this vegetation.Yet for numerous Australians, particularly ranchers, conservation managers, and increasingly local and national governments, camels are perceived as pests and extreme measures — including shooting them with rifles from helicopters — are being taken to reduce their population.In her article, published in the journal Anthrozos, Crowley proposes that today’s Australian camels exemplify the idea of “animals out of place” and discusses how they have come to inhabit this precarious position.She said: “Reports estimate there are upwards of a million free-ranging camels in Australia and predict that this number could double every eight years. As their population burgeons, camels encroach more frequently upon human settlements and agricultural lands, raising their media profile and increasing local animosity toward them.”The camel was first brought to Australia in the 1800s when the country was in the midst of a flurry of colonial activity. The animals were recognized by pioneers as the most appropriate mode of transport for the challenging environment because they require significantly less water, feed on a wider variety of vegetation, and are capable of carrying heavier loads than horses and donkeys.Camels therefore played a significant role in the establishment of Australia’s modern infrastructure, including the laying of the Darwin-Adelaide Overland Telegraph Line and the construction of the Transnational Railway.Once this infrastructure was in place, however, and motorized transport became increasingly widespread, camels were no longer indispensable. In the early part of the 20th century they rapidly lost their economic value and their displaced handlers either shot their wards or released them into the outback where, quite discreetly, they thrived.It was not until the 1980s that surveys hinted at the true extent of their numbers, and only in 2001 that reports of damage caused by camels were brought to the general populace.Camels are not the most dainty of creatures. Dromedaries are on average six feet tall at the shoulder, rendering cattle fencing no particular obstacle to their movement. By some accounts, camels may not even see small fences and consequently walk straight through them.Groups of camels arriving on agricultural properties and settlements in Australia, normally in times of severe drought, can also cause significant damage in their search for water.In 2009, a large-scale culling operation began. There were objections from animal welfare groups and some landowners who were concerned that the method of culling from helicopters, leaving the bodies to waste, is inhumane. Most objectors, however, were primarily concerned that culling is economically wasteful and felt that the camels should be mustered for slaughter or export.There are also concerns regarding the global environment, as camels may contribute to the desertification of the Australian landscape. They are also ruminants and thus produce methane, adding to Australia’s carbon emissions. …

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Agroforestry systems can repair degraded watersheds

Agroforestry, combined with land and water management practices that increase agricultural productivity, can save watersheds from degradation.A study conducted by the World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF) in the Gabayan watershed in eastern Bohol, Philippines, has shown that agroforestry systems create a more sustainably managed watershed that allows people living there to benefit from the ecosystem. The benefits include higher crop yields, increased income and resilience to climate change.Agroforestry is an integrated land-use management technique that incorporates trees and shrubs with crops and livestock on farms.The study, called “Modeling the effects of adopting agroforestry on basin scale surface runoff and sediment yield in the Philippines,” uses a computer-based Soil and Water Assessment Tool (SWAT) to simulate the effects of different land uses on watershed hydrology and the ecosystem services provided by the Gabayan watershed. The tool predicts the environmental impact of land use, land management practices, and climate change.Watersheds are areas of land with streams and rivers that all drain into a larger body of water, such as a bigger river, a lake or an ocean. Watersheds not only supply water for domestic use but also provide a multitude of ecological and cultural services, including water for irrigation and industry, shelter, habitats for biodiversity and, in very poor areas, sources of livelihoods.Over the years, however, many watersheds throughout the world have suffered from intensive resource extraction and mismanagement. In countries like the Philippines, several watershed areas in the country are now degraded due to deforestation and soil erosion.The Gabayan watershed incorporates a heavily degraded, multi-use landscape covering over 5000 hectares hosting about 60,000 people whose livelihoods depend on subsistence agricultureFarmers here have reported environmental problems, such as floods, droughts, reductions in water quality and increases in soil erosion and downstream sedimentation of irrigation networks.”The degraded watershed has been largely deforested and replaced with extensive agricultural and grasslands over the last half century,” says David Wilson, the lead researcher. “It has disrupted the evenness of river flow, resulting in alternate flooding and drought episodes, an accelerated level of soil erosion as well as downstream sedimentation.”SWAT was used to simulate the impacts of current land-use practices and conservation agriculture with agroforestry in strategic locations. The study results showed a significant reduction in sediment yield (20%) and sediment concentration (35%)in the Gabayan watershed under agroforestry and conservation agriculture.The study was therefore able to provide scientific evidence that agroforestry, combined with improved land management practices, are an effective land-use strategy for the watersheds.”Specifically, the use of restored areas that have vegetation next to water resources and contour planting in grasslands appear to be the most effective techniques to reduce sediment transfer to the watershed river network,” says Wilson.Story Source:The above story is based on materials provided by World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF). Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

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Revolutionary solar cells double as lasers

Latest research finds that the trailblazing ‘perovskite’ material used in solar cells can double up as a laser, strongly suggesting the astonishing efficiency levels already achieved in these cells is only part of the journey.Commercial silicon-based solar cells — such as those seen on the roofs of houses across the country — operate at about 20% efficiency for converting the Sun’s rays into electrical energy. It’s taken over 20 years to achieve that rate of efficiency.A relatively new type of solar cell based on a perovskite material — named for scientist Lev Perovski, who first discovered materials with this structure in the Ural Mountains in the 19th century — was recently pioneered by an Oxford research team led by Professor Henry Snaith.Perovskite solar cells, the source of huge excitement in the research community, already lie just a fraction behind commercial silicon, having reached a remarkable 17% efficiency after a mere two years of research — transforming prospects for cheap large-area solar energy generation.Now, researchers from Professor Sir Richard Friend’s group at Cambridge’s Cavendish Laboratory — working with Snaith’s Oxford group — have demonstrated that perovskite cells excel not just at absorbing light but also at emitting it. The new findings, recently published online in the Journal of Physical Chemistry Letters, show that these ‘wonder cells’ can also produce cheap lasers.By sandwiching a thin layer of the lead halide perovskite between two mirrors, the team produced an optically driven laser which proves these cells “show very efficient luminescence” — with up to 70% of absorbed light re-emitted.The researchers point to the fundamental relationship, first established by Shockley and Queisser in 1961, between the generation of electrical charges following light absorption and the process of ‘recombination’ of these charges to emit light.Essentially, if a material is good at converting light to electricity, then it will be good at converting electricity to light. The lasing properties in these materials raise expectations for even higher solar cell efficiencies, say the Oxbridge team, which — given that perovskite cells are about to overtake commercial cells in terms of efficiency after just two years of development — is a thrilling prospect.”This first demonstration of lasing in these cheap solution-processed semiconductors opens up a range of new applications,” said lead author Dr Felix Deschler of the Cavendish Laboratory. “Our findings demonstrate potential uses for this material in telecommunications and for light emitting devices.”Most commercial solar cell materials need expensive processing to achieve a very low level of impurities before they show good luminescence and performance. Surprisingly these new materials work well even when very simply prepared as thin films using cheap scalable solution processing.The researchers found that upon light absorption in the perovskite two charges (electron and hole) are formed very quickly — within 1 picosecond — but then take anywhere up to a few microseconds to recombine. This is long enough for chemical defects to have ceased the light emission in most other semiconductors, such as silicon or gallium arsenide. “These long carrier lifetimes together with exceptionally high luminescence are unprecedented in such simply prepared inorganic semiconductors,” said Dr Sam Stranks, co-author from the Oxford University team.”We were surprised to find such high luminescence efficiency in such easily prepared materials. This has great implications for improvements in solar cell efficiency,” said Michael Price, co-author from the group in Cambridge.Added Snaith: “This luminescent behaviour is an excellent test for solar cell performance — poorer luminescence (as in amorphous silicon solar cells) reduces both the quantum efficiency (current collected) and also the cell voltage.”Scientists say that this new paper sets expectations for yet higher solar cell performance from this class of perovskite semiconductors. Solar cells are being scaled up for commercial deployment by the Oxford spin-out, Oxford PV Ltd. …

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For older drivers one drink may be one too many, study finds

You may have only had one glass of wine with dinner, but if you’re 55 or older, that single serving may hit you hard enough to make you a dangerous driver. So, baby boomers, what you suspected is true: you can’t party like you used to.Sara Jo Nixon, a professor in the departments of psychiatry and psychology at the University of Florida and doctoral candidate Alfredo Sklar tested how drinking legally non-intoxicating levels of alcohol affect the driving skills of two age groups: 36 people ages 25 to 35 and 36 people ages 55 to 70. They found that although neither age group imbibed enough alcohol to put them over the legal driving limit, a blood alcohol level of 0.08, just one drink can affect the driving abilities of older drivers.Based on the study findings published in the journal Psychopharmacology in February, the researchers say it could be time to reassess legal blood alcohol levels for all drivers.”These simulations have been used a lot in looking at older adults, and they have been used at looking how alcohol affects the driving of younger adults, but no one’s ever looked at the combination of aging drivers and alcohol,” Sklar said.The study is the latest in a body of work by Nixon and her team that looks at how even moderate doses of alcohol affect aging adults.At the beginning of the study, both groups completed a driving task completely sober. The task took the drivers down a simulated winding 3-mile stretch of country road. The drivers stared straight ahead at a large computer monitor. Two computer monitors flanked the first, mimicking the side windows of a car and what the drivers would see in their peripheral vision. A stereo system played driving sounds. A console included a steering wheel and brake and gas pedals. Occasionally, the drivers would encounter an oncoming car, but they did not encounter other distractions.”There wasn’t even a cow,” said Nixon, who also is co-vice chair and chief of the division of addiction research in the department of psychiatry in the UF College of Medicine and UF’s Evelyn F. and William L. …

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Sodabriety: Teens at risk for obesity switch from sugared drinks to water with peer intervention

Tucked neatly at the edge of rolling Appalachian foothills, the parking lot of a local high school is a meadow of flickering green ribbons tied to car antennas, reminding students about the dangers of drinking — drinking sugar-filled beverages, that is.The ribbons are part of a program developed by local teens and Laureen Smith, RN, PhD, a researcher from The Ohio State University, to help reduce the overconsumption of sugary drinks, which are closely linked to Appalachia’s glaring health disparities.”Teens that grow up in this region are ultimately more likely to die from cancer, diabetes and heart disease than any other place in the nation, and obesity is the common risk factor for all of those illnesses,” said Smith. “A child’s odds of becoming obese increases almost two times with each additional daily serving of a sugar sweetened drink, and Appalachian kids drink more of these types of beverages than kids in other parts of the country.”Dubbed “Sodabriety” — the teen-led program Smith helped create is trying to reverse that trend. The 30-day project asked groups of teens from two southern Ohio high schools to develop and then lead educational campaigns designed to convince their peers to reduce consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages like soda and tea, and to drink more unsweetened beverages. By the end of the program, not only did some teens completely give up sugared drinks, but water consumption nearly doubled.Smith, who was supported by funding from Ohio State’s Center for Clinical and Translational Science (CCTS), was inspired to start the “Sodabriety” project when previous research found that among teens in the area, the daily intake of sugared liquids equaled water consumption. Oversized drinks were particularly popular among the teens — many of who later admitted they had no idea the mega serving could add almost 500 calories to their daily intake.”Sugar sweetened beverages are the largest source of sugar in the American diet. For some teens, they account for almost one-third of daily caloric intake, and that amount is even higher among Appalachian adolescents,” said Smith, who is also an associate professor of Ohio State’s College of Nursing “If we can help teens reduce sugared-beverage intake now, we might be able to help them avoid obesity and other diseases later in life.”But in a place where sugar laden sweet tea is more popular than water, and soda vending machines are easily accessible — the researchers knew they were in for a challenge. Cindy Oliveri, a project assistant on Smith’s team recalls doing a site visit to prepare for the program, and looking into classroom after classroom only to see sugared drinks sitting on the desks of students and teachers alike.”We knew it there would be cultural and social obstacles to getting people to give up the sugar. Teens don’t want to hear an adult tell them what’s good for them,” Oliveri said. “That attitude completely changes when you get kids to talk to other kids. It’s an example of where peer pressure can have a positive impact.”Groups of teens representing a range of grades and interests came up with a variety of ways to educate peers about sugared drinks ranging from ribboning students’ cars and including daily “sugar facts” during morning announcements, to performing soda themed rap songs at student events and giving away free water bottles emblazoned with a ‘what’s in your cup?’ slogan. …

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UK failing to harness its bioenergy potential

The UK could generate almost half its energy needs from biomass sources, including household waste, agricultural residues and home-grown biofuels by 2050, new research suggests.Scientists from the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research at The University of Manchester found that the UK could produce up to 44% of its energy by these means without the need to import.The study, published in Energy Policy Journal , highlights the country’s potential abundance of biomass resources that are currently underutilised and totally overlooked by the bioenergy sector. Instead, say the authors, much of the UK bioenergy sector is heading towards increased reliance on biomass resources that will have to be imported from abroad.Study author Andrew Welfle said: “The UK has legally binding renewable energy and greenhouse gas reduction targets, and energy from biomass is anticipated to make major contributions to these. The widely discussed barriers for energy from biomass include the competition for land that may otherwise be used to grow food and the narrative that biomass will have to be imported to the UK if we want to use increased levels of bioenergy. But our research has found that the UK could produce large levels of energy from biomass without importing resources or negatively impacting the UK’s ability to feed itself.”The research involved analysing the UK’s biomass supply chains and investigating how different pathways that the UK could take may influence the potential bioenergy that the country could generate from its own resources up to 2050.The pathways the team analysed included a future with economic focus, investigating how the future UK bioenergy sector may look if economic growth was the prime focus; a conservation focus pathway, where the conservation of resources is the key future aim; an energy focus pathway, where the UK pushes towards achieving the maximum practical levels of bioenergy generated from its resources; and a food focus pathway, where the potential future of the country’s bioenergy sector is analysed in reflection of the UK working to increase its food security.”Biomass residue resources from ongoing UK activities, such as agriculture, forestry and industrial processes, were found to represent a continuous and robust resource option for the UK bioenergy sector, potentially contributing up to 6.5% of primary energy demand by 2050,” said Mr Welfle. “The potential bioenergy generated from agricultural residues, particularly from straws and slurry resources, being the highlight opportunities for the bioenergy sector due to their high abundance and current underutilisation.”UK waste resources were also found to represent a potential major opportunity for the bioenergy sector. The research highlights that both household and food/plant waste streams represent particular potential for the sector. Although the design and influence of future strategies and policies on UK waste generation and management are fundamental in determining the extent of opportunities that wastes represents to the UK bioenergy sector.He added: “Biomass is a flexible energy option, in that it can be used to produce heat, electricity or even be converted to transport fuels, although different types of biomass resource tend to be utilised in specific ways in order to produce the most energy or biomass-based products with increased value. Our research confirms that the best option for the UK to make the most of its biomass resources would be for selected resources to be used by bio-refineries to produce high value bio-products, with all remaining suitable resources being dedicated for heat generation.”Story Source:The above story is based on materials provided by Manchester University. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

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Public divided on genetic testing to predict cancer risk: American national poll

A national poll from the University of Utah’s Huntsman Cancer Institute shows 34 percent of respondents would not seek genetic testing to predict their likelihood of developing a hereditary cancer — even if the cost of the testing was not an issue. Concerns about employment and insurability were cited as the primary reason, even though current laws prohibit such discrimination.The poll also shows only 35 percent of respondents would be extremely or very likely to seek aggressive prophylactic or preventive treatment, such as a mastectomy, if they had a family history of cancer and genetic testing indicated a genetic pre-disposition to cancer.”I see patients every week who could have taken steps to reduce their risk if they’d known they’d had a predisposition for a certain type of cancer. The best treatment for cancer is prevention, of which genetic testing plays an integral role,” said Saundra Buys, M.D., co-director of the Family Cancer Assessment Clinic and medical director of the High Risk Cancer Research at Huntsman Cancer Institute (HCI), and professor of medicine at the University of Utah. “In addition to educating the public about the important role genetic testing plays in both prevention and treatment of cancer, we must also work to eliminate perceived false barriers to testing, such as concerns about insurability and employment.”Nearly 40 percent of those who said they wouldn’t seek testing reported being somewhat or extremely concerned that the results would impact opportunities for employment, while 69 percent of that same group reported being somewhat or extremely concerned that the results would have an adverse impact on their ability to get insurance.Inherited mutations play a major role in the development of approximately 5 percent of all cancers. Genetic mutations associated with more than 50 hereditary cancer syndromes — including those discovered at the University of Utah for melanoma, colon and breast cancer — have been identified.Buys says the survey demonstrates that even with increased media attention to genetic testing in recent months more work is needed to educate the public about the type of information genetic testing provides and who should seek it. She says family and personal health history are the most important factors in determining whether a person should consider genetic testing.She warns, however, that genetic testing is only as good as the genetic counseling that accompanies it. “There are many genetic tests being ordered in physician offices around the country without the benefit of genetic counseling. The results of these tests are complex, and without appropriate counseling, can cause confusion and unneeded anxiety for patients,” said Buys.Other findings from the poll:Following recommended screenings: 63 percent of respondents reported being extremely or very likely to follow all recommended screenings if they knew there was a history of cancer in their family.Testing to help identify best course of treatment: 85 percent of respondents stated that if diagnosed with cancer they would be willing to undergo genetic testing if it could help determine the most effective course of treatment.Sharing of genetic information: Of the 85 percent of respondents who said they would seek testing to determine best course of treatment, 72 percent reported their willingness to provide scientists with their genetic information for research purposes. Of that group, 64 percent reported they would be most comfortable sharing their genetic information with a medical center associated with a university or dedicated cancer hospital.Overall rates of genetic testing: Only 8 percent of respondents reported having ever had a genetic test.The online poll was conducted in October 2013 for the University of Utah’s Huntsman Cancer Institute by Harris Interactive who surveyed 1,202 men and women nationwide between the ages of 25-70 with either commercial or government insurance.Story Source:The above story is based on materials provided by Huntsman Cancer Institute at the University of Utah. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

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Thinking skills take biggest hit from anxiety in midlife women with HIV

Hot flashes, depression, and most of all, anxiety, affect the thinking skills of midlife women with HIV, so screening for and treating their anxiety may be especially important in helping them function, according to a study just published online in Menopause, the journal of The North American Menopause Society (NAMS). The reproductive stage, whether it was premenopause, perimenopause or postmenopause, did not seem to be related to these women’s thinking skills.The conclusions come from a new analysis of data on 708 HIV-infected and 278 HIV-uninfected midlife women from the Women’s Interagency HIV Study (WHIS), a national study of women with HIV at six sites across the country (Chicago, Bronx, Brooklyn, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Washington, DC). Today, nearly 52% of persons with HIV/AIDS are 40 to 54 years old. Because more women with HIV are now living to midlife and beyond, it is important to understand what challenges menopause pose for them. We learned just recently, from a study published online in Menopause in July, that women with HIV do face a bigger menopause challenge than uninfected women because they have worse menopause symptoms.Whether, how, and when the process of transitioning through menopause affects cognition have been debated. Large-scale studies of healthy women indicate that the menopause-related thinking deficiencies are modest, limited to the time leading up to menopause (“perimenopause”), and rebound after menopause. But in these women who underwent mental skills testing, menopause symptoms and mood symptoms did affect thinking skills.Mental processing speed and verbal memory were more related to depression, anxiety, and hot flashes in both HIV-infected and healthy women than the stage of menopause. Hot flashes in particular correlated with slightly lower mental processing speed, a skill that is also affected by the HIV virus. Depression correlated with decreased verbal memory, processing speed, and executive function (such as planning and organizing).Of all the symptoms measured, anxiety stood out as having the greatest impact on thinking skills, and the impact was much greater on women with HIV. Anxiety particularly affected their verbal learning skills. …

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Veterans With Mesothelioma

United States veterans have sacrificed a great deal so that the citizens of our country could continue to have the quality of life we often take for granted. The collective heroism, bravery, risk and sacrifice of this group are extraordinary. Sadly, it is this group that are also most affected by mesothelioma. That’s because for many years, the U.S. Military used asbestos widely in many applications. Likely as a result of this high level of exposure, veterans make up roughly 30% of all mesothelioma patients.From the 1930′s to the 1970′s, the U. S. Military used over 300 products containing asbestos, some of them mandated for use because of their fire-retardant properties. In the Air Force, these mesothelioma-linked materials were used with brakes, heat shields, …

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Wall Street Journal Continues to Side with Asbestos Companies on Allegations of Asbestos Trust Fraud

TheWall Street Journalis continuing its practice of spreading asbestos trust fraud propaganda in its recent piece, “Exposing Asbestos Fraud.” The piece alleges that the judiciary is standing in the way of justice and that a judge ruling against a corporation while keeping the proceedings closed to the public is proof that there is fraud occurring in the asbestos trust system.WSJ claims that North Carolina Federal Judge George Hodges is being “pushed” by plaintiffs’ attorneys to force Garlock Sealing Technologies to deposit an additional $1.3 billion into a bankruptcy trust for future asbestos claims, while Garlock feels that the $125 million trust they were forced to set up in 2010, after filing for bankruptcy in an attempt to secure immunity from lawsuits filed by persons injured by …

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U. S. regions exhibit distinct personalities, research reveals

Oct. 17, 2013 — Americans with similar temperaments are so likely to live in the same areas that a map of the country can be divided into regions with distinct personalities, according to new research published by the American Psychological Association.People in the north-central Great Plains and the South tend to be conventional and friendly, those in the Western and Eastern seaboards lean toward being mostly relaxed and creative, while New Englanders and Mid-Atlantic residents are prone to being more temperamental and uninhibited, according to a study published online by APA’s Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.”This analysis challenges the standard methods of dividing up the country on the basis of economic factors, voting patterns, cultural stereotypes or geography that appear to have become ingrained in the way people think about the United States,” said lead author Peter J. Rentfrow, PhD, of the University of Cambridge. “At the same time, it reinforces some of the traditional beliefs that some areas of the country are friendlier than others, while some are more creative.”The researchers analyzed the personality traits of more than 1.5 million people. Through various online forums/media (e.g., Facebook and survey panels), participants answered questions about their psychological traits and demographics, including their state of residence. The researchers identified three psychological profiles based on five broad dimensions of personality — openness, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness and neuroticism — also known as the “Big Five” personality traits. When the researchers overlaid the findings on a national map, they found certain psychological profiles were predominant in three distinct geographic areas. The data were collected over 12 years in five samples with participants from the 48 contiguous states and the District of Columbia. Overall, the samples were nationally representative in terms of gender and ethnicity, with the exception of a larger proportion of young people.”These national clusters of personalities also relate to a region’s politics, economy, social attitudes and health,” Rentfrow said. The study found that people in the friendly and conventional regions are typically less affluent, less educated, more politically conservative, more likely to be Protestant and less healthy compared to people in the other regions. …

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What I’m up to right now

Pumping (to donate) as I type. Trying to hurry up so I can nurse Ivy, who just woke up…Old JobI’m teaching freshman composition again this semester. Between teaching, taking care of four children, and the demands of everyday life, my free time is close to nonexistent. The kids are all asleep by 7:30-8 pm, so I have a 2-hour window of time to “get stuff done.” In the summers, this means reading books or checking emails. During the school year, this means grading papers and prepping for class.Oh, and did I mention that Ivy wakes up every 2 hours at night? I’m also really tired.New JobI took on a new job this summer: renovating on a historic property in town. It was originally a 2-family …

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Are banana farms contaminating Costa Rica’s crocs?

Sep. 19, 2013 — Shoppers spend over £10 billion on bananas annually and now this demand is being linked to the contamination of Central America’s crocodilians. New research, published in Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry, analyses blood samples from spectacled caiman in Costa Rica and finds that intensive pesticide use in plantations leads to contaminated species in protected conservation areas.”Banana plantations are big business in Costa Rica, which exports an estimated 1.8 million tonnes per year; 10% of the global total,” said author Paul Grant from Stellenbosch University, South Africa. “The climate of the country’s North East is ideal for bananas; however, the Rio Suerte, which flows through this major banana producing area, drains into the Tortuguero Conservation Area.”Tortuguero is home to the spectacled caiman (Caiman crocodilus), one of the most common species of crocodilian in Central America. This freshwater predator is known to be highly adaptive, feeding on fish, crustaceans and in the case of larger specimens, wild pigs.Due to the increased global demand for fruit, pesticide use has more than doubled across Central America in the past twenty years. In Costa Rica, which ranks second in the world for intensity of pesticide use, the problem of contamination is compounded by environmental conditions and lax enforcement of regulations.”Frequent heavy rains can wash pesticides from plantation areas, leading to contamination and the reapplication of sprays to the crops,” said Grant. “Without adequate enforcement of regulations dangerous practices such as aerial spraying close to streams or washing application equipment in rivers also contributes to contamination downstream.”The team collected blood samples from 14 adult caiman and analyzed them for traces of 70 types of pesticide. Caiman within the high intensity banana crop watershed of Rio Suerte had higher pesticide burdens relative to other more remote locations.The nine pesticides detected in the caiman blood were identified as insecticides. Of these seven were listed as Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPS), banned under the 2011 Stockholm Convention.”Caiman near banana plantations had higher pesticide burdens and lower body condition,” said Grant. “This suggests that either pesticides pose a health risk to caiman, or that pesticides harm the habitat and food supply of caiman, thereby reducing the health of this predator.”As long-lived species atop the food chain crocodilians provide an integrated assessment of the fate of pesticides in tropical areas and can be indicative of pesticide damage throughout the ecosystem.”Caiman and other aquatic species have been exposed to pesticides from upstream banana plantations, even in remote areas of a national wilderness area,” concluded Grant. …

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Longer life for humans linked to further loss of endangered species

Oct. 9, 2013 — As human life expectancy increases, so does the percentage of invasive and endangered birds and mammals, according to a new study by the University of California, Davis.The study, published in the September issue of Ecology and Society, examined a combination of 15 social and ecological variables — from tourism and per capita gross domestic product to water stress and political stability. Then researchers analyzed their correlations with invasive and endangered birds and mammals, which are two indicators of what conservationist Aldo Leopold termed “land sickness,” the study said.Human life expectancy, which is rarely included among indexes that examine human impacts on the environment, surfaced as the key predictor of global invasions and extinctions.”It’s not a random pattern,” said lead author Aaron Lotz, a postdoctoral scholar in the Department of Wildlife, Fish and Conservation Biology when the study was conducted. “Out of all this data, that one factor — human life expectancy — was the determining factor for endangered and invasive birds and mammals.”The study analyzed data from 100 countries, which included roughly 87 percent of the world’s population, 43 percent of global GDP per capita, and covered 74 percent of Earth’s total land area. Additional factors considered were agricultural intensity, rainfall, pesticide regulation, energy efficiency, wilderness protection, latitude, export-import ratio, undernourishment, adult literacy, female participation in government, and total population.The findings include:New Zealand, the United States and the Philippines had among the highest percentages of endangered and invasive birds. New Zealand had the highest percentage of all endangered and invasive species combined, largely due to its lack of native terrestrial mammals. The study said that in the past 700 to 800 years since the country was colonized, it has experienced massive invasion by nonindigenous species, resulting in catastrophic biodiversity loss. African countries had the lowest percentage of invasive and endangered birds and mammals. These countries have had very little international trade, which limits opportunities for biological invasion. As GDP per capita — a standard measure of affluence — increased in a country, so did the percentage of invasive birds and mammals. …

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The real reason to worry about bees

Sep. 10, 2013 — Honeybees should be on everyone’s worry list, and not because of the risk of a nasty sting, an expert on the health of those beneficial insects said in Indianapolis today at the 246th National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society (ACS).Set aside the fact that the honeybee’s cousins — hornets, wasps and yellow jackets — actually account for most stings, said Richard Fell, Ph.D. Despite years of intensive research, scientists do not understand the cause, nor can they provide remedies, for what is killing honeybees.”Some estimates put the value of honeybees in pollinating fruit, vegetable and other crops at almost $15 billion annually,” Fell said. “Without bees to spread pollen from the male parts of plants to the female parts, fruit may not form. That would severely impact consumers, affecting the price of some of the healthiest and most desirable foods.”Farmers use honeybees to pollinate more than 100 different fruit and vegetable crops around the country in an approach known as “managed pollination.” It involves placing bee hives in fields when crops are ready for pollination.”The biggest impacts from decreased hive numbers will be felt by farmers producing crops with high pollination requirements, such as almonds. Consumers may see a lowered availability of certain fruits and vegetables and some higher costs,” explained Fell.He discussed the ongoing decline in honeybee populations in the U.S. and some other countries — a condition sometimes termed colony collapse disorder (CCD). Although honeybees have been doing better in recent years, something continues to kill about 1 in every 3 honeybees each year.”There is a good bit of misinformation in the popular press about CCD and colony decline, especially with regard to pesticides,” Fell said. He is an emeritus professor of entomology at Virginia Tech, and an authority on colony decline in bees. “I think it is important to emphasize that we do not understand the causes of colony decline and CCD and that there are probably a number of factors involved. …

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Biodiversity where you least expect it: A new beetle species from a busy megacity

Sep. 5, 2013 — Metro Manila — the world’s 10th largest megacity and 6th largest conurbation, based on official statistics — is not a place one would normally expect to discover new species, even in a country that is known as a biodiversity hotspot.In a 83-hectare green island amidst the unnatural ocean of countless human-made edifices, researchers of the Ateneo de Manila University have discovered a tiny new species of aquatic beetle, aptly named Hydraena ateneo. It was named after the University, a 154-year-old Jesuit-run institution that is recognized as one of the premier universities in the Philippines and in the region. The international open access scientific journal Zookeys has published the paper about the unusual discovery in its latest issue [329: 9 (2013)]. The publication of the fact is just timely, given that the university’s Department of Biology is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year.During field training in November 2012, Biology students and a faculty member of the Department of Biology sampled small creeks, ponds, and pools in wooded areas within their sprawling university campus. The group found seven species of water beetles, of which one was a new record for the entire island of Luzon and another was Hydraena ateneo.Arielle Vidal, at the time of the training enrolled in the Department’s B.S. Life Sciences program, says: “I was so amazed that there are new species even in the Ateneo Campus in the middle of Manila. Then I was sure that I wanted to write my thesis on a taxonomic topic.” Kimberly Go, her thesis partner, adds: “Then we pushed through and investigated a remote river catchment in Mindoro. We found several new species of the same genus there, too.”Their thesis adviser and author of the recent paper, Associate Professor Dr. Hendrik Freitag, explains: “The Long-palped Water Beetles (genus Hydraena) are in fact one of the most overlooked and diverse genera of aquatic beetles. …

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400-year study finds Northeast forests resilient, changing

Sep. 5, 2013 — A joint Harvard-Smithsonian study released today in the journal PLOS ONE reveals how much — and how little — Northeastern forests have changed after centuries of intensive land use.A hike through today’s woods will reveal the same types of trees that a colonial settler would have encountered 400 years ago. But the similarities end there. Jonathan Thompson, research associate at the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute and lead author of the new study, explains, “If you only looked at a tree species list, you’d have the impression that Northeast forests haven’t changed. But once you start mapping the trees, and counting them up, a different picture emerges.” Thompson adds, “In some ways the forest is completely transformed.”To draw these conclusions, Thompson and his colleagues compared colonial-era tree records to modern US Forest Service data across a 9-state area stretching from Pennsylvania to Maine.Their results show stark contrasts between pre-colonial forests and today. Maples have exploded across the Northeast, their numbers increasing by more than 20 percent in most towns. Other tree types have declined sharply. Beeches, oaks, and chestnuts show the most pronounced loss — big trouble, Thompson notes, for wildlife that depend on tree nuts for winter survival.Pine numbers have shifted more than any other tree type, increasing in some places, decreasing elsewhere. Thompson pins this variability to ecology and economy: “Pine is valuable for timber, but quick to return after cutting. It has a social and environmental dynamism to it.”The nine states in the study share a similar — and notable — forest history: during the 18th and 19th centuries, more than half the forestland was cleared for agriculture and cut for timber. …

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