16 Apr 2014

Air Pollution in Asia is Causing Storms in the Pacific to Grow Bigger and Stronger, New Study Finds

Air pollution has become so severe, scientists find, that it is adversely affecting storms and weather patterns in other parts of the world.
According to BBC News, researchers have published a new study in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Delhi, India and Beijing, China are two Asian cities where air pollution is especially severe and they are likely contributing to the formation of storms above the Pacific. 
"The effects are quite dramatic," study lead author Yuan Wang, of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) at the California Institute of Technology, told BBC News. "The pollution results in thicker and taller clouds and heavier precipitation."
In Delhi and Beijing, air pollution frequently reaches a level deemed by the World Health Organization to be too hazardous. Citizens of these cities must stay inside as much as possible and sometimes wear facemasks when going outdoors. The new research has shown that the pollution is affecting other parts of the world as well.
"Since the Pacific storm track is an important component in the global general circulation, the impacts of Asian pollution on the storm track tend to affect the weather patterns of other parts of the world during the wintertime, especially a downstream region [of the track] like North America," said Wang.
Assisted by a team in China, the U.S. study researchers analyzed computer models depicting the Asian air pollution affecting storm patterns over the Pacific. They found tiny pollutant particles being blown into the northern Pacific and mixing with rain droplets.
"Aerosols provide seeds for cloud formation," study co-author Renyi Zhang, an atmospheric sciences professor at Texas A&M University, told CNN. "If you provide too many seeds, then you fundamentally change cloud patterns and storm patterns."
The researchers said it causes storm clouds to grow denser, therefore inducing more intense storms.
"We are becoming increasingly aware that pollution in the atmosphere can have an impact both locally - wherever it is sitting over regions - and it can a remote impact in other parts of the world," Ellie Highwood, a climate physicist at the University of Reading who was not involved in the study, told BBC News. "This is a good example of that.
"There have also been suggestions that aerosols over the North Atlantic effect storms over the North Atlantic, and that aerosols in the monsoon region over South Asia can affect circulation around the whole of the world."

Victim of bullying charged with wiretapping for recording bullies with iPad

Shea Love’s devotion to her son is obvious.
The pain a parent feels when her child is hurting is her heartache too.
“It’s really sad, it’s been really hard,” Love said.
The South Fayette sophomore, Christian Stanfield, recorded seven minutes of his classmates’ verbal abuse on his iPad, but was later forced by administrators to erase the clip.
But not before his mother listened to it. She transcribed some of what the boys said.
“Pulling his pants down and some things I can’t repeat,” she said. “Laughing and cutting up like it was a big joke.”
Police were called. Christian was threatened with wiretapping, but the charge was reduced to disorderly conduct. A district magistrate found him guilty.
“I always try to do the best I can,” Christian said. “It shocked me when this happened, ‘cause I do not understand.”
Attorney Jonathan Steele initially filed a private due process complaint with the district.
“Unfortunately, in their response to it,” Steele said. “They relied heavily on the magistrate finding Christian guilty and took the position they did nothing wrong.”
So, next is the appeal and a demand for an investigation by the office of civil rights. The case is getting nationwide attention. Shea and Christian are on a mission of their own.
“We can’t just turn our back to this,” Shea said. “I’m sure we can find an easy, quick fix, but he doesn’t want to. He wants to help people.”
“All those people who went through the same thing, even worse than I have,” Christian said, “I’m glad they feel that I’ve given them a voice and that’s what I want to do.”

Drugs giant GlaxoSmithKline bribed doctors to boost sales, says whistleblower

Britain’s biggest drug company, GlaxoSmithKline, allegedly bribed doctors in Poland using money that was meant to be spent on educating patients, according to new evidence revealed today by the BBC Panorama programme.

A GSK whistleblower claims that money put aside to teach patients in Poland about an asthma drug, Seretide, actually went towards paying doctors to prescribe more of the medicine.

Jarek Wisniewiski, who was with the company for eight years until 2012, worked on a marketing programme across the country in 2010 to push the asthma drug.
He told Panorama that although officially the money was to be spent on medical training, in reality it was used to bribe doctors to boost the company’s sales.
“I pay for education and in the same meeting I said that I need more prescriptions for Seretide. So… they knew exactly what I pay for,” he said. “We pay agreement for a speech; we pay £100 but we expect more than 100 prescriptions for this drug.”
Mr Wisniewiski says he told GSK that he was unhappy with the arrangement – an admission that he says resulted in him being sidelined at work and eventually sacked.
Another former employee, who did not want to be identified, confirmed that the company paid doctors for lectures that never happened but which would result in a greater number of prescriptions.

A criminal investigation has been launched, and 11 doctors and one GSK regional manager have been charged. The public prosecutor’s office in Lodz has examined the contracts that doctors were given by GSK, and says that it has found evidence to support claims of corrupt payments.

A spokesman said: “We have evidence to claim that in more than a dozen cases it was a camouflaged form of a bribe.In return for the financial gain, the doctors would favour the product proposed by the pharmaceutical company, and they prescribed that medicine.”
GSK sells some of the world’s best-known medicines and has an annual turnover of more than £26bn. However, allegations of bribery have hounded the company in recent months. The most recent claims come just a week after reports that GSK hired Iraqi government doctors and pharmacists to act as sales representatives for the Brentford-based company, to boost revenues for its medicines.

The company is also waiting to find out whether it will face prosecution in China following claims it paid £300m to doctors and government officials there.
The company’s Chinese sales plummeted by 61 per cent in the third quarter of last year, and 18 per cent in the final quarter, after its offices were raided by Chinese police and its staff arrested.

The allegations have not been established but if found to be true, GSK may have violated both the UK’s Bribery Act and the US Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. In both countries it is illegal for companies operating there to bribe government employees abroad.
In response to Panorama’s questions about the case, GSK confirmed that it had run a programme in Poland from 2010 to 2012 to help improve diagnostic standards and medical training for the benefit of patients with respiratory disease.

GSK says it is investigating the allegations. A chief executive has stated that the company has “zero tolerance” with respect to the issues raised in the allegations and is co-operating fully with investigators.

The US is an oligarchy, study concludes

The US government does not represent the interests of the majority of the country's citizens, but is instead ruled by those of the rich and powerful, a new study from Princeton and Northwestern Universities has concluded.
The report, entitled Testing Theories of American Politics: Elites, Interest Groups, and Average Citizens, used extensive policy data collected from between the years of 1981 and 2002 to empirically determine the state of the US political system.
After sifting through nearly 1,800 US policies enacted in that period and comparing them to the expressed preferences of average Americans (50th percentile of income), affluent Americans (90th percentile) and large special interests groups, researchers concluded that the United States is dominated by its economic elite.
The peer-reviewed study, which will be taught at these universities in September, says: "The central point that emerges from our research is that economic elites and organised groups representing business interests have substantial independent impacts on US government policy, while mass-based interest groups and average citizens have little or no independent influence."
Researchers concluded that US government policies rarely align with the the preferences of the majority of Americans, but do favour special interests and lobbying oragnisations: "When a majority of citizens disagrees with economic elites and/or with organised interests, they generally lose. Moreover, because of the strong status quo bias built into the US political system, even when fairly large majorities of Americans favour policy change, they generally do not get it." 
The positions of powerful interest groups are "not substantially correlated with the preferences of average citizens", but the politics of average Americans and affluent Americans sometimes does overlap. This merely a coincidence, the report says, with the the interests of the average American being served almost exclusively when it also serves those of the richest 10 per cent.
The theory of "biased pluralism" that the Princeton and Northwestern researchers believe the US system fits holds that policy outcomes "tend to tilt towards the wishes of corporations and business and professional associations."
The study comes in the wake of McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission, a controversial piece of legislation passed in The Supreme Court that abolished campaign contribution limits, and record low approval ratings for the US congress.

Facts About Mosquitos (5 pics)

Get ready for summer.

15 Apr 2014

There is a man who, due to a clerical error, never served his prison sentence. For 13 years he became a productive member of society and is now awaiting judgment on whether or not he has to spend the next 13 years in prison.

A Missouri man who avoided a 13-year jail sentence because of what state officials called a clerical error will learn Tuesday if he will have to keep fighting to avoid being incarcerated.
In 1999, Cornealious “Mike” Anderson was convicted of armed robbery after taking money from a Burger King manager who was making a bank deposit. He was sentenced to 13 years in jail, but after he posted bond and went home during the appeals process, he was never forced to serve his sentence.

"He then waited and waited and waited for the Missouri Department of Corrections to give him a date to surrender and begin his serving his sentence,’’ Anderson’s attorney, Patrick Michael Megaro, told TODAY. “That day never came."

The state mistakenly believed Anderson was already in prison serving his sentence, when in fact he was living life on the outside.

"He got married, had children, opened a successful business, coached youth football, (and) joined a church group,’’ Magaro said in a report from NBC's Joe Fryer. “Did everything that you would expect a normal person to do because in his mind, he believed that maybe the courts had changed their mind." 

However, just as his sentence would have ended last summer, authorities realized the apparent clerical error — and that Anderson had never served time. The father of four was arrested and currently sits behind bars, waiting for Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster to respond on Tuesday to a petition from his attorney asking for his release. Koster declined comment to TODAY.
“It’s just very hard,’’ said Anderson’s wife, LaQonna Anderson. “And I miss my husband very, very much. My kids miss their father.”

“I never felt like a fugitive, because a fugitive's someone that's running from the law,’’ he said. “I never ran from the law. I was there."
The manager who was robbed believes that Anderson should be set free.
“It's their fault, so I mean it's like they're going to try and penalize him for another 13 years,’’ said the man, identified only by his first name, Dennis, on the radio program. “That don't seem right."

Nearly 14,000 people have signed a petition on Change.org asking for Anderson’s release, but the current St. Charles County prosecutor disagrees.
"I believe that if we allowed somebody to avoid an incarceration sentence, it's just a slippery slope,’’ Tim Lohmar told TODAY. 

How Being a Doctor Became the Most Miserable Profession: Nine of 10 doctors discourage others from joining the profession, and 300 physicians commit suicide every year.

Nine of 10 doctors discourage others from joining the profession, and 300 physicians commit suicide every year. When did it get this bad?
By the end of this year, it’s estimated that 300 physicians will commit suicide. While depression amongst physicians is not new—a few years back, it was named the second-most suicidal occupation—the level of sheer unhappiness amongst physicians is on the rise.
Simply put, being a doctor has become a miserable and humiliating undertaking. Indeed, many doctors feel that America has declared war on physicians—and both physicians and patients are the losers.
Not surprisingly, many doctors want out. Medical students opt for high-paying specialties so they can retire as quickly as possible. Physician MBA programs—that promise doctors a way into management—are flourishing. The website known as the Drop-Out-Club—which hooks doctors up with jobs at hedge funds and venture capital firms—has a solid following. In fact, physicians are so bummed out that 9 out of 10 doctors would discourage anyone from entering the profession.
It’s hard for anyone outside the profession to understand just how rotten the job has become—and what bad news that is for America’s health care system. Perhaps that’s why author Malcolm Gladwell recently implied that to fix the healthcare crisis, the public needs to understand what it’s like to be a physician. Imagine, for things to get better for patients, they need to empathize withphysicians—that’s a tall order in our noxious and decidedly un-empathetic times.
After all, the public sees ophthalmologists and radiologists making out like bandits and wonder why they should feel anything but scorn for such doctors—especially when Americans haven’t gotten a raise in decades. But being a primary care physician is not like being, say, a plastic surgeon—a profession that garners both respect and retirement savings. Given that primary care doctors do the work that no one else is willing to do, being a primary care physician is more like being a janitor—but without the social status or union protections.
Unfortunately, things are only getting worse for most doctors, especially those who still accept health insurance. Just processing the insurance forms costs $58 for every patient encounter, according to Dr. Stephen Schimpff, an internist and former CEO of University of Maryland Medical Center who is writing a book about the crisis in primary care. To make ends meet, physicians have had to increase the number of patients they see. The end result is that the average face-to-face clinic visit lasts about 12 minutes.
Neither patients nor doctors are happy about that. What worries many doctors, however, is that the Affordable Care Act has codified this broken system into law. While forcing everyone to buy health insurance, ACA might have mandated a uniform or streamlined claims procedure that would have gone a long way to improving access to care. As Malcolm Gladwell noted, “You don’t train someone for all of those years in [medicine]… and then have them run a claims processing operation for insurance companies.” 
In fact, difficulty dealing with insurers has caused many physicians to close their practices and become employees. But for patients, seeing an employed doctor doesn’t give them more time with the doctor—since employed physicians also have high patient loads. “A panel size of 2,000 to 2,500 patients is too many,” says Dr. Schimpff. That’s the number of patients primary care doctors typically are forced to carry—and that means seeing 24 or more patients a day, and often these patients have 10 or more medical problems. As any seasoned physician knows, this is do-able, but it’s certainly not optimal.
Most patients have experienced the rushed clinic visit—and that’s where the breakdown in good medical care starts. “Doctors who are in a rush, don’t have the time to listen,” says Dr. Schimpff. “Often, patients get referred to specialists when the problem can be solved in the office visit.” It’s true that specialist referrals are on the rise, but the time crunch also causes doctors to rely on guidelines instead of personally tailoring medical care. Unfortunately, mindlessly following guidelines can result in bad outcomes.
Yet physicians have to go along, constantly trying to improve their “productivity” and patient satisfaction scores—or risk losing their jobs. Industry leaders are fixated on patient satisfaction, despite the fact that high scores are correlated with worse outcomes and higher costs. Indeed, trying to please whatever patient comes along destroys the integrity of our work. It’s a fact that doctors acquiesce to patient demands—for narcotics, X-rays, doctor’s notes—despite what survey advocates claim. And now that Medicare payments will be tied to patient satisfaction—this problem will get worse. Doctors need to have the ability to say no. If not, when patients go to see the doctor, they won’t actually have a physician—they’ll have a hostage.
But the primary care doctor doesn’t have the political power to say no to anything—so the “to-do” list continues to lengthen. A stunning and unmanageable number of forms—often illegible—show up daily on a physician’s desk needing to be signed. Reams of lab results, refill requests, emails, and callbacks pop up continually on the computer screen. Calls to plead with insurance companies are peppered throughout the day. Every decision carries with it an implied threat of malpractice litigation. Failing to attend to these things brings prompt disciplining or patient complaint. And mercilessly, all of these tasks have to be done on the exhausted doctor’s personal time.
Almost comically, the response of medical leadership—their solution— is to call for more physician testing. In fact, the American Board of Internal Medicine(ABIM)—in its own act of hostage-taking—has decided that in addition to being tested every ten years, doctors must comply with new, costly, "two year milestones." For many physicians, if they don't comply be the end of this month, the ABIM will advertise the doctor's "lack of compliance" on their website. 
In an era when nurse practitioners and physician assistants have shown that they can provide excellent primary care, it’s nonsensical to raise the barriers for physicians to participate. In an era when you can call up guidelines on your smartphone, demanding more physician testing is a ludicrous and self-serving response.
It is tone deaf. It is punitive. It is wrong. And practicing doctors can’t do a damn thing about it. No wonder doctors are suicidal. No wonder young doctors want nothing to do with primary care.
But what is a bit of a wonder is how things got this bad. 
Certainly, the relentlessly negative press coverage of physicians sets the tone. “There’s a media narrative that blames physicians for things the doctor has no control over,” says Kevin Pho, MD, an internist with a popular blog where physicians often vent their frustrations. Indeed, in the popular press recently doctors have been held responsible for everything from the wheelchair-unfriendly furniture to lab fees for pap smears.
The meme is that doctors are getting away with something and need constant training, watching and regulating. With this in mind, it’s almost a reflex for policy makers to pile on the regulations. Regulating the physician is an easy sell because it is a fantasy—a Freudian fever dream—the wish to diminish, punish and control a disappointing parent, give him a report card, and tell him to wash his hands.
To be sure many people with good intentions are working toward solving the healthcare crisis. But the answers they’ve come up with are driving up costs and driving out doctors.  Maybe it’s too much to ask for empathy, and maybe physician lives don’t matter to most people.
But for America’s health to be safeguarded, the wellbeing of America’s caretakers is going to have to start mattering to someone.  

Jury acquits state trooper who stomped handcuffed man's head, shattering teeth, breaking his nose and causing two facial fractures. Claimed the man was trying attack him.

A Pennsylvania state trooper accused of stomping a handcuffed man in the head during a botched 2009 drug raid was acquitted Monday of a federal civil rights violation charge.

Cheers and applause erupted in the courtroom from more than two dozen of Kelly Cruz's law enforcement colleagues as the jury delivered its verdict to U.S. District Judge Mary A. McLaughlin. It took less than two hours for the panel of five men and seven women to come to its decision.

A visibly relieved Cruz declined to comment. His lawyer, Christian J. Hoey, described the verdict as "a good decision."
"Nobody celebrates the fact someone was injured," he said. "But he's a heck of a law enforcement officer and an asset to the United States."

Cruz, 44, of Oxford, never denied that he caused the injuries sustained by 22-year-old Zachary Bare during an August raid on the man's home in Chester County. He testified Friday that he did not realize Bare was handcuffed at the time and thought he was trying to stand to attack him.

He told jurors that he pinned Bare's shoulder with his foot in an attempt to keep him on the ground - all while Bare was screaming obscenities and rolling on the floor.
"I responded the way I was trained to respond," he testified Friday. "I reacted to what I saw. If I fail, I don't come home to my family."
Prosecutors described a vastly different incident - involving a kick to the back of Bare's head, witnessed by at least one police officer, as the man lay handcuffed and prone on his kitchen floor.

The impact left Bare with shattered teeth, a broken nose, and two facial fractures.
Cruz was working as a liaison to a Chester County drug task force and assisting the West Whiteland Police Department on what was to be a surprise assault on a suspected meth lab in an Exton house. When officers arrived, the men inside spotted them and tried to escape.

Officer Jeffrey McCloskey told jurors last week he saw Bare running nearby and followed him to a house five doors down. He ordered Bare to the floor as another officer handcuffed him. Another West Whiteland officer, Glenn Cockerham, testified he witnessed Cruz kick Bare - a use of force he later described in an investigative report as "totally unnecessary."
Investigators eventually determined that Bare was not at the drug house at the time of the raid and he was never charged in the case.
Hoey contended throughout the six-day trial that the West Whiteland officers sought to shift blame for Bare's botched arrest onto Cruz.
"We're obviously disappointed," Linwood C. Wright Jr., one of the assistant U.S. attorneys who tried the case, said Monday. "We believe in the West Whiteland Police Department."

Monday's verdict came three years after a Chester County grand jury declined to indict Cruz over the same incident and two years after the Pennsylvania State Police settled a lawsuit from Bare for $125,000.
Cruz was suspended without pay shortly after a federal grand jury indicted him in August 2013. He is expected to return to his job as a corporal in the state police's Avondale barracks, Hoey said.

Read more at http://www.philly.com/philly/news/20140415_Jury_acquits_PA_state_trooper.html 

Police Are Testing a "Live Google Earth" To Watch Crime As It Happens

In Compton last year, police began quietly testing a system that allowed them to do something incredible: Watch every car and person in real time as they ebbed and flowed around the city. Every assault, every purse snatched, every car speeding away was on record—all thanks to an Ohio company that monitors cities from the air.
The Center for Investigative Reporting takes a look at a number of emerging surveillance technologies in a new video, but one in particular stands out: A wide-area surveillance system invented by Ross McNutt, a retired Air Force veteran who owns a company called Persistent Surveillance Systems.
McNutt describes his product as "a live version of Google Earth, only with TiVo capabilities," which is intriguing but vague  . More specifically, PSS outfits planes with an array of super high-resolution cameras that allow a pilot to record a 25-square-mile patch of Earth constantly—for up to six hours.
It's sort of similar to what your average satellite can do—except, in this case, you can rewind the video, zoom in, and follow specific people and cars as they move around the grid. It's not specific enough to ID people by face, but, when used in unison with stoplight cameras and other on-the-ground video sources, it can identify suspects as they leave the scene of a crime.
The PSS system has been tested in cities including Baltimore and Dayton, and, last year, police officers in Compton used it to track crimes, including a necklace snatching. In one case, they could track a criminal as he approached a woman, grabbed her jewelry, and then ran to a getaway car. They eventually drove out of frame, which meant they weren't caught—but, as the Compton police explain in this video, the system told them that this particular car was involved, at the very least.
Plenty of critics argue the technology is an ominous invasion of privacy: Video surveillance free of any traditional technological barriers, tracking everyone and everything that moves in a city. But according to police and its creators, it's not as invasive as other systems, because it can't see into homes or identify faces. It "allows us to provide more security with less loss of privacy than any of the other options that are out there," says one officer. That's definitely one way to look at it. 

Dozens of teenagers are now tweeting bomb jokes to American Airlines

One dumb teenager is easily excused — but the host of Twitter users currently tweeting bomb threats at major airlines is another story entirely.
In case you’ve somehow missed this latest round of Internet idiocy, here’s what went down: Sunday night, a Dutch teenager identified only as “Sarah” infamously tweeted a threat at American Airlines. (“hello my name’s Ibrahim and I’m from Afghanistan. I’m part of Al Qaida and on June 1st I’m gonna do something really big bye,” she wrote. Hilarious!) She then promptly made the account private and insisted it was all a joke — “I’m so stupid, I’m scared,” she wrote at one point — but not before American reported her name and IP address to authorities, leading to her arrest in Rotterdam on Monday.
You’d think that would warn off other pranksters, but the opposite has actually been true. In fact, at least a dozen other people have threatened American or, oddly, Southwest, an unrelated airline, under the guise of a “prank” or “joke.”
We hardly need reiterate the problems with this kind of thing: airlines need to take threats seriously, no matter how silly they seem, which means a lot of airline employees (and presumably, police and security and FBI) are spending a lot of time tracking down nuisance threats, as well.
Leaving aside, for a minute, the vast waste of taxpayer money and manpower that represents, there’s another more ground-level problem here: This trolling completely destroys whatever incentives airlines have to engage with their customers on Twitter. Which is, as many a Twitter-using traveler knows, basically the only decent line of airline customer service left.
Just last week, the Post’s Andrea Sachs reported on the use of social media at major airlines — it’s “unrivaled in its efficiency,” one expert said. In other words, if you ever have a problem on a flight, social media is the surest way to get relief. Or it will be, until other Internet trolls spam airlines with distracting, and potentially dangerous, clutter. (Imagine the chaos, if 4chan or some such signed on.)
Then again, that kind of disruption is presumably just what trolls want. That term is often used as a catch-all for agents of Internet mischief and unpleasantness, but recent studies have actually suggested a link between dedicated trolling and psychopathy. To quote a February paper published in the journal Personality and Individual Differences, “it might be said that online trolls prototypical everyday sadists” — a.k.a., people who enjoy deceiving and manipulating other people.

That isn’t to say that Sarah is a sadist, of course; maybe she’s just another teenager spewing bite-sized idiocies into the void, like so many teenagers before her. Her copycats, on the other hand, know exactly what they’re doing. Let’s hope they realize how unfunny this schtick is — sooner, rather than later.