Browsing articles from "January, 2018"

What’s The Best Way To Help Refugees Land A Job?

Jan 19, 2018   //   by Administrator   //   News from US  //  Comments Off on What’s The Best Way To Help Refugees Land A Job?

Syrian Kurds take cover from the rain after crossing the border between Syria and Turkey.

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Syrian Kurds take cover from the rain after crossing the border between Syria and Turkey.

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It wouldn’t make any sense to send a French-speaking refugee to a German-speaking town in Switzerland.

But under Switzerland’s current system of placing refugees, that’s a situation that can easily happen. This problem isn’t unique to Switzerland, and it’s not the only kind of mismatch that might happen.

The solution, says a new study from Stanford University’s Immigration Policy Lab and ETH Zurich, is the creation of an “algorithm” — in layman’s terms, the set of rules given to a computer that will enable it to reach a specific goal. The algorithm described in the study, published online Thursday in the journal Science, uses data to predict where a refugee — or one person in a family of refugees — has the best chance of getting a job.

It’s especially important to improve the placement process now, during the biggest refugee crisis since World War II, says Jens Hainmueller, a Stanford professor and one of the study’s lead authors.

“There are big questions about how you can facilitate the integration of refugees into host countries, set them up for success and make sure they become productive contributors to the host country’s economy and society,” he says. “It’s a significant challenge for governments that are facing these increasing numbers of refugees.”

Using the algorithm in the U.S. would have improved the employment rates of about 900 refugees by an expected 40 percent, the authors found. Their sample of refugees were those who arrived to the U.S. in the third quarter of 2016 (the most recent data available) who were free to be assigned to any location. They also did a separate test using data from refugees in Switzerland, finding that it would have improved refugee employment rates there by about 70 percent.

To create the algorithm, researchers entered data about refugees who had already been resettled, including their country of origin, language skills, age, resettlement location and employment status. They used that data to create a model that can predict the place within the host country where a refugee (or one person in a family of refugees) awaiting resettlement has the best chance of getting a job. Using those insights, the algorithm then makes recommendations for refugee placements that take into account limitations such as the number of available spots at each location.

“What we focus on is the probability that at least one person in the family finds a job, which makes sense from a family self-sufficiency standpoint,” Hainmueller says.

And the researchers say their inability to point to any one variable as the key to determining refugees’ success in finding a job seems to show that the algorithm is taking advantage of sometimes subtle interactions between variables that humans might not be able to pinpoint.

“There are some places that are just better for refugees in general. They might have stronger labor markets that make it more likely for any refugees to find employment,” he says. “We also found that certain places ended up being a better fit for certain types of refugees depending on their characteristics, things like their age, their gender, their language skills or the ethnic network,” says Kirk Bansak, one of the study’s lead authors. He’s a doctoral candidate at Stanford and a data scientist at the Immigration Policy Lab.

The idea for the algorithm came from workshops the authors had with refugee resettlement agencies in the U.S. and the Department of State about potentially improving the process of deciding where refugees are placed. (They collaborated with one agency on the study but declined to name it.)

“We had heard about all these other potential interventions, like cash assistance or training programs, but our attention very much focused initially on these [resettlement] allocations because we figured out pretty quickly that where you send refugees is a really important driver of their potential integration success,” Hainmueller says.

At the end of 2016, there were 22.5 million refugees around the world, according to the U.N.’s refugee agency. This year, the U.S. will resettle up to 45,000 refugees (in fiscal year 2018) — about half as many as it admitted in 2016.

The way the system works now is that placement officers consider factors such as medical conditions, the availability of interpreters and the location of other family members in the U.S. to help determine where a refugee will live in the U.S.

For refugees who don’t have existing ties in the U.S., placement officers at the International Rescue Committee, one of nine resettlement agencies in the U.S., look at factors such as employment rates and public transportation systems within cities, explains Robin Dunn Marcos. She’s the senior director of resettlement and processing at the International Rescue Committee.

Marcos sees this algorithm as a potential complement to the agency’s placement process.

“Many of the variables that would feed into the algorithm are things that we’ve been using for placement decisions,” she says. “The algorithm definitely seems like a valuable addition to our current approach.”

And as new data is added to the algorithm, it adapts to changing conditions, the researchers say. For example, if an agency adds data that shows newly-resettled refugees aren’t getting jobs in a certain city, the algorithm will be less likely to recommend they be placed there.

Cindy Huang, a senior policy fellow at the Center for Global Development who wasn’t involved in the study, says this algorithm is an example of how innovation can help vulnerable people. (One of the study’s co-authors, Jeremy Weinstein, is a non-resident fellow at CGD.) And it’s an improvement on other ideas she’s seen that involve attempts to use existing technology, like e-learning platforms, to help refugees — but that aren’t cost-effective because they weren’t designed with refugees in mind.

“What the study shows is that you can improve employment outcomes, which are critical to longer-term integration,” she says. “More refugees should be resettled, but this is a way to do more with the number that have already been accepted into a country.”

But since the findings from the algorithm are based on historical data, she cautions that it’s still unproven in a practical setting.

“To validate the findings and see how it works in the messy world, the next step is a trial to see how it performs in the field,” Huang says.

Bansak and his colleagues hope to create user-friendly software and data integration that would allow resettlement agencies to use the algorithm. They’ll need about $100,000 to make that happen, Bansak says.

Marcos sees a potential wrinkle in putting this algorithm into practice in the U.S.: current policies on refugee resettlement.

“When they first started looking at this, it was in the last administration when we were bringing in a much higher number of refugees,” she says. “Not only has the ceiling been slashed in half, but the additional bureaucratic steps that have been put in place have slowed everything down.”

Courtney Columbus is a multimedia journalist based in the Washington, D.C. area. She covers science, global health and consumer health. Her past work has appeared in the Arizona Republic and on Arizona PBS. Contact her @cmcolumbus11.

Scientists Peek Inside The ‘Black Box’ Of Soil Microbes To Learn Their Secrets

Jan 19, 2018   //   by Administrator   //   News from US  //  Comments Off on Scientists Peek Inside The ‘Black Box’ Of Soil Microbes To Learn Their Secrets

Microorganisms play a vital role in growing food and sustaining the planet, but they do it anonymously. Scientists haven’t identified most soil microbes, but they are learning which are most common.

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Microorganisms play a vital role in growing food and sustaining the planet, but they do it anonymously. Scientists haven’t identified most soil microbes, but they are learning which are most common.

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A tablespoon of soil contains billions of microscopic organisms. Life on Earth, especially the growing of food, depends on these microbes, but scientists don’t even have names for most of them, much less a description.

That’s changing, slowly, thanks to researchers like Noah Fierer, at the University of Colorado, Boulder. Fierer think microbes have lived in obscurity for too long. “They do a lot of important things for us, directly or indirectly, and I hope they get the respect they deserve,” he says.

These microbes create fertile soils, help plants grow, consume and release carbon dioxide, oxygen and other vital elements. But they do it all anonymously. Scientists haven’t identified most of these species and don’t know much else about them, either, such as “what they’re doing in soil, how they’re surviving, what they look like,” Fierer says.

According to Fierer, they’ve been extremely difficult to study, in part, because most of them refuse to grow anywhere but in the dirt, “so we can’t take them out of soil and study them in the lab.”

Some scientists call the community of soil microbes a “black box.” You can’t see inside.

Fierer and other scientists, however, have come up with new ways to open up that box just a little. They collect samples of soil and extract all the DNA contained in that sample, from all the organisms living there. That’s a lot of diversity, even in a small sample. “Thousands of bacterial species can be found in a given teaspoon of soil,” Fierer says.

They study the DNA in each sample. They look, specifically, at a particular region of DNA that’s common to all living organisms. And by making a catalog of all the different versions of that region, they can tell how many different kinds of microbes live in that sample. They also can tell how common each type of microbe is. There’s a huge consortium of scientists, called the Earth Microbiome Project, using this approach to study soil microbes.

Fierer, who’s a member of that collaboration, discovered that even though there may be millions of soil microbes, there’s a relatively small group that seems to dominate. The microbes show up in large numbers in soil samples from deserts, grassy prairies and forests. Fierer’s report appears this week in the journal Science.

Fierer made a list of 500 bacteria that often account for almost half of all soil bacteria. In the quest to understand the soil ecosystem, he says, it makes sense to start by focusing on these dominant species. He calls it a “most-wanted list,” but it’s also a list of question marks.

“Most of the microorganisms that made our most-wanted list — they don’t have a species name,” he says. “They’re un-described.”

Janet Jansson, a top scientist at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory in Richland, Wash., is helping to lead the Earth Microbiome Project. She says scientists will be looking closely at these commonly found microbes.

“They probably play an important role, because they are dominant and ubiquitous, so I think that’s what the next step has to be: Characterizing what they do, and how they are impacted by change — climate change, for example,” she says.

Jansson also says it may be possible to piece together the entire genetic sequence of these microbes, so that even if you can’t grow the microbes in a lab, scientists may be able to figure out what they’re doing just from looking at their genes.

These soil microbes, whether they’re common or rare, could also be the source of important new discoveries, she says, including biotechnologies like “new enzymes that remain to be discovered. Novel antibiotics that remain to be discovered.”

USA Gymnastics Says They Will No Longer Use The Karolyi Ranch Training Center

Jan 19, 2018   //   by Administrator   //   World News  //  Comments Off on USA Gymnastics Says They Will No Longer Use The Karolyi Ranch Training Center

On Thursday, USA Gymnastics announced they will stop using the Karolyi Ranch — the site of many of the atrocities committed against Olympians by Larry Nassar, the team’s former doctor. NPR’s Kelly McEvers talks to New York Times reporter, Juliet Macur about what happens next as Nassar faces sentencing hearings this week.

Former Wisconsin Officer, Acquitted In Fatal Shooting, Takes Sexual Assault Plea Deal

Jan 19, 2018   //   by Administrator   //   World News  //  Comments Off on Former Wisconsin Officer, Acquitted In Fatal Shooting, Takes Sexual Assault Plea Deal

Former Milwaukee police officer Dominique Heaggan-Brown appears in court in Milwaukee in June 2017.

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Former Milwaukee police officer Dominique Heaggan-Brown appears in court in Milwaukee in June 2017.

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Last June, a jury found former Milwaukee police officer Dominique Heaggan-Brown not guilty of first-degree reckless homicide. Now, Heaggan-Brown is taking a plea deal over separate sexual assault allegations that led the Milwaukee Police Department to fire him.

The shooting death of Sylville Smith, a 23-year-old black man, ignited riots in the north side of Milwaukee in August 2016.

Former Milwaukee Officer Found Not Guilty In Shooting Death Of Black Man

Under today’s deal, according to The Associated Press, “Prosecutors dropped the most serious charges of second-degree sexual assault. He pleaded guilty to soliciting prostitution and obtaining someone’s image without their consent, and he pleaded no contest to one count of false imprisonment.”

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel notes that all the charges are felonies.

“All but the capturing image charges carry a maximum penalty of three years in prison and three years of extended supervision. The image charge maximums are 18 months in prison and two years of extended supervision.

“Two of the original charges were second-degree sexual assault of an intoxicated or unconscious victim, punishable by up to 25 years in prison.”

Sentencing has been set for Feb. 20.

The AP has details about the charges:

“One of the sexual assault charges stemmed from a case that happened one day after Smith’s shooting. The victim in that case told police Heaggan-Brown, 26, assaulted him after a night of drinking at a bar where they watched coverage of the ongoing riots.

“Using photographs and other data from the officer’s cellphone, prosecutors determined Heaggan-Brown sexually assaulted another unconscious victim in July 2016. Prosecutors say Heaggan-Brown also photographed that victim naked without the person’s consent.”

As The Two-Way reported, Heaggan-Brown was on patrol with another officer when they stopped two men in August 2016. Here’s more from our previous coverage of the fatal shooting:

“The complaint states that the deadly encounter started when Heaggan-Brown and the other officer saw a man leaning in through the passenger window of a car with out-of-state license plates, talking to another man. It added that Heaggan-Brown had said in an interview that he thought it ‘could be consistent with drug activity.’

“Smith ran into a yard carrying a semi-automatic handgun, according to the complaint. It says police body camera video shows Smith slip to the ground near a chain link fence. He then gets to his feet and throws the gun over the fence.

“This is the moment Smith was shot twice — once before, and once after he threw the gun. The time between the two shots was 1.69 seconds.”

According to the complaint, body camera video from the two officers shows that “at the time of the second shot, Smith was unarmed and had his hands near his head.”

Heaggan-Brown’s lawyers argued that he was defending himself and did not know whether Smith had another weapon.

Walmart Offers Product To Destroy Leftover Opioids, But Critics Say It’s Unnecessary

Jan 18, 2018   //   by Administrator   //   News from US  //  Comments Off on Walmart Offers Product To Destroy Leftover Opioids, But Critics Say It’s Unnecessary

On Wednesday Walmart began distributing a new solution to help customers dispose of leftover opioid prescriptions. But CDC says, just flush them down the toilet.

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On Wednesday Walmart began distributing a new solution to help customers dispose of leftover opioid prescriptions. But CDC says, just flush them down the toilet.

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Walmart is the latest national company joining in the fight to try to help curb America’s harrowing opioid epidemic, which now kills more people than breast cancer.

On Wednesday the chain rolled out a pharmacy product it says provides a safe way to get rid of extra prescription opioid drugs. It’s called DisposeRx and when mixed with warm water it turns any form of opioid drug — including powders, pills, tablets, capsules, liquids or patches — into a biodegradable gel that can’t be separated or converted back into a usable drug.

Walmart touted it as the first of its kind in a statement, and said the ingredients are FDA approved.

“The health and safety of our patients is a critical priority; that’s why we’re taking an active role in fighting our nation’s opioid issue – an issue that has affected so many families and communities across America,” Marybeth Hays, executive vice president of Consumables and Health and Wellness at Walmart U.S., said in the statement.

In 2016 more than 42,000 Americans died of an opioid overdose — including prescription opioids, heroin and fentanyl. That is more than any year on record and 40 percent of all overdose deaths involved a prescription.

Walmart explained patients filling new opioid prescriptions at any of its 4,700 pharmacies will receive a free DisposeRx packet starting immediately, while existing customers can ask for one at any time. Patients with chronic pain prescriptions will be offered packets every six months.

Republican Sen. John Boozman from Arkansas praised Walmart for helping “to keep unused prescription drugs out of the wrong hands.”

“About one-third of medications sold go unused. Too often, these dangerous narcotics remain unsecured where children, teens or visitors may have access,” he said in the statement Walmart released.

A CDC study found Arkansas’ prescription drugs are so ubiquitous there are enough pills on the black market that every single citizen — nearly 3 million in the state — could have a full bottle, reported Talk Business Politics.

Dr. Andrew Kolodny, co-director of the Opioid Policy Research Collaborative at Brandeis University, agrees that leftover pills do contribute to the spread of addiction but he says products like DisposeRx are unnecessary because the CDC already encourages anyone who’s at the end of a prescription opioid treatment to “flush them down the toilet.” No special ingredients necessary.

“The problem is the general public just doesn’t know that,” he said.

“Think about it,” he continued, “every time someone taking an opioid medication urinates or defecates, it gets into the water supply. So that’s not the real problem.”

Kolodny is also conducting a long-term study on the impact of numerous legislative and private company-led efforts to stem the epidemic. His conclusion on Walmart’s DisposeRx? “It’s nice that they’re trying but it will have little impact.”

The root of the explosion in the addiction crisis, he says, is rampant over-prescribing by doctors and dentists. Through his research, which is ongoing, Kolodny has found that policies limiting prescriptions are most effective, like the one imposed by CVS. In September the drug-store chain began limiting opioid painkillers to seven-day supplies for new patients.

But even that falls short of what is required, Kolodny said.

A better strategy is the one undertaken by the Vermont Department of Health. New rules established in April limit the quantity of a “morphine milligram equivalent” in prescriptions. They lay out specific dosages of drugs containing oxycodone, hydrocodone and acetaminophen-oxycodone (found in Percocet) that doctors should prescribe.

Kaiser Health News reported 22 states either adopted or toughened their prescription size limits in 2016.

DACA Troubles Could Put Spending Bill In Peril

Jan 18, 2018   //   by Administrator   //   News from US  //  Comments Off on DACA Troubles Could Put Spending Bill In Peril

President Trump, with House Speaker Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn og Texas, and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, speaks to reporters after a recent retreat where GOP leaders made plans for 2018.

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President Trump, with House Speaker Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn og Texas, and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, speaks to reporters after a recent retreat where GOP leaders made plans for 2018.

Andrew Harnik/AP

Congressional leaders plan to vote later this week on a month-long spending bill but the ongoing fight over immigration threatens to derail the plan days before the Friday deadline to prevent a government shutdown.

Republican leaders say they are confident that Congress will vote this week to extend current spending levels until February 16 but Democrats and some far-right conservatives are threatening to block the legislation.

Democrats say they are unwilling to vote for a spending bill that does not provide a pathway to citizenship for the roughly 700,000 immigrants who are in the country illegally after being brought here as children. That group had been granted temporary status allowing them to remain in the U.S. without fear of deportation, and to work or attend college or graduate school, under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, program created by the Obama administration. In September of last year, the Trump administration announced those protections would end in March 2017.

Now with a Jan. 19 deadline looming for continuing to fund the government, conservatives say they can’t support any spending bill that paves the way for a future immigration deal that could favor Democrats.

House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., told reporters Wednesday that a short-term spending measure will give negotiators more time to craft a bill that satisfies both sides and President Trump.

“I think the fact that we’re in earnest and negotiating in good faith with our four leaders on DACA speaks to the fact that we want to see a solution,” Ryan said. “We will not bring a DACA bill that the president doesn’t support. What point would it be to bring a bill through here that we won’t have signed into law by the president?”

The immigration talks ground nearly to a halt last week after Trump rejected a bipartisan solution proposed by Sens. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C. and Dick Durbin, D-Ill., during a profanity-laden meeting at the White House. That meeting effectively ended those bipartisan talks and a second group of negotiators has stepped in to attempt to craft a new deal.

Those talks have been lead by the second-ranking Republicans and Democrats in the House and the Senate. The talks have not yet produced a solution and leaders hope the a stop-gap spending bill will give them more time to reach a deal.

House leaders hope to vote on a spending bill on Thursday but a growing number of members of the conservative House Freedom Caucus say they may vote against the bill. Freedom Caucus Chairman Mark Meadows, R-N.C., told reporters Wednesday that conservatives aren’t sold on the direction of the immigration negotiations and would not say how many he expected would vote against the bill.

“My understand is leadership is going to put it on the floor regardless if they have votes or not,” Meadows said. “If that’s the case, I guess the day of reckoning will come tomorrow.”

Congressional leaders hope to avoid a serious confrontation over spending by pairing the stop-gap measure with a six-year extension of the popular State Children’s Health Insurance Program, known as CHIP. That program has broad bipartisan support and leaders hope lawmakers will vote for the measure to avoid voting against benefits for low-income children.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., told reporters Wednesday that he hopes skeptical Democrats will support the spending bill to ensure that CHIP is extended.

“The Democrats in the Senate have been very consistent in clamoring for addressing the children’s health care program,” McConnell said. “They claim they don’t want to shut down the government, so it seems to me it would be a rather attractive package.”

Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y, told reporters that he wants to avoid a shutdown but many Democrats oppose the short-term spending bill.

“The revulsion towards that bill was broad and strong,” Schumer said. “Who called for the shutdown? Not a Democrat, but Donald Trump has repeatedly said, on tape, over and over again, what the country needs is a good shutdown.”

Even Dale Earnhardt Jr. Skids and Rams Tree In Snow Storm

Jan 18, 2018   //   by Administrator   //   World News  //  Comments Off on Even Dale Earnhardt Jr. Skids and Rams Tree In Snow Storm

Dale Earnhardt Jr. crashed into a tree minutes after helping another driver out of a snow-filled ditch.

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Dale Earnhardt Jr. crashed into a tree minutes after helping another driver out of a snow-filled ditch.

Ross D. Franklin/AP

Former NASCAR superstar Dale Earnhardt Jr. found out even the best drivers may have to stay off the roads in a snow storm.

Wednesday morning after he helped pull another car out of ditch, his pickup skidded off the road and rammed into a tree.

On Twitter Earnhardt said he lost control of his car on a snow-covered road and warned other North Carolina drivers to avoid his fate.

“[North Carolina] stay off the roads today/tonight. 5 minutes after helping these folks I center punched a pine tree,” he wrote.

But fans need not worry about the hall of famer. “All good,” he said. “Probably just needs new alignment.”

A storm left a blanket of snow over North and South Carolina and Georgia. North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper declared a state of emergency in advance of the storm. AccuWeather reported the snowstorm caused over 500 collisions in the state.

Earnhardt’s accident came a day after the former NASCAR star announced he’ll be covering the Super Bowl and Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang on NBC.

Pioneering HIV Researcher Mathilde Krim Remembered For Her Activism

Jan 18, 2018   //   by Administrator   //   World News  //  Comments Off on Pioneering HIV Researcher Mathilde Krim Remembered For Her Activism

Dr. Mathilde Krim at the World AIDS Day Symposium presented by the Foundation For AIDS Research and the Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health in 2002. Krim had a knack for helping people talk about HIV/AIDS rationally, colleagues say.

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Dr. Mathilde Krim at the World AIDS Day Symposium presented by the Foundation For AIDS Research and the Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health in 2002. Krim had a knack for helping people talk about HIV/AIDS rationally, colleagues say.

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With the death of biologist Mathilde Krim on Monday, at the age of 91 at her home in New York, the world lost a pioneering scientist, activist and fundraiser in AIDS research. She is being widely praised this week for her clarity, compassion and leadership.

Amid the panic, confusion and discrimination of the HIV epidemic’s earliest days, Krim stood out — using science and straight talk, in the 1980s and beyond, to dispel fear, stigma, and misinformation among politicians and the public.

“She has likely literally saved hundreds of thousands if not millions of lives because of what she did during the initial days and years of the epidemic,” says Corey Johnson, speaker of the New York City Council. “Every single one of us living with HIV today who are on medicines, where now we can live and thrive — it’s because of people like Dr.Mathilde Krim.”

Born in Italy in 1926, Krim received her doctorate in biology from the University of Geneva in Switzerland. She became a steadfast activist for human rights early on, lived in Israel for a time and moved to the United States in the late 50s.

She was studying viruses and cancer when the AIDS epidemic emerged in the early 1980s and was among the first scientists to raise funds for research to develop AIDS treatment, working with celebrities like actress Elizabeth Taylor and others. Krim was the founding chair of the American Foundation for AIDS Research (now called the Foundation for AIDS Research) and went on to raise millions of dollars to finance basic research, clinical trials of drugs and other treatments and AIDS awareness programs.

Mathilde Krim (left), shown here in 1992 with fellow amfAR board members Elizabeth Taylor and Dr. Mervyn F. Silverman, campaigned for needle exchange programs to stop the spread of HIV/AIDS among drug users, and promoted public campaigns that advocated safe sex practices, such as condom use.

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Mathilde Krim (left), shown here in 1992 with fellow amfAR board members Elizabeth Taylor and Dr. Mervyn F. Silverman, campaigned for needle exchange programs to stop the spread of HIV/AIDS among drug users, and promoted public campaigns that advocated safe sex practices, such as condom use.

Denis Doyle/AP

Colleagues say Krim had a knack for helping people talk about HIV/AIDS rationally.

“She did it in a very grandmotherly way but also in a very direct and honest way,” says Kevin Robert Frost, current CEO of the Foundation for AIDS Research. Krim facilitated much-needed public discussions of sex, drug use and homosexuality, Frost says.

“She was able to address all of those things and sweep aside the stigma and discrimination … in a way that I think very few people could have at the time,” he says.

While most lawmakers were silent, Frost says, discrimination against people with AIDS was rampant in housing, employment and even medical care. Krim fought for laws to ban such discrimination, campaigned for needle exchange programs to stop the spread of HIV/AIDS among drug users, and promoted public campaigns that advocated safe sex practices, such as condom use.

Though Not A Death Sentence, HIV/AIDS Still Holds A Powerful Stigma

Long-time AIDS activist and author, Peter Staley, who was an early member of the Aids Coalition to Unleash Power (ACT UP), an international direct action advocacy group, calls Krim’s approach to public health groundbreaking.

“She recognized human nature for what it was — with all its faults and beautiful diversity — and she realized that using science and the traditional public health approach was the way to save lives,” says Staley. “You throw out the moralizing — the finger wagging — and you save lives. And she did this again and again and again, fighting HIV stigma and homophobia.”

Krim received 16 honorary doctorates; in 2000 President Bill Clinton presented her with the nation’s highest civilian honor — the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Frost remembers Krim with a quote attributed to Albert Einstein that “a life lived for others is a life worthwhile.” Frost says he greatly mourns Krim’s passing, but it’s also a joy to remember somebody “who could devote themselves so completely to the people around them.”

Turning Soybeans Into Diesel Fuel Is Costing Us Billions

Jan 17, 2018   //   by Administrator   //   News from US  //  Comments Off on Turning Soybeans Into Diesel Fuel Is Costing Us Billions

An engineer shows a sample of biodiesel at an industrial complex in General Lagos, Santa Fe province, Argentina. The United States recently imposed duties on Argentine biodiesel, blocking it from the U.S. market.

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An engineer shows a sample of biodiesel at an industrial complex in General Lagos, Santa Fe province, Argentina. The United States recently imposed duties on Argentine biodiesel, blocking it from the U.S. market.

Eitan Abramovich/AFP/Getty Images

This year, trucks and other heavy-duty motors in America will burn some 3 billion gallons of diesel fuel that was made from soybean oil. They’re doing it, though, not because it’s cheaper or better, but because they’re required to, by law.

The law is the Renewable Fuel Standard, or RFS. For some, especially Midwestern farmers, it’s the key to creating clean energy from American soil and sun. For others — like many economists — it’s a wasteful misuse of resources.

And the most wasteful part of the RFS, according to some, is biodiesel. It’s different from ethanol, a fuel that’s made from corn and mixed into gasoline, also as required by the RFS. In fact, gasoline companies probably would use ethanol even if there were no law requiring it, because ethanol is a useful fuel additive. That’s not true of biodiesel.

“This is an easy one, economically. Biodiesel is very expensive, relative to petroleum diesel,” says Scott Irwin, an economist at the University of Illinois, who follows biofuel markets closely. He calculates that the extra cost for biodiesel comes to about $1.80 per gallon right now, meaning that the biofuel law is costing Americans about $5.4 billion a year.

Irwin explains that use of biodiesel is driven by three different parts of the Renewable Fuel Standard. The law includes a quota for biodiesel use, but in addition to that, biodiesel also is used in order to meet the law’s demand for “advanced biofuels.” Finally, there’s an overall quota for biofuels of all sorts, and companies are using biodiesel to meet that quota as well because they’ve run into limits on their ability to blend ethanol into gasoline.

Defenders of biodiesel insist that it’s a much cleaner fuel than regular diesel, because it doesn’t come from the ground, but from soybean plants that capture carbon dioxide from the air as they grow. In fact, by the EPA’s calculations, replacing petroleum-based fuel with biodiesel will cut greenhouse emissions at least in half.

A growing number of environmentalists, however, say that this calculation is dead wrong. They say that if more soybeans are needed to make fuel in addition to food, it inevitably means that people somewhere on Earth will have to plow up grasslands or cut down forests in order to grow that additional supply — and clearing such land releases huge amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.

Two environmental groups — ActionAid USA and Mighty Earth — just released a report connecting America’s biodiesel demands directly to deforestation in Argentina.

Investigators from the two groups documented widespread clearing of Argentine forests in order to expand cultivation of soybeans. Simultaneously, Argentina expanded its exports of soybean-derived biodiesel to the United States. In 2016, in fact, Argentina shipped more than 400 million gallons of biodiesel to the U.S., equivalent to almost 15 percent of all the biodiesel that Americans consumed.

The story, however, is more complicated than it seems. For one thing, that boom in Argentine biodiesel exports is over, at least for now. Last summer, the the United States accused Argentina of subsidizing its biodiesel producers and “dumping” cheap biodiesel on the world market. In retaliation, the U.S. imposed hefty taxes on on all biodiesel from Argentina. Overnight, those imports ceased. Americans now will have to rely on biodiesel produced here in the U.S. — which also is more expensive. (In a way, Argentina was doing the U.S. a favor, helping it satisfy its biodiesel demands more cheaply.)

In addition, the most powerful factor driving demand for soybeans these days is China’s appetite for soy meal, to feed its pigs and chickens, rather than America’s need for soy oil to make fuel.

“The big story is China’s demand,” says Irwin of the University of Illinois. “If anything is related to tearing up pastures in Argentina to grow soybeans, it’s China and not biodiesel.”

In fact, China wants so much soy meal that it’s boosted global supplies of soy oil, because soybeans, when they’re crushed, yield both meal and oil. By satisfying China’s demand for meal, soy processors inevitably end up with plenty of oil to sell, too. (Interestingly, this is a reversal of the situation a century ago, when soybeans were mainly grown for their oil, and producers struggled to find uses for the meal.)

Man Ruptures His Throat By Stifling A Big Sneeze, Prompting Doctors’ Warning

Jan 17, 2018   //   by Administrator   //   News from US  //  Comments Off on Man Ruptures His Throat By Stifling A Big Sneeze, Prompting Doctors’ Warning

A man gets ready to let one loose. Not pictured: all the folks around him diving for cover.

CSA-Printstock/Getty Images/iStockphoto


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CSA-Printstock/Getty Images/iStockphoto

A man gets ready to let one loose. Not pictured: all the folks around him diving for cover.

CSA-Printstock/Getty Images/iStockphoto

Now, there is ample reason for you to cover your nose when you sneeze. It’s flu season, after all, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have made it quite clear they don’t want you spreading your germs with reckless abandon.

But let’s not go overboard here, people.

In a report Monday in the journal BMJ Case Reports, several ear, nose and throat specialists detail the woes of a man who tried to entirely stifle a strong sneeze. And those woes aren’t exactly pretty.

The unnamed patient in question — a 34-year-old described as “previously fit and well” — attempted to stop a particularly forceful sneeze by “pinching the nose and holding his mouth closed.”

Not long afterward, he noticed something was wrong.

It hurt when he swallowed and he observed a “change of voice.” What’s more, his neck had swollen and, when he tried to move it, produced an unsettling popping and crackling sensation.

As it turns out, his doctors noticed it too, once he had been admitted to the emergency department at Britain’s Leicester Royal Infirmary. X-rays revealed the cause: little “streaks of air” embedded in the soft tissue of his neck, conditions known as subcutaneous emphysema and pneumomediastinum.

A radiograph of the man’s throat shows streaks of air in the back of the throat (black arrow) and extensive surgical emphysema (white arrow).

Courtesy of BMJ Case Reports


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Courtesy of BMJ Case Reports

A radiograph of the man’s throat shows streaks of air in the back of the throat (black arrow) and extensive surgical emphysema (white arrow).

Courtesy of BMJ Case Reports

In other words, by trying to suppress the full force of his sneeze the man literally ruptured his throat. The air that sneeze would have blasted forth instead made its way into his soft tissue as tiny bubbles.

But don’t panic: After at least a week or so of recovery the man was well enough to leave the hospital — with “advice to avoid obstructing both nostrils while sneezing,” Yang adds — and his follow-up two months later revealed a clean bill of health.

It should be noted that this is a unusual case. In fact, Dr. Zi Yang Jiang, a head and neck surgeon who was not involved in the report, tells The Associated Press that such an incident is “exceedingly rare,” and that he sees just one or two such cases a year.

That doesn’t mean it’s easy — or recommended — to stamp a sneeze out.

What 'Ah-Choo!' Can Do For You

“It’s powerful,” allergist Eli Meltzer told NPR’s Nancy Shute. “We actually blow out the sneeze at 40 mph. The discharge can go 20 feet. And it’s said that 40,000 droplets can come out when you spritz with the mouth and the nose when you sneeze.”

The moral? As the doctors put it in Monday’s report: “Halting sneeze via blocking nostrils and mouth is a dangerous manoeuvre and should be avoided.”

So, next time you feel that familiar tingle behind the nostrils, just go ahead and let it rip. But for the sake of your coworkers, friends and everyone you hold dear, please: Break out a tissue, too.

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