Monday, March 31, 2014

Underweight Individuals Face Higher Risk Of Dying Than Obese

From MedlinePlus, "Underweight Even Deadlier Than Overweight, Study Says: Death risk nearly doubled for excessively thin people" by Alan Mozes:
It's said you can never be too rich or too thin, but new research suggests otherwise. People who are clinically underweight face an even higher risk for dying than obese individuals, the study shows.

Compared to normal-weight folks, the excessively thin have nearly twice the risk of death, researchers concluded after reviewing more than 50 prior studies.

Obesity has occupied center stage under the public health spotlight, but "we have [an] obligation to ensure that we avoid creating an epidemic of underweight adults and fetuses who are otherwise at the correct weight," said study leader Dr. Joel Ray, a physician-researcher at St. Michael's Hospital in Toronto.

Friday, March 28, 2014

On The Cusp Of The Evolutionary Extinction Of Public Schools In Favor of Charter Schools

from The Wall Street Journal, "The Charter School Performance Breakout: The oft-heard claim that charters perform no better than conventional schools is out of date and inaccurate." by Karl Zinsmeister:
The combination of weak charters closing and strong charters replicating is having powerful effects. The first major assessment of charter schools by Stanford's Center for Research on Educational Outcomes found their results to be extremely variable, and overall no better than conventional schools as of 2009. Its follow-up study several years later found that steady closures and their replacement by proven models had pushed charters ahead of conventional schools. In New York City, the average charter-school student now absorbs five months of extra learning a year in math, and one extra month in reading, compared with counterparts in conventional schools.

Other reviews show similar results, and performance advantages will accelerate in the near future. Charter schools tend to start small and then add one additional grade each year. Thus many charters in New York and elsewhere are just getting started with many children. As the schools mature, and weak performers continue to be replaced, charters will become even more effective.

But the results top charter schools are achieving are already striking. At KIPP, the largest chain of charters, 86% of all students are low-income, and 95% are African-American or Latino, yet 83% go to college. In New York City, one of the academies Mr. de Blasio has denied additional space to is Harlem's highest-performing middle school, with its 97% minority fifth-graders ranking No. 1 in the state in math achievement. It and the 21 other schools in its charter network have passing rates on state math and reading tests more than twice the citywide average.

Judged by how far they move students from where they start, New York charter schools like Success Academies, Uncommon Schools, Democracy Prep and Achievement First—and others like them across the country—are now the highest-achieving schools in America. The oft-heard claim that charters perform no better than conventional schools on the whole is out of date and inaccurate.

School Choice Better Than National Standards In Improving Educational Outcomes

From The Wall Street Journal, "Rethinking National Standards" by Jason L Riley:
The Obama administration says national standards are needed because some state standards are too low. But that argument assumes that high state standards produce superior academic outcomes. In a 2012 study, the Brookings Institution's Tom Loveless compared state standards and standardized test scores in those states. "The finding is clear," wrote Mr. Loveless. "The quality of standards has not mattered. From 2003 to 2009, states with terrific standards raised their National Assessment of Educational Progress scores by roughly the same margin as states with awful ones."

The reality is that other education reforms, such as school choice, have a much better track record of improving student achievement. The Obama administration would have us spend billions of dollars implementing a top-down, one-size-fits-all curriculum for the nation. That money would be much better spent replicating successful charter school models like KIPP Academy, or voucher programs in places like Milwaukee and Washington, D.C.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Minorities Have Higher Rates Of Diabetes

From US Food and Drug Administration, Consumer Update, "Fighting Diabetes' Deadly Impact on Minorities:"
Diabetes affects nearly 26 million Americans (8.3% of the population).
Who has diabetes? According to the National Health Interview Survey by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the U.S. Census Bureau:
  • 17.5% of American Indians/Alaska natives
  • 16.3% of American Indians/Native Americans
  • 13.2% of Hispanics
  • 12.9% of non-Hispanic blacks
  • 9.1% of Asian Americans
  • 7.6% of non-Hispanic whites 18 and older

Restrictive Skilled-Immigration Policy Costs US 500,000 Jobs Per Year

From The Wall Street Journal, "How America Loses a Job Every 43 Seconds: For every immigrant hired at technology companies, an average of five additional employees are added as well." by Matthew J Slaughter:
Restrictive skilled-immigration policy costs U.S. jobs every single day. How many? Start with an estimated 100,000 jobs lost directly this year from H-1B visa applications that were either not filed or not approved beyond the current cap of 85,000. Then add 400,000, a ballpark estimate from research of additional jobs not created at immigrant-hiring companies and at these companies' suppliers.

That's 500,000 jobs lost thanks to too-restrictive U.S. immigration policy. Spread across 50 five-day workweeks, this translates into 2,000 U.S. jobs not created a day. That is a new job lost about every 43 seconds, around the clock, every single day that America is open for business.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Surveyed Banks Expect 50 Percent Increase In Loan Loss Allowances Under New FASB Model

From Sageworks, "Survey: Bankers Expect Higher Credit-Loss Reserves:"
U.S. banks and credit unions, preparing for proposed changes to how they must estimate credit losses, anticipate they’ll eventually need to boost allowances for loan and lease losses by up to 50 percent, according to a new survey by Sageworks, a financial information company.

Among more than 300 bankers surveyed during a webinar, 87 percent said they expect an increase of up to 50 percent to these rainy-day type funds under a credit-loss model proposed by the Financial Accounting Standards Board, the independent body responsible for establishing generally accepted accounting principles. Only about 11 percent of those surveyed expected no impact to the reserve if the board adopts the leading proposal.
Survey participants were volunteers drawn from those attending a webinar hosted by Sageworks on the FASB’s proposed changes. About half of the webinar participants represented banks and credit unions with assets of less than $500 million, and 36 percent represented institutions with assets topping $1 billion. The remaining 16 percent had total assets between $500 million and $1 billion.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Sabotaging 9 Of The 55,000 US Electrical Grid Substations Could Cause National Power Loss And Darkness

From The Wall Street Journal, "U.S. Risks National Blackout From Small-Scale Attack: Federal Analysis Says Sabotage of Nine Key Substations Is Sufficient for Broad Outage" by Rebecca Smith:
The U.S. could suffer a coast-to-coast blackout if saboteurs knocked out just nine of the country's 55,000 electric-transmission substations on a scorching summer day, according to a previously unreported federal analysis.

The study by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission concluded that coordinated attacks in each of the nation's three separate electric systems could cause the entire power network to collapse, people familiar with the research said.

A small number of the country's substations play an outsize role in keeping power flowing across large regions. The FERC analysis indicates that knocking out nine of those key substations could plunge the country into darkness for weeks, if not months.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Tokyo Radiation Levels Same As Before Fukushima Accident

From Bloomberg, "Tokyo Radiation Less Than Paris’s Three Years After Meltdown" by Jacob Adelman:
Atmospheric radiation levels in Tokyo are at the same level as before the Fukushima nuclear accident three years ago and are below those in Paris and London.

The average radiation level in central Tokyo was 0.0339 microsieverts per hour in Shinjuku Ward on March 6, data from the Tokyo Metropolitan Institute of Public Health show. That’s about the same as the day before the March 11, 2011 earthquake and tsunami caused the meltdown of three reactors at the Fukushima plant 220 kilometers (137 miles) to the northeast.

Friday, March 7, 2014

More Accidents From Texting And Walking Than Texting And Driving

From MedlinePlus, "Texting While Walking Often Leads to Injuries: Expert: Distraction causes people to fall down stairs, step into traffic, trauma doctor says" by Robert Preidt:
Texting while walking causes more -- although usually less serious -- injuries than texting while driving, according to an expert.

"When texting, you're not as in control with the complex actions of walking," Dr. Dietrich Jehle, a professor of emergency medicine at the University at Buffalo, said in a university news release. "While talking on the phone is a distraction, texting is much more dangerous because you can't see the path in front of you."

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Younger Scientists Lack Research Funding Grants

From The Wall Street Journal, "How to Reverse the Graying of Scientific Research: Dramatically fewer grants are going to young scientists. That's a cause for alarm." by Ronald J Daniels and Paul Rothman:
The National Institutes of Health reports that between 1980 and 2012, the share of all research funding going to scientists under age 35 declined to 1.3%, from 5.6%. During the same period, the number of NIH awards going to scientists age 35 and under declined more than 40%, even as the total number of awards more than doubled.

The numbers are similarly unsettling for the NIH's premier research grant, called the R01, a highly competitive, peer-reviewed grant that supports independent, investigator-driven science. From 1983 to 2010, the percentage of R01 investigators under age 36 declined to 3% from 18%. Principal investigators who were age 65 or older received more than twice as many R01 grants in 2010 as those 36 and under—a reversal from 15 years earlier. The average age at which investigators with a medical degree received their first R01 grant rose to 45 in 2011, from 38 in 1980.

Considering that many of the most significant scientific breakthroughs were made by the 36-and-younger set—from Albert Einstein developing his special theory of relativity at 26 to James Watson at 25 and Francis Crick at 36 discovering the DNA double helix—we deprive young scientists of funding at our peril.

Selenium And Vitamin E Supplements Increase Men's Risk Of Prostate Cancer

From Medscape Medical News, "How Selenium, Vitamin E Increase Prostate Cancer Risk" by Nick Mulcahy:
New data from the much publicized Selenium and Vitamin E Cancer Prevention Trial (SELECT), which sought to determine whether these supplements could protect against the development of prostate cancer, confirm that both antioxidants can be risky business for men.

As previously reported, men receive no preventive benefit from either selenium or vitamin E supplements; in fact, for certain men, these supplements actually increased the risk for prostate cancer.