Don’t throw away those Amazon Boxes!

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❝ Amazon and Goodwill have a great new program they are doing to make it even easier to donate household goods, clothes, etc. Using the Give Back Boxplatform, a free shipping service, you can donate items you no longer need to Goodwill with ease and bring new life to your empty Amazon box…

❝ 1. Open Your Box: Unpack your merchandise from your Amazon shipping box.

2. Pack Your Box: Fill the box with clothing, accessories and household goods you no longer need and print your free shipping label from GiveBackBox.com.

3. Send Your Box: Let UPS or the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) deliver your box of donations to Goodwill for you.

❝ Donations go directly to your nearest participating Goodwill organization using a free shipping label and empty Amazon (or other) box. Goodwill sells the donated goods, and the revenues help support employment placement, job training and other community-based services to create strong families and communities.

Here’s the url for GiveBackBox.com. Click through some of the links to learn a bit more of their history.

Thanks, Barry Ritholtz

Examination of Arctic warmth leads straight to the expected cause


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❝ It normally takes many months to get a paper through peer review and into a journal, but a group of scientists has released their detection and attribution study early, and it’s a stunning indictment. We now know the culprit for the astonishing Arctic warmth of November and December. It seemed very likely that the guilty party was rising greenhouse gasses with Arctic amplification as the accomplice, and that’s JUST what the evidence shows. It’s overwhelming, and the defendants have no choice but to throw themselves upon the mercy of the court.

❝ The analysis shows that even in our present climate that is around a degree warmer than 1900, this heat is unusual, but would happen once every 50-200 years. The odds of it happening in the climate of 1900 are astronomically tiny, however, if we warm another degree, this will be a nearly commonplace event.

The study is here, and for those that do not want to read the whole thing RTFA for the conclusions.

❝ What this study took great pains to do was to show that this warmth is almost certainly not a natural oscillation in the Arctic climate. Such oscillations exist, but when they are subtracted out, this year stands out like a big red sore thumb. Chris Mooney at the Washington Post has a good summary of this study as well.

I’ll leave crayola-sophistry to the climate denial crowd. They have a good couple of years ahead with the government packed by both wings of the Republican Party.

Lousy nutrition will make you stupid as well as fat

❝ Being overweight can raise your blood pressure, cholesterol and risk for developing diabetes. It could be bad for your brain, too.

A diet high in saturated fats and sugars, the so-called Western diet, actually affects the parts of the brain that are important to memory and make people more likely to crave the unhealthful food, says psychologist Terry Davidson…

❝ He didn’t start out studying what people ate. Instead, he was interested in learning more about the hippocampus, a part of the brain that’s heavily involved in memory…He did that by studying rats that had very specific types of hippocampal damage and seeing what happened to them.

In the process, Davidson noticed something strange. The rats with the hippocampal damage would go to pick up food more often than the other rats, but they would eat a little bit, then drop it.

Davidson realized these rats didn’t know they were full. He says something similar may happen in human brains when people eat a diet high in fat and sugar. Davidson says there’s a vicious cycle of bad diets and brain changes. He points to a 2015 study…that found obese children performed more poorly on memory tasks that test the hippocampus compared with kids who weren’t overweight.

❝ He says if our brain system is impaired by that kind of diet, “that makes it more difficult for us to stop eating that diet. … I think the evidence is fairly substantial that you have an effect of these diets and obesity on brain function and cognitive function.”…

❝ Davidson is…moving forward by studying how to break the vicious cycle of a Western diet, obesity and brain changes. But he says the underlying idea that obesity affects the brain is clear.

“It’s surprising to me that people would question that obesity would have a negative effect on the brain, because it has a negative effect on so many other bodily systems,” he says, adding, why would “the brain would be spared?”

Another smartass scientist who lets sound logic and data get in the way of profits from corporations producing and selling crap food. Will they never learn?

RTFA for a range of studies that move from correlation to causation.

Mormon Tabernacle Choir member quits rather than perform for Trump

❝ A member of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir has resigned in protest over the group’s decision to sing at President-elect Donald Trump’s inauguration, saying “it will appear that [the] Choir is endorsing tyranny and [fascism] by singing for this man.”

❝ The famous choir, which is affiliated with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS), first announced its decision to perform at Trump’s inauguration last week. The news sparked controversy among Mormons—many of whom are deeply ambivalent about Trump—but organizers justified the decision by noting that the group has performed at the inaugural celebrations of both Republican and Democratic presidents.

❝ …The reasoning was not enough for at least one performer: Jan Chamberlin, a member of the choir, published a Facebook post on Thursday morning announcing she would rather quit than sing for Trump…

“Since ‘the announcement,’ I have spent several sleepless nights and days in turmoil and agony…I’ve tried to tell myself that by not going to the inauguration, that I would be able to stay in choir for all the other good reasons. I’ve tried to tell myself that it will be all right and that I can continue in good conscience before God and man.” Chamberlin wrote. “But it’s no use. I simply cannot continue with the recent turn of events. I could never look myself in the mirror again with self respect.”…

❝ “Tyranny is now on our doorstep; it has been sneaking its way into our lives through stealth,” she wrote. “We must continue our love and support for the refugees and the oppressed by fighting against these great evils.”…

“I only know I could never ‘throw roses to Hitler.’ And I certainly could never sing for him,” she wrote.

Bravo! A courageous stand against bigotry. An evil Mormons have often faced in their young history. Too bad so many mainstream and evangelical sects in this land haven’t the same sense of history and justice.

Life expectancy in the US diminished for the first time in decades

❝ Last year, we learned about a troubling trend in the US population. Death rates were creeping up for middle-age white people, particularly women. The researchers who identified the problem in a blockbuster study attributed the change to economic struggles and accidental poisonings — mainly caused by prescription painkiller and heroin use.

But a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has a more disturbing finding: It’s not just middle-age white folks who are dying sooner — it’s everyone.

Between 2014 and 2015, death rates crept up for the entire population, and the causes are more complex than the oft-cited rise in opioid use…

1) Mortality is increasing for the entire population

❝ …The change is small, but it represents a trend not seen in decades, said Jiaquan Xu, an epidemiologist with the National Center for Health Statistics at the CDC.

“In 1999, the [age-adjusted death rate] increased, but the last time life expectancy decreased for the total population was in 1993,” Xu said. “After that, it sometimes decreased for specific age groups, but not the total population.”…

2) Eight of the 10 leading causes of death increased in 2015

❝ In 2015, the rates of eight of the top 10 leading causes of death in America increased — including heart disease, chronic lower respiratory diseases, unintentional injuries, stroke, Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes, kidney disease, and suicide. (The trends for flu and pneumonia didn’t change.) According to Xu, it’s unusual to see a negative trend for so many health measures.

“Mortality is rising across a wide variety of illnesses,” wrote Dartmouth health economist Jonathan Skinner…”so it’s not just the opioid epidemic. And as a consequence, it’s not entirely easy to figure out what to do about it.”

The only outlier on the top-10 list was cancer, which has seen its death rate drop by 1.7 percent in the last year. That was no surprise: The cancer death rate has actually been declining since the early 1990s. These changes are mainly attributed gains in early detection and treatment advances, as well as declines in the smoking rate.

3) Whites are suffering — but there’s still a big black-white health gap

❝ According to the latest data, both black men and white men saw their death rates increase by about the same amount. (White females saw a bigger increase in mortality than black females: The death rate increased by 1.6 percent for white women while it stayed the same for black women.)

This is part of a larger trend. The gap between black and white mortality has narrowed in recent years. But in absolute terms, African Americans have worse health outcomes and a shorter life expectancy than white Americans…

“That life expectancy hasn’t risen for any of the groups — black, white, Hispanic, male, female — is concerning,” Skinner said.

❝ What’s more, we’re entering a time where funding and political will is focused on medicine to cure people and not on public health to prevent illness before people get sick. In particular, the Senate passed the 21st Century Cures Act — the biggest health reform bill since Obamacare. The legislation promises to bring medical cures to patients faster. But nearly half of the funds for the legislation are going to be paid for cutting $3.5 billion from public health efforts like immunizations and obesity and tobacco prevention.

Congress cares about cure, of course. Last time I checked, the biggest contributor to national political campaigns in the United States was Big Pharma. They’re pretty much always part of the top vote buyers. And Congress members already have socialized medicine.

Footprints of our early ancestors


Click to enlargeRaffaello Pellizzon

Footprints made by early humans millions of years ago have been uncovered in Tanzania close to where similar tracks were found in the 1970s.

The impressions were made when some of our distant relatives walked together across wet volcanic ash.

❝ Their makers, most likely Australopithecus afarensis, appear to have had a wide range of body sizes.

Scientists say this gives clues to how this ancient species of human lived…

The fossil of “Lucy”, a young adult female who lived in Ethiopia 3.2 million years ago, is perhaps the most famous individual…

❝ “This novel evidence, taken as a whole with the previous findings, portrays several early hominins moving as a group through the landscape following a volcanic eruption and subsequent rainfall. But there is more,” said lead researcher Prof Giorgio Manzi, director of the archaeological project in Tanzania.

“The footprints of one of the new individuals are astonishingly larger than anyone else’s in the group, suggesting that he was a large male member of the species.

“In fact, the 165cm stature indicated by his footprints makes him the largest Australopithecus specimen identified to date.”

❝ At 3.66 million years old, they are the oldest documented bipedal footprint trails…

Other prints were found at the site – including those of a giraffe, rhinoceros and prehistoric horses…

Keep on rocking in the real world. Science leads the way.

2067: How the ski industry is [and isn’t] heeding predictions of an overheating world

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YOU RUMMAGE THROUGH A TRUNK IN THE ATTIC AND HAPPEN UPON A DUSTY OLD PHOTO ALBUM. FLIPPING THROUGH ITS PAGES, YOU DISCOVER A SERIES OF CANDID POSES FEATURING YOUR GREAT GRANDPARENTS BACK IN THAT DISTANT WINTER OF ‘17.

Decades before you were born, these hale frosty-faced relatives, evincing grins from their snowy past, stand in vaulted white ramparts, the curves of their landscape recognizable to you—and yet they seem so foreign. But there your ancestors are: bundled contentedly against the elements, riding packed trams to the legendary powderamas of yore; ascending to destinations like Rendezvous Bowl in Jackson Hole, the black diamond runs of Grand Targhee, to the crest of Lone Mountain, and mugging for cellphone cameras along the ridge at Bridger Bowl.

Savoring what old-timers called “downhill skiing’s golden age” in the Northern Rockies, they hit the piste in late November and didn’t quit until mid-April.

Now in your own time, it’s Presidents Day weekend 2067, a period that once represented the busiest stretch of the ski season in winters half a century ago. You find that notion unbelievable. On this mid-February afternoon, it’s drizzling as it was during the Christmas holidays and into January; the thermometer reads a balmy 60 degrees. Intrigued by the thought of what once was, you set out to find the elusive snow line.

Climate change deniers will see this as scary science fiction. Scientists won’t. Educated voters won’t.

Nice piece of writing and a useful approach to forecasting what we have coming — probably regardless of what solutions are adopted if any. Who knows how long the United States will choose in our usual anti-democratic fashion to be governed by short-term thinking and ignorant profiteers?

Meanwhile, read this tale from the MOUNTAIN OUTLAW.