Here, There and Everywhere

Posts tagged ‘study’

More Guns, More Murder

Largest Gun Study Ever: More Guns, More Murder
by Zack Beauchamp
From Think Progress/Nation of Change
14 September 2013

The largest study of gun violence in the United States, released Thursday afternoon, confirms a point that should be obvious: widespread American gun ownership is fueling America’s gun violence epidemic.

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The study, by Professor Michael Siegel at Boston University and two coauthors, has been peer-reviewed and is forthcoming in the American Journal of Public Health. Siegel and his colleagues compiled data on firearm homicides from all 50 states from 1981-2010, the longest stretch of time ever studied in this fashion, and set about seeing whether they could find any relationship between changes in gun ownership and murder using guns over time.

Since we know that violent crime rates overall declined during that period of time, the authors used something called “fixed effect regression” to account for any national trend other than changes in gun ownership. They also employed the largest-ever number of statistical controls for other variables in this kind of gun study: “age, gender, race/ethnicity, urbanization, poverty, unemployment, income, education, income inequality, divorce rate, alcohol use, violent crime rate, nonviolent crime rate, hate crime rate, number of hunting licenses, age-adjusted nonfirearm homicide rate, incarceration rate, and suicide rate” were all accounted for.

No good data on national rates of gun ownership exist (partly because of the NRA’s stranglehold on Congress), so the authors used the percentage of suicides that involve a firearm (FS/S) as a proxy. The theory, backed up by a wealth of data, is that the more guns there are any in any one place, the higher the percentage of people who commit suicide with guns as opposed to other mechanisms will be.

With all this preliminary work in hand, the authors ran a series of regressions to see what effect the overall national decline in firearm ownership from 1981 to 2010 had on gun homicides. The result was staggering: “for each 1 percentage point increase in proportion of household gun ownership,” Siegel et al. found, “firearm homicide rate increased by 0.9″ percent. A one standard deviation change in firearm ownership shifted gun murders by a staggering 12.9 percent.

To put this in perspective, take the state of Mississippi. “All other factors being equal,” the authors write, “our model would predict that if the FS/S in Mississippi were 57.7% (the average for all states) instead of 76.8% (the highest of all states), its firearm homicide rate would be 17% lower.” Since 475 people were murdered with a gun in Mississippi in 2010, that drop in gun ownership would translate to 80 lives saved in that year alone.

Read complete article and more at Nation of Change.

Cubs Swimming To Death

Dear Gabriel,

A few days ago, my colleague Heather sent you an online-photo gallery in honor of International Polar Bear Day, Wednesday, February 27th. One of the photos really broke my heart. It was this one here: a mother swimming with her cubs. It broke my heart because so many polar bear cubs die in long distance swims like this one — as many as 45% in one observational study.

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This photo was a vivid example to me of the real impact of climate change.

Please make an emergency donation of $15 or more today to support our work to save these threatened Polar Bears.

At an alarming rate, global warming is melting the Arctic sea ice that polar bears depend on to hunt for food … threatening this noble Arctic creature with extinction.

Here are the sobering facts:

According to experts, two-thirds of the world’s polar bear populations could be lost by mid-century as sea ice continues to retreat.

Less Arctic sea ice forced 40% more Alaskan polar bear moms to den on land — away from food sources.

As sea ice disappears, bear mortality rises. In the Beaufort Sea region about 1/3 fewer polar bear cubs are surviving their first year of life.

The last ten years (2004 to 2013) have seen the ten lowest January sea ice extents (total area covered by sea ice) on the record.

Gabriel, we we urgently need your help to continue the fight to avoid the catastrophic consequences of climate change and save irreplaceable wildlife and their habitats.

Donate as little as $15 today to support our work will help make sure that our beloved wildlife can continue to be found in the wild, and NOT just in nature photographs.

Thank you for your support.

Sincerely,

Emily Stevenson
Manager, Online Membership
Environmental Defense Fund

U.S. Healthcare Near the Bottom

U.S. Healthcare Worse Than Almost All Other Industrialized Countries
by Carey L. Brown
Inter Press Service/Nation of Change
11 January 2013

U.S. citizens suffer from poorer health than nearly all other industrialized countries, according to the first comprehensive government analysis on the subject, released Wednesday.

Of 17 high-income countries looked at by a committee of experts sponsored by the National Institutes of Health, the United States is at or near the bottom in at least nine indicators.

These include infant mortality, heart and lung disease, sexually transmitted infections, and adolescent pregnancies, as well as more systemic issues such as injuries, homicides, and rates of disability.

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Together, such issues place U.S. males at the very bottom of the list, among those countries, for life expectancy; on average, a U.S. male can be expected to live almost four fewer years than those in the top-ranked country, Switzerland. U.S. females fare little better, ranked 16th out of the 17 high-income countries under review.

“We were stunned by the propensity of findings all on the negative side – the scope of the disadvantage covers all ages, from babies to seniors, both sexes, all classes of society,” Steven H. Woolf, a professor of family medicine at Virginia Commonwealth University and chair of the panel that wrote the report, told IPS.

“It’s unclear whether some of these patterns will be experienced by other countries in the years to come, but developing countries will undoubtedly begin facing some of these issues as they take on more habits similar to the United States. Currently, however, even countries in the developing world are outpacing the U.S. in certain outcomes.”

Although the new findings offer a uniquely comprehensive view of the problem, the fact is that U.S. citizens have for decades been dying at younger ages than those in nearly all other industrialized countries. The committee looked at data going back to the 1970s to note that such a trend has been worsening at least since then, with women particularly affected.

“A particular concern with these findings was about adolescents, about whom we document very serious issues that, again, stand out starkly from other counties,” Woolf says.

Beyond insurance

The unusually high levels of population who lack health insurance in the U.S. would certainly seem to be one factor at work here. In 2010, some 50 million people, around 16 percent of the population, were uninsured – a massive proportion compared with the rest of the world’s high-income countries.

Of course, after a rancorous debate and more than a decade of political infighting, in 2010 President Barack Obama did succeed in putting in place broad legislation that will bring the number of uninsured in the United States down significantly.

Further, Obama’s winning of a second term in office, coupled with a recent decision by the Supreme Court, will now undercut most attempts by critics to roll back Obama’s new health-care provisions.

And yet, according to the new findings, the insurance issue has relatively little impact on the overall state of poor health in the United States. (In fact, those 75 years old or more can expect to live longer than those in other countries, a clear indication of the tremendous money and effort that has gone into end-of-life care.)

“Even advantaged Americans – those who are white, insured, college-educated, or upper income – are in worse health than similar individuals in other countries,” the report states. Likewise, “Americans who do not smoke or are not overweight also appear to have higher rates of disease than similar groups in peer countries.”

Indeed, some of the few categories in which U.S. citizens are found to do better than their peers in other countries include smoking less tobacco and drinking less alcohol. They also appear to have gained greater control over their cholesterol levels and blood pressure.

At the same time, people in the United States have begun to suffer inordinately from a host of other problems that can contribute to a spectrum of additional health concerns.

Sky-high obesity rates, for instance, are undergirded by findings that people in the U.S. on average consume more calories per person than in other countries, as well as analysis that suggest that the U.S. physical environment in recent decades has been built around the automobile rather than the pedestrian.

Health disadvantage

Confusingly, people in the United States not only record far lower health indicators on average when compared to other high-income countries, but also score far lower on seemingly unrelated issues related to environmental safety – for instance, experiencing inordinate numbers of homicide and car accidents.

The committee clearly had trouble putting together these seemingly disparate datasets.

“No single factor can fully explain the U.S. health disadvantage,” the report states. “More likely, the U.S. health disadvantage has multiple causes and involves some combination of inadequate health care, unhealthy behaviors, adverse economic and social conditions, and environmental factors, as well as public policies and social values that shape those conditions.”

According to Samuel Preston, a demographer and fellow committee member, “The bottom line is that we are not preventing damaging health behaviors. You can blame that on public health officials or on the health care system … but put it all together and it is creating a very negative portrait.”

Read entire article and other stories at Nation of Change.

Chocolate = Love & Health

Written for Valentine’s Day issue of Natural Awakenings Magazine.

It’s widely known that dark chocolate, in particular, is good for our emotional and physical health. Eating dark chocolate makes people happy, researchers have learned, because it contains phenylethylamine, the same nurturing hormone triggered by the brain when we fall in love. It’s no wonder that Madame du Barry and Giacomo Casanova both believed that chocolate was an aphrodisiac. Further, according to the California Academy of Sciences, the theobromine in chocolate acts as a myocardial stimulant, dilator of coronary arteries and smooth muscle relaxant, all inducing good feelings.

Researchers at the Harvard Medical School and Boston University School of Medicine recently reported in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition that subjects who consistently consumed dark chocolate showed a 40 percent lower risk of myocardial infarction and stroke than those who did not.

A study published in the European Heart Journal that tracked almost 20,000 people for 10 years found that people who ate about 7 grams of dark chocolate per day had lower blood pressure and 39 percent less risk of experiencing a stroke or heart attack, compared to those who ate an average of 1.7 grams daily.

Scientists have learned that cocoa powder and chocolate contain rich sources of polyphenol antioxidants, the same beneficial compounds found in red wine and many fruits and vegetables that help to reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke. Professor Frank Ruschitzka, head of cardiology at University Hospital, in Zurich, Switzerland, comments: “Basic science has demonstrated quite convincingly that dark chocolate, particularly with a cocoa content of at least 70 percent, reduces oxidative stress and improves vascular and platelet [appropriate blood clotting] function.”

Chocolate lovers also will be glad to know that dark chocolate contains more antioxidants per 3.5 ounces than prunes, raisins, blueberries, blackberries, strawberries, raspberries, kale, spinach, Brussels sprouts, alfalfa sprouts, plums, oranges, red grapes, red bell peppers, cherries, onions, corn or eggplant.

See more, including 4 recipes for Valentine’s Day at Natural Awakenings.

Erotic Geography

It is no easy task to study geology and geography, without becoming sexually aroused. Sex not only inundates the media and pervades human consciousness; it is intricately laced through college science textbooks. That is the wonderful secret I discovered when my sweetheart went to graduate school at San Francisco State years ago and majored in geography. It was an unexpected, but thrilling side dish to the usual graduate school fare.

As I helped my partner with her studies, it soon became apparent that the most innocent scientific phrase was brimming with sexual innuendo. She found it increasingly difficult to have my “help”, as it usually turned into fits of laughter or charged our libido to such volcanic heights, that any further study for the evening would focus on one another’s anatomy and not the required text.
She would innocently read aloud, “Sedimentary rocks may be horizontal, tilted, or folded, and together with igneous and metamorphic rocks may be divided by joints, broken by faults, or thrust vast distances horizontally. All of these varying conditions are reflected in local and regional landforms. Strong deformation of rock masses producing complex geologic structures is usually associated with present or past margins of interacting lithospheric plates and results from the sea-floor spreading process.”

This quote about geologic structure, from Essentials of Physical Geography Today by Theodore M. Oberlander and Robert A. Muller (1987), may sound innocuous and matter-of-fact to the casual reader, but it is chock full of sexual references and innuendos. “Rock . . . horizontal, tilted, or folded,” has numerous love-making connotations. “Thrust . . . strong . . . interacting” and “spreading” are intricately connected with the erotic.

“Heat energy is the energy resulting from the random motion of the atoms and molecules of substances. The hotter a substance is the more vigorous is the motion of its atoms.” (Oberlander & Muller). These references were, once again, quite amorous. “Heat energy . . . random motion . . . substances . . .” and “The hotter a substance is the more vigorous is the motion of its atoms” are aphrodisiacs of geological proportions.

Geologists, meteorologists and geographers have little knowledge of their sexual promiscuity. Take a gander at this statement from Nyle C. Brady in The Nature and Properties of Soils (MacMillan, 1984). “As water moves through the soil to plant roots, into the roots, across cells into stems, up the plant xylem to the leaves, and is evaporated from the leaf surfaces, its tendency to move is determined by differences in free energy levels of the water, or by the moisture tension.” Give that titillating sentence a repeat read, keeping in mind male and female anatomical response during intercourse and the sexual references drip off one’s tongue.

When I look at the world through desire and wanting, that is all I see. At the time my partner was in her geography program, my senses were fossilized on sex. I saw everything around me as acts of creation and gender. We were all atoms of various persuasions attempting to be absorbed and interconnected through sexual union, while we floated through space on a gigantic uterus called earth. Luckily, not everyone has their lens focused on sex all the time, but with some it would definitely be an improvement.

People, who believe life is essentially unsafe, random and bad, see everything and everyone they meet, as threats or problems. They find the negative, disparaging aspects in their environment and their relationships and are convinced that they are the ongoing victims of a cruel and unjust world.

Folks who think there are limited precious resources and that one can never have enough, experience life with a grave sense of fear and foreboding that supplies will run out before they “get theirs”. Instead of seeing that “limited” and “precious” does not mean “absent”, they scramble to horde and obtain all the material, emotional, intellectual and spiritual wealth possible and are convinced that they will be left high and dry.

Others, intent on obtaining “perfection” and wanting to belong, compare and judge themselves as better or worse than others and are never content to be who and where they are. They believe that so and so is ignorant, stupid or inconsequential, compared to what they themselves have accomplished or vice-a-versa, are envious of those they perceive as being “greater than” or more accomplished than themselves. These judgments fluctuate and change on an hourly, daily basis and leave one mired in the quick sand of separation and isolation.

If we are looking at human beings and the world in which we live, through the lens of hate, we despise everyone and everything. If we peer through the lens of love, we see goodness and beauty. When I maintained the narrow focus of sex, it was the only thing I saw. When I acknowledged my deepest intention and realized that it was not sex, but love and interpersonal connection that I desire, I began to see the love and perfection that already existed. The need to attract, hold and control others to fit my narrow view of love and “being complete” began to diminish.

There are times that I seemingly can’t resist to give simple words and phrases unexpected meaning and my wife and I still can’t read or think about the physical sciences without laughing about our past study experiences and erotic connotations, but somehow, in spite of myself, I can now see the big picture. Yes, the big picture includes the erotic, but it has changed from “nothing but sex” to “everything and communion”.

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