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Monday, November 30, 2020

No cause for alarm

For more cartoons by Tom Tomorrow, CLICK HERE.


For sale

By Matt DaviesNewsday


I'm right. You're wrong

Dogmatic people seek less information even when uncertain

University College London

People who are dogmatic about their views seek less information and make less accurate judgments as a result, even on simple matters unrelated to politics, according to a study led by UCL and Max Planck Institute for Biological Cybernetics researchers.

The researchers say their findings, published in PNAS, point to differences in thinking patterns that lead people to hold rigid opinions.

First author Lion Schulz, a PhD candidate at the Max Planck Institute in Germany who began the research while at UCL, said: "Anecdotally, it seems that dogmatic people are less interested in information that might change their mind. However, it was unclear if this is because a specific opinion is of high importance to them or if more fundamental processes are at play that transcend specific opinions."

Dogmatic people are characterised by a belief that their worldview reflects an absolute truth and are often resistant to change their mind, for example when it comes to partisan issues. This tendency can have societal impacts by polarising political, scientific and religious debates. However, the cognitive drivers of dogmatism are still poorly understood.

Don't forget the malt vinegar

Climate & French fries

By Michon Scott

Fries please foodies when they involve garlic, truffles, and parsley.
CC license by Flickr user L.A. Foodie
Established in 1960, The Original Hot Dog Shop served generations of students and locals near the University of Pittsburgh. 

Named for its hot dogs, “The O,” as it was often called, was arguably better known for its fries. Cooked twice in peanut oil (first at low heat to cook the inside, again at high heat to crisp the outside), 

The O’s famous fries—featured in a 1999 PBS documentary—came in portions big enough to satisfy several people, even without hot dogs.

Whether at The O, a chain restaurant, an upscale eatery, or home, we Americans love our fries. According to a recent study cited by the Washington State University Potato Research Lab, the average American consumes 34 pounds of French fries each year.

Fries depend on potatoes, and like all crops, potatoes have a preferred climate. How long will America’s favorite side dish have a safe spot on our menu?

A sensible thing to do but after January 20

U.S. should look at how other high-income countries regulate health care costs, experts urge

Rutgers University

Structuring negotiations between insurers and providers, standardizing fee-for-service payments and negotiating prices can lower the United States' health care spending by slowing the rate at which healthcare prices increase, according to a Rutgers study.

The study, published in the journal Health Affairs, examined how other high-income countries that use a fee-for-service model regulate health care costs.

Although the United States has the highest health care prices in the world, the specific mechanisms commonly used by other countries to set and update prices are often overlooked. 

In most countries with universal health insurance, physicians are paid on a fee-for-service basis, yet health care prices there are lower than in the U.S. 

To lower health care spending, American policymakers have focused on eliminating fee-for-service reimbursement, which provides an incentive for performing additional services rather than setting up price negotiations to address the main factor that drives health care spending.

Sunday, November 29, 2020

Burning down the house

Trump Races to Weaken Environmental and Worker Protections, and Implement Other Last-Minute Policies, Before Jan. 20

He even wants to bring back firing squads

By Isaac Arnsdorf for ProPublica

Six days after President Donald Trump lost his bid for reelection, the U.S. Department of Agriculture notified food safety groups that it was proposing a regulatory change to speed up chicken factory processing lines, a change that would allow companies to sell more birds. 

An earlier USDA effort had broken down on concerns that it could lead to more worker injuries and make it harder to stop germs like salmonella.

Ordinarily, a change like this would take about two years to go through the cumbersome legal process of making new federal regulations. But the timing has alarmed food and worker safety advocates, who suspect the Trump administration wants to rush through this rule in its waning days.

Trump wants to execute federal prisoners by firing squad.
Seriously. (1980 Pulitzer Prize photo)

Even as Trump and his allies officially refuse to concede the Nov. 3 election, the White House and federal agencies are hurrying to finish dozens of regulatory changes before Joe Biden is inaugurated on Jan. 20. 

The rules range from long-simmering administration priorities to last-minute scrambles and affect everything from creature comforts like showerheads and clothes washers to life-or-death issues like federal executions and international refugees. 

Some assembly required

By Mike Smith


I pledge allegiance

By Kevin Kal Kallaugher, Kaltoons


Cash help for Rhode Island businesses and families

For more information on how to apply:


Other ways to die besides COVID

Study of non-COVID-19 deaths shows 2020 increase in several demographics


March through May saw a significant increase in deaths over previous years – and not just from COVID-19, says a new study from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

When deaths attributed to COVID-19 were removed from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention totals, the death rate in several demographics outpaced the same period in 2019, the study found. The timeframe represents the first three months of response to the COVID-19 pandemic in the United States.

Two studies look at ways to stay safe while we wait for the vaccines roll-out

Two reports cover masks, bubbles, rapid tests and other measures that work

Edited by Will Collette

By Matt DaviesNewsday
As the world-wide COVID pandemic goes on, scientists around the world are taking hard, critical looks at measures we can all take NOW that can stem the tide now that we have realistic hope for safe and effective vaccines.

I have put together two research articles because they essentially offer the same thing: practical information on ways to stay safe.

As Dr. Tony Fauci keeps saying, we all need to be patient and follow good public health practices that, with every new study, we know to be science-based and sensible.

Please continue for these two timely reports.

Saturday, November 28, 2020

Who should get it first?

What Is the Best Strategy to Deploy a Covid-19 Vaccine? 
It depends on whether we prioritize stopping deaths or stopping spread
By Jill Neimark

If the book of nature is written in the language of mathematics, as Galileo once declared, the Covid-19 pandemic has brought that truth home for the world's mathematicians, who have been galvanized by the rapid spread of the coronavirus.

So far this year, they have been involved in everything from revealing how contagious the novel coronavirus is, how far we should stand from each other, how long an infected person might shed the virus, how a single strain spread from Europe to New York and then burst across America, and how to ‘'flatten the curve’' to save hundreds of thousands of lives. 

Modeling also helped persuade the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that the virus can be airborne and transmitted by aerosols that stay aloft for hours.

And at the moment many are grappling with a particularly urgent — and thorny — area of research: modeling the optimal rollout of a vaccine. 

Because vaccine supply will be limited at first, the decisions about who gets those first doses could save tens of thousands of lives. This is critical now that promising early results are coming in about two vaccine candidates — one from Pfizer and BioNTech and one from Moderna — that may be highly effective and for which the companies may apply for emergency authorization from the Food and Drug Administration.

But figuring out how to allocate vaccines — there are close to 50 in clinical trials on humans — to the right groups at the right time is “a very complex problem,” says Eva Lee, director of the Center for Operations Research in Medicine and Health Care at the Georgia Institute of Technology

Lee has modeled dispensing strategies for vaccines and medical supplies for Zika, Ebola, and influenza, and is now working on Covid-19. The coronavirus is “so infectious and so much more deadly than influenza,” she says. “We have never been challenged like that by a virus.”

Administering the smallpox vaccine 50 years ago
(photo- World Health Organization)

Howard Forman, a public health professor at Yale University, says “the last time we did mass vaccination with completely new vaccines,'' was with smallpox and polio. "We are treading into an area we are not used to.” All the other vaccines of the last decades have either been tested for years or were introduced very slowly, he says.

Because Covid-19 is especially lethal for those over 65 and those with other health problems such as obesity, diabetes, or asthma, and yet is spread rapidly and widely by healthy young adults who are more likely to recover, mathematicians are faced with two conflicting priorities when modeling for vaccines: Should they prevent deaths or slow transmission?

The consensus among most modelers is that if the main goal is to slash mortality rates, officials must prioritize vaccinating those who are older, and if they want to slow transmission, they must target younger adults.

The challenge ahead




URI psychologist offers tips for managing stress during holidays

Exercise, sleep important to keeping stress at bay

Tony LaRoche

The holiday season is upon us and with it comes chronic stress felt by many. This year, those worries are compounded by the record spread of COVID-19 infections and a divisive election that overshadows the season.

So, how do we manage our stress?

As there are public health recommendations for combating the spread of the coronavirus, there are equally helpful steps you can take to reduce your stress, says Mark Robbins, professor and chair of the University of Rhode Island Psychology Department.