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Sunday, November 30, 2014

Revenge of the Swamp Yankees

Democratic disaster at the polls in South County
By Will Collette

A version of this article also ran in Rhode Island’s Future here.

While there was jubilation at the state Democratic Party’s election night party over their biggest sweep since 1960, that mood was not shared by Democrats across most of South County.

However, from Exeter to Westerly, Democrats, and especially progressive Democrats, took an awful beating in General Assembly and Town Council races. Majorities in several South County towns also shifted from blue to red in their votes for state offices.

Since I started living in South County in 2002 and covering local politics here at Progressive Charlestown, I had enjoyed watching what seemed to be a steady shift from the region’s historic Swamp Yankee conservatism to more progressive politics. South County sent a high proportion of solid Democrats to the State House and voted mostly Blue in state and national races.

But that changed on November 4.

We lost three terrific progressives – my own state Representative Donna Walsh, Sen. Cathie Cool Rumsey and Rep. Larry Valencia. Each of them faced appallingly unqualified opponents. Donna Walsh lost to a radical “Tenther” who doesn’t even seem to live in the District. Cathie Cool Rumsey lost to Hopkinton’s honorific Town Sheriff who was caught using her uniform to impersonate a police officer.
Voters traded three great legislators for a bag full of wingnuts

Larry Valencia lost to a guy whose only previous experience was running as a delegate to the Republican National Convention as a delegate for Ron Paul – and who came in fifth out of five.

In Charlestown, we were totally crushed, losing every single elected office in the town to a group called the Charlestown Citizens Alliance (CCA Party), an off-shoot of the RI Statewide Coalition. If you mixed the Tea Party with the Nature Conservancy and the worst imaginable rich people’s homeowners association you can imagine, you’d get something that looks like the CCA.

The CCA Party gets more than 60% of its funding from out of state donors. They provide vacation property owners with the ability to vote with their checkbooks in local elections. The CCA Party has increasingly put Charlestown on a “pay to play” basis where the attention you get from town government is in proportion to the amount you donate to the CCA Party.

But those of us in Charlestown were not alone in our misery. 

The war on xmas, continued

Are you being persecuted?
By  Rachel Held Evans

Make an effort

Reactions to terrorism

Threats of terrorism perceived differently depending on identification within a group

People who see their group as more homogenous -- for instance, the more one thinks Americans are similar to each other -- are less likely to be influenced by external terrorist threat alerts, according to research from NYU's Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development.

"Among people who viewed their group to be homogeneous, external threat did not translate to higher perceived threat, and they did not influence beliefs about the legitimacy of the U.S. military intervention in Iraq," said study author Rezarta Bilali, assistant professor of psychology and social intervention at NYU Steinhardt.

The findings, published Nov. 24 in the Journal of Applied Social Psychology, suggest that people interpret terrorist threats in very different ways.

Terrorist threats communicated through mass media, government agencies, and other sources influence levels of perceived threat. In the aftermath of Sept. 11, the U.S. government created a color-coded warning system to alert Americans to the level of threat facing the country. From 2002 through the system's dissolution in 2011, the warning level never dropped below "yellow," a three out of five on the alert scale.

Who are “We?”

America is embroiled in an immigration debate that goes far beyond President Obama’s executive order on undocumented immigrants.

It goes to the heart of who “we” are. And it’s roiling communities across the nation.

In early November, school officials in Orinda, California, hired a private detective to determine whether a seven-year-old Latina named Vivian – whose single mother works as a live-in nanny for a family in Orinda — “resides” in the district and should therefore be allowed to attend the elementary school she’s already been attending there.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Water connects us all

Whatever Happens Upstream Impacts Everything

Fresh water is our most precious natural resource, as essential to life as the air we breathe. 

Fortunately, most of us in the United States don’t have to give it much thought, thanks, in large part, to the federal Clean Water Act, passed in 1972.

But ongoing confusion over what “Waters of the United States” fall under the law’s jurisdiction spurred the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to propose a clarification. This would enable the federal agency to better protect our wetlands, small streams and other important watershed features without being dragged into court every time someone wanted to avoid compliance by exploiting an ambiguity. The public comment period for this rule-making closed Nov. 14.

I can only hope that the EPA has been inundated with comments supporting the clarification, so that our freshwater resources will be neither subject to the vagaries of state and local authorities, nor to the whims of private landowners.

Who is welcome and who isn't

The progressive cartoon about poison over people.

The Tree of Life, the Tree of Knowledge

Curiosity leads to learning

How curiosity changes the brain to enhance learning

The more curious we are about a topic, the easier it is to learn information about that topic. New research publishing online October 2 in the Cell Press journal Neuron provides insights into what happens in our brains when curiosity is piqued. The findings could help scientists find ways to enhance overall learning and memory in both healthy individuals and those with neurological conditions.

"Our findings potentially have far-reaching implications for the public because they reveal insights into how a form of intrinsic motivation -- curiosity -- affects memory. These findings suggest ways to enhance learning in the classroom and other settings," says lead author Dr. Matthias Gruber, of University of California at Davis.

Being a doctor means never having to say you're sorry

The Two Things That Rarely Happen After a Medical Mistake

Beck Cinemagraph animated GIFby Olga Pierce and Marshall Allen, ProPublica
This story was co-published with NPR's Shots blog.

Patients who suffer injuries, infections or mistakes during medical care rarely get an acknowledgment or apology, researchers at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine report.

The study was based on responses of 236 patients who completed ProPublica's Patient Harm Questionnaire during the one-year period ending in May 2013 and who agreed to share their data.   

Results of the study, led by professor of surgery Marty Makary and conducted independently from ProPublica, were published online Nov. 13 by the Journal of Patient Safety. The study found:

Friday, November 28, 2014

Southern N.E.’s Coastal Landscape is Shrinking

An Aug. 13 tidal surge flooded this Wickford parking lot, across
the way from Gardner’s Wharf Seafood. (Frank 
By FRANK CARINI/ecoRI News staff

WICKFORD — At normal high tide, the Biggest Little has always become the Biggest Littler. 

Now, during a moon tide — the highest of high tides — parts of Rhode Island, such as the Brown Street municipal parking lot in this historic village, routinely flood. 

Rising seas and decades of poor land-use management are conspiring to reshape Rhode Island and, unless you have gills, the new state map will have much less appeal.

In fact, rising seas present myriad challenges for southern New England, such as saltwater intrusion, accelerating erosion and loss of critical tidal marshes. The Ocean State’s well-being is intimately tied to its 420 miles of coastline and the flow of the tides.

If only Obama could be more like Reagan...

Astronomy Picture of the Day

Star Formation in the Tadpole Nebula 
From NASA’s Astronomy Picture of the Day

Dusty emission in the Tadpole nebula, IC 410, lies about 12,000 light-years away in the northern constellation Auriga.

‘The cloud of glowing gas is over 100 light-years across, sculpted by stellar winds and radiation from embedded open star cluster NGC 1893. 

Formed in the interstellar cloud a mere 4 million years ago, bright cluster stars are seen all around the star-forming nebula.

Notable near the image center are two relatively dense streamers of material trailing away from the nebula's central regions. Potentially sites of ongoing star formation in IC 410, these cosmic tadpole shapes are about 10 light-years long.

The featured image was taken in infrared light by NASA's Wide Field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) satellite.

Opportunity Knocks Where Toxins Hide

Transforming properties contaminated by decades of industrial and manufacturing use into community assets is no easy task
$2 million brownfield remediation of Festival Pier in Pawtucket is
changing a former oil terminal along the Seekonk
River into a public park. (Joanna Detz/ecoRI News)
By FRANK CARINI/ecoRI News staff

The Industrial Revolution left many New England cities and towns with a legacy: manufacturing pollution that turned once-productive, and often pristine, land and water into dumps. This practice of contaminating natural resources and then leaving behind scarred remains, after the offending business went bankrupt or left for greener pastures, continued well into the 1980s.

The result: By the end of that decade, thousands of brownfields dotted the southern New England landscape, especially in its core urban areas. Remediating brownfields is a constant battle that pits public health and environmental concerns against cost factors. Clean-up efforts are often interrupted by hidden obstacles, such as underground storage tanks filled with waste oil, and finding the responsible party to pay the price is virtually impossible.

Group aligned with Charlestown’s new state rep wants to help out in Ferguson, MO

The "Three Percent" refers to what the Oath Keepers and other radical
militia groups believe is the percentage of support they need from the
population to overthrow the government. 

EDITOR’S NOTE: Among the many radical connections of our newly elected state Representative Blake Filippi, the Oath Keepers are a stand-out for their extremist views and threat of violence. Here’s their latest escapade. – WC

Formed in 2009, the Oath Keepers were founded with the goal of overthrowing the US Government. Built on the premise that their interpretation, and only their interpretation of the US Constitution, the organization has come out in support of pedophiles, rapists, arsonists, thieves, tax cheats, and terrorists.

Much like a domestic Taliban, they care nothing for the people of the United States, only in imposing their will upon others.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

VIDEO: the war on the poor and working families


156792 600 Obama Turkey Summit cartoons

For more cartoons by Jeff Darcy, click here

Stay warmer this winter

Heating Season Footprint Infographic

Regular family dinners can curb weight gain

A family meal a day may keep obesity away
Although this probably doesn't apply to Thanksgiving dinner
Dining Table Dinner Table animated GIFIncreasing rates of adolescent obesity and the likelihood that obesity will carry forward into adulthood, have led to various preventive initiatives. It has been suggested that family meals, which tend to include fruits, vegetables, calcium, and whole grains, could be protective against obesity. 

In a new study scheduled for publication in The Journal of Pediatrics,researchers studied whether frequent family meals during adolescence were protective for overweight and obesity in adulthood.
Jerica M. Berge, PhD, MPH, LMFT, CFLE, and colleagues from the University of Minnesota and Columbia University used data from a 10-year longitudinal study (2,287 subjects), Project EAT (Eating and Activity among Teens), to examine weight-related variables (e.g., dietary intake, physical activity, weight control behaviors) among adolescents. 

Questions were asked to assess family meal frequency and body mass index. According to Dr. Berge, "It is important to identify modifiable factors in the home environment, such as family meals, that can protect against overweight/obesity through the transition to adulthood."

Turkey facts

The right to privacy in a big data world

When properly understood, privacy rules essential, experts say
In the digital age in which we live, monitoring, security breaches and hacks of sensitive data are all too common. It has been argued that privacy has no place in this big data environment and anything we put online can, and probably will, be seen by prying eyes.

In a new paper, a noted Washington University in St. Louis privacy law expert makes the case that when properly understood, privacy rules will be an essential and valuable part of our digital future.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Next - an economy without people?

The two great forces shaping the future at this time are globalization and technology.

Globalization has its benefits: We are more aware than ever of our interconnectedness with other people, nations, and cultures. But it has its downside: corporations outsource jobs to places where people work for less and there are no unions. There is a story that President Obama once asked Steve Jobs what it would take to bring Apple production back to the U.S., and Jobs replied, “Those jobs are never coming back.” Why should they? It is cheaper to produce the devices in China.

Technology also has its good and bad sides. It has put us in instant touch with everyone else, it has created new jobs, and it has made possible new ways of living and working.

The downside is that technology kills jobs by replacing humans with machines. Not long ago, I had dinner with a retired executive of Kraft. One of his jobs was supervising candy factories. He told me about factories that once employed 1,000 people but are now run by only two people.

A recent series of articles in USA Today includes robots that will increasingly replace workers in low-skill jobs.

VIDEO: Lewis Black discusses the subtle ethics of work on Thanksgiving

Show Up on Thanksgiving or Get Fired

Why can’t unbridled consumerism take a breather on holidays?

Most Americans — from the Obama family in the White House to my little family in Texas — will get a much-deserved break from work on Thanksgiving Day. But millions of others won’t.

Understandably, firefighters, police, and hospital workers will stay on the job. After all, they’re providing essential services for our society.

Yet Wal-Mart, Target, Macy’s, Radio Shack, and other retailers are also requiring their low-paid workers to put in a shift.


Something you definitely will NOT see on Faux News

For more cartoons by Tom Toles, click here.
By Gryphen
Courtesy of Mother Jones

The House Select Intelligence Committee—controlled by Republicans—has been investigating the Benghazi attacks in minute detail for two years. With the midterm elections safely past, they issued their findings. Their exoneration of the White House was sweeping and nearly absolute. So sweeping that I want to quote directly from the report's summary, rather than paraphrasing it. Here it is: 

“The Committee first concludes that the CIA ensured sufficient security for CIA facilities in Benghazi....Appropriate U.S. personnel made reasonable tactical decisions that night, and the Committee found no evidence that there was either a stand down order or a denial of available air support.... 

Second, the Committee finds that there was no intelligence failure prior to the attacks. In the months prior, the IC provided intelligence about previous attacks and the increased threat environment in Benghazi, but the IC did not have specific, tactical warning of the September 11 attacks. 

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

CCA rhetoric versus reality

Politics makes strange bedfellows
By Neniu Sciu

A recent exchange of letters to the Westerly Sun debated whether the Charlestown Citizens Alliance (CCA) had endorsed (or maybe just “endorsed”) the opponents of our two incumbent legislators, Donna Walsh, whose House district includes all of Charlestown, and Cathie Cool Rumsey, senator for the northern half of Charlestown, both of whom happen to be Democrats and both of whom failed to win reelection.[1]

Granted, apart from the fact that the CCA would endorse a turnip if it were running against Donna, Blake Filippi seemed like an odd choice for the CCA to endorse. After all, his motto is “Don’t Tread on Me” and theirs is more like “We tread on everyone.” Under the rule of Planning Commissar Ruth Platner (CCA-Martha Stewart Living), the town has passed excruciatingly detailed ordinances that regulate everything down to the color of switchplates on outdoor electrical outlets and the color and depth of mulch

These ordinances generally accomplish very little other than to drive businesses away, set neighbor against neighbor (since ordinances are generally “complaint driven,” meaning the town doesn’t actively enforce them and, instead, merely responds to citizen complaints), and put the personal preferences/phobias of CCA acolytes on full display.

Yet oddly enough, regulating mines had somehow escaped the CCA’s attention until the folks near the Copar quarry started complaining about noise and dust. And even then the CCA town council majority tried to claim that Charlestown’s quarry owners were all good actors and there was no need for the town to take action, since Copar is in Westerly and is therefore Westerly’s problem.

Till, of course, election season rolled around, and suddenly, crass opportunists that they are, the CCA was vowing to take action. Heavy on the “vowing,” light on the “action.”

Impeach Obama!


For more cartoons by Mike Luckovich, click here.

Familiar Thanksgiving Scene

Grandpa Perkins' Thanksgiving Tirade
By Jen Sorenson

Click here to see what's bugging Grandpa this year.

Conspiracy nuts win a small victory

The radical right thinks the United Nations has a secret agenda to
take over the world. What in the 65 year history of the UN leads
them to believe this is even possible?
By TIM FAULKNER/ecoRI News staff

PROVIDENCE — If you strip away the heated rhetoric and fear-mongering, the opposition to RhodeMap RI boils down to one or two issues.

Mike Puyana, president of the Rhode Island Tea Party, explained that there’s deep concern, particularly among opponents living in rural areas, that the proposed template for state planning and economic development will strip away municipal authority in those communities.

“It comes down to the matter of maintaining local control, and when it comes to RhodeMap RI, you lose every element of that,” Puyana said.

In 2013, opponents — mostly rural municipalities and environmentalists — of the "slopes" bill made essentially the same argument. The General Assembly passed and Gov. Lincoln Chafee signed the development-friendly bill into law.

Mike Stenhouse, chief executive officer of the conservative, free-market advocacy group Rhode Island Center for Freedom and Prosperity, said RhodeMap RI is another affordable-housing mandate that no amount of community action will be able to oppose.

Both single out the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) as propagating a top-down, big-government agenda. The federal agency that funded the two-year planning for RhodeMap RI also will be the primary funder for programs that address housing, business development and environmental stewardship. 

Layer on that, recommendations that ensure inclusion for minorities and low-income groups and RhodeMap RI creates significant antagonism, and heightened criticism, among conservative organizations.

The Poor Suffer from Hunger — Not the Munchies

Drug-testing for food stamps wastes taxpayer money and stigmatizes economic hardship.
Thanksgiving is an occasion when we gather with our families for festive meals. It’s also a time when many of us donate to help the less fortunate celebrate with their families.

This holiday binds us all together: At least once a year, you should be able to sit around a table with your loved ones, enjoying turkey and mashed potatoes. If a bit of charity is needed to extend this joy to everyone, then many of us are glad to pitch in.

But how about the other 364 days of the year? What do the hungry do then?

Wal-Mart Scrooges Us All

The nation's largest retailer is passing the cost of health care onto you.

Gosh, time flies when it’s pushed along by a jet stream of greed.

It seems like only yesterday that Wal-Mart announced, with much self-congratulatory fanfare, that the super-rich retailing colossus wasn’t a scrooge after all.

Indeed, while the world’s largest purveyor of stuff was not about to raise its poverty-level wages, it benevolently decided to provide a barebones health insurance plan for some of its 600,000 part-time employees, who make up nearly half of its total workforce.

But quicker than you can spell avaricious, the $476 billion-a-year giant has now decided to renege, saying that as of January 1 it will terminate coverage for employees who work less than 30 hours a week.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Lots of Job Openings and Holiday Events

Nice up-tick in local work opportunities, plus xmas is coming
cat animated GIF By Will Collette

Not everyone in Charlestown is a wealthy retiree, contrary to popular opinion (and election results).

Charlestown has 4,471 working people of whom more than 430 are out of work (a rate of 5.2%). Some of those 4,000+ who are employed would like to find better jobs.

As the economy slowly improves, the job market is thawing slightly, enough so that there are a number of openings out there in our area including some that might offer the chance to move up for those who are currently working.

For your convenience, I’ve put together a list and to round out this piece, I've also listed a number of upcoming events.

Job Openings

From RI Community Jobs, a service of Brown University’s Swearer Center (click here to subscribe), here are local non-profit jobs:

Where is ICE when you need them?

Astronomy Picture of the Day

The Cat's Eye Nebula from Hubble 

To some, it may look like a cat's eye. The alluring Cat's Eye nebula, however, lies three thousand light-years from Earth across interstellar space.

A classic planetary nebula, the Cat's Eye (NGC 6543) represents a final, brief yet glorious phase in the life of a sun-like star. 

This nebula's dying central star may have produced the simple, outer pattern of dusty concentric shells by shrugging off outer layers in a series of regular convulsions.

 But the formation of the beautiful, more complex inner structures is not well understood.

Seen so clearly in this digitally sharpened Hubble Space Telescope image, the truly cosmic eye is over half a light-year across.

Of course, gazing into this Cat's Eye, astronomers may well be seeing the fate of our sun, destined to enter its own planetary nebula phase of evolution ... in about 5 billion years.

Hating to spoil a perfectly good conspiracy theory

Sorry, George Tremblay, no conspiracy here
By Scott Wolf 

The Rhode Island State Planning Council delayed a vote on a draft Economic Development Plan for the State of Rhode Island. 

The draft plan, which has been under development for more than two years as part of an initiative known as Rhode Map RI, emphasizes the very unradical notion of building on our strengths.  

In recent weeks, critics of the plan have put forward a great deal of misinformation and misinterpretation that has threatened to undermine public confidence in this forward-looking and sorely needed economic development plan.

Grow Smart is proud to have been a member of the consortium of state agencies and public and private organizations that guided the development of the Economic Development Plan now under consideration.  We strongly support its adoption by the State Planning Council.

We believe that the Council, Rhode Island’s elected officials and the people of Rhode Island can have full confidence in the transparent and open public process through which the plan was developed, the extensive research on which the plan is based, and  the recommendations that the plan makes.

We are writing to set the record straight on some of the misinformation that has been presented as fact.

Dog of the Week

Meet King!
Animal Rescue League of Southern RI
Hello, I am King, 1 1/2 yr old brownish-grey brindle.  I have made a holiday wish-list if you'd like to hear it. 

1) I would love a playful family who will take me for walks and play ball!  I can jump really high, and I love to do so. 

2) I would like a responsible owner who can help train me properly. No worries, I am a good boy, but I could use a little refinement and consistency. 

3) A home I can finally call my own!  I have lived alongside other cats and dogs with no issues. 

Again, I love to play, with my forever family as well as any other pets you may already have.  I hope for any or all of these three wishes on my holiday list. 

Could you help me out?  Thanks for listening and please come to say hello to me!

Blown by the wind, carried by the tide

Fukushima Radioactivity Detected Off West Coast
Radiation Is Crazy Tsunami animated GIFFrom: Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution 

EDITOR’S NOTE: imagine the impact of a similar accident at the Millstone Nuclear Power Plant only 20 west of Charlestown.

Monitoring efforts along the Pacific Coast of the U.S. and Canada have detected the presence of small amounts of radioactivity from the 2011 Fukushima Dai-ichi Nuclear Power Plant accident 100 miles (150 km) due west of Eureka, California. Scientists at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) found the trace amounts of telltale radioactive compounds as part of their ongoing monitoring of natural and human sources of radioactivity in the ocean.

In the aftermath of the 2011 tsunami off Japan, the Fukushima Dai-ichi Nuclear Power Plant released cesium-134 and other radioactive elements into the ocean at unprecedented levels. Since then, the radioactive plume has traveled west across the Pacific, propelled largely by ocean currents and being diluted along the way. At their highest near the damaged nuclear power plant in 2011, radioactivity levels peaked at more than 10 million times the levels recently detected near North America.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Wishful thinking?

What are people really voting for when they vote for “change”?
Blake Filippi: the change you wanted?
By Linda Felaco
A version of this article ran in the Westerly Sun. This version is complete and updated to reflect recent events.

While the midterm elections handed control of Congress, as well as a number of state and local governments, from Democrats to Republicans, in Charlestown, the election merely solidified the control of the town’s homegrown political party, the Charlestown Citizens Alliance (CCA), which now holds every single elected seat in town government.

Yes, for all intents and purposes, the CCA is a political party. Why they try to pretend otherwise is not entirely clear. Apparently, they are so high-minded that they somehow transcend mere partisan politics. 

But two facts are indisputable: (1) The CCA considers town Democrats to be their enemies and actively and vociferously campaigns against them. Indeed, the CCA owes its entire existence to town Democrats given that they originally formed in order to attempt to force the recall of a Democratic town council president. (2) The CCA has never endorsed or aided in the election of any Democratic candidate for either town or state office.

Try Faux?

Statistical analysis of blueishness

In the sensationally titled “Revenge of the Swamp Yankee: Democratic Disaster in South County,” Will Collette argued emotionally that despite statewide wins for Democrats in Rhode Island two weeks ago, South County was a sad place for the party. He makes a strong case that local South County races, through low turnout and Republican money, had a night more like the rest of the country than the rest of Rhode Island.

Will focuses on General Assembly and Town Council races, but his post made me wonder how different towns around Rhode Island voted compared to the state averages. So I dug into the numbers for statewide races. Here’s what I came up with:

Fighting denial: All just a little bit of history repeating

By Peter Dykstra, The Daily Climate

People who follow climate change issues closely know the story, and know the players: Activists, led by groups like Forecast the Facts and stoked with rage over industry-backed groups pushing climate denial, launch a successful pressure campaign to drive the industry donors away.

This is the scenario playing out today, as titans of Silicon Valley part ways with the American Legislative Exchange Council, or ALEC. Within a 24-hour period last month, Facebook, Google, and Yahoo all announced they would quit their memberships in the controversial group, which tees up model state-level legislation favoring a spectrum of libertarian/conservative causes. 

Microsoft had proceeded them out the door this summer. Occidental Petroleum followed them last Friday.

We love our local businesses! Do you?

Saturday, November 22, 2014

The best government money can buy

By Robert Reich

The richest Americans hold more of the nation’s wealth than they have in almost a century. What do they spend it on? As you might expect, personal jets, giant yachts, works of art, and luxury penthouses.

And also on politics. In fact, their political spending has been growing faster than their spending on anything else. It’s been growing even faster than their wealth.  

According to new research by Emmanuel Saez of the University of California at Berkeley and Gabriel Zucman of the London School of Economics, the richest one-hundredth of one percent of Americans now hold over 11 percent of the nation’s total wealth. That’s a higher share than the top .01 percent held in 1929, before the Great Crash.

We’re talking about 16,000 people, each worth at least $110 million.

One way to get your mind around this is to compare their wealth to that of the average family. In 1978, the typical wealth holder in the top .01 percent was 220 times richer than the average American. By 2012, he or she was 1,120 times richer.

It’s hard to spend this kind of money.

Why do birds migrate?

Hey, are you falling asleep?

Revealing the point of transition

How can we tell when someone has fallen asleep? To answer this question, scientists at Massachusetts General Hospital have developed a new statistical method and behavioural task to track the dynamic process of falling asleep.

Dr Michael Prerau, Dr Patrick Purdon, and their colleagues used the evolution of brain activity, behaviour, and other physiological signals during the sleep onset process to automatically track the continuous changes in wakefulness experienced as a subject falls asleep.

The study, publishing today in PLOS Computational Biology, suggests that it is not when one falls asleep, but how one falls asleep that matters. Using these methods, the authors quantified a subset of healthy subjects who behaved as though they were awake even though their brains, by current clinical definitions, were asleep.