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Thursday, August 31, 2023

How the meat and dairy sector resists competition from alternative animal products

Consumer choices alone can't level the playing field

BY ROB JORDAN, Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment

The summertime barbecue – an American tradition synonymous with celebrating freedom – may be tainted by a decidedly unfree market. 

A new Stanford study reveals how meat and dairy industry lobbying has influenced government regulations and funding to stifle competition from alternative meat products with smaller climate and environmental impacts. 

The analysis, published Aug. 18 in One Earth, compares innovations and policies related to plant-based meat alternatives and lab-grown meat in the U.S. and European Union. Its findings could help ensure legislation, such as the $428 billion U.S. Farm Bill set to expire Sept. 30, levels the food industry playing field.

“The lack of policies focused on reducing our reliance on animal-derived products and the lack of sufficient support to alternative technologies to make them competitive are symptomatic of a system still resisting fundamental changes,” said study lead author Simona Vallone, an Earth system science research associate in the Stanford Doerr School of Sustainability at the time of the research.

Not strange at all

For more cartoons by Ruben Bolling, CLICK HERE

I can't imagine


Catch some zzzs when you can

Short naps can improve memory, increase productivity, reduce stress and promote a healthier heart

Steven BenderTexas A&M University

Short naps at the right time of day can benefit alertness and
overall health in myriad ways. 
Tara Moore/Digital Vision via Getty Images
Napping during the day is an ancient custom that is practiced worldwide.

While some people view napping as a luxurious indulgence, others see it as a way to maintain alertness and well-being. But napping can come with drawbacks as well as benefits.

As an orofacial pain specialist, I have extensive education in sleep medicine and how sleep impacts wellness, due mostly to the relationship between sleep and painful conditions such as headaches and facial pain. My training involved all aspects of sleep, especially sleep breathing disorders, insomnia and sleep-related movement disorders.

As such, I’m aware of the complex nature of napping, and why a short nap – that is, a nap during the daytime that lasts from 20 to 30 minutes – may be beneficial in myriad ways.

This collection could kill you

Cluster of slightly unhealthy traits linked with earlier heart attack and stroke

European Society of Cardiology

Middle-aged adults with three or more unhealthy traits including slightly high waist circumference, blood pressure, cholesterol and glucose have heart attacks and strokes two years earlier than their peers, according to research presented at ESC Congress 2023.1

"Many people in their 40s and 50s have a bit of fat around the middle and marginally elevated blood pressure, cholesterol or glucose but feel generally well, are unaware of the risks and do not seek medical advice," said study author Dr. Lena Lönnberg of Västmanland County Hospital, Västerås, Sweden. "This scenario, called metabolic syndrome, is a growing problem in Western populations where people are unknowingly storing up problems for later in life. This is a huge missed opportunity to intervene before heart attacks and strokes that could have been avoided occur."

It is estimated that up to 31% of the global population has metabolic syndrome.2 Previous studies have shown that people with metabolic syndrome are at higher risk of diabetes, heart disease, stroke and premature death.3-5 This study investigated the link between asymptomatic metabolic syndrome in midlife and cardiovascular disease and death up to three decades later.

Ingenious art to clean pond water

Award-winning floating wetland possible remedy for blue-green algae Blooms

By Frank Carini / ecoRI News staff

The structure holds nearly 20 native wetland plant species. (Alexandra Ionescu/Rhode Island Collective)

Floating in a circle around a pond in Massachusetts is a mini-wetland built by six Rhode Islanders. Earlier this summer, the mostly natural creation was chosen as the winning installation in the seventh annual Art on the Trails outdoor art and poetry program.

But the freshwater wetland, built by a group of Ocean State artists, designers, and a botanist, wasn’t commissioned to win an award. It was designed to raise awareness about the importance of wetlands and show how they work. Mission accomplished.

Art juror Sarah Alexander, who chose “Below and Above: A Floating Wetland Supports Life” by the Rhode Island Collective as the best installation, said, “The amount of careful research and thoughtful response to the space, along with the combined efforts of its dedicated creators, blew me away.”

In the seven years of Art on the Trails, the Rhode Island-built floating wetland was the first entry to be more than just aesthetically pleasing. The wetland has been floating in Ice Pond in Southborough since June 11. It was created by sourcing native plants, and experiments with natural cordage. It shows how pollutants could be sucked from stressed waterbodies with a little help from human hands. A single anchor line keeps the wetland floating in a 15-foot circle, and not all over the popular skating pond.

Members of the Rhode Island Collective include Holly Ewald (visual artist), Maxwell Fertik (interdisciplinary artist), Alexandra Ionescu (ecological artist), Hope Leeson (botanist), and August Lehrecke and Matthew Muller (co-founders of an inflatable architecture studio), who led the project’s construction.

The members weren’t a roving gang of environmentalists who all knew each other prior to building an award-winning wetland. Ewald knew Ionescu and Leeson, who knew Fertik, who knew Muller and Lehrecke. They all brought different experiences and expertise that jelled well together.

Wednesday, August 30, 2023

Neronha wants shoreline property owners' case tossed out

Attorney General Seeks to Dismiss Shoreline Access Lawsuit

By Rob Smith / ecoRI News staff

Where does the ocean end, and private property rights begin?

That’s a question a Rhode Island District Court judge may have to ponder later this year if the court allows a lawsuit over shoreline access rights to proceed.

Earlier this month state officials, represented by the office of Attorney General Peter Neronha, filed for a motion to dismiss a lawsuit brought against the state by the Rhode Island Association of Coastal Taxpayers (RIACT), which alleges the new shoreline access law is an illegal seizure of property.

The shoreline access law, passed in the 2023 legislative session, gives the public access to the shore starting 10 feet landward from the lowest wrack line, where the seaweed is left after high tide.

In their filing, state officials said the lawsuit should be dismissed for a lack of standing, arguing that RIACT could not trace a legal injury to unlawful conduct performed by the state. 

Despite passing the shoreline access law in June and empowering the Coastal Resources Management Council and attorney general’s office with enforcement power, state officials have not actually acted on any of their new authorities to warrant the lawsuit.

My dog ate it


Universal answer

By Matt Davies


How algorithms drive misinformation

Social media algorithms warp how people learn from each other

William BradyNorthwestern University

Social media pushes evolutionary buttons. 
AP Photo/Manish Swarup
People’s daily interactions with online algorithms affect how they learn from others, with negative consequences including social misperceptions, conflict and the spread of misinformation, my colleagues and I have found.

People are increasingly interacting with others in social media environments where algorithms control the flow of social information they see. Algorithms determine in part which messages, which people and which ideas social media users see.

On social media platforms, algorithms are mainly designed to amplify information that sustains engagement, meaning they keep people clicking on content and coming back to the platforms. 

I’m a social psychologist, and my colleagues and I have found evidence suggesting that a side effect of this design is that algorithms amplify information people are strongly biased to learn from. We call this information “PRIME,” for prestigious, in-group, moral and emotional information.

In our evolutionary past, biases to learn from PRIME information were very advantageous: Learning from prestigious individuals is efficient because these people are successful and their behavior can be copied. Paying attention to people who violate moral norms is important because sanctioning them helps the community maintain cooperation.

But what happens when PRIME information becomes amplified by algorithms and some people exploit algorithm amplification to promote themselves? 

Prestige becomes a poor signal of success because people can fake prestige on social media. Newsfeeds become oversaturated with negative and moral information so that there is conflict rather than cooperation.

The interaction of human psychology and algorithm amplification leads to dysfunction because social learning supports cooperation and problem-solving, but social media algorithms are designed to increase engagement. We call this mismatch functional misalignment.

State finds 4th West Nile virus sample, this time in Barrington and 1st EEE finding

Also, dangerous rip currents at south coast beaches

The Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (DEM) and Rhode Island Department of Health (RIDOH) today announce the first detection of Eastern Equine Encephalitis virus (EEE) in the state in 2023. 

The mosquito sample testing positive for EEE was collected in Glocester on Aug. 21. A separate mosquito sample, collected in Barrington on Aug. 21, tested positive for West Nile Virus (WNV). This is the state’s fourth WNV detection of the summer.

To date, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts has announced 82 WNV findings and the State of Connecticut reports 63 WNV findings. WNV and EEE findings in mosquitoes are expected because mosquito-borne diseases become more prevalent in Southern New England as the season progresses. 

Although three of the four WNV detections originated at traps in Westerly, state officials stress that at this stage of mosquito season, it is likely present in mosquitoes statewide. To date, Connecticut has confirmed one human case of WNV.

Although extremely rare in humans, EEE is very serious. Approximately 30% of people with EEE die and many survivors have ongoing neurological problems. Unlike WNV, which is prevalent in Rhode Island every year, EEE risk is variable, changing from year to year. 

How COVID might return

COVID-19 Virus Is Rapidly Evolving in White-Tailed Deer


Photo by Will Collette
New research has found that white-tailed deer across Ohio have been infected with the virus that causes COVID-19. Alarmingly, the results also show that viral variants evolve about three times faster in deer than in humans.

Scientists collected 1,522 nasal swabs from free-ranging deer in 83 of the state’s 88 counties between November 2021 and March 2022. More than 10% of the samples were positive for the SARS-CoV-2 virus, and at least one positive case was found in 59% of the counties in which testing took place.

Genomic Analysis and Findings

Genomic analysis showed that at least 30 infections in deer had been introduced by humans – a figure that surprised the research team.

“We generally talk about interspecies transmission as a rare event, but this wasn’t a huge sampling, and we’re able to document 30 spillovers. It seems to be moving between people and animals quite easily,” said Andrew Bowman, associate professor of veterinary preventive medicine at The Ohio State University and co-senior author of the study.

“And the evidence is growing that humans can get it from deer – which isn’t radically surprising. It’s probably not a one-way pipeline.”

The combined findings suggest that the white-tailed deer species is a reservoir for SARS-CoV-2 that enables continuing mutation, and that the virus’s circulation in deer could lead to its spread to other wildlife and livestock.

The study is published on August 28, 2023 in the journal Nature Communications.

Tuesday, August 29, 2023

Don't blame workers for poor service - blame CEOs

New data shows big retailers have the cash to hire more workers and pay them well. They just don't.

By Felix Allen 

Ever get mad at a delivery driver for bringing your pizza late? I used to. Now I assume it’s late because an overpaid boss is probably making two employees do the job of 10. 

What changed? I worked for two years at a company with the kind of chronic understaffing that plagues many of America’s largest retailers and fast food corporations. 

My job was to build merchandise displays at Lowe’s, the home improvement chain. I wasn’t supposed to deal directly with customers. But when people asked me for help, I was often the only employee available. So I wound up doing everything from sawing lumber to cutting keys — all the while worrying about finishing my assigned projects. 

Such understaffing leads to frustration for customers and burnout for employees who have to hustle like mad for a paycheck that barely covers their bills. CEOs argue they just don’t have the money to hire more workers or pay family-supporting wages. But their actions say something else. 

A new report by the Institute for Policy Studies shows that Lowe’s spent nearly $35 billion over the past three and a half years on stock buybacks. This is when a company takes money that could go towards worker wages or other productive investments and uses it to artificially inflate the value of their stock — and the value of their CEO’s stock-based pay. 


By Adam Zyglis

How to teach about race in Florida

For more cartoons by Ruben Bolling, CLICK HERE

Why childhood adversity impacts how a person's behavior is judged

How relevant is childhood on judgement?

University of Missouri-Columbia

It's human nature to be judgmental. But why do we place less blame on someone, or give more praise, if we find out that person had a history of suffering in childhood? 

In a recent study, University of Missouri researchers discovered why someone's childhood adversity influences how others judge their behavior.

The finding contributes to a growing body of evidence that suggests judgments of praise and blame are "asymmetrically sensitive" to certain types of information about someone's life history, said Philip Robbins, associate professor and chair of the Department of Philosophy.

Beans vs. Beef

Is Reducing Red Meat Safe for Bone Health and Protein Intake?


The University of Helsinki’s study revealed that replacing some red and processed meat with pea and fava bean-based foods doesn’t jeopardize dietary amino acid intake or bone health. 

As plant-based diets rise in popularity, ensuring proper intake of calcium and vitamin D remains vital. Leg4Life, a related project, focuses on promoting a sustainable and healthier food system using legumes.

New research demonstrated that the partial substitution of red and processed meat with pea- and fava bean–based food products ensured sufficient intake of amino acids in the diet and did not negatively affect bone metabolism. The study was conducted at the University of Helsinki.

A tale of two districts

Spencer Dickinson of So. Kingstown the only outlier in CD-1 race - he doesn't live in the district

By Christopher Shea, Rhode Island Current

A map of Rhode Island’s split congressional districts.
Not pictured is Block Island, which is a part of the
Second Congressional District.
(Source: Federal Election Commission)
Looking at the border of Rhode Island’s 1st Congressional District, it’s shaped a bit like an upside down pirate hook. 

The base is configured around towns along the northern border with Massachusetts as it curves through Bristol and Newport counties, the bend starting in Providence — a city that shares both the 1st and 2nd congressional districts.

“It’s sort of just capturing the Eastern part of the state,” said John Marion, executive director for Common Cause Rhode Island. “There’s for sure some politics in play.”

Beginning in North Smithfield, the congressional line follows a mostly straight line south as it hits the Woonasquatucket River in North Providence.

In Rhode Island’s capital city, the dividing line snakes behind Providence College and through the Smith Hill neighborhood, bulging around the State House, and narrowing around the Providence River only to reopen around the Southeast part of the city at Roger Williams Park.

The Providence split exists for a reason, said Providence College political science Professor Adam Myers. 

“Congressional districts have to be exactly equal in population after a U.S. Census,” he said. “You can’t really do that without splitting Providence.”

Though Myers said the line “won’t matter after 2030 because, by that point, we surely won’t have two congressional districts. 

“These are artificial creations that exist for 10 years,” he said. (The state was within 14,000 people of losing a congressional seat heading into the 2020 census).

Monday, August 28, 2023

How to Spot—and Stop—Greenwashing

Banning fossil fuel advertising would be a good start

A young man goes up a mountain to study the terrain and collect data on his laptop, while epic, orchestral violins play in the background. He’s an ExxonMobil scientist in a company ad that also shows other scientists in a high-tech lab working to develop “low-carbon technologies.” The tagline reads “Advancing Climate Solutions.”

The ad uses natural landscapes, futuristic-looking environments, and emotional music to evoke a positive feeling in viewers and to promote the idea that ExxonMobil is not only associated with sustainable business choices but also supporting climate solutions, rather than producing polluting fossil fuels and investing in high-carbon activities that cause climate change. 

To top it all off, the claim in the tagline promotes the perception that ExxonMobil, and fossil fuel companies more generally, are “part of the solution.”

This is what experts refer to as a prime example of corporate greenwashing.

The TV ad, which aired in 2021, was shown to the participants of a recent study, published in May 2023. The study found that a one-time exposure to two 30-second fossil fuel ads containing greenwashing was enough to positively influence individuals’ opinions of the industry’s efforts around transitioning to renewable energy.

The study also found that this greenwashing had disturbingly persistent effects: Presenting accurate data on the companies’ actual investments in renewable energy sources, compared to their claims about it in the ads, did not fully reverse or correct the greenwashed ads’ initial impact.

Corporate greenwashing is not only effective, it’s also increasing. According to Johnathan White, lawyer and expert on corporate climate accountability at environmental law charity ClientEarth, this is because sustainability communication has “gone through the roof,” especially over the past five years.

Basically, polluting companies increasingly need to present themselves as green to avoid accountability for their contributions to the climate crisis. To do so, they turn to greenwashing. But activists and campaigners have started pushing back, leading to a flurry of lawsuits.

And they're off!

For more cartoons by Tom Tomorrow, CLICK HERE


Consistency requires critical thinking

Zombie shrimp: soon to be a new series on Fox

Scientists show how parasites turn marsh-dwelling brown shrimp into neon zombies

Brown University

Orange amphipods caught the eye (and interest) of Brown University grad students conduction field research. If you look at them from the right angle, they look a bit like Donald Trump. Photo by David Johnson

Salt marshes are home to tiny crustaceans called amphipods that keep a low profile: Their gray-brown coloring helps them blend in with their surroundings, and they spend most of their time hiding under vegetation. 

But when amphipods are infected with a parasitic worm called a trematode, they turn bright orange and lose their tendency to run for cover when exposed. This bizarre behavior makes them stand out to predators — as well to scientists.

Biologists at Brown University have been studying amphipods for roughly a decade. The project started as a training exercise for students in collaboration with the Marine Biological Laboratory research institution. 

Over time, with advancements in molecular genetics, computational tools and biomedical technology, faculty and student scientists have made unexpected discoveries about the relationship between amphipods and the parasitic worms that prey upon them.

In a new study published in Molecular Ecology, Brown researchers provide a detailed analysis of the molecular mechanisms that allow the parasites to manipulate their hosts, and explain what’s happening to the amphipod’s biology that causes it to respond to the parasite in such distinct ways.

“Characterizing the molecular mechanisms of manipulation is important to advancing understanding of host–parasite coevolution,” said study author David Rand, a professor of natural history and chair of the ecology, evolution and organismal biology department at Brown.

The relevance of the findings extends far beyond the salt marsh, Rand said, especially when considered in context of certain pathogens that infect humans.

While foodborne trematodes can make humans very sick, they don’t have the same type of “zombie” effect. The amphipod system is closer to a malaria example, Rand noted, where the plasmodium parasite is carried by a mosquito that serves as an intermediate host. Studies have shown that mosquitos carrying the parasite can be more attracted to humans than to uninflected mosquitoes.

“This may be an example of a parasite manipulating an intermediate host to ensure its own transmission between hosts,” Rand said. “Rabies could be another relevant example: it drives infected individuals ‘mad’ so they bite others and infect the next host. Learning the molecular mechanisms of these kinds of host-parasite interactions can have important implications for how to manage pathogens generally, and in humans.”

The evolution of a biological research project

The trematode worm’s interaction with the amphipods makes Darwinian sense, Rand said: Parasites manipulate hosts to ensure their transmission so they can continue to reproduce. They’re an example of “prudent parasites” that don’t kill their hosts right away or ever, giving the parasites time to reproduce or move to another host.

The type of “zombie” manipulation seen in the amphipods isn’t unheard of in the natural world. However, Rand said, less has been known about the precise ways that parasitic worms have been able to cause changes in the amphipods that affect behavior, appearance and immune function.

Amphipods infected by a parasitic trematode change color from light grey or brown to orange and move into more exposed areas of salt marshes, which, scientists hypothesize, may increase rates of predation. Photo by David Johnson.

In the new study, the scientists used RNA sequencing to identify genes whose function match the three big changes in the host’s traits. They discovered that trematode infection results in activation of amphipod gene transcripts associated with pigmentation and detection of external stimuli, and suppression of multiple amphipod gene transcripts implicated in immune responses.

The researchers hypothesized that suppression of immune genes and the altered expression of genes associated with coloration and behavior may allow the parasite to persist in the amphipod and engage in further biochemical manipulation that promotes transmission.

“Infected amphipods become sitting ducks for predators,” Rand said. “That allows the parasites to spread into a newer, bigger, more robust host organism, and continue to reproduce and propagate their species.”

In the paper, researchers concluded that the genomic tools and transcriptomic analyses they reported provide new opportunities to discover how parasites are able to alter the diverse molecular pathways that underlie or determine changes in their hosts.

The research began in 2013 as a collaborative project intended to engage graduate students in sequencing DNA and RNA for questions in the realm of ecology, evolution and environmental science. 

Every year, a group of Brown Ph.D. students studying subjects including biology, applied math and computer science would take a field trip to a research site at Plum Island Estuary in Massachusetts. While several projects emerged from the site, students were perennially intrigued by the curious orange amphipods.

The Molecular Ecology study is a culmination of the researchers’ interest and efforts, and reflects how students’ skills in areas such as bioinformatics and genomic analysis increased over time.

Rand, whose lab focuses on fruit flies, said that the project was continually updated with new genomic and transcriptional data, such as the annotation of the fruit fly genome, since many of the genes and mutations in fruit flies could be correlated to changes in gene expression in the amphipods. That also helped propel the research forward, he said.

This type of study is illustrative of how far biological research has come, Rand said.

“We’re not curing human diseases out there in the salt marsh,” Rand said. “But compared to how ecologists of the past would be limited to looking for answers to nature’s mysteries by sifting through the mud, we now have access to molecular, biomedical and computational resources to find answers to questions, and we can then apply those findings to different areas of science that previously wouldn’t have seemed as connected.”

Additional key contributors included David Johnson from the Virginia Institute of Marine Science at William & Mary, and Zoe Cardon and Anne Giblin from the Marine Biological Laboratory.

The project was supported by a National Science Foundation IGERT award in Reverse Ecology (NSF DGE 0966060); NSF support for the Plum Island Ecosystems Long-Term Ecological Research site (NSF OCE 1637630); and other awards from the National Institutes of Health (R01GM067862, 1R35GM139607, P20GM109035, NSF DEB 1902712).

New URI study finds extensive microplastics in Narragansett Bay

URI researchers also show their harmful effects

Kristen Curry

A new URI study has found extensive microplastics in Narragansett Bay. Researchers Victoria Fulfer (shown) and J.P. Walsh estimate that the top 2 inches of the floor of Narragansett Bay now contain more than 1,000 tons of microplastics, and that buildup has occurred in just the last 10 to 20 years. (photos / Mike Salerno)

Two University of Rhode Island researchers estimate that the top 5 centimeters (2 inches) of the floor of Narragansett Bay now contain more than 1,000 tons of microplastics, and that buildup has occurred in just the last 10 to 20 years.

This news is likely to stun generations of Rhode Islanders who have gotten their first taste of ocean life at the shoreline. From Oakland Beach to Salty Brine Beach, a Rhode Island child’s introduction to the ocean often happens first at the water’s edge, with a pail and a shovel, digging at the tide line.

It’s a pretty picture, but what are they digging up?

A new study published by the University of Rhode Island’s Graduate School of Oceanography is giving state residents, and the future generation of beachgoers, a clearer picture of what exactly is being found in Narragansett Bay.

Doctoral student Victoria Fulfer and J.P. Walsh, director of URI’s Coastal Resources Center, recently published a study analyzing the percentage of microplastics in Narragansett Bay. Their study represents the first such study of the bay, offering a baseline look at impact on Narragansett Bay. Fulfer and Walsh say that the level of plastics being stored in the Bay is dramatic and startling. They recently published their results in Scientific Reports.

Both say they were surprised by the sheer amount of microplastics in the bay.

“The amount there is really shocking,” Fulfer says.

Timing and Cost of New Vaccines Vary by Virus and Health Insurance Status

Prevent Pandemic, Part 2 - GET YOUR SHOTS!


As summer edges toward fall, thoughts turn to, well, vaccines.

Yes, inevitably, it’s time to think about the usual suspects — influenza and covid-19 shots — but also the new kid in town: recently approved vaccines for RSV, short for respiratory syncytial virus.

But who should get the various vaccines, and when?

“For the eligible populations, all three shots are highly recommended,” said Georges Benjamin, a physician and the executive director of the American Public Health Association.

Still, there’s no need to get them all at the same time, and there are reasons to wait a bit for two of them. Some people may also face cost issues. Let’s break this down.

Sunday, August 27, 2023

Time to bust Starbucks


Tips for prison


This about sums him up

How forests can cut carbon, restore ecosystems, and create jobs

A new analysis describes steps planners can take to make forests more effective “natural climate solutions.”

Mark Dwortzan | Joint Program on the Science and Policy of Global Change

To limit the frequency and severity of droughts, wildfires, flooding, and other adverse consequences of climate change, nearly 200 countries committed to the Paris Agreement’s long-term goal of keeping global warming well below 2 degrees Celsius. According to the latest United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Report, achieving that goal will require both large-scale greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions reduction and removal of GHGs from the atmosphere.

At present, the most efficient and scalable GHG-removal strategy is the massive planting of trees through reforestation or afforestation — a “natural climate solution” (NCS) that extracts atmospheric carbon dioxide through photosynthesis and soil carbon sequestration.

Despite the potential of forestry-based NCS projects to address climate change, biodiversity loss, unemployment, and other societal needs — and their appeal to policymakers, funders, and citizens — they have yet to achieve critical mass, and often underperform due to a mix of interacting ecological, social, and financial constraints. 

You may or may not want to read thi

Exercise may or may not help you lose weight and keep it off – here’s the evidence for both sides of the debate

Donald M. LamkinUniversity of California, Los Angeles

There isn’t a debate, however, on the health benefits of regular
exercise. Maryna Terletska/Moment via Getty Images
The global fitness industry will generate over US$80 billion in revenue in 2023, estimates suggest. And why not, given the many excellent reasons to exercise? Better cardiovascular health, lower risk of Type 2 diabetes, stronger immune system – the list goes on.

One of the biggest reasons many people choose to exercise is to lose weight. As a biobehavioral scientist, I study links between behavior and health, and I heed the time-honored advice that eating less and exercising more are necessary to lose weight. But a recent debate in the scientific community highlights the growing suspicion that the “exercising more” part of this advice may be erroneous.

At the center of the debate is the constrained total energy expenditure hypothesis, which asserts that exercise won’t help you burn more calories overall because your body will compensate by burning fewer calories after your workout. Thus, exercise won’t help you lose weight even if it will benefit your health in countless other ways.

Obesity researchers take issue with this hypothesis, because it’s based on observational research rather than randomized controlled trials, or RCTs, the gold standard of scientific evidence. 

In RCTs, participants are randomly assigned to either a treatment or a control group, which allows researchers to determine whether the treatment causes an effect. Randomized controlled trials have shown that exercise causes weight loss.

The verdict is actually more mixed when considering all the gold-standard evidence available.

Looking for a US ‘climate haven’ away from heat and disaster risks?

Good luck finding one

Julie ArbitUniversity of MichiganBrad BottomsUniversity of Michigan, and Earl LewisUniversity of Michigan

Burlington, Vt., is often named as a ‘climate haven,’ but
surrounding areas flooded during extreme storms in July 2023.
 Education Images/Universal Images Group via Getty Images
Southeast Michigan seemed like the perfect “climate haven.”

“My family has owned my home since the ‘60s. … Even when my dad was a kid and lived there, no floods, no floods, no floods, no floods. Until [2021],” one southeast Michigan resident told us. That June, a storm dumped more than 6 inches of rain on the region, overloading stormwater systems and flooding homes.

That sense of living through unexpected and unprecedented disasters resonates with more Americans each year, we have found in our research into the past, present and future of risk and resilience.

An analysis of federal disaster declarations for weather-related events puts more data behind the fears – the average number of disaster declarations has skyrocketed since 2000 to nearly twice that of the preceding 20-year period.

A man and woman sit on a park bench with water up to the  man's knees. The woman is sitting on the chair back. A car in the street is flooded up to the roof.
A powerful storm system in 2023 flooded communities across
Vermont and left large parts of the capital, Montpelier, underwater.
 John Tully for The Washington Post via Getty Images

As people question how livable the world will be in a warming future, a narrative around climate migration and “climate havens” has emerged.

These “climate havens” are areas touted by researchers, public officials and city planners as natural refuges from extreme climate conditions. Some climate havens are already welcoming people escaping the effects of climate change elsewhere. Many have affordable housing and legacy infrastructure from their larger populations before the mid-20th century, when people began to leave as industries disappeared.

But they aren’t disaster-proof – or necessarily ready for the changing climate.

Saturday, August 26, 2023

Can this help reduce prescription costs?

Targeting the Price Fixers

By Phil Mattera for the Dirt Diggers Digest

The Justice Department and the Federal Trade Commission have been promoting the adoption of new guidelines that would give them a greater ability to block anti-competitive mergers. Now DOJ may also be taking a tougher stance with regard to the other main branch of antitrust enforcement: prosecuting price-fixing conspiracies that harm consumers.

DOJ’s Antitrust Division has just announced the resolution of a case brought against generic drug giant Teva Pharmaceuticals and a smaller Indian producer called Glenmark Pharmaceuticals for conspiring to fix the price of pravastatin, a cholesterol medication. 

Teva was also charged with anti-competitive behavior with regard to two other drugs. Teva was compelled to pay a criminal penalty of $225 million and to donate drugs worth $50 million to humanitarian organizations. Glenmark was penalized $30 million.

Along with the fines, which in Teva’s case is well above the norm in DOJ Antitrust Division actions, the agency imposed a novel penalty: requiring the two companies to divest their pravastatin business line. 

And although the criminal charges were softened by allowing Teva and Glenmark to enter into deferred prosecution agreements, the DOJ included a blunt warning that “both companies will face prosecution if they violate the terms of the agreements, and if convicted, would likely face mandatory debarment from federal health care programs.”

We've run out of ketchup


Trump stats compared to some of the world's greatest athletes

No one in the mainstream media noticed he's the same as his Super Bowl weight:

For the 3rd time this summer, West Nile Virus found in Westerly mosquitos

State Cautions Public to Prevent Mosquito Bites

The RI Department of Environmental Management (DEM) and RI Department of Health (RIDOH) today announce the third detection of West Nile Virus (WNV) in a mosquito sample collected in the state this summer. 

As was the case with the first and second WNV findings which DEM announced earlier this month, the third sample also was collected in Westerly. 

Overall, DEM collected 155 samples of mosquitoes from 32 traps set statewide on August 15. All other samples tested negative for WNV and Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE). 

To date, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts has announced 82 WNV findings, and the State of Connecticut has announced 50 findings of WNV. These WNV findings in mosquitoes are expected because mosquito-borne diseases become more prevalent in Southern New England as the summer progresses. 

Microplastics infiltrate all systems of body, cause behavioral changes

Plastic pollution can cause you harm

Patrick Luce

Neuroscience, Pharmacy Professor Jaime Ross’ study finds
‘widespread’ infiltration, potential for serious health
consequences, including Alzheimer’s

Professor Jaime Ross works in her lab in Avedisian Hall with graduate students Lauren Gaspar and Sydney Bartman. The team is investigating the potentially serious neurological impacts of microplastics on mammals.

Plastics—in particular, microplastics—are among the most pervasive pollutants on the planet, finding their way into the air, water systems and food chains around the world. While the prevalence of microplastics in the environment is well known—as are their negative impacts on marine organisms—few studies have examined the potential health impacts on mammals, prompting University of Rhode Island Professor Jaime Ross’ new study.

Ross and her team focused on neurobehavioral effects and inflammatory response to exposure to microplastics, as well as the accumulation of microplastics in tissues, including the brain. They have found that the infiltration of microplastics was as widespread in the body as it is in the environment, leading to behavioral changes, especially in older test subjects.

URI scientists look at floating wind turbines

URI researchers awarded $750K grant for research on floating wind turbines

Tony LaRoche 

The Biden administration has set a goal of deploying enough offshore wind turbines to produce 30 gigawatts—enough to power tens of millions of homes—by 2035. Key to that strategy is the development of floating wind turbines that can be built in vast areas of deeper water.

Backed by a U.S. Department of Energy grant, a team of University of Rhode Island researchers is working with colleagues at the University of Maine to develop a remote sensing and computational system to control the motion of floating wind turbines in irregular ocean conditions. The system would maximize energy production and extend the turbine’s useful life.

The $750,000 grant was provided through the Department of Energy’s Established Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR) program, part of $33 million in awards announced recently to support 14 clean-energy research projects. The URI project began in 2021 with an initial $1.245 million EPSCoR grant.  

The vast majority of offshore wind turbines around the world are secured to the seafloor with fixed foundations, such as the turbines off Block Island. The cost of installation of those turbines limits them to coastal waters of up to a depth of about 200 feet. However, floating turbines allow for the use of deep-water areas, which make up two-thirds of America’s offshore wind energy potential, according to a 2022 White House fact sheet.

Stephan Grilli, URI professor of ocean engineering who leads the URI project, says vital to the development of floating wind turbines on a commercial level is the ability to control the movements of turbines to optimize operations.