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News You Need To Know

Scientist finds Gulf bottom still Oily

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20 February 2011 

Gulf spill's effects 'may not be seen for a decade'

By Jason PalmerScience and technology reporter, BBC News, Washington DC

The 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill "devastated" life on and near the seafloor, a marine scientist has said.

Studies using a submersible found a layer, as much as 10cm thick in places, of dead animals and oil, said Samantha Joye of the University of Georgia.

Knocking these animals out of the food chain will, in time, affect species relevant to fisheries.

She disputed an assessment by BP's compensation fund that the Gulf of Mexico will recover by the end of 2012.

Millions of barrels of oil spewed into the sea after a BP deepwater well ruptured in April 2010.

Oil slickAssessments of the clean-up effort have focused on the surface oil, but much oil remains at depth

Professor Joye told the American Association for the Advancement of Science conference in Washington that it may be a decade before the full effects on the Gulf are apparent.

She said they concluded the layers had been deposited between June and September 2010 after it was discovered that no sign of sealife from samples taken in May remained.

Professor Joye and her colleagues used the Alvin submersible to explore the bottom-most layer of the water around the well head, known as the benthos.

"The impact on the benthos was devastating," she told BBC News.

"Filter-feeding organisms, invertebrate worms, corals, sea fans - all of those were substantially impacted - and by impacted, I mean essentially killed.

"Another critical point is that detrital feeders like sea cucumbers, brittle stars that wander around the bottom, I didn't see a living (sea cucumber) around on any of the wellhead dives. They're typically everywhere, and we saw none."

Organisms on the seafloor stimulate the activity of micro-organisms and oxygenate the sediments, two tasks at the bottom of the aquatic food chain that will inevitably have longer-term effects on species nearer the surface - including the ones we eat.

Professor Joye noted that after the Exxon Valdez spill, it took several years before it became clear that the herring industry had been destroyed.

As such, she disagrees with the assessment in February, by the administrator of BP's $20bn (£12bn) compensation fund, that the Gulf of Mexico will have recovered from the spill by the end of 2012.

"The Gulf is resilient," she said.

"I do believe that it will recover from this insult, but I don't think it's going to recover fully by 2012.

"I think it's going to be 2012 before we begin to really see the fisheries implications and repercussions from this."

Labor Flashpoints, The Union Fight against new contract laws spreads beyond Wisconsin

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Associated Press

Supporters at the Indiana Federation of Teachers news conference at the state Capitol in Indianapolis Monday.

The protests have ignited a wider national debate over the role of labor unions and who should shoulder sacrifices as states scramble to tackle yawning budget deficits. Governors in both political parties are looking for union concessions as they struggle to balance budgets. Some are pushing aggressively to curtail the power of unions to organize or collect dues.

On Monday, thousands of steelworkers, autoworkers and other labor activists surrounded the Indiana state capitol to protest a bill before the legislature to dramatically weaken the clout of private-sector unions. This is in contrast to Wisconsin, where a newly elected Republican governor is in a standoff with public-sector unions and their allies.

Protesters on both sides of the Wisconsin budget battle prepare for a long day as the battle over union rights and the state budget in Wisconsin continues. Courtesy Fox News.

In Ohio, union officials are expecting 5,000 or more protesters Tuesday at the state house, where a legislative panel is considering a Republican-backed bill that would restrict collective-bargaining rights for about 400,000 public employees. Republican Gov. John Kasich supports the bill, a spokesman said.

In Indiana, a House committee on Monday approved legislation to change state law so that private-sector workers no longer would be required to pay dues or belong to a union that bargains on their behalf. Unions say this would erode union membership, and eventually their finances and political clout, if workers decided not to join or pay dues. Supporters say the change would make the state more competitive and attract employers.

Democratic representatives in Indiana caucused into the night Monday, discussing a possible walkout to deny Republicans a quorum. They plan to meet again Tuesday morning. Rep. David Niezgodski of South Bend said Monday night that some Democrats are considering a walkout, contending the majority "are waging a war on the middle class now, in a way we've never seen before."

About 22 states, mostly across the South, have laws similar to the one before Indiana lawmakers. In Indiana currently, if a union bargains for a group of employees at a workplace, all workers covered by the contract must belong to the union.Indiana's Republican Gov. Mitch Daniels has aggressively gone after the state's public-sector unions, taking away their collective-bargaining rights on his first day in office in 2005. He is also pushing the state legislature this session to weaken tenure protection for teachers. But he has opposed the right-to-work bill that is now stirring anger in Indianapolis, fearing it would distract from his main legislative priorities.

The protests in Indiana were reminiscent of ones that have choked the Wisconsin capital over the past week as teachers, students and prison guards continue to oppose a bill to limit public-sector unions' collective-bargaining powers. Democratic lawmakers there fled the state last week to thwart a vote on the bill.

Republican and Democratic leaders and strategists appear to be relishing the broadening fight over labor unions, feeling it is energizing their core supporters and clarifying key differences between the two parties.

Democrats claim the fight has injected fresh energy into the ranks of labor unions, which are a major supplier of campaign money and volunteers for Democratic candidates. Republicans say the showdowns show they are the ones willing to make tough decisions to cut government spending and take on entrenched powers.

The various clashes over union benefits and clout hold implications for the 2012 elections as they spread to Indiana, Ohio and other presidential swing states.

Many of the potential GOP presidential candidates, including Minnesota's Tim Pawlenty and Alaska's Sarah Palin, have backed Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and criticized President Barack Obama for taking the side of the public-sector unions.

The AFL-CIO has seized on the Wisconsin protests to energize labor activism across the country. Union organizers say they are planning rallies and protests in dozens of state capitals this week as they scramble to tap into a surge of anger over the Wisconsin bill.

Gerald McEntee, president of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, the nation's largest public-sector union, said the moves in various state capitals to target state employees were an explicit effort to undermine a key source of Democratic funds.

"They know how much we spent in the last campaign," he said. "They're going to try and shoot us down."

The 1.6 million-member AFSCME last year tapped emergency accounts and took out loans as it poured more than $90 million into Democratic campaign efforts in the mid-term elections.

Overall, unions put around $400 million into the 2008 campaign to help elect Mr. Obama and other Democrats.

Officials from both parties agreed the Wisconsin fight was freighted with consequence. But some also acknowledge that it was unclear so far which side the public would back.

"The country will stand behind us as long as Republicans stand for fiscal responsibility and continue to govern as we campaigned," said Reince Priebus, the newly elected chairman of the Republican National Committee and former head of the Wisconsin GOP.

Illinois Sen. Richard Durbin, the second-ranking Democrat in the Senate, said Gov. Walker's efforts to weaken the unions' collective-bargain rights left Democrats no choice but to fight back vigorously.

"For myself and most Democrats, this represents a core value, one that goes back in our history to the New Deal," he said.

But Mr. Durbin said it was still too early to know whether voters would rally to the Democrats' side. "Public opinion is still volatile at this point," he said. "Those on the center stripe are paying close attention to who is being fair here and who is doing the right thing."

Other Democrats were more openly cheered by the struggle. Former Wisconsin congressman David Obey said the fight "has energized progressive forces like nothing I have seen in a long time."

For the White House, the state budget fights pose a quandary. The president wants to show support for the unions, but the White House is also eager to show he is ready to make tough decision to cut the federal debt.

Mr. Obama leapt to the defense of the Wisconsin unions last week, saying Gov. Walker's attempts to weaken their collective-bargaining rights amounted to "an assault." But White House officials over the weekend continued to point out that the president understands the need for shared sacrifice as states worked to conquer deficits.

The White House is also eager to distance itself from the array of mobilization actions that the Democratic National Committee unleashed last week to bulk up the rallies in Wisconsin and other states.

The national stakes for both political parties in Wisconsin itself are particularly high. Mr. Obama won the state by a wide margin in 2008, as every successful Democratic presidential candidate has since John F. Kennedy.

But Wisconsin turned sharply to the right in last year's election. If the current budget battle redounds to the Republican's favor, that could weaken Mr. Obama's odds in the state next year, and even his chances for re-election.

Social Scientist Sees Bias Within

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SAN ANTONIO — Some of the world’s pre-eminent experts on bias discovered an unexpected form of it at their annual meeting.

Discrimination is always high on the agenda at the Society for Personality and Social Psychology’s conference, where psychologists discuss their research on racial prejudice, homophobia, sexism, stereotype threat and unconscious bias against minorities. But the most talked-about speech at this year’s meeting, which ended Jan. 30, involved a new “outgroup.”


It was identified by Jonathan Haidt, a social psychologist at the University of Virginia who studies the intuitive foundations of morality and ideology. He polled his audience at the San Antonio Convention Center, starting by asking how many considered themselves politically liberal. A sea of hands appeared, and Dr. Haidt estimated that liberals made up 80 percent of the 1,000 psychologists in the ballroom. When he asked for centrists and libertarians, he spotted fewer than three dozen hands. And then, when he asked for conservatives, he counted a grand total of three.

“This is a statistically impossible lack of diversity,” Dr. Haidt concluded, noting polls showing that 40 percent of Americans are conservative and 20 percent are liberal. Inhis speech and in an interview, Dr. Haidt argued that social psychologists are a “tribal-moral community” united by “sacred values” that hinder research and damage their credibility — and blind them to the hostile climate they’ve created for non-liberals.

“Anywhere in the world that social psychologists see women or minorities underrepresented by a factor of two or three, our minds jump to discrimination as the explanation,” said Dr. Haidt, who called himself a longtime liberal turned centrist. “But when we find out that conservatives are underrepresented among us by a factor of more than 100, suddenly everyone finds it quite easy to generate alternate explanations.”

Dr. Haidt (pronounced height) told the audience that he had been corresponding with a couple of non-liberal graduate students in social psychology whose experiences reminded him of closeted gay students in the 1980s. He quoted — anonymously — from their e-mails describing how they hid their feelings when colleagues made political small talk and jokes predicated on the assumption that everyone was a liberal.

“I consider myself very middle-of-the-road politically: a social liberal but fiscal conservative. Nonetheless, I avoid the topic of politics around work,” one student wrote. “Given what I’ve read of the literature, I am certain any research I conducted in political psychology would provide contrary findings and, therefore, go unpublished. Although I think I could make a substantial contribution to the knowledge base, and would be excited to do so, I will not.”

The politics of the professoriate has been studied by the economists Christopher Cardiff and Daniel Klein and the sociologists Neil Gross and Solon Simmons. They’ve independently found that Democrats typically outnumber Republicans at elite universities by at least six to one among the general faculty, and by higher ratios in the humanities and social sciences. In a 2007 study of both elite and non-elite universities, Dr. Gross and Dr. Simmons reported that nearly 80 percent of psychology professors are Democrats, outnumbering Republicans by nearly 12 to 1.

The fields of psychology, sociology and anthropology have long attracted liberals, but they became more exclusive after the 1960s, according to Dr. Haidt. “The fight for civil rights and against racism became the sacred cause unifying the left throughout American society, and within the academy,” he said, arguing that this shared morality both “binds and blinds.”

“If a group circles around sacred values, they will evolve into a tribal-moral community,” he said. “They’ll embrace science whenever it supports their sacred values, but they’ll ditch it or distort it as soon as it threatens a sacred value.” It’s easy for social scientists to observe this process in other communities, like the fundamentalist Christians who embrace “intelligent design” while rejecting Darwinism. But academics can be selective, too, asDaniel Patrick Moynihan found in 1965 when he warned about the rise of unmarried parenthood and welfare dependency among blacks — violating the taboo against criticizing victims of racism.

“Moynihan was shunned by many of his colleagues at Harvard as racist,” Dr. Haidt said. “Open-minded inquiry into the problems of the black family was shut down for decades, precisely the decades in which it was most urgently needed. Only in the last few years have liberal sociologists begun to acknowledge that Moynihan was right all along.”

Similarly, Larry Summers, then president of Harvard, was ostracized in 2005 for wondering publicly whether the preponderance of male professors in some top math and science departments might be due partly to the larger variance in I.Q. scores among men (meaning there are more men at the very high and very low ends). “This was not a permissible hypothesis,” Dr. Haidt said. “It blamed the victims rather than the powerful. The outrage ultimately led to his resignation. We psychologists should have been outraged by the outrage. We should have defended his right to think freely.”

Instead, the taboo against discussing sex differences was reinforced, so universities and theNational Science Foundation went on spending tens of millions of dollars on research and programs based on the assumption that female scientists faced discrimination and various forms of unconscious bias. But that assumption has been repeatedly contradicted, most recently in a study published Monday in The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences by two Cornell psychologists, Stephen J. Ceci and Wendy M. Williams. alt After reviewing two decades of research, they report that a woman in academic science typically fares as well as, if not better than, a comparable man when it comes to being interviewed, hired, promoted, financed and published.

“Thus,” they conclude, “the ongoing focus on sex discrimination in reviewing, interviewing and hiring represents costly, misplaced effort. Society is engaged in the present in solving problems of the past.” Instead of presuming discrimination in science or expecting the sexes to show equal interest in every discipline, the Cornell researchers say, universities should make it easier for women in any field to combine scholarship with family responsibilities.

Can social scientists open up to outsiders’ ideas? Dr. Haidt was optimistic enough to title his speech “The Bright Future of Post-Partisan Social Psychology,” urging his colleagues to focus on shared science rather than shared moral values. To overcome taboos, he advised them to subscribe to National Review and to read Thomas Sowell’s “A Conflict of Visions.”

For a tribal-moral community, the social psychologists in Dr. Haidt’s audience seemed refreshingly receptive to his argument. Some said he overstated how liberal the field is, but many agreed it should welcome more ideological diversity. A few even endorsed his call for a new affirmative-action goal: a membership that’s 10 percent conservative by 2020. The society’s executive committee didn’t endorse Dr. Haidt’s numerical goal, but it did vote to put a statement on the group’s home page welcoming psychologists with “diverse perspectives.” It also made a change on the “Diversity Initiatives” page — a two-letter correction of what it called a grammatical glitch, although others might see it as more of a Freudian slip.

In the old version, the society announced that special funds to pay for travel to the annual meeting were available to students belonging to “underrepresented groups (i.e., ethnic or racial minorities, first-generation college students, individuals with a physical disability, and/or lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgendered students).”

As Dr. Haidt noted in his speech, the “i.e.” implied that this was the exclusive, sacred list of “underrepresented groups.” The society took his suggestion to substitute “e.g.” — a change that leaves it open to other groups, too. Maybe, someday, even to conservatives.

Girl's suspension a sign of the times for potty training

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Washington Post Staff Writer 
Sunday, January 30, 2011

Zoe Rosso, who is 3 years old, likes to bake brownies with her mom, go to tumbling class, and make up elaborate worlds with tiny plastic animals and dolls. Like many children her age, she sometimes has difficulty making it to the toilet on time.


That's why she was suspended from her preschool. For a month.

Arlington Public Schools' Montessori preschool at Claremont Elementary "removed" Zoe in December, asking her parents not to bring her back to school for a month or until the child learned not to have any more "accidents."

The principal escorted Zoe and her mother, Betsy Rosenblatt Rosso, from the building Dec. 3. "The principal told me that Zoe had had enough chances," Rosso said. "That seemed absurd to me. It came as a total shock."

Now, Rosso - who had to effectively shut down her business for a month while she scrambled to find child care and still had to pay the preschool's $835 monthly tuition - is pushing the county and School Board to change its potty policy. She calls it her "Potty Manifesto."

"We would like Arlington County to revise its policy so that other kids and other families won't have their lives disrupted like this for something that's totally developmentally normal," Rosso said. "If a kid is emotionally and intellectually ready for school . . . then they should have the ability to go, regardless of whether their bladder has caught up with their brain."

Rosso finds herself at the center of an emotionally charged parenting issue. As schools push higher academic expectations down to ever-younger children, parents feel pressure to compete for openings at preschools that emphasize academic challenge. Some schools want to maximize their focus on academics by restricting classes to the fully toilet-trained.

Small bodies with tiny bladders struggle to keep up. Elizabeth Page, an early childhood specialist and executive director of the Falls Church-McLean Children's Center, called the county's removal policy "ridiculous."

"Potty training is very, very individual, just like learning to walk and learning to read," she said. "You can try to force a child to be potty-trained, but it's like asking a pig to fly. It frustrates you and irritates the pig."

Charmaine Ciardi, a Bethesda child development psychologist, said preschool potty policies vary widely because of state licensing requirements for hygiene, financing for staff or simply staff preferences. "In this time when people are more sensitive with issues of nudity and sexuality and children, some people are more reluctant to change a child," she said.

But policies that push children toward toilet-training at a uniform age put "too much stress on everybody," said Penny Glass, director of the Child Development Center at Children's National Medical Center. "To be successful with toilet training, it's much better not to force."

Fast-track toilet training

Rosso's fight comes as a new movement, called "elimination communication," is pushing to have infants as young as three months begin potty training. "Fast track," another controversial early training method in which a child is saturated with drinks and then placed on the pot, is also growing in popularity.

Rosso wants the county to acknowledge
that 3-year-olds, even when they use the toilet frequently, as Zoe has since July, can and do still have frequent accidents. She wants schools to help kids, not punish or shame them.


"In our view, Zoe is potty-trained," the mother said. "But she's not perfect."

Arlington's Office of Early Childhood is reviewing Rosso's request, but spokeswoman Linda Erdos said requiring 3-year-olds to be toilet-trained has been county policy for decades. "The application for these preschool programs states very clearly that children must be toilet-trained, that we can't accept kids in Pull-Ups," she said. "We understand kids have accidents, but we're not staffed like a day-care or child-care center and can't address a child that needs help being potty-trained."

Erdos said county practice is to remove a child who has eight accidents in a month. "Once it gets to that point," she said, "it disrupts the class."

Rosso, who runs a communications consulting business, said she was not made aware of the county's accident limit until late November, when Claremont's principal told her that Zoe could be removed if she had three accidents in one week or one accident a week for three weeks.

Erdos said that she didn't know how many times Arlington preschools have enforced the removal policy but that it has been effective in the past.

Mark Wolraich, director of the Child Study Center at the University of Oklahoma and author of the "American Academy of Pediatrics' Guide to Toilet Training," said children typically begin to toilet-train between the ages of 18 months and 4 years. Some learn quickly, while others take months. Many learn, then regress. Accidents, he said, are common. Nearly a quarter of all 5-year-olds still have daytime accidents. Nighttime accidents can continue for much longer.

"A lot of the preschools allow or should be allowing for some accidents to be occurring," he said. "To expect kids to be perfect and not have any accidents is certainly not realistic."

Wolraich said toilet training, more than any other developmental milestone, has always been emotionally charged. The push for early training, he said, is more a reflection of parents' need for accomplishment than of any understanding of child physiology. "It's almost like a super-mom issue," he said. "There's not been any evidence that children who get trained earlier are any smarter or more accomplished later in life."

Zoe's story

Rosso went through a potty-training class in the summer. By the end of July, Zoe was using the toilet regularly. But when she started a new preschool program in September, the change threw her off. At pickup time, Zoe's teacher announced in front of everyone how many accidents the child had that day, Rosso said.

Two weeks later, when a slot opened up at the Claremont Montessori program, the Rossos gratefully transferred Zoe.

Through the fall, she would stay dry for weeks, then have a spate of accidents. She would clean up after herself, changing her own clothes. As teachers suggested, the Rossos took Zoe to a pediatrician, who said the child was perfectly normal. "Having a few accidents a week is not unusual," the doctor, Christine Baldrate, wrote to the school.

By that time, the Rossos had bought Zoe a special watch to go off every so often to remind her to go. They read or sang to her as she sat on her green frog potty. They watched training videos with her and devised an elaborate sticker system to reward her when she made it to the toilet on time.

After she was removed from school in December, Zoe had only a handful of accidents, her mother said.

With trepidation, the Rossos sent Zoe back to Claremont earlier this month. She stayed dry at first but within a few days had five accidents.

"I couldn't bring her back to school" after that, Rosso said. "Every single day, we'd be waiting for the principal to appear and escort us out of the building again."

After frantic calls, the parents found a spot for Zoe in a program that works with children who are being potty-trained.

"We told Zoe that we want her to go to a school where people aren't going to get mad at her for having accidents," Rosso said.Since she started at the new school on Jan. 11, her mother said, Zoe has made it to the toilet every time.

Rhode Island Guv Bans Speech

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Take a look at this.  Since when can a governor prevent state workers from talking? This is OUTRAGEOUS. If you live in Rhode Island, you should protest, Immediately!   

Rhode Island Governor Bans State Workers from Appearing on Talk Radio.

Moderate Republican Rhode Island Governor Lincoln Chafee altgained national attention Tuesday (1/11) when he mandated that state workers not appear on talk radio. A Chafee spokesperson told the Providence Journal that talk radio is essentially “ratings-driven, for-profit programming -- we don’t think it is appropriate to use taxpayer resources” for state workers to spend their working hours “support for-profit, ratings-driven programming.”

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