Mattress Safe

Is Watching the News Actually Bad for Your Health?

Is Watching the News Actually Bad for Your Health?

by Alex Barasch @ Slate Articles

A Minnesota-based gym chain called Life Time caused a stir among its clients—and the rest of the internet, once the New York Times picked up the story—when it announced its decision to remove all cable news programming, left- and right-leaning alike, from the big-screen TVs in its 130 locations around the country. Amid cries of censorship, Life Time’s statement on Twitter emphasized that it was a decision borne of “significant member feedback received over time” and that the move was in line with the gym’s “healthy way of life philosophy.”

The subtext is that watching cable news could harm your health—a maxim that might sound downright intuitive in this day and age. But among scientists, the jury is still out. It’s true that certain types of news seem to have a measurable impact on our mental health: Researchers from the University of Toronto found that journalists who regularly deal with images of extreme violence in the course of their work are more likely to suffer from anxiety, depression, PTSD, and alcoholism. The authors conclude that “frequent, repetitive viewing of traumatic images can come with adverse psychological consequences.” Interestingly (and worryingly), the opposite can also be true: Increased exposure to these images can lead to desensitization, a kind of emotional numbing effect as they become used to the horrors that come with the job. While non-journalists won’t bear the brunt of this, it follows that stories of police brutality, terrorist attacks, and other violence could start to wear on our emotional well-being (or at the other end of the spectrum, our ability to respond emotionally in the first place), particularly if we’re always plugged in.

Importantly, though, cable news in and of itself has no such effect. Although individual elections might affect our stress levels—Duke scientists tracking the stress hormone cortisol in McCain voters vs. Obama voters on the night of the 2008 election saw a spike among members of the losing party—the steady drumbeat of political developments doesn’t seem to do the same. One 2017 study of older adults, the largest consumers of cable news, exposed volunteers to Fox News, MSNBC, and PBS (respectively deemed right, left, and center), then monitored their psychological, physiological, and cognitive responses. In short, there wasn’t one: “Cable news watching had no effect on psychological stress, physiological stress, or cognitive function.

This remained true even if the news exposures were discordant with participants’ political affiliation.” While a 2012 study at Texas A&M found that New York Times stories about Obama’s success led to higher cortisol levels than those about Mystic Pizza or Taylor Swift among the college’s conservative student body, the authors were quick to note that “the effects we observed were within the range of normal, daily variations in cortisol,” and they pushed back against the notion of political coverage as a kind of “secondary smoke” for partisan opponents. So from an empirical perspective, it seems that both watching and reading the news, even when it scares us or disappoints us or we disagree with it, are relatively safe habits.

Natalie Bushaw, a spokeswoman for Life Time, assured the Times that when it comes to cable news at the gym, this went beyond Trump. “This has been a growing issue over years, not weeks or months,” she said. That may have been more about the gym’s desire to combat accusations of censorship in these polarized times. But she’s right that people have worried about information overload being bad for one’s health for a long time: As early as the 1840s, Victorians feared for the fate of “brain workers”—the academics, financiers, and clergymen inundated with information at rates that had previously been impossible. As the advent of commercial telegraphs and the mass production and distribution of pamphlets and periodicals radically altered the speed and frequency of communication, doctors advised those facing mental and emotional overload to “take rest,” literally checking out and retiring to, say, Davos for months or even years at a time.

A six-month vacation from reality may sound tempting, perhaps even healthy considering the current state of the world. Which brings us to the crux of the issue: Things have obviously changed fundamentally since the 1840s, but they’ve also changed since 2016. It’s worth noting that while the most recent of these studies was published in 2017, volunteers were recruited between July 2014 and May 2015—in other words, well before the Trump administration or the #MeToo moment. Our current 24-hour news cycle, dominated by stories of sexual assault, environmental crises, and impending nuclear disaster, may well be more distressing than it has been in the past, and plenty has been written about what we can do to cultivate a healthier “media diet” in response. There are cases in which limiting our exposure is in fact a valid and worthwhile course of action: It’s OK (and probably even advisable) to go to bed on an election night instead of obsessively refreshing the Upshot’s robot predictor needle. And there’s no shame in choosing not to bear witness to every moment of violence, as long as we don’t shy away from what they tell us about the world we live in.

Life Time has offered its customers a compromise: The channels that have been removed from large-screen TVs are still available on smaller ones, and the gym’s Wi-Fi allows them to tune in to whatever they like on mobile phones. While it may not be scientifically necessary to take cable TV off its biggest screens, the gym is simply letting its customers make a choice about where, whether, and how much they want to engage—and that seems like a perfectly reasonable step to me.

Are Pampers Sensitive Baby Wipes Ingredients Safe?

by Irina Webb @ I Read Labels For You

Last updated on January 13th, 2018Before we talk about Pampers Sensitive Baby Wipes ingredients, let me tell you something.   When I started writing this blog, it suddenly hit me.   I knew that whatever we put on our skin gets … Continued

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New Pregnancy Drug Risk: Acetaminophen and Language Delays

by Amber Krosel @ Safe Birth Project

We all know that when we become pregnant, we have to limit ourselves in some regards. We shouldn’t lift very heavy objects or drive a vehicle if we become too uncomfortable, and we must make sure to avoid certain foods, like shellfish, soft cheeses, and alcohol. Many types of medicines, including ones we may not […]

The post New Pregnancy Drug Risk: Acetaminophen and Language Delays appeared first on Safe Birth Project.

Best Bed Bug Mattress Encasement Reviews 2018 - Buyers Guide

Best Bed Bug Mattress Encasement Reviews 2018 - Buyers Guide

The Sleep Judge

Are you waking up with strange bites on your body that weren't there when you went to bed? This could be a sign of a vampire, just kidding, it's actually a sign of bed bugs. Although, I would much rather have a vampire problem than bed bugs. It takes a lot more than garlic and pure silver to get rid of bed bugs. If you are finding strange bites, fecal stains around your mattress, or actually see a bed bug, you may want to invest in the best bed bug mattress encasement that you can find. These are also great for relieving allergies from dust mites, not just for bed bugs. Not quite what you were looking for? Check out our mattress protector recommendations here. If you're wanting something to improve the comfort of your bed, take a look at our top picks for mattress toppers. 1. Introduction 2. Comparison Table 3. Buyers Guide Detecting Bed Bugs Before Buying An Encasement Finding A Good Mattress Encasement The Dangers Of Bed Bugs 4. Top 5 Mattress Encasement Reviews Sleep Defense

Original Bed Bug Blocker Zippered Mattress Protector -

Original Bed Bug Blocker Zippered Mattress Protector -

Free 2-day shipping on qualified orders over $35. Buy Original Bed Bug Blocker Zippered Mattress Protector at

What is Gastroschisis?

by Amber Krosel @ Safe Birth Project

It’s no surprise that when doing research on all-things-baby during a pregnancy, you’ll come across some scary stuff. Birth defects are one of the scariest things an expecting parent can learn about, whether they know they have a greater risk for having a baby with Down syndrome because of their age, or they’re just reading […]

The post What is Gastroschisis? appeared first on Safe Birth Project.

Reasons to Buy a New Mattress

by intelliBED @ Intellibed

If you’re still using that lumpy old mattress, chances are you aren’t getting a good night’s sleep. When you a buy a new mattress from Intellibed, you’re purchasing a product made from Gel Matrix™, the best pressure relieving material ever created. Our mattresses are ideal for anyone suffering from sleep-inhibiting ailments like chronic pain or…

The post Reasons to Buy a New Mattress appeared first on Intellibed.

Gift Guide: Personal Care & Cosmetics

by admin @ Made Safe

Personal care products and cosmetics are a common holiday gift, but ones that are truly safe and effective can be difficult to find. And all of us at Made Safe know that the holiday season means busy, busy, busy—no time to research ingredients and investigate products. This is why our team does the heavy lifting for […] Read more...

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The Importance of Mattress Safety for You and Your Family

The Importance of Mattress Safety for You and Your Family

Sherwood Bedding

At Sherwood Bedding, we make our customers a priority. Explore these mattress safety tips to ensure you and your family are taking the right precautions.

BreatheTHRU Crib Mattress – Gray Base - ABC Safe Sleep

BreatheTHRU Crib Mattress – Gray Base - ABC Safe Sleep

ABC Safe Sleep

Designed and Crafted in the U.S.A.60 Day Satisfaction GuaranteeFits in a standard size crib - 51″ x 27-1/4″ x 5"The supremely comfortable and eco-friendly BreatheTHRU Crib Mattress provides safe and cozy sleep for your baby.Two-piece, hygienic BreatheTHRU Crib Mattress includes a solid wood crib base with side openings and a firm crib mattress topper.Constant airflow is layered between the air permeable topper and base of the BreatheTHRU Crib Mattress, which allows your baby to breathe in oxygen-rich air in case your baby rolls into a face-down position.

Gift Guide: Stocking Stuffers

by admin @ Made Safe

Picking out non-toxic gifts is difficult, especially when it comes to stocking stuffers. Too often we end up filling stockings with plastic trinkets and toxic personal care products (unknowingly exposing our loved ones to harmful chemicals) and things that our giftee just plain won’t use. Our team has taken the guesswork out by creating a […] Read more...

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New Healthy Baby Guide Helps Parents Find Safe Options

by admin @ Made Safe

Maybe you’ve just learned you’re pregnant, or maybe you have a new baby or growing children. Perhaps you and your partner are just thinking about having a family. Whatever the reason, you may be hearing troubling things about toxic chemicals around you—especially chemicals in plastic and other harmful ingredients in the things you use daily—and […] Read more...

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How to Find the Most Comfortable Mattress

by Sleep Junkie @ Sleep Junkie

What’s The Most Comfortable Mattress Type? So you want to know what the most comfortable mattress is? The quick answer: The mattress that best suits your needs will prove to be the most comfortable. This isn’t a cop-out, it’s just the quick answer. The truth is, there is no magic mattress that is best for […]

The post How to Find the Most Comfortable Mattress appeared first on Sleep Junkie.

Wild Animals Do Not Need to Be Saved From Fires

Wild Animals Do Not Need to Be Saved From Fires

by Torie Bosch @ Slate Articles

Have you seen the viral video of the man who reportedly pulled onto the side of Highway 1, near La Conchita, California, to save a rabbit from the devastating Thomas fire?

The hero in a hoodie put his own life at risk to save a widdle wabbit from the big fire. The common response to this has been that his actions should renew our faith in humanity. “Emotional Man Becomes Viral Hero When He Rescues Rabbit From California Wildfires,” crows a People headline.

In these dark times, I understand the tendency to turn to cute animals and stories of acts of kindness for pick-me-ups. But trying to save wild animals from a fire is a stupid thing to do. We should not reward this behavior, and we should not encourage others to do the same.

La Conchita is, according to the Los Angeles Times, a “small seaside town” that is home to “a few hundred people.” An evacuation order was already in place when the fire reached it. As the Times said Thursday morning:

Shortly before 2 a.m., flames rolled down the hillside just off the 101 Freeway, near Faria Beach Park, before jumping northbound lanes and igniting weeds in the center divider. Drivers swerved to avoid the flickering flames, with smoke making it hard to see farther than a few feet at times.
Visibility problems triggered a full shutdown of the freeway, according to the California Highway Patrol’s online incident log.
Authorities said they’d been to the neighborhood—where there’s only one way in and one way out—twice ordering people to leave, telling them it was too dangerous to stay.

According to KABC, the video was captured by a news photographer Wednesday night. “The man, who did not want to be interviewed, pulled over and was panicking as the rabbit he chased hopped right near large flames,” KABC reported. We see him jumping around in the clip, wearing a hoodie and shorts, as cars drive by. He gets closer to the rabbit, backs away from the flames, and then finally scoops it up and pulls it into his chest. “He’s saving an animal,” someone says off-screen, awestruck.

We don’t know what happened to this man before or after his rabbit rescue. He may have been in shock, or he may have been traumatized. I certainly have no idea how I would react if I were within spitting distance of a wildfire and spotted a cute animal. (OK, I have a small idea: I probably would not have tried to save it, because I harbor an intense fear that I will forget to stop, drop, and roll if the need ever actually arises.) Either way, I don’t blame the man in the video.

But it is irresponsible to spread this video widely and cast him as a hero. If he had caught fire, wouldn’t the bystanders or people in cars passing by have had to help him? Doing so would have put them at risk, too. Several people could have ended up injured or worse because he tried to save a (wild!) rabbit. Or what if no one felt safe enough to help, and he was severely burned or died as a result? The people who were nearby would have likely felt tremendous guilt, possibly for the rest of their lives. Either way, it could have required response from emergency services that are already stretched thin.

I tend to prefer animals to humans. (To be clear, that’s a flaw of mine, not a dig at my fellow humans.) But the fact is that human lives need to take precedence over animal lives—particularly wild animals’ lives. And what happens to the rabbit now anyway? Keeping it in a cage forever wouldn’t be fair. Does it get let go somewhere in Southern California so it can end up in another wildfire? It’s hard enough for people to know what to do with their pets when they are forced to evacuate a natural disaster. (Update, Dec. 7, 5:30 p.m. EST: In a piece published Thursday afternoon, LiveScience points out that “an animal flitting around at the edge of a fire might not need saving at all. In fact, it might have a very good reason for being there.”)

The biggest problem with this video is not the story of this individual man and this individual rabbit, though. It’s that our bizarre fetishizing of animals on the internet could prompt others to attempt the same—to stop in the middle of an evacuation to save an animal. That puts not only the would-be rescuers at risk, but also firefighters—who have more important things to do—and other evacuees. That prospect should make us all hopping mad.

Is there anything you can do to help animals fleeing wildfires? A widely circulated meme says that people on the fringes of fire should leave water outside (and bring pets indoors) in case animals need to stop to quench their thirst. But even that might be ill-advised: In October, California Fish and Wildlife spokesperson Peter Tira told SFGate not to bother.

“If you encounter a wild animal in our neighborhood, leave it alone,” says Tira. “Fire or no fire, just let the animals be.”
Tira says wild animals, like deer, foxes, coyotes and other creatures likely affected by the Wine Country fires, have the ability to adapt and survive, and leaving buckets of water out for them is not only unnecessary, but unadvisable.
“Fire is something animals have to deal with constantly,” said Tira.

And increasingly, so do humans. So let the animals take care of themselves. Even in the video, that’s what the rabbit is trying to do: run out from the flames.

How to choose the safest cosmetics

by Irina Webb @ I Read Labels For You

Last updated on February 6th, 2018 Ever since I read the FDA test results of 400 lipsticks back in 2010, heavy metal contamination in cosmetics has been my concern.  In the FDA test, most lipsticks contained some amount of lead, and the … Continued

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Report: Keystone Pipeline Has Leaked Much More Than Expected

Report: Keystone Pipeline Has Leaked Much More Than Expected

by Molly Olmstead @ Slate Articles

The Keystone Pipeline has leaked far more and far more often than had been initially expected, according to a report from Reuters.

The pipeline, which runs more than 2,000 miles from Canada to the coast of Texas, has had three major oil leaks since 2010 when it began operating: one in North Dakota in 2011 and two more recently in South Dakota.

According to the documents Reuters reviewed, the chance of a large leak “of more than 50 barrels” was expected to be about once every seven to 11 years, and in South Dakota, where two of the major spills occurred, the documents expected no more than a spill “once every 41 years.”

The pipeline’s company, TransCanada Corp., had provided the documents—risk assessments done by a risk management company—to regulators before the pipeline began operating.

The latest incident, a more than 210,000-gallon spill in South Dakota, occurred less than a week before a Nebraska commission cleared a final remaining hurdle for the $8 billion Keystone XL expansion. TransCanada has estimated the Keystone XL will experience 2.2 leaks per decade, and that more than half of those would be very small, according to Reuters.

According to Reuters, members of South Dakota’s public utilities commission have said they could revoke the pipeline’s permit if an investigation into the oil spill from Nov. 16 showed TransCanada Corp. violated its terms. Those terms would include environmental safeguards such as regular inspections and construction standards.

Where’s the Outrage Against This Attack on the ACA?

Where’s the Outrage Against This Attack on the ACA?

by Danielle Ofri @ Slate Articles

Sasha (not her real name) was on break from college when she saw me for her annual check-up. It’d been a stressful year but a good one: She’d finally selected her major, and her first round of exams had gone well, though she still had to work nights at a restaurant to make ends meet.

Sasha’s mother is also my patient, so I have some sense of the family background. Sasha’s father left years ago, and Sasha’s mother—an immigrant who speaks only modest English—has held things together working as a street vendor and a housecleaner.

In many ways, Sasha is living the American dream. She was raised in a single-parent, struggling immigrant family and is now the first person in her family to attend college. She is on her way to a professional career that will not require the backbreaking physical labor her mother has spent decades doing.

But from caring for both Sasha and her mother, I know that this storybook trajectory is far from assured. They both rely on Medicaid for their health care. If the Affordable Care Act is undone, they could be one of the millions of unlucky Americans who lose their health insurance. That could have catastrophic effects on their health and their finances.

Luckily, the Affordable Care Act survived three frontal assaults over the summer and into the fall. Now suddenly, it’s in the crosshairs again. But this time, it’s more of a sneak attack: Congressional Republicans have to find a way to pay for their tax cut, and they’ve stumbled upon a politically ingenious way to do so. If they repeal the individual mandate that is a cornerstone of the ACA, they’ll be able to come up with some $300 billion to offset their tax cuts. And by pulling out this key girder, they’ll be able to hobble their hated ACA without the effort of passing an unpopular repeal bill.

The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimates that pulling out the individual mandate will knock 4 million Americans off the health insurance rolls by 2019, and 13 million by 2027. (Once the mandate is not in force, many people—mostly the healthy ones—will choose not to buy insurance. Premiums will then rise steeply, pricing millions more out of the market.)

So, the other day, I called the office of Louisiana Sen. Bill Cassidy to talk about Sasha. I’m not from Louisiana and neither is Sasha, but Sen. Cassidy’s vote could have a huge impact on Sasha’s health. I chose Cassidy because he is one of the nominally “swing state” senators, but mainly because he is one of the three physicians in the Senate, and I wanted to talk medicine with him, doctor-to-doctor.

The staffer in Cassidy’s office was very polite. I told him about Sasha and how I was worried about her health, how losing her insurance could derail her health as well as her job prospects. I told them about Sasha’s mother, who could die if her diabetes and heart disease went untreated. “What will happen to them if they lose their insurance?” I asked. The staffer didn’t have a reply for me. “What’s Dr. Cassidy’s backup plan for my patients when they lose access to medical care?” The staffer was sheepish about not having any sort of answer. I actually felt sorry for him.

I received the same shamefaced response when I called the other two physicians in the Senate—Rand Paul of Kentucky and John Barrasso of Wyoming. I pressed the staff about my patients, but they could only backpedal uncomfortably. I reminded them that Dr. Paul and Dr. Barrasso are still doctors, even if they are sitting in the Senate chamber instead of an exam room. The commitment to “do no harm” doesn’t disappear when you take off your white coat.

Before this year, I’d never called a member of Congress in my entire life. Even when I disagreed with what was happening in our government, it never crossed my mind. I didn’t even know that you actually could call Congress.

But something changed for me when the House, and then the Senate, aggressively pushed to repeal the ACA this past summer. The gravity of the potential harm to my patients made it impossible to sit on the sidelines. This bill was a medical emergency, and we in medicine had to treat it as such.

Medical professionals of all stripes—typically a politically reticent group—stepped up to the plate. Individual doctors, nurses, medical students, and physical therapists called lawmakers, organized demonstrations, circulated petitions, and rallied colleagues. Even more strikingly, medical organizations—an even more hidebound group—lined up uniformly and publicly against the repeal of the ACA. There was a recognition that they we have a duty to protect the health of their patients

This most recent sideswipe to the ACA garnered some press when it first came out two weeks ago, but it has largely dropped out of the news, as the tax bill tussle focuses on standard deductions, corporate rates, 401(k)s, deficits, estate taxes, and “pass-through” businesses. Somehow, this new threat to the ACA feels less urgent than the past ones we have weathered—indeed, the entire tax bill hasn’t inspired quite the same sense of alarm as any of the attacks on the ACA.

But we can’t let this attempt go unchallenged. There were many reasons for the failure of the earlier ACA repeal attempts, but there’s no doubt that the universal opposition by medical groups and individual health care providers played an important moral role.

Repeal attempt No. 4 may go by another name—tax reform—but its effect will be the same, with millions of Americans losing access to health care. Medical organizations have again released statements opposing this backdoor attack on the ACA, but it has hardly made the news. There are almost no media interviews with doctors and nurses on how the tax bill will affect their patients. There are hardly any medical experts on the cable news shows, and certainly none on Capitol Hill.

Something about it being a tax bill rather than a medical bill has made it feel less personal to doctors, to patients, to medical organizations, and to the media. But for the millions of Americans like Sasha and her mother, the fallout from this bill will be intensely personal.

We in the medical profession cannot rest easy. Political forces seem determined to push their agendas, no matter how many ordinary people are harmed. Sens. Bob Corker, Jeff Flake, and John McCain have each made impassioned speeches about the danger of Trump to the nation. We need to make sure their actions match their rhetoric. Sen. Lisa Murkowski and Sen. Susan Collins have backed away from ACA repeal in the past. Let’s keep them focused on medical “side effects” of this tax bill.

For those of us who see real medical side effects in our daily work, this is a critical matter of patient safety. We have to keep reminding our elected officials about the human costs of their political agenda.

Purple Mattress Review: Is the Purple Powder Toxic?

Purple Mattress Review: Is the Purple Powder Toxic?


A concerned mother's review on the Purple Mattress and the dreaded white powder. Is this powder a toxic addition to this popular mattress?

Choosing an Organic Kids Mattress

by Jane Sheppard @ Healthy Child

  One of the most important decisions a parent can make is choosing an organic kids mattress. Sleep is critical to your child’s health and well-being, and since kids spend more than one third of their lives in direct exposure to their mattress materials it’s crucial to their health that those mattress materials be safe, …Read More

The post Choosing an Organic Kids Mattress appeared first on Healthy Child.

Laughing Gas During Childbirth: History, Pros and Cons

by Amber Krosel @ Safe Birth Project

We’ve already mentioned the hit PBS show “Call the Midwife” in another post on infant spina bifida, but you’ve probably noticed some women on the show using laughing gas while they’re giving birth. Many women will hold off and try to deliver birth naturally without any aids, but some turn to nitrous oxide to relieve […]

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Are Bed-In-a-Box Mattresses Safe? | Memory Foam Mattress Safety Q&A

Are Bed-In-a-Box Mattresses Safe? | Memory Foam Mattress Safety Q&A

The Drömma Bed

Check out our latest blog about memory foam mattress safety and learn how to shop for mattresses that are low VOC & made without harmful chemicals.

The Best Non-Toxic Mattress on the Market (it feels great and you can afford it)

The Best Non-Toxic Mattress on the Market (it feels great and you can afford it)

SCD Lifestyle

In this article, I review the all-around best non-toxic mattress on the market. But is it safe, comfortable, and affordable? Yes, to all three!

Find Your Best Mattress Reviews: The Top 10 and Worst 10 Beds of 2018

by Sleep Junkie @ Sleep Junkie

If you’re shopping for a new bed, learning about the best mattresses of 2018 is a good way to make sure you choose a good one. It’s also helpful to know which ones don’t fare so well in order to avoid the duds. New mattress models come out every year from a growing number of […]

The post Find Your Best Mattress Reviews: The Top 10 and Worst 10 Beds of 2018 appeared first on Sleep Junkie.

What Is the Point of a Solar Road?

What Is the Point of a Solar Road?

by Neel V. Patel @ Slate Articles

China has the strange distinction of being both the world’s biggest carbon dioxide emitter and the premiere solar energy producer (Trump being in office has really given them an opportunity to firmly solidify that second crown). On Thursday, the country took its latest solar energy leap by opening a new, kilometer-long solar highway in the northeastern Shangdon province. Despite some previous attempts by other countries, it’s being hailed as the “world’s first solar-powered highway.”

The roadway, made of a transparent concrete on top, solar panels underneath, and an insulation material as the base, covers about 5,875 square feet of total space. The engineers of the project claim it’s enough to generate about 1 gigawatt of energy over a year to be used to keep street lights running and a snow-melting system for the road charged up, with plans to power future charging stations for electric cars. There are two lanes plus an emergency lane for traffic to move through, and the pavement can purportedly handle 10 times more pressure than standard asphalt.

Cool, right? Well, kind of. Solar roads might seem like a novel idea—turning every road into a solar energy–generating platform seems downright utopic. But there are pitfalls inherent to the concept. If the goal behind such a scheme is to create energy infrastructure that’s sustainable, affordable, and safe, then the Shangdon project is a pretty robust piece of evidence for why solar roads miss the mark on all fronts.

Let’s start with cost. The road costs about $458 per square meter—far pricier than the $5 per square meter it costs to create an asphalt road. That creates a price tag of nearly $2.7 million for the Shangdon project—all to generate enough electricity to power roughly 93 American homes annually. Meanwhile, the average annual cost of electricity for a single American home is a little over $1,350—or $125,000 for 93 homes. So, no, it’s not a cost-effective project. Of course, it’s a pilot project, so maybe this is OK—particularly if it paves the way (pardon the pun) for more solar roads in the future.

Except solar roads aren’t particularly efficient. Ever wonder why so many solar panels are installed at an angle? The orientation helps optimize how much sunlight hits the panels. Solar road panels, of course, need to be laid flat. Light can’t pierce through shade created by nearby trees, or buildings, or dirt that covers up the pavement. The cars themselves are a major obstacle to the light anyway, especially during a traffic jam or rush hour. And lastly, solar panels need ventilation to keep cool and perform optimally. If they get too hot, they won’t generate as much electricity.

But even all this is moot compared to the single biggest issue that most people will raise if solar roads ever go vogue: safety. Solar roads mean driving on transparent surfaces. This could mean smooth glass, or something that mixes rock and glassy materials. The transparency required for light reduces the amount of gravel and rock that could give the road enough friction to help with smooth driving. The more glassy materials you add to the road, the more you risk cars losing traction on the surface, especially in rain or snow.

So then what’s the point of a solar road? It’s not totally clear. These initial testbeds, in China and elsewhere like France, might be key to making solar roads cheaper and efficient, and verifying the safety of these stretches. Solar power is clearly the future of renewable energy for the world, and China’s advances in the realm are laudable. And who knows, maybe a solar road will eventually lead to a discovery that pays off.

But I can’t help but feel that a solar road reeks of too much hype and spectacle, and not enough practicality. Lining up the sides of highways with solar arrays might seem quaint and boring, but there’s no question it’s a much more effective way to augment solar energy production.

Cerebral Palsy Claims: What Hospitals Should be Doing

by Amber Krosel @ Safe Birth Project

If your child has cerebral palsy, you’ve likely gone through the scenarios a million times of how her brain damage could have been prevented. Perhaps it was related to a genetic mutation, which you couldn’t have known, or perhaps it was due to a birth injury. Maybe the doctor team didn’t perform a C-section soon […]

The post Cerebral Palsy Claims: What Hospitals Should be Doing appeared first on Safe Birth Project.

It’s Not the Heat. It’s the Humidity.

It’s Not the Heat. It’s the Humidity.

by Neel V. Patel @ Slate Articles

“It’s not the heat that kills you. It’s the humidity.” As climate change progresses, this is likely to become gruesomely true, according to a new study published Friday in Environmental Research Letters. Climate change–induced increases in humidity could actually exacerbate the effects of heat to the point of making certain places in the world uninhabitable later this century. By 2080, the researchers predict, we’ll see measurements of heat and humidity that go far beyond safe thresholds in which individuals can still function normally. For individuals too poor to afford cooling systems, who have no housing, or anyone with poor health already, the humidity could be lethal.

Humans shed heat by sweating and letting the evaporating moisture carry excess heat away. But when humidity is too high, your sweat doesn’t evaporate as fast, because there’s already tons of moisture in the air. The cooling process is stymied, and your body can’t lower its temperature. Every part of you starts to feel tired, and if you can’t get inside to climate-controlled conditions, heat exhaustion or a heat stroke could take effect.

There are only a handful of studies that have investigated humidity and climate change. This new study investigates the scenarios in which global temperatures rise between 1.8 and 2.2 degrees Celsius. It makes use of a calculation that suggests that when humidity is at 100 percent, temperatures around 85 degrees Fahrenheit actually feel as hot as 107.5 degrees Fahrenheit on the heat index. At 100 percent humidity, 89 or 90 degrees Fahrenheit can feel like 132 degrees Fahrenheit on the heat index, and previous experiments show that this is the limit for what most humans can withstand before they start to fall apart from the one-two heat-humidity combo—and really, many people would fall apart way before that. Currently, those kinds of temperatures hit the southeastern U.S. about one or two days a year and occur about three to five days in places in South America, Africa, India, and China. They’re conditions that very few people in the world have ever experienced.

The study’s model predicts that in many places in the world, under worse estimates for global warming rates, those temperatures could stretch for up to 100 to 250 days a year by 2080. The most devastating effects would happen in northern India, eastern China, the coastal Middle East, and in parts of the Amazon rainforest. Furthermore, hundreds of millions could experience a staggering 95 degrees Fahrenheit at 100 percent humidity—which is literally off the charts on the heat index. In “dry” heat terms, this would feel like 170 degrees Fahrenheit.

The most recent instance of any real weather conditions coming close to this was on July 31, 2015, when Bandar-e Mahshahr in Iran, a city of 100,000 on the coast of the Persian Gulf, found itself hit with a heat index temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit. Residents kept cool inside, thanks to good infrastructure and cheap electricity. But that could be far from possible for many communities. And even if the heat itself doesn’t kill, the effects could wreak havoc on water reserves, cooling infrastructure, agriculture, and basic technologies. The inability to travel through such ravaging heat could make it extremely difficult for people to get supplies.

To cope, Radley Horton, a climate scientist at Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory and a co-author of the study, says communities may need to rely more on automation for labor, shift many activities to overnight hours, and revamp clothing. “Access to fail-safe air conditioning could become a matter of life or death in a growing number of places,” he says, “although we could see growing reliance on ‘cooling pools’ as a source of short-term protection.”

The First “Space Nation” Just Launched Its First Satellite

The First “Space Nation” Just Launched Its First Satellite

by Neel V. Patel @ Slate Articles

On Sunday, when a spacecraft carrying 7,400 pounds of supplies was launched to the International Space Station, it was carrying something extra special: a football-sized satellite called Asgardia-1. The satellite, which contained a small hard drive, was named after the self-proclaimed “first ever space nation” Asgardia.

Asgardia is the passion project of Igor Ashurbeyli, a Russian engineer who dreams of creating a giant space station that will rotate the Earth while also acting as its own independent country. In announcing his initiative last year, Ashurbeyli and his team detailed his proposal to use Asgardia not just as a sovereign nation in its own right—complete with its own flag, national anthem, insignia, government, membership in the United Nations, and (surface-based) embassies across the world—but as a platform to help ensure the safety of humanity, from threats originating both here on the ground and in outer space.

It’s a kind of futuristic utopian dream that is also totally unrealistic.

Ashurbeyli conceived of Asgardia as free to all who wish to join a peaceful, demilitarized place. It would be exempt from the petty squabbles of terrestrial-based civilization and provide a “state-of-the-art” protective shield to keep the planet safe from incoming threats from outer space. The name takes its inspiration from Asgard, the mythological Norse city in the skies.

Asgardia is about as imaginary as Asgard. Yes, the satellite launched on Sunday carries with it a terabyte of data outlining the nation’s constitution, flag design, and symbols, as well as data on the 115,000 people who have signed up to be “citizens” through the internet. I don’t want to polemicize what makes a country a country, but I think we can all agree it’s more than just a bit of information on an external drive floating around aimlessly somewhere.

Personal aversions aside, it’s critical to note that although Asgardia’s ambition is certainly admirable, it’s a project that seems to be beyond realistic feasibility. First there are the technological and monetary constraints. The ISS, for instance, cost $100 billion to develop and run for 10 years. And the ISS is fit to house only six astronauts, whose spots rotate between at least 10 different countries every three to 12 months. Where would Asgardia’s 115,000 citizens live?

Then there are the political roadblocks to forming such a fantastical community. Sure, you can sign up to run for election for the 150-member Parliament right now if you wish, along with other leadership positions. But there’s no indication yet as to what’s going to be on the government’s plate—not least because the world itself has only the thinnest framework for the politics of space. The 1967 Outer Space Treaty is the most binding resolution the international community has in terms of what countries are allowed to do off the planet, and it’s 50 years old. It certainly doesn’t provide any direction for how a new nation in space could be created or how it should function.

So why, then, did Orbital ATK, the company delivering the new supplies to ISS, elect to launch Asgardia-1 into orbit? It probably saw no real reason to decline sending up such a small, harmless payload. Which, in a way, speaks to the problem the “country” is trying to resolve—right now, it certainly is a free for all up there.

A Parent’s Guide to Buying the Right Crib Mattress

A Parent’s Guide to Buying the Right Crib Mattress


Choosing the right crib mattress for your newborn can be confusing, but there are some safety tips that can help you select the right size and firmness.

Inflatable Beds: Dangerous For Infants, Attractive To Cash-Strapped Parents

Inflatable Beds: Dangerous For Infants, Attractive To Cash-Strapped Parents

Inflatable beds are increasingly popular, and their soft, impermeable surfaces, increase risk of sudden infant death. But they are often the only bed that a family can afford.

LOL Something Matters

LOL Something Matters

by Daniel Engber @ Slate Articles


Ten years ago last fall, Washington Post science writer Shankar Vedantam published an alarming scoop: The truth was useless.

His story started with a flyer issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to counter lies about the flu vaccine. The flyer listed half a dozen statements labeled either “true” or “false”—“Not everyone can take flu vaccine,” for example, or “The side effects are worse than the flu” —along with a paragraph of facts corresponding to each one. Vedantam warned the flyer’s message might be working in reverse. When social psychologists had asked people to read it in a lab, they found the statements bled together in their minds. Yes, the side effects are worse than the flu, they told the scientists half an hour later. That one was true—I saw it on the flyer.

This wasn’t just a problem with vaccines. According to Vedantam, a bunch of peer-reviewed experiments had revealed a somber truth about the human mind: Our brains are biased to believe in faulty information, and corrections only make that bias worse.

This supposed scientific fact jibed with an idea then in circulation. In those days of phantom Iraqi nukes, anti-vaxxer propaganda, and climate change denialism, reality itself appeared to be in danger. Stephen Colbert’s neologism, truthiness—voted word of the year in 2006—had summed up the growing sense of epistemic crisis. “Truth comes from the gut,” Colbert boasted to his audience. “Anyone can read the news to you. I promise to feel the news at you.”

Back then it seemed as though America had slipped the moorings of her reason and was swiftly drifting toward a “post-fact age.” Scholar Cass Sunstein blamed the internet for this disaster: Online communities, he argued, could serve as “echo chambers” for those with shared beliefs. Then came Vedantam’s piece, with real-life data to support the sense that we all were flailing in a quicksand of deception and that the more we struggled to escape it, the deeper we would sink into the muck.

Writing in Slate last year, former professional fact-checker Jess Zimmerman remembered Vedantam’s article as “my first ‘lol nothing matters’ moment,” when she realized her efforts to correct the record might only make things worse. Another nothing-matters moment followed one week later, when Vedantam told WNYC about a different study. A pair of political scientists had given 130 students a mocked-up news report on a speech about the invasion of Iraq that described the country as “a place where terrorists might get weapons of mass destruction.” Half the subjects then read a correction to that news report, noting that the CIA had found no evidence of such weapons in Iraq. For students who were politically conservative, the correction didn’t work the way it should have; instead of making them more suspicious of the idea that Saddam Hussein had been hiding WMDs, it doubled their belief in it.

News about this research made its way to Slate, the Wall Street Journal, This American Life, la Repubblica in Rome, and several hundred other media outlets around the world. Sunstein cited the result—an “especially disturbing finding,” he declared—in his next book on the nature of extremism.

The study of corrected news reports, like the work on vaccine myths, helped provide a scientific framework for our growing panic over facts. Now we had a set of interlocking theories and experiments on which to hang the claim that truth was being vanquished from democracy—that the internet divides us, that facts will make us dumber, and that debunking doesn’t work. These ideas, and the buzzwords that came with them—filter bubbles, selective exposure, and the backfire effect—would be cited, again and again, as seismic forces pushing us to rival islands of belief.

Ten years on, the same scientific notions have now been used to explain the rise of Donald Trump. The coronation of the man who lied a thousand times, a champion of “alternative facts,” had brought us from the age of truthiness to the era of post-truth—2016’s word of the year. In a span of several weeks after Trump’s inauguration, Slate announced that “It’s Time to Give Up on Facts,” Rolling Stone declared “The End of Facts,” the New Yorker told us “Why Facts Don’t Change Our Minds,” and the Atlantic ran through “the facts on why facts alone can’t fight false beliefs.” These lamentations continued unabated throughout 2017. Just two weeks ago, Facebook said it would no longer flag phony links with red-box warnings, since pointing to a lie only makes it stronger. The truth, this move implied, does more harm than good.

But there’s a problem with these stories about the end of facts. In the past few years, social scientists armed with better research methods have been revisiting some classic work on the science of post-truth. Based on their results, the most surprising and important revelations from this research—the real lol-nothing-matters stuff—now seem overstated. It may be that the internet does not divide us, that facts don’t make us dumber than we were before, and that debunking doesn’t really lead to further bunk.

In fact, it may be time that we gave up on the truth-y notion that we’re living in a post-truth age. In fact, it may be time that we debunked the whole idea.


We didn’t need some lab experiment to tell us that the truth is often unpersuasive and that it’s hard to change a person’s mind. But that’s not what the end-of-facts researchers were saying. Their work got at something far more worrisome: a fear that facts could blow up in all our faces and that even valid points might reinforce a false belief.

This is not a small distinction. If the truth were merely ineffective, then all our efforts to disperse it—through educational websites, debunking flyers, and back-and-forths on Facebook—would be at worst a waste of time. But what if the truth had a tendency to flip itself around? In that case, those same efforts might be tugging people in the wrong direction, pulling them apart. Even if the tugs were very slight, the effect could multiply in terrifying ways—a million tiny forces from a million tiny arguments that added up to a tidal wave of disagreement.

In 2007, an example of this boomerang phenomenon seemed to be unfolding in real time. Polls showed Americans were more likely to describe then–presidential candidate Barack Obama as a Muslim than a member of any other faith. A related set of smears had oozed across the country via Fwd: Fwd: emails, asserting that Obama joined a Christian church to hide his madrassa past, that he wouldn’t say the Pledge of Allegiance, and that he’d been sworn into the Senate on a copy of the Quran.

In the face of all this faulty information, journalists tried redoubling their focus on the facts. Two weeks before Vedantam wrote his Washington Post piece on the dangers of debunking, the Tampa Bay Times’ Bill Adair launched PolitiFact. Two weeks after, the Post’s Glenn Kessler started his weekly “Fact Checker” column, with its Pinocchio rating scheme. Yet the checkers sensed that certain lies about Obama were resistant to their efforts or were maybe even fueled by them. “The number of Americans who believe Obama is a Muslim has gone up,” a nonplussed Adair told NPR in March 2008. “It was 8 percent back in November. The latest poll, it’s up to 13 percent.”

How could this be happening? Norbert Schwarz, the psychologist whose work on dispelling myths about the flu vaccine had been described in Vedantam’s piece, thought he had the answer. Based on the data he’d collected with his postdoc Ian Skurnik, it seemed to him Obama’s denial of a Muslim past would only make the rumors worse.

Schwarz helped draft a memo to the Obama campaign, sharing this advice. By that point he’d joined a secret panel of advisers to the candidate, a group that included Sunstein as well as several winners of the Nobel Prize. This group—which would later be dubbed an “academic dream team”—had been formed to supply Democratic candidates with cutting-edge research on the psychology of messaging. “In no case should you say that Obama is not a Muslim, since repeating it will only cause a backlash,” Schwarz says he advised the campaign. Instead, Obama should emphasize the fact that he is a Christian and that he brings his family to church.

The dream team never got explicit feedback on this memo, but it did seem to Schwarz that the campaign was heeding his advice. In early 2008, Obama began to focus on pronouncements of his Christian faith and his devoted membership in Chicago’s Trinity United Church of Christ. This would backfire in spectacular fashion: In mid-March, a controversy erupted over unpatriotic sermons from that church’s pastor, Jeremiah Wright.

Schwarz recounts this wistfully, as “an interesting illustration of what can happen when you make the correct recommendation in a world that you have no control over.” In any case, after the election, the boomerang theory of debunking was established as a rule of thumb. In November 2011, a pair of cognitive psychologists in Australia, Stephan Lewandowsky and John Cook, published an eight-page pamphlet they called “The Debunking Handbook,” on the “difficult and complex challenge” of correcting misinformation. They cited work from Schwarz and Skurnik, among others, in describing several ways in which debunkings can boomerang or backfire. Arriving when it did, in the middle of the post-fact panic, their handbook satisfied a pressing need. Chris Mooney, author of The Republican War on Science, called it “a treasure trove for defenders of reason.” The liberal website Daily Kos said it was a “must read and a must keep reference.” Its text would be translated into 11 languages, including Indonesian and Icelandic.

“The existence of backfire effects” have “emerged more and more over time,” Lewandowksy told Vox in 2014. “If you tell people one thing, they’ll believe the opposite. That finding seems to be pretty strong.”


If you tell people one thing, they’ll believe the opposite. This improbable idea had been bouncing around the academic literature for decades before Schwarz and others started touting it. The first hints of a boomerang effect for truth emerged in the early 1940s, as the nation grappled with a rash of seditious, wartime rumors. Newspaper fact-check columns, known as “rumor clinics,” sprang up in response to the “fake news” of the time—the claim, say, that a female munitions worker’s head exploded when she went to a beauty parlor for a perm. The rumor clinics spelled out these circulating falsehoods, then explained at length why they were “phony,” “sucker bait,” or “food for propageese.” But experts soon determined that these refutations might be dangerous.

By January 1943, mavens at America’s “rumor-scotching bureau,” the Office of War Information, told the New York Times that debunkers could “make a rumor worse by printing it and denying it in the wrong manner.” Shortly thereafter, an Austrian émigré and sociologist named Paul Lazarsfeld published the results from his seminal study of Ohio voters. Lazarsfeld, who was based at Columbia University’s Office of Radio Research, found these voters had been awash in a “flood of propaganda and counterpropaganda” about the candidates running for president in 1940—but that they’d mostly filtered out the facts they didn’t care for. Like-minded voters tended to communicate only among themselves, he said, which in turn produced “a mutual strengthening of common attitudes,” to the point that even rival facts might only “boomerang” and reinforce their original views.

More examples of the boomerang effect would be presented in the years that followed. In 1973, for example, psychologists presented evidence that the social message of the TV sitcom All in the Family had backfired. The show’s creators aimed to skewer and rebut the attitudes of its central character, the bigot Archie Bunker. But when scientists surveyed high school students in a Midwest town, they found that the most prejudiced teenagers in the group were the ones most likely to be watching Archie every week. “The program is more likely reinforcing prejudice and racism than combating it,” the researchers concluded.

Another famous study, published in 1979, found a boomerang for environmental messages. Researchers in Arizona passed out flyers at a public swimming pool that featured one of three messages: “Don’t Litter,” “Help Keep Your Pool Clean,” or “Obey Pool Safety Rules.” The “Don’t Litter” message seemed to backfire and make the garbage problem worse: Half the people who received that flyer tossed it on the ground, as compared with just one-quarter of the people who’d received the other messages.

In a classic paper, also out in 1979, Stanford psychologists Charles Lord, Lee Ross, and Mark Lepper got at the related concept of motivated reasoning. For that study, which has since been cited thousands of times, they presented undergraduates with conflicting data on the efficacy of the death penalty. They found that the exact same information would be interpreted in different ways, depending on how the subjects felt before the research started. The net effect of their experiment was to make the students more convinced of their original positions—to polarize their thinking.

Thirty years later, as a fresh array of boomerang or backfire effects made its way to print, psychologists Sahara Byrne and Philip Solomon Hart reviewed the science in the field. Their paper cites more than 100 studies of situations where “a strategic message generates the opposite attitude or behavior than was originally intended.” The evidence they cite looks overwhelming, but as I sorted through the underlying literature, I began to wonder if some of these supposed boomerang effects might be weaker than they seemed.

Take the Archie Bunker paper. When the same psychologists ran their survey on a second group of people up in Canada, they did not find the same result. And going by subsequent research on the TV show, published in the 1970s, it seemed that Archie’s antics on All in the Family may have helped diminish prejudice, not increase it.

The study of the poolside flyers, which Byrne and Hart called “one of the most famous research examples of the boomerang effect,” also seemed a little flimsy. The original paper goes through three versions of the same experiment; where the first one seems to show a real effect, the others look like replication failures, with no clear evidence for backfire.

As I poked around these and other studies, I began to feel a sort of boomerang effect vis-à-vis my thinking about boomerangs: Somehow the published evidence was making me less convinced of the soundness of the theory. What if this field of research, like so many others in the social sciences, had been tilted toward producing false positive results?

For decades now, it’s been commonplace for scientists to run studies with insufficient sample sizes or to dig around in datasets with lots of different tools, hoping they might turn up a finding of statistical significance. It’s clear that this approach can gin up phantom signals from a bunch of noise. But it’s worse than that: When researchers go out hunting subtle, true effects with imprecise experiments, their standard ways of testing for significance may exaggerate their findings, or even flip them in the wrong direction. Statistician (and Slate contributor) Andrew Gelman calls this latter research hazard a “type-S” error: one that leads a scientist to assert, with confidence, a relationship that is actually inverse to the truth. When a scientist makes a type-S error, she doesn’t end up with a false positive result so much as an “anti-positive” one; she’s turned the real effect upside down. If she were studying, say, the effect of passing out flyers at a public pool, she might end up thinking that telling people not to litter makes them litter more, instead of less.

It’s easy to imagine how these type-S errors might slither into textbooks. A scientist who found an upside-down result might go on to make a novel and surprising claim, such as: If you tell people one thing, they’ll believe the opposite; or facts can make us dumber; or debunking doesn’t work. Since editors at top-tier scientific journals are often drawn to unexpected data, this mistake might then be published as a major finding in the field, with all the press reports and academic accolades that follow. Gelman, for his part, thinks type-S errors might not be the problem here—that the real issue could be that different people might respond to something like a “don’t litter” flyer in different ways in different contexts, for reasons researchers don’t understand. But no matter the underlying reason, in an environment where surprising data thrive and boring studies wither in obscurity, a theory based on boomerangs will have a clear advantage over other, more mundane hypotheses.


The first study highlighted by the Post’s Vedantam—the piece of research that helped kick off the modern wave of post-fact panic—is a mess of contradictions.

In late 2004 or early 2005, Ian Skurnik showed a set of undergrads the CDC’s poster about flu vaccine “facts and myths.” According to a data table from a draft version of the study posted on the website of co-author Carolyn Yoon, Skurnik found the students’ memories were very good when they were tested right way: They labeled the flyer’s “myths” as being true in just 3 percent of their responses. Thirty minutes later, though, that figure jumped to 13 percent. By that point, they’d grown foggy on the details—and the flyer’s message backfired.

This made sense to Skurnik and his colleagues. He already knew from prior research that the more you hear a thing repeated, the more reliable it seems: Familiarity breeds truthiness. Now the study of the flyer suggested this effect would hold even when the thing you’ve heard before has been explicitly negated. Imagine a debunking like one shown on the CDC flyer: The flu shot doesn’t cause the flu. Over half an hour, Skurnik’s study argued, the word doesn’t fades away, while the rest of the message sounded ever more familiar—and thus more true.

His CDC flyer data suggested this all happens very quickly—that debunking can boomerang in minutes.

But that notion didn’t fit with data from another study from the same researchers. For that earlier experiment, published in the Journal of Consumer Research in 2005, Skurnik, Yoon, and Norbert Schwarz looked at how college students and senior citizens remembered health claims that were labeled either “true” or “false.” The team found no sign of backfire among the college students after 30 minutes or even after three days. (They did find a boomerang effect for older subjects.)

Meanwhile, the study of the CDC flyer never made its way into a peer-reviewed academic journal. (The research would be summarized in an academic book chapter from 2007.) Vedantam’s write-up for the Post, which claims the study had just been published in a journal, seems to have conflated it with the paper published two years earlier, saying the CDC flyer had been presented both to younger and older subjects and at both a 30-minute and three-day delay.

I asked Skurnik, who’s now an associate professor of marketing at the University of Utah, why his famous flyer study never ended up in print. He said that he and Schwarz had submitted it to Science, but the influential journal decided to reject it because the work had already been described by the New York Times. (I could find no such story in the Times.)

As Skurnik moved along in his career, he says, he allowed “that line of research to get on the back burner.” When others tried to reproduce his research, though, they didn’t always get the same result. Kenzie Cameron, a public health researcher and communications scholar at Northwestern’s Feinberg School of Medicine, tried a somewhat similar experiment in 2009. She set up her study as a formal clinical trial; instead of testing college undergrads as Skurnik, Yoon, and Schwarz had done, she recruited a racially diverse group of patients over the age of 50, selecting only those who hadn’t gotten vaccinated in the prior year. She mailed each of her subjects a version of the CDC flyer a week before they were due to come in for a checkup. Some of these flyers listed facts and myths in simple statements, others listed only facts, and still others gave specific refutations of the false information.

Cameron had her subjects tested on their knowledge of the flu vaccine on two occasions, once before they’d seen the flyers and again when they came in to see their doctors. She found that every version of the flyer worked: Overall, the patients ended up more informed about the flu vaccine. In fact, the version of the CDC flyer that was closest to the one that Schwarz and Skurnik used ended up the most effective at debunking myths. “We found no evidence that presenting both facts and myths is counterproductive,” Cameron concluded in her paper, which got little notice when it was published in 2013.

There have been other failed attempts to reproduce the Skurnik, Yoon, and Schwarz finding. For a study that came out last June, Briony Swire, Ullrich Ecker, and “Debunking Handbook” co-author Stephan Lewandowsky showed college undergrads several dozen statements of ambiguous veracity (e.g. “Humans can regrow the tips of fingers and toes after they have been amputated”). The students rated their beliefs in each assertion on a scale from 0 to 10, then found out which were facts and which were myths. Finally, the students had to rate their beliefs again, either after waiting 30 minutes or one week. If Skurnik, Yoon, and Schwarz were right, then the debunkings would cause their answers to rebound in the wrong direction: If you tell people one thing, they’ll believe the opposite. But the new study found no sign of this effect. The students’ belief in false statements dropped from a baseline score of 6 down to less than 2 after 30 minutes. While their belief crept back up a bit as time went by, the subjects always remained more skeptical of falsehoods than they’d been at the start. The labels never backfired.

A second study from Ecker and Lewandowsky (along with Joshua Hogan), also out last June, found that corrections to news stories were most effective when they repeated the original misinformation in the context of refuting it. This runs counter to the older theory, that mere exposure to a lie—through a facts-and-myths debunking flyer, for example—makes it harder to unseat. The authors noted that the traditional logic of “effective myth debunking may thus need to be revised.”

In other words, at least one variation of the end-of-facts thesis—that debunking sometimes backfires—had lost its grounding in the data. “I’ve tried reasonably hard to find [this backfire effect] myself, and I haven’t been able to,” Ecker told me recently. Unless someone can provide some better evidence, it may be time to ask if this rule of thumb from social science could represent its own variety of rumor: a myth about how myths spread.


Brendan Nyhan and Jason Reifler described their study, called “When Corrections Fail,” as “the first to directly measure the effectiveness of corrections in a realistic context.” Its results were grim: When the researchers presented conservative-leaning subjects with evidence that cut against their prior points of view—that there were no stockpiled weapons in Iraq just before the U.S. invasion, for example—the information sometimes made them double-down on their pre-existing beliefs. It looked as though the human tendency to engage in motivated reasoning might be worse than anyone imagined. (Eventually this would form the basis for another section of “The Debunking Handbook.”)

With an election looming in the fall of 2008, Nyhan and Reifler’s work went viral in the media. (The final version of their paper would not be published in an academic journal until 2010.) Vedantam wrote up their findings for the Post, and the story spread from there. It soon became the go-to explanation for partisan recalcitrance. “Perception is reality.
Facts don’t matter
,” wrote Jonathan Chait in the New Republic, linking up the new research to presidential candidate John McCain’s “postmodern” disregard for truth. “If [Nyhan and Reifler’s] finding is broadly correct,” Chait wrote, “then the media’s new-found willingness to fact-check McCain will only succeed in rallying the GOP base to his side.”

Political scientists were just as taken by the Nyhan-Reifler findings. A pair of political science graduate students at the University of Chicago, Tom Wood and Ethan Porter, found the study dazzling. “It really stood out as being among the most provocative possible claims” about the science of public opinion, Wood told me in a recent interview. He and Porter had been reviewing old research on how we’re more responsive to the facts that support our pre-existing points of view. The new paper took this idea a full step further. “It said that your factual ignorance could actually be compounded by exposure to factual information,” Wood says. The implications for democracy were calamitous.

By the time he and Porter had funding for their own study of this phenomenon, in 2015, the idea had grown in scope. Aside from all the media coverage, papers had by then been published showing that the facts could boomerang when Republicans were told that Obamacare’s “death panels” didn’t exist or that climate change could lead to more disease. And the original Nyhan-Reifler paper had become a “citation monster,” Wood says. “It’s four times as cited as any comparably aged paper from the same journal.”

He and Porter decided to do a blow-out survey of the topic. Instead of limiting their analysis to just a handful of issues—like Iraqi WMDs, the safety of vaccines, or the science of global warming—they tried to find backfire effects across 52 contentious issues. Their study would provide corrections of false statements from Hillary Clinton on the effects of gun violence, for instance, and from Donald Trump on the rate of crimes committed by undocumented immigrants. They also increased the sample size from the Nyhan-Reifler study more than thirtyfold, recruiting more than 10,000 subjects for their five experiments.

In spite of all this effort, and to the surprise of Wood and Porter, the massive replication effort came up with nothing. That’s not to say that Wood and Porter’s subjects were altogether free of motivated reasoning.
The people in the study did give a bit more credence to corrections that fit with their beliefs; in those situations, the new information led them to update their positions more emphatically. But they never showed the effect that made the Nyhan-Reifler paper famous: People’s views did not appear to boomerang against the facts. Among the topics tested in the new research—including whether Saddam had been hiding WMDs—not one produced a backfire. “We were mugged by the evidence,” says Wood.

Meanwhile, Columbia University graduate students Andy Guess and Alex Coppock were chewing over a similar idea: If you tell people one thing, will they end up believing the opposite? Guess and Coppock had come across the 1979 study by Lord, Ross, and Lepper, which showed that adding facts to a discussion of the death penalty only curdles students’ disagreements. But when the grad students looked more closely at that old paper, they were appalled. “We realized it was not a properly randomized experiment,” says Guess.

“We thought it was BS,” says Coppock.

In 2014, the two of them updated the classic study using what they thought was better methodology. Where Lord, Ross, and Lepper tested 48 undergrads on their views about capital punishment, Guess and Coppock assessed that question with the help of 683 subjects recruited via the internet. For follow-up experiments, they tested how different kinds of evidence affected the views of another 1,170 subjects on the minimum wage, and 2,122 more on gun control. In none of these conditions did they find evidence that people grew more stubborn in their views when presented with disconfirming information.

Instead, the studies showed what Coppock calls “gorgeous parallel updating,” by which he means that people on either side of any issue will adjust their beliefs to better fit the facts. If boomerangs occur, he says, they’re the exception, not the rule. The backfire effect “is a truth-y hypothesis,” he told me. “It feels right, that arguing with idiots just makes them stupider.”

Guess also began to wonder about a third axiom of truthiness: Is it really the case that the internet divides us?

For all the influence of the echo chamber theory, Guess found there was not a lot of real-world data to support it. In 2015, he gained access to a potent data set from an online polling firm, which included three weeks’ worth of website tracking for almost 1,400 individuals, tagged with their demographic info and political affiliations. That meant Guess could test the echo chamber theory in the wild—and he found it didn’t hold. Other recent studies—one by Levi Boxell, Matthew Gentzkow, and Jesse M. Shapiro; another by Jacob L. Nelson and James G. Webster—have supported this result: News consumption on the internet does not appear to be as fractured as we thought.

It wasn’t that the standard work on “partisan exposure” had been wrong. Like-minded people do tend to congregate on social networks, said Guess, and they tend to gab about whatever suits their group. But this clumping up and screening out is not unique to online settings; it happens just as much when we get together in the offline world, watch TV, or scan headlines at the newsstand.

Nor are the basic facts about persuasion all that controversial. Yes, people do engage in motivated reasoning. Yes, it’s true that we prefer to cling to our beliefs. Yes, we do give extra credence to the facts we’ve heard repeated. But each of these ideas has also spawned a more extreme (and more disturbing) corollary—that facts can force the human mind to switch into reverse, that facts can drive us even further from the truth. It’s those latter theories, of boomerangs and backfires, that have grown in prominence in recent years, and it’s those latter theories that have lately had to be revised.


Even as new facts accumulate in the science of post-facts, the field will likely be slow to change its course. Norbert Schwarz, for one, has been a vocal critic of the replication movement in social psychology, comparing those who question old ideas to global warming denialists: “You can think of this as psychology’s version of the climate-change debate,” he told Nature in 2012, when doubts emerged about research into social priming. “The consensus of the vast majority of psychologists closely familiar with work in this area gets drowned out by claims of a few persistent priming skeptics.”

Skeptics of the boomerang effect have also run afoul of consensus thinking in their field. Guess and Coppock sent their study to the same journal that published the original Lord, Ross, and Lepper paper in 1979, and it was rejected. Then it was passed over four more times. “We’ve reframed it over and over,” Coppock says. “It’s never rejected on the evidence—they don’t dispute the data. It’s that they don’t believe the inference, that backlash doesn’t happen, is licensed from those data.” As a result, their work remains in purgatory, as a posted manuscript that hasn’t made its way to print. (Guess has only just submitted his paper re-examining the echo chamber theory; it’s now under review for the first time.)

Wood and Porter’s study also faced a wall of opposition during the peer review process; after two rejections, it was finally accepted by a journal just last week.

I asked Coppock: Might there be echo chambers in academia, where scholars keep themselves away from new ideas about the echo chamber? And what if presenting evidence against the backfire effect itself produced a sort of backfire? “I really do believe my finding,” Coppock said. “I think other people believe me, too.” But if his findings were correct, then wouldn’t all those peer reviewers have updated their beliefs in support of his conclusion? He paused for a moment. “In a way,” he said, “the best evidence against our paper is that it keeps getting rejected.”

While some colleagues have been reluctant to believe that backfire effects might be rare or nonexistent, there are some notable exceptions. Nyhan and Reifler, in particular, were open to the news that their original work on the subject had failed to replicate. They ended up working with Wood and Porter on a collaborative research project, which came out last summer, and again found no sign of backfire from correcting misinformation. (Wood describes them as “the heroes of this story.”) Meanwhile, Nyhan and Reifler have found some better evidence of the effect, or something like it, in other settings. And another pair of scholars, Brian Schaffner and Cameron Roche, showed something that looks a bit like backfire in a recent, very large study of how Republicans and Democrats responded to a promising monthly jobs report in 2012. But when Nyhan looks at all the evidence together, he concedes that both the prevalence and magnitude of backfire effects could have been overstated and that it will take careful work to figure out exactly when and how they come in play.

Nyhan has been a champion of the replication movement and of using better research methods. He’s written up the newer data on debunking, and the evidence against the echo chamber theory, for the New York Times. And he’s the one who pointed me to the work from Guess and Coppock, calling it “impressive and important.” In terms of reckoning with recent data, says Nyhan, “it would be ironic if I dug in my heels.”

Yet even if boomerangs turn out to be unusual, he says, there’s little cause for optimism. Facts are, at best, “sometimes mildly effective” at displacing grabby lies, and corrections clearly aren’t working “if the standard is getting rid of misperceptions in the world.”

Ullrich Ecker, the debunking expert who failed to reproduce Schwarz and Skurnik’s finding on the boomerang effect for facts and myths, agrees with Nyhan. “If there’s a strong motivation to hold on to a misconception, then often the corrections are ineffective. Whether or not they backfire, that’s up for debate,” he says. “But look, if it’s ineffective, that’s pretty much the same story as if there’s a small backfire effect.”

There’s a vast difference, though, between these two scenarios. In a world where fact-checking doesn’t work, we may get caught in knots of disagreement. In a world where facts can boomerang, those knots may tighten even as we try to pull away. One is frustrating to imagine. The other is horrifying.

Why, then, has the end-of-facts idea gained so much purchase in both academia and the public mind? It could be an example of what the World War II–era misinformation experts referred to as a “bogie” rumor—a false belief that gives expression to our deepest fears and offers some catharsis. It’s the kind of story that we tell one another even as we hope it isn’t true. Back then, there were bogie rumors that the Japanese had sunk America’s entire fleet of ships or that thousands of our soldiers’ bodies had washed ashore in France. Now, perhaps, we blurt out the bogie rumor that a rumor can’t be scotched—that debunking only makes things worse.

Or it could be that our declarations of a post-truth age are more akin to another form of rumor catalogued during the 1940s: the “pipe dream” tale. These are the stories—the Japanese are out of oil; Adolf Hitler is about to be deposed—we tell to make ourselves feel better. Today’s proclamations about the end of facts could reflect some wishful thinking, too. They let us off the hook for failing to arrive at common ground and say it’s not our fault when people think there really is a war on Christmas or a plague of voter fraud. In this twisted pipe-dream vision of democracy, we needn’t bother with the hard and heavy work of changing people’s minds, since disagreement is a product of our very nature or an unpleasant but irresolvable feature of our age.

It’s time we came together to reject this bogus story and the ersatz science of post-truth. If we can agree on anything it should be this: The end of facts is not a fact.

The Different Types of Mattresses: Shop Only the Best One that Suits You

by Douglas Belleville @ STLBeds

Mattresses come in all sizes, shapes, and styles, which can make shopping for one quite a task. It is easier to choose one when you learn the differences between each type. Guide to Better Understand the Different Types of Mattresses Firmness vs. Softness All of the extra layers that are sewn onto the top of…

A British Grocer Is Selling an Avocado Without a Pit

A British Grocer Is Selling an Avocado Without a Pit

by Aaron Mak @ Slate Articles

The seemingly docile avocado is, as it turns out, responsible for a growing number of mangled hands and emergency room visits. The variety of textures—sturdy and slippery skin, soft flesh, solid pit—can make cutting the buttery fruit a perilous endeavor.

Luckily for chefs who are squeamish about bloodying their hands, the British supermarket chain Marks and Spencer has begun selling a safety-conscious “cocktail avocado,” which has softer skin and no pit. At the moment, the avocado alternative is only available for sale to consumers in the UK.

The Guardian interviewed a food specialist at Marks and Spencer on the matter, who said, “We’ve had the mini, the giant, ready sliced and we’re now launching the holy grail of avocados—stoneless.”

In May, the British Association of Plastic, Reconstructive and Aesthetic Surgeons issued a warning for “avocado hands,” which is the result of amateur cooks stabbing and slashing their hands when attempting to slice an avocado. The St. Thomas Hospital in the U.K. even claims they experience a “post-brunch surge” of such cases on Saturdays. The injury can require complex and expensive surgery in order to properly mend as tendon and nerve damage are not uncommon; the wife of a New York Times staffer reportedly racked up a $20,000 hospital bill after an avocado-related mishap. Simon Eccles, the secretary for the surgeons’ association, further suggested that the fruit come with warning labels.

The cocktail avocado, which is the fruit of an un-pollinated avocado blossom that develops without a seed, is slightly smaller (two to three inches in length) and easier to eat. Only available in December, the cocktail avocados grow in Spain and are usually reserved for the chefs of high-end restaurants in Paris.

Those who wish to partake can either eat it whole—the skin is edible—or peel it by removing one end and then squeezing the contents out. Safety comes at a price, however: one cocktail avocado costs around $2.70.

But for millennials who apparently spend exorbitant amounts on avocado toast, cocktail avocados might seem like a steal.

Dromma Black Friday Sale

by Taylor Jones @ The Drömma Bed

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!  We’re happy to announce Dromma’s Black Friday sale of $200 off any mattress + 2 of our new cooling Dromma Hotel Pillows! To take advantage of this offer, add your desired mattress and a set of the Dromma Hotel Pillows to the cart and use promo code BLKFRI200 at checkout.

The post Dromma Black Friday Sale appeared first on The Drömma Bed.

5 Conscious Employers Promoting Equality, Diversity, And Family-Friendly Benefits For Women

5 Conscious Employers Promoting Equality, Diversity, And Family-Friendly Benefits For Women

by Kayti Christian @ The Good Trade

Pay gaps, harassment, and gender inequality are still issues for women in the workplace—even in 2018. We are hopeful for a greater shift towards workplaces that prioritize equality, diversity, and family-friendly benefits. If you or someone you know is looking for a new job this year, here are five of the best companies we’ve found that prioritize women’s advancement, safety, and gender equality. 

Is It Safe To Use A Hand Me Down Mattress?

Is It Safe To Use A Hand Me Down Mattress?


Are used mattresses responsible for allergies, sickness, and even death? Are preowned mattresses considered safe? Learn what kind of dangers if any exist...

The ‘Mattress Safe’: An Alternative to Shaky Spanish Banks |

The ‘Mattress Safe’: An Alternative to Shaky Spanish Banks |

One Spanish businessman has come up with a novel banking option that will let investors sleep easy.

Top 5 Serta Adjustable Mattresses

by Star Newcomb @ The Sleep Judge

Aromatherapy During Pregnancy: Which Oils are Safe to Use?

by Tina Magrabi @ Safe Birth Project

Candlelit baths, therapeutic massages, and restorative yoga are all wonderful ways to pamper yourself during pregnancy. These luxurious experiences are often accompanied by the application of aromatic essential oils like eucalyptus and lavender. But are these oils safe to use during pregnancy? While many of your favorite essential oils may be safe to indulge in […]

The post Aromatherapy During Pregnancy: Which Oils are Safe to Use? appeared first on Safe Birth Project.

Is Great Sleep Worth It?

by Jenny Stoddard @ Intellibed

  What Is Your Bed Really Worth?   One of the considerations people make when purchasing a mattress is how long it will last. Factoring into that consideration are materials, warranty and general wear and tear. Many people feel that if you can get about 10 years out of a mattress, you’ve found something reasonable.…

The post Is Great Sleep Worth It? appeared first on Intellibed.

More and More Americans Are Learning Basic First Aid for Gunshot Wounds

More and More Americans Are Learning Basic First Aid for Gunshot Wounds

by Lisa L. Lewis @ Slate Articles

I frequently exchange parenting advice with my sister, an emergency room physician whose kids are younger than mine. My advice tends to be pretty straightforward, like how to help your kids transition to a new school or just the occasional kid-friendly recipe. Hers, given her profession, tends to be a little more intense. Recently, she offered this useful guidance: If someone’s been shot in the leg, use the heel of your hand to slow the bleeding by pressing down on the femoral artery located in the middle of the crease at the top of the thigh. If the bleeding doesn’t slow or is pulsing, use a T-shirt or other piece of clothing to tie a tourniquet as close to the top of the thigh as possible.

Against the backdrop of ongoing mass shootings, being prepared for such a worst-case scenario seems increasingly prudent. It appears I’m not alone in thinking so: From Bismarck, North Dakota, to San Diego, ordinary citizens are now signing up for classes to learn how they, too, can maximize their chances for survival by learning skills such as how to stanch blood loss after a mass shooting. In Georgia, all public schools are receiving “Stop the Bleed” kits so they’ll have what they need while they wait for professional first responders to arrive. And last month in Washington, D.C., nearly 40 members of Congress were trained in bleeding control techniques. The training they received is modeled on life-saving techniques first honed on the battlefield but now being promoted for civilian use in schools, churches, shopping malls, and other everyday venues.

These sorts of lessons have been gathering steam for years. In the wake of the Sandy Hook shootings in December 2012, the American College of Surgeons pulled together first-response experts from law enforcement, the medical community, and the military. Their recommendations, known as the Hartford Consensus, stemmed from the realization that injuries from mass shootings are similar to those found in combat. The resulting five-point response plan was based in part on military trauma guidelines and led to the “Stop the Bleed” campaign, launched by the White House in 2015, to “encourage bystanders to become trained, equipped, and empowered to help in a bleeding emergency before professional help arrives.”

Mass tragedies often yield lessons that can be applied the next time around. Five months before Sandy Hook, the movie theater shootings in Aurora, Colorado, showed the need for better coordination between responding police and firefighters. It also underscored that getting victims to the hospital as quickly as possible, rather than waiting for ambulances, saves lives.

In 2007, the mass shooting at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, Virginia, led to improvements in campus safety, including requirements for emergency message systems and physical changes such as better door locks. And perhaps the seminal event that changed how we think about and respond to mass shootings was the 1999 tragedy at Columbine High School, which led to regular school lockdown drills and changed how police respond to active shooters. (Instead of waiting for specialized backup to arrive, responding officers now enter the building immediately to try to stop the carnage.)

If you consider the chronology of these examples, it’s apparent that our reactions are skewing toward figuring out how to survive mass shootings rather than prevent them. Mass shootings such as the recent tragedy in Las Vegas are often what spur ordinary citizens to enroll in “Stop the Bleed” classes. In just the last two years, more than 70,000 Americans have taken the courses, according to the American College of Surgeons. In fact, a 2015 telephone poll of 1,000 respondents found that 82 percent of those who said they were physically able to take a course like this were interested in doing so.

Being prepared is pragmatic: According to the Gun Violence Archive, there have been 323 mass shootings (which they define as four or more people shot or killed, not counting the shooter) so far this year, including two just last week. Even my sister, despite all of her training, found herself searching online for bulletproof backpack inserts for her kids. Last year, the PTSA at my son’s high school, which was put on lockdown during the 2015 San Bernardino mass shooting, purchased body bags and triage center supplies to use in the event of a similar tragedy on school grounds.

It’s hard to know where the line is between prudent preparation and diminishing returns. Learning to tourniquet a bullet wound might make you feel safe. It could also make you feel anxious or diminish the reserves you have to fight gun violence in other ways. As the Hartford Consensus noted, “Active shooter/mass casualty events are a reality in modern American life.” What’s worse is that they’re an accepted reality.

How to buy a crib mattress | BabyCenter

How to buy a crib mattress | BabyCenter


Organic? Foam? Innerspring? Get up to speed on your mattress options and how to choose the best mattress for your baby.

The Largest Known Prime Number

The Largest Known Prime Number

by Evelyn Lamb @ Slate Articles

Update, Jan. 4, 2018: On Wednesday, the Great Internet Mersenne Prime Search announced that a computer owned by Jonathan Pace in Germantown, Tennessee, discovered a new prime number. At 23,249,425 digits, the number, known as M77232917, is now the largest known prime.

In 2016, I wrote the following article about the previous largest known prime, which is now the second largest known prime. Its name is M74207281, and it’s about a million digits shorter than the shiny new prime. But other than a few details about whose computer found it and exactly how long it is, I could have written this article today about the new prime. So we’re sharing it with you again.

It’s exciting to find a new largest known prime number, but this is another verse of the same song. Both numbers, like nine of the 10 largest known prime numbers, have a special form and are called Mersenne primes. We find them because that’s where we keep looking. The light is better there. Between these two largest known primes lie an unfathomable number of monstrously large primes; we may never find even one.

Original, Jan. 22, 2016: Earlier this week, BBC News reported an important mathematical finding, sharing the news under the headline “Largest Known Prime Number Discovered in Missouri.” That phrasing makes it sound a bit like this new prime number—it’s 274,207,281-1, by the way—was found in the middle of some road, underneath a street lamp. That’s actually not a bad way to think about it.

We know about this enormous prime number thanks to the Great Internet Mersenne Prime Search. The Mersenne hunt, known as GIMPS, is a large distributed computing project in which volunteers run software to search for prime numbers. Perhaps the best-known analogue is SETI@home, which searches for signs of extraterrestrial life. GIMPS has had a bit more tangible success than SETI, with 15 primes discovered so far. The shiny new prime, charmingly nicknamed M74207281, is the fourth found by University of Central Missouri mathematician Curtis Cooper using GIMPS software. This one is 22,338,618 digits long.

A prime number is a whole number whose only factors are 1 and itself. The numbers 2, 3, 5, and 7 are prime, but 4 is not because it can be factored as 2 x 2. (For reasons of convenience, we don’t consider 1 to be a prime.) The M in GIMPS and in M74207281 stands for Marin Mersenne, a 17th-century French friar who studied the numbers that bear his name. Mersenne numbers are 1 less than a power of 2. Mersenne primes, logically enough, are Mersenne numbers that are also prime. The number 3 is a Mersenne prime because it’s one less than 22, which is 4. The next few Mersenne primes are 7, 31, and 127.

M74207281 is the 49th known Mersenne prime. The next largest known prime, 257,885,161-1, is also a Mersenne prime. So is the one after that. And the next one. And the next one. All in all, the 11 largest known primes are Mersenne.

Why do we know about so many large Mersenne primes and so few large non-Mersenne ones? It’s not because large Mersenne primes are particularly common, and it’s not a spectacular coincidence. That brings us back to the road and the street lamp. There are several different versions of the story. A man, perhaps he’s drunk, is on his hands and knees underneath a streetlight. A kind passerby, perhaps a police officer, stops to ask what he’s doing. “I’m looking for my keys,” the man replies. “Did you lose them over here?” the officer asks. “No, I lost them down the street,” the man says, “but the light is better here.”

We keep finding large Mersenne primes because the light is better there.

First, we know that only a few Mersenne numbers are even candidates for being Mersenne primes. The exponent n in 2n-1 needs to be prime, so we don’t need to bother to check 26-1, for example.* There are a few other technical conditions that make certain prime exponents more enticing to try. Finally, there’s a particular test of primeness—the Lucas–Lehmer test—that can only be used on Mersenne numbers.

To understand why the test even exists, let’s take a detour to explore why we bother finding primes in the first place. There are infinitely many of them, so it’s not like we’re going to eventually find the biggest one. But aside from being interesting in a “math for math’s sake” kind of way, finding primes is good business. RSA encryption, one of the standard ways to scramble data online, requires the user (perhaps your bank or Amazon) to come up with two big primes and multiply them together. Assuming the encryption is implemented correctly, the difficulty of factoring the resulting product is the only thing between hackers and your credit card number.

This new Mersenne prime is not going to be used for encryption any time soon. Currently we only need primes that are a few hundred digits long to keep our secrets safe, so the millions of digits in M74207281 are overkill, for now.

You can’t just look up a 300-digit prime in a table. (There are about 10297 of them. Even if we wanted to, we physically could not write them all down.) To find large primes to use in RSA encryption, we need to test randomly generated numbers for primality. One way to do this is trial division: Divide the number by smaller numbers and see if you ever get a whole number back. For large primes, this takes way too long. Hence there are primality tests that can determine whether a number is prime without actually factoring it. The Lucas-Lehmer test is one of the best.

The heat death of the universe would occur before we could get even a fraction of the way through trial division of a number with 22 million digits. It only took a month, however, for a computer to use the Lucas-Lehmer test to determine that M74207281 is prime. There are no other primality tests that run nearly as quickly for arbitrary 22 million–digit numbers.

How many primes have we missed by looking for them mostly under the Lucas-Lehmer street lamp? We don’t know the exact answer, but the prime number theorem gets us close enough. It makes sense that primes get less common as we stroll out on the number line. Fully 40 percent of one-digit numbers are prime, 22 percent of two-digit numbers are prime, and only 16 percent of three-digit numbers are. The prime number theorem, first proved in the late 1800s, quantifies that decline. It says that in general, the number of primes less than n tends to n/ln(n) as n increases. (Here ln is the natural logarithm.)

We can use the prime number theorem to estimate how many missing primes there are between M74207281 and the next smallest prime. We just plug 274,207,281-1 into n/ln(n) and get, well, a really big number. We can write it most compactly by stacking exponents: 10107.349. This number has about 22,338,610 digits, give or take a couple, so we can also write it as 1022,338,610.

Another visit to the prime number theorem shows there are approximately 1017,425,163 primes less than the next-largest known prime. That sounds impressive until you realize 1017,425,163 is less than 0.000000000001 percent of 1022,338,610.

Stop and think about that for a moment. There are about 1022,338,610 primes less than M74207281, and approximately all of them are between it and the next-largest known prime. If you want to be charitable, you could say we have some gaps in our knowledge of prime numbers. But really, it makes more sense to say we have gaps in our lack of knowledge. The millions upon millions of prime numbers we’ve already found make up approximately 0 percent of the primes that are less than M74207281. Each one is a little grain of sand, a speck that does little to cover up our overwhelming ignorance of exactly where the prime numbers live.

Correction, Jan. 22, 2016: This story originally referred to a possible prime number as 2n-1. That number should have been rendered as 2n-1. (Return.)

Flip Your Mattress or Rotate: Determining Which Is Better

by sherwood @ Sherwood Bedding

Thirty years ago it was common practice to flip your mattress every few months to prevent indentations from forming in any particular part of the bed that consistently supported the...

The post Flip Your Mattress or Rotate: Determining Which Is Better appeared first on Sherwood Bedding.

4 Common Mattress Materials Filled With Toxic Chemicals

4 Common Mattress Materials Filled With Toxic Chemicals


Is your mattress emitting toxic chemicals into your bedroom? You may be surprised to learn that the most common mattress materials are also the most toxic.

Gift Guide: Parents of Little Ones

by admin @ Made Safe

As a team of women at Made Safe, the majority of whom are moms, we understand that every parent wants the safest, most effective products for their child. But knowing how to choose a safe gift can be hard. Do you have a new mom in your life? Or know parents of a little one? […] Read more...

The post Gift Guide: Parents of Little Ones appeared first on Made Safe.

Why Do People Applaud When Planes Land?

Why Do People Applaud When Planes Land?

by Daniel Engber @ Slate Articles

A few years back, the comedian Chelsea Handler used to tell this joke on stage: “There are two types of people I don’t trust,” she’d say. “People who don’t drink while on medication and people who clap when the plane lands.”

It’s funny because it’s true: Why should pilots be congratulated for managing to do their jobs without killing hundreds of people? (As Handler once pointed out on Twitter, #thatswhattheyresupposedtofuckingdo.) It’s not just a comedian’s pet peeve; frustration with the idiotic cabin clap appears to be widespread. “Please Don’t Clap When the Plane Lands,” wrote the staff of Condé Nast Traveler in a signed editorial last year. “If the pilot navigates a bumpy landing with skill and style, I’ll clap,” one editor declared. “But I don’t give participation trophies.” Even cockpit personnel seem to find the practice irksome: “Applauding implies that a smooth landing is an exceptional accomplishment, rather than the routine work of a qualified pilot,” one explained on Yahoo Answers in 2011, in response to the post, “Clapping on airplane when landing?” This person continued: “I personally consider applause to be an insult, since it implies that I can’t land smoothly unless I get lucky.”

So who are these airborne clappers, and what makes them clap like airborne seals? When did the practice start, what’s it for, and will it ever go away? I spent some time cruising online forums in search of answers to these questions.

But the more I learned about the history of airplane applause and the history of sneering at the same, the more I came to doubt the premise of my hunt. The phenomenon itself may be exaggerated in the minds of those who mock it. Indeed, I now suspect there are very few cabin clappers in the wild and that a pilot’s unearned bravos and bravas are not so much a scourge that ought to be curtailed as a curmudgeon’s fantasy of something that would in fact be quite annoying if it really happened on the regular. I mean to say that my pet peeve, and Handler’s, is more or less ginned up.

It’s not that no one ever celebrates the final moment of flight. (You can find plenty of examples of the cabin clap on YouTube.) But these are freak events. An airplane’s landing cheer exists, but it rarely gets deployed. When it does it’s often for a special reason—a touchdown in a heavy storm, perhaps, or under some other form of flight duress. This is not the cabin clap we mean when we call the clapper silly or suspicious, though. No, we’re referring to a different, maybe apocryphal variety: the applause that has no rationale—a knee-jerk cheer for a plane’s routine arrival.

This latter version of the landing clap, dopey and unearned, has long been made the object of ridicule, if not nativist derision. Indeed, an early piece about the practice by a travel writer, published by the New York Times in 1997, claims we caught the clap from foreigners: Cheering for a touchdown is a “common yet enigmatic phenomenon of modern air travel,” the author writes, though one that’s seldom heard on domestic routes. Clappers aren’t from America, he says; they’re passengers from overseas, “returning to their native soil,” and the loudest perpetrators are those who happen to possess a high degree of “cultural passion.” The Spaniards, for example, are vibrant landing-clappers; so are the Brazilians and airplane passengers from Italy. Then again, the piece also adds that “even the famously unemotional Japanese engage in the Landing Clap;” along with all the patriotic Russians and Germans who have journeyed back to their motherlands.

This ethno-national finger-pointing forms a common thread through discussions of the landing clap. Spend enough time in these debates, and you’ll be informed (once again) that clapping is a German thing, or a pastime of the Russians; or else that it’s particular to Greece or Italy; ubiquitous on Asian flights; or particular to Israeli passengers; or Jamaicans, Dominicans, Filipinos or Canadians. You’ll learn that people used to clap a lot on domestic flights in Czechoslovakia. You’ll read, from time to time, that landing cheers are “mostly a U.S. thing.”

These stereotypes can’t all be true, of course. The round-robin claims should make us more suspicious: If Germans really clap for landing, and so do Russians, Asians, Israelis, Jamaicans, Dominicans, Filipinos, Canadians, and Americans, well then applause would be more or less ubiquitous on commercial flights, which it’s clearly not. Yet everyone who believes in landing claps—and finds them quaint, silly, or suspicious—seems inclined to pin the custom on the passengers of another, less sophisticated culture. We don’t cheer at airplane landings. They do.

In a slight variation on this theme, some will claim that landing-clappers aren’t from another country; they’re from another time. We used to cheer on landing, this theory goes, back when people weren’t quite so used to flying, and when flying wasn’t quite so safe. Now, in recent years, this custom has subsided. We’ve gotten savvier and less easily impressed. “In my experience, clapping on landing was way more common a few years ago,” wrote one user in a long debate on “In the past 25 years, I find that it happens less and less,” another said.

I’m dubious of this idea, that people used to clap and now they’ve stopped. I mean, no one even cheered the dawn of human flight. When Wilbur and Orville Wright gave their first public demonstrations at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, the assembled reporters were impassive, according to David McCullough’s biography of the brothers. “This spectacle was so startling, so bewildering to the senses in that year 1908, that we all stood like so many marble men,” one observer wrote. “Here on this lonely beach was being performed the greatest act of the ages,” another said, “but there were no spectators and no applause save the booming of the surf and the startled cries of the sea birds.”

Certainly in the age of modern aviation, those accounts of landing cheers that do exist tend to link them to some specific cause or calamity. In 1991, for example, an Alaska Airlines passenger demanded to be let off the plane before it took off because he’d learned a woman would be at the flight’s controls. Newspapers made a point of saying the remaining passengers applauded for the pilot when she later landed smoothly in Seattle. Landing claps were also noted in January of 2000, on flights that landed safely in the wee hours of New Year’s Day: Passengers were glad for having survived the Y2K computer bug. The following autumn, for a brief spell in the aftermath of 9/11, news reports observed that passengers were cheering “boring flights” with safe arrivals.

Among the other, reported blips of cabin clapping are claims, made every now and then, that certain airlines have been making use of “clap tracks.” The editorial in Condé Nast Traveler asserts that Ryanair, the low-cost Irish carrier, pipes smatterings of fake applause over the PA so as to goose an ersatz cabin cheer. The airline has been singled out for this chicanery by others, too, though its head of communications denies the charges, telling me there is frequent clapping aboard Ryanair, but that it’s both natural and heartfelt. (The airline’s pre-recorded victory trumpet may do some work to spur applause.)

The most common form of landing cheer has always been the one that celebrates avoidance of catastrophe. It’s for captains who have earned their plaudits facing up, Sully-esque, to some dire airplane hazard. Consider Southwest Airlines Flight 812, in April 2011: A hole tore though the cabin roof, flight attendants passed out from lack of oxygen, and the cockpit crew lost access to its main controls. People clapped when that plane touched down and then began to hug one another. “It was unreal,” one told the Associated Press. “Everybody was [acting] like they were high school chums.” Or what about the American Airlines flight from 2009 that touched down one Sunday night in Charlotte, North Carolina, in a very heavy fog, before veering off the runway and scraping a wing against the ground. Miraculously, no passengers were injured. When the tumult stopped, people cheered in gratitude and relief.

These are standard cabin claps, to the extent that clapping is a standard practice at all. (Even in these situations, the pilots may not hear the sound above the cockpit noise.)

But they themselves bring to mind another question. Unless you’ve flown a plane yourself, and understand the tribulations of a tricky landing, then how are you supposed to know when a bumpy touchdown means your pilot has excelled, or when it means the opposite? Who are you to judge her skill, let alone applaud it?

Take that Charlotte flight, for example. A subsequent investigation found the cockpit crew had known the plane was off its course yet refused to take a second pass. According to the Wall Street Journal, the pilots chose instead—mistakenly—to take their autopilot offline. “Crew fatigue might have been an issue,” the paper noted. If that’s the case, the passengers may have clapped in celebration of their crew’s incompetence.

Similarly, during a summer thunderstorm in Toronto in 2005, an Air France flight with several hundred passengers tried to land amid the rain and lightning. “Just before touching ground, it was all black in the plane, there was no more light, nothing,” one passenger later told a reporter. A second later, the airplane landed with a bump, and the frightened cabin erupted in applause at what appeared to be an expert landing. “But after that,” the same man continued, “we [felt] bump, bump, bump, bump, bump.”

It did not take long for the passengers to realize that their clap was premature. The plane came down too fast, barreled off the runway and rolled into a ravine, where it burst into flames. It looked like the left engine had exploded. Smoke filled the cabin. “The light became very, very yellow by the fire’s flame,” the passenger continued, “and we said that were all going to die at that moment, and the airplane continued to roll.” No one died, but some among the passengers who had moments earlier been clapping for the pilot came away with serious injuries. A few years later a class-action suit against the airline would be settled for $10 million, after investigators found that the pilots had missed important signals and failed to “make the standard callouts” for the situation.

Maybe that’s the hidden problem with the landing clap: Even when we think applause is well-deserved, we may be off the mark.

Non-toxic Mattress Guide | Gimme the Good Stuff

Non-toxic Mattress Guide | Gimme the Good Stuff

Gimme the Good Stuff

Conventional mattresses typically contain various petrochemicals, plastics or vinyl, flame retardants, which releases VOCs that are linked to cancer.

Ending the “War on Coal” Could Cause a Public Health Crisis

Ending the “War on Coal” Could Cause a Public Health Crisis

by Emily Atkin @ Slate Articles

This story was originally published by New Republic and has been republished here with permission from Climate Desk.

Of all the scenes of devastation in Puerto Rico caused by Hurricane Maria, one video has stood out. Shot from a balcony or rooftop, it depicts six seconds of horror: the city of Guayama, on the island’s southern coast, engulfed by a violent river. Deep, fast-moving water rushes through the streets, slipping over cars and picking up debris. The images would be jarring in any city, but they are particularly terrifying in this one. Guayama is home not just to 42,000 people, who are now struggling to survive, but also to a five-story-tall pile of toxic coal ash—another environmental catastrophe in the making.

Weeks after Hurricane Maria’s landfall, the status of Guayama’s coal-ash pile remains unclear. How much of this waste—the leftovers from burning coal—got into the floodwater or into the air? The company that owns the pile, AES Puerto Rico, did not respond to requests for comment. But scientific researchers have long raised concerns that the coal ash, which contains high levels of arsenic, mercury, and chromium, represents a massive health hazard—one that Maria has now likely exacerbated.

This is hardly an isolated issue. There are more than 1,000 coal-ash storage sites across the United States, from Wilmington, North Carolina, to Denver. The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that the coal industry generates 130 million tons of ash each year, making it one of the largest sources of industrial waste in the country. According to the Sierra Club, this waste has contaminated more than 23,000 miles of waterways—including nearly 400 bodies of water used for human consumption. Duke University scientists have found that coal-ash storage ponds consistently contaminate nearby water sources, threatening both wildlife and people.

The consequences for human health can be serious. Families living near a coal-ash pond in Belmont, North Carolina, for example, have reported abnormally high rates of cancer, and in 2015, the state advised residents not to drink tap water or cook with it. The coal industry hotly disputes the idea that coal-ash ponds are responsible, but environmentalists argue that the link appears clear. “We’ve had really high spikes in arsenic in our main drinking water source in the region, and it’s because for years we didn’t have enough regulation,” says Sam Perkins, the program director at the Catawba Riverkeeper Foundation, a nonprofit group based in Charlotte, North Carolina. “The last thing we need to be doing is adding any more coal ash to these sites.”

But in the name of ending the so-called war on coal, the Trump administration has been loosening environmental regulations designed to keep coal ash in check. The EPA has repealed restrictions on toxic waste from mountaintop-removal mining, which sends dangerous heavy metals tumbling into streams and rivers. And it has put on hold a regulation that restricted the levels of mercury, arsenic, and other pollutants coal plants can produce and that prohibited certain types of chemical-laden waste from being discharged into bodies of water. The EPA estimated that the policy would have decreased coal waste by 1.4 billion pounds each year—a huge benefit to public health. But the rule would also have cost the coal industry $480 million annually, due to the new treatment systems and other equipment coal plants would need to install.

In fact, one of the administration’s most recent decisions came via a request by AES Puerto Rico. Earlier this year, the company asked EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt to pause a regulation regarding the monitoring and storage of coal ash. And in September—before Hurricane Maria hit—AES got what it wanted: Pruitt announced he would reconsider the Obama-era rule, which would have required coal companies to make sure their waste pits are not leaking or otherwise threatening human health. The regulation would have meant an existential threat for the industry. Forcing companies to monitor the pollution from their coal waste would have revealed just how great a health hazard coal ash truly represents—potentially exposing coal companies to costly class-action lawsuits that could result in payouts in the millions.

Environmentalists have consoled themselves with the knowledge that Trump can’t actually prevent coal’s downfall. Most analysts agree that coal can’t compete with alternative energy sources like natural gas, wind, and solar, which are easier and cheaper to produce. “The long-term prognosis for the coal industry in every region from now through 2050 is poor,” the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis has concluded. Even Robert Murray, the founder and chief executive of America’s biggest coal firm, Murray Energy, has said that Trump should “temper his expectations” when it comes to resuscitating the coal industry. “He can’t bring them back,” Murray has said of mining jobs.

But as the crisis in Puerto Rico suggests, even a short-term surge in coal production may have lasting repercussions. By dismantling regulations that limit the amount of waste these companies produce and that enable the government to hold them accountable for polluting, Trump is compounding a public health disaster that every powerful storm surge will compound further—and that will continue long after the last coal-fired power plant shuts down.

Are Heated Mattress Pads Safe? - My Mattress Pads

Are Heated Mattress Pads Safe? - My Mattress Pads

My Mattress Pads

It isn’t always easy to get a good night’s sleep, especially in the cold winter months. That is why there are so many products that you can purchase to keep warm when it’s icy outside. One of these items is a heated mattress pad. However, some people aren’t sure that these products are safe. Keep …

How to Find the Best Mattress for Back Pain

by sebomarketing @ Intellibed

The post How to Find the Best Mattress for Back Pain appeared first on Intellibed.

Why the Raw Water Movement Is So Obnoxious

Why the Raw Water Movement Is So Obnoxious

by Christine Manganaro @ Slate Articles

The belief that “natural” is better has animated many food and health trends in recent memory, with natural as a shorthand denoting purity, a lack of processing, or rejection of modern medicine: raw foodism, enthusiasm for raw dairy, the paleo diet, and organic evangelism. Next up: “raw water.”

The raw water trend takes naturalness to its extreme: Proponents boast that it comes from “off the grid,” celebrating its freedom from government taint. Cody Friesen, CEO of Zero Mass Water, which is marketed not as raw water but as “pure water,” disparages municipal water. His $4,500 Source system draws water from the air we all breathe. (Raw water comes from pristine springs.)* As reported to the New York Times, “The goal, Mr. Friesen said, is to make water ‘that’s ultra high quality and secure, totally disconnected from all infrastructure.’ ”

There are so many things that are obnoxious about the raw water trend that it seems entirely possible that it is in fact the most obnoxious Silicon Valley disruption project yet. It’s instructive to go beyond the gut-level reaction against raw water to consider exactly why it’s so frustrating.

There’s the greed. Silicon Valley entrepreneurs have found a way to market drinking water up to $36.99 for a 2½-gallon bottle and refills for $14.99—that’s about 30 times the cost of regular bottled water, which itself costs between 300 and 2,000 times the cost of municipal drinking water. Essentially, they’ve turned one of the requirements for sustaining life into a lucrative commodity and luxury good. Live Water founder Mukhande Singh (né Christopher Sanborn) sells his product through delivery service and in natural food stores like the Rainbow co-op in San Francisco, where Live Water is frequently sold out.* Other vendors, like Liquid Eden in San Diego, capitalize on the “water consciousness movement” to the tune of 900 gallons a day in sales.

Then there’s the stupidity. Raw water enthusiasts trespass on private land, at night, to harvest from secret springs. These people are not only risking legal consequences, they’re risking contracting a bacterial infection or parasite, as physicians and public health experts have warned. This water fetching trades on fantasies about an environment that doesn’t exist and nostalgia for water purity that never existed. Spring water is not necessarily free of elements that harm health. All water sources are part of the environment and are not isolated from “industrial age contamination,” as described by the Live Water guys. The idea that Americans drank abundant pristine water before the industrial age, in the first half of the 19th century and earlier, is not supported by the historical record. There is a reason that everyone including children drank so much hard cider and beer during the 1700s and 1800s: because waterborne illness was prevalent, and alcoholic beverages were safer than many sources of “raw water.” This was especially true in proximity to towns whose water sources and sewage systems were not well differentiated.

And then there’s the bad science. Like erroneous claims that drinking fresh juice cleanses the body of toxins, claims about the healthfulness of untreated water are based on belief rather than evidence. Raw water purveyors either lack the scientific literacy to interpret the available research or intentionally misrepresent science to support health claims about their product. The Live Water website cites an inconclusive study to support its claim that “raw spring water has vast healing abilities.” The linked journal article claims that there is a correlation (which is not causation, as the saying goes) between the skin-regenerating effects of topical application of water from Italy’s Comano spring and the presence of nonpathogenic bacteria in the water. No untreated water was consumed by anyone in the course of this study.

But what’s most obnoxious about this phenomenon is its misanthropy. Most infuriating of all is perhaps how the raw water movement underscores the increasing realization that tech-bro Silicon Valley fetishists have abandoned the rest of society.

It is not hard to see how twisted it is for a group of privileged people with access to safe municipal drinking water to spurn it in favor of something more dangerous when people in largely black and poor Flint, Michigan, are being poisoned with lead and people in largely black rural Alabama are contracting hookworm from untreated water. By claiming that tap water is “toilet water with birth control drugs,” that fluoride is a “mind control drug,” and that treated water lacks probiotics supposedly present in untreated water, purveyors of “raw water” incite mistrust in municipal water safety—in places where the water has been proven safe to drink, no less—and perpetuate cynicism about regulations that protect public health. (Conversely, when people making fun of raw water frame all untreated water as giardia juice, they betray their ignorance about the number of Americans living in rural areas who get their water from perfectly adequate wells.)

The raw water trend is consistent with other asocial behaviors by venture capitalists using their wealth to eschew civic responsibility and insulate themselves from social problems. If raw water evangelists actually think treated water is poisoned by fluoride and prescription drugs, that water safety is threatened by industrial pollution, and that a lack of good bacteria found in our water is really a significant cause of malnourishment, then they ought to be moved to activism on what should be understood as a matter of civil and human rights. Instead, they’ve created expensive untreated bottled water, a market solution and form of conspicuous consumption. The raw water movement doesn’t only reveal how gullible and unscientific this community is—it also secures its place as our modern-day moneyed overlords who care little about the serfs down below.

*Correction, Jan. 8, 2018: This story originally misstated that Doug Evans is the CEO of Live Water. He is just a customer. (Return.)

*Update, Jan. 8, 2018: This paragraph has been updated to clarify that Zero Mass Water, which collects its water from water vapor using a $4,500 system, does not consider itself part of the raw water movement. (Return.)

My Search for a Safe Mattress: Sleep on Latex Review 

My Search for a Safe Mattress: Sleep on Latex Review 

Groovy Green Living

A conventional mattress can contain a toxic combination of chemicals. The good news: there are safer mattresses out there! 

Tips for Cleansing Your Air of Toxics

by admin @ Made Safe

  Cultivating Healthy Indoor Air Did you know that the air inside our homes can be more toxic than the air outside our homes? The quality of air can actually be measured and Indoor Air Quality is referred to generally as IAQ for short. While it’s helpful and important to know what’s happening in the […] Read more...

The post Tips for Cleansing Your Air of Toxics appeared first on Made Safe.

 Naturepedic Mattresses Are MADE SAFE Certified | Naturepedic Blog

 Naturepedic Mattresses Are MADE SAFE Certified | Naturepedic Blog

Naturepedic Blog

Naturepedic Organic Mattresses are the first in the country to be MADE SAFE certified. With this seal, we’re pioneering change for how products should be made: safer, healthier, and less toxic.

Product of the Day: Naturepedic Baby Crib Mattress

by admin @ organic mattress – Made Safe

  Crib mattresses can contain toxic fire retardants linked to endocrine disruption, lower IQ, ADD, fertility issues, thyroid disease and cancer. MADE SAFE means mattresses without known toxic fire retardants. We’re proud to highlight mattresses from Naturepedic as a MADE SAFE certified solution for Baby Crib mattresses made with safe ingredients. Details here. Read more...

The post Product of the Day: Naturepedic Baby Crib Mattress appeared first on Made Safe.

IntelliBED Review: Why I Got Rid of My Organic Mattress

IntelliBED Review: Why I Got Rid of My Organic Mattress

Wellness Mama®

I recently ditched our really expensive organic mattress and replaced it with an Intellibed non-toxic mattress instead. Here's why...

Memory Foam Mattresses: Are They Safe?

by Sleep Junkie @ Sleep Junkie

Memory Foam Mattress Ingredients: are the dangers real or exaggerated? Are the chemicals in your life freaking you out or have you found yourself wondering if products like memory foam mattresses are safe? If you’ve been looking into this type of mattress or any other, you may be wondering whether chemicals and odors could represent […]

The post Memory Foam Mattresses: Are They Safe? appeared first on Sleep Junkie.

Pros and Cons of the 5 Leading Mattress Types on the Market

by sherwood @ Sherwood Bedding

Do You Know Which Mattress Type Suits You Best? America has always been a country based on innovation, and with that comes a wide variety of product choices. Just as...

The post Pros and Cons of the 5 Leading Mattress Types on the Market appeared first on Sherwood Bedding.

Are quaternary ammonium compounds (quats) safe?

by Irina Webb @ I Read Labels For You

There is a secret I learned while reading numerous shampoo/conditioner labels.  I’d like to share it with you today because it will help you choose the right shampoo and conditioner for your hair type without even trying them.  Hint:  We … Continued

The post Are quaternary ammonium compounds (quats) safe? appeared first on I Read Labels For You.

How Interesting Does Science Have to Be for the Public to Fund It?

How Interesting Does Science Have to Be for the Public to Fund It?

by Neel V. Patel @ Slate Articles

If you’ve read the phrase alien megastructures over the past few years, you probably have Tabetha Boyajian to thank. The Louisiana State University–based astronomer has been the driving force behind investigating the mysteries of KIC 8462852, a little star 1,280 light-years away whose incredibly bizarre behavior has flummoxed scientists since October 2015. Boyajian and her colleagues worked furiously to figure out why observations of KIC 8462852 (affectionately called Tabby’s Star, after Boyajian), first made with NASA’s Kepler Space Telescope, showed the star was exhibiting insanely rapid, irregular dips in brightness.

Why was KIC 8462852 acting this way? Scientists didn’t know. It couldn’t be explained by conventional causes, like orbiting planets. Aliens were one theory, because of course they were. At some point, the theory that the dips might be caused by gigantic infrastructures built by an intelligent alien civilization started circulating. And from there alien megastructures really took off.

As the news spread, Boyajian took the unorthodox step of launching a Kickstarter campaign to fund new observations of the star, raising more than $100,000 from more than 1,700 online donors to reserve time to study KIC 8462852 with instruments operated by Las Cumbres Observatory.

Unfortunately, a new study published in Astrophysical Journal Letters put the alien megastructures dreams to rest. Whatever is causing Tabby’s Star to randomly dim like a lightbulb on the fritz has nothing to do with alien megastructures. In fact, it looks like the culprit is probably dust—maybe from the remnants of a nearby planet or moon, or from another source. Questions remain, and Boyajian and her team are anxious to learn more, but we can at least say for certain: Gigantic alien infrastructure is not at play here.

This revelation is a bit of a bummer, of course. And the crowdfunded nature of the project adds its own strange dimension to what happens next when it comes to investigating Tabby’s Star. Indeed, it raises interesting questions about how scientific investigations are supposed to proceed if they rely on public funding.

There are very clear advantages to crowdfunding scientific investigations. Sometimes it proves to be a useful way to raise money fast without trudging through the bureaucratic process that slows down traditional avenues. It can also bring the scientific and nonscientific communities closer and foster better communication and partnerships.

But the general public isn’t known for its patient foresight. People like bombastic spectacles; sexy, viral news; Boaty McBoatface. It’s hard to remember that an investigation into an obscure molecule could lead to a groundbreaking treatment for cancer two decades later, or how climate change is going to doom us all later this century. The pace of science and the pace of news are fundamentally at odds with each other.

Scientists, however, have to remember those things. So do the agencies that normally decide which projects deserve money. And perhaps more importantly, traditional institutions also have a healthy respect for the disappointment and surprise that permeates through research. When a hypothesis is disproven or something unexpected arises from the experiment, scientists don’t see failure; they see progress, just in a direction they hadn’t predicted before. Those results are still essential in filling gaps of knowledge, and they may prove useful later on.

Would Boyajian have really raised so much money if KIC 8462852 hadn’t generated so much hype about intelligent extraterrestrials? Both Boyajian and her colleague Jason Wright, an astronomer at Penn State University and co-author of the new study, and practically every other scientist studying the star made it adamantly clear the chances alien megastructures were orbiting the star were extremely small.

“I would be mortified if any one of the contributors thought that they were tricked into supporting the project because of E.T.,” Boyajian told Slate. “We worked very hard on clearly describing our intent to collect data to be used in testing any hypothesis.”

But one can’t help but suspect that many donors shelled out the cash for this project specifically in the hopes that the observations would prove the existence of aliens. People get hyped up about aliens, understandably—extraterrestrials are a serious part of space research these days. But it’s probably safe to say 1,700 people didn’t donate money in hopes of finding dust.

How can scientists keep their crowds interested after the crowdfunding? The key might be transparency. “I think the success of this project is a good template for others doing high-profile research to follow,” Wright told me. “Especially important has been the way that Tabby and her team have appreciated the backers, kept them involved, given them everything that was promised, and acknowledged their support.” He credits that work as the reason why some donors have already asked how they can contribute to follow-up studies, despite the dust finding.

Boyajian “absolutely” intends to pursue follow-up observations of KIC 8462852, but she isn’t sure whether many of the same contributors to the first Kickstarter campaign would come back in light of the fact that aliens have been ruled out. Can you raise $100,000 to study cosmic dust? Maybe. Boyajian’s challenge will be to market that investigation in a way that replicates the excitement of alien megastructures. That’s not a case that one would have to make to a panel of experts more familiar with and sensitive to the intricacies of scientific research.

Why Mattress Care is Crucial: 3 Tips to Prolong the Life of Your Bed

by sherwood @ Sherwood Bedding

If you’re reading this article, you’ve probably recently purchased a new mattress (or are considering doing so). Not it’s time to find the best way to make it last as...

The post Why Mattress Care is Crucial: 3 Tips to Prolong the Life of Your Bed appeared first on Sherwood Bedding.

Finding the Perfect Materials for Non-Toxic Mattress

by exampleuser @ SleepLily

Building the perfect non-toxic mattress starts with finding the safest, most natural materials. Because no matter what other companies do in the manufacturing process, or how many fancy marketing names they create to make their products “sound” more organic, if you don’t start with pure, wholesome materials, you can’t create a truly non-toxic mattress. So when... Read more »

The post Finding the Perfect Materials for Non-Toxic Mattress appeared first on SleepLily.

What’s the Best Mattress for Back Pain?

by Sleep Junkie @ Sleep Junkie

Learn how to find the best mattress for a bad back. Are you trying to find a good mattress for back pain? One of the hardest medical conditions to cure and treat are those relating to chronic back pain, and it’s something that affects millions of people around the world every day. Over and over, you […]

The post What’s the Best Mattress for Back Pain? appeared first on Sleep Junkie.

Why You Need a Non-Toxic Mattress

by sebomarketing @ Intellibed

The post Why You Need a Non-Toxic Mattress appeared first on Intellibed.

How to Tell If Your Used Crib Mattress Is Safe

How to Tell If Your Used Crib Mattress Is Safe

The Spruce

Wondering if a used crib mattress is a good idea? Get the scoop on second-hand mattresses, and find out if your own hand-me-down mattress makes the cut.

Best Organic Crib Mattress - Healthy Child

Best Organic Crib Mattress - Healthy Child

Healthy Child

Important facts you must know about the toxicity of a baby crib mattress! Learn how to choose the safest and best organic crib mattress.

What the Gardasil Testing May Have Missed

What the Gardasil Testing May Have Missed

by Frederik Joelving @ Slate Articles

Read a companion piece from Slate’s science editor on this investigation.

On a sunny autumn day three years ago, when Kesia Lyng was 30, she had a visit from her youngest sister, Eva. The two were close, and as they sat at the kitchen table in Lyng’s apartment, Eva confronted her chronically ill sibling with a painful fact: “You almost can’t take care of your own kids,” she told her. “You can’t keep pushing yourself so hard.”

Lyng, who was living with her husband and their two children in a lusterless part of Copenhagen, Denmark, had been struggling for years with inexplicable health problems: joint and muscle pains that came and left, powerful headaches, and a crushing exhaustion that even copious amounts of sleep could not cure. She was working part-time in the kitchen of her daughter’s kindergarten, the latest in a string of odd jobs. But her sick days had begun to multiply again. Often she would call her husband at work, sobbing from weariness, and ask to be picked up. At home, she was drained, with no energy to clean or cook or tuck the kids in bed. In her medical records, which she shared with me, her doctor noted that she was “having a very difficult time” and that she worried about losing her job if she asked for a sick leave.

On bad days, Lyng’s symptoms were incapacitating. “Your body is so tired you almost can’t move. Everything hurts. It hurts just to stretch, it hurts to get up. Your feet feel like big blocks. There’s this burning sensation in your body and the feeling that your muscles are about to cramp. Even small things, like having to go and buy milk, can be completely overwhelming,” she told me recently. “I’ve been incredibly frustrated at my body, because it’s so limiting.”

The trouble began in late 2002, just before Lyng turned 19. At first it felt like the flu, but there was no improvement. In the mornings, her body was stiff and achy and she found it increasingly hard to rise. When she was able to get up and go to school, she often fell asleep during class. If she ventured more than a few minutes away from home, she would nap on park benches or in cafes to summon the energy to get back. Eventually, she dropped out of school.

The abrupt transformation baffled people around the teenager. They saw a gregarious tomboy turn into someone who kept breaking dates, spent much of her time in bed, and used painkillers nonstop. “We thought it was a depression,” her friend Nanna Voltolina recalled. “She couldn’t do the same things as the rest of us. It was difficult for me to understand.”

Just before Lyng got sick, she had signed up to participate in a clinical trial of a then-experimental vaccine: Merck’s Gardasil was supposed to prevent infection from human papillomavirus, or HPV, a sexually transmitted disease. The virus causes no harm in the vast majority of people. But some HPV types can lead to genital warts, and others have been found to play a role in nearly all cases of cervical cancer, a malignancy that will affect 6 in 1,000 U.S. women at some point during their life. Lyng’s grandmother had died of cervical cancer the year before, so when a letter arrived offering her $500 to take part in a crucial international test of Gardasil, the decision was easy. She got her first shot of the vaccine at Hvidovre Hospital in Copenhagen on Sept. 19, 2002.

The symptoms snuck up on her shortly after her second shot on Nov. 14. They never abated. It wasn’t until 2016 that she received her diagnosis—chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS). The little-understood condition was once dismissed by many as a psychological problem, but is now recognized as a serious long-term illness that may have its roots in abnormal immune responses. There is no established treatment.

In recent years, Lyng has become suspicious that there is a connection between her disease and her Gardasil immunization. Her ailments evoke descriptions found in hundreds of news stories from women who also received the vaccine, as well as several medical case reports from around the world. As these stories began to make headlines, HPV-vaccination rates in Denmark and elsewhere have tumbled and controversy has erupted. Many pointed out, rightly, that the accounts amounted to no more than anecdotal evidence, and that none of them cited data proving that the vaccine had actually caused any harm. The women might have gotten sick anyway, as Lyng might have; indeed, one recent epidemiological study found no increased risk of CFS in Norwegian girls following Gardasil vaccination.

It’s also true that more than 80 million girls and women have been vaccinated against HPV, and the vast majority have suffered no more than temporary discomfort at the injection site. In an emailed statement, Merck said it was “confident” in Gardasil’s safety profile, which “was established in clinical trials involving more than 25,000 females and males” and examined further in several surveillance studies. It also pointed out that regulators had found no scientific support for some of the most heavily publicized concerns, which focused on a couple of serious neurological disorders seen in vaccinated girls. Twice, the firm emphasized to me that according to the European Medicines Agency (EMA), the benefits of HPV vaccines “continue to outweigh their risks.” Health authorities across the globe share this view. Repeatedly, they have issued reassurances about the thorough randomized trials the vaccines were subjected to before approval. Such studies have long been researchers’ best yardstick to judge if something is a real risk or just a fluke. As the NIH’s National Cancer Institute notes on its website, all three HPV vaccines on the market today “have been tested in tens of thousands of people in the United States and many other countries. Thus far, no serious side effects have been shown to be caused by the vaccines.”

An eight-month investigation by Slate found the major Gardasil trials were flawed from the outset, however, and that regulators allowed unreliable methods to be used to test the vaccine’s safety. While these flaws do not mean Gardasil caused the rare crippling illnesses reported by the media, they are troubling. Public health officials use trials like these both to determine safety and, as evidenced by Merck’s statement above, to reassure the public when concerns like the ones about Gardasil arise. A flawed study design can complicate both tasks.

What is special about Lyng’s case is that she got sick during a clinical test—indeed, the largest-ever randomized placebo-controlled trial of Gardasil—years before the vaccine was approved (which it was, in 2006, in both Europe and the U.S.). Drug regulators tend to look much more seriously at potential side effects that surface during a pre-licensure study, which is what Lyng participated in, rather than after a product has already been found to be safe and been put on the market. But regulators never learned of Lyng’s plight. In fact, her repeated complaints of debilitating symptoms were not even registered in the study as potential side effects (“adverse events,” in medical parlance).

Lyng’s experience was not unique. Interviews with five study participants and more than 2,300 pages of documents obtained through freedom-of-information requests from hospitals and health authorities suggest inadequacies built into Merck’s major clinical tests of Gardasil. To track the safety of its product, the drugmaker used a convoluted method that made objective evaluation and reporting of potential side effects impossible during all but a few weeks of its yearslong trials. At all other times, individual trial investigators used their personal judgment to decide whether or not to report any medical problem as an adverse event—essentially, as a potential side effect worth evaluating further. Other health issues went on a worksheet for “new medical history,” reserved for conditions that bore no relation to the vaccine. This study design put the cart before the horse, asking investigators to decide which symptoms might be side effects, rather than tracking everything in the same way. While the company now says otherwise, there is no indication in the confidential study protocol that it submitted to regulators for approval that it would use new medical history as a safety metric. And it hardly would have qualified as such: The worksheet allotted just one line per entry, with no measurement of symptom severity, duration, outcome, or overall seriousness. Even if the company then used the data in subsequent safety assessments, the lack of detail would have hampered meaningful analysis.

European health regulators worried about Merck’s methods during a review of the company’s marketing application for Gardasil 9, the latest version of the vaccine, but have not made their concerns public. In an internal 2014 EMA report about Gardasil 9 obtained through a freedom-of-information request, senior experts called the company’s approach “unconventional and suboptimal” and said it left some “uncertainty” about the safety results. EMA trial inspectors made similar observations in another report, noting that Merck’s procedure was “not an optimal method of collecting safety data, especially not systemic side effects that could appear long after the vaccinations were given.”

“If I were a research subject, I would feel betrayed,” Trudo Lemmens, a bioethicist and professor of health law and policy at the University of Toronto, told me. “If the purpose of a clinical trial is to establish the safety and efficacy of a new product, whether it’s a vaccine or something else, I would expect that they gathered all relevant data, including whether it had side effects or not.”

Merck, which is known as Merck Sharp & Dohme outside the U.S. and Canada, did not address the EMA’s safety concerns. But it said its clinical trials follow “laws, regulations and guidelines” wherever they take place, and proceed only after approval by regulators and ethics committees. The company also stressed that “collection of New Medical History occurred at each study visit and was mandatory for all study subjects. New Medical History includes the collection of non-serious adverse events.”

When I asked the EMA to expand on its confidential observations, I was told by email that the concerned inspectors had, after all, considered the trial data to be usable. The company had successfully mollified the agency during preapproval discussions. “The clarification from the applicant that collection of new medical history data was mandatory for all subjects, and did not appear to be passively collected, but for at each study visit [sic], was found to be reassuring,” the EMA informed me. “Therefore, it appeared that the safety surveillance in the studies captured all medically relevant events.” The agency did not comment on the limitations of relying on “new medical history” instead of straightforward reporting of adverse events.

Underreporting of adverse events, to the extent that it occurred here, is nothing new to medicine. Trial investigators often miss participants’ symptoms, researchers say, and the data they do collect may not always see the light of day. A review out in 2016 found “strong evidence that much of the information on adverse events remains unpublished and that the number and range of adverse events is higher in unpublished than in published versions of the same study.” In 2009, Dr. John Ioannidis of Stanford University put the problem succinctly in an Archives of Internal Medicine editorial titled “Adverse Events in Randomized Trials: Neglected, Restricted, Distorted, and Silenced.”

Much less clear is how adverse events are handled during the actual conduct of clinical trials, and what the impact is. Are symptoms recorded as separate entities when they are really part of a larger constellation of health problems? Do they appear as innocuous one-time occurrences when in fact they are, or may become, chronic? And how many safety problems are simply missed because of short follow-up?

* * *

Lyng’s was no isolated case: At least five other Danish women say they developed chronic health problems during the trial. Future 2, as it is known, enrolled more than 12,000 young women from 13 countries, including the U.S. It was the larger of the two major randomized, placebo-controlled Gardasil trials—technically known as pivotal trials—that Merck conducted to support its marketing application for the vaccine. (The other study, less than half the size, was called Future 1.) Together, the two trials account for a large portion of the data that drug regulators in both the U.S. and Europe used to judge Gardasil’s safety before it was approved.

At Aalborg University Hospital, one of the Future 2 trial sites in Denmark, Miam Donslund began to experience persistent flu-like symptoms as well as two infections, one of which required hospitalization, shortly after immunization. These incidents were recorded, but again only as new medical history, meaning they were not processed as adverse events.

Donslund, now 38, told me she became so tired during the trial that at one point she was accused of being a drug addict. The year after she was vaccinated, she developed severe pains that forced her to use a wheelchair for a while; today she regularly uses crutches. Doctors have told her she might have psoriatic arthritis, but she never received a definite diagnosis. More than a dozen years later, “I work two days a week and the rest of the time I’m at home in bed and I can’t do the most basic things,” she said.

Stine Sørensen, 34, got her first shot of Gardasil a few months after Lyng, also at Hvidovre Hospital. Around this time, she began to experience general discomfort, headaches, and a profound fatigue that often made her miss school. “My mom and dad asked me, ‘Stine, are you on drugs?’ And I clearly remember that I got so angry,” she told me. Sørensen, who is currently employed under a special agreement for people with chronic illness, says she told study personnel about her problems during the trial; her records mention none of them. (All three women received the vaccine in the trial.)

The trial investigator who dealt with both Lyng and Sørensen, Dr. Anette Kjærbye-Thygesen, an OB-GYN at Hvidovre, declined to be interviewed for this story. In an email, a hospital press officer told me, “Regarding registration of various symptoms and health data, the doctor states that she has followed the trial protocol.” The hospital also declined to address my questions.

Imagining a link between HPV vaccination and CFS is not all that far-fetched, according to Dr. Jose Montoya, a professor of medicine at Stanford University and a CFS expert. The condition usually starts with an insult to the immune system—a severe infection, a car crash, a pregnancy. The first symptoms are flu-like, but months go by and the patient realizes she isn’t getting better. In a few genetically predisposed individuals, Montoya told me, it is “biologically plausible” that the vaccine, which mimics a natural infection, could also trigger an immune response powerful enough to lead to CFS. To find out if that is the case, trial investigators would need to carefully track participants’ symptoms “for at least one year,” he said.

Montoya was also quick to tell me that he is “pro-vaccine,” and he doesn’t think people should stop getting them. His eagerness to make that point underscores a larger issue with unpacking the shortcomings of Merck’s research: Acknowledging any uncertainty around the safety of vaccination can be a difficult exercise for health authorities, not least because of the debunked autism scare that continues to stoke anti-vax sentiments among parents. In today’s polarized conversation, either you believe vaccines are categorically safe, or you think they are so dangerous that you avoid them at significant personal risk.

But this is a false dichotomy that belies the complexity of medicine. Safety is not an absolute. Like drugs, vaccines are a varied lot, each with its own set of risks and benefits that relate to its particular use in particular individuals. And unfortunately, our knowledge about side effects is often woefully incomplete. To Lemmens, the University of Toronto bioethicist, the reluctance to have a frank discussion about the safety of Gardasil is counterproductive. “We do a disservice to science, and we play into the hand of the anti-vaxxers, if we’re not publicly discussing potential problems,” he told me.

* * *

Before I sent them to her, Lyng had never seen her trial records, which are owned by Merck. As we looked through them together, on a balmy day in August, she grew visibly upset. “What’s the use of testing a vaccine if you don’t register everything properly?” said Lyng, a pale and reedy woman with light-blue eyes. “It had enormous consequences for my life.”

We were sitting outside the house that she and her husband had recently bought on the outskirts of a small town near Copenhagen. There are fields at the end of their street, and a school just opposite their house that the children now attend. Lyng had been fired from her job as a kitchen helper in late 2014, but her sickness benefits and her husband’s salary kept the family afloat. The extra time to herself and her CFS diagnosis also gave her some peace of mind. Over the years, she had been diagnosed with attention-deficit disorder, depression, even “soft” bipolar.
None of these diagnoses fully explained her problems, she felt. Why would she get sudden fevers and rashes that would disappear again just as suddenly? Why would her body hurt on some days and not others? Why would she need to rest for two weeks if she had volunteered to plan the menu for her church’s New Year’s Eve party? The diagnosis gave her at least one answer.

In Lyng’s records from Future 2, we discovered, there was no mention of fatigue, one of her most debilitating symptoms. Meanwhile, her family doctor began documenting the problem on March 20, 2003, nine days after she got her third and final shot of Gardasil. In 2004, after several lab tests and specialist consultations had come up empty, he noted that Lyng continued to have “periods of headache, fatigue, pain in large and small joints, poor concentration and sleep problems. Her mood is fluctuating. There has been no suspicion of depression.”

Lyng told me she brought up her symptoms with study personnel at every visit during the four-year trial. (Trial subjects met with investigators regularly over four years, but the later visits were meant to monitor the vaccine’s efficacy—in this case, whether it prevented HPV-linked cell changes.) She even told them her illness had forced her to quit school. But no one seemed to take her seriously: “They keep saying, ‘This is not the kind of side effects we see with this vaccine.’ ”

Kjærbye-Thygesen, the trial investigator who saw Lyng, and a staffer with the initials “BW,” presumably a nurse, did report the headache and the joint pain, and also gastroenteritis and influenza, but not as adverse events. Instead, they used the worksheet for medical history, which directed investigators to list “Any new background or concomitant conditions, drug allergies and surgeries/procedures.” A note in the records, initialed by Kjærbye-Thygesen, said the vaccine was “hardly” to blame for Lyng’s joint pains, offering no further explanation.

Despite the oxymoronic instruction to list new conditions as history, this was no mistake. Merck’s study protocol shows that for participants outside the U.S. and the U.K., who made up the majority of the trial, only adverse events that investigators considered serious were to be reported. Other health complaints would be registered in much less detail as new medical history. (In the U.S. and the U.K., both serious and nonserious events were reportable.)

In all the trial locations, Merck also chose to restrict the reporting of adverse events—what the study protocol calls the “clinical follow-up for safety”—to just 14 days following each of the three Gardasil injections in the trial. Illness occurring outside these narrow time slots again was relegated to a single line on the medical-history worksheet, whereas for each adverse event, several assessments would need to be carried out and reported. There was an exception: Deaths or serious adverse events brought to the investigator’s attention and felt to be related to the vaccine or a study procedure were to be reported at any time. This design put individual investigators in charge of deciding, for most of the trial’s duration, what would be assessed and reported as a potential side effect.

(Future 1 did report nonserious adverse events for all, but it relied on the same short follow-up as Future 2 and also labeled many adverse events as new medical history.)

Experts I talked to were baffled by the way Merck handled safety data in its trials. According to Dr. Yoon Loke, a professor at the University of East Anglia who studies side effects, letting investigators judge whether adverse events should be reported is “not a very safe method of doing things, because it allows bias to creep in.” In essence, this feature meant that if you started out thinking the vaccine was safe, you would be less likely to find potential side effects. Of the short follow-up, Loke told me, “It’s not going to pick up serious long-term issues, which is a pity. Presumably, the regulators believe that the vaccine is so safe that they don’t need to worry beyond 14 days.”

A drug-safety adviser at a multinational pharmaceutical company told me, “Everything from the first injection to the last plus a follow-up period is what we call treatment-emergent adverse events.” She puzzled over the brief, interrupted follow-up periods in the Gardasil trials, as well as Merck’s choice not to report nonserious adverse events for all participants and its dismissal of many events as medical history. “This is completely bonkers,” she said, requesting not to be named for fear of compromising her position in the industry. “They’ve set up a protocol that seems very poorly thought through from a medical and safety perspective.”

According to the EMA’s emailed statement, “The scope of adverse experience collection in the clinical program for Gardasil reflected the standard across vaccine programs of this company.” It added, “The standard follow-up for a non-replicating vaccine [such as Gardasil] has been 14 days (Days 1 to 15) following each vaccination.”

There are no rules dictating the exact duration of adverse-event reporting in vaccine trials. For some studies, it can be measured in days; for others, it runs from start to finish, with all events recorded the same way regardless of their possible link to the vaccine. Indeed, reviews from 2005 and 2013 found striking variation in how vaccine researchers collected, analyzed, and presented safety data. The field has since seen efforts toward standardization, and health authorities are increasingly recognizing that some side effects may occur late. In guidelines published this year, the World Health Organization noted that while most vaccine side effects occur within two weeks, there may be “reasons to suspect that illnesses with onset many months after the last dose could be related to prior vaccination.”

Lyng and I also read the definition of “serious adverse experience” on the worksheets that investigators had to fill out at each visit following a vaccination. It included events resulting in “persistent or significant disability/incapacity,” meaning a “substantial disruption of a person’s ability to conduct normal life functions.” On all the forms, the only checked box was the one that said “None.” Was this an error? Arguably not, because Lyng’s symptoms, as recorded by the study personnel, began three to four weeks after her second shot—outside the protocol’s mandatory follow-up for safety.

A press officer from the Danish Medicines Agency, which approved Future 2 in 2002, pointed out that Merck’s study protocol contained no mention of “new medical history” or “new medical conditions.” In an email, she wrote, “We are also not aware of whether this category has been used in other clinical trials with drugs, as these are not terms that are used according to guidelines.”

She added that there had been no concerns at her agency over the safety testing in Future 2. “The safety measurements complied with applicable guidelines for vaccines,” she told me, adding that the 14-day follow-up “is in accordance with EMA’s scientific guidelines for vaccines.”

* * *

It was a description of a 15-year-old Colombian girl with neurological problems that first caught the attention of Dr. Rebecca Chandler, an American expat working at Läkemedelsverket, the Swedish Medical Products Agency.

Sweden is an EMA rapporteur for Gardasil and Gardasil 9, meaning that it was tasked with evaluating the marketing applications for the two vaccines on behalf of the European Union. As a clinical safety assessor at Läkemedelsverket, Chandler had been looking into post-marketing reports from Denmark and Japan about two serious, little-known neurological disorders in girls and young women vaccinated with Gardasil. In both countries, these cases had ignited vitriolic national debates that sent vaccination rates plummeting. When the application for Gardasil 9 arrived, Chandler decided to scrutinize the trial data to see if she found any references to the two conditions, known as postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome (POTS) and complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS). The syndromes overlap to some extent, and also share a number of features with CFS.

At first, she found nothing—no instance of either disease was listed in the company’s application. But the Colombian teenager’s symptoms, as described in the clinical trial data, made her suspect POTS, and she asked the drugmaker to comb through its database for similar cases. Three girls vaccinated with Gardasil 9 had been diagnosed with POTS, it turned out, and one with CRPS. There were also several cases of neurological disorders “of interest,” Chandler wrote in her 2014 assessment. But none of them had been reported by the company as adverse events; rather, they were all labeled as new medical history in accordance with Merck’s study protocols.

Chandler, who now works at the Uppsala Monitoring Centre, a leading drug-safety research institution in Sweden, told me she “argued quite much” about her findings at the agency, “because I was very concerned that the study design was not appropriate to pick up these things.” Her regulatory colleagues apparently shared her apprehension, laying out their misgivings in a series of confidential EMA reports leading up to the approval of Gardasil 9. (I obtained these reports from Läkemedelsverket through several freedom-of-information requests.) One confidential EMA report from 2014 called Merck’s approach to safety “an unconventional and suboptimal study procedure”; another observed that the design “brings some degree of uncertainty into the overall safety assessment.”

Chandler found Merck’s data bolstered concerns about an association between the vaccine and POTS, but she was overridden by her agency colleagues. Later, a contested EMA review from 2015 and a U.S. study based on post-marketing data also found no support for a link.

Officials inspecting a Gardasil 9 trial for the EMA also felt compelled to spotlight how Merck dealt with safety, despite considering it “a systemic issue related to study design and as such not an inspection finding.” The unorthodox design “complicated” the reporting of adverse events, the inspectors wrote, in part because the information on “new medical events” was “limited, as only symptoms were collected and no further medical assessments were made and no outcome was recorded.”

In their final report recommending conditional approval of Gardasil 9, the EMA rapporteurs asked the drugmaker to “discuss the impact of [its] unconventional and potentially suboptimal method of reporting adverse events and provide reassurance on the overall completeness and accuracy of safety data provided in the application.” Läkemedelsverket refused to share the company’s response. In the EMA’s public assessment of Gardasil 9, all mention of the safety concerns has been scrubbed.

In response to my questions, the EMA pointed out that its experts, in a public assessment of the original Gardasil vaccine from 2006, found Merck’s way of evaluating safety “established and appropriate.” But the agency failed to explain how that opinion squares with its unpublicized reservations about the Gardasil 9 research, which handled safety essentially the same way.

Dr. Susanne Krüger Kjær, a professor of gynecological cancer epidemiology at the University of Copenhagen who oversaw the Danish part of Future 2, declined to address the safety concerns. “I can’t answer any of those questions because I didn’t design the trial,” she told me. She is one of the authors on the main scientific publication from the trial, which appeared in 2007 in the New England Journal of Medicine and contains no mention of new medical history.

In its statement, Merck said that using the “new medical history” category “allowed broad collection of potential safety events including new conditions, symptoms, and laboratory or imaging tests thereby allowing comprehensive safety assessment.” It cited a study from 2010 that analyzed new medical history and found “comparable” rates in trial participants given vaccine and placebo, respectively.

* * *

On a rainy day in September, I flew with Lyng to Berlin to visit Gerd Wallukat, a scientist at the biotech startup Berlin Cures. Wallukat, a heavyset man in his mid-70s, has pioneered research into a special class of autoantibodies—proteins made by the immune system that attack the body’s own cells instead of foreign invaders like viruses or bacteria. Researchers have been finding these “agonistic autoantibodies” in people with different diseases, including CFS, POTS, and CRPS, but their role is not fully understood. Berlin Cures is in the middle of early-stage trials to see if neutralizing them could have a therapeutic effect.

One of Lyng’s doctors in Denmark had been working with Wallukat to look for autoantibodies in girls and women who fell ill following Gardasil vaccination. Their preliminary, unpublished findings suggested that nearly all of these women harbor one or more agonistic autoantibodies, and Wallukat had offered to test Lyng, too. On the plane, she was nervous and chatty. She didn’t want to be sick, she explained, but it was taxing having to convince people around her—her caseworker, her family, even her husband—that she was physically sick while one test after another came up empty. She dreaded the thought of receiving yet another negative result.

She didn’t. “You have beta-2, nociceptin, muscarinic,” Wallukat told her, referring to three types of autoantibodies, “the classical pattern I’ve seen in patients after vaccination.” From a coffee shop, Lyng called her husband. “I’m completely overwhelmed. It’s the first time I’ve had a positive result,” she told him. “This means it’s not just in my head—all those doctors who’ve asked if it could be psychological.”

But Lyng’s positive test triggers more questions than it answers: What induced those autoantibodies, and how? Did they cause her symptoms, as her doctor speculated? And would neutralizing them bring about improvement, as Berlin Cures wagered? The test brought another piece to the puzzle that is Lyng’s case; but as so often happens in science, it did not bring certainty, and it proved nothing in the way of causality. Should it turn out that Gardasil does have serious side effects, it’s apparent that they must be rare. What’s more, the vaccine might still be worth that hypothetical risk—cervical cancer, though uncommon, is a terrible disease.

If there’s one clear lesson from Lyng’s experience, it’s that science is a work in progress. To borrow the words of the American psychologist Brian Nosek, “Science isn’t about truth and falsity, it’s about reducing uncertainty.” Not owning up to that uncertainty, when it is legitimate, likely will only slow scientific progress. In the controversial realm of vaccines, it will also create fodder for conspiracy theorists spreading overblown or unfounded fears among an already distrustful public.

One way to respond to public concerns is to acknowledge the limits of our current body of research and to welcome discussion about what we know and don’t know, according to Lemmens, the bioethicist.
“Transparency and open debate around side effects are essential to safeguard trust in the provision of medication and public-health planning,” he told me. Instead, as confidence in Gardasil nosedived in Denmark, regulators doubled down on the simplistic message that the vaccine has been thoroughly tested and is unquestionably safe.

At a press conference in May, Dr. Søren Brostrøm, the director general of the Danish Health Authority and an OB-GYN, told journalists that “for us, as authorities, there is no doubt about this vaccine’s efficacy and safety.” This seems to contradict the EMA’s own deliberations about the way Merck reported safety data in its trials. As Dr. Christian Gluud, who heads the Copenhagen Trial Unit, a research center at Copenhagen University Hospital, told me recently, “If we had tested our vaccines properly, we wouldn’t be having the discussion we’re having now.”

MADE SAFE Certified: Naturepedic Bedding

by admin @ organic mattress – Made Safe

The body does important rejuvenation, repair and detoxification work when resting. But if the environment you sleep in is toxic, you’re adding unnecessary work to the load limiting the body’s innate ability to preserve our health and prepare us for the new day ahead. Babies and children are particularly vulnerable to toxic chemicals in this […] Read more...

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Gift Guide: Parents of Little Ones

by admin @ organic mattress – Made Safe

As a team of women at Made Safe, the majority of whom are moms, we understand that every parent wants the safest, most effective products for their child. But knowing how to choose a safe gift can be hard. Do you have a new mom in your life? Or know parents of a little one? […] Read more...

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Why Are Conservatives More Susceptible to Believing Lies?

Why Are Conservatives More Susceptible to Believing Lies?

by John Ehrenreich @ Slate Articles

Many conservatives have a loose relationship with facts. The right-wing denial of what most people think of as accepted reality starts with political issues: As recently as 2016, 45 percent of Republicans still believed that the Affordable Care Act included “death panels” (it doesn’t). A 2015 poll found that 54 percent of GOP primary voters believed then-President Obama to be a Muslim (…he isn’t).

Then there are the false beliefs about generally accepted science. Only 25 percent of self-proclaimed Trump voters agree that climate change is caused by human activities. Only 43 percent of Republicans overall believe that humans have evolved over time.

And then it gets really crazy. Almost 1 in 6 Trump voters, while simultaneously viewing photographs of the crowds at the 2016 inauguration of Donald Trump and at the 2012 inauguration of Barack Obama , insisted that the former were larger. Sixty-six percent of self-described “very conservative” Americans seriously believe that “Muslims are covertly implementing Sharia law in American courts.” Forty-six percent of Trump voters polled just after the 2016 election either thought that Hillary Clinton was connected to a child sex trafficking ring run out of the basement of a pizzeria in Washington, D.C., or weren’t sure if it was true.

If “truth” is judged on the basis of Enlightenment ideas of reason and more or less objective “evidence,” many of the substantive positions common on the right seem to border on delusional. The left is certainly not immune to credulity (most commonly about the safety of vaccines, GMO foods, and fracking), but the right seems to specialize in it. “Misinformation is currently predominantly a pathology of the right,” concluded a team of scholars from the Harvard Kennedy School and Northeastern University at a February 2017 conference. A BuzzFeed analysis found that three main hyperconservative Facebook pages were roughly twice as likely as three leading ultraliberal Facebook pages to publish fake or misleading information.

Why are conservatives so susceptible to misinformation? The right wing’s disregard for facts and reasoning is not a matter of stupidity or lack of education. College-educated Republicans are actually more likely than less-educated Republicans to have believed that Barack Obama was a Muslim and that “death panels” were part of the ACA. And for political conservatives, but not for liberals, greater knowledge of science and math is associated with a greater likelihood of dismissing what almost all scientists believe about the human causation of global warming.

It’s also not just misinformation gained from too many hours listening to Fox News, either, because correcting the falsehoods doesn’t change their opinions. For example, nine months following the release of President Obama’s long-form birth certificate, the percentage of Republicans who believed that he was not American-born was actually higher than before the release. Similarly, during the 2012 presidential campaign, Democrats corrected their previous overestimates of the unemployment rate after the Bureau of Labor Statistics released the actual data. Republicans’ overestimated even more than before.

Part of the problem is widespread suspicion of facts—any facts. Both mistrust of scientists and other “experts” and mistrust of the mass media that reports what scientists and experts believe have increased among conservatives (but not among liberals) since the early ’80s. The mistrust has in part, at least, been deliberately inculcated. The fossil fuel industry publicizes studies to confuse the climate change debate; Big Pharma hides unfavorable information on drug safety and efficacy; and many schools in conservative areas teach students that evolution is “just a theory.” The public is understandably confused about both the findings and methods of science. “Fake news” deliberately created for political or economic gain and Donald Trump’s claims that media sites that disagree with him are “fake news” add to the mistrust.

But, the gullibility of many on the right seems to have deeper roots even than this. That may be because at the most basic level, conservatives and liberals seem to hold different beliefs about what constitutes “truth.” Finding facts and pursuing evidence and trusting science is part of liberal ideology itself. For many conservatives, faith and intuition and trust in revealed truth appear as equally valid sources of truth.

To understand how these differences manifest and what we might do about them, it helps to understand how all humans reason and rationalize: In other words, let’s take a detour into psychology. Freud distinguished between “errors” on the one hand, “illusions” and “delusions” on the other. Errors, he argued, simply reflect lack of knowledge or poor logic; Aristotle’s belief that vermin form out of dung was an error. But illusions and delusions are based on conscious or unconscious wishes; Columbus’s belief that he had found a new route to the Indies was a delusion based on his wish that he had done so.

Although Freud is out of favor with many contemporary psychologists, modern cognitive psychology suggests that he was on the right track. The tenacity of many of the right’s beliefs in the face of evidence, rational arguments, and common sense suggest that these beliefs are not merely alternate interpretations of facts but are instead illusions rooted in unconscious wishes. 

This is a very human thing to do. As popular writers such as Daniel Kahneman, Cass Sunstein, and Richard Thaler have pointed out, we often use shortcuts when we reason, shortcuts that enable us to make decisions quickly and with little expenditure of mental energy. But they also often lead us astray—we underestimate the risks of events that unfold slowly and whose consequences are felt only over the long term (think global warming) and overestimate the likelihood of events that unfold rapidly and have immediate consequences (think terrorist attacks).

Our reasoning is also influenced (motivated, psychologists would say) by our emotions and instincts. This manifests in all kinds of ways: We need to maintain a positive self-image, to stave off anxiety and guilt, and to preserve social relationships. We also seek to maintain consistency in our beliefs, meaning that when people simultaneously hold two or more contradictory beliefs, ideas, or values, one or the other must go. And so we pay more attention and give more credence to information and assertions that confirm what we already believe: Liberals enthusiastically recount even the most tenuous circumstantial evidence of Trump campaign collusion with the Russians, and dyed-in-the-wool Trump supporters happily believe that the crowd really was bigger at his candidate’s inauguration.

These limits to “objective” reasoning apply to everyone, of course—left and right. Why is it that conservatives have taken the lead in falling off the deep edge?

The answer, I think, lies in the interaction between reasoning processes and personality. It’s each person’s particular motivations and particular psychological makeup that affects how they search for information, what information they pay attention to, how they assess the accuracy and meaning of the information, what information they retain, and what conclusions they draw. But conservatives and liberals typically differ in their particular psychological makeups. And if you add up all of these particular differences, you get two groups that are systematically motivated to believe different things.

Psychologists have repeatedly reported that self-described conservatives tend to place a higher value than those to their left on deference to tradition and authority. They are more likely to value stability, conformity, and order, and have more difficulty tolerating novelty and ambiguity and uncertainty. They are more sensitive than liberals to information suggesting the possibility of danger than to information suggesting benefits. And they are more moralistic and more likely to repress unconscious drives towards unconventional sexuality.

Fairness and kindness place lower on the list of moral priorities for conservatives than for liberals. Conservatives show a stronger preference for higher status groups, are more accepting of inequality and injustice, and are less empathic (at least towards those outside their immediate family). As one Tea Party member told University of California sociologist Arlie Hochschild, “People think we are not good people if we don’t feel sorry for blacks and immigrants and Syrian refugees. But I am a good person and I don’t feel sorry for them.”

Baptist minister and former Republican congressman J.C. Watts put it succinctly. Campaigning for Sen. Rand Paul in Iowa in 2015 he observed, “The difference between Republicans and Democrats is that Republicans believe people are fundamentally bad, while Democrats see people as fundamentally good.”

These conservative traits lead directly to conservative views on many issues, just as liberal traits tend to lead to liberal views on many issues. But when you consider how these conservative traits and these conservative views interact with commonly shared patterns of motivated reasoning, it becomes clearer why conservatives may be more likely to run into errors in reasoning and into difficulty judging accurately what is true and what is false.

It’s not just that Trump is “their” president, so they want to defend him. Conservatives’ greater acceptance of hierarchy and trust in authority may lead to greater faith that what the president says must be true, even when the “facts” would seem to indicate otherwise. The New York Times cataloged no less than 117 clearly false statements proclaimed publicly by Trump in the first six months of his presidency, with no evident loss in his supporters’ faith in him. In the same way, greater faith in the legitimacy of the decisions of corporate CEOs may strengthen the tendency to deny evidence that there are any potential benefits from regulation of industry.

Similarly, greater valuation of stability, greater sensitivity to the possibility of danger, and greater difficulty tolerating difference and change lead to greater anxiety about social change and so support greater credulity with respect to lurid tales of the dangers posed by immigrants. And higher levels of repression and greater adherence to tradition and traditional sources of moral judgment increase the credibility of claims that gay marriage is a threat to the “traditional” family.

Conservatives are also less introspective, less attentive to their inner feelings, and less likely to override their “gut” reactions and engage in further reflection to find a correct answer. As a result, they may be more likely to rely on error-prone cognitive shortcuts, less aware of their own unconscious biases, and less likely to respond to factual corrections to previously held beliefs.

The differences in how conservatives and liberals process information are augmented by an asymmetry in group psychological processes. Yes, we all seek to keep our social environment stable and predictable. Beliefs that might threaten relationships with family, neighbors, and friends (e.g., for a fundamentalist evangelical to believe that humans are the result of Darwinian evolution or for a coal miner to believe that climate change is real and human-made) must be ignored or denied, at peril of disrupting the relationships. But among all Americans, the intensity of social networks has declined in recent years. Church attendance and union membership, participation in community organizations, and direct political involvement have flagged. Conservatives come disproportionately from rural areas and small towns, where social networks remain smaller, but denser and more homogeneous than in the big cities that liberals dominate. As a result, the opinions of family, friends, and community may be more potent in conservative hotbeds than in the more anonymous big cities where Democrats dominate.

The lack of shared reality between left and right in America today has contributed greatly to our current political polarization. Despite occasional left forays into reality denial, conservatives are far more likely to accept misinformation and outright lies. Deliberate campaigns of misinformation and conservative preferences for information that fits in with their pre-existing ideology provide only a partial explanation. Faulty reasoning and judgment, rooted in the interactions between modes of reasoning and judgment shared by all with the specific personality patterns found disproportionately among conservatives may also play a central role.

It’s Surprisingly Easy to Lose a Satellite, Even One Worth Millions

It’s Surprisingly Easy to Lose a Satellite, Even One Worth Millions

by Neel V. Patel @ Slate Articles

SpaceX and Northrop Grumman are not having a good week. On Sunday, SpaceX launched a secret military satellite called Zuma from Florida into orbit. But the satellite, built by Northrop Grumman and owned by the U.S. government for classified purposes, was nowhere to be seen once SpaceX’s rocket carried the payload into space. At this point, the one thing that is clear is that Zuma failed to make it to orbit.

SpaceX quickly denied blame, with company COO Gwynne Shotwell releasing a statement saying its flagship Falcon 9 rocket “did everything correctly on Sunday night.” This is supported by the fact that the payload adaptor that works to release the satellite into orbit was not provided by SpaceX (as is common for most of the company’s missions), but by Northrop Grumman.

So if the adaptor failed to release the payload, then the upper stage of the Falcon 9 rocket dragged the satellite back through Earth’s atmosphere unwittingly, and Northrop Grumman would be the party to blame for losing a government satellite reportedly worth as much as a billion. (For its part, the company has not publicly commented on the Zuma debacle, except to say: “This is a classified mission. We cannot comment on classified missions.”)

The mystery of who’s to blame makes for a nice bit of drama that’s often missing from the space industry, but the truth is that while the failure of this mission cannot be understated, it’s actually not really that surprising. And that really comes down to the fact that getting to space is hard.

There were 91 launch attempts in 2017, and six were failures. That’s not high, but it’s significant. Imagine booking a flight and knowing there was a 6.6 percent chance it might crash. You’d probably cancel your trip and go back to binge-watching The Crown.

And that’s because there’s an incomprehensibly long list of things that could go wrong during launch, which SpaceX is no stranger to after a Falcon 9 exploded in midflight in 2015 and a launch pad test in 2016 destroyed both a rocket and a half-billion dollar Facebook satellite. Both of those events are quick examples of how small anomalies or flaws can cascade into disastrous results. And that’s understandable, because the sheer nature of launching things into space is a literally explosive process.

In addition, this is far from the first time an expensive satellite has been lost. Russia, the country whose Sputnik 1 was the first satellite ever launched, lost contact with a $45 million satellite just last year, and that’s just the latest in a long string of launch failures to plague the country in recent years. Japan lost contact with a $250 million astronomy satellite a month after launch in 2016. Closer to home, the U.S. military lost contact with a reconnaissance satellite in 2006 shortly after launch and had to shoot it down two years later.

Sunday’s failure is going to hurt a lot more than those other losses, but perhaps it’s the high-profile development that might push the space industry forward in the long run. Rocket scientist and Mars Society founder Robert Zubrin told NBC News he compares the risks of spaceflight today to the risks of air travel in its infancy and that running more launches and missions will inevitably help teach all launch parties how to conduct safer space travel.

In addition, this might also be the incentive we need to push for more radical approaches to satellites. The advent of 3-D printing technology means we might soon just build our satellites directly in space and avoid the potential mess (and insane costs) that come with a rocket launch and payload deployment.

Nevertheless, the risks to any satellite will never fully go away.
Earth’s orbit will always be an unstable region for any object, thanks to continued atmospheric drag, solar wind, gravitational influences from outside Earth, the nuanced physics we still have a shaky grasp of. When it comes to space, there will always be a host of factors that can turn a routine mission into an aggravating setback.

Mom FAQ: Is it Safe to Reuse a Crib Mattress?

Mom FAQ: Is it Safe to Reuse a Crib Mattress?


Is it safe to reuse a crib mattress? Find out what the risks and concerns are of using a hand-me-down or used crib mattress in your nursery.

Mattress Sales: The Best Reviews on Sale Priced Mattresses and Memory Foam Mattress Sales

by Sleep Junkie @ Sleep Junkie

Are you looking for the best online mattress sales, including those on memory foam? Depending on the time of year, there are some incredible deals offered by various manufacturers that should help you narrow down your choices. If you plan on taking advantage of mattress deal prices, it’s also important to consider the overall value […]

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Pure Grow Wool – Raising the Baaaa-r

by Mariah Bankemper @ SleepLily

Pure Grow wool is SleepLily’s favorite fiber. It is completely natural, non-toxic, and cruelty-free. What’s so great about Pure Grow Wool? Wool can do incredible things, which is why Pure Grow wool is featured in our non-toxic mattresses. Wool has been used all over the world for centuries because of it’s incredible properties. Here are 3 of the... Read more »

The post Pure Grow Wool – Raising the Baaaa-r appeared first on SleepLily.

Denver Mattress partnership providing safe drinking water | World Vision

Denver Mattress partnership providing safe drinking water | World Vision


A mattress from Denver Mattress means more than a night’s sleep — it means lifesaving water for families through a unique partnership with World Vision.

Can a Pregnant Woman Sleep on an Air Mattress? | Safe Birth Project

Can a Pregnant Woman Sleep on an Air Mattress? | Safe Birth Project

Safe Birth Project

Learn how to get your best sleep while pregnant. Is a pregnancy air mattress safe to sleep on? What about belly or back sleeping, or taking sleep aids?

Did Ryan Zinke Give Florida an Offshore Drilling Exemption Because of Mar-a-Lago?

Did Ryan Zinke Give Florida an Offshore Drilling Exemption Because of Mar-a-Lago?

by Neel V. Patel @ Slate Articles

The Trump administration announced plans last week to lift Obama-era prohibitions on offshore drilling, potentially opening up thousands of miles of coastline to companies interested in extracting oil and natural gas from the ocean floor. Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke, whose department oversees and regulates coastline leasing, called the five-year plan “a new path for energy dominance in America,” which is a strange way to refer to an investment in nonrenewable resources with a finite future.

Environmental groups, Democrats, and even some Republicans swiftly decried the move for its potential to devastate marine ecosystems and the health and safety of coastal communities. Governors from New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, California, Oregon, and Washington all oppose offshore drilling, and all requested exclusion from the plan last year.

Interestingly, Zinke decided to remove one state from the new standard—one that didn’t even originally ask for an exemption. But after the announcement, Florida Gov. Rick Scott, an ally of the Trump administration’s, released a statement saying, “I have asked to immediately meet with Secretary Zinke to discuss the concerns I have with this plan and the crucial need to remove Florida from consideration. My top priority is to ensure that Florida’s natural resources are protected.”

On Tuesday, Zinke granted him his wish, exempting Florida’s coastlines from offshore drilling. Zinke released a statement that called Scott “a straightforward leader that can be trusted,” and declared support for “the governor’s position that Florida is unique and its coasts are heavily reliant on tourism as an economic driver.”

The problem with this explanation, though, is that everything he says to justify Florida’s exemption applies to every other coastal state. Florida is certainly special in uniquely Floridian ways, but warm beaches that attract tourists and generate in-state revenue are everywhere. There’s the Jersey Shore; Rehoboth Beach in Delaware; Charleston, South Carolina; the Outer Banks in North Carolina; Virginia Beach; Los Angeles and San Diego, and on and on and on.

Now, state leaders are forcing Zinke into a corner with his own words.

Even New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, another Trump ally, made it clear he wanted an exemption for his state as well.

What could be going on here? Perhaps this is a case of not-in-my-backyard exceptionalism. After all, Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort, where he’s absconded to 10 times since inauguration, sits on the beach in Palm Beach, Florida. Would he want to deal with an unsightly view and accompanying cacophony of an offshore drill platform? Probably not! Not to mention the fact that offshore drilling produces a pretty disgusting slew of pollutants, including muds, brine wastes, and runoff water that threaten to decimate the pristine beauty you’d expect at a beachside home.

If Zinke can’t find a real reason Florida should be exempt and other states should not, the entire plan might be dead in the water anyway. Good riddance.

Flame Retardant Mattresses – FAQ

by exampleuser @ SleepLily

Flame Retardant Mattresses – Your questions, answered. Having a fire in the home is a nightmare scenario. In 2015 alone, there were 365,500 house fires an estimated $7 billion dollars in direct property damage. Don’t forget about the destructive emotional cost that comes from having your home and sense of security destroyed by flames. Thankfully,... Read more »

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Hypoxic Ischemic Encephalopathy: Was it a Doctor’s Fault?

by Amber Krosel @ Safe Birth Project

Hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy, or HIE, is a serious problem at birth. In fact, it is one of the scariest injuries that happens to full-term infants. A staggering 40-60% of infants with HIE die before they turn 2 years old or they become severely disabled. Shockingly, there are fewer babies who survive from HIE than there […]

The post Hypoxic Ischemic Encephalopathy: Was it a Doctor’s Fault? appeared first on Safe Birth Project.

How to Listen to and Support Victims of Sexual Trauma

How to Listen to and Support Victims of Sexual Trauma

by Jonathan Foiles @ Slate Articles

Before Sigmund Freud founded psychoanalysis, he was a neurologist whose growing interest in psychiatry led him to study hysteria. “Hysteria” was a catch-all term for a number of symptoms, both physical and mental, believed to only affect women; the term itself derives from the Greek word for uterus. Women who were diagnosed with hysteria tended to faint, have trouble breathing, developed physical maladies with no organic cause, lost all interest in food or sex, were nervous, and were generally considered to be troublemakers. Hysteria had been an object of fascination since ancient Greece, and of the variety of treatments proposed to treat it, most failed to help.

Hypnosis was the treatment of choice in Freud’s day, but he soon deviated from that trend to develop his own method. Freud was one of the first practitioners to actually listen to patients with hysteria, and as he developed his “talking cure,” he was struck by the pervasiveness of childhood sexual trauma in his patients’ histories. In The Aetiology of Hysteria (1896), he proposed that “at the bottom of every case of hysteria there are one or more occurrences of premature sexual experience.” This was an explosive assertion, and Freud soon began to backpedal. If his patients were to be believed, rape, molestation, and incest were not uncommon occurrences but instead happened at a depressing frequency. Freud found this to be unbelievable, so he slowly began to shift these reports of premature sexual experience to the realm of fantasy, giving birth to the Oedipus and Electra complexes and so forth.

The history of the psychological treatment of trauma is strewn with such false starts and missteps. When soldiers in World War I began to exhibit unfamiliar psychological symptoms, doctors initially believed they resulted from the concussive impact of exploding shells, hence “shell shock.” When this theory was disproven, those afflicted were seen as “moral invalids” not capable of handling the rigors of warfare. When the same phenomenon was observed in World War II, the military developed procedures to rapidly stabilize impacted soldiers and returned them to the front as quickly as possible. According to one report, 80 percent of American soldiers experiencing acute stress were returned to the front lines within a week, 30 percent of those to active combat units. It wasn’t until Vietnam that things began to change, and that was only because the Vietnam War went on for so long that veterans were able to return and talk about the horrors they had witnessed while the conflict was still ongoing, causing a public reckoning. At the same time, feminists were bringing to light the pervasiveness of sexual violence and reframing rape as a crime of power rather than of misdirected passion. It was these parallel efforts that actually spurred the creation of the diagnosis of post-traumatic stress disorder, which was added to the third edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders in 1980.

These stories help illustrate the depth of a problem most people understand through their own lived experience: Trauma is uncomfortable to confront. Indeed, for most of human history we’ve done all we could to avoid it. Unfortunately, even after these misfires, mental health professionals like myself still haven’t quite corrected the problem. My graduate program in social work, for example, offered one class on the treatment of trauma, capped to only a handful of students. The DSM-V diagnosis of post-traumatic stress disorder remains flawed: The symptoms of PTSD better match an individual who experienced one traumatic incident rather than someone who has endured multiple traumatic events, and the number of criteria required to merit the diagnosis far exceeds that of most other mental disorders.

From time to time, events arise that force us to reconsider this legacy. The revelations of Harvey Weinstein’s years of unchecked predatory behavior is one of those times. Indeed, it has opened the floodgates to reveal a myriad of other such stories. It’s common to observe a snowball effect in the disclosure of trauma. The multiple disclosures made by Weinstein’s victims coupled with the fact that their accusations brought about some form of justice enabled others to come forward, and as the #MeToo phenomenon has demonstrated, this is not limited to celebrities.

It is in the face of such suffering that we are often most tempted to look away. Of course, this sort of intentional ignorance is precisely what enables predators to continue their abuse. As Judith Herman notes in Trauma and Recovery, “It is very tempting to take the side of the perpetrator. All the perpetrator asks is that the bystander do nothing.” Most of us can agree that we do not want to do this. We know that the prevalence rate of false reports of sexual assault is low. It’s actually extremely low, at about 2 percent. It’s far more common for sexual violence to simply go undisclosed; only about a third of all rapes are reported, and of those, only 2 percent result in a conviction.

So what should we do? It is easy to feel overwhelmed by the number of stories. Given the unfortunate prevalence of sexual trauma, most of us know several survivors. I suggest that we start by simply choosing to believe all survivors. As someone who works with trauma survivors daily, I cannot count the number of patients who were retraumatized when someone near them disbelieved their disclosure. Those who have not yet shared their private pain may very well be looking for an ally, and they will be watching how we speak about survivors of sexual assault to determine whether or not it is safe to open up.

If someone chooses to open up, just listen. If they get overwhelmed, take a break. It is human to want to try to make it better, whether that’s by trying to problem-solve the situation or relativize their pain (“well, at least he didn’t …”). Avoid these urges at all costs. It is enough to be present and to offer the occasional “I’m so sorry that happened to you.” Thank them for sharing their story with you. Suggest that they find a therapist, and if they are nervous or unsure, offer to accompany them to their first appointment.

Freud abandoned his initial findings regarding trauma because they were simply too much for him to bear. In later years, trauma survivors would be made to bear the blame of what happened to them, if their claims were believed at all. Society has made some progress since those times, but the temptation to look away remains. The Harvey Weinsteins and Louis C.K.s of the world depend upon us doing just that. We can do better—indeed, we know we must do better. The easiest place to start is by listening.

Is GreenPan Non-Stick Cookware Safe?

by Irina Webb @ I Read Labels For You

Many of you have asked me about the safety of GreenPan non-stick cookware, so I looked into it.  One of my blog readers emailed me a GreenPan non-stick cookware test report that she had received from GreenPan, and I contacted … Continued

The post Is GreenPan Non-Stick Cookware Safe? appeared first on I Read Labels For You.

How to Keep Your Sleeping Baby Safe: AAP Policy Explained

How to Keep Your Sleeping Baby Safe: AAP Policy Explained

In an effort to reduce the risk of all sleep-related infant deaths, the AAP updated policy statement and technical report includes new evidence that supports skin-to-skin care for newborn infants; addresses the use of bedside and in-bed sleepers; and adds to recommendations on how to create a safe sleep environment.

A Begrudging Defense of Dog Clothes

A Begrudging Defense of Dog Clothes

by Eleanor Cummins @ Slate Articles

Walking through New York City in December is an unparalleled sensory experience—holiday lights, patches of yellow snow, pop-up Christmas tree stands. This week, walking uptown, I eyed a broad-chested pit bull; he was wearing a scarf. Muscles rippling, he confidently navigated the patches of ice before him, evidently unaware of the ridiculous fringed, gray garment his owner had wrapped around his neck. On that same block, I’ve seen dogs decked out in glossy down jackets, yellow fisherman’s rain jackets with matching booties, and even cowl-neck cardigans.

Clearly, these particular choices were influenced by aesthetics and made possible by disposable income, but many dog owners argue that these clothing items aren’t just fun—they’re paramount to their pets’ health. This is strange to consider, given we’re talking about an animal. Unless they spontaneously grew thumbs, dogs could never make clothing on their own, so how could it be essential? It’s even weirder when you remember dogs are descended from the mighty wolf, which can withstand an enormous range in temperature, thriving in arctic conditions as low as -70 degrees and in the desert, enduring weather as high as 120 degrees Fahrenheit. It’s hard to imagine, say, the direwolves in Game of Thrones ever trouncing around in medically necessary suits.

Hard to imagine, sure. But to scientifically investigate the answer to this question, let’s remember that somewhere between 10,000 and 30,000 years ago, humans domesticated the wild wolf, probably by paying them for their loyalty with scraps of food. Over time, wolves became softer creatures—and eventually man’s best friend. But it came at an enormous cost: Those strong, resilient proto-pups evolved, by the power of human selection, into the cute, cuddly, and relatively wimpy things they are today. After millennia of manipulation, that one wolf has been transformed into more than 300 distinct dog breeds. Some, like the dignified Siberian husky or the lovable Samoyed still thrive in cold environments, thanks to their thick, plentiful fur. But others, like Chinese cresteds, are basically naked, having likely been bred from the African hairless dog into the even more fragile and strangely coiffed creatures we know today. Even those dogs that sit (good boy!) in the middle struggle to endue extremes; their short- or medium-length coats are perfectly suited for the more middling climates their owners put them in.

Though dogs are widely varied in their appearance, their body temperature is strikingly similar: The American Kennel Club says dogs range from 101 to 102.5 degrees Fahrenheit. Of course, keeping a Siberian husky and a Chinese crested in that small sweet spot just of slightly more than 100 degrees is hard. Unless you still live in the Arctic Circle, huskies need little things like extra water and bigger things like air conditioning to get them through the summer. Conversely, Chinese cresteds likely wouldn’t survive a winter in the wild. Most dogs should be safe in temperatures above freezing, at least for the duration of a short walk. But, in temperatures below 32 degrees Fahrenheit, things get a little riskier. Huskies may still feel fine, but a small or thinly coated dog could potentially get hypothermia or frostbite, especially if they get wet or spend hours out in the cold. While most dogs are probably OK for a short wintertime walk, the situation is serious enough that experts really do recommend bundling up certain pups before taking them out in that winter wonderland.

Certain breeds clearly could benefit from a well-wrapped scarf or, if you must, a merino wool doggy cardigan. And even though watching the descendant of a woodland wolf walk around with a plastic barrier between his paws and the sidewalk is painful, doggie boots have a purpose too. In cities that salt their roads and sidewalks in the winter, it’s actually important: Road melt chemicals in industrial salts can be toxic to dogs and can also dry out or burn their paws. If you live in a city that uses this kind of salt, it’s possible that your dog will go home to groom, only to ingest the potentially dangerous salts stuck to their body as they clean. It doesn’t guarantee illness, but it’s a risk many dog owners don’t want to take.

I’m still skeptical of many dogs’ fancy cold weather wear, but I have to admit that the evidence supports cautious dog owners in their decision to shield man’s more delicate sidekicks from the ravages of winter. Still, looking at the dogs of New York City, I can’t help but consider what we’ve done to these creatures. Before humans bred them into strange shapes and sizes and stuffed them in tiny outfits, dogs were independent, self-sufficient, and even fearsome creatures. Now, they’re just fashionable furballs.

Find the Best Labor Day Mattress Sale in 2017 from Sears, Macys & More

by Sleep Junkie @ Sleep Junkie

See what major retailers have in store for Labor Day mattress sale events… This summer holiday seems synonymous with the end of summer, barbecues and a lazy three-day weekend, but as it marks changing seasons it also brings big deals in retail, including Labor Day mattress sale events. As one of the biggest shopping holidays […]

The post Find the Best Labor Day Mattress Sale in 2017 from Sears, Macys & More appeared first on Sleep Junkie.

The Wait Can Kill You

The Wait Can Kill You

by Chavi Eve Karkowsky @ Slate Articles

Jane Doe, the 17-year-old girl held in federal custody, underwent her termination of pregnancy on Wednesday, at approximately 16 weeks of gestation, four weeks after requesting the procedure. Four weeks is 28 days—less than a full calendar month, but as long as one cycle of the moon, at least one and maybe two paychecks. But in the end, she received the procedure; she got what she chose and what she needed.

But that delay mattered, because when it comes to abortion, timing is everything. Time is blood loss. Time is risk. Time is danger.

The easiest way to understand this is to discuss surgical complexity. A termination procedure prior to 10 weeks is simple and common. It can be performed via a medical abortion, using pills, and can be safely recommended. Many patients can have their terminations done in the office, without special machinery, without an operating room.

A termination at 12 weeks is still a simple procedure, involving a dilation and curettage, which almost any qualified OB-GYN provider can do. It is over in less than 20 minutes.

A termination performed after approximately 14 weeks becomes a more complicated surgery. Sometime around this gestational age, the cervix—the opening to the uterus—needs to be dilated more than can safely be accomplished in the operating room on the day of procedure. The cervix needs to prepared, either with medications or with dilators placed the day prior to the procedure. The most common dilators are osmotic ones; they are placed during a speculum exam and left in the cervix, where they absorb moisture and expand over 12 to 24 hours. This dilates the cervix, and it often creates some cramping. The dilators are removed immediately prior to the termination of pregnancy the next day. Even with the best medical care, pain medications, and moral support, none of this is pleasant.

A termination performed even later—sometimes 17 weeks, sometimes 18 weeks, sometimes 20 weeks—needs two days of dilation. So the patient, here a 17-year-old, might get dilators placed on a Wednesday and go home. She would return on a Thursday, have those dilators removed and new ones placed, and go home. She would then return, finally, on a Friday, with nothing to eat before her operating-room time. Finally, 48 hours after she started, she would undergo her procedure.

That’s one of the differences a month can make.

Here’s another difference a month can make: Study after study has shown that termination of pregnancy is, overall, an extremely safe procedure. (Please note, ideally before you comment, that termination of pregnancy is, at every gestational age, safer than continuation of pregnancy. Continuing a pregnancy and delivering a baby is one of the riskiest things a young woman can do in this country of high and rising maternal mortality rates.) But the risks attendant to the surgical procedure of abortion dramatically increase with gestational age. Again, time is risk. For example, in one study looking at the overall risk of death from abortion, the overall risk was very low—0.7 deaths per 100,000 legal induced abortions. But the risk of death from termination of pregnancy increased exponentially—by 38 percent—for each additional week of gestation. Women who have abortions at 13 to 15 weeks are almost 15 times more likely to die of abortion-related causes than women who undergo one before eight weeks; women who undergo one at 16 to 20 weeks are 30 times as likely to die. In this damning study, the authors point out that “up to 87 percent of deaths in women who chose to terminate their pregnancies after 8 weeks of gestation may have been avoidable if these women had accessed abortion services before 8 weeks of gestation.” The finding that increasing gestational age equals increased risks of all kinds in pregnancy termination has been consistently found through many studies.

This tactic of delay isn’t just Jane Doe’s problem. All around this country, anti-abortion groups are working to make abortion take longer. They may not be able to outlaw it, but they make it harder—they make it more onerous, and they make it happen later. And that costs a patient a week, two weeks, a month. But what it really costs her is pain, and safety, and maybe sometimes more. Those tactics mean that sometimes the abortion is prevented, and that’s the goal of the anti-abortion groups. But sometimes those tactics mean that the abortion does happen, but is more uncomfortable, more extensive, and less safe. These tactics are very comfortable offering as casualties a woman’s pain, and her risks, and her body.

That’s the month Jane Doe just went through. None of us can imagine what Jane Doe’s extra month of waiting cost her, emotionally or financially or legally. But medically, this month had consequences. That month of delay tactics meant that her body was placed in more danger and more pain than it needed to be, just as those delay tactics do the same to women everywhere around this country every day. That month mattered to her, and to all of them, and maybe to you.

Rest easy, Spain: Your money's safe in a mattress safe

Rest easy, Spain: Your money's safe in a mattress safe

The Christian Science Monitor

With a debt crisis still stalking Europe, a Spanish entrepreneur has a new idea to protect your euros: a mattress with a safe inside.

Mattress Safe CWU-6077.5(W) RV Ultimate Mattress Encasement - Queen

Mattress Safe CWU-6077.5(W) RV Ultimate Mattress Encasement - Queen

The Mattress Safe RV Ultimate Mattress Encasement - Queen is a great choice, if you need a cover to protect your bedding. Shop today for a wide selection at RV Upgrades.

Toxic Chemicals in Hair Dye and Safer Options

by admin @ Made Safe

  The Problem Conventional hair dye is made with harmful chemicals that are put directly on the scalp each time hair is dyed, either at home or in the salon. Salon workers are even more exposed to these chemicals – potentially to carcinogenic levels of harm – as they may perform multiple hair dying sessions […] Read more...

The post Toxic Chemicals in Hair Dye and Safer Options appeared first on Made Safe.

Leesa vs Lull Mattress- What You Need To Know

by Frank Apodaca @ The Sleep Judge

Infant Spina Bifida: What You Need to Know

by Amber Krosel @ Safe Birth Project

Unless you’re pregnant or perhaps a fan of the hit PBS series “Call the Midwife,” you may not know what spina bifida is or looks like. Many haven’t seen it in person — just through pictures or TV shows and documentaries. However, if you find out your child has infant spina bifida at birth, you can […]

The post Infant Spina Bifida: What You Need to Know appeared first on Safe Birth Project.

Hey T.J. Maxx, We Want Safer Products

Hey T.J. Maxx, We Want Safer Products

by Lori @ Groovy Green Living

As many of you know, I’ve been working with Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families for many years on their Mind the Store Campaign. This is a national effort to protect families from toxic chemicals. I’ve visited Walgreens, Costco and devoted plenty of blog posts to this campaign. I’m often asked why I take the time to...

Read More

Nontoxic New Year’s Resolutions

by admin @ Made Safe

Each of us is in a different place in our nontoxic living journey. Some of us are just starting to think about the ways in which we are exposed to toxics every day. Some are making small and gradual changes. And others have completely overhauled our lives, but are hungry for more. This New Year’s, […] Read more...

The post Nontoxic New Year’s Resolutions appeared first on Made Safe.

11 Best Natural, Eco Friendly & Organic Mattresses You Can Buy Online

11 Best Natural, Eco Friendly & Organic Mattresses You Can Buy Online

The Good Trade

A good night’s sleep shouldn’t be elusive. Studies show that we spend nearly a third of our lives sleeping, and yet the average mattress contains a cocktail of toxic chemicals and flame retardants that can lead to long term diseases, skin irritations and respiratory problems. Comfort and quality are

Choosing a Safe Mattress for Your Baby's Crib

Choosing a Safe Mattress for Your Baby's Crib


During the first few years of their lives, infants can spend most of their time sleeping or crawling in the crib. Choosing children’s products that are good for air quality in the baby’s room can be a difficult task.

Best 12 Inch Memory Foam Mattress

by Taylor Jones @ The Drömma Bed

One of the best investments you can make for your health and mental wellbeing is a quality mattress. A comfortable, supportive bed will let you fall asleep quickly and rest deeply. If you’ve suffered for years under old-fashioned box-spring mattresses, it’s time to make the upgrade to memory foam. Memory foam is structured to conform to your body’s natural contours, supporting your spine in neutral alignment. This lets you rest securely, with nothing poking at you or shifting your body into a strange position. You’ll wake up refreshed and comfortable. However, to take full advantage of this material, you’ll first […]

The post Best 12 Inch Memory Foam Mattress appeared first on The Drömma Bed.

New: MADE SAFE Certified Fragrance-Free Products + Your Fragrance Questions Answered

by admin @ Made Safe

We know that while lots of people like to find safer scents, there are just as many people who are sensitive to fragrance or would like to avoid it altogether. Which is why we’re excited to release this list of certified fragrance-free products! Fragrance is a tricky thing. Companies are legally allowed to keep fragrance […] Read more...

The post New: MADE SAFE Certified Fragrance-Free Products + Your Fragrance Questions Answered appeared first on Made Safe.

Is it Safe to Reuse a Crib Mattress?

Is it Safe to Reuse a Crib Mattress?


There's no doubt about it: having a baby is expensive. After buying a stroller, crib, clothing, feeding supplies, diapers and other essentials, your wallet can quickly empty out. It's natural to begin looking for ways to save money on all the items you need for baby, and one way is by buying used items. While some used items are good news for your...

Four Charleston firehouses infested by bed bugs

by nobugsonme @

The following post Four Charleston firehouses infested by bed bugs appeared first on

Three Four Charleston, South Carolina firehouses have been infested with bed bugs– these include stations 7, 13 and 20 [as well as number 19 per the update below], as News 2 reports: Due to employee concerns about the residual effects of the pesticides used, the department’s health and safety officer researched and located a mitigation effort that uses high […]

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Life Expectancy Is Down, Again, Thanks to Opioids

Life Expectancy Is Down, Again, Thanks to Opioids

by Zachary Siegel @ Slate Articles

America is one of the wealthiest countries on the planet, and for the second year in a row, our life expectancy has dropped. The drop was small—just 1.2 months, the same as last year’s—and in the context of the past several decades, appears as more of a stall on an otherwise steadily growing trend line. What’s the cause? A new report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Health Statistics pins the blame on the unrelenting rise in opioid overdoses.

Fatal drug overdoses spiked to more than 63,000 in 2016, up from 52,400 in 2015. The vast majority of overdoses—42,200 of them, or 120 a day—are opioid-related. The most alarming jump, and nearly all of the increase, came from a doubling in the category of synthetic opioids, largely driven by illicitly manufactured fentanyl, said to be 50 times more potent than heroin. If you’re east of the Mississippi, it’s increasingly hard to find heroin that isn’t contaminated with fentanyl.

One bit of good news is that deaths from prescription opioids like oxycodone and hydrocodone appear to be plateauing, after rising at a pace of 13 percent annually from 1999 to 2009 (this year it increased by just 3 percent). This decline is perhaps attributable to the fact that faced with a ballooning problem, public health officials have deliberately cut back on opioid prescriptions. Most addictions linked to these pills are likely due to easy access rather than the prescription recipients becoming addicted, but it’s promising to see the trend start to slow down. (It’s also worth acknowledging that the crackdown has had unintended side effects for chronic pain patients.)

Overall though, we’re not doing nearly enough to combat the opioid crisis. The president, for example, would like to solve it by simply getting more people to say no to drugs. In reality, it requires much more robust and complex solutions. On the harm-reduction side, America still has zero operational safe consumption sites, which provide a sterile and medically supervised space for drug users to inject their drugs. (No one has ever died inside one of these spaces, which do exist outside of the U.S.) Naloxone, the only antidote that reverses opioid overdoses, is priced out of reach for many communities to widely distribute it. Local communities are fighting tooth-and-nail to distribute sterile syringes, a public health intervention proven to reduce the transmission of HIV, Hepatitis C, and other bloodborne diseases.

We’re also failing to provide better treatment for people struggling with addiction. When Trump declared the opioid epidemic a public health emergency, he freed up a measly $57,000 in funds—less than $1 per fatal overdose victim. Medication treatments like buprenorphine and methadone—the only FDA-approved drugs proven to cut the risk of fatal overdoses by more than half—remain unused by the majority of addiction treatment providers. Meanwhile, Republicans are doing their utmost to roll back health care and undermine access to mental health care treatment, an important piece of the puzzle for opioid users.

The decrease in lifespan may be the result of one specific, vulnerable slice of the population dying far too young. But it is all of our concern, and right now we are falling down on the job.

Waterbed Terminology Explained: Simple Word Guidance for You

by Douglas Belleville @ STLBeds

Many people decide to ditch their mattress and box spring to return to a waterbed for its natural comfort and contouring to your body. This may seem like an easy task; however, the market has evolved to include many new items. Learning the waterbed terminology will help you to make decisions on a new waterbed.…

Find the Best Mattress for Hip Pain

by Sleep Junkie @ Sleep Junkie

Learn about reducing pressure points and how to find the best mattress for hip pain. Are you looking for a good mattress for hip pain? It can be hard to find the information you need to find the right mattress for your body. Here are some pointers to get you on the proper mattress and […]

The post Find the Best Mattress for Hip Pain appeared first on Sleep Junkie.

Choosing the Best Mattress for Your Sleep Style: Side, Back & Stomach

by sherwood @ Sherwood Bedding

Most sleepers prefer a particular sleep style or position, and usually start out in when you lie down to go to sleep at night. Some of us are back sleepers,...

The post Choosing the Best Mattress for Your Sleep Style: Side, Back & Stomach appeared first on Sherwood Bedding.

We’re Letting Meals on Wheels, One of Our Best Senior Programs, Slowly Wither and Die

We’re Letting Meals on Wheels, One of Our Best Senior Programs, Slowly Wither and Die

by Nathan Kohrman @ Slate Articles

Five times a week for nearly 20 years, Meals on Wheels program coordinator Leisa Cotten would bring warm meals to the immobile and elderly of Cochise County, in the rural southeast corner of Arizona. But for the past decade, she’s had to switch it up. Now she delivers frozen meals, five at a time, once a week. “I haven’t seen you in a while” says Mark, one of Cotten’s clients (and whose name we have changed here), as she walks into his trailer. “Cutbacks,” Cotten replies, rearranging his freezer to fit the five white microwavable trays into the top row. “You coming back next week?” he asks. “I should be,” Cotten says.

In 2011, the first cohort of the 75 million baby boomers turned 65. Over the next 18 years, they will continue to age, and the country’s population pyramid will grow increasingly vase-shaped. Caring for the tens of millions of boomers is a demographic challenge without precedent in the United States. Meals on Wheels, among the most iconic and popular social programs in America, should be gearing up to deal with the impending increase in demand. But instead, the program faces funding shortfalls and service cutbacks. This year, its programs served 23 million fewer meals than in 2005. One estimate shows that less than a fifth of eligible seniors can actually avail themselves of home-delivered meals because of limited resources. Today, Cotten has a single assistant to help her serve a county larger than Connecticut. In 1987, she oversaw a staff of 36 that served thousands of meals a year. And her program isn’t the only one—today, Meals on Wheels programs around the country are withering just as Americans need them more and more.

Few anti-poverty programs have the virtuous sheen and cultural cache of Meals on Wheels. The home-delivered meal service, which in various iterations has fed millions of frail seniors over seven decades, enjoys a singular spot in the imagination of would-be American altruists, a hybrid of soup-kitchen ladling and escorting veterans across streets. Public figures (and Fight Club anti-heroines) avail themselves of the glow. Politicians constantly include Meals on Wheels in press flyers, and in March, Colin Kaepernick donated $50,000 to Meals on Wheels America—a charitable rebuke to those critical of his civil rights activism.

MOWA is the umbrella organization that oversees and advocates for the thousands of individual Meals on Wheels chapters, which are run by local service organizations, like Catholic Community Services, in Cotten’s case. In aggregate, chapters receive a third of their funding from a provision of the Older Americans Act signed into law by President Nixon in 1972, and the rest comes from state and local governments, corporate donations, and individual donations. MOWA prides itself on facilitating a “successful public-private partnership.” (Some programs, like Cotten’s, do not officially affiliate with MOWA but still benefit from their advocacy and receive federal funding.)

Advocates claim that the services Meals on Wheels chapters provide are multipotent: Home visitors bring not just food to frail seniors but also offer companionship and referrals to social services. The deliveries also encourage clients to perform “activities of daily living” like housework and dressing themselves as they prepare for guests. “We’re required to observe everything: their verbal and visual ability, emotional health, their skin color,” Cotten said. “If we notice anything—if they’re unstable walking—we call a case manager. If it’s critical, we call 911.” Ninety percent of seniors on the program say that Meals on Wheels “makes them feel more safe and secure.

But virtue and a sense of safety aren’t enough to pay for lunch. Broadly speaking, we underfund social programs for the elderly. Less than 2 percent of corporate, community, and foundation donations go to programs related to aging, which has been a problem for Meals on Wheels programs. “There’s more and more competition for a smaller share of donations,” said Ellie Hollander, CEO of MOWA. For more than a decade—in which both political parties have had their shots at controlling Congress and the White House—federal funding for the OAA has been flat while the cost of food and inflation have both increased and tens of millions of baby boomers retire.

To Democrats, the OAA is important but low on their list of priorities. After gaining control of Congress and the White House in 2008, they spent their political capital on a stimulus bill, financial reform, health care reform, and cap and trade. All of these policies are orders of magnitude more expansive than the OAA, and some, like health care reform, overlap with the services that the OAA provides. Admittedly, the OAA got a 22 percent funding boost in 2009 as part of the stimulus and a comparable bump in 2010 for a senior jobs program. But in 2011, after Democrats lost control of the House, the OAA funding returned to its baseline of about $1.9 billion, where it’s stayed since. In March of 2016, 30 Democratic Senators signed a letter circulated by Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders calling for a “minimum 12 percent increase”—a sincere gesture without any chance of passing. After 2011 budget negotiations, caps were placed on nonmandatory spending, which includes Meals on Wheels. The program may carry political currency, referenced in wish lists and attack ads, but it rarely ends up in congressional debate.

Republican reservations are varied. On one side of the spectrum is Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, who expressed skepticism about the efficacy of the entire OAA during a 2011 hearing on senior hunger. Other Republicans equivocate. In September, Rep. Martha McSally, who represents Leisa Cotten in Cochise County, pushed for a $14.2 million increase for senior services under the OAA. A press release touted her support for Meals on Wheels, even though her amendment technically funded different programs. This month, McSally voted for several versions of a GOP tax bill, which, among many cuts, removed $1.7 billion in funding from Meals on Wheels and other social programs. That’s like giving clients a packet of crackers and then taking away their steak.

What’s more, advocates for older Americans are wary of using the modest political power they have. AARP, though formidable, is notoriously reluctant to throw its weight behind all but what it deems the most important fights, like the repeal of the Affordable Care Act. Its membership also skews more affluent than those who receive Meals on Wheels. MOWA doesn’t have the money or activated constituency to command much clout on its own. “Many people who in fact most use and need social benefits are simply not voting at all,” observed Alec MacGillis, writing in 2015 about the decline of the safety net. MOWA officials are more likely to get a meeting with a first-year legislative aide instead of a senator. Plus, the organization is determined to maintain its nonpartisan appeal, making it less inclined to weaponize its reputation against the politicians who pay only lip service. (MOWA also has an interest in not alienating its clients or the volunteers on whom it relies.)

Compounding the problem, the data on Meals on Wheels haven’t been robust until recently. A literature review in 2015 found that most studies related to home-delivered meal programs were small, unrigorously designed, and measured “self-reported dietary intake,” an unreliable metric. (Try measuring what you eat for a week.) Though senior nutrition advocates swore by the program, the lack of data made it harder to argue for more funding and may be the reason the OAA’s nutrition program has floundered. For many poverty programs, robust data are necessary for survival but not sufficient. Meals on Wheels programs are stuck in an appropriations purgatory where many don’t receive enough money to stay at capacity, much less expand, but they’re too adored to be cut much without political reprisal.

Better data has emerged in the past five years—and its delivered a compelling case for the programs. In 2013, Kali Thomas, a public health researcher at Brown University, published a paper that found “if all states had increased by 1 percent the number of adults age 65 or older who received home-delivered meals in 209 under title III of the OAA, total annual savings to states’ Medicaid programs could have exceeded $109 million.” Most of the savings would come from keeping seniors in their homes and out of nursing homes, which are more expensive. Ninety-two percent of Meals on Wheels recipients say the service lets them live at home. The Medicaid savings were uneven—some states saved millions while other lost out—but Meals on Wheels likely saves billions in Medicare spending too. In 2016, Thomas found that receiving home-delivered meals was correlated with a 30 percent decrease in falls for seniors who’ve fallen before. Falls—in which seniors can break a hip, or worse—cost Medicare $31 billion in 2015 alone. What’s more, collaboration between MOWA and Brown University found that rates of hospitalization and emergency-room use decreased for patients getting Meals on Wheels compared to those who weren’t. For context, one night in the emergency room costs the same as a year of home-delivered meals. This evidence is in line with macroscopic public health findings that countries that spend more on social services than health services tend to have longer life expectancies and decreased rates of premature mortality.

Meals on Wheels could help address the greatest health care and demographic challenge Americans face this century—that is, if it were treated as more than a pet program or hollow political prop. Until then, millions of seniors will starve in the richest country in history.

As we left Mark’s trailer, I asked Cotten what happens when Meals on Wheels can’t afford to bring a client food anymore. “We do everything we can to avoid that,” she said. “We don’t want to play God.” Many branches have stopped adding to their waitlists—some hundreds long—because they don’t want to offer false hope. Today, Meals on Wheels has become something all too familiar to the program—a 70-year-old everyone claims to love but few actually care for.

Holiday Specials from Our Brands

by admin @ Made Safe

The cards are sent, the candles are lit, and the lights are up. The holidays are here, but there’s still time to find last-minute gifts for all your loved ones! Check out these deals from some of our brands with MADE SAFE® certified products. Happy giving! Mother Dirt Give the gift of great skin with […] Read more...

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Mattress Materials & Bedroom Air Quality: What You Need to Know

by sherwood @ Sherwood Bedding

In today’s age, fully climate-controlled homes rarely have their windows open. As a result, indoor air quality becomes a serious health issue that all too often goes ignored. Take the...

The post Mattress Materials & Bedroom Air Quality: What You Need to Know appeared first on Sherwood Bedding.

6 Non-Toxic Cookware Brands to Try

6 Non-Toxic Cookware Brands to Try

by Lori @ Groovy Green Living

Years ago I started tossing my old, scratched non-stick pots and pans and slowly began to replace them with safer, non-toxic brands. My switch to non-toxic cookware has been a process. There’s so much information out there to sort through and investing in new pieces can be an expensive undertaking. After years of research and...

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Oral Thrush in Infants: What You Need to Know

by Amber Krosel @ Safe Birth Project

It can be a challenge getting a newborn to feed. Perhaps you don’t have enough breast milk or a blocked milk duct, or baby isn’t latching on properly. Sore and cracked nipples also are real — real painful. When you finally get baby to breastfeed, it can feel miraculous. That special bond between just the […]

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Why Is Monsanto Inviting This Alt-Right Hero to a Fireside Chat on Farming?

Why Is Monsanto Inviting This Alt-Right Hero to a Fireside Chat on Farming?

by Kavin Senapathy @ Slate Articles

On Sunday, during the annual American Farm Bureau Federation conference in Nashville, Tennessee, Monsanto’s director of millennial engagement, Vance Crowe, will host a fireside chat with University of Toronto psychology professor Jordan Peterson, addressing “The Danger of Allowing Ideologies to Grow Unopposed.” The topic makes sense, given the agrichemical company’s stake in agricultural genetic engineering and the fearmongering and errors driving the non-GMO movement. Monsanto and American farmers should explore why people embrace false narratives about food. It’s the guest choice that raises questions.

Peterson is a clinical psychologist studying social, abnormal, and personality psychology. But he is best known for the YouTube channel that has made him a “belle of the alt-right,” as described in a November 2017 profile in Canada’s Maclean’s magazine. His “lectures about profound psychological ideas” became hugely popular following his swift rise to notoriety in the fall of 2016, when he refused to comply with university policy on addressing students with preferred gender pronouns. Missing from these videos—which net him more than $50,000 a month on Patreon according to a July report from the Toronto Star—is any commentary on agriculture. Rather, Peterson’s oratory cloaks bigotry in pseudointellectual arguments, revealing a chillingly detached dismissal of civil rights.

Crowe, who has worked as Monsanto’s director of millennial engagement since 2014, described Peterson as a “compelling speaker.” Crowe explained his impetus for the talk on his LinkedIn page: “It is my sincere hope that [Peterson] can help farmers develop an understanding of how to speak truth in a complex world where speaking up can make you a target,” Crowe wrote. “I asked Dr. Peterson to address how farmers can prepare their children to go to college with the skills needed to push back effectively on bad ideologies.” He echoed that language in an email to Slate, writing that “an invitation was extended to Dr. Peterson so that he could offer insights from outside the agriculture and genetic engineering communities. His expertise is wide ranging, but he was selected for his research into why people believe what they do and how those beliefs drive actions.”

Why people believe what they believe is a wide topic that many psychology professors investigate. And while Peterson’s lectures certainly do tend to focus on the idea of “pushing back,” the contents of them raise questions about whether the bad ideologies are the ones he’s rejecting or the ones he espouses.

Consider, for instance, Peterson’s insistence that our culture is doomed because physical violence is forbidden when conversations with women move “beyond the boundaries of civil discourse.” As Peterson declared in an October 2017 video, “I know how to stand up to a man who’s unfairly trespassed against me. The reason I know that is because the parameters for my resistance are quite well-defined, which is we talk, we argue, we push, and then it becomes physical.” A man who wouldn’t fight another man under any circumstances deserves “absolutely no respect,” according to Peterson, because the “underlying threat of physicality is always there,” serving to “keep things civilized to some degree.”

That society is “increasingly dominated by a view of masculinity that’s mostly characteristic of women who have terrible personality disorders and who are unable to have healthy relationships with men,” isn’t men’s crisis to solve, Peterson suggests. “[I]t’s sane women who have to stand up against their crazy sisters and say, ‘Look, enough of that, enough man-hating, enough pathology, enough bringing disgrace on us as a gender.’ ” The fact that “sane women” have so far failed to successfully accomplish this has meant that there is no “regulating force for that—that terrible femininity” and that we are “undermining the masculine power of the culture in a way that’s, I think, fatal.”

Peterson seeks to eliminate women’s studies, ethnic studies, sociology, and other swaths of the humanities and social sciences, which he calls “postmodern neo-Marxist” “indoctrination cult classes,” from being taught in universities—an interesting philosophy for someone who “plans to provide his own perspective on how farmers can prepare their children to go to college and be open to new ideas while resisting the temptation to view the world through over-simplified ideologies,” as Crowe wrote in his email to Slate. Peterson also often rails against “political correctness” and “identity politics,” framing these issues as a “war against free speech” and positioning himself as a martyr. (“If they put me in jail, I’ll go on a hunger strike,” he told a TVOntario panel in 2016.) Particularly chilling is the professor’s amusement (and the audience’s chuckles) as he offers his take on “identity politics and the Marxist lie of white privilege,” asking, “What if you're gay and black and female, well then, what if you’re not very bright and gay and black and female, and then what if you're ugly and not very bright and gay and black and female?” The “game,” as he describes marginalized people’s attempts to bring light to social inequity, can be played an infinite number of ways. Peterson describes the idea that there is such a thing as marginalized groups as “comical.”

In an October 2016 letter to the professor, which was also shared with the media, members of the University of Toronto administration acknowledged Peterson’s right to “express and debate views that may be discomfiting or even offensive to others,” but admonished that his rights “are not without limitation.” Fellow University of Toronto faculty have condemned Peterson’s statements on nonbinary and transgender people. (He is still listed as a professor at the university.)

Monsanto declined to comment further when we reached out, instead referring us to Crowe’s comments. In our questions, we asked whether, given Monsanto’s boasting of its rating as one of the “Best Places to Work for LGBTQ Equality” and its “inclusive environment where employees of all genders, ethnicities, backgrounds, and orientations feel welcome and able to contribute,” hosting Peterson ran counter to its stated ethos. Crowe said the company was “proud” of that distinction and noted that Monsanto is “the most diverse and inclusive” place he’s ever worked. He added that “At Monsanto, creating an inclusive environment where employees of all genders, ethnicities, backgrounds and orientations feel welcome and able to contribute is core to creating a great place to work.”

That is why it’s even more baffling that the company would choose to bring an alt-right darling to address, of all things, how dangerous ideologies spread. Crowe noted that “While Monsanto’s position[s] on certain topics may not align with those of everyone[’s], including Dr. Peterson[’s], we have a deep culture of respect of those who hold different views and are willing to listen. It is important for all of us to have meaningful and constructive conversations with numerous parties in order to better understand different points of views.”

But Monsanto is not just listening to these views. It is inviting them into a fireside chat, the result of which will promote Peterson, his work, and, by extension, the offensive views he espouses on his YouTube channel. It’s hard to see what good that will do for encouraging more understanding toward GMOs—and that’s a shame, because more open conversation around GMOs is necessary.

Study: Smoking May Lead to Cerebral Palsy

by Amber Krosel @ Safe Birth Project

Smoking can be a hard habit to kick. In fact, it may be one of the hardest things you ever have to do in life. Harder than giving birth? Well, maybe. It depends on who you ask. If you have to do both — quit smoking for the sake of your unborn child and then wait […]

The post Study: Smoking May Lead to Cerebral Palsy appeared first on Safe Birth Project.

Newton Crib Mattress

Newton Crib Mattress

Newton Rest

Only 100% Breathable Crib Mattress. Newton Mattress is Washable and Recyclable. Better than Organic. Hypoallergenic. Every inch of the Newton Crib Mattress was designed with your baby’s health, safety, and comfort in mind. The innovative design allows air to flow freely for optimal breathability and temperature regulation.

Hybrid Mattresses: Why are They Better than Memory Foam?

by sherwood @ Sherwood Bedding

Now that all the millennium-era excitement over memory foam has finally started to trail off, many mattress shoppers are left wondering where they go from here. While they have enjoyed...

The post Hybrid Mattresses: Why are They Better than Memory Foam? appeared first on Sherwood Bedding.

Shopping Memory Foam Mattresses: Is Gel Foam Really Any Better?

by sherwood @ Sherwood Bedding

If you’ve sat in front of a television for at least an hour at any time during the past 15 years, chances are you’ve seen a commercial advertising memory foam...

The post Shopping Memory Foam Mattresses: Is Gel Foam Really Any Better? appeared first on Sherwood Bedding.

Why Is Slate Questioning Gardasil?

Why Is Slate Questioning Gardasil?

by Susan Matthews @ Slate Articles

Read Slate’s investigative piece on Gardasil.

I was vaccinated with Gardasil in 2007, right after the vaccine was first approved. If I were faced with the choice today, I would still choose to get vaccinated with Gardasil—even after editing Fred Joelving’s piece detailing the problems with the clinical trial tasked with ensuring the vaccine’s efficacy and safety prior to approval. That’s because the decision around vaccination is a decision that involves weighing the evidence on potential benefits versus potential harms, and to my eye, the potential benefits greatly outweigh the potential harms. Gardasil has been shown to effectively prevent HPV, which is very likely to reduce your chance of cervical cancer. Gardasil has not been proven to have any significant side effects.

What Joelving’s story does suggest, thanks to its remarkable and thorough reporting, is that the clinical trials in which Gardasil was tested may have been inadequately designed, and that this failure in design likely rendered the trial incapable of accurately assessing whether the vaccine causes autoimmune disorders in a very small number of genetically predisposed young women who receive it. This flaw doesn’t really change the calculation on whether or not people should receive Gardasil, in my opinion—even if the vaccine does cause autoimmune disorders in a very small number of genetically predisposed women, and that’s a huge if, the benefits of the vaccine are still likely to outweigh the potential harms.

So why run this story? From my perspective, this story has important ramifications for public health. Because even if it turns out that Gardasil does not cause autoimmune disorders in anyone (which is possible), the fact remains that these trials were designed in a way that meant they would probably be unable to reliably assess this potential relationship. And to me, that’s worrying because clinical trials, particularly those used to assess medicine that will be used on large numbers of people prophylactically, ought to be able to make such assessments. And if we’ve been failing on this front, we should know that, so we can correct for it. This is how science is supposed to work.

If this story were about almost anything besides a vaccine, I doubt I would be writing this. The value of understanding potential side effects and ensuring that our clinical trials are robust enough to do so would be apparent, I suspect. But because it is about a vaccine, this is much more complicated, because there’s a (legitimate) fear that this story could be used to bolster a case that vaccines are bad and untrustworthy. And bolstering that case could have real and serious ramifications for public health if it leads to more people not getting vaccinated.

That’s possible. It’s also, in my opinion, a terrible reason to not run an excellent and nuanced piece of journalism about something that is true and, indeed, something that is in the public’s interest to know. I would even go as far as to say that refusing to cover a possible problem with a vaccine because it might cause people who are already distrustful of vaccines to be more distrustful is itself a counterproductive action: It further entrenches us on opposite sides that become driven more by ideology than by truth. And the truth is that science can be imperfect, and evidence can be incomplete. When that is the case, we should be upfront and transparent about it—in fact, I believe that doing so serves to bolster our credibility rather than diminish it.

Sometimes reassessments of science happen in the lab. Sometimes reassessments of science happen on the pages of a newsmagazine. When the latter happens, it is also the media’s responsibility to be clear about how the individuals reading the story ought to interpret it. One of the best and worst things about health journalism is how closely it intersects with its readers—everyone has a body, and so everyone has increased incentive to parse this information, and to assess if it should influence their own choices about how to care for themselves. The stakes are high and ever-complicated by how difficult it is to properly convey the distinction between public health and personal health.

This story has important implications for public health, much more so than for personal health. It is also a story that shows how investigating questions of public health can intersect with personal health—as Kesia Lyng’s story demonstrates, we rely on individuals to help us assess those bigger questions. But when it comes to the personal health of its readers, this story does not offer much advice, and that’s on purpose. The takeaway is not that you should not get vaccinated—as noted above, I still would. The takeaway is that science is an iterative process, and the more upfront we are about that, the better.

Brentwood Home Oceano Mattress Review

by Jessica Jones @ The Sleep Judge

New Deodorants Made With Safe Ingredients from Neal’s Yard Remedies

by admin @ Made Safe

  We’re excited to announce the first-ever MADE SAFE certified deodorants from Neal’s Yard Remedies! Deodorant exists in virtually every single one of our makeup bags and medicine cabinets. The problem is that conventional deodorants and anti-perspirants can commonly contain some toxic ingredients, which is why we’re so excited to present a new, safer option […] Read more...

The post New Deodorants Made With Safe Ingredients from Neal’s Yard Remedies appeared first on Made Safe.

Climate Litigation Needs to Become a Mass Movement

Climate Litigation Needs to Become a Mass Movement

by Ketan Jha @ Slate Articles

Things are not going well for the Earth. It goes well beyond the Trump administration’s decision to eventually leave the Paris Agreement and Scott Pruitt’s purge of the Environmental Protection Agency’s scientific experts. Even non-American efforts to curb climate change aren’t going so well: Newly released data from the World Meteorological Organization reveal a record increase in average global concentrations of CO2 between 2015 and 2016. The United Nations Environment Programme recently issued its annual synthesis report on the emissions gap, which is the difference between country-specific plans and reductions suggested by scientific consensus. One of the salient findings is that domestic carbon-reduction policies for the 168 countries that have ratified the Paris Agreement amount to just one-third of what is necessary to limit global temperature rise to the Paris boundary of “well below 2 degrees Celsius.”

At the same time, and perhaps in response, litigating to protect the climate is on the rise. If climate litigation is construed broadly, the past 20 years have seen 654 cases tried in the United States and at least 230 in other jurisdictions.

Is readying our collective casebooks and heading for the courthouse actually the best solution? Litigation, after all, is typically an inefficient method of achieving policy reform. The flagship public-interest law efforts during the civil rights movement provide instructive lessons here, particularly when academics and activists are increasingly extending historical parallels between environmental protection and racial justice to climate change. Even where many of the necessary conditions for successful legal reform strategies are present—as with some of the landmark cases tried by NAACP lawyers—there is a strong argument that lawsuits constrained by narrow legal doctrines and limited remedies will rarely be able to produce the kinds of sweeping economic changes required to combat the approaching climate catastrophe.

And yet, even though the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (the parent treaty to the Paris Agreement) was drafted 25 years ago, we still do not have coherent global or local plans to limit destructive warming. The Paris Agreement was certainly the right direction after international law’s failure to achieve binding targets, but bottom-up targets only work when national commitments are extremely ambitious. So, in sum, it seems that litigating to reform energy policy is both utterly inefficient and entirely necessary.

These climate cases are not new, but the types of claims at stake are changing. The first wave of momentous actions in the United States chiefly involved efforts by state governments to compel either the executive or private entities to take action, either by forcing agencies to regulate emissions or forcing companies to steadily abate them. Other legal actions by local interest groups and environmental nongovernmental organizations sought to make agencies take climate change into account in relation to species-specific issues, such as the effect of global warming on food security for grizzly bears. More recent American suits tend to tackle specific deregulation plans or administrative omissions and delays. Success rates for local issues vary, and they are a vital part of an effective mass litigation strategy. However, since an ambitious suit calling power companies to account was unanimously shot down in the Supreme Court in 2011, high-impact litigation efforts slowed considerably while temperature-rise projections accelerated. The early American cases failed to unify scientific narratives, the stories and voices of people affected by climate change, and opportune legal moments.

Climate litigation in other countries, however, tells a different story. Here, it is a story about seizing the law as a means of collective action instead of leaving an elite cadre of lawyers to represent the concerns of a few activists and scientists. That narrative begins with the Urgenda case. A Dutch NGO, headed by one of the professors who first suggested the 2 degrees Celsius target, enlisted almost 900 claimants and alleged that government action was insufficient. Urgenda argued, among other things, that even if the Dutch government was bound by EU emissions targets, commitment did not immunize them from legal liability resulting from human health risks posed by climate change. In 2015, the court ordered the government to cut its emissions by 25 percent by 2020. The argument advanced by Urgenda is particularly relevant in light of the new emissions-gap data—governments cannot rest on the laurels of existing targets to deflect the need for comprehensive action.

Even still, the global impact of Urgenda is as much about the form and optics of litigation as the substantive arguments. Urgenda paved the way for multiclaimant lawsuits that highlight the importance of climate action by giving platforms to those who stand to suffer disproportionate harms. Put differently, this nascent wave of climate litigation is about forcing governments to see climate change as a collective human-rights issue and to take action that reflects the dire picture painted by scientists about climate risks to human health.

A similar claim filed by 450 Swiss women, all at least 65 years of age, is currently pending. Like Urgenda, the claimants argue that existing legal targets are insufficient to safeguard their rights under both the European Convention on Human Rights and Swiss constitutional law.

In Belgium, a lawsuit that closely mirrors Urgenda advertises that citizens can become claimants through their website in just two minutes. That case now has nearly 32,000 co-claimants. The NGO responsible for the claim, Klimaatzaak, has enlisted a range of celebrity ambassadors to bolster its legal campaign through social media.

A group of Portuguese schoolchildren, all from a region plagued by destructive forest fires, is suing 47 countries in the European Court of Human Rights to compel similar emissions reductions in the first instance of multistate climate litigation. In just over a month, they have raised about $35,000 from more than 700 donors through CrowdJustice, a platform that connects ordinary people to public-interest lawsuits.

In the United Kingdom, where I’m based and also the ancestral home of the American common law, our case at Plan B.Earth implores the British government to amend their carbon targets to reflect the need for a net-zero emissions policy. The claimants, aged 9–79, include a rabbi concerned about the imminent humanitarian crisis, university students scared for their future, and a supporter with Mauritian heritage who represents the risk of small island states being submerged. In parallel to Urgenda, the U.K.’s current targets fall short of what climate science tells us is necessary to stop dangerous warming.

These European suits bolster the case for unifying social movements mobilized around climate change with legal ones: We can fight political reluctance with grassroots legal actions around the globe. Environmental lawyers in the United States are not oblivious to this opportunity: Juliana v. United States broke new legal ground by enlisting youth plaintiffs, attempting to repurpose a Roman legal doctrine of contested historical provenance, and alleging a constitutional right to a stable climate. In the first rejection of the government’s argument to throw out that case, Judge Thomas Coffin referred to Urgenda as proof that courts can redress climate change.

Old uncertainties about the climate system are fading. Litigation in Australia has helped force the financial sector to consider climate risks that the oil industry has known about for decades. Litigation in Pakistan has helped remedy profound governmental inaction even where legislation had already been passed. These cases make clear that for all the cozy rhetoric, Champagne, and cheering, legislative and executive branches are not doing enough. We need more legal actions engaging citizens in every country to pressure governments to secure a habitable planet for future generations. A number of these lawsuits could be a hollow hope, but they might be all we have left.

Keto Before and After Birth: Is This Low-Carb Diet Dangerous?

by Tina Magrabi @ Safe Birth Project

It’s not always easy to recognize the difference between a healthy eating plan and a fad diet. And when you’re pregnant or breastfeeding, it’s not just a casual decision, either. You want to choose the most nourishing foods for you and baby. Especially if you’re breastfeeding, your newborn depends on you for 100% of her […]

The post Keto Before and After Birth: Is This Low-Carb Diet Dangerous? appeared first on Safe Birth Project.

Why do Mattresses Have Toxic Chemicals in Them?

by exampleuser @ SleepLily

Why do mattresses have toxic chemicals in them? It’s a fair question. On a lot of levels it seems improbable – impossible even – that something as important as a mattress could be the source of toxic chemicals in our bedrooms. The mattress is, after all, the place we spend over a third of our... Read more »

The post Why do Mattresses Have Toxic Chemicals in Them? appeared first on SleepLily.

This Land Was Your Land

This Land Was Your Land

by Elizabeth Shogren @ Slate Articles

This story is republished from High Country News as part of a collaboration with Climate Desk.

President Donald Trump has spent the past year steadily undoing Obama-era environmental protections, especially rules designed to fight climate change. By law, agencies must go through a lengthy process to rescind or rewrite many rules, but executive orders and other policies are easier to erase. Some of the rollbacks have major implications for the West and public lands.

Here we take a look at some of the most important rollbacks of the past year:


Trump slashed two national monuments in southern Utah and is considering changes to other monuments in the West. Under Trump’s boundaries, Bears Ears becomes two separate management units: Indian Creek and Shash Jáa. The two together are just 15 percent of the footprint protected by President Barack Obama in 2016. The new Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument is about half its original size. Countless archaeological, paleontological, cultural, and scenic treasures are left out of Trump’s new boundaries. Bears Ears and Escalante supporters are suing to block this unprecedented action.

Arctic Refuge

At the Trump administration’s urging, Congress in December opened parts of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil and gas drilling. This was an enormous loss for the Gwich’in, a Native Alaskan people, and environmental groups, which had successfully protected the refuge from drilling for decades. Drilling in the refuge is part of a broader policy of the administration to increase oil production in Alaska and in Western public lands in general. In December, the administration offered the largest lease sale ever in the National Petroleum Reserve, Alaska. But companies bid on a tiny fraction of land available—only seven of the 900 tracts offered.

Clean Water Rule

The Environmental Protection Agency is proposing to rescind the 2015 Clean Water Rule. This rule—particularly important in the arid West—mandates, for example, protecting tributaries that connect to navigable waterways and adjoining wetlands, even if they flow only part of the year. If it’s revoked, those tributaries could be filled in, ditched, or diverted for construction or farming without federal review.

In October, the Supreme Court heard arguments about whether federal district courts or appeals courts should hear several pending cases challenging the rule. It’s unclear when it will issue a decision. EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt plans to write a new rule describing which waters and wetlands warrant federal protection and which should be left to state discretion. In the meantime, the Trump administration is trying to delay the date the Obama rule goes into effect until 2020 in case the courts uphold it.

The EPA also plans to eliminate protection of many wetlands and streams by narrowing the definition of a “navigable water.” This will be especially significant in the arid West, where most streams run only part of the year or after rain events.

Fossil fuel royalties rule

In August, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke repealed a 2016 Obama rule designed to ensure that taxpayers get a fair return on oil, gas, and coal. The Obama administration estimated the rule would have increased the royalties that fossil fuel industries pay to mine and drill federal lands and waters by about $80 million a year. The rule was meant to eliminate a loophole that allows companies to sell to affiliated companies that then export and resell the minerals at higher prices, reducing royalties. Zinke said it was too complex and plans to draft a new rule.

BLM methane rule

In 2016, the Bureau of Land Management implemented a rule limiting how much methane can be released from some 96,000 oil and gas wells on federal and tribal lands. Methane is a potent greenhouse gas, and the 2016 rule’s goal was to reduce emissions that contribute to climate change, smog and health problems, as well as to increase royalties. Industry claims the rule is too onerous and duplicates state rules.

Congressional Republicans tried unsuccessfully in May to erase the rule using the Congressional Review Act. The BLM in December suspended it until 2019, and Zinke plans to rewrite it.

EPA methane rule

The EPA also passed a rule in 2016 designed to limit methane emissions, but from new and modified oil and gas wells, compressor stations, pneumatic pumps, and similar equipment. It was a key part of Obama’s climate change agenda; his administration projected that industry’s costs would be partially offset by revenues from recovering and selling more natural gas. Pruitt has sought to prevent the rule from going into effect, but environmentalists and the states of New Mexico and California have been fighting him in court. The EPA now has proposed suspending the rule for two years while it redrafts it.

National Environmental Policy Act reviews

In an Aug. 31 secretarial order, the Department of Interior “streamlined” agencies’ processes for analyzing the environmental impacts of major actions. Now, agencies may not spend more than a year to complete environmental impact statements, nor may their final reports be more than 150 pages or 300 pages “for unusually complex projects.”

Environmental groups fear the arbitrary deadlines will hinder public engagement in public-land decisions. But John Freemuth, a public policy professor at Boise State University, said environmental impact statements are often long and incomprehensible to most people. “Trying to make this process work better and happen quicker is probably not a bad thing, unless it’s done for surrogate reasons, like to get more coal off the land,” Freemuth says.

Federal coal

Obama wanted the federal coal-mining program to better reflect its costs to taxpayers and the planet. So in 2016, Interior Secretary Sally Jewell placed a three-year moratorium on new coal leases on federal land while reviewing the program, which produces about 40 percent of the coal burned in the U.S. for electricity.

This March, Zinke canceled both the moratorium and the review. Given declining demand for coal, though, there’s been no rush for new leases. One exception: Cloud Peak Energy is seeking to expand operations in Wyoming’s Powder River Basin.

National parks management

The National Park Service in August rescinded a sweeping December 2016 policy instructing managers to use an adaptive approach to decision-making, taking into account uncertainties such as climate change impacts, and erring on the side of caution to protect natural and cultural resources. The policy also committed to address worker harassment. Now, NPS says revoking the order avoids confusion while Zinke establishes his own vision for the parks.

Also in August, the agency ended a six-year policy that allowed parks to ban the sale of disposable water bottles to decrease waste and greenhouse gas pollution. Western parks that banned bottled water included Arizona’s Grand Canyon; Arches, Bryce, and Canyonlands in Utah; Saguaro in Arizona; and Colorado National Monument.

Power plants

The EPA has taken steps to repeal the Clean Power Plan, the Obama-era regulation intended to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 32 percent by 2030 compared to 2005. The Supreme Court had already stayed the rule, pending court review. The Trump administration asked the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit not to rule in the case, and in August the court agreed to suspend its review.

Trump’s EPA also is reconsidering an earlier Obama administration rule that required that all new power plants meet greenhouse gas standards, which roughly equate to emissions from modern natural gas plants. The rule effectively banned the construction of new conventional coal-fired power plants and remains in effect.


Trump revoked Obama administration policies that had blocked or postponed construction of the Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines. Environmentalists had long objected to Keystone XL because the heavy tar sands crude oil that it carries has a bigger greenhouse gas footprint than conventional crude oil. It requires a lot of energy to get tar sands out of the ground and process it for transporting by pipelines.

The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and many supporters from other tribes and the environmental community staged a monthslong protest to oppose DAPL. They raised concerns about sovereignty and the risk that potential spills pose to water resources that the tribe needs for farming and other uses. Trump touts the pipeline projects as key parts of his energy independence and infrastructure plans.

Cleaner cars

The EPA and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration are considering backtracking from Obama’s plans to boost fuel efficiency for cars and light trucks to the equivalent of 54.5 miles per gallon by model year 2025.

The outcome is important in the West because California has led the rest of the country in pressing for cleaner cars, both to improve its air quality and achieve its climate change goals. California has fiercely objected to the possible rollback and vows to keep the standards. Thirteen other states, including Oregon and Washington, also warned Pruitt not to weaken the fuel standards and vowed to defend them in court if he does.

Offshore drilling

Obama withdrew large sections of the Arctic and Atlantic Oceans from drilling to protect marine habitats. In an April executive order, Trump reversed the withdrawals and ordered annual lease sales in those areas, including in the Chukchi Sea, Beaufort Sea, Cook Inlet, Mid-Atlantic, and South Atlantic. Environmental groups have sued in federal court, challenging the legality of Trump’s action.

Blowout prevention rule

In April, Trump ordered a reconsideration of a 2016 rule designed to prevent the kind of engineering failures that led to the catastrophic 2010 BP disaster in the Gulf of Mexico. That explosion killed 11 workers and inundated the fragile coast and deep sea with the largest marine oil spill ever seen, pummeling the Gulf’s seafood industry, killing thousands of marine mammals and rare sea turtles, and contaminating their habitats.

The chairmen of the bipartisan National Commission on the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling warned in a New York Times opinion piece that Trump’s order threatens the most important safeguard for preventing repeats of the BP disaster.

Social cost of carbon

Trump abolished policies crafted by the Obama administration to consider the cost of climate change to future generations when considering the costs and benefits of proposed regulations and when analyzing the environmental impacts of government actions under the National Environmental Policy Act. The social cost of carbon is a dollar amount that represents how much a ton of carbon pollution will “cost” society over the long run, such as the loss of usable dry land because of sea level rise, stresses to agriculture from droughts, and increased need for air conditioning. Trump’s March executive order directs agencies to use a 2003 policy that does not include directions on calculating these future costs of greenhouse gas emissions.

The Trump administration’s approach has started to run afoul of the courts. A federal judge in August blocked a major expansion of a coal mine in Montana and ordered the Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement to redo its environmental analysis. The judge took issue with the agency’s argument that the millions of tons of extra greenhouse gas emissions from the Montana mine would not result in any costs to society because if that coal weren’t burned, other coal would be. Judge Donald Molloy of the U.S. District Court for the District of Montana said the conclusion was illogical and put the agency’s “thumb on the scale by inflating the benefits of the action while minimizing its impacts.”

Floods and infrastructure

As part of his strategy to prepare the United States for the greater risks of climate change, Obama signed an executive order in 2015 requiring that the federal government consider sea level rise and storm surge when designing infrastructure and building in flood-prone areas. Just days before Hurricane Harvey hit Texas, Trump signed an executive order revoking Obama’s order.

Trump defended his decision as an incentive for investments in infrastructure. Many professional engineers, insurance companies, and environmentalists objected to the repeal, saying that the standard protected people and property and reduced expenses to the federal government associated with rebuilding after flooding.

Quality Mattress Support to Relieve Pressure While Sleeping

by sherwood @ Sherwood Bedding

Getting a good night’s sleep on a mattress often comes down to one key factor: design of the spring. Sherwood mattresses feature an innovative open spring design that provides not...

The post Quality Mattress Support to Relieve Pressure While Sleeping appeared first on Sherwood Bedding.

Could Ivana Trump Have Conceived Three Children While She Had an IUD?

Could Ivana Trump Have Conceived Three Children While She Had an IUD?

by Eleanor Cummins @ Slate Articles

Ivana Trump’s recent memoir Raising Trump is a breezy account of her central role in bringing up three of America’s most powerful children. As she tells it, her life was a series of ski trips and interior redesigns packed between working at her husband’s company and raising her kids. Her ex-husband and our current President Donald Trump seems largely absent, stopping in only to worry whether his namesake might grow up to “be a loser.” But even with that, the most horrifying part of her autobiography is undoubtedly her assertion that she conceived all three of her children while having an IUD.

It all starts on Page 59 of the book when Ivana makes mention of the circumstances surrounding the conception of her first child, Donald Trump Jr.:

Incredibly, I got pregnant on the honeymoon. Why so incredible? At the time, I had an IUD implanted in my uterus. The odds of conceiving with the coil were miniscule. I always thought I was a one-in-a-million woman, but this was ridiculous.

Within five pages, she’s gone through two more IUDs—and two more children:

For birth control, I considered going on the Pill, but I knew I’d forget to take it at the same time every day. With some misgivings, I had another IUD put in. Three years later, the same thing happened! I got pregnant with Ivanka despite having the device
A new IUD went in, and the doctors swore up and down it was going to work this time. ‘Ivana, you will not get pregnant!’ they said.
A year and a half later, Eric was conceived.

That’s right—every single one of the Trump triad apparently exists in spite of their mother’s repeated efforts to shut down the factory. That seems alarming regardless of the form of birth control to which you subscribe. But if, like Ivana, you have an intrauterine device or rely on one, these stories are only that much more terrifying. Indeed, you might be screaming how is this possible?

So, I called Dr. Jen Gunter, the internet’s favorite OB-GYN, to get some answers. She says that what Ivana Trump describes in her memoir is certainly possible—but it is statistically improbable. “Obviously, IUDs aren’t perfect, they have a failure rate,” Gunter says. Back in the 1980s, some European IUDs, which Gunter suspects is what a wealthy woman like Ivana Trump would have likely chosen for herself in that time, could have failure rates in the neighborhood of 2 percent. “But you’re still looking at less than 2 percent. A 2 percent failure rate in your next pregnancy, and a 2 percent failure rate in your next pregnancy,” Gunter says. “That’s a little weird.”

By describing it all as a “little weird,” Gunter is being generous: If the IUDs were not compromised in some way, and if we generously round up to a firm 2 percent failure rate, the statistical chance of Trump experiencing three pregnancies while using this form of birth control is 0.0008 percent, making it the kind of statistical disaster that would befall no more than 8 in every 1 million women—or at least, that would be the expected rate 30-plus years ago. Modern American versions of the IUD have dramatically lower failure rates—we’re talking between 0.1 and 0.8 percent—making Ivana’s dramatic childbirthing triptych even more improbable today.

Another thing that could explain Ivana’s situation is that her IUDs were not working perfectly. In a blog post on the very topic of Ivana Trump’s pregnancies, Gunter writes about women who have IUD failures and notes that this can happen multiple times before the cause is discovered. In cases where women’s IUDs repeatedly fail, doctors first wonder if it’s the result of a physical abnormality: Fibroids, benign tumors, and even curvatures of the uterus can knock the IUD out of its ideal resting place. Other times, women suffer from “expulsions” where the uterus kicks the IUD out, sometimes without its owner even realizing until she finds out she's pregnant. But whatever the cause, we can all agree that, as Gunter puts it, “After two failures you’d think, ‘Are you sure this is what you want to continue with?’ ”

There are, of course, many alternatives to IUDs. But it seems that Ivana might not have had another good choice that she wanted to try. Gunter writes in her blog that Donald Trump apparently “hates condoms.” Regardless of whether that’s a fair inference to draw from the president’s “jokes,” it seems safe to infer that the couple didn’t want to solve their problem through condom use, which, to be fair, is also not fail-safe. As Ivana notes herself, she wasn’t interested in taking on the daily tedium of the pill. And ultimately it seems the couple was actually happy about each pregnancy, so perhaps she didn’t switch because she wasn’t actually that bothered by the situation. As she writes in the book, after she had Eric, she decided to have her tubes tied, which is by far the most reliable—and permanent—form of birth control.

Still, the improbability of Ivana Trump’s claims, combined with their very public nature, has pushed Gunter to propose some alternate theories. Perhaps the stories were framed in such a way that stressed the family’s commitment to keeping unplanned pregnancies. “It’s possible it’s an anti-abortion dog whistle,” Gunter said, who admits that she also hasn’t read the book and has “a thousand other books” she’d want to read before this one. Or maybe they are just there as an attempt to flatter her ex-husband. Gunter’s blog post is titled “Does Ivana Trump want us to believe The Donald has super sperm?” In it she writes, “The other [theory] is, ‘My god, Donald has the best sperm ever. He’s just shooting the best sperm out of his Trump tower.’ ” Knowing our president, this explanation, while disturbing on multiple levels, does not seem implausible.

Ultimately, Ivana Trump’s uterine dramas are great fodder for a memoir, but they’re no reason to freak out about the efficacy of IUDs. It’s still the most reliable form of birth control, and the statistics are in your favor. Plus, here’s a useful tip from a Broadly article explaining a similar situation, in which a woman got pregnant after her IUD failed and took a photo of the resulting baby holding the device: Spend the money you save on tampons and pads (IUDs often stop your period) on a stock of pregnancy tests for peace of mind. And if the type of birth control you are using fails or turns out to not be ideal, there are still numerous other options (pills, patches, condoms, spermicides—you name it) that might work better for you, and it’s your doctor’s job to help you find the method that’s best for you.

While we may never know exactly what was going on with Ivana Trump’s uterus, one thing does seem clear: Her ex-husband has always been out to undermine birth control.


by Bridger Kanenwisher @ Intellibed

TRADITIONAL MATTRESSES DON’T PROVIDE ADEQUATE SUPPORT. (NO WONDER YOUR BACK HURTS IN THE MORNING) As children, we’re told to sit up and to stand up straight, and for good reason. Proper posture aligns our hips and shoulders, reducing stress on our lower back and unhealthy curvature of the spine. But what happens when we lie…


Will Puerto Rico’s Official Death Count From Maria Ever Be Accurate?

Will Puerto Rico’s Official Death Count From Maria Ever Be Accurate?

by Alexis R. Santos-Lozada @ Slate Articles

This story is republished with permission from the Conversation.

“If you don’t get away from those areas, you are going to die.” That phrase concluded Puerto Rico Secretary of Public Safety Héctor Pesquera’s press conference before Hurricane Maria.

Three months after the storm, he is one of the fiercest protectors of the official death count. As of Dec. 29, the Department of Public Safety had certified 64 deaths due to Hurricane Maria.

However, estimates reported by CNN, the New York Times, and others tell a very different story.

I was part of the team of demographers that developed the first independent estimates of excess deaths, with the objective of informing the public. Like the estimates published by those media outlets, our numbers contrasted significantly with the official figure. The most shocking results from our study suggest that deaths in September and October were 25 percent above the historical patterns—with about 1,085 added deaths following the hurricane.

Determining the number of excess deaths after a natural disaster is not only a mathematical exercise. Undercounting deaths reduces the attention to the crisis Puerto Ricans live day by day. It can also delay international recovery efforts and the approval of policies to help those who need it the most.

Death counts for Hurricane Maria
How many people died in Puerto Rico due to Hurricane Maria? The official count is at 64, but studies by other researchers and media outlets estimate many hundreds more.

Our study compared preliminary data from the Department of Public Safety with historical patterns for the same months in the past decade. In other words, we compared the number of deaths in September and October last year with data from the same period of time in 2010 to 2016. This is how we concluded that there were 1,085 extra deaths, in excess of historical ranges.

So why are more than 1,000 deaths missing from the official count? My colleagues and I suspect it may come down to how deaths are recorded by government officials.

In Puerto Rico, deaths are recorded using international classifications. This system doesn’t capture all of the circumstances surrounding a death that happens following a natural disaster. The death may have been accelerated by some conditions—like difficulty communicating during the emergency.

Deaths associated with a particular natural disaster can be classified as direct or indirect deaths. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, direct deaths are those “directly attributable to the forces of the disaster or by the direct consequences of these forces, such as structural collapse, flying debris or radiation exposure.”

“Indirect deaths” may be associated with any unsafe or unhealthy conditions before, during, and after the natural disaster.

For example, Hurricane Maria destroyed Puerto Rico’s power grid. So, someone whose life depended on a dialysis machine would no longer be able to use one. In official certificates, their death would be classified as kidney-related and not attributed to the hurricane—even though the death was accelerated by lack of resources required by the patient to stay alive.

The same would happen to someone whose life depended on respiratory aid. Their death would be classified as pulmonary-related.

Or, say a person feels chest pain and suspects a heart attack. Their immediate reaction might be to call 911. A working communications structure may be able to get help in time and save a life. But in the days following Hurricane Maria, only 25 percent of the cellphone towers were working. Communication was virtually impossible.

Under the international system, a death resulting from these circumstances would be classified as a result of cardiovascular conditions and would not be attributed to the hurricane either.

In light of the mounting evidence, Governor of Puerto Rico Ricardo Rosselló has ordered a review of the causes of death for those who died after Hurricane Maria.

The review is a step in the right direction. But will the official count change? Probably not. As of Wednesday, the government was requiring families to visit the Department of Public Safety and to report if a death was related to Hurricane Maria. But merely revising the causes of death is not enough to determine whether that death was indirectly related to Hurricane Maria. Those in charge of the death count review will need to interview families and ask them about the conditions surrounding the tragedy.

Following the impact of hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria, the CDC published guidelines that state and territorial governments should follow to determine whether a death is related or not to a specific event. Following these guidelines could provide the government of Puerto Rico with a more realistic death count. It remains to be seen whether the new count will follow this protocol.

An accurate death count could be used to inform policies, supplement requests for aid in the national and international context, and inform local governments as they prepare for future natural disasters that may impact Puerto Rico, particularly extreme weather events now that climate change is expected to worsen. Hurricane Maria was the first storm to destroy the power grid in Puerto Rico. Puerto Rico is six months away from the next hurricane season, and experts predict it will be an active one.

Finally, minimized figures could weaken efforts to provide relief to communities affected by the hurricane at the local and international level. Given that Puerto Rico does not hold political power in Congress and that the only representative does not vote, it’s crucial to convey the reality to all elected officials, so that their votes align with the necessities of those who are still in Puerto Rico.

Compare Black Friday and Cyber Monday Mattress Sales: Macy’s, Sears, Mattress Firm & More

by Sleep Junkie @ Sleep Junkie

Are you prepared for the insanity of the 2017 Black Friday mattress sales? Though they can get a little crazy, these sales are a great time to get the most for your money. Mattresses tend to be one of the larger purchases made in households, so getting a good deal can go a long way. […]

The post Compare Black Friday and Cyber Monday Mattress Sales: Macy’s, Sears, Mattress Firm & More appeared first on Sleep Junkie.

Best Mattress For Kids in 2017/2018: Safe, Comfortable And Durable

Best Mattress For Kids in 2017/2018: Safe, Comfortable And Durable

Don't make the mistake of buying the wrong mattress for your kid. Check out this helpful guide where we dissect the best brands and list our top picks.

Bed in a Box: How Does It Work?

by Taylor Jones @ The Drömma Bed

Shopping for a new mattress is an endeavor to take seriously. Mattresses are a major home investment, due largely to how long they need to last: the National Sleep Foundation recommends replacing your mattress every 7 to ten years. Additionally, your mattress plays a role in the quality of sleep you get, meaning what mattress you buy could have a major impact on your physical and emotional health. However, the mattress buying model is outdated. No one wants to spend their weekend in a brick and mortar mattress store, faced with an overwhelming amount of choices and pushy sales people. […]

The post Bed in a Box: How Does It Work? appeared first on The Drömma Bed.

Sealy Soybean EverEdge Foam-Core Crib Mattress - Safe or Toxic | I Read Labels For You

Sealy Soybean EverEdge Foam-Core Crib Mattress - Safe or Toxic | I Read Labels For You

I Read Labels For You

The reviewer of the Sealy Soybean EverEdge Foam-Core crib mattress said that manufacturers can call their mattresses soybean with only 5% soy in them.

Bamboozled: Is your baby mattress safe?

Bamboozled: Is your baby mattress safe?

Keeping Babies Safe, a nonprofit advocacy group, says retailers and manufacturers offer unsafe mattresses for babies. It's trying to have them banned.

Memory Foam Mattresses: Benefits and Disadvantages

Memory Foam Mattresses: Benefits and Disadvantages


The pros and cons of memory foam mattresses, pillows, and other products.

Downwind From the Fires

Downwind From the Fires

by Will Oremus @ Slate Articles

GOLETA, California—The sky is cloudless here, yet the sun shines dimly through a gray haze tinged with queasy shades of orange and pink. Flecks of ash drift aimlessly down and settle to form a thin layer on plants, cars, and the ground. The air outside tickles your nose and eyes, and wherever you go, it smells like you’re standing next to a bonfire. In many homes, it’s noticeably smoky even indoors. Local hardware stores are sold out of air purifiers.

As wildfires tear through Southern California, devouring homes and forcing evacuations, the danger to those who live and work in their direct path could hardly be clearer. But there’s another group of people who are feeling the fires’ effects in a subtler way—and their health is at risk in ways they may not fully understand.

I live near Santa Barbara, some 20 miles up the coast from the Thomas fire’s northern edge, as of Thursday afternoon. Most of the time, it’s paradise. And its residents feel fortunate even now, as it appears unlikely the fire will reach this far. The University of California–Santa Barbara has opened a shelter for evacuees from Ventura County. People feel relatively safe here.

But maybe they shouldn’t. For a combination of reasons having to do with topography and wind patterns, the smoke from the Thomas fire appears to have picked Santa Barbara and its environs as a place to settle. The result is that this sun-kissed city of 90,000—typically blessed with fresh maritime air—is experiencing its unhealthiest air quality in memory, with conditions comparable to some of the worst days in hyperpolluted Beijing. One difference is that this city and its residents are far less prepared.

People understand that when a fire is coming, they could die. But the risks posed by bad air quality are, well, murkier. Murkier still is what to do about it, and how Western cities like Santa Barbara—which may face more frequent forest fires in the future due to climate change—ought to prepare and keep their residents safe.

The Environmental Protection Agency considers an Air Quality Index of 100 or above to pose health risks. As of 1 p.m. PT on Thursday, Santa Barbara’s AQI for small particulates had climbed to 363—by far the worst in the country, according to the EPA site, and well into the maroon “hazardous” range, which is the most severe on its color-coded AQI chart. That’s higher even than the AQI in places like Ojai and Ventura that are actually on fire. It means that even perfectly healthy adults might suffer some effects, while those in vulnerable groups—small children, the elderly, and those with lung or heart conditions—could face serious risks. It’s close to the 400-plus AQI that Napa experienced during the fires there in October, and far worse than what the rest of the Bay Area saw.

Lyz Hoffman, spokeswoman for the Santa Barbara Air Pollution Control District, said she’s never seen anything like it here. Since the county began measuring AQI for fine particulate matter (known as PM 2.5) in 1999, the highest index on record was 124 in Santa Maria in 2001.* There was no predicting it before Thursday. And there’s no indication that it will improve Friday.

When the AQI is in the “unhealthy” or even “very unhealthy” range for a short time, recommendations are relatively straightforward: Stay indoors when possible and consider buying an air purifier. If you must go outside, consider wearing a special type of respiration mask (normal surgical masks won’t help). But in the “hazardous” realm for an extended period, there’s not a whole lot you can do. And what exactly might happen to you isn’t fully clear.

“We’re getting a lot of calls from people who are saying they’re experiencing smoke now inside their houses, or the smell of smoke,” Hoffman told me. “So that’s a concern because we’re advising people to stay indoors as much as possible. But If you can’t keep your indoors clean, it’s not going to be safe for you indoors either.” In that case, she said, her best advice would be for those vulnerable to air pollution to pack up and go somewhere else, if they can, until conditions improve.

The air quality district and public health departments took what precautions what they could Thursday, putting out press releases announcing the danger and setting up stations where people could come and pick up masks. But there was no mobile alert about air quality comparable to the ones sent about the fires themselves.

By Thursday afternoon, many of my neighbors made plans to leave town—and my family is doing the same. But as we pack up, it’s hard not to think about the many other folks who are still planning to work tomorrow, and who will sleep tonight in smoky homes. Not to mention all those sheltering in Santa Barbara as a refuge from the fires farther south.

Nothing Santa Barbara is going through compares to what those in and fleeing Ventura, Santa Paula, or Ojai are experiencing right now. Still, the situation here should worry public health officials and others planning for future wildfires, once the blazes are under control. (And, of course, the threat of wildfires is not confined to California. A 2016 study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found that the area of the United States that’s subject to forest fires has doubled since 1984, and is likely to keep growing.)

When fires menace major cities, such as Los Angeles, local and state officials pour all their resources into protecting population centers. But there’s no stopping the wind—and if it were blowing the other way, it could be 13 million Angelenos at risk instead of 90,000 Santa Barbarans.

*Correction, Dec. 8, 2017: This article originally misstated that Santa Barbara County began measuring an Air Quality Index in 1999. It has been measuring an AQI for fine particulate matter since 1999, but had been measuring an Air Quality Index earlier. Also, due to an editing error, the headline misstated Santa Barbara was upwind from the fires. It was downwind. (Return.)

Mattress Safe: New colors

Mattress Safe: New colors

Pest Management Professional

Mattress Safe now offers its Bed Bug Certified Mattress and Box Spring Encasements in beige, brown, black, gray, navy and green. The company recommends these decorative protectors for hospitality a…

Best Cooling Mattress & Tips to Sleep Cool

by Taylor Jones @ The Drömma Bed

A comfortable cooling mattress is essential for a good night’s sleep.  According to the National Sleep Foundation, people sleep best in a room as cool as 60 – 69 degrees Fahrenheit. They suggest thinking of your bedroom as a “cool, dark cave.” Before sleep, the body’s core temperature drops. Increased core temperature at the wrong time disrupts the sleep cycle, so a mattress that is too warm can result in a raised body temperature, restlessness, and waking in the night.  So how do you choose which is best? Overall Tips for Finding a Cooling Mattress If you’re shopping for a mattress someone […]

The post Best Cooling Mattress & Tips to Sleep Cool appeared first on The Drömma Bed.

The mattress safe – the latest way to bank with confidence

The mattress safe – the latest way to bank with confidence

the Guardian

Giles Tremlett: One Spanish business has hit upon a novel update to an old idea to bypass the country's banking crisis – a mattress in which you can stash your hard-earned euros

New Mattress Has Built-In Safe!

New Mattress Has Built-In Safe!

Business Insider

Stuff your cash under the bed, literally.

Do You Sleep on an "Organic" Mattress?

Do You Sleep on an "Organic" Mattress?

Dr. Axe

We spend close to one-third of our lives sleeping, yet for most of us it's on a mattress that turns out to be pretty toxic, let alone often uncomfortable. I wrote up this article all about the common ingredients in most mattresses — caution, it might freak you out — plus how exactly to pick the healthiest bed to your sleep and health go hand-in-hand like they should.

Naturepedic Baby Crib Mattress Quilted & Breathable

by admin @ organic mattress – Made Safe

  We’re proud to feature this organic baby crib mattress from the Naturepedic Quilted & Breathable Series as our Switch to MADE SAFE Product of the Day. Buy it here. Read more...

The post Naturepedic Baby Crib Mattress Quilted & Breathable appeared first on Made Safe.

It’s Time to Let Go of Our Dreams of Going to Venus

It’s Time to Let Go of Our Dreams of Going to Venus

by Neel V. Patel @ Slate Articles

The most recent time NASA launched a mission to Venus was in 1989. The Magellan orbiter lasted four years, transmitting data back to Earth that had to be recorded onto physical tapes. These were archaic times.

The generation-long drought of missions solely intended to study Venus was extended further last Wednesday, when NASA selected two projects as finalists for a mid-2020s science mission. None of the three Venus projects were chosen. One did receive additional funding for more research and development, but it will have to wait till the next application cycle to contend again for mission selection.

The general public might be more or less ambivalent to such a decision, but within the scientific community, there’s plenty of lamenting that Venus continues to draw the short straw when it comes to NASA’s science program.

But NASA is right. It’s time to let go of Venus.

There have always been good reasons to conduct missions to Venus: Earth and Venus share comparable sizes, densities, and overall geographies, and many scientists believe Venus represents a sort of glimpse into an alternate reality of what Earth could have turned out to be. While our planet is a warm, loving environment that’s allowed life to evolve and thrive, Venus is an 850 degree Fahrenheit extraterrestrial hell, covered in a dense atmosphere of sulfuric acid and surface pressures that we only see on Earth at depths of about 1 kilometer underwater. When previous missions have gone to Venus, they’ve been searching for clues that could explain how some planets transform into habitable worlds, and others don’t. That information could be very useful for understanding what other worlds and directions we ought to focus our attention on.

But there are two major reasons it’s time to move on from Venus. The first is cost and accessibility. Jim Green, the director of NASA’s Planetary Science Division, told reporters last Wednesday that going to Venus is still an incredibly difficult venture. The planet’s hellacious environment is a destructive force. Spending millions or billions of dollars on a lander that can’t last more than a few hours is a hard sell against projects that can study other worlds for several years on end, like Mars or Saturn’s moon Titan. Scientists are making strides in computer chips and technologies that could handle Venus, but a working lander or rover is still very far in the future. We could stick to orbiters and be safe, but there’s only so much you can learn about a place from high above.

The second reason to ignore Venus harkens back to what NASA is more interested in these days: extraterrestrial life. NASA is pivoting its science program deeper into astrobiology to find worlds that could be habitable to life—be it by humans or aliens. Mars, for instance, is a place we will certainly set foot on one day, and there are high hopes we could find signs of past or present microorganisms on the planet. Ocean worlds, like Saturn’s moons Titan and Enceladus and Jupiter’s moon Europa, also possess subsurface liquid oceans that might be breeding grounds for lifeforms. And even though these worlds are freezing, habitat technologies that keep colonists warm and fuzzy are already conceivable. If we can eventually perfect terraforming technologies, we could warm these worlds up so they’re more amenable to future denizens.

Venus is not like that. It’s almost certainly lifeless in its current state. We can’t even get simple instruments on Venus to survive for more than a few hours before they melt and combust. It’s almost unthinkable humans will ever set foot on the surface. And terraforming as we currently think about it means warming a planet up (which we’re pretty experienced at!), not cooling it down. If Venus ever decides to chill out, it will be millions or billions of years from now, as a natural process.

It’s sad to say, but Venus is more of a sideshow when it comes to planetary science these days. It might be time to accept we won’t be visiting the yellow planet for quite a long time. Let’s give ourselves a moment to mourn, and move on.

Best Soft Mattress for Your Needs

by Candace Osmond @ The Sleep Judge

Winter Sleep Tips For Baby

by Guest Blogger @ Naturepedic Blog

As the cold winter months march on, you might find yourself wrapping up in extra layers and perhaps turning the heating up a little higher too. And as you take measures to keep warm this winter, it’s a good idea to also take a look at your sleeping habits too. It can be tempting to add lots of extra layers for babies when it gets cold, but actually, it’s not always necessary. Here are some tips for winter sleep and keeping baby safe when it’s cold. Sleeping inside Studies have found that too many layers on baby can lead to overheating and can put them at risk. With this in mind, here are some tips for winter sleeping inside: – Remember that too many layers in an already warm room can hinder your baby’s ability to regulate her temperature and can play havoc with her natural breathing pattern. Make sure you convey this important message to all caregivers so that[...]

The post Winter Sleep Tips For Baby appeared first on Naturepedic Blog.

Safe Baby Wash, Bubble Bath & Soap Guide

by Maia James @ Gimme the Good Stuff

This post may contain affiliate links. Please read our disclosure page. UPDATED: January 2018 There is no reason you can’t use shampoo on your baby’s body as well as his…

The post Safe Baby Wash, Bubble Bath & Soap Guide appeared first on Gimme the Good Stuff.

The 7 Best Fats For A Healthy Gut (And 5 To Avoid)

by Mariel Heiss @ SCD Lifestyle

Learn 2 rules for testing the safety of any oil, 5 fats to avoid and the 7 healthiest fats for gut health (plus, how to use and where to find them).

Are These Toxic Materials In Your Mattress?

by exampleuser @ SleepLily

One of the most surprising things about toxic chemicals in mattresses is how incredibly common they are. In fact, mattresses that are off-gassing harmful VOCs, and emitting toxic chemicals seem to be the norm, and not the exception. Even worse, this is true even of many mattresses claiming to be “organic” or “all-natural.” How can this... Read more »

The post Are These Toxic Materials In Your Mattress? appeared first on SleepLily.

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