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    • The First Great Environmental Crisis Will Be
      Water. As I’ve said for many years. The world is facing an imminent water crisis, with demand expected to outstrip the supply of fresh water by 40 percent by the end of this decade, experts have said on the eve of a crucial UN water summit. I’ll use the US as an example, though this going to effect almost all countries, some much worse than others, and it wi […]
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We all have one-track minds

As a person who can only do one thing at a time (if that), all I have to say is: HA!

BBC | Multitaskers bad at multitasking

The people who engage in media “multitasking” are those least able to do so well, according to researchers.

A survey defined two groups: those who routinely consumed [Ed. note: “consumed”?] multiple media such as internet, television and mobile phones, and those who did not.

In a series of three classic psychology tests for attention and memory, the “low multitaskers” consistently outdid their highly multitasking counterparts.

The results are reported in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. …

“If you look at classical psychology textbooks, people cannot multitask – but if you walk around on the street, you see lots of people multitasking,” [Cliff Nass] told BBC News.

“So we asked ourselves the question, ‘what is it that these multitaskers are good at that enables them to do this?'” …

[In tests of the ability to ignore irrelevant information, organize working memory, and ability to switch tasks,] “the shocking discovery of this research is that [high multitaskers] are lousy at everything that’s necessary for multitasking,” Professor Nass said.

“The irony here is that when you ask the low multitaskers, they all think they’re much worse at multitasking and the high multitaskers think they’re gifted at it.”

The pressing question that remains, Professor Nass said, is one of cause and effect: are those people with a dearth of multitasking skills drawn to multitasking lifestyles, or do the lifestyles dull the skills?

Academics always make everything so difficult. The answer is obvious: it’s the well-known, pathetically consistent, Dunning-Kruger Effect.

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The Big Island

Hi guys, we arrived on Hawaii yesterday via a teeny tiny commuter plane.  Kudos to the guys at Pacific Wings for a smooth and breathtaking flight.  It was beautiful.

Inside the Pacific Wings Cessna

Inside the Pacific Wings Cessna

I have some pics of the Pu’uhonoa o Honaunau (City of Refuge) and Kona Joe’s Trellised Coffee Farm.  The barrista at Kona Joe’s has the best location in the world, sitting on a hill overlooking a placid Pacific Ocean.

The coffee bar at Kona Joe's

The coffee bar at Kona Joe's

Ok, here are some pics of yesterday’s scenery.  You might recognize a pattern with my snapshots.  Well, other than the obvious that they were taken with my lousy iPhone camera (I will never forgive AT&T for not allowing me to upgrade without a $200 penalty).  So, here goes:

Hawaiian lace at Kona Joe's

Hawaiian lace at Kona Joe's

Ali'i's Coconut Grove, Pu'uhonua

Ali'i's Coconut Grove, Pu'uhonua

Heiau construction, Pu'uhonua

Heiau construction, Pu'uhonua

Banana hammock? Pu'uhonua

Banana hammock? Pu'uhonua

The Villagers, Pu'uhonua

The Villagers, Pu'uhonua

My little grass shack, Pu'uhonua

My little grass shack, Pu'uhonua

Sea turtle, Pu'uhonua

Sea turtle, Pu'uhonua

Today, we’re headed for Volcanoes National Park.  Kiluea is erupting for us.  The state of Hawaii has set aside an area off of Highway 130 as a viewing area.  We have to hike to it at dusk to get the best view.  We hope to get some good pics.

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(Mid-Morning) News at The Confluence

My mom’s a three-time cancer survivor so I’m always interested in stories like this.

Marriage ‘cancer survival impact’

US researchers from Indiana University analysed data on 3.8m people diagnosed with cancer between 1973 and 2004.

They found people who were married had a 63% chance of surviving five years, compared to 45% of people who were separated, the journal Cancer reported.

The team said the stress of break-up probably affected survival rates.

Or …. The Department of Maybe Yes, Maybe No:

Strained marriages ‘harm women’ (March 5, 2009)

US psychologists found wives in tense marriages were prone to risk factors for heart disease, stroke and diabetes.

In comparison, husbands seemed relatively immune from such problems.

Procter & Gamble Sells Drug Unit for $3.1 Billion

The sale process for the Procter & Gamble unit was run by Goldman Sachs. Among the unit’s products is Actonel, a treatment for osteoporosis, the colitis drug Asacol, and Enablex, a treatment for an overactive bladder.

The Procter unit had $2.3 billion in revenue in the year ended in June, including more than a billion from Actonel. Warner Chilcott had revenue of $938 million in 2008.

Most of the unit’s 2,300 employees are expected to transfer to Warner Chilcott, the companies said in a statement. The deal, which needs regulatory approval, is expected to close by the end of the year.

Overuse of antivirals could make H1N1 pandemic even worse

Already, a handful of cases of Tamiflu-resistant H1N1 have been reported this summer, and there is no shortage of examples of misuse of the antiviral medications, experts say.

People often fail to complete a full course of the drug, according to a recent British report — a scenario also likely to be occurring in the U.S. and one that encourages resistance. Stockpiling is rife, and some U.S. summer camps have given Tamiflu prophylactically to healthy kids and staff, and have even told campers to bring the drug to camp. Experts anticipate more problems in the fall as children return to school and normal flu season draws nearer.

Millions face shrinking Social Security payments

The trustees who oversee Social Security are projecting there won’t be a cost of living adjustment (COLA) for the next two years. That hasn’t happened since automatic increases were adopted in 1975.

By law, Social Security benefits cannot go down. Nevertheless, monthly payments would drop for millions of people in the Medicare prescription drug program because the premiums, which often are deducted from Social Security payments, are scheduled to go up slightly.

“I will promise you, they count on that COLA,” said Barbara Kennelly, a former Democratic congresswoman from Connecticut who now heads the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare. “To some people, it might not be a big deal. But to seniors, especially with their health care costs, it is a big deal.”

Attack on Obama riles Beck’s advertisers

Glenn Beck returns to Fox News Channel on Monday after a vacation with fewer companies willing to advertise on his show than when he left, part of the fallout from calling President Barack Obama a racist.

A total of 33 Fox advertisers, including Wal-Mart Stores Inc., CVS Caremark, Clorox and Sprint, directed that their commercials not air on Beck’s show, according to the companies and ColorofChange.org, a group that promotes political action among blacks and launched a campaign to get advertisers to abandon him. That’s more than a dozen more than were identified a week ago.

While it’s unclear what effect, if any, this will ultimately have on Fox and Beck, it is already making advertisers skittish about hawking their wares within the most opinionated cable TV shows.

Health care plan tests Pelosi’s leadership

The speaker, eager to hear reports from the field and keep the party’s message on track, participates in a weekly call with members of her caucus.

“The reports we get back are very positive,” she said. “By and large, members are getting a very good reception.”

Still, a phone hotline and an e-mail address relay some of the thornier questions that arise from town hall meetings to Pelosi’s staff, allowing prompt responses on details such as how the legislation addresses home health care, or when a small business would be mandated to provide health care coverage.

“That it is still moving forward speaks to the fact that the leadership has been successful,” said Ken Thorpe, chairman of health policy at Emory University in Atlanta, and a senior official at the Health and Human Services department during President Bill Clinton’s unsuccessful push for health care reform.

“She’s very hands-on,” Thorpe said.

Hey! Maybe this time it’ll work….

Remember me? Wall Street repackages debt for sale

Wall Street may have discovered a way out from under the bad debt and risky mortgages that have clogged the financial markets. The would-be solution probably sounds familiar: It’s a lot like what got banks in trouble in the first place.

In recent months investment banks have been repackaging old mortgage securities and offering to sell them as new products, a plan that’s nearly identical to the complicated investment packages at the heart of the market’s collapse.

“There is a little bit of deja vu in this,” said Arizona State University economics professor Herbert Kaufman.

But Kaufman said the strategy could help solve one of the lingering problems of the financial meltdown: What to do about hundreds of billions of dollars in mortgages that are still choking the system and making bankers reluctant to make new loans.

As Paul Krugman says:

All the President’s Zombies

“We have always known that heedless self-interest was bad morals,” said Franklin Delano Roosevelt in 1937. “We know now that it is bad economics.” And last year we learned that lesson all over again.

Or did we? The astonishing thing about the current political scene is the extent to which nothing has changed.

The debate over the public option has, as I said, been depressing in its inanity. Opponents of the option — not just Republicans, but Democrats like Senator Kent Conrad and Senator Ben Nelson — have offered no coherent arguments against it. Mr. Nelson has warned ominously that if the option were available, Americans would choose it over private insurance — which he treats as a self-evidently bad thing, rather than as what should happen if the government plan was, in fact, better than what private insurers offer.

But it’s much the same on other fronts. Efforts to strengthen bank regulation appear to be losing steam, as opponents of reform declare that more regulation would lead to less financial innovation — this just months after the wonders of innovation brought our financial system to the edge of collapse, a collapse that was averted only with huge infusions of taxpayer funds.

So why won’t these zombie ideas die?

Nouriel Roubini thinks…

The risk of a double-dip recession is rising

The global economy is starting to bottom out from the worst recession and financial crisis since the Great Depression. In the fourth quarter of 2008 and first quarter of 2009 the rate at which most advanced economies were contracting was similar to the gross domestic product free-fall in the early stage of the Depression. Then, late last year, policymakers who had been behind the curve finally started to use most of the weapons in their arsenal.

That effort worked and the free-fall of economic activity eased. There are three open questions now on the outlook. When will the global recession be over? What will be the shape of the economic recovery? Are there risks of a relapse?

. . .

But if they maintain large budget deficits, bond market vigilantes will punish policymakers. Then, inflationary expectations will increase, long-term government bond yields would rise and borrowing rates will go up sharply, leading to stagflation.

Another reason to fear a double-dip recession is that oil, energy and food prices are now rising faster than economic fundamentals warrant, and could be driven higher by excessive liquidity chasing assets and by speculative demand. Last year, oil at $145 a barrel was a tipping point for the global economy, as it created negative terms of trade and a disposable income shock for oil importing economies. The global economy could not withstand another contractionary shock if similar speculation drives oil rapidly towards $100 a barrel.

Obama’s Team Is Lacking Most of Its Top Players

Of more than 500 senior policymaking positions requiring Senate confirmation, just 43 percent have been filled — a reflection of a White House that grew more cautious after several nominations blew up last spring, a Senate that is intensively investigating nominees and a legislative agenda that has consumed both.

Justice Dept advises pursuing CIA abuses

The department’s ethics watchdog has recommended considering prosecuting Central Intelligence Agency employees or contractors for harsh interrogations in Iraq and Afghanistan that went beyond approved limits, a government official said.

Malaysian authorities postpone whipping of women who drank alcohol.

“The sentence remains,” Mohamed Sahfri Abdul Aziz, the head of religious affairs in Pahang state said, according to Malaysian media accounts. “She has been released but only temporarily.”

Does caning in Malaysia herald a more Islamic state?

This would be the first time that a woman has been caned in this mainly Muslim country of 27 million people that is seen as a moderate state.

The sentencing has turned the spotlight on an Islamic legal system that runs alongside civil laws in the multi-ethnic country. It also comes at a time when influence of the Pan Malaysian Islamic Party (PAS), which wants to introduce an Islamic state, is growing.

Bernie Madoff dying of cancer

Madoff, 71, who since June has been serving a 150-year sentence at a North Carolina federal prison, has been telling fellow inmates he does not have much longer to live, the Post said, citing the unofficial and unusual sources.

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