News you can use

I always get a flu shot, so here’s one less thing to worry about:

A number of studies have shown a link between heart attacks and a prior respiratory infection. A 2010 study of about 78,000 patients age 40 or older found that those who had gotten a flu shot in the previous year were 20 percent less likely to suffer a first heart attack, even when such cardiovascular risks as smoking, high cholesterol, hypertension and diabetes were taken in account.


Scarier still, researchers report that up to 91,000 Americans a year die from heart attacks and strokes triggered by flu. This grim statistic prompted the American Heart Association and American College of Cardiology to issue guidelines recommending vaccination for patients with cardiovascular disease (CVD). The CDC advises flu shots for everyone over six months of age, but cautions that certain people should check with a medical provider before being immunized.


Sadly, fewer than half of Americans with high-risk conditions like heart disease get the shot, leaving themselves dangerously unprotected against both flu complications and cardiovascular events. In fact, the CDC actually uses heart attack rates to track seasonal flu outbreaks, says Dr. Bale. “They look for areas with a sudden surge in heart attacks and send a team to investigate, because the cause is almost always a spike in flu cases.”

Sadness in the neighborhood

I bought a winter topcoat at the thrift store last night, and this morning, I took it to the dry cleaning shop around the corner to get it altered and cleaned. On the way in, I noticed the shop was for sale.

I told the little old Polish lady I wanted the sleeves let down, and she kept saying she would take them up. “No, no, I want them let down,” I said.

She burst into tears. “I’m sorry, I can’t concentrate,” she said with a thick accent. “My husband is dying of brain cancer. The doctors, they think he’ll go before Christmas. I sell the store, it’s too much.”

Another one! Where is all this brain cancer coming from? I told her I was sorry, that I would say a prayer for his peaceful passing.

“I lost my mother a year ago, too,” she said, her eyes welling. “My husband, he walk like this.” She walked back and forth, slowly and stiffly. “I don’t know what I’m going to do. Forty-one years, we are married.”

“I’ll say a prayer,” I said again. “I’m very sorry for what you’re going through.”

Elevator prank

A Brazilian TV show did this stunt. Damn, I think I’d have a heart attack!

A military suicide every 80 minutes

This is why I’m so deeply cynical about the so-called “patriotism” of certain politicians. You would think at the very least, taking care of the troops when they come home would be first on their list — but instead, they talk about tax cuts.

It seems like the system is so overwhelmed by the number of veterans in need of psychological services, all they do is treat the symptoms with drug cocktails — which becomes even more dangerous when veterans go to several different doctors, like this Afghan war vet.

CALLAWAY, Fla. — Libby Busbee pounded on the window of her son’s maroon Dodge Charger as he sat in the driveway of their home earlier this year. Locked inside his car, Army Spc. William Busbee sat with a .45-caliber gun pointed to the side of his head.

“Look at me,” his mother cried out as she tried to get her son’s attention. “Look at me.”

He wouldn’t look.

He stared out the front windshield, distant, said Libby Busbee, relating the story from an apartment complex in Callaway.

“I kept yelling, ‘Don’t you do this. Don’t do it.’ He wouldn’t turn his head to look at me,” she said, looking down at the burning cigarette in her hand.

A 911 call was made. The police pulled her away from the car.

William, Libby Busbee’s 23-year-old son, was talking with a police officer when he fired a shot through the front windshield of his car, according to the police report.

The police recoiled. William rapped on the window in apparent frustration, the report indicated.

Then the second shot was heard.

“I knew that was the one,” said Libby Busbee.

William Busbee took his life in March with his mother and sisters looking on.

William Busbee was no casualty of the war in Afghanistan. He was a casualty of his own mind, his mother said.
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Screwing the unemployed

It’s because of funding time bombs like this that Obama’s self-created crisis may end up screwing the long-term unemployed. That’s what happens when you give into Republican extortionists, and the fatal mistake is assuming they’re going to negotiate good faith. Obama should have taken Clinton’s advice, asserted executive power under the Constitution and told them all to kiss his ass. But of course he didn’t:

More than 40% of the nearly five million Americans who receive unemployment insurance are set to lose those benefits if federal programs expire as scheduled at year-end.


Some economists worry that cutting off those benefits could harm the economy by leaving millions of Americans with less money to spend on everything from food to fuel. Others argue that overly generous benefits are helping to prolong joblessness.


About 2.1 million Americans receive payments through federally backed emergency unemployment programs, which Congress adopted starting in 2008 as a temporary supplement to state-level programs funded primarily with taxes on employers, which generally offer six months of benefits. That number has tumbled from more than 3.5 million at the start of the year and a peak of more than six million in early 2010, reflecting not just the gradual improvement of the job market but also new limits that have pushed hundreds of thousands of workers off the rolls before they could find jobs.


Already this year, hundreds of thousands of people have exhausted their jobless benefits. Now, virtually everyone left in the federal programs would lose their benefits if the programs expire as scheduled at year-end.


Congress has repeatedly extended unemployment benefits amid high joblessness, and it could do so again. But the programs have gotten caught up in the fight over the “fiscal cliff,” a package of tax increases and spending cuts due to take effect early next year. Some Democrats are pushing to extend benefits again, but the programs must contend not only with Republican opposition but also competing priorities such as business and individual tax breaks.

Conservatives: Bad at complex thinking

Interesting studies. Whenever I argue with a conservative, I always end up saying in frustration, “But it’s not that simple!” It appears that for some people, their inability to reason out complex ideas is what makes them conservatives, and not their hatred of the human race (although there may be some overlap there)! What do you think?

Good news for conservatives as a compilation of four recent social psychology studies demonstrate that rather than necessarily being pathological, political conservatism is promoted when people rely on low-effort thinking.


In the four studies conducted by Scott Eidelman, Christian S. Crandall, Jeffrey A. Goodman, and John C. Blanchar published by the Society for Personality and Social Psychology, Inc, they concluded, “(P)olitical conservatism is promoted when people rely on low-effort thinking. When effortful, deliberate responding is disrupted or disengaged, thought processes become quick and efficient; these conditions promote conservative ideology… low-effort thought might promote political conservatism because its concepts are easier to process, and processing fluency increases attitude endorsement.”


In other words, complex thinking makes their heads hurt, so they don’t do it!

Ever wonder why conservatives can’t seem to understand that people are not always to blame for the circumstances they find themselves in? While personal responsibility sounds like it makes perfect sense initially, when you walk people through the various life circumstances that can render people temporarily dependent upon government help, it becomes clear that things are not so simple. These studies demonstrate the impact of correctional/effortful explanations on political ideology, “This analysis also suggests that some forms of political ideology may result from intentional and effortful correction. For example, Wänke and Wyer (1996) found that liberals scored higher than conservatives on the Attributional Complexity Scale (Fletcher, Danilovics, Fernandez, Peterson, & Reeder, 1986), an indicator that the former generate more complex and detailed (if not more effortful) explanations for the behavior of others.”

Which would explain why conservatives only seem to understand painful situations when they happen to them, or to someone close to them.

We think that compassion and empathy are a fundamental part of liberal values, and we note at times that it takes being in that specific situation for conservatives to grasp why, for example, liberals support universal healthcare for all. There are many studies that address that take on things, but this study is specifically addressing whether or not having low-effort thinking will produce conservative thinking initially, and they showed that it does.


That would fall under blaming the person versus the situation. In some instances, it takes higher level effort thinking (correctional thinking) to consider the situational explanation. An example is considering why someone might be on government assistance. Conservative thinking will blame the person, liberal thinking will correct that initial impulse with a situation-based explanation. “Skitka and her colleagues (Skitka et al., 2002; Study 4) analyzed interviews conducted for the 1987 National Election Studies and found that liberals were more than twice as likely as conservatives to correct an initial “person” attribution with a “situation” explanation in response to a question about government assistance. These correlational findings suggest that some instances of ideology may result from correction processes, overriding and adjusting initial conservative responses. Our experimental studies provide evidence of causal direction.”


Whether that low-effort thinking comes from being busy, overwhelmed, or inebriated, the study shows that under conditions of what we could call cognitive impairment or limited time resulting in low-effort thinking, people are more conservative politically.


As for those centrists (or, come election time, undecided voters), your suspicions appear to be correct. “People with strong political views—left or right—show more cognitive ability than broadly defined centrists.” (Kemmelmeier, 2008)

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