Chasing Cars

A wise man once told me: “Some relationships are like a dog chasing a car. “What’s a dog going to do with a car if he catches it?” Apparently that inspired this song. Snow Patrol:

ADD Linked To Pesticides?

This certainly is interesting. I remember when I was a kid, the DDT truck used to spray our street and kids would run out to play in the fog:

Studies linking environmental substances to disease are coming fast and furious. Chemicals in plastics and common household goods have been associated with serious developmental problems, while a long inventory of other hazards are contributing to rising rates of modern ills: heart disease, obesity, diabetes, autism.

Add attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) to the list. A new study in the journal Pediatrics associates exposure to pesticides to cases of ADHD in the U.S. and Canada. In the U.S. alone, an estimated 4.5 million children ages 5 to 17 have ever been diagnosed with ADHD, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and rates of diagnosis have risen 3% a year between 1997 and 2006. Increasingly, research suggests that chemical influences, perhaps in combination with other environmental factors — like video gaming, hyperkinetically edited TV shows and flashing images in educational DVDs aimed at infants — may be contributing to the increase in attention problems.(See pictures of inside a school for autistic children.)

Led by Maryse Bouchard in Montreal, researchers based at the University of Montreal and Harvard University examined the potential relationship between ADHD and exposure to certain toxic pesticides called organophosphates. The team analyzed the levels of pesticide residues in the urine of more than 1,100 children aged 8 to 15 years old, and found that those with the highest levels of dialkyl phosphates, which are the breakdown products of organophosphate pesticides, also had the highest incidence of ADHD. Overall, they found a 35% increase in the odds of developing ADHD with every 10-fold increase in urinary concentration of the pesticide residues. The effect was seen even at the low end of exposure: kids who had any detectable, above-average level of the most common pesticide metabolite in their urine were twice as likely as those with undetectable levels to record symptoms of the learning disorder.

“I was quite surprised to see an effect at lower levels of exposure,” says Bouchard, who used data on ADHD from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, a long-term study of health parameters of a representative sample of U.S. citizens.(Read how fidgeting can help kids with ADHD learn.)

Payoff

Is it just me, or is there something really wrong with this system?

Five days after appearing before Congress to testify about its responsibility in one of the worst oil spills in US history, the Swiss company that owned and operated the oil rig that sunk into the Gulf of Mexico announced that it would shell out $1 billion in dividends to shareholders.

The revelation that Transocean is distributing a $1 billion profit to shareholders as one of its drill sites leaks millions of gallons of oil into the sea is sure to inflame an already smarting debate over offshore drilling and the company’s role.

Transocean has passionately argued that they don’t share financial responsibility for the disaster. A clause in a contract they had with BP says that the oil company is obligated to pay for any environmental damage, even though Transocean actually owned the rig. BP was leasing the rig from Transocean at the time of the accident.

Transocean’s distribution to shareholders was done quietly on Friday at a “closed door meeting.” The company had previously announced that they would vote on the dividend at the event.

To put the distribution in perspective, the amount of profit that Transocean plans to pay out in the next year is half of what Exxon ultimately paid for the Exxon Valdez disaster off the Alaska Coast.

It’s also more than double what BP has said they’ve spent on the cleanup to date.

The company also made a paper gain from their insurance carrier after the Deepwater Horizon rig collapsed into the ocean aflame.

Transocean had insured the rig for $560 million, but apparently never spent that much money actually building it. The company’s CEO told investors on a recent conference call that the firm had book a $270 million “accounting gain” on the difference between the real value of the rig and the amount that they’d insured it for.

Since the rig collapsed, the company said they’ve already received $401 million from their insurance policy.

It’s About Time

This is heartening news, don’t you think?

Huge angry mobs converged outside bank employees’ houses on Sunday afternoon to demand banks stop lobbying against Wall Street reform.

“Bank of America: bad for America!” shouted community leaders outside the house of Bank of America general counsel Gregory Baer.

The Chicago-based grassroots organization National People’s Action, in coordination with the SEIU, bused more than 700 workers from 20 states to Baer’s neighborhood, one of the wealthiest corners of Washington. The action kicks off several days of protests targeting K Street for lobbyists’ role in financial reform.

Baer himself apparently tried to blend in with the crowd until a neighbor outed him. The mob booed loudly as he walked into his house. “I don’t have time for you,” he said, according to Trenda Kennedy of Springfield, Ill. who used a bullhorn to tell the crowd about her trouble getting a mortgage modification from Baer’s bank.

Kennedy told HuffPost she’d been making reduced monthly payments thanks to a trial modification via the Home Affordable Modification Program. She said that when the bank turned her down for a permanent mod, she was told she still owed all the money she’d been paying during the trial. She said she’s been notified of several sheriff’s sale dates but has somehow managed to keep her home.

“Every time I’m inches away from losing my house, by some miracle it’s been pushed off,” said Kennedy, who is a member of Illinois People’s Action.

Passersby and dogwalkers smiled at the sight of people gathered all over Baer’s lawn and blocking the road. Baer’s neighbor from across the street won little sympathy when he angrily yelled at protesters for waking up his two-year-old daughter. Kennedy was one of several people used a bullhorn to tell their personal bank horror stories.

Baer, formerly a senior official at the Treasury department, is a lawyer for the bank’s regulator and public policy legal group. Bank of America declined to comment.

“Bank of America came to the homes of everyday Americans when you spread predatory loans in neighborhoods across, the country, when you financed payday-lending storefronts, when your reckless behavior sent the economy to the brink of disaster, and when your bank-owned properties littered neighborhoods from coast to coast,” said a letter the group asked Baer to deliver to CEO Brian Moynihan. “You’ve created a historic mess and have been unreceptive to very polite, very formal and very consistent requests to fix the problems you helped create.

No Global Warming, Huh?

Graph via Paul Krugman, who points us to this important story:

It was the hottest April on record in the NASA dataset. More significantly, following fast on the heels of the hottest March and hottest Jan-Feb-March on record, it’s also the hottest Jan-Feb-March-April on record [click on figure to enlarge].

The record temperatures we’re seeing now are especially impressive because we’ve been in “the deepest solar minimum in nearly a century.” It now appears to be over. It’s just hard to stop the march of manmade global warming, well, other than by reducing greenhouse gas emissions, that is.

Most significantly, NASA’s March prediction has come true: “It is nearly certain that a new record 12-month global temperature will be set in 2010.″

Software engineer (and former machinist mate in the US Navy) Timothy Chase put together a spreadsheet using the data from NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies (click here). In NASA’s dataset, the 12-month running average temperature record was actually just barely set in March — and then easily set in April.

Actually, NASA first made its prediction back in January 2009:

Given our expectation of the next El Niño beginning in 2009 or 2010, it still seems likely that a new global temperature record will be set within the next 1-2 years, despite the moderate negative effect of the reduced solar irradiance.”

Of course, there never was any global cooling — see Must-read AP story: Statisticians reject global cooling; Caldeira — “To talk about global cooling at the end of the hottest decade the planet has experienced in many thousands of years is ridiculous.”

In fact, the 12-month record we just beat was set in … 2007!

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