October 06, 2015

Study: For optimal heart health, Americans should double or even quadruple the amount of exercising they’re doing. The findings challenge the notion of a 30-minutes-a-day magic number for exercise.

If you're among of the millions of Americans who dutifully carve out 30 minutes a day for the moderate-intensity exercise recommended by experts based on the the idea that you're doing all that you can for your heart, you're in for some disappointing news.
A new analysis published Monday in the journal Circulation finds that that amount of activity just might not be good enough.
For the paper, researchers reviewed 12 previous studies involving 370,460 men and women with varying levels of physical activity. Over a mean followup time of 15 years, this group experienced 20,203 heart failure events. Each of the participants self-reported their daily activities which allowed the team to estimate the amount of exercise they were doing. 
They found that those following the 30-minutes-a-day guidelines issued by the American Heart Association had “modest reductions” in heart failure risk compared to those who did not work out at all.
But those who did twice and four times as much exercise experienced “a substantial risk reduction" of 20 and 35 percent respectively.
The findings challenge the notion of a 30-minutes-a-day magic number for exercise. Instead, research found that physical activity and heart failure may be what they called "dose-dependent," meaning that higher levels of physical activity appeared to be linked to a lower risk of heart failure. That association appeared to hold across age groups, gender and race. 
Jarett D. Berry, senior author of the study and an associate professor at University of Texas Southwestern Medical School, said that the study shows that physicians and health policy-makers should consider making stronger recommendations for higher amounts of physical activity to prevent heart failure.
Heart failure, which occurs when the heart cannot supply enough blood to the body, affects over 5.1 million adults in the country, and results in health-care costs of over $30 billion per year. The American Heart Association reports that it accounts for “a significant proportion” of hospitalizations and deaths of older Americans. Officials suggest that this “growing epidemic” is expected to increase by 25 percent from 2010 to 2030.

“Heart failure is a big public health concern and in contrast to the dramatic reduction in coronary disease that we’ve seen in the population, the incidence of heart failure remains relatively unchanged,” Berry said.
American Heart Association guidelines recommend middle-aged adults engage in at least two hours and 30 minutes per week of exercise like brisk walking. Berry said walking 30 minutes a day for instance may not be enough for a middle-aged person with hypertension, which presents an increased risk of getting heart failure. Those with diabetes or a failing history of heart failure would also benefit from talking with their doctors about increased physical activity. 
Ambarish Pandey, the study’s lead author and a cardiology fellow at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical School, said the study was limited in its ability to compare the relationship of heart failure risk with different types of physical activity, as well as in differentiating between work-related physical activity versus exercise for leisure.
“If someone runs to their work, that doesn’t count as leisure,” Pandey explained. “That counts as occupational. If someone is an exercise trainer, then he will be more active at his workplace and that may not be accounted for in the leisure activity that we have looked at.”

Jeremy Bird says 90 percent of Americans want mandatory background checks for all gun purchases .

An adviser to a group focused on turning Texas Democratic-blue suggested after the fatal shootings in Oregon that there’s a huge consensus nationally in favor of mandating a background check before any gun purchase.
Jeremy Bird, a Chicago-based senior adviser to Battleground Texas, said in an Oct. 2, 2015, tweet: "90% of Americans want national background checks that close loopholes. 9-0. Won't solve whole problem but is a start."
He posted that comment the day after a man opened fire at Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, Ore., killing nine. According to news accounts, authorities subsequently collected 14 guns owned by the man, who killed himself at the scene.
Hours before Bird tweeted, ATF Assistant Special Agent in Charge Celinez Nunezsaid at a news conference that all of the weapons were purchased legally, seven of them by the shooter or his family members in the last three years.
And was Bird right about sweeping support for universal background checks?
A previous ‘True’
Bird’s claim rang a bell. In April 2013, we found True a claim by Lee Leffingwell, then Austin’s mayor, that 90 percent of Americans and 74 percent of National Rifle Association members supported background checks of gun purchasers. Polls taken in 2012 and 2013 supported both figures, though one taken closest to Leffingwell’s comment indicated support among all Americans possibly slipping a bit below 90 percent.
Currently, background checks are required in sales by federally licensed gun dealers but not for gun sales by private sellers. But President Barack Obama and others have called for requiring criminal background checks for all gun sales. In 2013, the National Rifle Association suggested that an expansion would fail to rope incriminals.
A January 2013 Pew Research Center poll found 85 percent of all respondents in favor of making private gun sales and sales at gun shows subject to background checks, with comparable support from Republicans, Democrats and independents, Pew said. The margin of error for the entire sample was 2.9 percentage points.
Several 2015 polls
By email to our inquiry about Bird’s statement, Pew spokesman Brian Mahl pointed out a center survey of 2,002 adults taken from July 14-20, 2015, that found (again) 85 percent of respondents in favor of making private gun sales and sales at gun shows subject to background checks.
Pew said in its August 2015 results summary: "While there is broad support for several specific gun policy proposals – and opinion on these measures has not changed significantly since 2013 – the public continues to be more evenly divided in fundamental attitudes about whether it is more important to control gun ownership or to protect the right of Americans to own guns. Currently, 50% say it is more important to control gun ownership, while 47% say it is more important to protect the right of Americans to own guns."
Our own web search turned up a survey of 1,326 adults, intended to be a representative national sample, taken Jan. 2-16, 2015 by researchers at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. Some 84 percent of respondents favored requiring background checks for all gun sales, compared to 89 percent in a similar survey taken two years before, a "slight erosion," the authors wrote.
We noted before a January 2013 CBS/New York Times poll indicating 92 percent of all the respondents at that time favoring background checks for all potential gun buyers. The poll had an overall margin of error of three percentage points. A more recent CBS News poll, taken of 1,047 registered voters July 29-Aug. 2, 2015,  showed 88 percent of respondents favoring background checks for all gun purchases including, CBS News said, "large majorities of Republicans (81 percent), Democrats (93 percent), and independents (89 percent)."
Quinnipiac University polls
National voter surveys by Quinnipiac University continue to show widespread support for universal background checks.
We noted in our Leffingwell check that a national Quinnipiac University survey of 772 registered voters, taken Jan. 30 through Feb. 4, 2013, found 92 percent supporting background checks for all gun buyers. That survey had a margin of error of 2.3 percentage points. A subsequent Quinnipiac University survey, taken of 1,944 registered voters from Feb. 27, 2013 through March 4, 2013, found 88 percent in favor of background checks for all gun buyers. The poll had a margin of error of 2.2 percentage points.
By email, Battleground Texas replied to our inquiry by pointing out a news story inThe Hill, a Washington, D.C., newspaper, stating that a June 2014 Quinnipiac University poll found 92 percent of surveyed voters in favor of universal background checks for gun purchases. The survey reached 1,446 registered voters from June 24-30, 2014 and had a margin of error of plus or minus 2.6 percentage points.
More recently, a Quinnipiac University survey of 1,574 registered voters, taken Sept. 17-21, 2015, found 93 percent of respondents in favor of requiring background checks for all gun buyers. Similarly, 93 percent of respondents with a legally acquired gun in the household indicated support for such checks. The poll had a margin of error of 2.5 percentage points.

BP fined a record $20.8 billion for oil spill disaster

BP PLC — the company responsible for the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill — will pay a record $20.8 billion to the US government to cover damages caused by the disaster, the Department of Justice announced Monday. The deal finalizes an agreement between BP and the federal government that was first announced in July, in which BP said it would pay $18.7 billion. This final settlement updates that number and resolves all civil claims against BP set forth by the Department of Justice and five Gulf states. It is considered "the largest settlement with a single entity in American history," according to US Attorney General Loretta Lynch.
Out of the money owed, BP will pay $5.5 billion to cover penalties incurred under the Clean Water Act, the US law that regulates water pollution. The five states affected by the spill — Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Texas — will also receive large sums to cover damages, as will 400 local government entities. Apart from this settlement, BP has spent a reported $28 billion on cleanup and compensation.
The Deepwater Horizon disaster is considered by many to be the worst oil spill in US history. The spill occurred when an offshore oil rig exploded in the Gulf of Mexico, dumping 4.9 million barrels of oil into the surrounding waters. The explosion killed 11 people and devastated marine wildlife in the area. A portion of the BP settlement will go toward revitalizing these damaged habitats. "Once approved by the court, this agreement will launch one of the largest environmental restoration efforts the world has ever seen," Lynch said.

Edward Snowden: Smartphones can be hacked into with just one text message and then used to spy on their owners - GCHQ, the UK’s spying agency, has a ‘smurf suite’ of tools that allow it to break into and listen in on phones, Snowden claims from Moscow.

The world’s spying agencies have tools that allow them to take over smartphones with just a text message, according to Edward Snowden, and there is “very little” that their owners can do to stop it.
The UK’s intelligence agency has a suite of tools that let it listen on phones and their owners, Snowden told the BBC’s Panorama in Moscow. All spies would need to do is send a special text message and they will be able to gain access to the camera and its microphones, the BBC reported Snowden as saying.
The set of tools is called “Smurf Suite”, according to Snowden. Each of the individual tools has their own name — “Dreamy Smurf” lets the phone be powered on and off, for instance, and “Nosey Smurf” lets spies turn the microphone on and listen in on users, even if the phone itself is turned off.
GCHQ even has a tool called “Paranoid Smurf” that hides the fact that it has taken control of the phone. The tool will stop people from recognising that the phone has been tampered with if it is taken in for a service, for instance. 
“For example, if you wanted to take the phone in to get it serviced because you saw something strange going on or you suspected something was wrong, it makes it much more difficult for any technician to realise that anything's gone amiss,” Snowden said.
The text message used to gain access to the phone wouldn’t be seen by its user and they would have no idea that it had arrived, Snowden said.
"That's a specially crafted message that's texted to your number like any other text message but when it arrives at your phone it's hidden from you,” Snowden said. “It doesn't display. You paid for it [the phone] but whoever controls the software owns the phone."
A spokesperson for the UK government told the BBC that it does not comment on intelligence matters but that its spying work is carried out within a “strict legal and policy framework”.

A War Photographer Captured Striking Images Of A Migrant Camp In Calais While Delivering Aid

Veteran war photographer John D McHugh, had only one question: “What can we do to help?”

By the end of the day they had hatched a plan to try to do something to help those just on their doorstep, in Calais. McHugh set up an Amazon wish list including 100 high-grade winter sleeping bags and 100 tarpaulins. “It’s better to buy specific stuff than raise money. People need someone to say, ‘What can I do right now to help your life?’” McHugh told BuzzFeed News.

Anybody who wished to help could buy a sleeping bag or tarpaulin from the list, which McHugh and a small group would then deliver to aid organisation L’Auberge Des Migrants (ADM), who could distribute them to refugees and migrants in the camp.

After just 72 hours of launching the wish list they had cleaned Amazon out of both sleeping bags and tarpaulins, surpassing their original target and ending up with 144 of each. “Poor people in Calais are facing what could be their first winter, so good warmth and shelter is what they need right now,” he said.
While delivering the supplies to Calais, McHugh decided to photograph the camp to help raise awareness of declining conditions. “The story will move on, but the people won’t,” he said. Johnny Sertin, the vicar at McHugh’s local church, St Andrews, Earlsfield, joined him to establish how his church network might be able to provide refugees with further help.

Astonishing Photos Capture 1,000-Year Flood In South Carolina

Unprecedented floods have killed at least 12 people in South Carolina and left tens of thousands stranded, prompting President Obama on Monday to declare a major disaster in the state.
Described as a once-in-a-millennium event, the floods also forced mass evacuations and, according to Gov. Nikki Haley, left some 40,000 people without running water.
According to the National Weather Service, 17 inches of rain fell at Charleston International Airport from Thursday to midnight on Monday. Charleston was one of the areas that was hit the hardest by the unrelenting rains.

Record floods kill 11 in US state of South Carolina

South Carolina residents today reeled under the effects of weekend flooding that killed at least 11 people and left tens of thousands without power or drinking water.
President Barack Obama signed a disaster declaration yesterday, making federal aid available to the southern state that has been drenched with a level of rain that -- as Governor Nikki Haley put it -- the region has not seen in 1,000 years.
 A tropical air mass over much of South Carolina starting Thursday dumped 14 inches (36 centimeters) of rain, a new record, according to the National Weather Service.
 That downpour caused sudden and dramatic flooding, bursting dams and leaving residents scrambling for safety.
 "It was traumatic, I've never seen anything like this," said Phyllis Jones, a 50-year resident of Columbia, the state capital.
 Jones lives in an upstairs apartment at a complex called Willow Creek, whose namesake waterway inundated the ground-floor units on Sunday.
 The rain tapered off yesterday and water receded, but Jones said she has not left her apartment "for fear of looting."
 She had stocked up on drinking water ahead of the flooding, but then she lost power.
 At least four people have been killed in weather-related traffic accidents, while seven more have drowned, the Charleston Post and Courier newspaper reported.
 Those killed included five trapped in vehicles overcome by flood water, the paper reported, citing state officials.
 Government officials urged people to stay home, and warned that flooding was expected to continue for several days across much of the state.
 Some 26,000 people had no power and 40,000 had no drinking water, Haley told reporters on the outskirts of the capital Columbia, which has been especially hard hit.
 Many shaken residents sought refuge in shelters, while others were evacuated by boat and air since hundreds of roads and bridges were closed to traffic.
 "Our house, car -- we lost everything. Everything is underwater. We didn't get time to do nothing," said Patricia Harde, 48, who fled with her two adult daughters and their four small children, including a four-month-old baby, to a school-turned-shelter.
 "The water was coming up to my waist when we left," she added.