The following links are just news items and opinions that pass my desk throughout the week. I don’t necessarily support or advocate any of the items, they are just interesting reads.
Local officials support Remington despite shootings – New York state has spent nearly $6 million over the past three years on subsidies for Remington Arms Co., the two-century-old factory in Ilion that makes firearms including semiautomatic rifles used by the military and police and like those used in the recent mass killings in Connecticut and Webster, N.Y.
Though several elected leaders in this tough-on-guns state want tighter restrictions on those military-style weapons, none say it’s time to stop supporting the local company and risk the nearly 1,000 jobs it provides in the central New York community. The gunmaker has plenty of defenders, particularly those who support the continued manufacture of weapons used by the military or police.
In 2010, Empire State Development, the agency that works with private companies to attract and retain jobs, announced $2.5 million in grants and subsidies to help Remington bring its Marlin lever-action gun production from Connecticut to Ilion and add 100 jobs. That followed two grants in 2009 worth $3 million for renovations and machinery.
…A spokeswoman for U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer said he has consistently said that he believes it’s appropriate for lawmakers to support production of semiautomatic assault-style weapons for military and law enforcement use, but that the guns don’t belong in the hands of civilians. Schumer, who has helped Remington secure Army contracts including an $8.9 million award in 2011 to produce 1,212 M24 sniper rifles, joined the company at last year’s event announcing the move of Bushmaster to Ilion. Read More > in The Observer-Dispatch
Your Smartphone Will Replace Your Car Keys by 2015 – Your smartphone has the potential to replace nearly everything else in your pockets, so why not your car keys? Hyundai is working to do just that, with an embedded NFC tag that allows you to open your car, start the engine and link up to the touchscreen with a simple swipe.
Hyundai outfitted its i30 compact hatch (aka the Elantra in the States) with NFC technology in its “Connectivity Concept” recently shown at its European headquarters in Frankfurt, Germany. The idea is simple: Nix the key fob and let your smartphone handle it all.
According to the Korean automaker, the driver can swipe their phone across an embedded NFC chip to unlock the car, and once inside, the place the phone in the center console, allowing the car to start, while an inductive charging plate keeps the juice flowing without needing to plug in.
“With this technology, Hyundai is able to harness the all-in-one functionality of existing smartphone technology and integrate it into everyday driving in a seamless fashion,” says Allan Rushforth, senior vice president and COO of Hyundai Motor Europe.
But unlocking and starting the car is only part of a wider connectivity solution for Hyundai. Read More > in Wired
Half the Facts You Know Are Probably Wrong – Dinosaurs were cold-blooded. Increased K-12 spending and lower pupil/teacher ratios boost public school student outcomes. Most of the DNA in the human genome is junk. Saccharin causes cancer and a high fiber diet prevents it. Stars cannot be bigger than 150 solar masses.
In the past half-century, all of the foregoing facts have turned out to be wrong. In the modern world facts change all of the time, according to Samuel Arbesman, author of the new book The Half-Life of Facts: Why Everything We Know Has an Expiration Date (Current).
Fact-making is speeding up, writes Arbesman, a senior scholar at the Kaufmann Foundation and an expert in scientometrics, the science of measuring and analyzing science. As facts are made and remade with increasing speed, Arbesman is worried that most of us don’t keep up to date. That means we’re basing decisions on facts dimly remembered from school and university classes—facts that often turn out to be wrong.
…Since knowledge is still growing at an impressively rapid pace, it should not be surprising that many facts people learned in school have been overturned and are now out of date. But at what rate do former facts disappear? Arbesman applies to the dissolution of facts the concept of half-life—the time required for half the atoms of a given amount of a radioactive substance to disintegrate. For example, the half-life of the radioactive isotope strontium-90 is just over 29 years. Applying the concept of half-life to facts, Arbesman cites research that looked into the decay in the truth of clinical knowledge about cirrhosis and hepatitis. “The half-life of truth was 45 years,” he found.Read More > in Reason
Study: Voters’ ill-informed decision making – Voters are inclined to make ill-informed decisions at the ballot box, according to a new study published in the American Political Science Review.
“Our results suggest severe limitations in humans’ ability to accurately and impartially judge the performance of politicians,” said Gregory Huber, co-author of the study and a political science professor at Yale University.
Huber and his colleagues tested other researchers’ findings that focused on three factors that interfere significantly with voters make educated decisions regarding incumbents. The new study, “Sources of Bias in Retrospective Decision Making,” used a new methodology and affirmed the previous research.
The study’s three findings: Read More > in the Orange County Register
Record number of Americans oppose handgun ban – An unprecedented number of Americans support the right to own a handgun, despite the recent mass killings at an elementary school in Newtown, Conn., that have renewed the push for gun control.
Even with the killings in Newtown as a backdrop, a new Gallup poll shows 74 percent of Americans now support the right to possess a handgun, while just 24 percent would support a ban. Read More > in the Washington Post
Family meals ‘boost child fruit and vegetable intake’ - Eating meals as a family improves children’s eating habits – even if it only happens once or twice a week, UK researchers suggest.
It is recommended children eat five portions of fruit and vegetables per day – about 400g.
The Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health study found those who always ate together achieved this – but those who only did sometimes came close.
Watching parents and siblings eat teaches good habits, experts said. Read More > in the BBC News
A New Target in Fighting Brain Disease: Metals – Research into how iron, copper, zinc and other metals work in the brain may help unlock some of the secrets of degenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.
Iron and copper appear to accumulate beyond normal levels in the brains of people with these diseases, and a new, Australian study published Sunday shows reducing excess iron in the brain can alleviate Alzheimer’s-like symptoms—at least in mice.
A genetic mutation related to regulating iron is linked to ALS, or Lou Gehrig’s disease. Zinc, on the other hand, appears to impair memory if its levels get too low or if it gets into a brain region where it doesn’t belong, as it can with traumatic brain injury.
Research into the complicated, invisible roles these metals play in brain diseases has lagged behind study of the more-visible proteins that are damaged or clump together in the brains of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s sufferers. But better understanding metals’ role in the brain could help shed light on a range of medical conditions and might offer a new route for developing treatments, scientists say. Read More > in The Wall Street Journal
GAO Study Highlights Trends in Pension Reform, Challenges Nationwide – …Nationally, 27 million people are covered by state and local pension plans, 78 percent of who participate in a defined benefit plan. About one-fourth of participants are not eligible for Social Security.
“Most plans have experienced a growing gap…” reads the report, “meaning that higher contributions from government sponsors are needed to maintain funds on an actuarially based path toward sustainability.”
However, immediate insolvency is not a risk for most plans, which have sufficient assets to cover benefit commitments for a decade or more.
However, adjusting for long-term stability can be challenging when it often requires increased contributions by employers and employees. Understandably, employees are often reluctant to increase contributions at the detriment of their take-home wages, and employers are facing increasing demands on decreasing resources.
According to the National Association of State Budget Officers, states had to close a combined budget gap of $230 billion between 2009 and 2011. The National League of Cities estimates that local government budget solutions ranged between $56 and $83 billion from 2010 and 2012. Local governments contribute more to pensions than their state counter parts. Read More > at Public CEO
Realignment’s unintended consequence: No supervision, rehabilitation for criminals – The first wave of felons sent to county jails instead of state prisons under Gov. Jerry Brown’s public safety realignment plan are back on the streets after serving their sentences, and local law enforcement officials are worried they will trigger a spike in crime.
Almost all of the felons are under no obligation to report to a parole agent or probation officer, and many did not get job training and other rehabilitation services while behind bars.
“Of those 9,000 who have been sentenced to jail in lieu of prison, about 90 percent of them are going to come out without supervision by a probation officer or a parole agent,” county Chief Probation Officer Jerry Powers said during a recent meeting of the Southern California Association of Governments.
“They’re simply going to walk out of jail a free person, and we will have no ability to compel them to engage in drug treatment, mental health treatment or anything of that sort,” he added. “As soon as they hit that public sidewalk, they are truly free.”
Realignment, also known as AB 109, is the governor’s way of complying with a Supreme Court mandate to reduce overcrowding in state prisons. Read More > in The Los Angeles Daily News
Study: Facebook Could Cause Obesity – Researchers at Columbia University have learned that using Facebook may be tied to obesity, due to the negative eating habits that could result from frequent visitation of social networking sites.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, obesity is a problem for approximately 35 percent of all American adults – a number that is reportedly rising with each passing year.
The study, led by Keith Wilcox, Ph.D., surveyed almost 500 people about their Internet use, specifically as it pertained to Facebook, Men’s Health is reporting.
Of the 470 participants asked, those who used Facebook the most had reportedly higher body mass indexes than those who were not as frequently engaged. Read More > at CBS Atlanta
Petition to Deport Piers Morgan Achieves Target For White House Response – The petition to deport Piers Morgan over his repeated attacks against the second amendment has surpassed the number of signatures required to mandate a White House response, as the CNN host labeled the originator of the petition Alex Jones a “goon” for calling for Morgan to be kicked out of the country.
The petition currently has over 31,500 signatures, easily reaching the 25,000 benchmark that will now mandate the Obama administration to issue some kind of formal response.
The petition demands that Morgan, “Be deported immediately for his effort to undermine the Bill of Rights and for exploiting his position as a national network television host to stage attacks against the rights of American citizens.”
As we explained yesterday, as a British citizen Morgan’s speech is not protected under the first amendment and his ceaseless rhetorical assaults on the Constitution allied with his position as a prime time host on CNN clearly represent an act of subversion that should be punished accordingly. Read More > at Infowars
It’s Time to End the War on Salt – For decades, policy makers have tried and failed to get Americans to eat less salt. In April 2010 the Institute of Medicine urged the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to regulate the amount of salt that food manufacturers put into products; New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg has already convinced 16 companies to do so voluntarily. But if the U.S. does conquer salt, what will we gain? Bland french fries, for sure. But a healthy nation? Not necessarily.
This week a meta-analysis of seven studies involving a total of 6,250 subjects in the American Journal of Hypertension found no strong evidence that cutting salt intake reduces the risk for heart attacks, strokes or death in people with normal or high blood pressure. In May European researchers publishing in the Journal of the American Medical Association reported that the less sodium that study subjects excreted in their urine—an excellent measure of prior consumption—the greater their risk was of dying from heart disease. These findings call into question the common wisdom that excess salt is bad for you, but the evidence linking salt to heart disease has always been tenuous. Read More > in Scientific American