Why The Same Temperature Can Feel Different Somewhere Else

““I’m from Wisconsin, and I live in Tennessee,” said Alisa Hass, a professor of geography at Middle Tennessee State University. “Moving south is a huge shock to the body.” That’s because your body acclimatizes to the temperature range it’s used to — literally, your physiology changes. People accustomed to spending time outside in higher temperatures sweat more and have increased blood flow to the skin, two changes that can help the body offload excess heat. These are short-term effects and can go away if the person gets de-acclimatized, a process that helps explain why lower high temperatures in spring can produce the same levels of heat sickness as higher highs later in the summer, Sugg said.

But there’s long-term acclimatization, as well, with people used to living in hotter climates feeling more comfortable at higher temperatures — even if their health risks are actually larger. For example, in a comparison of outdoor workers in Mississippi and North Carolina, Sugg found that the Mississippi workers believed their jobs had lower heat risks but were also the ones experiencing more heat-strain events. Another study that compared the temperature and local perception of temperature across a bunch of European cities found that what people considered “neutral” in comfort corresponded pretty well with local temperature ranges and was, in fact, closer to the local maximum temperatures than the local mean.

There’s a whole host of studies showing that where you grew up and what you’re used to affects what temperatures you perceive as comfortable and safe. The reasons seem to range from physiological acclimatization to behavioral adaptations chosen based on the normal climate — like the fact that more than 80 percent of Tennessee households have central air conditioning, compared to 60 percent of Wisconsin households and less than 5 percent of homes in the U.K.”

Study: Huanan Market In Wuhan Was the ‘Epicenter’ of COVID-19 Outbreak

“Did the coronavirus responsible for the COVID-19 pandemic originate from live animals for sale in the Huanan Seafood Market in Wuhan, China, or as a lab leak from the Wuhan Institute for Virology? In search of answer to this question, a new article in Science parses the early outbreak data along with environmental samples taken in Huanan Market supplied by Chinese researchers. It finds that the market was the “epicenter” for the contagion. A second article concludes that the outbreak began after two genetically distinct coronaviruses infected people beginning in November and December of 2019.

Do these findings rule out the possibility that the COVID-19 coronavirus originated from the institute? No. The first article acknowledges that “events upstream of the market, as well as exact circumstances at the market, remain obscure, highlighting the need for further studies to understand and lower the risk of future pandemics.” Those “events upstream” could include a scenario in which someone associated with the Virology Institute was unknowingly infected with the virus and carried it to the market while shopping.

“Have we disproven the lab leak theory? No, we have not,” one of the study’s authors told The Washington Post. “Will we ever be able to? No. But there are ‘possible’ scenarios and there are ‘plausible’ scenarios….’Possible’ does not mean equally likely.”

Skeptics of the natural origin of the virus will point to its novel furin cleavage site (FCS), which enhances its ability to latch onto and infect human cells. Broad Institute researcher Yujia Alina Chan and her colleagues noted in a January 2022 article for Molecular Biology and Evolution that the Wuhan Institute had earlier proposed to research FCS in coronaviruses found in bats. They further observed that the FCS has not been found so far in plausible evolutionary forebears of the COVID-19 coronavirus.

On the other hand, a May 2022 analysis of the genetics of bat coronaviruses in Communications Biology identifies “several possible ways for natural acquisition of the FCS” in bat coronaviruses. This, they argue, supports “a natural evolutionary origin from bats with or without the involvement of [other animal] intermediary hosts.”

In June, the World Health Organization urged the Chinese government and researchers to allay speculations about lab leaks by being more forthcoming about the work on coronavirus viruses undertaken at the Wuhan Institute for Virology. The world is still waiting to hear from them.”

Why the new James Webb Space Telescope images are such a big deal

“What makes this image so mind-blowing is how small it is, and how large it is, at the same time.

It’s small in the sense that this image represents only a teensy tiny portion of the night sky. Imagine you are holding out a grain of sand at arm’s length. The area of sky that grain covers — that’s the size of the area captured in the above image.

But it’s huge in the sense that nearly every object in this image is a galaxy (besides the bright spiky starbursts, which are stars in the foreground). Think about that: In every pinprick of sky, there are thousands and thousands of galaxies, at least.”

What’s the best way to help extremely poor people? After 20 years, the evidence is in.

“On a certain level, it seems intuitive that doing more for people — giving assets and training and cash — will produce better outcomes than just giving one thing, like cash. But the downside is that it takes more time, effort, and money to run a more complex intervention.

So a major question looms over the graduation program: Is it worth spending that money on the program or is it more efficient to just give all the money directly to people in need? In other words, is it really useful to teach the person to fish or should you just give them the damn fish already?”

“In recent years, development experts have moved toward an important idea called “cash benchmarking,” which basically says that cash is the benchmark against which all other anti-poverty interventions should be judged. Since giving people cash is easy, efficient, and respectful of their autonomy, aid agencies should only run a different type of program if testing shows that it works better than cash would.
Nowadays, when studies come out showing positive results for graduation programs, there’s a tendency to think that this particular combination — cash plus assets plus training — does work better than simply giving cash. But just because the graduation approach works great in some scenarios doesn’t mean it’s always the most efficient approach.

For starters, though, let’s look at the evidence suggesting that cash-plus programs work better than simple cash programs. Three studies have run this sort of comparison.

In South Sudan, a study looked at what happened to 250 households that got a full graduation program, compared to 125 households that got only cash and 274 households that received neither. Both graduation and cash increased consumption, but only the graduation group saw a significant increase in assets, a sign of more durable wealth. Although the cash group shifted a bit from agriculture to other types of work, they didn’t set up their own lasting businesses that may have been higher-paying.

In Uganda, researchers evaluated a graduation-style program run by a group called Village Enterprise. It offered training and a capital grant to extremely poor people so they could start a small business. The researchers found that it worked well, increasing self-employment income and consumption. In fact, it outperformed cash on these measures. The authors speculate that, “left to themselves — without training and mentorship — beneficiaries [of cash transfers alone] struggled to make productive investments, maintain them, and derive sustained value from them.”

In Niger, a new randomized study has highlighted the benefits of taking a multifaceted approach to extreme poverty. The study evaluated women who were already enrolled in a government cash transfer program. The goal was to understand how psychosocial issues — like feeling depressed or disconnected from your community — might make it harder to seize economic opportunities. The study found that the women who got psychosocial support showed rates of returns that were higher than those who got only cash. Offering psychosocial support was the most cost-effective route 18 months after the intervention.”

“while graduation programs appear to work great in some places, they’re dependent on the market — and they can run into problems in places where the market is either too dysfunctional or, ironically, too functional.

One randomized trial in India, published in 2012, is an example of the latter. It found that a graduation program yielded no net impact. Although it shifted participants away from agricultural jobs to other sorts of work, they could’ve earned just as much in their original agricultural jobs. While those original jobs were far from big money-makers, wages for agricultural labor had been improving in India, thanks to programs like the ambitious National Rural Employment Guarantee, so adding in a graduation program didn’t really help.

Dysfunctional markets produce their own obstacles. Abed told me about his experience trying to run a graduation program in Balochistan, an extremely dry, desert-like province in southwestern Pakistan, where participants were taught how to run a small business. One problem: There wasn’t a functional market for the businesses to thrive in. “Once they graduated, there wasn’t much to go to,” said Abed. “And there wasn’t microfinance available. So it was very, very difficult.””

“Another way a graduation program can flop is if it fails to be cost-effective. In the huge 2015 randomized study that looked at graduation programs in six countries, Banerjee and his co-authors note that although the program proved extremely cost-effective in some places, easily paying for itself within 10 years, other countries don’t have such low costs and high benefits in the short run. In Peru, for example, such a program wouldn’t break even.”

“Abed is convinced that graduation is the best approach for the ultra-poor, but he acknowledges that what makes the most sense for the moderate poor is a somewhat open question. Also, while graduation may be best for ultra-poor people who are young and healthy enough to go start businesses if given half a chance, it may not work for those who are elderly or disabled. For those groups, the answer may well be cash transfers.”

A study gave cash and therapy to men at risk of criminal behavior. 10 years later, the results are in.

“What if someone told you that you could dramatically reduce the crime rate without resorting to coercive policing or incarceration? In fact, what if they said you could avert a serious crime — a robbery, say, or maybe even a murder — just by shelling out $1.50?

That’s such an incredibly good deal that it sounds too good to be true. But it’s been borne out by the research of Chris Blattman, Margaret Sheridan, Julian Jamison, and Sebastian Chaskel. Their new study provides experimental evidence that offering at-risk men a few weeks of behavioral therapy plus a bit of cash reduces the future risk of crime and violence, even 10 years after the intervention.”

“999 Liberian men were split into four groups. Some received CBT, while others got $200 in cash. Another group got the CBT plus the cash, and finally, there was a control group that got neither.

A month after the intervention, both the therapy group and the therapy-plus-cash group were showing positive results. A year after the intervention, the positive effects on those who got therapy alone had faded a bit, but those who got therapy plus cash were still showing huge impacts: crime and violence were down about 50 percent.”

“10 years later, he tracked down the original men from the study and reevaluated them. Amazingly, crime and violence were still down by about 50 percent in the therapy-plus-cash group.”

“The most plausible hypothesis, according to Blattman, is that the $200 in cash enabled the men to pursue a few months of legitimate business activity — say, shoe shining — after the therapy ended. That meant a few extra months of getting to cement their new non-criminal identity and behavioral changes. “Basically, it gave them time to practice,” Blattman told me.”

GMOs Are Good for Us

“Activists have convinced Americans that “organic” food is better—healthier, better-tasting, life-extending.

As a result, poor parents feel guilty if they can’t afford to pay $7 for organic eggs.

This misinformation is spread by people like Alexis Baden-Mayer, political director of the Organic Consumers Association. She says organic food is clearly better: “The nutrition is a huge difference.”

But it isn’t. Studies find little difference.

If you still want to pay more for what’s called “organic,” that’s your right. But what’s outrageous is that this group of scientifically illiterate people convinced the government to force all of us to pay more.

Congress has ruled that GMOs (genetically modified food) must be labeled. Busybodies from both parties supported the idea.”

“The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) says the GMO labelling will cost from $598 million to $3.5 billion.

“But the public wants GMOs labelled,” say advocates. “Surveys show that.”

Of course they do.

Ask people if DNA in food should be labelled, and most say yes. Yet DNA is in everything.

Polling is a stupid way to make policy.

The idea of modifying a plant’s DNA may sound creepy, but people have cross-bred plants and animals for years.

“The corn we have today, there’s nothing natural about that,” I say to Baden-Mayer in my new video. “What native people ate, we’d find inedible.””

“In poor parts of the world, half a million people per year go blind due to lack of vitamin A in their diets. Many die.

Scientists have created a new genetically modified rice that contains vitamin A. This “golden rice” could save those people.”

“Sadly, in some countries, people listen to advocates like her and believe that Americans want to poison them. One group of GMO fearful protesters invaded a golden rice field in the Philippines, ripping up all the plants.”

The dire health consequences of denying abortions, explained

“important research published in 2020 that compared the fates of women who were forced to carry pregnancies to term versus those who were provided abortions. The influential Turnaway Study, as it’s commonly referred to, found that, among other things, women who were denied an abortion endured more serious pregnancy complications, more chronic pain, and more short-term anxiety.”

“more unwanted pregnancies would be carried to term if the court were to negate a federal right to abortion.”

“The Turnaway Study began in 2007 and followed more than 1,000 women for five years to assess how their lives had been altered, if at all, by the provision or the denial of an abortion. Some of the women had an abortion shortly before reaching the gestational limit set by their state or provider, while others had just passed that limit and were denied an abortion as a result. The differences in the women’s experiences from that critical moment onward were the purview of the study.
“We find no evidence abortion hurts women,” Foster writes in the 2020 book The Turnaway Study that covered the research’s findings. “For every outcome we analyzed, women who received an abortion were either the same or, more frequently, better off than women who were denied an abortion.”

The mental health of women who received an abortion was better immediately after the procedure than that of women who were denied one. Their physical health fared better over the longer term. Their subsequent children developed better.

Foster presents a nuanced picture, noting, for example, that after the five-year period of the study, almost none of the women who ended up carrying an unwanted pregnancy to term said that they still wished they’d had an abortion. But Foster is nevertheless unequivocal in her conclusions about what being denied an abortion meant for the women involved: “We find many ways in which women were hurt by carrying an unwanted pregnancy to term.””

“The most unexpected and tragic outcome noted in the Turnaway Study was that two of the women died because of childbirth complications. It came as a shock to Foster, who wrote that she “did not expect to find even one maternal death in a study of 1,000 women.” The US maternal mortality rate is 1.7 per 10,000, meaning the odds of two women in 1,000 dying were exceedingly low.

Foster was careful not to be definitive about this finding, writing that a much larger sample size would be necessary to draw any firm conclusions about the relationship between being denied an abortion and maternal mortality. The implications remain grim, however: “This level of maternal mortality is shocking,” she wrote.

Short of death, women who are denied an abortion are more likely to have serious complications than women who received an abortion. The Turnaway Study found that 6.3 percent of the women who had given birth suffered life-threatening complications versus about 1 percent of women who had complications from an abortion.

Women who were denied an abortion also saw a higher risk of gestational hypertension, which increases their risk for cardiovascular disease later in life. The study found that 9.4 percent of women who gave birth experienced hypertension during the pregnancy versus 4.2 percent of women who had second-trimester abortions and 1.9 percent of those who had first-trimester abortions.

The women who gave birth also experienced slightly higher rates of chronic head pain and joint pain afterward. On self-reported health, a metric shown to be a strong indicator of future health and mortality, 27 percent of women who carried their pregnancies to term after being denied an abortion said they were in fair or poor health versus 21 percent of women who had second-trimester abortions and 20 percent of women who had an abortion in the first trimester.

“To the extent that there were differences in health outcomes,” Foster wrote, “they were all to the detriment of women who gave birth.””

““We found no mental health harm from having an abortion.””