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The Coming Plague – Laurie Garrett


The Coming Plague

Newly Emerging Diseases in a World Out of Balance

Laurie Garrett

Genre: Biology

Price: $7.99

Publish Date: October 31, 1994

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Seller: Macmillan

"Here is a volume that should be required reading for policy makers and health professionals." – Kirkus Reviews After four decades of assuming that the conquest of all infectous diseases was imminent, people on all continents now find themselves besieged by AIDS, drug-resistant tuberculosis, cholera that defies chlorine water treatment, and exotic viruses that can kill in a matter of hours. Based on extensive interviews with leading experts in virology, molecular biology, disease ecology and medicine, as well as field research in sub-Saharan Africa, Western Europe, Central America and the United States, The Coming Plague takes readers from the savannas of eastern Bolivia to the rain forests of northern Zaire on a harrowing, fifty year journey through our battles with the microbes, and tells us what must be done to prevent the coming plague.

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The Coming Plague – Laurie Garrett

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How Language Began: The Story of Humanity’s Greatest Invention – Daniel L. Everett


How Language Began: The Story of Humanity’s Greatest Invention

Daniel L. Everett

Genre: Life Sciences

Price: $14.99

Publish Date: November 7, 2017

Publisher: Liveright

Seller: W. W. Norton

How Language Began revolutionizes our understanding of the one tool that has allowed us to become the "lords of the planet." Mankind has a distinct advantage over other terrestrial species: we talk to one another. But how did we acquire the most advanced form of communication on Earth? Daniel L. Everett, a “bombshell” linguist and “instant folk hero” (Tom Wolfe, Harper’s), provides in this sweeping history a comprehensive examination of the evolutionary story of language, from the earliest speaking attempts by hominids to the more than seven thousand languages that exist today. Although fossil hunters and linguists have brought us closer to unearthing the true origins of language, Daniel Everett’s discoveries have upended the contemporary linguistic world, reverberating far beyond academic circles. While conducting field research in the Amazonian rainforest, Everett came across an age-old language nestled amongst a tribe of hunter-gatherers. Challenging long-standing principles in the field, Everett now builds on the theory that language was not intrinsic to our species. In order to truly understand its origins, a more interdisciplinary approach is needed—one that accounts as much for our propensity for culture as it does our biological makeup. Language began, Everett theorizes, with Homo Erectus, who catalyzed words through culturally invented symbols. Early humans, as their brains grew larger, incorporated gestures and voice intonations to communicate, all of which built on each other for 60,000 generations. Tracing crucial shifts and developments across the ages, Everett breaks down every component of speech, from harnessing control of more than a hundred respiratory muscles in the larynx and diaphragm, to mastering the use of the tongue. Moving on from biology to execution, Everett explores why elements such as grammar and storytelling are not nearly as critical to language as one might suspect. In the book’s final section, Cultural Evolution of Language, Everett takes the ever-debated “language gap” to task, delving into the chasm that separates “us” from “the animals.” He approaches the subject from various disciplines, including anthropology, neuroscience, and archaeology, to reveal that it was social complexity, as well as cultural, physiological, and neurological superiority, that allowed humans—with our clawless hands, breakable bones, and soft skin—to become the apex predator. How Language Began ultimately explains what we know, what we’d like to know, and what we likely never will know about how humans went from mere communication to language. Based on nearly forty years of fieldwork, Everett debunks long-held theories by some of history’s greatest thinkers, from Plato to Chomsky. The result is an invaluable study of what makes us human.

Original post – 

How Language Began: The Story of Humanity’s Greatest Invention – Daniel L. Everett

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Trump Sabotage of Obamacare a Big Success: Enrollment Down By a Half Million or More

Mother Jones

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The signup period for Obamacare is over, and total enrollment fell short of last year. The Washington Post reports the details:

The lower total…marks a striking turnabout from the trend as the Obama administration neared its end — when sign-ups for coverage under the law were running steadily ahead of a year ago.

The volume plummeted, in particular, during the final week of the three-month enrollment season — falling from nearly 700,000 in 2016 to just over 375,000. That last week traditionally is a peak time when eligible customers race to get ACA health plans, most of them with federal subsidies. This time, however, the Trump White House directed federal health officials to halt all advertising and other enrollment-outreach activities for the last six days of the sign-up period.

Based on data from Charles Gaba, here’s what enrollment looked like throughout the entire signup period:

Signups were running a bit ahead of 2016 during the entire open enrollment period, but then Trump took office. Republicans began talking about repealing Obamacare, Trump signed an executive order telling agencies to do whatever they could to throw sand in the gears, and outreach efforts were halted. The result was a substantial downturn in the second half of January. My estimate is that all these antics lowered enrollment by about 600,000. That’s 600,000 people who now have no medical coverage and run the risk of bankruptcy if anything serious goes wrong. Nice work, folks.

For additional evidence on this score, Charles Gaba has more. He notes that state exchanges have their own marketing and outreach programs, so they were less affected by Trump’s sabotage efforts. Sure enough, he finds that state exchanges ended up higher than last year by 2 percent or more, while the federal exchange ended up 4.7 percent lower than last year. He’s got all the details here.

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Trump Sabotage of Obamacare a Big Success: Enrollment Down By a Half Million or More

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We Are Our Brains – D. F. Swaab & Jane Hedley-Prole


We Are Our Brains

A Neurobiography of the Brain, from the Womb to Alzheimer’s

D. F. Swaab & Jane Hedley-Prole

Genre: Science & Nature

Price: $1.99

Publish Date: January 7, 2014

Publisher: Random House Publishing Group

Seller: Penguin Random House LLC

A vivid account of what makes us human. &#xa0; Based groundbreaking new research, We Are Our Brains is a sweeping biography of the human brain, from infancy to adulthood to old age. Renowned neuroscientist D. F. Swaab takes us on a guided tour of the intricate inner workings that determine our potential, our limitations, and our desires, with each chapter serving as an eye-opening window on a different stage of brain development: the gender differences that develop in the embryonic brain, what goes on in the heads of adolescents, how parenthood permanently changes the brain. &#xa0; Moving beyond pure biological understanding, Swaab presents a controversial and multilayered ethical argument surrounding the brain. Far from possessing true free will, Swaab argues, we have very little control over our everyday decisions, or who we will become, because our brains predetermine everything about us, long before we are born, from our moral character to our religious leanings to whom we fall in love with. And he challenges many of our prevailing assumptions about what makes us human, decoding the intricate “moral networks” that allow us to experience emotion, revealing maternal instinct to be the result of hormonal changes in the pregnant brain, and exploring the way that religious “imprinting” shapes the brain during childhood. Rife with memorable case studies, We Are Our Brains is already a bestselling international phenomenon. It aims to demystify the chemical and genetic workings of our most mysterious organ, in the process helping us to see who we are through an entirely new lens. &#xa0; Did you know? &#xa0; • The father’s brain is affected in pregnancy as well as the mother’s. • The withdrawal symptoms we experience at the end of a love affair mirror chemical addiction. • Growing up bilingual reduces the likelihood of Alzheimer’s. • Parental religion is imprinted on our brains during early development, much as our native language is. Praise for We Are Our Brains &#xa0; “Swaab’s ‘neurobiography’ is witty, opinionated, passionate, and, above all, cerebral.” — Booklist (starred review) &#xa0; “A fascinating survey . . . Swaab employs both personal and scientific observation in near-equal measure.” — Publishers Weekly (starred review) &#xa0; “A cogent, provocative account of how twenty-first-century ‘neuroculture’ has the potential to effect profound medical and social change.” — Kirkus Reviews From the Hardcover edition.

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We Are Our Brains – D. F. Swaab & Jane Hedley-Prole

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The AMA Represents Only About One-Sixth of All Doctors

Mother Jones

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How do doctors feel about the nomination of Rep. Tom Price as Secretary of Health and Human Services? The New York Times weighs in:

When President-elect Donald J. Trump chose Representative Tom Price of Georgia to be his health and human services secretary, the American Medical Association swiftly endorsed the selection of one of its own, an orthopedic surgeon who has championed the role of physicians throughout his legislative career.

Then the larger world of doctors and nurses weighed in on the beliefs and record of Mr. Price, a suburban Atlanta Republican — and the split among caregivers, especially doctors, quickly grew sharp. “The A.M.A. does not speak for us,” says a petition signed by more than 5,000 doctors.

A faithful reader emails to ask: “I remember reading recently that a shockingly low number of doctors are members of the AMA. So what is it exactly?”

Membership numbers, it turns out, are not a secret, exactly, but neither does the AMA go out of its way to make them easy to find. Their current membership is about 235,000, but you have to adjust this number to remove students, retired doctors, and so forth. Based on publicly available data, and guesstimating that about one-fifth of its members aren’t practicing physicians, here’s what the AMA’s membership looks like. They were indeed a powerhouse in the 50s, but no so much anymore:

Keep this in mind whenever you hear that “the AMA” endorses a political position—regardless of whether it’s one you approve of or not. They represent only about a sixth of all the physicians in the country. The rest may have very different opinions indeed.

Link to article:

The AMA Represents Only About One-Sixth of All Doctors

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We Could Power America with Relatively Few Solar Panels, So Why Aren’t We?

I recently saw an article going around about how much land we would need to power our country with solar energy, and I was blown away — to say it’s a small amount is selling it short. According to Elon Musk, we only need a couple of counties in Texas with a couple of thousand rooftops — or just 0.6 percent of our land — and we’d have renewable energy for the whole country.

I couldn’t get over how simple that sounds, so I did a bit more research into solar energy facts to find out why we aren’t doing this, like, yesterday.

First things first, Elon Musk isn’t wrong and isn’t oversimplifying a grossly difficult task, but he does gloss over the meaty problems of our current energy situation in this country. So what’s standing in our way of solar power for all?

The Problem with Permits

My natural first question after reading the article is why aren’t we installing solar panels on everyone’s roof? The answer in a nutshell: permits. At this point in solar technology, you can’t just hop on down to Lowe’s and grab a couple to install yourself. The biggest problem that I came across in my research was lack of solar companies and lack of neighborhoods that were cleared to be able to have solar panels. In order for the solar panels to work, they need to be connected to a main battery and circuit system, and a lot of these are not set up for your average American.

If you do live in an area that is capable of solar energy, you need to get a consultation from a solar company. They give you your options based on square footage, and then you start the installation. Since solar panels are not cheap, you won’t start reaping the benefits until down the line. Your energy bill will be lower, and you will get a tax credit and write-off, but you’re also going to be paying off those panels. I think the aspect of not seeing the financial benefits of solar panels more quickly scares a lot of people away.

Finding the Land

My next question was if roofs were our only option for solar panels — why not all the unused acres in this country? There are more and more solar fields being built every year, but it’s a slow process. One of the main aspects that I didn’t think about until I started googling all of this was the facilities. If you build a giant field, you’re going to need to hook it up to giant batteries, and the rest of the power system for that town, and subsequently the rest of the country. You’ll need to build facilities for the workers and roads to get all the equipment to and from the build site. You have to pay all the workers and hire multiple people to oversee the project.

Another very big concern is animal habitats and American Indian land. The government would have to purchase a plot of land to fit all these solar panels and facilities without ruining anything in the process. Based on the current situation in North Dakota, these types of things are not easy or quick. That’s so much time and effort that I feel like a lot of people wouldn’t vote for it because they see it as wasted money.

Inspiring Others to Care

That brings me to my last question: Why does no one care!? I think the biggest problem is the talk of climate change in general. Too many people think it’s something they get to choose to believe in or not. Science has already proven it’s real, it’s here, and it’s getting really, really bad. Once more people acknowledge we need to take action now, we’ll start to come together a lot faster to help this process move along.

I truly believe your average American isn’t going to deeply care about a topic unless he or she gains something in return. If you’re reading this and are wondering about just that, let’s break it down.

There are three types of solar energy: photovoltaic, solar heating and cooling, and concentrating solar technology. Photovoltaic are the typical solar panels you see on roofs to produce electricity for homes and businesses. Solar heating and cooling are panels that do just that, heat and cool. They are used for things like hot water, space heating and cooling, and pool heating. Concentrating solar technology are the panels you usually see in giant fields off the freeway. These curved mirrored panels collect the sun’s energy and convert it for turbines or engines to create energy to store for a rainy day. Along with the federal investment tax credit, a lot of states and counties offer rebates or incentives as well.

Elon Musk has also created a battery wall to help Americans transition inside their homes. I’m hoping that this, combined with more awareness, will help us move faster toward the teeny tiny part of America that should be covered in solar panels.

If you want to help get solar energy more prevalent in your town or community, contact your local government and ask what they are doing to make this happen.

Now that you’ve learned a few solar energy facts, are you ready to make the switch to solar power? Here are 9 crucial steps to prepare your home. 

Feature image courtesy of Shutterstock.com

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Audrey Holmes

Based in Music City USA — Nashville — Audrey Holmes is on a personal journey toward zero waste. She admits to watching otter videos on YouTube way too much and having an unhealthy obsession with matcha. Speaking of green, read all about her zero-waste journey on her blog,

Green Blue Marble.

Latest posts by Audrey Holmes (see all)

We Could Power America with Relatively Few Solar Panels, So Why Aren’t We? – November 4, 2016
3 Ways To Eliminate Food Waste Before It Reaches The Compost – October 6, 2016
4 Creative Eco-friendly Transportation Options – August 19, 2016

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We Could Power America with Relatively Few Solar Panels, So Why Aren’t We?

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Virginia Becomes First State to Jettison Abortion Clinic Restrictions Based on Supreme Court’s Ruling

Mother Jones

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On Monday, the Virginia Board of Health voted to get rid of building restrictions on abortion clinics. The board said the regulations, which were passed to make clinics more like hospitals, are unconstitutional under the Supreme Court’s ruling in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt, a landmark abortion case that was decided in June. Since the board of health approved these requirements in 2013, a third of the state’s clinics have shut down.

“This vote demonstrates to the rest of the United States and the world that Virginia is a community where people can live, find employment, and start a family without politicians interfering with decisions that should be made by women and their doctors,” wrote Gov. Terry McAuliffe in a statement.

The Supreme Court’s Hellerstedt ruling struck down two provisions of a Texas abortion law, including one that required abortion clinics to comply with the expensive structural requirements of an ambulatory surgical center, a hospital-like facility often used for outpatient surgery. The court ruled in June that these requirements constituted an undue burden on women’s access to abortion and weren’t shown to improve women’s health. Virginia is one of 20 states that had onerous building regulations for abortion clinics, but Virginia is the first state to take explicit steps to comply with the precedent set by the Supreme Court in June.

Virginia’s board of health postponed a vote on their state’s clinic regulations, originally slated for last month, in order to weigh the effects of the Supreme Court ruling. A memo presented at last month’s hearing noted, “Based on advice received from the Office of Attorney General, additional amendments have been proposed to the regulations to comply with the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt.”

At Monday’s hearing, Dr. Serina Floyd, an Alexandria-based gynecologist, called on the health board once again to follow the Supreme Court’s precedent. “On behalf of Virginia women, I ask you to hear the Supreme Court ruling and overturn.”

The amended regulations now go to Virginia’s attorney general and Gov. McAuliffe for review.

More here: 

Virginia Becomes First State to Jettison Abortion Clinic Restrictions Based on Supreme Court’s Ruling

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The Science of What to Feed Your Kids

Mother Jones

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Bite is Mother Jones‘ new food politics podcast. Listen to all our episodes here, or by subscribing in iTunes or Stitcher or via RSS.

Almost eight months into my parenting adventure, I’ve developed a tolerance for dirty diapers, sleepless nights, and countless rounds of “Itsy Bitsy Spider.” Here’s what I still can’t stomach: the mommy blogosphere clickbait slideshows that keep appearing on my Facebook feed. I’ve been treated to no shortage of grammatically and factually wanting roundups of foods my kid (and I) should “never” eat. So junky are these pieces that I refuse to dignify them with a link.

So imagine my delight when Bite co-host Maddie Oatman and I interviewed a pair of parenting experts whose opinions on kids’ food is backed up by actual science. How refreshing! Journalists Tara Haelle and Emily Willingham, are the authors of The Informed Parent: A Science-Based Resource for Your First Four Years. The book covers many of the most controversial aspects of child-rearing, from sleep training to spanking, but we at Bite, of course, were interested in food. Below are Haelle and Willingham’s thoughts on a few hot topics.

On drinking the occasional glass of wine during pregnancy: “We will never know precisely how much alcohol may or may not affect a particular embryo or fetus because there are genetic markers that will determine that, and you won’t know in advance what your embryo or fetus’ genetic makeup is or which genes are flipped on or off in certain ways. It will also depend on your own metabolism.

However, I will say in the in vitro studies, where you’re looking at the impact of alcohol on embryos in petri dishes, where you see what alcohol does to those developing cells and then you imagine that any alcohol you consume goes straight through the placenta to the fetus—there’s no barrier there—it could be diluted to the point where it doesn’t have any affect, or it could be right at the moment where this crucial group of cells is turning into this other crucial group of cells, and we don’t have any way of knowing that. At the same time, I would say that women who have had several drinks and then find out they’re pregnant should not freak out, because the odds are still in their favor that there are not going to be any serious issues.

But I think we need to avoid the complacency of saying, ‘Oh a few drinks here, a few drinks there, no big deal’…There is no good evidence that even a small amount of alcohol is okay, and there is adequate in vitro evidence to suggest that even small amounts could have adverse effects, and it’s not possible to know how or when those effects will occur.”—Tara Haelle

On eating your baby’s placenta because of its supposed health benefits: “Right now, we can say, if you want to eat your placenta, be safe about it. Follow food-handling guidelines. But don’t expect that it’s going to have anything more than a placebo effect. The one thing I will say that’s very serious: If you are trying to eat your placenta or take placenta pills to ward off postpartum depression, the risk in that is that you might not notice when you are experiencing postpartum symptoms that need to be addressed. Beyond that, we can’t say it does or doesn’t help you.”—Tara Haelle

On whether it’s worth it to shell out for organics for your kid: “In my opinion, no. It’s kind of a luxury that lacks a solid evidence base. The science seems to come down on the really important factor: to make sure that they get foods that are high in nutrients that children need. And whether they’re conventionally or organically grown doesn’t seem to affect the nutrient profile in any way that’s significant. I think it places pressure on parents to spend more than they have, and it’s more important to focus on a variety of colors and a variety of foods that are fresh and as little processed as possible than whether they are conventionally or organically grown.”—Emily Willingham

Hear more fascinating facts—how what you eat during pregnancy can shape your kids’ tastes, the link between screen time and obesity, how long to breastfeed—in the full episode.

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The Science of What to Feed Your Kids

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Donald Trump Has No Jobs Plan At All

Mother Jones

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Will cutting taxes on the rich, combined with reducing regulation on Wall Street and big corporations, create millions of jobs, as Donald Trump claims? As you may recall, we tried that tonic fairly recently during the presidency of George W. Bush. It didn’t really turn out so well:

Jobs started to recover sooner on Obama’s watch than Bush’s, probably thanks to his stimulus package. Bush just cut taxes on the rich and left it at that. Still, maybe you think this chart isn’t fair. We really ought to measure from the trough of the recession. Here you go:

Based on his speech this morning, there’s no real difference between Bush and Trump on economic policy except for Trump’s claim that he’ll get tough on trade. I doubt that, myself, but it hardly matters. Renegotiating a couple of trade treaties just wouldn’t generate very many jobs. Done badly, in fact—a pretty likely scenario in a Trump presidency—it would hurt job growth. Trade wars have a habit of doing that.

Note that I’m not really making a case for the brilliance of Obama’s economic policies here. I’m just pointing out that Trump’s policies are little more than the same tedious stuff we’ve heard from Republicans for years. If he thinks this tired old rehash is going to supercharge the economy, he ought to at least make some kind of case for it.1 It didn’t work for Bush. Why should it work for Trump?

1And don’t even think of pretending that 9/11 ruined the economy under Bush. It had only a minor, short-term effect. If anything, spending on Bush’s wars acted as a stimuls.


Donald Trump Has No Jobs Plan At All

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How Many Classified Emails Did Hillary Clinton Send and Receive?

Mother Jones

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I don’t want to make a big point about this, but I want to write it down in order to get comments. Here is my understanding of the results of the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s 33,000 emails:

3 were marked classified. Two of these were classified in error. The third was classified correctly but was marked improperly (and was pretty trivial anyway).
110 contained information that wasn’t marked classified, but which Hillary and her aides “should have known” was sensitive. That’s according to FBI Director James Comey. Based on previous reporting, virtually all of these probably related to the drone program in Pakistan, which was classified but had been extensively reported in the press.
About 2,000 emails were retroactively classified as part of the FOIA process.

Is this correct? Or is there some part of this that I continue not to understand?


How Many Classified Emails Did Hillary Clinton Send and Receive?

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