March 26, 2012
By Joel Currier
“Think Ron Paul is losing? Think again – he is getting delegates left and right.” –KTRN
Ron Paul’s chances of winning the White House may be minimal, but his supporters dominated the Republican caucuses in St. Louis and Jackson County on Saturday.
Paul’s backers won all 36 delegates here while taking about two-thirds of delegates in Jackson County.
The St. Louis caucus was relatively orderly and took fewer than two hours in the cafeteria at St. Louis Community College at Forest Park. It bore little resemblance to the rancorous gathering in St. Charles on March 17 that was ultimately shut down after an energetic crowd objected to rules and an attempted ban on videotaping. Police also arrested two Paul supporters during that caucus.
The purpose of today’s non-binding caucuses was to choose representatives to a round of Congressional district meetings in April and June that will repeat the process to send 52 delegates from Missouri to the August convention in Tampa, Fla.
Paul’s supporters cast a majority vote with 158 ballots. The Santorum slate had 74 votes, while Romney’s backers mustered 50 votes.
Some 300 people packed the cafeteria at St. Louis Community College at Forest Park for today’s caucus. Each caucus is run like a mini-convention, with participants electing a chairman and voting on rules, which determine if delegates are selected individually or in a slate, if they are bound to a particular candidate, or if they move forward uncommitted.
Paul, a Texas Republican with a fierce libertarian streak, has polled low nationally but he has been able to pick up delegates thanks to scattered successes in states, like Missouri, using the caucus system.
Most of Missouri’s 142 caucus gatherings were held March 17, but St. Louis and Jackson County, which includes Kansas City, were given special permission to hold them this weekend, so as not to interfere with last week’s St. Patrick’s Day’s events. Official results will not be known until next month.
In some caucuses around Missouri, Paul’s numbers were so commanding that supporters of Romney, the frontrunner for the nomination, sided with Paul to keep delegates from Santorum.
January 18, 2012
New York Post
By Mary Kay Linge
Big Brother is joining the battle of the bulge.
A group of Long Island students will soon be wearing controversial electronic monitors that allow school officials to track their physical activity around the clock.
The athletics chair for the Bay Shore schools ordered 10 Polar Active monitors, at $90 a pop, for use starting this spring. The wristwatchlike devices count heartbeats, detect motion and even track students’ sleeping habits in a bid to combat obesity.
The information is displayed on a color-coded screen and gets transmitted to a password-protected Web site that students and educators can access.
The devices are already in use in school districts in St. Louis and South Orange, NJ — and have raised privacy concerns among some parents and observers.
But Ted Nagengast, the Bay Shore athletics chair, said, “It’s a great reinforcement in fighting the obesity epidemic. It tells kids, in real time, ‘Am I active? Am I not active?’ We want to give kids the opportunity to become active.”
The monitors are distributed by Polar Electro, of Lake Success, LI, the US division of a Finland firm.
In the South Orange-Maplewood School District, where earlier versions of the devices have been used for two years, upper-grade students’ marks in phys ed are based in part on heart-rate monitors and activity sensors.
Teachers use hand-held computers to collect data from each student’s wrist monitor during class, then upload the information to the school computer system for storage and long-term tracking.
But privacy advocates and parents worry that schools are using electronic monitors in phys ed without families’ knowledge or consent.
January 9, 2012
By Tara Green
While drinking Mountain Dew, have you ever seen (or perhaps felt on your tongue) a thick, jelly-like substance? Maybe you assumed the ingredients in the soda had gelled. According to Mountain Dew manufacturer Pepsi, you may have been ingesting some extra protein with your beverage in the form of a liquified rodent.
An Illinois man is suing Pepsi, claiming he found a mouse in his can of Mountain Dew. Ronald Bell of Edwardsville, a small town near St. Louis, alleges there was a mouse in a can of soda he purchased and drank in 2009. Bell says he spit out the mouse and called the company to complain. At the soda manufacturer’s request, he sent them the mouse corpse. Pepsi had a veterinary pathologist examine the body. Their scientific expert found the rodent could not have been in the can since the soda case was sealed in August 2008, and its body would have dissolved as a result of the acid in the soda.
Bell says that Pepsi destroyed the evidence in the case and is seeking judgment. Pepsi’s legal team has moved to dismiss the case. Bell’s suit initially also involved the owners of the convenience store chain where he purchased the beverage, but those defendants have been dropped from the case and an amended suit was filed. The trial was set to begin in late 2011; however a Madison County Circuit Court judge granted Pepsi another month to argue for dismissal.
June 30, 2010
(CNN) — A Missouri VA hospital is under fire because it may have exposed more than 1,800 veterans to life-threatening diseases such as hepatitis and HIV.
John Cochran VA Medical Center in St. Louis has recently mailed letters to 1,812 veterans telling them they could contract hepatitis B, hepatitis C and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) after visiting the medical center for dental work, said Rep. Russ Carnahan.
Carnahan said Tuesday he is calling for a investigation into the issue and has sent a letter to President Obama about it.
“This is absolutely unacceptable,” said Carnahan, a Democrat from Missouri. “No veteran who has served and risked their life for this great nation should have to worry about their personal safety when receiving much needed healthcare services from a Veterans Administration hospital.”
The issue stems from a failure to clean dental instruments properly, the hospital told CNN affiliate KSDK.
Why is it so hard to remember even things we don’t want to forget? The problem, suggests a growing body of research, may be that we’re thinking about them too much in the first place.Popular wisdom once held that a mind at rest was like an engine idling — not much going on under the hood. To glean insights into how the brain worked, scientists would study only volunteers in action, measuring their physiological or biochemical responses as they completed specific mental tasks. But more recently, thanks in large part to the proliferation of functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), which precisely maps brain activity based on changes in blood-oxygen levels, neuroscientists have found that important activity in the brain — related in particular to memory and learning — may occur when it is at rest.
Many studies over the past decade have suggested that sleep is crucial to the consolidation of memories and learning; people who take a nap after learning a new task, for instance, remember it better than those who don’t snooze. And now a small but compelling new study from the lab of New York University (NYU) cognitive neuroscientist Lila Davachi finds similar evidence that the brain at rest, even while remaining awake, is conducting meaningful activity. “Your brain is doing work for you even when you’re resting,” says Davachi, who just published a study in Neuron showing that certain kinds of brain activity actually increase during waking rest and are correlated with better memory consolidation. “Taking a rest may actually contribute to your success at work or school,” she adds.
The 16 participants who served as Davachi’s guinea pigs in the study were each scanned, while at rest, before the experiment began. Then, each volunteer was asked to lie flat on the bed of an fMRI machine, outside the magnet, while shown a series of paired images. First they looked at pairs of faces and objects, and were instructed to imagine the person pictured interacting with the object (such as a beach ball). Then they got a few minutes’ rest, before being rolled into the magnet for another scan. The experiment was repeated with pairs of new faces and scenes. Afterward, the participants took a pop quiz to measure their recognition of the faces, objects and scenes they had previously seen.
The purpose of the scans was to compare the relative levels of spontaneous neural activity in two key brain regions involved in memory — the hippocampus and visual cortex — during rest, both before and after the visual tasks. The NYU team noticed that levels of activity in the two areas were more closely correlated several minutes after people had looked at the images than before they started the experiment. That suggests that the visual-learning tasks had affected the brain’s seemingly random firings during rest, and perhaps that the brain was conducting memory-consolidating activity during that time.What’s more, the more closely correlated the brain activity during the rest period, the better the person performed on the tests of recognition. “We found that higher correlations [of activity in the hippocampus and visual cortex] during rest periods leads to high future memory,” notes Arielle Tambini, a graduate student in Davachi’s lab and lead author of the paper.While the NYU study tested memory and simple recognition, other recent research looking at activity in the brain at rest and the learning of complex visual tasks has yielded similar results. Neurologist Maurizio Corbetta of Washington University in St. Louis recruited 14 people to use their peripheral vision to identify a hidden pattern — an inverted T — that was flashed briefly on a screen inside an fMRI machine. After each daily training session, lasting one to two hours for about a week, participants were given an hour’s rest, during which time Corbetta scanned their brains.
As reported in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences in 2009, Corbetta’s team found that spontaneous brain activity in two separate regions of the cerebral cortex appeared to be correlated after the participants had learned the visual task, but were not linked beforehand. The brain activity in those who were best at finding the hidden pattern onscreen was most strongly related. “Our test was like a video game. What this research shows is that we have a very dynamic landscape of ongoing activity [in the brain] even when we are at rest,” notes Corbetta.One question that has plagued researchers is whether the observed increase in brain activity that occurs after the completion of a mental task is just a ripple or echo effect, rather than a distinct event that helps solidify memories. Harvard researcher Dale Stevens believes he has more or less ruled out the former possibility by showing that even tasks that produce similar levels of neural activity while they are being performed, such as recognizing a face versus a landscape, result in different levels of activity after each task is completed. In Stevens’ studies, brain activity remained high after people viewed landscapes, but was much lower after they looked at faces. People tend to be much better at remembering landscapes than faces, so it makes sense that those differences would be mirrored in the brain-activity levels during rest periods, says Stevens, whose paper was published online in Cerebral Cortex in December 2009.While the NYU, Washington University and Harvard studies all used different approaches, their overall findings were remarkably similar. “The brain is trying to weave ideas together even when you don’t think you are thinking of anything,” notes Johns Hopkins behavioral neurologist and memory expert Dr. Barry Gordon. That’s something to keep in mind the next time you catch yourself daydreaming in a meeting or idly surfing Facebook when you should be studying.