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Democrats Take Major Step to Reduce Role of Superdelegates

NY Times - Wed, 2018-07-11 18:36
Under a new rule, superdelegates would not be allowed to vote during the first ballot of the presidential nominating process, except in extraordinary cases like contested conventions.

Comcast increases its offer for Sky

CNN - Wed, 2018-07-11 18:30

The Finance 202: CFPB further under fire with Kavanaugh pick for Supreme Court

Washington Post - Wed, 2018-07-11 18:30
The agency is drawing legal and political flak.

Comcast and Fox Engage in Bidding War for Control of Sky

NY Times - Wed, 2018-07-11 18:21
Comcast’s new offer for Sky values the company at about 26 billion pounds, or $34 billion, topping an earlier bid from 21st Century Fox.

Marriage equality improved gay men’s health access

Futurity.org - Wed, 2018-07-11 18:15

Making marriage available to same-sex couples has improved access to health care among gay men, a working paper shows.

It is one of the first studies to examine the effect legal marriage has on the health of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender individuals.

“This is an important question to study, since recent research has shown that LGBT individuals often face barriers to accessing health services including lack of insurance, stigma, and discrimination, and, as a result, can experience poor health outcomes,” says lead author Christopher Carpenter, professor of economics at Vanderbilt University.

“A very large body of research in economics and sociology demonstrates that marriage is protective for health for heterosexual individuals, but ours is the first to show that marriage policy has meaningful effects on health care access for sexual-minority men.”

Carpenter and colleagues analyzed 16 years of data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, a database of information about United States residents’ health-related risk behaviors, chronic health conditions, and use of preventive services.

While the CDC survey did not specifically ask respondents their sexual orientation, the researchers were able to deduce from related responses about household structure that a sizable percentage of adults in households with exactly two same-sex adults are lesbian, gay, or bisexual individuals who are likely in same-sex relationships.

Marriage’s perks extend to LGBT older adults

“We found that lesbian, gay, or bisexual adults were more likely to get married after having access to legal same-sex marriage, and for men, that is associated with a statistically significant increase in the probability that they have health insurance, have a usual source of care, and have a routine health check-up,” says coauthor Gilbert Gonzales Jr., assistant professor of health policy.

It surprised the group not see a similar effect for lesbian adults, but they plan on future research to better examine the cause for that difference. Another surprising finding was that while there was increased health insurance coverage and health care access for gay men, they observed no actual health effects in any of the populations they examined.

Older lesbian and bi women face more chronic health trouble

“For example, mental health was not improved, and there were no changes in negative health behaviors such as cigarette smoking or heavy drinking,” Gonzales says. “That might mean that it’s too soon to see some of these changes, since legalized same-sex marriage is a fairly recent phenomenon in the United States.”

The next step is to analyze more comprehensive data to see whether they are able to uncover other health impacts related to marriage.

“If not, this suggests that same-sex marriage laws are not enough to positively impact the health of LGBT people,” says Gonzales. “There is still a lot of room for change in the policy environment to ensure the safety and well-being of these populations, but more research is needed.”

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation supported the work.

Source: Vanderbilt University

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A.I. predicts side effects for millions of drug combos

Futurity.org - Wed, 2018-07-11 18:12

Researchers have created an artificial intelligence system for predicting, not simply tracking, potential side effects from drug combinations.

Last month alone, 23 percent of Americans took two or more prescription drugs, according to one CDC estimate. Furthermore, 39 percent over age 65 take five or more, a number that’s increased three-fold in the last several decades. And if that isn’t surprising enough, try this one: in many cases, doctors have no idea what side effects might arise from adding another drug to a patient’s personal pharmacy.

“Today, drug side effects are discovered essentially by accident…”

The problem is that with so many drugs currently on the US pharmaceutical market, “it’s practically impossible to test a new drug in combination with all other drugs, because just for one drug that would be five thousand new experiments,” says Marinka Zitnik, a postdoctoral fellow in computer science at Stanford University. With some new drug combinations, she says, “truly we don’t know what will happen.”

But computer science may be able to help. The new AI system, called Decagon, could help doctors make better decisions about which drugs to prescribe and help researchers find better combinations of drugs to treat complex diseases.

Millions of combinations

Once it’s available to doctors in a more user-friendly form, Decagon’s predictions would be an improvement over what’s available now, which essentially comes down to chance—a patient takes one drug, starts taking another, and then develops a headache or worse.

There are about 1,000 known side effects and 5,000 drugs on the market, making for nearly 125 billion possible side effects between all possible pairs of drugs. Most of these have never been prescribed together, let alone systematically studied.

The researchers realized they could get around that problem by studying how drugs affect the underlying cellular machinery in the body. They composed a massive network describing how the more than 19,000 proteins in our bodies interact with each other and how different drugs affect these proteins.

Using more than 4 million known associations between drugs and side effects, the team then designed a method to identify patterns in how side effects arise based on how drugs target different proteins.

To do that, the team turned to deep learning, a kind of artificial intelligence modeled after the brain. In essence, deep learning looks at complex data and extracts from them abstract, sometimes counterintuitive patterns in the data. In this case, the researchers designed their system to infer patterns about drug interaction side effects and predict previously unseen consequences from taking two drugs together.

Checking Decagon’s work

Just because Decagon found a pattern doesn’t necessarily make it real, so the group looked to see if its predictions came true. In many cases, they did.

For example, there was no indication in the team’s data that the combination of atorvastatin, a cholesterol drug, and amlopidine, a blood pressure medication, could lead to muscle inflammation. Yet Decagon predicted that it would, and it was right. Although it did not appear in the original data, a case report from 2017 suggested the drug combination had led to a dangerous kind of muscle inflammation.

When the researchers searched the medical literature for evidence of 10 side effects that Decagon predicted but were not in their original data, the team members found that five out of the ten have recently been confirmed, lending further credence to Decagon’s predictions.

“It was surprising that protein interaction networks reveal so much about drug side effects,” says Jure Leskovec, an associate professor of computer science.

A.I. recreates periodic table of elements from scratch

Right now, Decagon only considers side effects associated with pairs of drugs. In the future, the team members hope to extend their results to include more complex regimens, Leskovec says. They also hope to create a more user-friendly tool to give doctors guidance on whether it’s a good idea to prescribe a particular drug to a particular patient and to help researchers developing drug regimens for complex diseases with fewer side effects.

“Today, drug side effects are discovered essentially by accident,” Leskovec says, “and our approach has the potential to lead to more effective and safer health care.”

The researchers presented their paper on July 10 at the 2018 meeting of the International Society for Computational Biology in Chicago.

The National Science Foundation, the National Institutes of Health, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, the Stanford Data Science Initiative, and the Chan Zuckerberg Biohub supported the research.

Source: Stanford University

The post A.I. predicts side effects for millions of drug combos appeared first on Futurity.

Citizenship Question Controversy Complicating Census 2020 Work, Bureau Director Says

NPR All Things Considered - Wed, 2018-07-11 18:05

Facing multiple lawsuits over addition of a citizenship question to the 2020 census, the U.S. Census Bureau head tells NPR a long legal fight could raise the head count's cost and risk a bad count.

(Image credit: Claire Harbage/NPR)

Things aren’t looking good for the Amazon rainforest

Futurity.org - Wed, 2018-07-11 18:02

The Amazon is likely to face continued warming in addition to possible multiyear droughts, according to a new study.

The research suggests that primary ecosystem services—biodiversity, water cycling, carbon capture, and others—are at greater risk than anticipated. Adaptive management strategies may be required to safeguard these key benefits of the rainforest.

Prior research has shown that background climate is one of the variables most responsible for the Amazon rainforest’s sustainability. However, existing climate records for Amazonia only span the last few decades.

“Climate change only makes the forecast worse…”

The study’s authors used sediment from a rare lowland lake in western Amazonia to generate an approximately 1,400-year paleohydrological record, shedding new light on the range of drought this vegetation might have to endure.

“Resource managers may be planning for future droughts similar to those they have recently experienced—isolated seasonal dry periods lasting a few months,” says Luke Parsons, a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Arizona and first author of the study in Water Resources Research.

“Our work suggests that there is a possibility for even longer droughts, perhaps lasting multiple seasons or years, setting the stage for fires that could clear swaths of the rainforest,” he says.

Parsons and colleagues used core samples from Lake Limón, on the western edge of the Amazon Basin in north-central Peru, to construct a record of elemental abundance, which they interpreted as a proxy for western Amazonian precipitation.

“Drought variability in the Amazon is much greater than currently thought,” says Jonathan Overpeck, dean of the School for Environment and Sustainability at the University of Michigan and another of the study’s authors.

“Whereas the longest drought in the rain-gauge record is a year, the paleoclimate record shows that droughts of many years—and even some that span more than a decade—have occurred in the recent past.”

The paleohydrological record identifies 31 dry periods over 1,400 years, roughly double the number climate models simulated over a similar time period. Over half the paleo-inferred drought periods last more than seven years, whereas climate models and the instrumental record rarely, if ever, show droughts lasting this long.

Losing Amazon rainforest would make Siberia colder

“Climate change only makes the forecast worse,” Overpeck says. “Future multiyear droughts will be hotter—and thus more severe—than in the past. And with the Amazon’s growing population, wildfires become a real threat during times of drought. We hope that forest managers can better prepare for these scenarios when they know the long-term drought history of the region.”

Additional coauthors are from the University of Arizona, the Florida Institute of Technology, and the Universidad de Costa Rica. Grants from the National Science Foundation supported the work.

Source: University of Michigan

The post Things aren’t looking good for the Amazon rainforest appeared first on Futurity.

Supportive coworkers are key to pumping at work

Futurity.org - Wed, 2018-07-11 18:00

The more support women receive from their colleagues, the more successful they are in believing they can continue breastfeeding, report researchers. While support from family or friends is important, surprisingly, coworker support has a stronger effect.

The study, published in the journal Health Communication, is the first to focus specifically on the effect female coworkers have on colleagues who want to continue breastfeeding by pumping at work.

“In order to empower women to reach their goals and to continue breastfeeding, it’s critical to motivate all coworkers by offering verbal encouragement and practical help,” says Joanne Goldbort, an assistant professor in the College of Nursing at Michigan State University, who collaborated with lead author Jie Zhuang at Texas Christian University.

Pumping at work

According to Zhuang, people may assume that women in the workplace automatically encourage one another, but that often may not be the case.

The study surveyed 500 working mothers. Eighty-one individuals indicated they had never breastfed, and 80 had stopped before returning to work. Of those who continued breastfeeding after returning to work, more than half chose not to stick with it between the first and sixth month. While the specific reasons participants stopped weren’t tracked in the study, it did measure their thoughts and feelings around coworker perception and stigma, as well as how uncomfortable they were about pumping milk at work.

Overall, the data suggest that the act of simply returning to work played a major role in their decision to quit breastfeeding but receiving colleague support was instrumental to those who continued.

The research also shows that more than a quarter of the women who originally decided to breastfeed made the decision because their place of employment created a helpful environment, such as providing a place to pump. Around 15 percent said they chose to continue breastfeeding after returning to work because they had coworkers or supervisors who directly motivated them to do so.

Goldbort indicates that multiple variables could play into why coworker support seems equally important, if not more important, to working moms.

“One factor could be that simply spending the majority of their time during the day with coworkers necessitates more support for breastfeeding success,” she says. “In the workplace, a breastfeeding woman’s dependence on this is higher because she has to work collegially with coworkers, gain their support to assist with the times she’s away from her desk, and ultimately try to lessen the ‘you get a break and I don’t’ stigma.”

Official recommendations

Recently, the United States opposed the World Health Assembly’s resolution to promote the use of breast milk over formula. This runs counter to years of research that shows breastfeeding has significant nutritional benefits for babies and their development. It also has many advantages for the mother. Yet the number of moms who choose to continue to breastfeed in the US remains lower than health organization recommendations.

The World Health Organization and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggest exclusive breastfeeding for the first six to 12 months and then continuing with supplementary feeding of solid foods up to two years of age or longer.

“If women know that coworkers and supervisors will support them in their breastfeeding efforts, it can make a big difference,” Goldbort says. “It really takes a village to breastfeed a baby.”

Source: Michigan State University

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Contributing Op-Ed Writer: How to Have a Better Conversation About Mental Illness

NY Times - Wed, 2018-07-11 18:00
The public discussion about mental health has become too focused on moderate illnesses.

Republicans express confidence about Trump’s Supreme Court pick; Democrats plot plan to sink him

Washington Post - Wed, 2018-07-11 18:00
A couple of GOP senators and a handful of Democrats are the focus of persuasion campaigns.

How Do You Say ‘Tradition’ in Yiddish?

NY Times - Wed, 2018-07-11 17:59
The first American production of “Fiddler on the Roof” in the language of the shtetl means training actors to hit the inflections, not just the notes.

New York Men’s Fashion Week: The Mixtape

NY Times - Wed, 2018-07-11 17:59
Even if no breakaway star emerged, there was plenty to admire about the grit of independents.

Alabama Moves to Limit Sheriffs From Pocketing Jail Food Money

NY Times - Wed, 2018-07-11 17:59
Gov. Kay Ivey ordered officials to rein in a decades-old practice of paying sheriffs personally to feed prisoners and then allowing the sheriffs to keep unspent funds for themselves.

Dad was away, and she was taken from her mom at the border. They're a family again

CNN - Wed, 2018-07-11 17:58
Yoselyn spent a month apart from her family in a shelter for child migrants -- but it was the last three hours she spent waiting to be reunited with her mother that felt like an eternity, she says.
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