Using public records of grocery store locations and vehicle ownership, the USDA has mapped the locations of “food deserts,” regions where people lack access to decent food. Such areas have been popular to talk about and speculate about, but this is the first effort that I’m aware of to actually locate and measure them. →
- Science News: Columbus Blamed For Little Ice Age
Here's a fun theory of the origin of the Little Ice Age, lasting from around 1550–1850: that massive losses of New World population, as a result of disease spread by explorers, resulted in reforestation of huge swaths of the Americas, removing billions of tons of CO2 from the atmosphere, decreasing its capacity to hold heat. The theory itself isn't new—it was first proposed six years ago—but this new theory is based on a combination of evidence that CO2 levels dropped then and archeological evidence that charcoal accumulation plummeted during the period, evidence that the smaller populations weren't burning trees to clear land for crops. No doubt the link between exploration and climate would have struck people as impossible at the time. Kind of like how many Republicans will feel about it now.
- LA Times: Dietary supplements linked to higher risk of death in older women
A longitudinal study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine has found that women who take multivitamins regularly die younger than those who do not. Of all of the supplements studied (B6, folic acid, magnesium, zinc, copper, iron, and more), only calcium appeared to lower the risk of death. More and more data show that supplements simply aren't useful, save for to compensate for a shortage resulting from a health problem, and prescribed by a doctor.
- AP: Nearly half of US households escape fed income tax
Republicans are complaining about how 46% of Americans pay no income tax, despite that the fact that half of them make no payments because of income tax cuts that Republicans championed and, in many cases, enacted. (The other half have little to no income, which makes criticism of their lack of payments particularly heartless.) "I'm so angry that my agenda has been enacted!"
- Chattanooga Times-Free Press: 96-year-old Chattanooga resident denied voting ID
Dorothy Cooper even managed to vote under Jim Crow, but the Tennessee Republican Party has proved to be one obstacle she can't overcome. She's never driven, so she has no driver's license. She tried to get a photo ID, but she has to present her marriage certificate, and she got married a long, long time ago, and doesn't know where to find that. I guess the new photo ID laws are working just as intended.
- Flickr: Fed Up with Lunch
A Flickr stream of nothing but photos of what passes for school lunch in the Chicago Public Schools. Parents never see what the kids get for lunch, but this teacher did. I'd love to see somebody do this in area schools. Heck, the schools should be willing to do it themselves.
- New York Times: After Ruling, Hispanics Flee an Alabama Town
Alabama's new immigration law has left crops rotting in their fields, farmers unable to find workers. Business at grocery stores and restaurants has evaporated. Hundreds (thousands?) of people working perfectly legal have gotten the message loud and clear: Latinos are not welcome in Alabama. So they're packing up and moving.
In the New York Times, Tara Parker-Pope looks at the (possible) false hope of vitamin supplements. Vitamins are essential—we’d quickly die without them. But it’s looking increasingly likely that vitamin supplements—vitamins in pill form—are significantly less effective than vitamins that occur naturally, in food. Vitamins may be what allow our bodies to avoid the sorts of diseases that occur in their absence (scurvy and rickets, for example), and are likely help for people who lack the ability to produce or process vitamins in food, due to age or ailment. But they’re apparently useless in preventing cancer, heart disease, etc. And they can even be harmful. A massive dose of vitamin C does nothing to prevent colds. High rates of beta carotene are correlated with lung cancer. People’s faith in vitamins exceeds the science.
The moral of the story? Get your nutrition from food. If you think you need vitamin C, have an orange. Need some beta carotene? Eat a carrot.
I just saw a sort of a jaw-dropping commercial run by the Corn Refiners Association to promote corn syrup. One woman is telling another that it’s probably not a good idea to give her child a drink from a gallon jug of one of those “fruit drinks” (that come in such flavors as purple and green), since it’s just water and corn syrup. The drink-pouring woman objects, saying that corn syrup is “all natural” and “made from corn.” The ad points viewers to their SweetSurprise website. The claims that they’re making are both accurate and terribly misleading. The good news, I suppose, is that enough people are finally noticing that corn syrup is trouble that the industry feels the need to fight back.