Insight News

Monday
Oct 20th

Health

What on Earth is "global dimming?"

What on Earth is Dear EarthTalk: I’ve heard of global warming, of course, but what on Earth is “global dimming?” -- Max S., Seattle, WA

Global dimming is a less well-known but real phenomenon resulting from atmospheric pollution. The burning of fossil fuels by industry and internal combustion engines, in addition to releasing the carbon dioxide that collects and traps the sun’s heat within our atmosphere, causes the emission of so-called particulate pollution—composed primarily of sulphur dioxide, soot and ash. When these particulates enter the atmosphere they absorb solar energy and reflect sunlight otherwise bound for the Earth’s surface back into space. Particulate pollution also changes the properties of clouds—so-called “brown clouds” are more reflective and produce less rainfall than their more pristine counterparts. The reduction in heat reaching the Earth’s surface as a result of both of these processes is what researchers have dubbed global dimming.
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Meatless Mondays

Meatless MondaysDear EarthTalk: I know that some people abstain from meat on Fridays for religious reasons, but what’s the story behind “Meatless Mondays? -- Sasha Burger, Ronkonkoma, NY

Meatless Monday—the modern version of it, at least—was born in 2003 with the goal of reducing meat consumption by 15 percent in the U.S. and beyond. The rationale? Livestock production accounts for one-fifth of all man-made greenhouse gas emissions worldwide and is also a major factor in global forest and habitat loss, freshwater depletion, pollution and human health problems. The average American eats some eight ounces of meat every day—45 percent more than the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s recommended amount.

An outgrowth of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health’s Center for a Livable Future, the Meatless Monday project offers vegetarian recipes, interviews with experts, various resources for schools, organizations and municipalities that wish to promote the initiative—and regular updates on Facebook and Twitter. “Going meatless once a week can reduce your risk of chronic preventable conditions like cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes and obesity,” the group reports. “It can also help limit your carbon footprint and save resources like fresh water and fossil fuel.”
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Can the military go green?

Can the military go green?Dear EarthTalk: What is the U.S. military doing to reduce its carbon footprint and generally green its operations? -- Anthony Gomez, New York, NY

As the world’s largest polluter, the U.S. military has its work cut out for it when it comes to greening its operations. According to the nonprofit watchdog group, Project Censored, American forces generate some 750,000 tons of toxic waste annually—more than the five largest U.S. chemical companies combined. Although this pollution occurs globally on U.S. bases in dozens of countries, there are tens of thousands of toxic “hot spots” on some 8,500 military properties right here on America soil.

“Not only is the military emitting toxic material directly into the air and water,” reports Project Censored, “it’s poisoning the land of nearby communities, resulting in increased rates of cancer, kidney disease, increasing birth defects, low birth weight and miscarriage.” The non-profit Military Toxics Project is working with the U.S. government to identify problem sites and educate neighbors about the risks.
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Scratching synthetics for Merino wool.

Scratching synthetics for Merino wool.Dear EarthTalk: Merino wool undergarments tout themselves as being kinder to the environment than other wools or synthetics. How is this so? -- Stella Cooley, Bangor, ME

Since the 1970s, professional athletes and weekend warriors alike have sworn by base layers made out of synthetic “fibers” that would let sweat-based moisture escape, dry fast and be easy to care for. But such garments don’t come without trade-offs: They tend to get stinky when mixed with bodily odors and, like so many modern technological marvels, are derived from petroleum. Merino wool-based garments function just as well or better—and without the olfactory stigma or carbon footprint increase.

The soft and pliable cousin to the traditional wool our grandparents wore, Merino wool is revolutionizing outdoor wear while helping manufacturers and consumers lower their impact on the environment. This natural fiber, derived from Merino sheep in New Zealand, is soft on the skin, wicks sweat effectively, dries out quickly, is naturally odor-resistant—and is machine-washable to boot. And since Merino can be easily spun into different weights, it is used in a wide variety of clothing types (underwear, shirts, coats) making it a natural choice for layering.
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The pledge to cripple Health Care for African Americans

The pledge to cripple Health Care for African AmericansHouse Republicans’ “Pledge to America” contains one particularly specific public policy proposal worth worrying about—the pledge to repeal the Affordable Care Act of 2009. This comprehensive health reform law, designed to fix our broken health care system over the coming decade, in particular provides a unique opportunity to address the health care disparities that African Americans experience from birth to death in the form of higher infant mortality, higher rates of disease and disability, and shortened life expectancy.

The "Pledge to America" would replace health care reform with a grab bag of isolated measures that mostly benefit those who already have health care coverage. These piecemeal measures will do nothing to address the hurdles such as lack of health insurance, lack of access to preventive care, and other barriers that black families face in getting access to the care they need. Let’s take a closer look at their pledge to understand just how devastating their proposals would be to blacks.
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UCare is new sponsor of Skyway Senior Center in Downtown Minneapolis

Grants from the UCare Fund and UCare community benefit program provide operational support for three years

UCare, Minnesota’s fourth-largest health plan, is the new sponsor of what will be known as the UCare Skyway Senior Center in downtown Minneapolis. Grants from the UCare Fund  and UCare’s community benefit program are providing operational support for three years to the popular downtown destination for people age 50 and older.

The center’s previous sponsor, Medica, provided financial support for the center for part of 2010. In addition to operational funds from UCare, funding comes from a variety of sources such as individual donors, corporations, neighborhood associations, foundations, and the nonprofit Friends of the Skyway Senior Center.
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Health care reform means middle class tax cuts

They've crunched the numbers and they say it looks good. The health care consumer advocate group Families USA says the new health care reform law will bring a huge tax break for working people - one worth $110 billion by 2014. The tax cuts are fully refundable, which means you get money back even if you don't owe any taxes, according to Kathleen Stoll with Families USA.

"The new premium tax credits in the Affordable Care Act really constitute the largest middle-income tax cut in history. These new tax credits are going to enable hard-working folks in Minnesota to afford health premiums that up to now have really stretched their family budget," said Stoll.
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