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Metro Washington Fittest City, Again

INDIANAPOLIS, May 27 (UPI) — For the third time in a row, the Washington metropolitan area was placed atop the American Fitness Index by the American College of Sports Medicine.

A report by the American College of Sports Medicine evaluates the most populous 50 U.S. metropolitan areas to determine the healthiest and fittest areas. Data includes policies that support physical activity, levels of chronic disease, healthcare access and community resources.

“The ACSM American Fitness Index not only measures the state of health and fitness in our nation’s largest communities, but evaluates the infrastructure, community assets, policies and opportunities which encourage residents to live a healthy and fit lifestyle,” Walt Thompson, AFI advisory board chairman, says in a statement.

Washington scored 73.5 out of 100 possible points because if its low smoking rate, a higher-than-average percentage eating five fruits and vegetables daily, lower-than-average rates of obesity, asthma, cardiovascular disease and diabetes, and use of public transportation that requires commuters to walk daily.

Also in the Top 5 are Boston, Minneapolis-St. Paul, Seattle and Portland, Ore. The three largest cities finished in the middle — New York ranks 21st, Chicago ranks 33rd and Los Angeles ranks 38th.

Cities at the bottom of the American Fitness Index are: Las Vegas; Louisville, Ky.; Detroit; Memphis; Birmingham, Ala.; and Oklahoma City.

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New Way to Track Greenhouse Gases Created

CHAMPAIGN, Ill., May 25 (UPI) — U.S. scientists say they have created a more accurate method of calculating the change in greenhouse gas emissions that result from land use alterations.

University of Illinois researchers said their new technology takes into account many factors not included in previous methods and addresses the urgent need to accurately assess whether particular land-use projects will increase or decrease greenhouse gas emissions.

The lead author of the study, postdoctoral researcher Kristina Anderson-Teixeira, said the greenhouse gas value of a particular site depends on qualities such as the number and size of plants, the ecosystem’s ability to take up or release greenhouse gases over time and its vulnerability to natural disturbances, such as fire or hurricane damage.

Greenhouse gases trap heat in the atmosphere and contribute to climate change.

The new approach accounts for emissions of carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide, expressing their net climatic effect in “carbon-dioxide equivalents” — a common currency in the carbon-trading market. That, Anderson-Teixeira said, allows scientists to compare the long-term effects of clearing a forest, for example, to the costs of other greenhouse gas emissions, such as those that result from burning fossil fuels for transportation, electricity, heat, or the production of biofuels.

The new technology is reported in the journal Global Change Biology.

Copyright 2010 United Press International, Inc. (UPI). Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI’s prior written consent.

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Study: Work Health Programs Are Effective

WASHINGTON, May 24 (UPI) — Experts at a U.S. health group say a corporate health education program can reduce medical claims — reducing healthcare costs.

American Heart Association experts say a comprehensive health promotion program reduced cardiovascular disease-related medical and hospital costs. The percentage of employees with cardiovascular disease-related medical claims declined from 56.6 percent to 48.3 percent and the number of cardiovascular disease-related medical claims declined from 14.1 percent to 13.1 percent.

Also, the percentage of employees with a cardiovascular disease-related hospital claims declined from 6 percent to 4.3 percent and cardiovascular disease-related hospital claims declined from 2.5 percent to 1.7 percent.

The program was developed at CSX Transportation, a national company with 30,000 employees, in 2004 to address employees’ high rates of cardiovascular disease compared to national benchmarks.

Over time, the program included a variety of interventions, such as biometric screenings, nutrition and exercise health coaching and work-site fitness centers.

The researchers analyzed the impact of the program on cardiovascular disease-related medical and hospital claims, using 2006 to 2008 data on 5,768 non-contract employees.

Copyright 2010 United Press International, Inc. (UPI). Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI’s prior written consent.

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Space Technology Used to Study the Maya

ORLANDO, Fla., May 18 (UPI) — University of Central Florida scientists say they have used laser technology to collect 25 years worth of archaeological data on the Maya in four days.

The researchers said a flyover of Belize’s thick jungles using LiDAR (Light Detection and Ranging) equipment has revolutionized archaeology, illustrating the complex urban centers developed by one of the most-studied ancient civilizations — the Maya.

Aboard a Cessna 337, the scientists used LiDAR to bounce laser beams to sensors on the ground, penetrating the thick tree canopy and producing images of the ancient settlement and environmental modifications made by the inhabitants of the Maya city of Caracol.

The researchers said the technology detected thousands of new structures, 11 new causeways, tens of thousands of agricultural terraces and many hidden caves.

“It’s very exciting,” said UCF anthropology Professor Arlen Chase. “The images not only reveal topography and built features, but also demonstrate the integration of residential groups, monumental architecture, roadways and agricultural terraces, vividly illustrating a complete communication, transportation and subsistence system.”

UCF Biology Professor John Weishampel, who designed the unique LiDAR approach, said it was the first time the specific technology fully recorded an archaeological ruin under a tropical rainforest.

“Further applications of airborne LiDAR undoubtedly will … effectively render obsolete traditional methods of surveying,” Chase said.

Copyright 2010 United Press International, Inc. (UPI). Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI’s prior written consent.

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Kerry, Lieberman offer climate bill

WASHINGTON, May 12 (UPI) — U.S. Sens. John Kerry and Joe Lieberman introduced a compromise energy and climate change bill they hope will find bipartisan support needed for passage.

Kerry, D-Mass., and Lieberman, Ind-Conn., couched their argument for passage in terms of national security and potential economic growth.

“The American Power Act will finally change our nation’s energy policy from a national weakness into a national strength,” Kerry said in a statement announcing the measure. “We can finally tell the world that America is ready to take back our role as the world’s clean-energy leader. This is a bill for energy independence after a devastating oil spill, a bill to hold polluters accountable, a bill for billions of dollars to create the next generation of jobs, and a bill to end America’s addiction to foreign oil and protect the air our children breathe and the water they drink.”

Kerry noted the House has already passed its version and support has been growing in the Senate.

Lieberman called this version “fundamentally different” from previous energy and climate bills.

“Our bill will create jobs and transform the American economy; make our country more energy independent, which in turn will strengthen our national security; and improve the quality of the air we breathe,” he said.

The Washington Post said the Kerry-Lieberman bill differs from the House bill in several ways, including provisions for carbon reductions from specific sectors of the economy rather than a nationwide cap and greater incentives for new new nuclear power and offshore oil drilling.

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., who had bailed on the effort to write a bipartisan bill, said in a statement on his Web site that while he hadn’t seen the changes Kerry and Lieberman had made, he looks forward to reviewing the bill.

“We should move forward in a reasoned, thoughtful manner and in a political climate which gives us the best chance at success,” Graham said. “The problems created by the historic oil spill in the gulf, along with the uncertainty of immigration politics, have made it extremely difficult for transformational legislation in the area of energy and climate to garner bipartisan support at this time.”

Biofuel combustion research needed

LIVERMORE, Calif., May 12 (UPI) — U.S. scientists say they’ve embarked on needed research into the chemistry of biofuel combustion.

Researchers at Lawrence Livermore and Sandia national laboratories in California say a better understanding of the key elements of biofuel combustion will be important in developing the next generation of alternative fuels.

Sandia researcher Nils Hansen and Lawrence Livermore scientist Charles Westbrook lay out the diverse and complex chemical reactions of biofuel combustion in a paper published in the May 10 edition of the journal Angewandte Chemie.

Hansen and Westbrook point out that while bioethanol, biobutanol and biodiesel are gaining interest as alternatives to oil-based transportation fuels, little research has been done on what happens in biofuel combustion.

In their paper, the pair examine, for the first time, the characteristic aspects of the chemical pathways in the combustion of potential biofuels.

With funding from the U.S. Energy Department, the researchers, along with colleagues in Germany, China and the United States, used a combination of laser spectroscopy, mass spectrometry and flame chemistry modeling to explore the decomposition and oxidation mechanisms of certain biofuels, and the formation of harmful or toxic emissions.

“To understand the associated combustion reactions and to identify recurring reaction patterns, it is important to study prototypical variants of potential biofuels,” Westbrook said.

Expert: Dispersants don’t solve problem

SOLOMONS, Md., May 12 (UPI) — Large-scale use of chemicals to disperse the massive Gulf of Mexico oil slick creates pollution trade-offs, a University of Maryland expert says.

So far, at least 325,000 gallons of dispersants have been added to the gulf waters to help break up the 5,000 barrels of crude oil that have leaked into the gulf each day since the April 20 explosion that sank the Deepwater Horizon oil rig.

But dispersants don’t eliminate the pollution problem, says Carys Mitchelmore, an environmental chemist at the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science in Solomons. While less toxic than earlier generations of dispersants, the chemicals only succeed in changing which marine and other wildlife are affected — fewer animals on the beaches and more in other parts of the ocean and at the sea floor, Mitchelmore says in the journal Nature.

“It’s a trade-off, and no one will tell you using dispersants won’t have an effect,” said Mitchelmore, co-author of a 2005 U.S. National Academies report on dispersants. “You’re trading one species for another.”

In a yet-to-be published study, for example, Mitchelmore and her colleagues found soft corals exposed to crude oil and the Corexit 9500 dispersant currently in use experienced significantly lower growth rates.

“The long-term effects are really unknown,” Mitchelmore said. “The dispersant has inherent toxicity. And these oil droplets tend to be the same sort of size as food particles for filter-feeding organisms.”

While dispersants had been applied primarily at the ocean surface, robots are being employed to inject them as the oil leaks from the ocean floor a mile deep, a method never tried before and one the Environmental Protection Agency says will have a “still widely unknown” impact on the environment, the Nature article reports.

Genomes may help chart human migrations

COPENHAGEN, Denmark, May 12 (UPI) — Breakthroughs in genetic science will, before too long, help researchers chart the migration patterns of ancient humans, experts in Denmark and elsewhere say.

Eske Willerslev of the University of Copenhagen says researchers are comparing ancient genomes with those of modern-day humans to gain insights into human evolution and migration.

“For the first time, ancient and modern genetic research is going hand in hand,” Willerslev said in an article published in the journal Nature. “It is really a fantastic time.”

Jeffrey Long of the University of Mexico in Albuquerque says the hope is ancient-modern genome comparisons can one day be used to chart splits in human populations and correlate them with climatic changes.

“I call this molecular stratigraphy,” Long said of the effort to trace prehistoric migration routes. “I then want to use this relative chronology of genetic events to compare to the palaeoclimate of Earth’s biomes.”

Willerslev said genomes will allow researchers to test theories that have been debated for a century.

“In the next five years, we will see a whole spectrum of discoveries,” he said.

“I honestly believe this new era will change our view of human evolution.”

Copyright 2010 United Press International, Inc. (UPI). Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI’s prior written consent.

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Biofuel Combustion Research Needed

LIVERMORE, Calif., May 12 (UPI) — U.S. scientists say they’ve embarked on needed research into the chemistry of biofuel combustion.

Researchers at Lawrence Livermore and Sandia national laboratories in California say a better understanding of the key elements of biofuel combustion will be important in developing the next generation of alternative fuels.

Sandia researcher Nils Hansen and Lawrence Livermore scientist Charles Westbrook lay out the diverse and complex chemical reactions of biofuel combustion in a paper published in the May 10 edition of the journal Angewandte Chemie.

Hansen and Westbrook point out that while bioethanol, biobutanol and biodiesel are gaining interest as alternatives to oil-based transportation fuels, little research has been done on what happens in biofuel combustion.

In their paper, the pair examine, for the first time, the characteristic aspects of the chemical pathways in the combustion of potential biofuels.

With funding from the U.S. Energy Department, the researchers, along with colleagues in Germany, China and the United States, used a combination of laser spectroscopy, mass spectrometry and flame chemistry modeling to explore the decomposition and oxidation mechanisms of certain biofuels, and the formation of harmful or toxic emissions.

“To understand the associated combustion reactions and to identify recurring reaction patterns, it is important to study prototypical variants of potential biofuels,” Westbrook said.

Copyright 2010 United Press International, Inc. (UPI). Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI’s prior written consent.

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Is the 1 series BMW more efficient than the 3 series BMW?

Barring the 335d sedan, which apparently gets 36mpg on the highway, no. The BMW 1 series and the BMW 3 series have extremely comparable highway mpg numbers. Although one must keep in mind that the more you carry in a car, the worse your gas mileage will be, so if you get a 3 series with a higher capacity, you’ll use more gas. Whether or not you feel this is a hit to efficiency is up to you.

I hope this helped!

Citations:

http://www.bmwusa.com/standard/content/vehicles/2011/1/default.aspx

http://www.bmwusa.com/Standard/Content/Vehicles/2011/3/default.aspx?enc=/eiUrYOZAxtXbrazY6tfknvs2p4czl6fdqlc7VGB7GMJX5l1VO2sOAFdFIop/Xi0YqDUM/o7tGByNG5bybsokqo5Z/b/wdgoa45iuf3ivNfzmvxkVBPXdC+v9qWdWTABRFs6gNiBrlJ40M21xKYXSCtv4Y5m2Jr/A0vBuieMvi9Wz0gFmES/BkC

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Distractions Deadlier Than Drunken Driving

COLLEGE STATION, Texas, May 10 (UPI) — U.S. researchers suggest distractions may be killing more teenage drivers than drunken driving.

Researchers at the Driver Seat Center of the Texas Transportation Institute in College Station, Texas, say a report on the effect of lighting conditions and alcohol on crashes in all 50 states found alcohol use as a contributing factor increasing for older drivers but decreasing slightly for teen drivers.

Nevertheless, the number of all night-time crashes including teen crashes has been steadily increasing. However, in the case of teens, alcohol isn’t the reason for the crashes.

The researchers suggest distractions — especially texting while driving — may be at fault.

Study researcher Russell Henk notes night-time crashes are a combination of visibility challenges caused by dark conditions, slower response time brought about by fatigue and lack of experience driving under such conditions — especially for young drivers.

“Being on a cell phone behind the wheel impairs our driving ability,” Henk says in a statement. “When you add the night-time danger, you create the perfect storm and that storm is much more severe for young drivers, largely because of their lack of driving experience.”

Copyright 2010 United Press International, Inc. (UPI). Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI’s prior written consent.

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FDA OKs combination oral contraceptive

WASHINGTON, May 6 (UPI) — The U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced approval Thursday of Natazia, a combination hormonal tablet for use as an oral contraceptive.

Officials said Natazia contains two female hormones — an estrogen (estradiol valerate) and a progestin (dienogest) — and is the first four-phasic oral contraceptive marketed in the United States. The FDA said “four-phasic” refers to the doses of progestin and estrogen varying at four times throughout each 28-day treatment cycle.

“Nearly 12 million women in the United States and more than 100 million women worldwide currently use oral contraceptives,” said Dr. Scott Monroe, director of the FDA’s Division of Reproductive and Urologic Products. “The approval of Natazia provides another option for women who choose to use an oral contraceptive as their method of contraception.”

The federal agency noted women older than 35 who smoke shouldn’t use the product. The FDA said cigarette smoking increases the risk of serious cardiovascular events from combination oral contraceptive use.

Natazia is manufactured by Bayer HealthCare Pharmaceuticals of Wayne, N.J.

Less than 6 hours of sleep can kill you

WARWICK, England, May 6 (UPI) — People who sleep for less than 6 hours each night have an increased risk of dying prematurely, British and Italian researchers said.

Researchers at the University of Warwick and the Federico II University Medical School in Naples, Italy, found that those who slept for less than 6 hours a night were 12 percent more likely to die prematurely than those who slept the recommended 6-8 hours a night.

The study, published in the journal Sleep, also said sleeping more than 9 hours a night is not linked to premature death, but can indicate a serious or potentially fatal illness.

The researchers reviewed 16 studies from Britain, the United States, Europe and East Asia that involved more than 1.3. million people with up to 25 years of follow-up.

“Modern society has seen a gradual reduction in the average amount of sleep people take, and this pattern is more common amongst full-time workers, suggesting that it may be due to societal pressures for longer working hours and more shift-work,” Francesco Cappuccio of the University of Warwick and physician at the University Hospitals Coventry and Warwickshire NHS Trust said in a statement.

“Consistently sleeping 6 to 8 hours per night may be optimal for health.”

Study: ‘Spring creep’ is hurting ecology

CAMBRIDGE, Mass., May 6 (UPI) — The Union of Concerned Scientists says human-induced warming is causing spring to arrive earlier than normal, posing a major threat to plants and animals.

The organization says spring is arriving about 10 days earlier than usual, and while it’s not difficult for people to adjust, “spring creep” can create mismatches when some plants bud earlier and the animals that depend on them haven’t adjusted their internal clocks.

For example, researchers said bees might fly to an area that provide habitat for plants they historically pollinate only to find the plants already have bloomed.

In a recent telephone briefing sponsored by the Union of Concerned Scientists, Jake Weltzin, the executive director of the National Phenology Network and an ecologist with the U.S. Geological Survey, said in a number of states, caterpillars, which in the past would have been eaten by migratory birds, are now falling to the ground before the birds show up.

That’s not only bad for the birds, Weltzin said, but a recent study found thousands of grazing pregnant mares in the Ohio River Valley ingested the caterpillars, causing them to abort their fetuses.

But the UCS said even if all global warming emissions stopped today, the planet would still experience more climate changes because carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping gases remain in the atmosphere for decades.

The organization says our near-term choices about energy, transportation and land use will not stop climate change, but they will determine its extent and severity.

Stem cells may aid Parkinson’s patients

NEW HAVEN, Conn., May 6 (UPI) — A U.S. study suggests endometrial stem cells might be able to take over the function of the non-working brain cells of Parkinson’s disease patients.

Yale University researchers led by Dr. Hugh Taylor said they injected the stem cells into the brains of mice with a laboratory-induced form of Parkinson’s disease. The cells appeared to take over the functioning of brain cells eradicated by the disease.

The scientists said their finding raises the possibility that women with Parkinson’s disease could serve as their own stem cell donors. Similarly, because endometrial stem cells — derived from the lining of the uterus — are readily available and easy to collect, banks of endometrial stem cells could be stored for men and women with Parkinson’s disease.

Parkinson’s disease results from a loss of brain cells that produce the chemical messenger dopamine, which aids the transmission of brain signals that coordinate movement.

“Endometrial tissue is probably the most readily available, safest, most easily attainable source of stem cells that is currently available,” said Taylor. “I think this is just the tip of the iceberg for what we will be able to do with these cells.”

The findings appear in the early online edition of the Journal of Cellular and Molecular Medicine.

Copyright 2010 United Press International, Inc. (UPI). Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI’s prior written consent.

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Study: 'Spring Creep' is Hurting Ecology

CAMBRIDGE, Mass., May 6 (UPI) — The Union of Concerned Scientists says human-induced warming is causing spring to arrive earlier than normal, posing a major threat to plants and animals.

The organization says spring is arriving about 10 days earlier than usual, and while it’s not difficult for people to adjust, “spring creep” can create mismatches when some plants bud earlier and the animals that depend on them haven’t adjusted their internal clocks.

For example, researchers said bees might fly to an area that provide habitat for plants they historically pollinate only to find the plants already have bloomed.

In a recent telephone briefing sponsored by the Union of Concerned Scientists, Jake Weltzin, the executive director of the National Phenology Network and an ecologist with the U.S. Geological Survey, said in a number of states, caterpillars, which in the past would have been eaten by migratory birds, are now falling to the ground before the birds show up.

That’s not only bad for the birds, Weltzin said, but a recent study found thousands of grazing pregnant mares in the Ohio River Valley ingested the caterpillars, causing them to abort their fetuses.

But the UCS said even if all global warming emissions stopped today, the planet would still experience more climate changes because carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping gases remain in the atmosphere for decades.

The organization says our near-term choices about energy, transportation and land use will not stop climate change, but they will determine its extent and severity.

Copyright 2010 United Press International, Inc. (UPI). Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI’s prior written consent.

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