Posts tagged with "Raw Story"

Contrary to popular opinion, a dog’s breed won’t predict behavior

May 2, 2022

They’re well-known stereotypes: Rottweilers and pit bulls are aggressive, while Labradors and golden retrievers are extra friendly. But a genetic study published in the journal, Science, on April 28—involving more than 2,000 dogs paired with 200,000 survey answers from owners—demonstrates that such widespread assumptions are largely unfounded, reports Raw Story in an article first published in AFP.

To be sure, many behavioral traits can be inherited—but the modern concept of breed offers only partial predictive value for most types of behavior and almost none whatsoever for how affectionate a dog will be; or conversely, how quick to anger.

“While genetics plays a role in the personality of any individual dog, specific dog breed is not a good predictor of those traits,” said senior author Elinor Karlsson, of UMass Chan and the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard.

“What we found is that the defining criteria of a golden retriever are its physical characteristics—the shape of its ears, the color and quality of its fur, its size— not whether it is friendly,” she added.

Lead author Kathleen Morrill explained that understanding the relationship between breeds and behavior could be the first step in understanding the genes responsible for psychiatric conditions in humans, like obsessive disorders.

“Although we can’t really ask a dog themselves about their problems or thoughts or anxieties, we do know that dogs lead rich emotional lives and experience disorders that manifests in their behavior,” she said on a press call.

The team sequenced the DNA of 2,155 purebred and mixed-breed dogs to search for common genetic variations that could predict behavior, and combined this info with surveys from 18,385 pet-owner surveys from Darwin’s Ark.

The site is an open-source database of owner-reported canine traits and behaviors.

Because existing stereotypes are so powerful, the team designed their questionnaires to account for owner bias.

They established standard definitions for reporting traits—among them:

  • Biddability (dog response to human direction),
  • Dog-human sociability (how comfortable dogs are with people, including strangers), and
  • Toy-directed motor patterns (how interested they are in toys).

In all, Karlsson and Morrill found 11 locations on the dog genome associated with behavioral differences, including biddability, retrieving, pointing at a target, and howling.

Among these behaviors, breed did play some role — for example, beagles and bloodhounds tend to howl more, border collies are biddable, and Shiba Inus are far less so.

However, there were always exceptions to the rule. For example, even though Labs had the lowest propensity for howling, 8% still did. While 90% of greyhounds didn’t bury their toys, 3% did frequently.

“When we looked at this factor that we called agonistic threshold, which included a lot of questions about whether people’s dogs reacted aggressively to things, we weren’t seeing an effect of breed ancestry,” Karlsson added.

Overall, breed explained just 9% of variation in behavior, with age a better predictor of some traits, like toy play. Physical traits, however, were five times more likely to be predicted by breed than behavior was.

Research contact: @RawStory

Cold showers: A scientist explains if they are as good for you as Wim Hof (the ‘Iceman’) suggests

April 28, 2022

Anyone watching the BBC programFreeze the Fear with Wim Hof, may be starting to wonder whether there really is “power in the cold shower” as extreme athlete Hof claims.

Hof, who set a Guinness World Record for swimming under ice, says that a “cold shower a day keeps the doctor away” by decreasing stress and increasing energy levels, Raw Story reports.

He asks celebrity participants on the show to take a cold shower of 12°C (54°F) every day—increasing the duration of the shower over time from 15 seconds to two minutes. Watching the reaction of the participants under the cold shower shows you that it is not a pleasant experience, at least at first.

According to Raw Story, there is not much research looking at the health benefits of cold showers, so the literature is limited. The largest study—conducted among 3,000 participants—was carried out in the Netherlands and found that people who took a daily cold shower (following a warm shower) of either 30 seconds, 60 seconds, or 90 seconds for one month were off work with self-reported sickness 29% less than those who had a warm shower only. Interestingly, the duration of the cold water did not affect the sickness absence.

The reason why cold showers might prevent people from getting ill is still unclear. Some research suggests that it boosts the immune system. A Czech study showed that being immersed in cold water (14°C/57°F) for one hour) three times a week for six weeks, gave a slight boost to the immune system of “athletic young men,” the only group tested. However, further research is needed to fully understand the effects on the immune system.

In the BBC program, Hof suggests that cold water activates the cardiovascular system and therefore improves its function. He says: “We go to the gym to work our muscles, but inside our bodies we have millions of tiny muscles in the cardiovascular system—and we can train them by simply taking a cold shower.”

When you have a cold shower, your heart rate and blood pressure increase. There is some evidence that cold water activates the sympathetic nervous system, which is the part that governs the “fight-or-flight” response (an automatic physiological reaction to an event that is perceived as dangerous, stressful or frightening).

When this is activated, such as during a cold shower, you get an increase in the hormone noradrenaline. This is what most likely causes an increase in heart rate and blood pressure observed when people are immersed in cold water and is, therefore, linked to the suggested health improvements mentioned by Hof.

Cold water immersion also has been shown to improve circulation. When exposed to cold water, the skin blood vessels constrict (get smaller), reducing blood flow. When the cold water stops, the body has to warm itself up, so there is an increase in blood flow as the blood vessels increase in size due to dilation. Some scientists think that this could improve circulation. A study looking at cold-water immersion after exercise found that, after four weeks, blood flow to and from muscles had improved.

In the program, Hof recommends participants to increase the duration of the shower each day. However, the only research study which has explored the duration is the one mentioned earlier from the Netherlands. They found that the length of the cold shower was irrelevant. Therefore, a 15-second cold shower should be sufficient enough to experience any health benefits.

However, there is some danger involved: Having a cold shower can be a bit of a shock. As mentioned above, it also stimulates the flight-or-fight response which increases heart rate and blood pressure. This can have a negative effect for those with heart disease as it could precipitate a heart attack or heart-rhythm irregularities. If anyone has fatty deposits in their arteries, a rapid increase in heart rate could potentially cause some of the deposits to fall off and block the artery leading to a heart attack.

In addition, according to Mike Tipton, an expert on human physiology at the University of Portsmouth, submersion in cold water can be connected to an increase in breathing as well as heart rate. But there is also a “diving response” when submersed in cold water, where the body automatically decreases heart rate and instinctively you stop breathing (in contrast to flight-or-fight responses). This conflict can cause heart rhythm abnormalities and potentially sudden death. However, this is a greater risk with cold water immersion, such as open water swimming, than a cold shower.

Cold showers are thought to have mental health benefits too. However, the Dutch research study found no improvements in anxiety with cold showers. But it may reduce symptoms of depression. The proposed reason for this is that people have a high density of cold receptors on our skin and a cold shower activates them and sends a vast amount of electrical impulses to the brain, which may have an anti-depressive effect.

There has also been research in older adults suggesting that cold water applied to the face and neck is associated with temporary improvements in brain function—including improvements in memory and attention.

So Hof’s claim that a “cold shower a day keeps the doctor away” has some scientific evidence behind it. However, the extent of the health benefits and the exact reasons for it are still to be determined. Caution must be exercised by those who have an existing heart condition.

Research contact: @RawStory

‘An unparalleled action’: Switzerland forgoes neutrality to freeze Russian financial assets

March 1, 2022

Russians face a global financial backlash following Vladimir Putin‘s invasion of Ukraine that is so extensive that even the Swiss are taking sides, reports Raw Story.

Switzerland, a favorite destination for Russian oligarchs and their money, announced on Monday that it would freeze Russian financial assets in the country, setting aside a deeply rooted tradition of neutrality to join the European Union and a growing number of nations seeking to penalize Russia for the invasion of Ukraine,” The New York Times reported.

The Times continued, “After a meeting with the Swiss Federal Council, Switzerland’s president, Ignazio Cassis, said that the country would immediately freeze the assets of Russia’s president, Vladimir V. Putin; Prime Minister Mikhail V. Mishustin; and Foreign Minister Sergey V. Lavrov; as well as all 367 individuals sanctioned last week by the European Union.”

“The Swiss Federal Council has decided today to fully adopt EU sanctions,” Swiss Federal President Ignazio Cassis said Monday, according to CNN. “It is an unparalleled action of Switzerland, who has always stayed neutral before.”

The sanctions will prevent Lavrov from flying to Geneva on Tuesday to address the UN Human Rights Council, Russia announced.

“Swiss national bank data showed that Russian companies and individuals held assets worth more than $11 billion in Swiss banks in 2020,” the Times reported. “Switzerland cherishes a reputation for neutrality that has established Geneva as a home to the United Nations and a host to peace talks in numerous conflicts, including the wars in Korea and Vietnam. Recently, Geneva was the venue for last year’s summit between President Biden and Mr. Putin.”

Research contact: @RawStory

McCarthy urges his caucus not to retaliate against GOP members who voted for infrastructure bill

November 17, 2021

On Tuesday, November 16,  CNN’s Melanie Zanona reported that House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-California) privately told his caucus not to retaliate against the 13 House Republicans who voted for the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (H.R. 3684), better known as the bipartisan infrastructure deal, reports Raw Story.

According to Zanona, McCarthy also addressed his own inaction on the anime kill fantasy tweet against Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-New York) posted by Representative Paul Gosar (R-Arizona)—saying that he had asked Gosar to take down the video.

Nineteen Senate Republicans, including Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky), backed the infrastructure bill. However, McCarthy took a different view, urging his caucus to oppose it in order to tank Democrats’ two-track strategy that will also pass a broad overhaul of the social safety net known as the Build Back Better Act (H.R. 5376).

Despite the orders from GOP leadership, more than a dozen Republicans, including several from New York and New Jersey, backed the measure.

Some far-right rank and file Republicans, including Reps. Matt Gaetz (R-Florida), Lauren Boebert (R-Colorado), and Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Georgia), have pushed for the caucus to strip these 13 Republicans of their committee assignments, with Greene going so far as to post the phone numbers of the lawmakers so her supporters could bombard them with aggressive and violent messages.

Research contact: @RawStory

30×30: More than 80 nations pledge to cut methane emissions by 30% by 2030

November 3, 2021

On Tuesday, November 2, dozens of countries joined a United States and European Union pledge to cut emissions of methane—the most potent greenhouse gas—by 30% this decade, in the most significant climate commitment so far at COP26 in Glasgow, Scotland, Agence France-Presse reports.

The initiative, which experts say could have a powerful short-term impact on global warming, followed an announcement earlier Tuesday in which more than 100 nations agreed to end deforestation by 2030.

“One of the most important things we can do between now and 2030, to keep 1.5C in reach, is reduce our methane emissions as soon as possible,” said U.S. President Joe Biden, referring to the central goal of the 2015 Paris agreement.

Biden called the pledge, which has so far been signed by more than 80 nations, a “game-changing commitment” that covered countries responsible for around half of global methane emissions.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said that the methane cut would “immediately slow down climate change”.

“We cannot wait until 2050. We have to cut emissions fast and methane is one of the gases we can cut the fastest,” she said.

Organizers say the ensuing shuttle diplomacy and painstaking negotiation will be crucial for the continued viability of the 2015 Paris Agreement, and its goal to limit temperature rises to between 1.5 and 2 degrees Celsius.

While the summit’s first day passed with much rhetoric but only lukewarm climate pledges, Tuesday’s twin announcements were broadly welcomed by campaigners.

Research contact: @AFP

Live at SCOTUS: Sotomayor and Kagan rebuke Texas for ban that ‘sets precedent to attack other rights’

November 2, 2021

On Monday, November 1, Supreme Court Justices Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor pushed back against a Texas law that enables private citizens to enforce abortion restrictions. Both ripped the Texas abortion ban for how it would create a model for states to attack other constitutionally protected rights, CNN reports.

Sotomayor grilled Texas Solicitor General Judd Stone on Texas’ argument that Congress could step in and write legislation that would prevent states from passing such laws.

“Can I give you examples where Congress hasn’t?” Sotomayor said, ticking off decisions the Supreme Court has made on gun rights, same-sex marriage, birth control, sodomy, and other contentious issues.

What’s more, in a move that surprised many legal observers, during oral arguments in Whole Woman’s Health v. Jackson (Texas law S.B.8), Justice Brett Kavanaugh expressed concern that Second Amendment rights could also be at risk if the Texas abortion law is allowed to stand,  Raw Story reports.

Kavanaugh suggested that new laws could make gun shops liable for millions of dollars if they sell assault-style rifles.

Texas Solicitor General Judd Stone agreed that “all constitutional rights” could be curtailed in the same fashion as abortion rights if Congress allows it.

Kagan interrupted to point out that constitutional rights cannot be blocked by legislation.

“Your answer to Justice Kavanaugh, which is go ask Congress, I mean, isn’t the point of a right that you don’t have to ask Congress?” Kagan asked. “Isn’t the point of a right that it doesn’t really matter what Congress thinks or what the majority of the American people think as to that right?”

Stone insisted that state court judges are expected to “faithfully apply the Constitution.”

But Kagan was not convinced.

“Within the state court process, it may be many years from now and with a chilling effect that basically deprives people who want to exercise the [abortion] right from the opportunity to do so,” the justice explained.

The outcome is still touch and go. The court is providing live audio, as it now does in all arguments.

Research contact: @CNN

Cheney drops bombshell—suggesting Trump ‘was personally involved in the planning of January 6th’

October 21, 2021

On Tuesday, October 19, Representative Liz Cheney (R-Wyoming) issued a blistering assessment of the decision by former President Donald Trump and ally Steve Bannon to stonewall the House Select Committee investigating the January 6th attacks on the U.S. Capitol, reports Raw Story.

After dismantling Bannon’s claims that he is protected by executive privilege from testifying before the committee, Cheney speculated that Trump and Bannon have very personal reasons for not wanting any testimony to go forward.

“Mr. Bannon’s and Mr. Trump’s privilege arguments do appear to reveal one thing, however: They suggest that President Trump was personally involved in the planning and execution of January 6th,” she said. “And we will get to the bottom of that.”

Cheney also cited Bannon’s statements on January 5th in which he seemed to anticipate that violent mayhem would break out the next day as Congress worked to certify the results of the 2020 presidential election.

“All hell is going to break loose tomorrow,” Bannon said.

Research contact: @RawStory

Truth will out: Trump’s lawsuit against niece could be huge mistake that makes all his NDAs ‘worthless’

September 24, 2021

Former President Donald Trump’s latest lawsuit may blow up in his face, Trump biographer and Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist David Cay Johnston explained on MSNBC on Wednesday, September 22, Raw Story reports.

NBC News confirms Donald Trump sued The New York Times, as well as his own niece, Mary Trump, over a 2018 report that shattered him as a self-made billionaire,” anchor Joy Reid stated.

“Legal experts also say Trump should be careful what he’s wishing for — he’s staking the claim on a non-disclosure agreement (NDA) that may not hold up under scrutiny,” Reid noted. “And that scrutiny is sure to entail multiple depositions under oath, which he might want to avoid.”

For analysis, Reid interviewed Johnston, who is the author of the 2016 book,  The Making of Donald Trump;  and the 2018 book,  It’s Even Worse Than You Think: What the Trump Administration is Doing to America.

“I feel like this is a giant tell by Trump that he’s really, really angry that he was exposed for the brokeness that really engulfs him,” Reid said. “Your thoughts?”

“Well, this is another gambit by Donald to stay in front of his dwindling supporters,” Johnston replied. “They haven’t dwindled much, but they are starting to dwindle.”

“He needs to raise money, he’s become America’s beggar-in-chief,” he continued. “And there is no case here against The Times—and my law school students are going to examine this case, I assure you, in the spring semester.”

Johnston described the two problems Trump created with his lawsuit.

“One is discovery and being questioned under oath, but the second one is the courts have held basically that Mary Trump can’t be stopped by the non-disclosure agreement,” he explained.

“She may suffer civil penalties if Donald Trump wants to sue her over it, but we could end up with a court decision that says all your NDAs are worthless.”

“That would be interesting,” Reid replied.

Research contact: @RawStory

Why Jim Jordan can’t save himself—or Trump—from the Capitol riot committee

September 2, 2021

Representative Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) has backed himself into a corner, according to former FBI official Frank Figliuzzi.

Speaking to MSNBC’s Nicolle Wallace about the threats from pro-Donald Trump militias expected to riot again on September 18, a group of panelists agreed law enforcement is prepared this time. Representative. Madeleine Dean (D-Pennsylvania) explained that it is clear the January 6 attackers aren’t finished and that they fully intend to move forward with further attacks on the country.

According to a report by Raw Story, Wallace noted that the threats of mayhem are putting the Republican Party in a difficult position because they are in danger of becoming the party of violence and terrorism—and she specifically mentioned Reps. Madison Cawthorm (R-NC), Jim Jordan (R-OH), Lauren Boebert (R-CO), Mo Brooks (R-AL), Matt Gaetz (R-FL), Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA), Jody Hice (R-GA), Paul Gosar (R-AZ), Louie Gohmert (R-TX), Andy Biggs (R-AZ) and Scott Perry (R-PA) as those who had public contacts or associations with Capitol attackers.

Dean noted that Jordan was “glib” when discussing his contacts with President Donald Trump on January 6. He somehow couldn’t remember when he spoke to Trump, but noted that he talks to Trump all of the time.

“So, unlike [Mr.] Cawthorn and the others […whom]t you are talking about, they will get the records,” Dean promised. “They will see who was complicit in terms of whether it was supporting Donald Trump and his lies.”

But while things are moving forward with the investigation, September 18 is a new date that many to fear will spur further Republican violence.

“We have to be very mindful,” Dean said. Because “1/6 is not over. As [Cawthorn] said, it sounds like he might even be a part of some planning for further violence or Americans attacking Americans. It couldn’t be more serious than this.”

But it was ultimately Figliuzzi who explained that Jim Jordan is stuck in a corner with no good way to get out.

“I think we now know why Nancy Pelosi had to reject Jim Jordan,” he said. “He is a fact witness and he’s going to get a very complicated future ahead of him. Here is why: First, he claims that he can’t remember how many times on January 6th he called the president or what time of day, that’s easily remedied by simply checking your phone log and checking that date. If he can’t do it, the phone company will be more than happy to supply the select committee with that. That’s going to happen eventually.

Next, he’s in a trick bag because if he concedes, as has been reported, that he actually called the president and said, ‘stand this crowd down, they’re inside, it is getting violent, you’ve got to stop them,’ that implies, of course, that he believed Trump controlled the crowd and had the ability to stop or start the crowd.”

Figliuzzi explained that is a disaster for Trump, and Jordan will be forced to answer the question one way or another.

“It hurts him because if he thinks the people were violent he goes back home to Ohio and his voter base says,’Wait a minute, those were patriots; those weren’t violent people,’” Figliuzzi continued. “So, he can’t win there either. This gets extremely complicated.”

Research contact: @RawStory

Polls find that Americans agree: War in Afghanistan wasn’t worth it

August 24, 2021

As corporate media amplify pro-war voices to cover developing events in Afghanistan, two polls out Sunday, as well as one from the week before, found that the U.S. public has little appetite for continuing the 20-year war, reports Raw Story.

CBS News/YouGov survey, conducted August 18-20, found that 63% of respondents nationwide approve of President Joe Biden’s decision to pull troops out of Afghanistan, and just 37% disapprove. Just 47%, however, approve of the way Biden is handling the troop withdrawal.

Separate polling from NBC News, conducted August 14-17asked if the war in Afghanistan was worth it. Sixty-one percent said it was not, compared to 29% who said it was. The last time the poll asked the question was in June of 2014 when similar percentages were found. At that time, 65% said the war wasn’t worth it, compared to 27% who said it was.

Those findings mirror a poll out last week from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research. Conducted leading up to and after the Taliban entered Kabul on Sunday, August 15, the survey found 62% of U.S. adults believed the war in Afghanistan wasn’t worth fighting.

The surveys were released amid still emerging and chaotic scenes of Afghan civilians trying to flee Taliban takeover of the country, Raw Story reported. The British military said Sunday that seven people were killed as a result of a crowd crush at the Kabul airport.

Rightwing media have responded to the scenes of those trying to flee with fear-mongering about the possible influx of Afghan refugees into the U.S. Human rights advocates, meanwhile, are calling on the Biden administration to “urgently do more” to help evacuate those most at risk of harm, including those who worked with U.S. and NATO forces, journalists, and women’s rights activists.

Specific actions that should be taken, the groups, including Amnesty International USA and Human Rights Watch, said in Friday, August 20,  letter  to Biden, are working with allies to ensure those fleeing get to the Kabul airport safely and increasing the administration’s stated goal of evacuating 5,000-9,000 people per day.

National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan told CNN on Sunday, August 22, that in the last 24 hours, the United States helped secure the evacuation of nearly 8,000 civilians, with 3,900 people on U.S. military aircraft and another 3,900 on partners’ aircraft.

Research contact: @RawStory