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Thursday, November 19, 2009

One Stop Researching


One of my greatest hurdles with the Internet is that there is too much information floating around and no organization to it. I constantly get lost whenever I'm searching for a topic or doing research and spend more time bookmarking websites than gathering facts.

The Lucile Packard Foundation has made access to important information much easier as it expanded its website kidsdata.org statewide. The comprehensive website shares data on the health and well being of children in California, offering data for all counties, cities and school districts -- nearly 1,600 regions.

Some great facts about kidsdata.org:

  • Kidsdata.org offers more than 300 continuously updated measures of child well being. Data from more than 35 reliable public sources, such as the U.S. Census, the California Department of Education and the California Department of Public Health, are available at your fingertips.
  • User-friendly, customizable displays on kidsdata.org - maps, and tables, and bar, pie and trend graphs -- make it easy to document how kids are faring in news and feature stories.
  • New features on kidsdata.org allow you to share data by creating PDFs, downloading data into Excel, and adding charts and graphs to Word documents or PowerPoint slides.

  • -Tasha

    Monday, November 16, 2009

    What’s a Bigger Threat - a Terrorist or a Bug?



    While al-Qa'ida and the Taliban are grabbing all the headlines, there is a bigger threat to all of us, and it’s costing us billions of dollars, polluting our environment with more pesticides and even costing lives. It’s invasive pests, insects and diseases imported here from other parts of the world - West Nile fever, Asian tiger mosquito, gypsy moth, Japanese dodder, light brown apple moth and the list goes on and on.

    In California alone it is expected that 10 new pests will be introduced each year from 2010 to 2020. And each one will have the potential to devastate crops and spread diseases. This means that the cost to produce all the food you buy at the supermarket will go up. Your neighbors who have gardens will be spraying more pesticides to protect their plants. You might also have to start spraying pesticides to protect your yard and keep it looking nice. (Or you could just let the bugs eat it all.)

    Unfortunately, most of the pests come in because we bring them in. People who try to sneak some fruits or plants in or bypass border and customs inspections when they travel can bring the pests in. Even traveling within the U.S. can move natural pests from an area where it belongs to somewhere it doesn’t and wreak havoc in the process.

    And what happens when these pests arrive and are discovered in someone's backyard? Government officials move into action and set up eradication efforts. However, some well-meaning yet short-sighted people have stopped eradication efforts for some of the pests. This has resulted in devastated crops, higher prices and increased use of pesticides. Imagine if there was a sign in the produce section of the store that said, “Sorry, we had to raise the price on all items because of damage caused by the light brown apple moth.” The price increase is there - they just don't post the sign.

    What can people do? For more information, visit the Invasive Species Web site.

    Ken

    Wednesday, November 11, 2009

    It’s hard to make good choices in a toxic environment

    We here at Brown Miller Communications are firm believers in the idea that unhealthy lifestyles and rising obesity rates aren't just a matter of individuals needing to make better choices. When it comes to discussing the best way to combat the obesity crisis, the loudest voices you hear are often the ones insisting it’s all about personal responsibility – that people are fat because they eat too much and exercise too little. We’ve worked very hard to shift that perception and highlight the role the environment plays in the whole equation.

    I was really happy to see “Fighting Obesity May Take a Village” in The Wall Street Journal. Matthew Dalton discusses the new strategy many countries are pursuing to address alarming rates of childhood obesity.

    “The idea is that governments must actively work to change environments and reduce the menu of harmful options available in everyday life.”

    A European program known as Epode — a French acronym for Together Let's Prevent Childhood Obesity — began in two French towns in 1992 and successfully lowered childhood obesity rates (from 11.2 percent in 1992 to 8.8 percent in 2004). Obesity rates in two neighboring towns that didn’t institute the program rose from 12.6 percent to 17.8 percent during the same time period. The program has spread to other communities in France as well as Spain, Belgium, Greece and Australia. It’s time programs like this are embraced here.

    Over the summer, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention published its first list of recommended community obesity-prevention strategies, but did caution that because the concept is so new there’s not much evidence to prove that it actually works. According to The Wall Street Journal article, experts say “a community-based approach to fighting obesity is probably the most promising policy available.”

    It’s time to take the ball and run with it. There sure can’t be any harm in trying.

    ~ Nicole

    Tuesday, November 10, 2009

    Soda/Obesity Verdict: Guilty As Charged!


    California's Senate Health Committee dug deep last week to discern the role soda and other sweetened beverages play in the obesity crisis. The findings: Guilty as Charged!

    Listening to six hours of testimony from the nation's leading health researchers and scientists as well as defense from soda industry reps, the irrefutable conclusion points to the significant and leading role soda plays in beefing up America.
    With the depth of understanding and plethora of research presented, it's up to elected officials to take the next step and develop legislate to slow consumption of these "sugar delivery systems."
    Mike

    Thursday, November 5, 2009

    Repent - The End is Coming in 2012... NOT!!!


    So if you haven’t heard it yet, you probably will soon. The Mayan calendar ends on Dec, 21, 2012. So of course that means the end of the world as we know it will take place that day.

    Well sorry folks, it ain’t gonna’ happen that way. The very short explanation is that on Dec 21, 2012, the Mayan calendar will simply restart. If the Mayan civilization was still around they’d have a big party, flip the calendar over and start the next cycle. Sort of like us starting the next millennium in the year 2000. Their calendar is based on many difference cycles. One is the B'ak'tun which is approximately 394.3 years. On December 21, 2012 it will simply mark the end of the 13th b'ak'tun and the beginning of the 14th b'ak'tun

    The Mayan calendar has some werid ways for measuring time. For instance is has a nine day week, 584 day year (based on movement of Venus) and some other time measurements that we would think of as very odd, but that made perfect sense to the Mayans.

    Sandra Noble, executive director of the Mesoamerican research organization FAMSI, notes that "for the ancient Maya, it was a huge celebration to make it to the end of a whole cycle". However, she considers the portrayal of December 21, 2012 as a doomsday or cosmic-shift event to be, "a complete fabrication and a chance for a lot of people to cash in."

    So I’m sure that just like the turning from 1999 to 2000 there will be people stocking up on MREs, selling everything they own and even worse. But I think I’ll handle this like the Mayans would have, and just throw a big party and have fun.


    Ken