Wednesday, July 20, 2011

The Day after Tomorrow is closer than you think...

For millions of people enduring this week's extreme heat and humidity, it feels like they're living in a pressure cooker. And in a sense, they are.

Much of the United States is trapped under a heat "dome" caused by a huge area of high pressure that's compressing hot, moist air beneath it, leading to miserable temperatures in the mid-90s to low 100s and heat-index levels well above 100 degrees.

"It's hot no matter what you're doing or where you are," said Tim Prader, a 50-year-old construction worker who was taking a break Tuesday at a job site in St. Louis. Although his huge Caterpillar excavator has air conditioning, he couldn't entirely escape. "When you're done for the day, you're ready to eat, drink and hit the couch."

The oppressive conditions extend from the northern Plains states to Texas and from Nebraska to the Ohio Valley. And they're expanding eastward.

When a high pressure system develops in the upper atmosphere, the air below it sinks and compresses because there's more weight on top, causing temperatures in the lower atmosphere to heat up, said Eli Jacks, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Silver Spring, Md.

The dome of high pressure also pushes the jet stream and its drier, cooler air, farther north – it's now well into Canada – while hot, humid air from the Gulf of Mexico circulates clockwise around the dome, traveling farther inland than normal.

Combined with generally clear skies and the sun's higher summertime angle, "it gets really hot," Jacks said.

That also explains why temperatures in, say, North Dakota this week aren't all that different from temperatures in Houston, he said. The big difference is that people in Houston are accustomed to hot weather, while those in the north are not.

"In places where the highest temperature you ever expect is in the 80s and you're at 102, there are big health concerns," because fewer people have air conditioning or fans, Jacks said. "Heat is the No. 1 killer out of all weather hazards."

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What's more, because of the humidity, even nighttime brings little relief.

"It's been 100 degrees at 11 o'clock, lately, at night," said Curtis Mark, who was servicing air conditioners Tuesday at the Greer County Courthouse in Mangum, Okla., where the temperature was 106 degrees at noon. "Stay indoors is about all I do."

Fellow Oklahoman Norma Lauer of Granite said she puts cold water on her hands and arms before going to bed and then lies down "without covering up on the bed, under the fan" and with the air conditioner running.

Thunderstorms can develop around the perimeter of the dome – called the "ring of fire" – bringing temporary relief to some areas, said Kevin Birk, a National Weather Service meteorologist in Illinois. But this dome is so large that the heat rebuilds quickly, Birk said.

While heat domes aren't uncommon, this one is unusual because of its size and duration. It began three days ago and may last seven to 10 days in some locations. And it's moving eastward, with temperatures expected to reach 100 degrees in Washington by Thursday.

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration records show that the United States broke 25 local high records for the date on Monday, including 103 degrees in both Edgemont S.D., and Victoria, Texas.

On Tuesday, it was 102 in Manhattan, Kan., and Valentine, Neb. The mercury rose to 100 in Joplin, Mo., and Rockford, Ill. – which tied that city's record for the date set in 1930. And in some cities it will be even hotter Wednesday: Chicago reached 93 degrees Tuesday, with 97 forecast for Wednesday.

No widespread deaths have been reported, but the heat sent dozens of people to hospitals.

As hot air blew over the cooler waters of Lake Michigan on Tuesday, a thick fog shrouded many of Chicago's beaches. Lifeguards had to turn away swimmers because they could not see beyond the water's edge.

In South Dakota, up to 1,500 head of cattle died across the state from the heat. And in eastern Iowa, the scorching sun caused a portion of Interstate 380 to buckle.

A Veterans Affairs hospital in Fargo, N.D., had to reschedule more than 50 surgeries after cooling systems struggled to keep up with the weather. Some floors and other surfaces became wet, potentially compromising the sterile environment needed to operate.

In Detroit, more than 70 schools without air conditioning were to close Wednesday afternoon. Power outages and mechanical problems closed several others.

Relief is on the way. Cooler air should begin moving into the Plains states this weekend, as a strong pool of air from the jet stream begins to push hot air out of the way in the Dakotas and into Minnesota before making its way east.

By Monday, temperatures will drop into the mid-80s in the north. Cities in the East could still be sweltering.

"This is really an exceptional event, I think it's fair to say ... in terms of scope and duration," Jacks said.

Sweet corn grower Ron Deardorff of Adel, Iowa, is ready for a break in the weather.

The 64-year-old spent Tuesday morning helping his crew of 24 pick corn in the field and by noon was driving the harvest to a grocery store in Des Moines – with a temperature of 95 degrees, a heat index of 105 and no air conditioning.

"Sometimes I have to change shirts in the middle of the day or middle of the afternoon and get a dry one, " said Deardoff, who kept his truck vents wide open and the windows rolled down. "It's no fun and nobody likes it, but the season is only so long and when the corn's ready, it's ready. You just have to go after it and do what you've got to do."


Associated Press writers Melanie Welte in Des Moines, Tim Talley in Mangum, Okla., Jim Suhr in St. Louis and Randy Schmid in Washington contributed to this story.

This wouldn't be an issue if men could get pregnant..

This is LONG overdue. The issue of pregnancy goes way beyond simply getting pregnant. Prenatal care, postnatal care...and what happens if the mom suffers from post natal depression...or worse yet post natal psychosis...
Again I assert, if this was a man issue, it would have been resolved long ago. Just like when Viagra came on the market. It was immediately covered by the top insurers. Birth control? That's a woman's problem. Just like studies on heart disease have mostly focused on men. Symptoms for women having heart attacks can vary greatly from a mans.
I maintain firmly and believe firmly, that if men could get pregnant, the abortion issue would be a non issue.
Ladies, its a mans world still...what a damn shame.

HealthDay News
United States Panel Recommends Free Birth Control
That plus other services should be added to health care reform, Institute of Medicine says.
By Steven Reinberg, HealthDay News

TUESDAY, July 19 (HealthDay News) — Women in the United States could have their birth control covered by insurance companies, free of co-pays, if provisions of a new report are enacted as part of last year's landmark health-reform law.

That is one of eight recommendations in the Institute of Medicine (IOM) report that looks to expand preventive services for women under the 2010 law, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

The report was commissioned by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to identify "gaps in preventive services for women as well as measures that will further ensure women's health and well-being," the agency said.

"This report provides a road map for improving the health and well-being of women," committee chair Linda Rosenstock, dean of the School of Public Health at the University of California, Los Angeles, said in a statement. "The eight services we identified are necessary to support women's optimal health and well-being. Each recommendation stands on a foundation of evidence supporting its effectiveness."

The new recommendations were based on a review of guidelines and the effectiveness of various preventive services, the committee said.

By adding birth control to the list of recommendations, the committee said it hopes to reduce the rate of unintended pregnancies, which make up almost half of all pregnancies in the United States.

Reaction to the IOM's recommendation varied.

"Millions of women, especially young women, struggle every day to afford prescription birth control," Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, said in a statement. "Today's recommendation brings us a step closer to ensuring that all newly insured women under the health care reform law will have access to prescription birth control without out-of-pocket expenses."

But Jeanne Monahan, director of Family Research Council's Center for Human Dignity, said: "Several drugs have been approved by the FDA to be legally categorized as 'emergency contraceptives,' despite functioning in ways that can destroy a preborn baby before or after implanting in the mother's womb. A federal mandate to all insurance plans to include drugs such as ella essentially would mandate coverage for abortion."

Besides insurance coverage for contraception, the committee also recommends patient education and counseling for all women of reproductive age.

The report said many women with unintended pregnancies aren't likely to receive prenatal care, are more likely to smoke, more likely to be depressed and more likely to be victims of domestic violence during pregnancy.

Unintended pregnancy also increases the risk for a preterm delivery or a low birth-weight infant. Both these conditions increase the risk for health and developmental problems for a child, the report said.

In addition to insurance coverage for birth control, the committee is recommending:

Screening for diabetes.
Testing for the human papillomavirus as part of cervical cancer screening. Counseling about sexually transmitted infections.
Counseling and screening for HIV.
Counseling on breast-feeding and breast-feeding equipment.
Counseling on interpersonal and domestic violence.
Yearly preventive care visits to recommended preventive services.
Women need more preventive care due to pregnancy and other conditions, which can leave them with more out-of-pocket costs than men. So, adding these services to preventive care can help level the field with men when it comes to costs, the committee said.

The final decision on whether to adopt the new recommendations will rest with the Department of Health and Human Services. The Institute of Medicine is an independent panel of experts that advises the federal government on issues of medicine and health.

Last Updated: 07/19/2011

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Mama update

Haven't seen much of her in several weeks.
Hopefully she is alive and well, brooding her lil brood.
And then hopefully she'll bring them to visit.
When she does, I'll snap a pic of her for ya'll

Tropics getting restless

Making Bread.....

First time in years. I had a sudden hankering for fresh made, and by God its cheaper to make your own...
So I pulled out my bread machine, dusted it off and ran to the Publix for yeast and honey and dry milk powder, I had everything else.
Popped it in for my first loaf. Its a trial run shall we say, since I haven't made bread in so long.
Hopefully it will be
Pic is NOT my machine, just one I pulled off the net...but hey...a tomato is a tomato, right?
And its a really cool looking machine too...:-)

Monday, July 04, 2011

Being Muslim and being American

"That's my home." My heart whispered this thought 15 years ago while looking down at the streets of Pakistan. The plane had just left for New York from Lahore and I was glued to the window, teary eyed. If leaving my country was distressing, not knowing if I would ever return was agonizing. And all the agony was due to one single fact: I was an Ahmadi Muslim and Pakistan's constitution had shunned me as a second-class citizen.

Just two weeks later, I dragged my bones to watch the Fourth of July (1996) fireworks at the New Jersey Shore. Back then it was not "my celebration" so all I remember from that evening is loud music, a huge crowd, and a stranger who thanked me for making room so he could watch the fireworks.

On July 4, 2011 though, as an equal citizen of the United States, I am celebrating something I failed to appreciate 15 years ago: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable Rights that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness."

The language and substance of our constitutions and declarations has a deep impact on our psyche.

To that end, much of Pakistan's tendency toward extremism is traceable to 1974, when an odious constitutional amendment declared millions of Ahmadis (a sect of Islam) as non-Muslims. A decade later, the state passed Ordinance XX to make it punishable by law for an Ahmadi Muslim to discuss his faith in public, identify his place of worship as a mosque, or even convey the Islamic greeting of peace. This constitutional amendment has also inflicted significant injury on Pakistan's Christian and Hindu minorities.

Pakistan's constitutional inequality not only classified millions as second grade citizens but it also poisoned the masses. Today, a ten-minute inflammatory sermon can make many feel obligated to kill a neighbor belonging to a minority group.

So it's natural for me to note how our US Constitution sweetens the American psyche towards the principles of equality, life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness championed in the Declaration of Independence. Even though more than 80 percent of Americans attest to an incomplete understanding of our Constitution (according to a 2011 Time Magazine poll), this document and the principles it establishes instill tolerance for "the different" in our minds.

Born Americans may not be able to name all the articles and clauses of the Constitution, but they've been taught its ethic for most of their lives. It is instilled in them. It allows passionate debates over sensitive issues like whether a woman has a right to abortion or not, whether children born to illegal immigrants are automatically eligible for US citizenship, whether same-sex couples should be allowed to marry, or whether a mosque should be built near ground zero - instead of applying duct tape over the lips of a minority position.

No wonder millions flock to the American shores. The United States accepts more legal immigrants every year than all other countries combined. In 2008, over a million people were naturalized as US citizens, mainly emigrating from Mexico, India and China.

Talk to Muslim Americans and you will hear just how valued, how precious, this tolerance is to them. Some would strongly disagree with the American foreign policy, and some would lament about a personal experience of discrimination. But in my experience, all would agree on one thing: that the United States provides them with more freedom, more security, more opportunity, and more peace than the country from which they emigrated.

Since that day on the Jersey shore, I have made it a habit to make room for my fellow citizens wherever I can. It's only my way to reciprocate to you, America, for you have made room for millions of immigrants like me and provided us the opportunity to live with equality, justice, and freedom.

I still get teary eyed thinking about my homeland; particularly with all the mayhem in the name of religion. But, whenever my plane takes off from the Baltimore-Washington Airport, I look down at the rooftops and my heart says, "That's my home, that's my home."

A version of this article previously appeared in the Christian Science Monitor on July 1st, 2011

Faheem Younus is an adjunct faculty member for religion and history at the Community Colleges of Baltimore County and a clinical associate professor at the University of Maryland School of Medicine. He can be reached at