Category Archives: Uncategorized

President Obama aims to limit standardized testing in schools

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Testing, testing, one… two… 112! On average, children in the United States take 112 mandated standardized tests between pre-kindergarten classes and twelfth grade. Now compare that with the number of standardized tests students in other high achieving countries (i.e. those who outperform the United States on international assessments) take: just 3! The survey by Council of the Great City Schools gathered this and other data by surveying 66 urban school districts across the United States over the most recent academic year. The survey also found no correlation between the number of tests given in a certain school district and the reading and math scores of its students on the federal assessment test given every two years that is the consistent measure of student achievement from state to state.

In light of this new information and after hearing from parents who worry about too much testing and teachers who feel that they have lost their love and passion for teaching as a result of being pressured to make their students achieve high test scores, the Obama administration is creating a plan to reduce the amount of testing in schools.

standardized testing, testing, too many tests, education

In a Facebook post announcing his concern and his administration’s updated approach on testing, President Obama unveiled a three point plan that included only taking tests that are “worth taking,” should “enhance teaching and learning,” and should comprise only one component of assessing the educational…

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Meditation and yoga make you less likely to need a doctor

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woman meditating

A new study has found that relaxation techniques dramatically decreases the need for healthcare visits and interventions, which is a good reason to pull out the old yoga mat.

Healthcare practitioners have known for a long time that using relaxation techniques can improve health, but it’s hard to prescribe such treatments without scientific evidence. That’s why researchers at the Massachusetts General Hospital decided to run a retrospective analysis, in which they analyzed the records of 4,000 patients between 2006 and 2014 who followed their doctors’ recommendations for relaxation techniques, and compared them to 13,000 other patients who did not use those same techniques.

The results were impressive. The use of “Relaxation Response and Resiliency Training,” as the study calls it, reduced the incidence of healthcare visits by 43 percent. By learning how to use the relaxation techniques, patients were better able to care for themselves and manage symptoms without needing a physician’s intervention.

Stress-related disorders are the third leading cause of healthcare expenditures in the United States, after heart disease and cancer. In 2012, the treatment of stress-related disorders, such as headaches, back pain, insomnia, reflux, irritable bowel syndrome, and chest pain, cost Americans more than $80 billion.

“Over 90 percent of people suffering from stress or stress-related problems seek help through primary care and tend to be frequent…

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How to live and farm in an old volcano

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Pululahua in Ecuador is the only inhabited and cultivated volcano in the world.

While Pululhua Volcano – not far from Ecuador’s capital city, Quito – hasn’t erupted in 2,500 years, it left behind a doozy of a legacy: A giant caldera full of fertile soil and a wealth of fog that keeps vegetation lush. At 13 square miles, it’s a remarkably ample crater with a central lava dome rising 1,600 feet skyward that plays home to unique cloud-forest-loving orchids and other unique plants. The whole area became protected as a geobotanical reserve in 1978 and was later declared a national park.

But for hundreds of years on the crater floor and terraced moutainsides people have been putting Pululhua’s rich resources to work in the name of agriculture. Pululahua is one of only two volcanic caldera in the world that is inhabited, and the only one that is cultivated.

Named for the Quichua term meaning "smoke of water" or "cloud of water,” referring to the fog that rolls in and fills the crater each day, the caldera was likely first settled by the Incas. When the colonial Spanish came and divvied up much of Ecuador into haciendas, thousands of local people farmed the land in exchange for a small plot of their own – a system that was ended in 1963.

Farms in volcano

Now it’s mostly the descendants of those early indigenous families tending to the half-dozen or so farms in the crater.

Organic crops of corn, sugar cane, beans and a rare variety of…

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The machine is learning: Elon Musk tweets about Consumer Reports, Autopilot

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Tesla Autopilot

Tesla hit kind of a rough patch last week. First, Consumer Reports removed its "Recommended" seal of approval from the Model S because of predicted reliability issues, and then videos started surfacing showing the recently launched Autopilot software making apparent driving mistakes.

Elon Musk is not the kind of CEO who keeps quiet about these things, so he took to Twitter to comment on both things. First, let’s look at what he had to say about the Consumer Reports story:

Consumer Reports reliability survey includes a lot of early production cars. Already addressed in new cars.

— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) October 21, 2015

It is true that because the Model S hasn’t been around for long and because it is an entirely new platform (not just a slightly modified Camry), early production models might have more "bugs" than later ones.

Tesla has had the philosophy of improving its products continuously, both via software and hardware updates, so it’s hard to tell where cutoff points are for potentially more problematic vehicles, but in theory, more recent ones should have the benefit of more manufacturing tweaks than older ones.

This is not to say that newer Model S EVs are perfect, though. Consumer Reports has found problems with them too…

Tesla gets top rating of any company in service. Most important, CR says 97% of owners expect their next car to be a Tesla (the acid test).

— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) October 21, 2015

Which brings us to Musk’s second point. Do…

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High BPA Levels found in Holiday Food Staples

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The Breast Cancer Fund recently released a report focused on BPA levels found in canned goods routinely used to prepare holiday meals.  The results of the report, BPA Levels in Thanksgiving Canned Goods, is unsettling. 

High levels of BPA were found in holiday staple items like Campbell’s Turkey Gravy, Campbell’s Cream of Mushroom Soup, Del Monte Fresh Cut Sweet Corn Cream Style and Libby’s Pumpkin.

The report found that in more than half of the products tested a 120 gram serving of the canned item contained enough BPA to show adverse health effects in lab studies.

The study included alternatives to the canned items it focused on including similar products packaged in Tetra Pak packaging or frozen items.

Download a PDF of the report


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Nanoleaf launches new smart hub that allows you to control you…

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We have seen major leaps and bounds in the past decade or so when it comes to efficient home lighting and the options available to the public keep getting better. The designers at Nanoleaf are at the forefront of this movement and have successfully completed two Kickstarter campaigns for their unique products. Now, Nanoleaf has just launched their newest innovation on Indiegogo: the Nanoleaf Smarter Kit. One of the first products enabled with Apple’s much-anticipated HomeKit capabilities, it enables homeowners to control their lights with a simple verbal request to Siri.

With a unique dodecahedron shape and matte black finish, the Nanoleaf Hub and Ivy bulbs stand out among the crowd. The specs of the kit are remarkable when compared to traditional bulbs: the Ivy bulbs are 60 watt LED equivalent yet uses only 7.5 watts of energy to produce 800 Lm. LED lighting is the wave of the future and is priceless when considering the savings for the average homeowner and the impact on the planet.

nanoleaf, nanoleaf smarter kit, LED lighting, nanoleaf LED lights, nanoleaf ivy bulb, efficient lighting, energy saving lighting

So, how easy-to-use is the kit at home? Nanoleaf boasts a simple set-up routine and customizable settings for different mood lighting. For example, one could set up their voice commands to ask Siri to “Set my lights for movie night.” The design of the Nanoleaf Hub is also no accident: instead of creating a boring boxy design – much like our routers and other miscellaneous hardware – the sleek geometric shape is a centerpiece in itself and its pentagon shape lights…

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Frequent use of antibiotics may be making children fatter

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antibiotics, antibiotics and weight gain, gut bacteria, kids health

A newly published and extensive study in the International Journal of Obesity found that children who regularly take antibiotics during childhood gained weight more quickly than children who do not. The researchers looked at the medical records of more than 160,000 children between the ages of three and 18 and found that 15 year-olds who had taken antibiotics seven or more times during childhood weighed about three pounds more than those who had never taken antibiotics. Although no one disputes the power and necessity of antibiotic use in certain situations, overprescribing and overuse of these powerful drugs has lately been linked in several studies to weight gain and metabolic issues as well as allergies, asthma, and certain autoimmune diseases.

bacteria, gut bacteria, antibiotics, antibiotics overuse

Antibiotics, which are often given in livestock feed since they have been shown to promote weight gain in animals, create an imbalance in the gut since they work by doing a bacterial sweep of the gut. Cleaning out and killing off the “bad” bacteria helps to get kids healthy, but the gut’s “good” bacteria is wiped out in the process and can take weeks or months to replenish. Using antibiotics repeatedly can actually permanently change the gut microbiome, which in turn has an effect on the way that food is digested, nutrients are absorbed, and calories are absorbed, likely leading to — you guessed it — weight gain.

Previous studies have linked antibiotic use with weight gain early in…

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Would you rent this $1,800 per month NYC apartment along with 17 roommates?

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Although living with roommates is certainly not a groundbreaking concept in the Big Apple, a new community sharing model is looking to make some waves in the glutted NYC rental market. Thanks to a company called , aspiring NYC residents can now live in a cozy Brooklyn apartment for the relatively low cost of just $1,800 a month. The only catch? You have to share the space with 17 other people.

Common Living Pacific Street
Common Living Pacific Street

According to its website, provides “flexible, user-friendly” housing, and has recently opened its first fully furnished property at 1162 Pacific St. The Crown Heights residence is “community-driven,” meaning that residents will be able to live in an upscale dorm-like apartment with a private bedroom, but will share common amenities such as a community living and dining room, a private rooftop garden, weekly cleaning services, and high-speed Wi-Fi. The monthly rent also includes housekeeping and all utilities.

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Related: Apply to live in Manhattan’s first micro apartments for as low as $950 a month

According to the Common Living team, the idea behind their new “community-driven” model is to “incubate a strong, tight-knit community of members” who share living space,…

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