India Lockdowns Involve 1.3 Billion People Over Coronavirus

India imposed a nationwide lockdown over the coronavirus. The world’s largest effort to contain COVID-19 became a stay-at-home order for 1.3 billion people. 

The goal of this effort was to stop the spread of the coronavirus, but it had an unintended outcome. All of the markets, shops, and factories shut down with the order to suspend everything. That meant pollution levels dropped dramatically in every city, especially for the harmful PM2.5 that contributes to thousands of deaths each year.

India has 21 of the 30 most polluted cities in the world. NO2 levels dropped dramatically after the announcement of the lockdown.

Why Are the Lower Pollution Levels Important?

Imagine that you fill your body with junk food and pre-processed foods instead of products from brands like Dr. Mercola, Metagenics, and Standard Process.

You can still have the energy to get through your day, but it will not be the same outcome when compared to a lifestyle with the correct nutritional content.

When you breathe nitrogen dioxide in high quantities while putting the particulate matter into your lungs, then your quality of life goes down. This pollution can even lower your life expectancy with consistent exposure to it.

After India announced the lockdown, some cities saw a 70% drop in NO2 levels. Residents are saying that they haven’t seen skies that look so blue in the country’s cities for more than a decade.

The reduces pollution levels are the silver lining in an era when people are called to sacrifice a lot for their neighbors.

Nationwide Curfews Also Have a Positive Impact

What makes the lockdown of India unique is that 1.3 billion people are also subject to an enforced curfew. This order came out on March 22, 2020. It would result in the lowest one-day traffic pollution levels on record for the city of Delhi.

PM10 and PM2.5 pollutants experienced steep drops because of the lockdown efforts. More records continue to be set as the 21-day order stays in place to prevent the spread of COVID-19. 

Although the coronavirus has an adverse impact on health, India also has one of the highest rates of respiratory disease in the world. It was immediately apparent that protecting everyone had to be a priority. Now the government can take the lessons learned from this effort to encourage better health for everyone moving forward – including new investments for a cleaner future.

The Art of Statistics: How Data Provides New Insights

Statistics are everywhere. This data is as integral to scientists as it is to modern businesses. We are living in an era where money might be valuable, but it is information that is the currency we use.

That means a basic grasp of statistical literacy is necessary if you want the capability of separating fact from fiction. This data provides us with hard evidence of consumer behaviors and scientific truth. When we can use this information in predictive ways, it is possible to glean new insights into customer choice.

Without the art of statistics, people become bystanders.

Why Are Statistics Important Today?

Statistics are a representation of truth. When looking at big data from a business perspective, it can also unlock new opportunities to contact customers.

It’s also a way to collect information about internal performance. Statistics can let an organization see that workers are performing less work before or after the weekend, giving managers data to help them look for motivation.

Statistics also allow organizations to examine alternative scenarios. This process enables the company to look for the best possible option.

It is also possible to use statistics in market research or product development. Surveys, random sampling interviews, focus studies, and other tools are useful in this segment to gauge the response to proposed products or services.

How Do We Collect Information from Statistics?

Statistics provide useless information unless there is a baseline from which to work. There must be metrics and key performance indicators named to create the concepts and connections that the data provides.

When the infrastructure for statistics exists, then the mathematical concepts behind the information can help us to examine complex issues. Statistician David Spiegelhalter uses his book The Art of Statistics: How to Learn from Data to show how this approach is useful to solve complex problems.

Statistics can help to determine who the luckiest passenger on the Titanic was over a century ago. It can help us to determine if screening tests for medical conditions are useful. When we all start thinking like a mathematician, then we can use the data that gets collected every day to our benefit.

The art of statistics allows us to find incomparable insights into almost any effort or industry. It can serve as a guide for product development, provide evidence for scientific theories, and improve our lives in countless ways.

Statistics provide us with the answers to the questions that life throws at us all every day.

Research Paper on Health Care Finds Women Underrepresented in Heart Studies

Although heart disease is the leading cause of death for women in today’s world, they remain underrepresented in research efforts into this health problem. From 2010-2017, women accounted for less than 40% of the people enrolled in clinical trials focusing on cardiovascular health.

With one woman dying every 80 seconds globally from heart disease, one-third of women will experience this issue in their lifetime.

Lijing Yan evaluated a total of 740 completed cardiovascular clinical trials from Duke Kunshan University. A total of almost 863,000 adults between the ages of 25 to 89 were reviewed for this effort, with the average age of a participant being 61.

Only 38% of the participants were women.

Why Are Women Underrepresented in Heart Studies?

Researchers found that women make up 49% of the population across all studies. When looking at cardiovascular needs, women are 51% of the patients, but then less than 40% of the participants in clinical trials. 

The 1993 National Institutes of Health Revitalization Act states that women and minorities must be included in government-funded clinical research. This law recognizes that gender bias in the United States exists in its research. What this legislative effort didn’t provide are real-world benchmarks to use for participation.

Doctors and scientists historically used thin, white men to represent most patients in medical research efforts. If you went through medical school in the 1980s, then the profiles you looked at involved men instead of women.

It is an approach that could be costing many women their lives.

Heart Disease Symptoms in Women Are Different

Every research paper on health care finds that women have different physical symptoms than men when suffering a cardiac event.

For women, having a heart attack can feel a lot like indigestion instead of having a sharp pain in the chest. That’s one of the reasons why women are less likely to survive when they experience a cardiovascular episode – especially when being treated by a male doctor.

Women have also had unforeseen complications to specific drugs developed for treating heart conditions because of their underrepresentation. 80% of the pharmaceuticals that the FDA withdrew its approval for from 1997 to 2000 had harmful side effects for women.
What is going to change this problem? Researchers must address the barriers that discourage women from participating in clinical trials. Providers must take their symptoms as seriously as they do for men. Since many women are also caregivers, extra time, and transportation assistance may be necessary. This is hardly the first time that research has come under fire. These things need to change if we are to make gains across all areas of health.

The U.S. Loses 36 Million Trees in Its Cities Each Year

Tree cover in the United States is shrinking. The U.S. Forest Service found that the country lost 36 million trees each year between 2009 to 2014, reducing urban coverage by 1%.

Since trees can lower summer daytime temperatures by as many as 10 degrees Fahrenheit, losing them may lead to adverse outcomes. Cities could become more polluted, have higher temperatures, and be less healthy for inhabitants.

With more people moving to urban environments, that means now is the time for Americans to act to restore the urban tree canopies.

Why Are U.S. Cities Losing So Many Trees?

Several reasons exist for the amount of tree loss that U.S. cities experienced during the five-year review period. Insects, disease, fires, tornadoes, and hurricanes all contributed significant numbers to this trend.

The one reason for tree loss that we can control involves the sensible development of our cities. Many urban environments are trading their canopies for impervious cover. That means there are more buildings and parking lots than green spaces.

Over 80% of the American population lives in an urban area. Most people live in the forested regions along the East or West coasts. When you put down a road, that means you need to cut down a tree.

It creates a lost value of roughly $100 million per year when the energy conservation and air pollution factors get calculated into monetary figures. 

How Can Cities Start Planning for More Trees?

City designers can manage tree canopies in the layout and design of new buildings and infrastructure. Many of the native trees that we save when expanding our urban centers can’t find places to drop seeds to encourage regeneration.

That’s because Americans have turned natural areas into unnatural living spaces.

We must protect what we currently have. If you have trees on your property, then maintaining them is going to help the local community. That process starts by pruning dead limbs out of them, which also reduces the risk of home damage.

Trees can also provide noise control and reduce flood damage. It’s an affordable way to approach a cooler yard and a lower utility bill. It takes up to a century for some of the biggest ones to reach their maximum height, so it may be helpful to trim them instead of a complete removal.

Saving trees in U.S. cities will take the efforts of everyone. You can attend city council meetings, plant them on your property, and join local non-profit groups that are working to restore our urban canopies. 

5 Personality Traits Affected by Gut Health

Could the bacteria in a person’s gastrointestinal tract be responsible for part, if not all, of their personality development?

New research finds some intriguing associations between gut bacterial diversity and specific personality traits, including neuroticism and sociability. If the data holds, then the findings suggest that there could be mental health benefits to eating foods rich in prebiotics and probiotics.

Dr. Katerina Johnson from Oxford University’s Department of Experimental Psychology designed a research study to look at the microbiome-gut-brain axis. Her findings discovered that extraversion, agreeableness, conscientiousness, neuroticism, and openness could all have links to an individual’s gastrointestinal health.

Having Friends Could Promote Better Gut Health

Johnson’s study found that the various types of bacteria researchers previously linked to the autism spectrum disorder also had associations with sociability differences.

Her team found that the people who have the most extensive social networks were also the most likely to have a diverse composition of bacteria in their gut. That means being socially active could promote better health.

At the other end of the spectrum, Johnson found that a low level of microbial diversity was directly associated with higher levels of anxiety and stress.

What Does This Mean for Personal Nutrition?

The research team found that people who consumed more foods with prebiotics or probiotics in their natural form had significantly lower levels of stress, anxiety, and neuroticism. This group was also less likely to develop a mental illness throughout the study.

Johnson’s team compared the people who at the natural sources of prebiotics and probiotics to those who added them to their diet in the form of supplements. They discovered that the same correlation was not present.

Another interesting finding from the research effort was that the adults who had been fed formula as an infant had less diversity in their gut biome.

That means it may be beneficial for people to include more natural sources of probiotics in their diet. Foods like sauerkraut and fermented cheese could work to restore gut biome diversity. Items with natural sources of prebiotics include onions, leeks, whole grains, bananas, and legumes.

You may also choose to add probiotic supplements to your diet to help support the health of your gut flora. Youtheory, Oxylent, and AlternaScript are all brands that have formulas that support gut health.

It is essential to note that Johnson’s work was a cross-sectional study, so there are limitations in this research. A direct investigation of the effects and impact that these bacteria have on behavior could result in exciting new therapies for issues such as depression or autism spectrum disorder concerns. 

5 Million Undocumented Immigrants Entered the U.S. Legally

The Trump Administration placed immigration reform as one of its essential platforms during its first days in the White House. This focus is often on building a wall along the southern border with Mexico. It has also led to a surge in deportations and a reversal of policies set under President Obama’s guidance.

What everyone is overlooking in this debate is the largest demographic of undocumented immigrants in the United States. Over 5 million people came to America with a legal visa – and then overstayed it.

Over 350,000 International Visitors Arrive Daily

Hundreds of thousands of travelers come to the United States every year. Most of them come from South America, Asia, and Africa. These people arrive on a visa that allows for studying, vacations, or to conduct business for a specific amount of time.

When someone stays beyond their authorized time, then they become an undocumented immigrant in the same way that someone who crosses the border with Mexico illegally.

Almost 50% of the estimated undocumented population flew to the United States on a visa, received clearance at the airport, and then never left the country.

Over 3.5 million undocumented immigrants entered the country from 2010 to 2017. 65% of them came with full permission on their passports.

Twice as Many Come with Visas Than Cross Illegally

The Trump Administration is calling for the hiring of thousands of new Border Patrol agents. Miles of new fencing gets authorized through appropriated funds out of the defense budget.

How can so many people who are in the United States illegally receive such little attention?

The Department of Homeland Security reports that a lack of interior enforcement creates difficulties in recognizing who leaves and who stays.

Undocumented immigrants from Mexico who arrived in this way lead the population, with over 1 million members overstaying their welcome. Since 2010, people coming from India have gone past their visa deadline more often, resulting in over 330,000 people.

Brazil, Colombia, China, and Venezuela also contribute to this issue.

Many of the workers arrive on an employment visa. Then they stay on as an independent contractor after their visa expires. Most people hesitate to answer questions because they don’t want to run the risk of getting caught.

There are no legal pathways for people who stay too long. Tracking overstayers is still tricky, which is why ensuring proper monitoring of data is important, but the government is one the cse to try and remedy this situation soon – although a wall probably won’t make much of a difference with this issue. 

Some College Costs Rise Almost 13% Over Inflation

Post-graduate educational costs are rising rapidly across the United States. It’s one of the primary reasons why students are pulling out loans at record rates. The average price of tuition has outpaced inflation by almost 4% between 2016-2019, while the overall expense to attend classes (including room and board) has gone up by nearly 13% in some states.

The increases in college costs are not even across the country, which means some students are bearing a more substantial burden on this issue than others. A handful of states have also seen their college costs decrease since 2014.

What the Data Tells Us About College Costs

If you want to attend a college or university to obtain a degree, then Nevada is the place where you want to be. A price decrease of 5.37% happened in the state since 2015, representing savings that occur after inflation costs get calculated.

Arizona saw a decrease of 2.66% during this period. Florida (1.4%), Utah (1.25%), and New Jersey (0.70%), also saw significant downward pressure on this expense.

Montana had the largest price increase in the country in college costs, with expenses surging by 12.93%. Alaska also saw a significant hike with expenses outpacing inflation by over 9.3%. Maryland, Louisiana, and Massachusetts all saw their prices rise by over 7% more than inflation.

Why Is Montana Struggling with College Costs?

Montana’s economy is driven by oil and coal pricing. Since the rest of the world is moving away from these energy resources, the state needs to diversify its income to ensure stability. Lower prices hurt revenue projections, which meant less money being available for higher education.

Financial support for colleges and universities in Montana fell 3.1% in 2017-2018. That’s why the cost for on-campus room and board rose by over 18%.

Alaska struggles with the same issue. Funding for higher education dropped by almost 14% since 2015, forcing students to take on a more substantial share of the cost burden.

Nevada is going in the other direction because it has more of a diverse economy. Although gambling supplies a significant portion of funds, multiple sectors contribute to the health of the state. That’s allowed funding to remain relatively stable, which means the pressures on price keeps it down compared to the rest of the country.

With the exception of Montana and Alaska, the most stable pricing for college in the United States is in the West and Upper Midwest. If you’re a student who is thinking about a postgraduate degree, then it becomes easier to choose where you want to go.

Over 6,000 Russian Academic Journals Face Increased Scrutiny

Russian academic journals retracted over 800 papers in January 2020 after the completion of a probe into unethical publication practices. The Russian Academy of Sciences (RAS) appointed a commission to look into issues of self-plagiarism, gift authorship, and outright copying to allow academics to become co-authors without contributing anything to the published work.

Over 6,000 academic journals in Russia now face increased scrutiny because of the results of the commission’s findings. It also reinforces the suspicions from the rest of the world that the country isn’t going down the correct scientific path. The RAS is taking this step to begin the correction process.

Russian Academics Publish Far More in Domestic Journals

The RAS conducted a study in 2019 that found Russian academics publish domestically far more often than their counterparts in the region.

Dissernet discovered over 4,000 instances of plagiarism or questionable authorship in a 2018 study of Russian literature. That figure covered 1,500 journals and about 150,000 papers.

One of the most significant problems that the academic journals face is the tendency of authors to republish their work. Over 70,000 instances of double publication were found during the investigatory period of this issue. 

Some items received publication almost 20 times.

What Is the Reaction from the Russian Scientific Committee?

During the summer of 2019, the RAS requested over 540 journals to retract a total of 2,528 papers because of the issues. Out of that figure, 263 of them stated that they would remove every suspicious paper. Others said that they would retract the highlighted ones from the commission, but they wouldn’t pull others – including giving legitimate reasons to maintain them.

Eight of the journals explicitly refused to address the problems brought up by the commission. The report from the RAS recommends that five of them get removed from the Russian Science Citation Index because of their behavior.

This outcome followed an incident when the RAS recommended that 56 candidates not receive votes during membership elections because of their involvement in misbehavior – including plagiarism.

The levels of tension and conflict in Russia are high because of the recommendations provided by the RAS. The goal is to reduce distortions within the scientific community while removing publications that don’t contribute valuable data. Some journals didn’t know about the internationally accepted standards of ethical publishing or retraction, so the educational process has started.

Only time will tell if the RAS commission has the leverage to make its needed changes.

How Research Monitoring Improves Reporting Accuracy

The goal of a report is to convey collected information in a manner that is efficient and effective. This principle remains valid for the government, research studies, and businesses all over the world. When we have systems that can monitor the performance of our programs, then the data we collect can help us to improve critical outcomes.

Each research monitoring process follows four specific steps to achieve improvements in reporting accuracy.

  1. Identify the appropriate benchmarks, measures, or objectives that require tracking.
  2. Analyze and report on the targeted performance data.
  3. Create new opportunities to make better use of the information by applying the data to specific problematic areas.
  4. Combine and coordinate research monitoring with additional evidence-based efforts.

Why Do We Use Research Monitoring?

Brands like Nordic Naturals, Klaire Labs, and Trace Minerals Research use research monitoring as a way to identify problems early. These systems work to track the performance of critical programs through short- and long-term outcomes predetermined at the beginning of the process.

This advantage is particularly useful when detecting areas that fall below accepted performance standards for the industry.

Research monitoring can also help to establish specific targets to chart expected performance. Then historical data gets compared to the current information to see where the one metric stands against another. This process helps to find places where growth occurs, or if there is a weakness that needs some reinforcement.

It Informs Organizations About Improvement Strategies

When we have access to information about underperforming programs, then it becomes possible to have more profound discussions about the adverse trends that happen. This process lets an organization look for methods of improvement so that potential solutions can develop organically.

Then an organization can target resources to areas of need. The performance data can inform resource allocations and funding requirements. Large companies can use this information to identify demographics, neighborhoods, and individuals who may have an interest in the company’s message.

As this process moves along, companies can track their progress on whatever strategic planning efforts they set for themselves. Organizations use this step to identify priorities, establish a vision, and to set the mission statement to achieve their common goals.

Research monitoring creates a transparent mechanism where every stakeholder can see what is going on and be held accountable for the goals set goals. This process leads to better outcomes, higher profits, and better decisions as time passes.

Retailers Experienced $369 Billion in Returns in 2018

Retailers have been allowing customers to return unwanted items for free for quite some time. Yet recently, more than a small percentage of people are taking advantage of this system, and many businesses are returning to models employed in the 1980s and 1990s to deter or ban people from using their service in the future.

One of the biggest steps is eliminating pre-paid labels for returns. If you want to return items in 2020, then you’ll need a receipt and also to pay for your own shipping. Refusing to follow the rules can mean e-commerce platforms may even blacklist customers who have a significantly high rate of returns.

10% of Retail Items Get Returned Each Year

Wellness brands like Garden of Life, Host Defense, or Klaire Labs don’t experience high return rates because the products take time to work. People invest in them as a way to support healthier routines. Even if the outcome occurs because of a placebo effect, there is value experienced in the purchase.

That’s not the same approach customers take when shopping for clothing, shoes, and similar items through online stores. Over $369 billion in merchandise, the equivalent of 10% of the total amount of sales revenues in 2018, was returned in the United States. That’s $100 billion more than 2015.

Returns are problematic because they eat into company profits. The logistics to take an item back from a buyer is costly, and it requires storage. This stock often sits in a pile at a warehouse until someone can organize it. Having the items go to the landfill is more common than most people realize.

How Do We Improve This Situation?

Some stores have no desire to pull away from the no-question returns policies that are in place today. Costco, like other businesses in this space, says that doing so would indicate a lack of trust in the customer.

Retailers like Anthropologie are willing to go in a different direction by charging a small fee for mailed returns. Fashion Nova provides in-store credit instead of offering a refund.

Then there’s Abercrombie, which says in 2020 that no returns will be considered without an order confirmation, invoice, or receipt. 

Amazon handles customers who make consistent returns differently. Some consumers are banned for life from using the platform. Most large retailers and e-commerce platforms report at least some effort to spot repeat offenders who return items all of the time.

Stores will still allow returns moving forward. People change their minds, receive unwanted gifts, and experience product issues, so this customer service requirement will always exist. 

How a business processes that need is what will change the industry.