TIME Transportation

The Percentage Increase in Traffic Deaths During Spring Break Will Shock You

Most fatalities occur among drivers under 25 and those traveling from out-of-state

Spring break can be a time of hedonism for many college students, but it’s also a dangerous one, with the holiday leading to a sharp jump in traffic fatalities. That’s according to a new study published in Economic Inquiry, cited by Science Daily.

“We found that between the last week of February and the first week of April, a significantly greater number of traffic fatalities occurred in spring break hot spots compared to other locations in the same states and at other times of the year,” said researcher Michael T. French.

French and his team looked at traffic fatalities in 14 popular spring break destinations from Florida to California. They discovered that death tolls were 9.1% higher during spring break in these destinations, with a higher fatality incidence among drivers under 25 and those traveling from out-of-state.

During spring break, the authors also noted that there was no increase in traffic fatalities in non-spring break destinations, confirming that the spike is attributable to the holiday period itself.

To reduce traffic fatalities, researchers recommend that destinations offer transportation incentives to persuade students to leave cars behind. Travel vouchers for rideshares, taxis and other programs might go a long way in saving a life this spring break, researchers say.

[Science Daily]

TIME 2016 Election

Old Tweets Prove Dangerous for 2016 Campaign Staffers

Governor Scott Walker Speaks at CPAC
Ron Sachs—Corbis Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker speaks at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in National Harbor, Md. on Feb. 26, 2015.

Tweet at your own risk

Old tweets are the new paper trail. As the 2016 presidential race gets underway, a number of newly hired staffers have lost their jobs for things they once wrote on Twitter.

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s presidential effort announced Monday the hiring of Liz Mair, a veteran digital operative and Walker alumnus. Barely 36 hours later, she was out of a job, resigning amid a firestorm over old tweets critical of Iowa’s first-in-the-nation caucuses.

Jim Dornan, an operative backing neurosurgeon Ben Carson was caught by BuzzFeed Tuesday using a pseudonymous Twitter account to make crude attacks on Democrats and some Republicans. And last month Ethan Czahor resigned within days of being hired as Jeb Bush’s chief technology officer after reporters and Democratic operatives dug up old racist tweets and blog posts.

The Mair and Czahor cases are little more than political malpractice: the campaigns didn’t fully vet their new hires, leaving them surprised when past comments surfaced.

But they are part of a pattern bound to be repeated this cycle and for years to come, as opposition researchers retrace staffers’ social media trail to turn inartful comments against their bosses. In the past, the personal thoughts of mid-level campaign staff rarely raised an eyebrow, but then that was back in the days when people didn’t record those thoughts on a public forum like Twitter.

Now the danger, and opportunity, of turning up embarrassing details on operatives is reshaping how campaigns approach their jobs. Campaign research is largely divided into two spheres: offensive—digging up dirt on the opposition—and defensive, making sure your own house is in order. The former has gotten easier, and, according to operatives in both parties, the latter is now far more difficult.

“Unfortunately due to social media, there has been a proliferation in red flags on potential hires,” said one prominent Republican researcher. “Old opinions expressed on social media become important in a new context. The challenge is then do you hire that person or not. All of it is subjective.”

In the Mair and Czahor cases, veteran operatives believe the Bush and Walker campaigns fell into a familiar trap: assuming their senior hires didn’t need to be vetted. Democratic opposition researchers first surfaced Czahor’s tweets, and were also behind Mair’s downfall, flagging her comments to the Des Moines Register.

“When you’re considering an operative who has a long media trail, whether that means extended Twitter-fights or some controversial commentary that has earned them some prominent enemies, well then you should do a thorough vet,” said one senior veteran of GOP campaigns. “You and your candidate have to know what you’re getting into. Some operatives are worth that battle. Some aren’t.”

“It just shows a basic lack of due diligence,” said Elizabeth Jarvis-Shean, the Director of Research for President Obama’s 2012 campaign. “An even cursory review of the Twitter feeds of one’s potential CTO or digital strategist should be standard operating procedure.”

But in 2016, the same traits that can make staffers attractive—such as a knack for fighting partisan battles on social media—are the very ones that can make them liabilities. Operatives who grew up in the age of social media often think nothing of tossing off a snarky remark or two, and that reputation can help them foster relationships with reporters and fellow operatives. But those same comments can later be held against their bosses.

In Mair’s case, her outspoken support for immigration reform and same-sex marriage put her at odds with Walker on issues sensitive with the GOP base, such as the value of the Iowa cacauses and need for immigration reform, where the candidate has acknowledged changing his position. Iowa Republican Party Chairman Jeff Kaufmann called on Walker to fire Mair. (Iowa is a critical state for Walker, as he is depending on a win there next year to vault him to the Republican nomination.)

But Mair is unlikely to be the last operative to face a career stumble because of social media. The open question is how far down the campaign pecking order the social media threat will travel. Democratic researcher Greg Scanlon described checking public available social media posts and public records on Nexis for senior staff and consultant hires, but not lower-level employees. “Generally it’s way too time-consuming to run the traps on anyone more junior than that—at a certain point I think you just have to rely on the good judgment you’re hopefully hiring them for in the first place and make it clear they’ll be held accountable for anything that crosses a line,” he said.

“From an opposition standpoint, of course, it’s also tough to get much traction when a 22-year-old field organizer tweets something stupid unless it’s particularly egregious and/or a slow news day, so it’s usually much lower-risk anyway,” he added.

Privately, some Democratic operatives regret furthering placing staffers in the crosshairs. “We try to be careful, but sometimes we say things we wish we hadn’t, too.”

Eventually as more staffers—and candidates—grow up in the social media generation, there may be a tipping point where it’s no longer a firing offense. Until then, starry-eyed young political operatives should post a note on their iPhones: Tweet at your own risk.

TIME Research

Prolonged Breastfeeding Linked to Higher IQ and Wealth in Adulthood

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Getty Images

New research suggests that breastfeeding newborns longer helps enhance brain development

Children that breastfeed for longer periods end up smarter, more educated and wealthier in adulthood, according to a new study.

According to research published in the Lancet Global Health journal, children who breastfeed for at least 12 months scored almost four points higher on IQ tests, attended school for a year longer and made 15% more money at 30 years old, when compared with their peers who suckled for less than a month.

Researchers in Brazil surveyed almost 3,500 individuals born in the state of Pelotas in 1982 about their breastfeeding habits.

The study’s authors say the uptick in intelligence is likely tied to the presence of long-chain saturated fatty acids present in breast milk that are essential for brain development.

“Our finding that predominant breastfeeding is positively related to IQ in adulthood also suggests that the amount of milk consumed plays a role,” said lead author Bernardo Lessa Horta, a professor at Federal University of Pelotas in Brazil.

[Science Daily]

TIME toxins

Why ‘BPA-Free’ May Be Meaningless

After years of campaigning, health advocates finally convinced many household product manufacturers to remove the chemical Bisphenol A, known as BPA, from items like receipts, plastic bottles and the lining of tin cans. And as a result, it’s not hard to find products labeled “BPA-free.” But it turns out the chemicals used to replace BPA may have nearly the exact impact on the human body — hormone disruption — as BPA, according to a new study in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives.

“According to pretty much all the literature there is on these two substitutes, they are hormonally active in ways similar to BPA – similar mechanisms, similar potencies,” said study author Johanna Rochester, a researcher at the Endocrine Disruption Exchange.

The study evaluated existing research on two BPA replacement chemicals: Bisphenol S and F, known as BPS and BPF. The similarity between the compounds may extend beyond the name, the study suggests. For one, the compounds’ structures are remarkably similar. The compounds also behave like BPA, part of the reason why they make a good replacement for manufacturers — if not for consumers looking to oust hormone-disrupting chemicals from their products.

Research on the health effects of BPF and BPS is still in its early stages — just because a chemical has the ability to behave a certain way in the body doesn’t necessarily mean it’s dangerous. Still, the researchers say based on what we do know, the average consumer has reason to be a little concerned. BPA has been shown to cause problems with human reproduction, metabolism, neurological function and a whole host of other problems.

“We’ve got to do something about putting brand new compounds in products without having consulted with biologists about what they do,” said Cheryl S. Watson, a professor at the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston, who was not involved in this research.

But beyond researchers sounding the alarm, what should you do as a consumer if you’re concerned about BPS and BPF?

Here’s a good place to start:

Know that BPA-free products can still have unhealthy chemicals.
This is the most important thing to know and it’s pretty straightforward: a BPA-free label doesn’t mean a product is free from other harmful chemical compounds that are slightly different but have a different name. Indeed, the BPA-Free Package program, a third-party group that verifies that products don’t have BPA, is halting operations because the certification creates a “false halo of health” given growing evidence of the dangers of BPS and BPF. Still, because products with BPS and BPF behave similarly to products with BPA, you can follow the same rules to avoid the associated hazards that you would use for BPA.

Avoid handling receipts.
Receipts at many grocery stores and retailers are printed on a product known as “thermal” paper. These receipts, once heavy in BPA, are often made with BPS or BPF these days. In some ways, exposure to these compounds in receipts may be riskier than exposure to containers made with the compound. In receipts, BPS and BPF are “free” and can easily migrate from the product to your skin and other surfaces. “If it’s a receipt that I do need, I’ll hold out my bag and ask the person to drop into the bag so I don’t have to touch it,” Watson says.

Drink from steel or glass containers, not plastic ones.
Steel and glass drinking containers are widely available. It makes sense to purchase a few for the house and a few for the office.

Don’t microwave your food in plastic containers.
The heat from the microwave can separate BPA-like compounds from plastic containers, making them easier for the consumer to ingest. If you must use plastic Tupperware, you should avoid the microwave. Ideally, you just store food in ceramic or glass containers in the first place.

TIME Research

Liberals are More Honest Than Conservatives When They Smile

President Barack Obama speaks at Georgia Tech
David Goldman—AP

But conservatives report being happier

In the “who’s happier?” race, a whole body of research shows conservatives report being happier. Four new studies published in Science hint at a possible reason why. Most happiness research is based on subjective, self-reported data, as opposed to objective measures of happiness, which can be harder to study. The new research highlights a difference between the two.

The studies, led by Sean Wojcik, a doctoral student in psychology and social behavior at the University of California, Irvine, first confirmed what’s already known: In a survey of 1,433 people, political conservatives reported being more satisfied with life than liberals. But researchers found another pronounced trend else among conservatives: They were more likely to judge themselves and their circumstances in an overly positive way.

That may explain the happiness gap, the researchers thought. To test it, they embarked on a series of studies. In one, they analyzed transcripts from Congress to determine the kinds of emotionally charged language people used, and found that liberals used more positive words than conservatives. In another study, researchers assessed photos of Congress members and gauged the smiling intensity of the delegates, finding that liberals were more intense and genuine smilers. “We saw greater activation of the muscles around the eye,” says Wojcik. “That typically indicates more genuine feelings of happiness and enjoyment.” The same held true in non-politician liberals, according to an analysis of the profile photos of liberally and conservatively aligned LinkedIn users.

So when conservatives say they’re happier, but liberals actually display happier behavior, who is, in fact, happiest?

It’s impossible to call. “It really depends on how you measure and define happiness,” Wojcik says.

Wojcik says he plans to study the impact of the benefits of this kind of “self-enhancement” seen in conservatives but less in liberals. So far, research suggests it’s related to an increased ability to care for others, more creative and productive work and better mental health, Wojcik says.

“It’s not that conservatives are lying about their happiness,” Wojcik says. “They just have a more confident style of self-assessment where they evaluate themselves positively across a whole bunch of different kinds of traits, and happiness just appears to be one of them.”

TIME Innovation

Five Best Ideas of the Day: March 13

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

1. Amid the rancor and theatrics in Washington, it’s easy to forget how remarkable it is that the U.S. and Iran are talking at all.

By George Perkovich at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace

2. A critical step in drug research is understanding the impact on the heart. That’s why bioengineers built a beating heart on a silicone chip.

By Sarah Yang at the University of California at Berkeley

3. Americans are quitting their way to a stronger economy.

By Aaron Nathans in the Daily Economy

4. Just because we’re able to edit the DNA of tomorrow’s children, does that mean we should?

By Antonio Regalado in MIT Technology Review

5. America has its own ion collider, and its funding is in danger.

By Natalie Walchover in Quanta

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME neuroscience

A Drug Has Been Found That Reverses a Precursor to Alzheimer’s

Researchers now want to proceed to substantial clinical trials

Researchers at John Hopkins University have found that low doses of a drug more commonly used to treat epilepsy can reverse a condition that increases the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.

According to statements issued Wednesday, the epilepsy drug, called antiepileptic levetiracetam, calms hyperactivity in the brain — a well-documented symptom of people with amnestic mild cognitive impairment, which is a condition that heightens the possibility of developing Alzheimer’s disease.

The team, lead by neuroscientist Michela Gallagher, now wants to pursue substantial clinical trials.

“What we want to discover now, is whether treatment over a longer time will prevent further cognitive decline and delay or stop progression to Alzheimer’s dementia,” Gallagher said.

The researchers studied 84 people with an average age of 70. Participants received various doses of the drug, as well as a placebo, and the scientists used imaging technology to map brain activity.

TIME Research

Homeopathy Is Not an Effective Treatment, Experts Say

Medical experts in Australia say there's not enough evidence to support the practice

Medical experts in Australia have concluded that an alternative form of medicine called homeopathy doesn’t have enough evidence to support its effectiveness.

The idea behind homeopathy is that substances that can make a healthy person sick can also, in some cases, treat a person who is ill. For example, if a healthy person gets burning or watery eyes from cutting an onion, the idea is that a person with a cold who has those same symptoms could benefit from a very tiny dose of an onion remedy.

But in a review of 225 studies on homeopathy, the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) in Australia concluded that there’s no high-quality scientific evidence to support the use of the practice. “Although some studies did report that homeopathy was effective, the quality of those studies was assessed as being small and/or of poor quality,” the NHMRC said in a statement. “These studies had either too few participants, poor design, poor conduct and or reporting to allow reliable conclusions to be drawn on the effectiveness of homeopathy.”

In the United States, past data has suggested that millions of American adults and thousands of children use homeopathy. The National Institutes of Health in U.S. says “there is little evidence to support homeopathy as an effective treatment for any specific condition.”

The NHMRC concluded in its report that Australians should not use homeopathy as a substitute for other proven and effective treatments.

“People who choose homeopathy may put their health at risk if they reject or delay treatments for which there is good evidence for safety and effectiveness,” said NHMRC CEO Warwick Anderson in a statement. “People who are considering whether to use homeopathy should first get advice from a registered health practitioner and in the meanwhile keep taking any prescribed treatments.”

Read next: The Sugar Industry Shaped Government Advice On Cavities, Report Finds

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TIME Research

How Tetanus Shots Help Fight Brain Cancer

syringe-hand
Getty Images

Patients who got the tetanus booster lived more than two years on average

Researchers who have harnessed the body’s immune system to fight cancer have found a way to make the approach work even better, using an ordinary tetanus vaccine.

They used their double-vaccine approach to greatly lengthen the lives of patients with one of the deadliest types of cancer — the brain tumor glioblastoma.

“Patients with glioblastoma usually survive for little more than one year. However, in patients who received the immunotherapy, half lived nearly five years or longer from their diagnosis,” said Dr. John Sampson of Duke University Medical Center, who oversaw the study.

The team has been using what is…

Read the rest of the story from our partners at NBC News

TIME animals

Scientists Just Found Out How Chameleons Change Color

What color is #ThisChameleon?

Scientists may have finally unlocked the mystery behind chameleons’ unique ability to change color.

The explanation is that the reptile’s skin is made up of tiny mirror-like crystals, contained within reflective pigment cells called iridophores. That’s according to a new study published in the journal Nature Communications.

When the chameleon gets excited, or anticipates danger, the iridophores expand or contract to enable the crystals to reflect different levels of light, thereby changing its skin color.

The researchers used a combination of microscopy, high-resolution videography and color-based numerical modeling to arrive at this discovery.

“When the skin is in the relaxed state, the nanocrystals in the iridophore cells are very close to each other — hence, the cells specifically reflect short wavelengths, such as blue,” Michel Milinkovitch, a professor of genetics and evolution at the University of Geneva in Switzerland and the lead author of the study, told Live Science.

Milinkovitch further explained that, when excited, the nanocrystals spread further apart to reflect longer wavelengths like yellow, red and orange, which combine with blue to produce different hues.

If any of those hues is white, gold, black, or blue, we might just have chameleons breaking the Internet soon.

Read next: The Weird Reason Humans Shake Hands as a Greeting

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