The answer to who will win the Nov. 8 election may be buried under the avalanche of tweets supporting each candidate, a new paper by the City College of New York contends.

Researchers analyzed 73 million tweets from June 1 to Sept. 1 and concluded that trends match the New York Times polling averages “with remarkable accuracy.”

“More importantly, for the CCNY team, the Twitter opinion trend forecasts the aggregated Times polls by 6 to 15 days, showing that Twitter can be an early warning signal of global opinion trends at the national level,” the college says in an announcement of the research.

clinton_and_trump_cartoon_illustrationHernan Makse, a physics professor at the school, said: “Our analytics, which are available at, unleash the power of Twitter to predict social opinion trends from elections, brands to political movements. Our results suggest that the multi-billion public opinion polling industry could be replaced by Twitter analytics performed practically for free.”

While Donald Trump supporters are more active overall on a daily basis, Hillary Clinton supporters dominate during major events, such as the conventions, the researchers said.

According to the paper: “While Trump supporters might be gaining the race inside the strongly connected giant component, thus forming a very cohesive group with large influence at the core of the network, Clinton still wins the popular vote when we consider all the Twitter supporters, and not only those in the SCGC.

“Thus, while the Twitter campaign of Clinton seems to be less enthusiastic and dormant compared to the Twitter Trump machinery, candidate Clinton still wins the popular vote in the whole network.”

However, they said, “it remains a question” whether Clinton’s overall support — apparently much less fervent than Trump’s — translates into actual votes on Election Day. But analyses of services like Twitter could eventually replace costlier and more time-consuming polling efforts, the college says.


OMG. People who lurk on Facebook without posting and get bombarded by friends posting selfies are probably going to end up feeling down in the dumps.

They’re more likely to suffer a drop in self-esteem and life satisfaction, a new study by Penn State University finds.

The people who post the selfies, on the other hand, enjoyed increased self-esteem.

“People usually post selfies when they’re happy or having fun,” said Ruoxu Wang, a Penn State graduate student in mass communications. “This makes it easy for someone else to look at these pictures and think his or her life is not as great as theirs.”

In other words, 21st century life is a cabaret — as long as you have a smartphone with a selfie stick and Internet access.

Image credit: VectorOpenStock via Wikimedia Commons


Health insurance premiums are on the rise and taking up a bigger and bigger share of Americans’ incomes. (Credit: The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation)

It’s astonishing that the dominant issue in this year’s presidential election is sexual misconduct when there are so many other things crying for attention, including the student loan crisis, reasonable gun laws and fair trade.

Not to mention healthcare.

The U.S. healthcare system is such a horror show, it would need a dramatic overhaul just to be considered broken.

Financial writer John Mauldin looked at the problem the U.S. finds itself in with an interesting analysis this week on his blog, Thoughts From The Frontline. It included lots of sobering facts and figures, like the fact that many Americans are spending hefty percentages of their income on insurance premiums that offer deductibles of $5,000 or more.

Deductibles have risen 10 times faster than inflation over the last six years, Mauldin notes.

The Affordable Healthcare Act has resulted in 25 million more Americans getting coverage — which is a good thing — but for those consumers who pay full freight because their incomes don’t qualify for subsidies it has become a crushing financial burden.

Many people are quick to put the blame on “Obamacare” but as Mauldin points out: “The problems I am describing would have happened with or without Obamacare.”

One of the reasons is the world’s aging population makes it a lock that healthcare costs are going to increase dramatically over the next 10 years.

We can only hope that there will be productive debate after the election dust settles and the White House and Congress can come to some agreements on healthcare fixes — assuming the government is functional after such a raucous and contentious campaign.

One idea under consideration — at least by some Democrats — is a public option, which would force private insurers to come up with more innovative products in order to compete in the market.

Ideas are needed and solicited. If you really want to go outside the box, why not consider fundamental changes to licensing healthcare providers? A class of provider could be developed similar to physician assistants, but one that would allow them to set up a private practice.

Further, let’s say providers who get this training have their college tuition covered by Uncle Sam if they agree to provide services in the public sector for five years.

It’s a matter of supply and demand: more healthcare providers lead to lower-cost options through increased competition.

What you end up with is a mix of market-based solutions along with government supported change. And anyone can keep the healthcare they have if they choose.

Whatever happens, creative solutions are required and perhaps our newly elected officials will get serious once the election — with its assorted sex scandals — is in our rear view mirror.

Theories have sprouted up over the last few years contending that humans may be capable of living to ripe old age of 200.

People might live so long that instead of having 55-plus communities, they’ll have to have 150-plus communities as well, a sort of two-tiered retirement living option.

Under this scenario, you wouldn’t technically reach middle-age until around 100 or so.

Except that this isn’t going to happen, according to a new study released by the Albert Einstein College of Medicine. Researchers said humans are likely already closing in on their natural lifespan limit, which is around 115.

Sure, there could be a few outliers, known as supercentenarians. In France, a woman named Jeanne Calment lived to 122, the maximum documented lifespan in history.

Calment always looked much younger than she was even though she smoked cigarettes until age 117 and enjoyed wine. Her example offered hope that, as the BBC put it in a story last year, “Ageing is not an inevitable fact of life.”


A bowhead whale can live to 210 … so why can’t humans? (Credit: Wikimedia Commons)

Scientists in the article were inspired by the bowhead whale, which has a lifespan of 150 years “and perhaps as long as 210.” They are studying the animal to unlock its secrets.

But the Einstein College researchers looked at the pace of statistical gains in lifespan over the last century. In 1900, the average American lived to 47. A baby born today can expect to live until age 79.

However, they found that gains in longevity started to decline rapidly after the age of 100 — regardless of the year a person was born.

“This finding indicates diminishing gains in reducing late-life mortality and a possible limit to human lifespan,” said Jan Vijg, professor and chair of genetics at the college.

Vijg and colleagues found that age at death increased for supercentarians between the 1970s and early 1990s, reaching a plateau in 1995.

“Further progress against infectious and chronic diseases may continue boosting average life expectancy, but not maximum lifespan,” said Vijg. “While it’s conceivable that therapeutic breakthroughs might extend human longevity beyond the limits we’ve calculated, such advances would need to overwhelm the many genetic variants that appear to collectively determine the human lifespan.

“Perhaps resources now being spent to increase lifespan should instead go to lengthening health span—the duration of old age spent in good health.”

Their research was published in the journal, Nature.


Photo: Kennedy and Nixon debated the “missile gap” between the U.S. and the Soviet Union in 1960. (Credit: Wikimedia Commons)

With the presidential election just about a month away, I thought it might be interesting to look at some of the major issues that shaped national races over the course of the country’s history.

Let’s get right to it:

  • 1856/ 1860: Slavery, and violence in the Kansas Territory over the issue. Secession.
  • 1876: Reconstruction of the South and the maintenance of federal troops in the South.
  • 1892: Tariffs. Republicans favored higher tariffs, Democrats lower tarrifs. There were calls for government ownership of the railroads and monetary reform.
  • 1900: The U.S. involvement in the Philippines after the Spanish American War was debated.
  • 1904: Controversy over Teddy Roosevelt’s antitrust policies.
  • 1916: Keeping the U.S. out of World War I.
  • 1932: How to address The Great Depression. Repeal of Prohibition.
  • 1940: Keeping the U.S. out of World War II — or coming to the defense of Europe which was under Nazi siege.
  • 1948: Civil rights.
  • 1952: President Truman’s handling of the Korean War. Inflation.
  • 1960: The “missile gap” between the U.S. and the Soviet Union.
  • 1968: Civil rights, student protests over the Vietnam War.
  • 1980: Inflation, and the Iranian hostage crisis.
  • 1992: The recession.
  • 2004: Terrorism and how to address threats in the U.S. and around the world.
  • 2008: The Great Recession, economic collapse, bank bailouts.
  • 2016: Debate over whether former Miss Universe Alicia Machado participated in a porno tape; Barack Obama’s place of birth; discussion of whether or not Rosie O’Donnell is an attractive person; Donald Trump’s hair; Hillary Clinton’s pant suits.



A roller coaster ride can shake things up for kidney stone patients. (Photo Credit: Jeremy Thompson via Wikimedia Commons)

Got kidney stones? Head to the nearest state fair or theme park and hop on a roller coaster.

It’s a lot cheaper than going to a medical clinic for shock wave therapy and it’s also a lot more fun.

A new Michigan State University study concludes that a ride on a roller coaster helps people pass kidney stones with a close to 70 percent success rate.

“Basically, I had patients telling me that after riding a particular roller coaster at Walt Disney World, they were able to pass their kidney stone,” said David Wartinger, a professor emeritus in the Department of Osteopathic Surgical Specialties. “I even had one patient say he passed three different stones after riding multiple times.”

A one-day ticket to the Magic Kingdom in Orlando costs $105 while shock wave therapy — known as lithotripsy — runs around $4,000. And plus when you finish with the lithotripsy procedure you can’t go right over to the sidewalk vendor and order a lemon-lime snowball.

However, note this caveat from Wartinger: “In all, we used 174 kidney stones of varying shapes, sizes and weights to see if each model worked on the same ride and on two other roller coasters. Big Thunder Mountain was the only one that worked. We tried Space Mountain and Aerosmith’s Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster and both failed.”

So if you think Aeorsmith is going to help you pass your kidney stone, Dream On.

Also, your position on the roller coaster makes a difference. Sitting in the first few cars only led to 16 percent stone passage, while sitting in the last car resulted in a 64 percent passage rate.

Even if you’ve already had lithotripsy, Wartinger says tiny pieces can remain in the kidney and blossom into bigger problems later. The solution is to head to the park.

“The best way to potentially eliminate this from happening is to try going on a roller coaster after a treatment when the remnants are still small,” he said.


The public option — a health insurance program that would be sponsored by the government to compete directly against private insurers — has been getting some attention in the presidential election campaign.

Hillary Clinton said in July that she would revive efforts to offer a public option nationwide.

But now California is considering implementing the concept as a state plan, a reaction to further consolidation in the private insurance marketplace.

Proposed mergers include Anthem and Cigna — and the higher profile effort to merge Aetna and Humana, which the U.S. Justice Department has blocked. It makes sense that fewer health insurers means less competition.

The public option was considered by Congress in 2010 as it debated the Affordable Care Act. But it was ditched because there was some distaste for a government-run program that would compete with private enterprise.

But with insurers like Aetna and UnitedHealth pulling out from the private marketplace, a public option makes sense.

“I think we should strongly consider a public option in California,” Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones said, according to Kaiser Health News. “It will require a lot of careful thought and work, but I think it’s something that ought to be on the table because we continue to see this consolidation in an already consolidated health insurance market.”

One factor working against the public option in California: The ACA’s healthcare exchange marketplace is working well in the state and there already is “robust consumer choice,” according to an insurance industry spokeswoman quoted by KHN.

“We don’t think we need to mess with something that isn’t broken.”

Twenty million Americans would lose health care coverage under proposals by Republican Donald Trump and his plan would increase the federal deficit by as much as $41 billion, according to a new study released by the Rand Corporation Friday.

The study compared plans offered by Trump and Democrat Hillary Clinton, although a Rand news release on the project said the analysis was challenging because both candidates’ proposals lacked “specific detail, especially on implementation.”

cm-2000Three out of four Clinton health care plans also increase the federal deficit — from $3.5 billion to $90.4 billion — but they increase the number of insured people and decrease out-of-pocket spending among those insured.

A Clinton proposal to offer a “public option” health insurance plan — considered but rejected by Congress in 2010 — would reduce the federal deficit by $700 million, according to the Rand analysis.

The centerpiece of Trump’s plan is to repeal the Affordable Care Act and allow tax deductions for the full cost of health care premiums.

“The combined effect of the Trump proposals is to decrease the number of insured by 20.3 million and increase the federal deficit by $5.8 billion,” said Christine Eibner, Rand senior economist. “The combined effect of the Clinton proposals is to increase the number of insured by 9.1 million and increase the federal deficit by $88.5 billion.”

She added: “One thing that may surprise readers is that repealing the ACA increases the federal deficit, which may seem counterintuitive. The ACA has several mechanisms for raising revenue and reducing federal spending, including changes to Medicare payments; an increase in the Medicare hospital insurance tax for people with high incomes; and various taxes including those on health plans, medical devices, branded prescription drugs, and tanning services.”


In a global race with other kids, those from the U.S. would probably be huffing and puffing their way to the finish line, a new study says.

A team of researchers from the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario hooked up with the University of North Dakota to study aerobic fitness levels of kids in 50 different countries.
They ran a 20-meter shuffle or “bleep test” — a standard fitness evaluation — on healthy kids age 9-17.

They found that the fittest kids overall came from Tanzania, Iceland, Estonia, Norway and Japan. The U.S. placed 47th out of 50 and Mexico was in last place.

“If all the kids in the world were to line up for a race, the average American child would finish at the foot of the field,” said Grant Tomkinson, senior author of the study and an associate professor at the University of North Dakota.

It could be a coincidence, but I doubt it, that when you look at 2016 estimates of how much each country spends on Internet gaming the U.S. ranks second behind China, even with their 1.5 billion population compared to 324 million in the U.S.

But you can’t blame it all on gaming time, since Japan ranks third in gaming expenditures and still has the fifth fittest kids.

Experts say a lot of it also has a lot to do with time spent watching TV and gobbling down fast food.

In 2014, the federal Centers for Disease Control estimated that more than half of kids ages 12-15 are out of shape.

(Image credit: By Caremate – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0)

Did you hear the one about the elderly couple who walked into an exercise room and busted out laughing?

Yeah, the whole event turned out to be a real knee-slapper — and that was the point.

These days exercise trends turn over faster than a pair of dice on a Vegas craps table. And now seniors have gotten into the trendy fitness craze with LaughActive, during which they engage in “playful simulated laughter” during flexibility workouts.

The program was the subject of a study by Georgia State University. It focused on older adults in four Atlanta-area assisted living facilities.

happy_smiley_faceResearchers found that giggling, chuckling, and other forms of mirth improved participants’ mental health, endurance and confidence in their ability to complete the workout. The findings were published in the journal, The Gerontologist.

At first, the participants just “go through the motions of laughing,” Georgia State said in a press release published Thursday. But seeing other folks forcing a laugh becomes sort of funny in itself, according to the researchers, and pretty soon everybody’s enjoying uproarious, genuine laughter.

In any case, a forced laugh is just as good for the body as the real thing, researchers said. And the health benefits are no joke.

“The combination of laughter and exercise may influence older adults to begin exercising and to stick with the program,” said Celeste Greene, lead author of the study and a graduate of Georgia State’s Gerontology Institute. “We want to help older adults have a positive experience with exercise, so we developed a physical activity program that specifically targets exercise enjoyment through laughter.”

Professionals who work at senior facilities can get trained in LaughActive, a course that comes with “pre-formatted LaughActive exercise program workouts.”

Of course, all Americans want to be ship-shape these days. Everybody age 9 to 90 is getting into the act with newfangled fitness programs fresh off the design board.

For example, popular programs for younger folks include, according to Shape Magazine, something called Animal Flow, which “taps into your primal instincts to get you moving your body in ways you’ve never imagined before.”

That one is aimed at men, but for women there are Pole Workouts, which the magazine describes as “sweat inducing, super-effective workouts with the added benefits of learning how to flaunt your curves and celebrate your body.”

Then there’s Katami 4X4 which is co-ed. It’s “based on the science of one-minute burst intervals,” Shape says.

Luckily, you can now get exercise without doing much of anything. For example, while you’re watching TV you can fidget, which will burn up to 350 calories per day, according to

I Googled “how to exercise without doing anything” and found a program called Life Hacking. Most of the suggestions involve some sort of movement, but one is just improving your posture at your desk. Keep your back straight for one-minute intervals.

You’ll feel like a million bucks.

Image credit: Wikimedia Commons