The Age fo Aging
|Byron Spice ||April 24th 2012|
Carnegie Mellon News
A vibrating steering wheel is an effective way to keep a driver's eyes safely on the road by providing an additional means to convey directions from a car's navigation system, researchers at Carnegie Mellon University and AT&T Labs have shown. The study, one of the first to evaluate combinations of audio, visual and haptic feedback for route guidance, found that younger drivers in particular were less distracted by a navigation system's display screen when they received haptic feedback from the vibrating steering wheel. For elder drivers, the haptic feedback reinforced the auditory cues they normally prefer. Though the haptic steering wheel generally improved driver performance and safety, the study findings suggest that simply giving the driver additional sensory inputs isn't always optimal.
That's particularly the case for older drivers because the additional sensory feedback can strain the brain's capacity to process it. "Our findings suggest that, as navigation systems become more elaborate, it would be best to personalize the sensory feedback system based, at least in part, on the driver's age," said SeungJun Kim, systems scientist in Carnegie Mellon's Human-Computer Interaction Institute (HCII). Vibrating steering wheels already are used by some car makers to alert drivers to such things as road hazards. But the haptic steering wheel under development by AT&T is capable of unusually nuanced pulsations and thus can convey more information. Twenty actuators on the rim of the AT&T wheel can be fired in any order. In this study, firing them in a clockwise sequence told a driver to turn right, while a counterclockwise sequence signaled a left turn. "By using these types of vibration cues, we are taking advantage of what people are already familiar with, making them easier to learn," explained Kevin A. Li, a researcher with AT&T's user interface group in Florham Park, NJ. Read more ..
The Edge of Health
|Jared Wadley||April 24th 2012|
Two population ecologists at the University of Michigan have been awarded a $1.7 million grant from the National Institutes of Health for a five-year study that will try to explain the changing patterns of whooping cough outbreaks, using records from several countries spanning more than 70 years.
Thanks to widespread childhood vaccination, whooping cough (pertussis) once seemed to be under control. But the bacterial illness, which in infants causes violent, gasping coughing spells, has made a comeback in the United States and some other developed countries since the 1980s. In addition, there's been a shift in who's getting sick, with fewer cases seen in preschool children and more in teenagers.
Unlike a conventional epidemiological investigation of a disease outbreak, the new U-M study will rely heavily on the use of long-term incidence reports, mathematical models of pertussis transmission and statistical methods for extracting information from data. Records from recent and historical outbreaks in several countries – including England, Wales, Sweden, Denmark, Senegal and the United States – will be analyzed. Read more ..
The Sports Edge
|Jason Cody||April 23rd 2012|
Overuse injuries – found most often in low-contact sports that involve long training sessions or where the same movement is repeated numerous times – make up nearly 30 percent of all injuries sustained by collegiate athletes.
And a majority of overuse injuries (62 percent) occurred in females athletes, according to a new study published in the current edition of the Journal of Athletic Training, the National Athletic Trainers' Association scientific publication.
"Overuse injuries may present not only physical challenges but also psychological ones that could significantly affect an athlete's recovery and performance," said study co-author Tracey Covassin, a certified athletic trainer at Michigan State University and a member of the Department of Kinesiology. "Understanding the frequency, rate and severity of overuse injuries is an important first step for designing effective injury-prevention programs, intervention strategies and treatment protocols to prevent and rehabilitate athletes with these types of injuries." Read more ..
Russia on Edge
|John Zimmer||April 22nd 2012|
|Moscow's Christ the Savior Cathedral|
Thousands of religious believers have gathered outside Russia's main cathedral as part of what religious leaders are calling a day of prayer "in defense" of the Orthodox Christian faith. Patriarch Kirill, the head of the Russian Orthodox Church, led morning prayers at Moscow's Christ the Savior Cathedral before launching a procession of supporters carrying icons and other property religious authorities say have been "defiled" by an alleged wave of attacks against the Church. In particular, the church has pointed to a stunt by the girl punk band Pussy Riot, which in February entered Moscow's Christ the Savior Cathedral to perform a song about the church's support for Vladimir Putin ahead of the country's presidential election. Similar events will be held at Orthodox churches throughout the country.
In Moscow, some defenders of the church began gathering as early as April 21, including members of the "Night Wolves" motorcycle club. Aleksandr Zaldostanov, one of the leaders of the Night Wolves, said the group wanted to show its support for the pro-Orthodox initiative, which coincides with the start of motorcycle season. "We wanted to, at the same time [as the opening of the motorcycle season] support the Russian Orthodox Church, to show our solidarity, and to stress that we are with them and not with those crazy [anti-church] people -- that we are with our country and with our faith," Zaldostanov said. Read more ..
The Education Edge
|Jamie Klatel||April 21st 2012|
President Obama is urging Congress to extend low interest rates on federal student loans. "In America, higher education cannot be a luxury; it’s an economic imperative that every family must be able to afford," Obama said in his weekly address. "That’s why next week I’ll be visiting colleges across the country, talking to students about how we can make higher education more affordable – and what’s at stake right now if Congress doesn’t do something about it." The White House began pushing the student loans issue on Friday when Secretary of Education Arne Duncan appeared at the daily press briefing, and the president will visit colleges in North Carolina, Colorado and Iowa next week.
"If Congress doesn’t act, on July 1 interest rates on some student loans will double," Obama said. "Nearly seven and half million students will end up owing more on their loan payments." The College Cost Reduction and Access Act, introduced in the Democrat-controlled Congress in 2007 and passed on bipartisan votes, halved the rate on federally subsidized Stafford loans to 3.4 percent. If Congress doesn't act, the rate returns to 6.8 percent. Republicans contend keeping the low interest rate costs too much. "Bad policy based on lofty campaign promises has put us in an untenable situation," Rep. John Kline (R-Wis.), the chairman of the Committee on Education and the Workforce, said in a Friday statement. Read more ..
The Edge of Health
|John Paul Gutierrez||April 21st 2012|
International Communication Association
|Just Like Background TV|
Children from the age of 8 months to 8 years are exposed to nearly 4 hours of background TV per day.
The study surveyed 1,454 English-speaking households with children between the ages of 8 months to 8-years-old. Younger children and African-American children were exposed to higher amounts of background TV. Models were included to explore whether demographic variables including child gender, ethnicity, race, age, and/or family income are associated with different levels of background TV. Previous research has shown that children with high exposure to background TV have been linked to poor performance in cognitive and reading tasks. Authors Matthew Lapierre, of the University of Pennsylvania's Annenberg School for Communication, Jessica Piotrowski, Universiteit van Amsterdam, and Deborah Linebarger, University of Iowa, are the first to provide accurate estimates of background TV exposure to children.
"Considering the accumulating evidence regarding the impact that background television exposure has on young children, we were rather floored about the sheer scale of children's exposure with just under 4 hours of exposure each day," Lapierre said. "Fortunately, our study does offer specific solutions to reduce exposure in American homes namely- removing televisions from children's bedrooms and remembering to shut the television off." Read more ..
The Edge of Health
|Charanjit Jagait||April 21st 2012|
Voluntary industry reductions in salt content and taxation on products containing salt in 19 developing countries could reduce the number of deaths each year from cardiovascular disease (CVD) by 2-3 per cent in these countries. The preliminary data presented today at the World Congress of Cardiology are the first findings from a new report from Harvard that will be published later this year.
The study set out to assess the cost-effectiveness of two interventions - voluntary salt reduction by industry, and taxation on salt - in 19 developing countries, that represent more than half of the world's population. The required salt reduction levels were modeled on the UK Food Standards Agency experience which set a series of targets for individual food products that have led to a net intake reduction, so far, of 9.5 per cent overall in the country. While a taxation increase of 40 per cent on industry prices (similar to tobacco), determined by previous work to lead to a 6 per cent reduction in consumption, was also evaluated. Read more ..
The Education Edge
|Melissa Carroll||April 20th 2012|
University of Huston
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has awarded a five-year, $9 million grant to the University of Houston's Texas Center for Learning Disabilities to conduct research on the causes and treatment of learning disabilities in children and adolescents. UH is one of four universities nationally to receive funding from the NIH for a learning disability research center.
The substantial number of today's adolescents struggling with weak literacy skills presents an urgent national concern, yet little is known about reading disabilities beyond the early elementary grades. This award enables UH to address this critical gap in knowledge by funding the continuation of the multidisciplinary research center at the Texas Center for Learning Disabilities and four new research projects involving older elementary school-aged children in fourth and fifth grades with reading problems. Read more ..
Edge of El Salvador
|Gabriela Acosta||April 20th 2012|
Rated as one of the most violent nations in the Americas, if not the world, El Salvador has faced an uncertain future as homicide rates have continued to rise over the last two decades, largely due to escalating warfare between enemy gangs. The Salvadoran government’s increased efforts to stamp out violence have had little effect on the nation’s homicide rate, which has almost doubled in less than a decade. In an attempt to halt the bloodshed, the local Catholic Church has been credited with recently forging a truce between Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13) and Barrio 18, two of the most violent and feared criminal gangs in the Western Hemisphere.
The results have been drastic; El Salvador’s murder rate has dropped by more than 50 percent in the few weeks following the reports of a cease-fire, and for the first time in more than three years, the nation was murder-free for a full day this past Saturday, April 14. Despite the incredible developments in the Central American nation, the Salvadoran government continues to vehemently deny any involvement in securing the agreement, as local factions allege that the cease-fire was brokered with bribery and a pledge from the state to improve prison conditions for jailed leaders from the two gangs. Read more ..
Inside El Salvador
|Frederick B. Mills||April 18th 2012|
After just three years in office, the left of center Farabundo Marti National Liberation (FMLN) administration of President Mauricio Funes is receiving high marks for its achievements in the area of education reform. A February 2012 national poll by La Prensa Graphica Datos gives Funes a 71.4 percent approval rating. According to the poll, his administration’s principle successes include the government provision of uniforms, shoes and supplies to public school children and assistance to low income persons. In order to put these public perceptions and the initial outcomes of the education reforms in perspective, let us briefly describe the political context, the state of education back in March 2009, and the philosophy behind the education reform program.
The Political Context (March 2009)
In March 2009, FMLN candidate Mauricio Funes was elected President of El Salvador. Although it was a hotly contested race, the election signaled a push back against neo-liberal economic policies of the conservative National Republican Alliance (ARENA) party. In practical terms, this meant enough of the Salvadoran electorate were willing to give the left a chance to deal with extreme economic inequality, growing public insecurity, and social injustice. Read more ..
Legislative Process on Edge
|Gordon Witkin||April 18th 2012|
|Martin protest, March 2012 (credit: David Shankbone)|
The American Legislative Exchange Council—facing heavy pressure for backing voter ID and ‘Stand Your Ground” laws—has announced it is eliminating the task force that deals with such issues, and will focus instead on economic matters. The group’s controversial stands on voting rights and self-defense have been the subject of recent reports.
ALEC spun its announcement with a declaration that it was “refocusing our commitment to free-market, limited government and pro-growth principles.” The statement from ALEC national chair David Frizzell, an Indiana state representative, said the group was eliminating its Public Safety and Elections Task Force and “reinvesting these resources in the task forces that focus on the economy.”
“While we recognize there are other critical, non-economic issues that are vitally important to millions of Americans, we believe we must concentrate on initiatives that spur competitiveness and innovation and put more Americans back to work.” The announcement said the group’s legislative board had made the decision last week. Read more ..
The Digital Edge
|Luke Allnutt||April 18th 2012|
Harping on about not being on Facebook, it has been said, is the modern-day equivalent of boasting about not having a television. And of course, there is plenty to criticize Facebook for: its dubious privacy practices, the censorship of walled gardens, and the potential threat to the open web.
But sometimes criticism of Facebook -- and criticism of social media and digital technologies in general -- falls into a familiar groove: one that has a tendency to ignore much of the empirical research on the subject, an over-reliance on whimsical anecdotal evidence, and often a projection of the author’s own foibles and predilections.
The latest article in this vein is a cover story in The Atlantic by Stephen Marche titled, "Is Facebook Making Us Lonely?"
Marche contends that "We have never been more detached from one another, or lonelier." "We are living in an isolation that would have been unimaginable to our ancestors, and yet we have never been more accessible," he writes. "We were promised a global village; instead we inhabit the drab cul-de-sacs and endless freeways of a vast suburb of information." Read more ..
The Rehab Edge
|Cecilia Vindrola Padros||April 18th 2012|
University of South Florida
An innovative 13-postures Tai Chi designed for wheelchair users is described in the current issue of Technology and Innovation—Proceedings of the National Academy of Inventors. The innovation has brought the traditional Chinese martial and healing arts to people with ambulatory impairment, thanks to the technology and program developed by Zibin Guo, PhD, of the University of Tennessee Chattanooga. “Too often, social and cultural barriers discourage people with physical disabilities from participating in fitness activities,” said Zibin Guo, PhD, who collaborated with the China Disabled People's Federation and the 2008 Beijing Paralympics Committee to introduce the Tai Chi Wheelchair at the 2008 Beijing Olympics & Paralympics Cultural Festival.
“Wheelchair Tai Chi can be practiced seated for those needing simple, low-impact, upper-body exercise by integrating wheelchair motion with the gentle, dynamic flowing movements of Tai Chi. It lifts the spirit and give practitioners a sense of command of space.” Read more ..
The Education Edge
|Ashley Loar||April 17th 2012|
While theories about race, gender, and math ability among high school students have long been debated, a recent study found that math teachers are in fact, unjustifiably biased toward their white male students. This study was published in a new article released in the April 2012 issue of Gender & Society (GENDSOC), the official journal of the Sociologists for Women in Society, published by SAGE. "This speaks to the presence of a perhaps subtle yet omnipresent stereotype in high school classrooms: Math, comparatively speaking, is just easier for white males than it is for white females," wrote the authors.
Researchers Catherine Riegle-Crumb and Melissa Humphries analyzed data collected by the National Center of Education Statistics (NCES) that consisted of a nationally representative group of about 15,000 students. Their data also included teacher surveys in which math teachers were asked to offer their personal assessment of individual students, indicating whether they felt that the course was too easy for the student, the appropriate level, or too difficult. The researchers compared these assessments with other data about the students such as their math GPA and their score on a standardized math test in order to determine if the teachers' perceptions of their students' abilities matched up with the students' actual scores. After analyzing this data, the researchers found disparities between teachers' favorable perceptions of the abilities of their white male students and these students' scores. Read more ..
Edge of Education
|James E. Block||April 17th 2012|
American children are in trouble. Each day brings increasing evidence of peer aggression (the new documentary Bully), autism spectrum disorders (the report just released by the Centers for Disease Control), and serious dependency and helplessness issues (an ongoing U.C.L.A. study). The unsurprising conclusion of the director of the C.D.C. is that children and families “need help.”
But what kind of help? With the predictable failure of No Child Left Behind to conjure higher achievement out of thin air and news from the parental front that raising children is no longer joyous, those cultivating the young have again lost their way.
No, we don’t know what leads to stronger characters and successful individuals. Parents are being told that genetic deficiencies exonerate them (to some extent) from responsibility. Yet calling the problem hard-wired is little solace if it’s your wiring. Psychoactive drugs appeal to our wish for a quick fix, but symptom suppression only defers the necessary quest for solutions. Read more ..
The Education Edge
|Chuck Carney||April 16th 2012|
An Indiana University study shows that race continues to be an important factor in determining who receives out-of-school suspension and expulsion, and that racial disparities in school discipline are most likely due more to school characteristics than to the characteristics of behaviors or students. Russ Skiba, professor in counseling and educational psychology at the Indiana University School of Education, led the study, exploring factors affecting disproportionate rates of suspension and expulsion for African-American students. "For overall rates of suspension and expulsion, the study found that discipline is not just a function of difficult students receiving punishment but is more complex," Skiba said. Type of misbehavior, student characteristics including race and socioeconomic status, and school characteristics, such as the principal's views on school discipline, all predict which students will be suspended or expelled. In particular, the study found race to be a key factor. "It continues to be a powerful predictor of the severity of school punishment, independent of poverty status or the type of behavior students engage in," Skiba said. "In particular, schools with more African-American students are more likely to use more exclusionary forms of discipline such as suspension or expulsion." Read more ..
The Way We Are
|David Orenstein ||April 16th 2012|
A new study finds that baseball fans exhibit a high moral tolerance for a form of revenge not otherwise practiced in most of contemporary society: avenging a teammate who has been hit by a pitch by aiming a pitch at an opposing batter who was not previously involved. The research suggests that such systems of vicarious retribution, found throughout history, may not depend on an underlying assignment of moral responsibility.
Last week, as tens of millions of Americans awaited the baseball season’s first pitches, Brown University psychologist Fiery Cushman was watching more warily for the first beanballs. As someone who studies moral judgment, Cushman recognizes that the intentional targeting of an innocent player to avenge a hit batsman could be a telling exception within American culture, even if the rest of the game is a national institution.
Cushman and collaborators A.J. Durwin of Hofstra University and Chaz Lively of Boston University put the question to scores of baseball fans mingling outside Yankee Stadium and Fenway Park last season: A pitcher on the Chicago Cubs intentionally throws at and hits a batter on the St. Louis Cardinals. An inning later, the Cardinals’ pitcher retaliates by throwing at and hitting a previously uninvolved batter for the Cubs. Read more ..
|Basil Waugh||April 15th 2012|
University of British Columbia
A new University of British Columbia study finds that the way individuals experience the universal emotion of pride directly impacts how racist and homophobic their attitudes toward other people are. The study offers new inroads in the fight against harmful prejudices such as racism and homophobia, and sheds important new light on human psychology. "These studies show that how we feel about ourselves directly influences how we feel about people who are different from us," says Claire Ashton-James. "It suggests that harmful prejudices may be more flexible than previously thought, and that hubristic pride can exacerbate prejudice, while a more self-confident, authentic pride may help to reduce racism and homophobia." The findings build on research by UBC Psychology Prof. Jessica Tracy who has previously shown that pride falls into two categories:. Read more ..
Edge of China
|Ben Norman||April 14th 2012|
What can surnames tell us about the culture, genetics and history of our society? That is the question being answered by Chinese researchers who have traced the evolution of surnames across China. The research, published in the American Journal of Physical Anthropology, reveals how surnames can act as a genetic stamp, allowing scientists to trace lineage and understand the migrations and historical events which shaped modern China.
The research was led by Dr. Jaiwei Chen, from Beijing Normal University, and Professor Yida Yuan fromthe Chinese Academy of Sciences.
"When it comes to surnames the Chinese people are unique. 1.28 billion people share 7,327surnames. In fact the 100 most common names account for 85 percent of the population," said Dr Chen. "This means Chinese surnames include more cultural and genetic information than in most other countries."
Dr. Chen and the team analysed data from China's National Citizen Identity Information, using isonymy theory which provides a method of exploring population structure by studying the distribution of surnames. This included measuring Genetic distance, the genetic divergence between populations within a species." Read more ..
Macedonia On Edge
|Terrence Sterling||April 14th 2012|
From RFE and agencies
thnic tensions have resurfaced in Macedonia following the announcement of the murder of the five men on the outskirts of the capital, Skopje. The killings have aggravated relations between Macedonians and the ethnic Albanian minority. Police said the five men were shot dead execution-style near a lake outside Skopje and their bodies found by fishermen late on April 12. All of the victims were reportedly ethnic Macedonians. Angry Macedonians blocked several streets in the area on April 13, and police were deployed to prevent clashes. Authorities have so far made no statement about a possible motive for the killings. Residents of the village of Smiljkovci, where the bodies were found, expressed fears the murders could be a sign a worsening relations between ethnic Macedonians and Albanians. "What happened last night was very tragic -- young people, I feel very sorry for their families," Violeta Mitreska, of Smiljkovic, said. "I don't know what to say. I hope that this will not endanger coexistence between Macedonians and Albanians in Macedonia." Read more ..
America on Edge
|Matt Swayne||April 14th 2012|
The presence of big-box retailers, such as Wal-Mart, K-Mart and Target, may alter a community's social and economic fabric enough to promote the creation of hate groups, according to economists.
The number of Wal-Mart stores in a county is significantly correlated with the number of hate groups in the area, said Stephan Goetz, professor of agricultural economics and regional economics, Penn State, and director of the Northeast Regional Center for Rural Development.
"Wal-Mart has clearly done good things in these communities, especially in terms of lowering prices," said Goetz. "But there may be indirect costs that are not as obvious as other effects."
The number of Wal-Mart stores was second only to the designation of a county as a Metropolitan Statistical Area in statistical significance for predicting the number of hate groups in a county, according to the study. Read more ..
|Phyllis Picklesimer||April 12th 2012|
A new University of Illinois study contains a warning for obese women who are planning pregnancies. Even if they eat a healthy diet when they are pregnant, their babies will develop in an unhealthy environment that places the infants at risk for future health problems.
"We can see fat sequestered in the placentas of obese mothers when it should be going to the baby to support its growth. The nutrient supply region in the placenta of an obese mother is half the size of that of a normal-weight mother, even when both are eating the same healthy diet," said Yuan-Xiang Pan, a U of I professor of nutrition.
Pan blames what he calls the obesogenic environment of the mother, which includes increased triglycerides, high levels of the hormone leptin, and elevated amounts of non-esterified fatty acids (NEFAs) circulating in the obese expectant mother's body. Triglyceride and NEFA levels are nearly twice as high in obese mothers, even when they consume healthy diets during pregnancy, he said. Read more ..
|Alexander Brown||April 12th 2012|
Hispanics are worse off than whites under certain university admission policies. Study suggests that racial quotas for college admissions remain the most efficient way to diversify campuses. Changes to college admission policies in Texas have been detrimental to Hispanics, according to Dr. Angel Harris and Dr. Maria Tienda from Princeton University in the US. Their work shows that despite popular claims that the “top 10 percent law” has restored diversity to Texas' flagship universities, His-panics are more disadvantaged relative to whites under this policy.The top 10 percent law guarantees admission for students who graduate in the top 10 percent of their high school class.
Their calculations also show that affirmative action or the use of racial quotas for college admissions remains the most efficient policy to diversify college campuses, even in highly segregated states like Texas. Hispanics are the largest and fastest growing segment of Texas' population. Recent changes to college admission policies in Texas were intended to increase college access to a wide spectrum of Texas' population by attracting the very best students of every high school to the state's flagship universities. Harris and Tienda examine the consequences of changes in college enrollment for Hispanics after affirmative action was abandoned for the top 10 percent law. Read more ..
The Way We Are
|Ulrika Bennerstedt||April 11th 2012|
There is a long-lasting and at times intense debate about the possible link between violent computer games and aggressiveness. A group of researchers from the University of Gothenburg, Sweden, are now questioning the entire basis of the discussion. In a recently published article, they present a new study showing that, more than anything, a good ability to cooperate is a prerequisite for success in the violent gaming environment.
One camp in the debate believes that gamers not only learn to cooperate but also to understand complex contexts, how skills can be improved, and cause and effect relationships. The opposing camp, on the other hand, is convinced that the games may foster violent and aggressive behaviour outside the gaming environment.
Complex gaming situations
The study, authored by Ulrika Bennerstedt, Jonas Ivarsson and Jonas Linderoth and titled How gamers manage aggression: Situating skills in collaborative computer games, is presented in International Journal of Computer-Supported Collaborative Learning.
The Gothenburg-based research group spent hundreds of hours playing online games and observing other gamers, including on video recordings. They focused on complex games with portrayals of violence and aggressive action where the participants have to fight with and against each other. "The situations gamers encounter in these games call for sophisticated and well-coordinated collaboration. We analysed what characteristics and knowledge the gamers need to have in order to be successful," says Jonas Ivarsson, Docent (Reader) at the Department of Education, Communication and Learning. Read more ..
Islam on Edge
|Soeren Kern||April 10th 2012|
The top-ranked football team in Spain, Real Madrid, has removed a Christian cross from its official logo as a way to strengthen its fan base among Muslims in Europe and the Middle East. According to Spain’s top sports newspaper, Marca, the change was made to “avoid any form of confusion or misinterpretation in a region where the majority of the population is Muslim.”
Real Madrid says its decision to remove the cross from its logo is simply a cost of doing business in a globalized world. But critics say the move represents yet another erosion of European culture and tradition in the face of encroaching Islam.
The cross controversy comes as Real Madrid begins to build a $1 billion sports tourist resort in the United Arab Emirates. The foundation stone for the 50 hectare Real Madrid Resort Island was laid in the emirate of Ras al-Khaimah on March 29; the complex is scheduled to open in January 2015.
Real Madrid says its resort island will be the first theme park on an artificial island to combine tourism and sports, and it will be the first recreational tourism complex built under the Real Madrid trademark. The complex will include a 450-room luxury hotel, luxury villas, a sporting harbor, and the world’s first-ever football stadium that is open to the sea. Read more ..
The Edge of Health
|Joe Winters||April 10th 2012|
Institute of Physics
A group of US researchers has quantified the amount of radiation obese patients receive when undergoing routine medical scans. Results published have shown that, when undergoing a CT scan, a forced change of operation parameters for obese patients results in an increase of up to 62 per cent in organ radiation exposure compared to lower weight patients. The researchers, from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, hope this new study will help optimise CT scanning procedures to produce safe but effective medical images.
Lead author of the study, Dr Aiping Ding, said: "When a morbidly obese patient undergoes a CT scan, something known as the tube potential needs to be increased to make sure there are enough x-ray photons passing through the body to form a good image. So far, such optimization has been done by trial and error without the use of patient-specific quantitative analysis." When the researchers simulate the increase, the calculated doses of radiation reaching an obese patient's organs increase by 62 per cent in males and 59 per cent in females. Read more ..
The Ancient World
|Sarah Hoyle||April 9th 2012|
In the face of mass deforestation of the Amazon, we could learn from its earliest inhabitants who managed their farmland sustainably. Research from an international team of archaeologists and paleoecologists, published today (9 April 2012) in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, shows for the first time that indigenous people, living in the savannas around the Amazonian forest, farmed without using fire.
Led by the University of Exeter, the research could provide insights into the sustainable use and conservation of these globally-important ecosystems, which are being rapidly destroyed. Pressure on the Amazonian savannas today is intense, with the land being rapidly transformed for industrial agriculture and cattle ranching.
By analysing records of pollen, charcoal and other plant remains like phytoliths spanning more than 2,000 years, the team has created the first detailed picture of land use in the Amazonian savannas in French Guiana. This gives a unique perspective on the land before and after the first Europeans arrived in 1492. Read more ..
Edge of Mental Health
|Thekla Hritz||April 8th 2012|
African-Americans and Hispanics with major depressive disorder are less likely to get antidepressants than Caucasian patients, and Medicare and Medicaid patients are less likely to get the newest generation of antidepressants. In a paper, researchers from the University of Michigan School of Public Health examined data from 1993 to 2007 to try to understand the antidepressant prescribing patterns of physicians.
Researchers looked at two things: who received antidepressants, and what type of antidepressant was prescribed. They found that race, payment source, physician ownership status and geographical region influenced whether physicians decided to prescribe antidepressants in the first place. Age and payment source influenced which types of antidepressants patients received.
The study found that Caucasians were 1.52 times more likely to be prescribed antidepressants than Hispanic and African-American patients being treated for major depressive disorders. However, patient race was not a factor in the physician's choice of a specific type of antidepressant medication.
The paper is entitled 'Physician prescribing patterns of innovative antidepressants in the United States: The care of MDD Patients 1992-2007,' appearing online in the International Journal of Psychiatry in Medicine. This study confirmed previous findings that sociological factors, such as race and ethnicity, and patient health insurance status, influence physician prescribing behaviors," said Associate Professor Rajesh Balkrishnan, of the University of Michigan School of Public Health. Read more ..
Cities on Edge
|Mary Makarushka||April 7th 2012|
Soil Science Society of America
Urban soils have long presented a challenge to the soil scientist. Many heavily urbanized sites have been repeatedly excavated, admixed, cut, filled, and graded over to the point where they look like dirt and debris mixed up in a blender and pressed with a giant trash compactor. When there’s seemingly no rhyme or reason to a site, the soils can be difficult to map and their study may call for some unconventional approaches.
In Detroit, however, soil scientist and geologist Jeffrey L. Howard is finding that some of the city’s vacant lots and demolition do provide a surprising “natural laboratory” for studying certain processes involved in soil formation, particularly the weathering of rocky and mineral objects within the soil layers.
Howard has been analyzing soil pits in the heart of the Motor City since the early 1990s, when he first dug an experimental pit on the site of a demolished building a few blocks away from his office at Wayne State University. Despite the urban setting, he was surprised to notice the similarity between the chunks of mortar and iron nails weathering there and the rocky and mineral materials that undergo oxidation, leaching, erosion, and other weathering processes in naturally occurring soils. Read more ..
Russia on Edge
|James Brooke||April 6th 2012|
Read more ..
One month ago, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin easily won a six-year term as president, despite vigorous rallies by activists opposing his candidacy. Does his victory mean the end of Russia’s opposition movement? Not likely, it seems. On Wednesday, barriers to registering a political party in Russia dropped sharply - from a requirement to collect 40,000 supporters' signatures to just 500. And with that came a wave of new parties hoping to garner votes. Russia will now have its Party of Love and Party of Beer Lovers. Voters will be able to choose between the Party of Subtropical Russia and the Party of Social Networking Sites. And the Ten Commandments Party and a movement called Kind People of Russia also lined up to register.
Mark Feygin, long an activist for an unregistered political group, says he and his friends are going to form their own party. He has not chosen a name yet, but says it will be a libertarian free-market party. Coming as Moscow’s temperatures finally push above freezing, this political thaw reflects one of three promises for reform that President Dmitry Medvedev made in December to protesters demanding more democracy.
The Edge of Medicine
|Chris Chipello||April 6th 2012|
One in eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer during her lifetime. The earlier cancer is detected, the better the chance of successful treatment and long-term survival. However, early cancer diagnosis is still challenging as testing by mammography remains cumbersome, costly, and in many cases, cancer can only be detected at an advanced stage. A team based in the Dept. of Biomedical Engineering at McGill University’s Faculty of Medicine has developed a new microfluidics-based microarray that could one day radically change how and when cancer is diagnosed.
For years, scientists have worked to develop blood tests for cancer based on the presence of the Carcinoembryonic Antigen (CEA), a protein biomarker for cancer identified over 40 years ago by McGill’s Dr. Phil Gold. This biomarker, however, is also found in healthy people and its concentration varies from person to person depending on genetic background and lifestyle. As such, it has not been possible to establish a precise cut-off between healthy individuals and those with cancer. “Attempts have been made to overcome this problem of person-to-person variability by seeking to establish a molecular ‘portrait’ of a person by measuring both the concentration of multiple proteins in the blood and identifying the signature molecules that, taken together, constitute a characteristic ‘fingerprint’ of cancer,” explains Dr. David Juncker, the team’s principal investigator. “However, no reliable set of biomarkers has been found, and no such test is available today. Our goal is to find a way around this.” Read more ..
The Medical Edge
A University of Colorado Boulder-led research team has discovered that two protein receptors in the central nervous system team up to respond to morphine and cause unwanted neuroinflammation, a finding with implications for improving the efficacy of the widely used painkiller while decreasing its abuse potential.
Scientists have known that a particular protein receptor known as toll-like receptor 4 (TLR4) helps to activate inflammation-signaling pathways to attack foreign substances like bacteria and viruses, said CU-Boulder Assistant Professor Hang “Hubert” Yin of the chemistry and biochemistry department. The new study showed opiod analgesics like morphine also trigger such neuroinflammation by first binding to an accessory protein receptor known as a myeloid differentiation protein receptor 2 (MD-2), which then works in concert with TLR4 to respond to morphine in the central nervous system, said Yin, who led the study.
The new findings should help researchers develop new drugs not only to increase the effectiveness of medical opiates like morphine by preventing neuroinflammation that enhances pain by increasing the excitability of neurons in the pain pathway, but also to influence the TLR4/MD-2 protein complex in a way that may help prevent drug abuse. Such pharmaceuticals could be designed to decrease side effects like tolerance, dependence, and addiction not only in opiates, but in methamphetamines, cocaine and even alcohol, said Yin, also a faculty member at CU’s BioFrontiers Institute. Read more ..
Employment on Edge
|Amy Biegelsen||April 2nd 2012|
Gary Terrio used to work for himself driving lost luggage from the airport in Manchester, N.H., out to the owners’ homes. “Working with my own business I could deliver whatever I wanted,” he says. “If it was something that was ridiculous, I could say no.”
When he and his wife started a family, he started looking for something more lucrative and stable. He heard that FedEx Ground drivers in the shipping giant’s home delivery division bought their delivery routes and worked them as their own business, which sounded pretty good. He could earn more and still be his own boss.
“And is that how it panned out?” Terrio laughs. “It was nothing, nothing, nothing of what they said.” Rather than making his own schedule, he had to be at the package terminal for pick-up at 6:00am FedEx Ground paid by the delivery, not the hour, and assigned the roster of packages each day. If Terrio delivered the package outside the window of time that FedEx assigned or if a customer complained, his paycheck got docked. He had to buy his own FedEx specified truck and financed and insured it by refinancing the mortgage on his house. After all the expenses and deductions, he says he’d be lucky to bring home $500 a week. “I would have loved to have been just an independent contractor,” he says. Instead, “I felt like an employee.” Read more ..
|Irena Chalupa||April 2nd 2012|
"She’s just a loose girl,” responded my Kyiv colleague when I asked her about how Ukrainian media were covering the tragic story of Oksana Makar, an 18-year-old girl from the southern city of Mykolayiv who had been gang-raped, strangled, dumped in a pit, and set ablaze.
On the day of our conversation, Oksana was fighting for her life. Her kidneys were severely damaged, one of her arms had been amputated, her lungs were in danger, and 55 percent of her body was burned. I frankly didn’t know how to respond to such a value judgment from an intelligent and, by all previous indications, seemingly compassionate woman.
Sadly, her response mirrored that of many other people in the Ukrainian world of web forums, tabloid talk shows, and newspapers. Oksana’s horrible story laid open the hardness and heartlessness that is part and parcel of today’s Ukrainian society.
Ukraine’s female protesters from the Femen group, whose trademark is to protest topless, stormed the state prosecutor’s office holding signs reading “Death to sadists” and “The country demands revenge.” They were quickly bundled off by the police, but not before the cameras had their fill. Read more ..
Russia on Edge
|Tom Balmforth||April 1st 2012|
Facing a local media blackout in Yaroslavl, opposition mayoral candidate Yevgeny Urlashov traveled to Moscow this week in an effort to get his message out to voters via national media. Invited to appear on the popular Ekho Moskvy radio station, Urlashov discussed his campaign, his program, and his plans for the city should he be elected. The interview was broadcast all over Russia -- except, that is, where it would have mattered. The station's signal was mysteriously blocked in Yaroslavl.
Then Urlashov's offices were raided by Russian police. The Ekho Moskvy incident is typical of what Urlashov, a maverick city council deputy, has been facing since he took first place in the March 4 opening round of the city's mayoral election with more than 40 percent of the vote. He is the clear front-runner going into the April 1 runoff against Yakov Yakushev of the ruling United Russia party, who took just 27 percent in the first round. Read more ..
Myanmar on Edge
|Patrick Reed||April 1st 2012|
From VOA and Services
|Aung San Suu Kyi (credit: Htoo Tay Zar)|
Voters in Burma cast ballots Sunday in parliamentary elections seen as a crucial test of the country’s democratic reform progress. Candidates vied for 45 seats in the 664-seat parliament in the first by-elections since the new, nominally civilian government took office in March of last year. For the first time, the government has invited a small number of foreign observers and journalists to witness the elections.
Main opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, who heads the National League for Democracy (NLD), ran for the first time since 1990, when her party won a landslide victory in general elections. At that time, military leaders refused to relinquish power and kept her in some form of detention for most of the next 20 years.
The NLD alleged Sunday that some ballot papers had been covered in wax, which could be rubbed off later to change the votes. The opposition also complained of voter intimidation.
Aung San Suu Kyi, who is widely expected to win, has said she does not expect Burma’s election to be fair, but that it is still significant. She was released from house arrest shortly after the November 2010 elections—won by military-backed candidates and marred by widespread complaints of cheating—and got actively engaged in the political process. The NLD boycotted that election after she was not permitted to run. Read more ..
Catholic Church on Edge
|Martin Barillas||March 31st 2012|
Cutting Edge Senior Correspondent
Cardinal Christoph Schönborn, who leads the Roman Catholic Church in Austria, has apparently confirmed that an openly homosexual man may serve on the parish council at a church in Stutzenhofen – a town in the Weinviertel region.
Florian Stangl was elected to the advisory post by members of the congregation, but apparently did not find approval on the part of his pastor, Rev. Gerhard Swierzek.
Stangl and his companion resorted to asking for a personal interview with Cardinal Schonborn, who then spoke with the pair and dined with them. According to Austrian daily Die Presse, Cardinal Schonborn decided that Stangl should not be excluded from the position, but the decision was not made public until March 30. Rev. Swierzek, who had opposed the homosexual Stangl, has since received death threats. Gasoline is said to have been poured through a window at his rectory, while a local newspaper reported that there was a rumour that the priest had left on vacation. Read more ..
The Arab Winter in Egypt
|Eric Trager||March 31st 2012|
Shortly after mass protests toppled Hosni Mubarak last February, Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood sought to assuage fears of an "Islamist takeover" by making two promises to both the international community and to Egyptian secularist parties: that it would run candidates in fewer than 50 percent of the parliamentary races, and that it would not run a presidential candidate. Yet one month before the parliamentary elections, the Brotherhood backtracked on its first promise. Fearing that upstart Salafist parties would steal its thunder, the Brotherhood's electoral alliance ran a full slate of candidates. The reversal paid off: The Brotherhood won a 47-percent parliamentary plurality, nearly doubling the second-place Salafists' 24-percent take.
Now the Brotherhood is considering a second flip-flop: Its leaders are deliberating over whether to run a presidential candidate. They fear that, without a Muslim Brotherhood presidential candidate, the organization's younger members will vote for Abdel Monem Abouel Fotouh -- a popular former Brotherhood leader whom the organization banished last year after he declared his presidential candidacy despite the Brotherhood's policy against running a presidential candidate at that time. If a critical mass of Muslim Brotherhood members vote for the outcast Abouel Fotouh, it would represent a major affront to the organization's leadership.
So how is the Muslim Brotherhood leadership conducting this intra-party deliberation of obvious national importance? The answer is revealing, if not reassuring, about the Brotherhood's political practices.
Zakariya Helmy, an activist in the Brotherhood-affiliated Freedom and Justice Party, told me that Brotherhood leaders were claiming that they had sought the counsel of the organization's rank-and-file members. "The argument [that the Brotherhood leaders are making] is that, before we take any decision, we start taking the opinion of the grassroots of the local areas and members of every local area," he says. Read more ..
|Chris Hamby||March 30th 2012|
|GPC Plant, Muscaine, Iowa (credit: Chris Hamby/iWatch)|
For years, people living in the Mississippi River town of Muscatine, Iowa, have complained about the ash and smoke blowing into their neighborhood from a corn processing plant. State regulators have brought enforcement cases against the company, but the town’s South End neighborhood remains under a haze.
On March 27, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency stepped in, alleging years of violations of air pollution rules at the plant owned by Grain Processing Corp. The letter issued to the company, known as GPC, doesn’t impose penalties, but puts it on notice that the EPA is considering an enforcement case. GPC spokesman Janet Sichterman said company officials are reviewing the notice and “aren’t in a position to make a comment on it now.”
The action comes as the company is battling the Iowa attorney general, who has alleged separate violations of air and water pollution rules in a lawsuit. A group of citizens, calling themselves Clean Air Muscatine, has filed a petition to intervene in that case, saying the state’s previous actions against GPC have failed to protect people living near the facility. Read more ..
Religious Tolerance on Edge
|Stacey Dresner||March 29th 2012|
The Jewish Ledger
A condominium owner in Stratford, Conn has been told by her condo association that she must remove the mezuzah from her doorpost. The California Condo Association has asked condo owner Barbara Cadranel to remove the mezuzah—the small object placed on the doorpost of a Jewish family’s home in fulfillment of religious obligations—and has threatened to fine her $50 a day for keeping it up.
According to its agreement with its condo owners, the California Condo Association does allow for the display of items such as Christmas wreaths and crosses on condo unit doors, but does not allow for the display of items, such as mezuzot, on building structures such as doorposts, which it defines as common areas. Now, the incident is in the local news, and the Anti-Defamation League and a Washington, D.C. law office specializing in religious rights have gotten involved.
The Connecticut Regional Office of the ADL has sent a letter asking the association in Stratford to allow Cadranel to keep her mezuzah hanging on the doorpost of her unit. “A mezuzah is not a decorative choice for Jews, or a choice of any kind,” said ADL’s Connecticut Regional Director Gary Jones. “Requiring its removal is tantamount to requiring a Jewish person to move. Thousands of condominium owners throughout Connecticut display mezuzahs on their doorposts without any issue. We are confident that the California Condo Association can accommodate the religious requirements of all its owners and ensure that people of all backgrounds are able to live in the building as part of an inclusive community without undermining the goals of its bylaws.” Read more ..
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