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The Digital Edge

Cafe Conquerors Use High-Tech Gadgets to Make Public Spaces Their Own ... For Hours

May 8th 2012

Starbucks Wireless

Increasingly "plugged-in" customers are grabbing extra seats, counter space and table tops by using cell phones, laptops and cups of steaming hot coffee to shield others from seemingly public spaces, according to two marketing professors who've studied this brewing consumer clash. Just the act of purchasing a cup of coffee emblazoned with the café logo is enough to give customers territorial rights, which can lead to decreased space turnover and discouraged customers who can't find a place to sit, the researchers found. It's a café conundrum, according to marketing professors Merlyn Griffiths, of the University of North Carolina, Greensboro, and Mary Gilly, of the University of California, Irvine, who report on the latest territorial consumer behavior in the current issue of the Journal of Service Research. Nowhere is the premium on space to sit and sip greater than in cafes and coffee shops, where establishments like Starbucks, Peet's Coffee and Tea and Panera Bread have invited their customers to linger a while and enjoy the atmosphere along with their coffee beverages. Read more ..

The Digital Edge

Best Websites Balance Self-Expression and Functionality

May 8th 2012

Frustrated computer user

Giving people the freedom -- but not too much freedom -- to express themselves may help designers build more interactive web portals and online communities, according to Penn State researchers. The researchers found that people increased their interactivity and developed a greater sense of community when they could write their own blog posts, change the look of their site and add gadgets, such as weather and news feeds, to personalized websites or portals. However, the researchers noted that interactivity and satisfaction dropped if participants had the option to choose from a large number of functional gadgets.

"Interactivity is more about user psychology, rather than the more-is-better approach that some engineers and designers choose to take," said S. Shyam Sundar, Distinguished Professor of Communications and co-director of the Media Effects Research Laboratory. "We need to strategically use interactive tools to help people interact in ways that are beneficial to both the users and site owners." Read more ..

Iran on Edge

Iran Prohibits Banks From Sending Statements To “Foreign” E-mail Addresses

May 8th 2012

Reza Taghipour
Reza Taghipour

Iran’s Minister of Communications and Information technology, Reza Taghipour has sent a letter to the head of the country’s Central Bank, Mahmud Bahmani, asking him to instruct banks to refrain from sending bank statements to e-mail addresses administered by foreign providers. In his letter, Taghipour says that banned foreign e-mail providers include Yahoo, Hotmail, Gmail, and MSN.

The communications minister has called on banks to only accept national e-mail addresses from customers when they open accounts. Taghipour has requested that banks provide access to the Internet for customers to be able to create national e-mail accounts at their premises. The move appears to be aimed at forcing citizens to join the national e-mail system, which many Iranians have been reluctant to use.

Some Iranian websites have reported that the use of the national e-mail is obligatory for those working for the government and state institutions. Iranians have complained several times in recent months that access to their Gmail and other foreign e-mail accounts has been disrupted. These complaints came at a time when the Iranian media reported that the national e-mail system had been also disrupted. Officials did not provide any explanation for the disruption, which angered many. Read more ..

The Way We Are

Brain Scans Unleash Canine Thoughts

May 8th 2012

Callie practices for fMRI

When your dog gazes up at you adoringly, what does it see? A best friend? A pack leader? A can opener?

Many dog lovers make all kinds of inferences about how their pets feel about them, but no one has captured images of actual canine thought processes – until now. Emory University researchers have developed a new methodology to scan the brains of alert dogs and explore the minds of the oldest domesticated species. The technique uses harmless functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI), the same tool that is unlocking secrets of the human brain.

The Public Library of Science (PLoS ONE) is publishing the results of their first experiment, showing how the brains of dogs reacted to hand signals given by their owners. “It was amazing to see the first brain images of a fully awake, unrestrained dog,” says Gregory Berns, director of the Emory Center for Neuropolicy and lead researcher of the dog project. “As far as we know, no one has been able to do this previously. We hope this opens up a whole new door for understanding canine cognition and inter-species communication. We want to understand the dog-human relationship, from the dog’s perspective.”

Key members of the research team include Andrew Brooks, a graduate student at the Center for Neuropolicy, and Mark Spivak, a professional dog trainer and owner of Comprehensive Pet Therapy in Atlanta. Two dogs are involved in the first phase of the project. Callie is a two-year-old Feist, or southern squirrel-hunting dog. Berns adopted her at nine months from a shelter. McKenzie is a three-year-old Border Collie, who was already well-trained in agility competition by her owner, Melissa Cate. Both dogs were trained over several months to walk into an fMRI scanner and hold completely still while researchers measured their neural activity.

The researchers aim to decode the mental processes of dogs by recording which areas of their brains are activated by various stimuli. Ultimately, they hope to get at questions like: Do dogs have empathy? Do they know when their owners are happy or sad? How much language do they really understand? Read more ..

The Digital Edge

Bandwidth Caps Create Uncertainty, Risky Decisions

May 8th 2012

Hand on Mouse

Recently, many U.S. Internet service providers have fallen in line with their international counterparts in capping monthly residential broadband usage. A new study by a Georgia Tech researcher, conducted during an internship at Microsoft Research, shows such pricing models trigger uneasy user experiences that could be mitigated by better tools for monitoring data usage through their home networks.

Home users, the study found, typically manage their capped broadband access against three uncertainties—invisible balances, mysterious processes, and multiple users—and these uncertainties have predictable impacts on household Internet use and can force difficult choices on users. Given the undeniable trend in both Internet norms (such as cloud-based applications) and home-entertainment delivery toward greater broadband requirements, the study seeks to create awareness and empathy among designers and researchers about the experience of Internet use under bandwidth caps.

Marshini Chetty, a postdoctoral researcher in Georgia Tech’s School of Interactive Computing, interviewed 12 households in South Africa, a country in which broadband caps were universal until February 2010. Typically, the caps set by South African ISPs are severe, with some plans only offering 1 GB of data per month. At the time of the study, the caps ranged up to 9GB of data, far lower than the 150GB-250GB caps set by U.S. providers. Read more ..

The Edge of Health

A Place to Play: Researcher Designs Schoolyard for Children With Autism

May 7th 2012


A Kansas State University graduate student is creating a schoolyard that can become a therapeutic landscape for children with autism. Chelsey King, master's student in landscape architecture, St. Peters, Mo., is working with Katie Kingery-Page, assistant professor of landscape architecture, to envision a place where elementary school children with autism could feel comfortable and included. "My main goal was to provide different opportunities for children with autism to be able to interact in their environment without being segregated from the rest of the school," King said. "I didn't want that separation to occur."

The schoolyard can be an inviting place for children with autism, King said, if it provides several aspects: clear boundaries, a variety of activities and activity level spaces, places where the child can go when overstimulated, opportunities for a variety of sensory input without being overwhelming and a variety of ways to foster communication between peers. "The biggest issue with traditional schoolyards is that they are completely open but also busy and crowded in specific areas," King said. "This can be too overstimulating for a person with autism." Read more ..

The 2012 Vote

Unconscious Racial Attitudes Playing Large Role in 2012 Presidential Vote

May 7th 2012

Click to select Image

After the 2008 election of President Barack Obama, many proclaimed that the country had entered a post-racial era in which race was no longer an issue. However, a new large-scale study shows that racial attitudes have already played a substantial role in 2012, during the Republican primaries. They may play an even larger role in this year's presidential election.

The study, led by psychologists at the University of Washington, shows that between January and April 2012 eligible voters who favored whites over blacks – either consciously or unconsciously – also favored Republican candidates relative to Barack Obama.

"People were saying that with Obama's election race became a dead issue, but that's not at all the case," said lead investigator Anthony Greenwald, a UW psychology professor. Read more ..

The Medical Edge

Multiple Thought Channels May Help Brain Avoid Traffic Jams

May 7th 2012

traffic jam

Brain networks may avoid traffic jams at their busiest intersections by communicating on different frequencies, researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, the University Medical Center at Hamburg-Eppendorf and the University of Tübingen have learned.

“Many neurological and psychiatric conditions are likely to involve problems with signaling in brain networks,” says co-author Maurizio Corbetta, MD, the Norman J. Stupp Professor of Neurology at Washington University. “Examining the temporal structure of brain activity from this perspective may be especially helpful in understanding psychiatric conditions like depression and schizophrenia, where structural markers are scarce.”

Scientists usually study brain networks — areas of the brain that regularly work together — using magnetic resonance imaging, which tracks blood flow. They assume that an increase in blood flow to part of the brain indicates increased activity in the brain cells of that region. Read more ..

The War on Terror

What Ever Happened to Victory Day?

May 7th 2012

victory in europe day

May 8 marks the sixty-seventh anniversary of VE Day, marking victory over Nazi Germany in World War II. On that day Americans poured into the streets, horns blared, factory whistles shrieked, and churches filled. President Harry S. Truman proclaimed over the radio, “The flags of freedom fly over all Europe.”

Since that day, we have known plenty of wars, but no VK Day, VN Day, VI Day, or VA Day marking conflicts in Korea, Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan.

Why? What changed?

For one thing, people grow war-weary. U.S participation in World War II lasted three years and eight months. By contrast, the Iraq War lasted eight years and nine months. Afghanistan has gone on for ten years and seven months and still counting.

Further, the scale of warfare has changed. VE Day ended a conflict fought between massive, uniformed armies, with enemies easily identified and battles clearly demarked: Anzio, Normandy, the Bulge. Since then, we have fought diffuse wars against foes who strike and melt into the local population and landscape, with lines so porous and ill-defined as to present wars without fronts. And they end, or drag on, in ambiguous victory, stalemate, or even defeat. Their battles are remembered by those who fought and bled in them -- Heartbreak Ridge in Korea, Hamburger Hill and Hue in Vietnam, Fallujah in Iraq, Kandahar and Kunduz in Afghanistan -- but recalled by few others. Read more ..

Islam on Edge

Foreign Policy Magazine Puts the 'Sex' into Islam's Treatment of Women

May 6th 2012

Muslim woman says they hate us

One of the most revered journals on the political front has taken a cue from Sports Illustrated: Foreign Policy now has a sex issue, indeed what is billed as “the sex issue.” Someone forgot to tell the editors that there is such a thing as “gender,” since there is very little bedroom-variety “sex” revealed in the articles. If a review of “Women in Politics” is about “sex,” then the journal misses out on the real sex going on, like politician John Edwards cavorting while running for President and several secret servicemen strip clubbing the night away in Columbia. And if what is going on from India to Iran is “the new politics of sex,” it looks a lot like the old. The reader might even accuse the journal of false advertising, since the seductive pose of a model clad in hijab black on the cover suggests more politically incorrect eye candy inside.

The lead article by journalist Mona Eltahawy has launched a barrage of commentaries and counter commentaries in the academic community. Echoing the cover tag, she asks “Why do They Hate Us?” with a less than subtle subtitle of “The Real War on Women is in the Middle East.” Read more ..

Azerbaijan on Edge

Azerbaijani Government Awarded Gold-Field Rights To President's Family

May 6th 2012


Novruz Allahverdiyev, 40, lives in a mud house in the village of Chovdar, a small mining town in the mountainous region near the border with Armenia. He is one of 800,000 internally displaced persons from the war with Armenia that battered his native Nagorno-Karabakh region in the early 1990s. Allahverdiyev and members of 60 other displaced families found shelter and a place to farm in the mountains around Chovdar. Like many in his predicament, Allahverdiyev is patriotic, and the walls of his poor home are plastered with pages from an aging calendar featuring portraits of President Ilham Aliyev and his late father, former President Heydar Aliyev.

Allahverdiyev's family now faces yet another problem. A British mining company has taken over some of his land and has blocked one of the two streams his village relies on for water. Allahverdiyev is sure President Aliyev will help him and his community. But his faith may be misplaced. What Allahverdiyev doesn't know is that the president and his family own a stake in the new mine. The U.K. company is actually a front for the first family. Read more ..

The Edge of Food

Coffee Grounds used in Taiwan to Produce Fabrics, Clothing, and Shoes

May 6th 2012

Coffee tasters

Coffee grounds have helped turned a once struggling Taiwan firm into a thriving business - one that reports annual earnings of more than $6.6 million. Since 2009, Singtex Industrial Company of New Taipei City has taken the waste from two major coffee store chains, for free, and used it to make shoes, jackets, pants and handbags.

The company says coffee grounds cut odors, help fabrics dry faster than normal and resist ultraviolet light. The came from the existing use of coffee grounds as odor eaters, says Singtex brand manager Chiang Po-wei. People normally consider coffee grounds as garbage, he says, but they can actually be used effectively to cut odors in shoe cabinets, even refrigerators and smoking areas. Chiang says taking that idea to the next level, Singtex spent four years carrying out research to make it work in fabrics.

Singtex was founded in 1989 and ventured into China in the 1990s to cut manufacturing costs until the company found that its poorly trained workers were making low-quality fabrics. After pulling out of China, Chief Executive Officer Jason Chen decided to go up market, using his staff of 220 to make more expensive fabrics with a pro-environmental focus. He has done that since 1994. Read more ..

The Education Edge

Are Educators Showing A “Positive Bias“ To Minority Students?

May 5th 2012

Mexican minors

Remember that teacher you grumbled about back in your school days, the really tough one who made you work so hard, insisted you could do better, and made you sweat for your A’s? The one you didn’t appreciate until after you graduated and realized how much you had learned? Minority students in the U.S. might have fewer of those teachers, at least compared to white students, and as a result they might be at a significant learning disadvantage.

A major study, led by Rutgers-Newark psychology professor Kent D. Harber, indicates that public school teachers under-challenge minority students by providing them more positive feedback than they give to white students, for work of equal merit. The study involved 113 white middle school and high school teachers in two public school districts located in the New York/New Jersey/Connecticut tri-state area, one middle class and white, and the other more working class and racially mixed.

Teachers read and commented on a poorly written essay which they believed was composed by a student in a writing class.  Some teachers thought the student was black, some thought the student was Latino, and some thought that the student was white.  Teachers believed that their feedback would be sent directly to the student, in order to see how the student would benefit from their comments and advice. In fact, there was no actual student, and the poorly written essay was developed by Harber and his team.  The real purpose was to see how teachers would respond to subpar work due to the race of the student who composed it.   As Harber and his team predicted, the teachers displayed a “positive feedback bias,” providing more praise and less criticism if they thought the essay was written by a minority student than by a white student. Read more ..

The Education Edge

‘C’ Isn't Average Any More

May 5th 2012

Father and son reading

There’s an old, but often-played, song by the late Sam Cooke whose lyrics go, in part: Now I don't claim to be an "A" student But I'm trying to be. And so are millions of other American children each school term. Being an “A” student signifies being the best, the smartest, the highest achiever. “B” means good but not best, “C” stands for average, “D” for below average, and either “E” or “F” for unsatisfactory, or to put it more harshly, failure.

But in hundreds, maybe thousands, of American schools, nobody’s an A student any more. And the idea of getting “straight A’s” - and thus being the best of the best - is gone as well. There aren’t B or C or F students, either. Thanks to something called “standards-based” report cards, these students are receiving a numerical rating - a number instead of a letter - for their performance in each class.  Those numbers - usually 4 for best, down to 1 - reflect a lot more than just mastery of the subject matter. In a math class in New York State schools, for instance, a 4 means the student can not only add and subtract but has, in the new terminology, displayed high skill in “number sense and operations.” Read more ..

The Health Edge

HPV Vaccine Completion Rate Among Girls Poor, Getting Worse

May 4th 2012

Talking girls

Girls who receive the first dose from a gynecologist/obstetrician more likely to complete series. The proportion of insured girls and young women completing the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine among those who initiated the series has dropped significantly – as much as 63 percent – since the vaccine was approved in 2006, according to new research from the University of Texas Medical Branch (UTMB) in Galveston. The study reveals the steepest decline in vaccine completion among girls and young women aged nine to 18 – the age group that derives the greatest benefit from the vaccine, which should be administered in three doses over six months.

"The first generation of women that could benefit from the only HPV-related cancer vaccine in existence is missing the opportunity," said lead author Abbey B. Berenson, director of the Center for Interdisciplinary Research in Women's Health (CIRWH) at UTMB. "This vaccine prevents one of the most devastating cancers in women."

Researchers examined a large health insurance company's records of 271,976 female patients aged nine and older who received the first dose of the HPV vaccine between 2006 and 2009. Of this full sample, just 38.2 percent received all three doses within 365 days. In all but one age group (27 and older), researchers uncovered a marked drop in the number of females who completed the vaccine series. Read more ..

Inside Somalia

Somalia PM Plans Constitutional Government

May 4th 2012

Somalia Prime Minister

Somalia's Transitional Federal Government is making preparations to hand over power to an elected government in August. The surprising development is being engineered by a Somali-American technocrat intent on ending his native country's reputation as a failed state.

Somalia's Prime Minister Abdiweli Mohamed Ali is a man with a mission. The Harvard-educated Ali could easily go back to his wife and four children and his career as an academic in the United States.  A month ago, he narrowly escaped an assassination attempt that killed two of Somalia's top sports officials. Instead he has chosen to take on what some might call “mission impossible,” returning stability to Somalia after more than 20 years of lawlessness and conflict. Just a few months ago, southern Somalia was in the grip of drought and famine. Much of the countryside was controlled by al-Shabab, an Islamic extremist group that refused to allow Western aid agencies to provide life-saving food aid. As a result, thousands of Somalis died. Read more ..

Afganistan on Edge

Little Succor For Afghanistan's Mentally Ill

May 4th 2012

afgan mentally ill

Decades of war, widespread poverty, and societal restrictions can take a toll on the mind, making Afghanistan uniquely suited as an incubator for mental illness. But while the factors are numerous, the path to treatment is fraught with obstacles ranging from the shame felt by family members, to age-old traditions that compete with modern methods, and a deficiency of professionals and facilities equipped to deal with the situation. Among the mental illnesses affecting Afghans most are depression, anxiety, and posttraumatic stress disorder, but precise statistics are difficult to pin down.

One frequently mentioned figure estimates that 60 percent of the population is affected by some form of mental illness. Other estimates range from around the 15 percent range to as high as 98 percent. Even one of the leading authorities in the field of mental health in Afghanistan, the World Health Organization, expresses skepticism at attempts to quantify the problem. Read more ..

The Edge of Health

Better Prognosis for Breast Cancer in Germany

May 4th 2012

Click to select Image

Excellent treatment results testify to high quality of care at Heidelberg University Hospital’s Breast Center / First publication of prospectively collected data in Germany

How successful is the interdisciplinary treatment of breast cancer? Since 2003, the Breast Center at Heidelberg University Hospital has systematically tracked the course of breast cancer in more than 3,000 patients and, as the first center in Germany, has published these significant prospective results: Eighty-six percent of the patients survived the first five years after onset of treatment, with 80 % of them remaining disease-free during this period. The evaluation was published online in February 2012 in the journal The Breast.

“The prognosis for breast cancer has further improved thanks to new treatment options and consistent interdisciplinary treatment,” said Prof. Christof Sohn, Managing Director of the Heidelberg University Women’s Hospital and Director of the Breast Center. This is proven by the results of treatment in Heidelberg. An evaluation of the German cancer registry for the period from 2000 to 2004 conducted by Robert Koch Institute in 2010 yielded a probability of 79.6 % for disease-free survival in the first five years after treatment. Read more ..

The Digital Edge

Wife Witnesses Soldier Husband's Death in Afghanistan while Skyping

May 4th 2012

Bruce K Clark and family
Capt. Bruce K. Clark (RIP) and family.

Capt. Bruce Kevin Clark of Addison, Michigan, died on May 1 in Tarin Kowt in central Afghanistan. While the Department of Defense is not saying what were the circumstances of his death, an investigation is now going forward. However, modern social media may be able to shed some light. According to a family statement, “Bruce’s wife tragically witnessed her husband’s death during one of their regular Skype video-chats …" WHAM, Channel 13 of Spencerport NY reported on the evening of May 3, "At the time of the incident, the family was hoping for a rescue and miracle, but later learned that it was not to be. Although the circumstances were unimaginable, Bruce’s wife and extended family will be forever thankful that he and his wife were together in his last moments.”

Capt. Clark, 43, was a U.S. Army nurse. He was raised in rural Michigan and moved to western New York some 12 years ago. His wife is from New York, where the couple lived in Spencerport near Rochester. In his 30s, Clark joined the Army and was later assigned to a company out of William Beaumont Army Medical Center in El Paso TX. "Bruce (or Kevin as many knew him) was known for his calm, steady, and caring personality, and his love of service. When you were in Bruce’s presence it was apparent he served a higher purpose," according to the family statement, as reported by YNN TV of Rochester NY. Read more ..

The Edge of Russia

Battle With Moscow Mayor's Office

May 3rd 2012

Russian Protest

When Moscow City Court Judge Svetlana Gavrilina scolded three government inspectors this week for issuing construction permits to build on the site of a federally protected park, it was clear that an unusual ruling was on the way.

“More and more monstrous buildings are springing up all across Moscow! More and more trees are being chopped down and there is less and less air to breathe!" Gavrilina said. "If you want your children to die of cancer, then that is your right. But I won’t have it!" Still visibly angry nearly an hour later, Gavrilina ruled that the Moscow city government illegally felled hundreds of trees to make way for a three-story building on the site of a park at the historic Stroganov estate in Moscow. The ruling was an unusual rebuke to city hall from Moscow's usually docile courts. It was also a most unlikely victory for Sasha Andreyeva, a newly elected opposition deputy in Moscow's Lefortovo District Council. Read more ..

Haiti After the Quake

Haiti, Cholera and the U.N.

May 3rd 2012

Haiti Eathquake Devastation

Haiti, the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, has faced numerous crises over the last two years, from a devastating earthquake and hurricanes, to political instability and a cataclysmic cholera outbreak.

As a result, the country seems to be in perpetual affliction. In your article published on April 30th entitled Haiti, cholera and the U.N., Jane Change and Muneer Ahmad provide an interesting analysis of the spread of the cholera epidemic in Haiti and the U.N.’s involvement in the proliferation and spread of the disease. Although the outbreak was inadvertently caused by the U. N.’s Nepalese troops, as the article points out, the international body did little to address the issue satisfactorily. The reason why Haitians have limited means of redress is not only due to the U. N.’s unwillingness to take action on the issue, but also in part due to what can be described as a lack of quality regarding the leadership of the Caribbean country. Read more ..

The Health Edge

Nigerian Midwives Improve Rural Healthcare

May 3rd 2012

Nigera Mid-wives

Maternal healthcare is improving in rural Nigeria thanks to a program to expand the use of midwives. The program could serve as a model for other developing countries. It’s called the Midwife Service Scheme and it’s a year old. National Coordinator Dr. Ugo Okoli said the program takes advantage of a large pool of skilled women. “Nigeria actually has a lot of midwives on its register. So when you go to the Nursing and Midwifery Council - where the midwives register, get their licensing and all that – they actually do have quite a number of midwives registered there. But the issue we have is where are they working?” Most were not working in rural areas.

“A lot of them actually work in the city centers, in general hospitals, in teaching hospitals. While not a lot of them are working in the rural areas – the primary healthcare centers where we actually need them,” she said. Read more ..

The Way We Are

In the Wake of the Great Recessions, Americans Postpone Retirement

May 3rd 2012

Baby Boomer

New research shows that 40 percent of older Americans postponed retirement in the wake of the Great Recession.

The research, presented at the annual meeting of the Population Association of America, is the first to link actual data on household wealth just before and after the downturn to the retirement plans of a nationally representative sample of Americans age 50 and older. "The typical household lost about 5 percent of its total wealth between the summers of 2008 and 2009," said Brooke Helppie McFall, an economist at the University of Michigan Institute for Social Research (ISR). "The average person would need to work between 3.7 and 5 years longer than they planned in order to make up the money they lost."

But people do not intend to work long enough to make up everything they lost, according to McFall. "In considering when to retire, people make trade-offs between their desire for more leisure and for more time to spend with friends and family, and their desire to be financially secure in retirement," she said. "So the typical person we surveyed who planned to work longer because of the recession only planned to work about 1.6 years longer than they had originally planned. That isn't long enough to make up what they lost, but they're trading off time for money." Read more ..

The Medical Edge

African-Americans Face Roadblocks to HIV Therapy

May 2nd 2012


African-Americans with HIV are much less likely to adhere to drug therapy than others with the disease, according to a University of Michigan study. Moreover, untreated depression may greatly hinder adherence to antiretroviral therapy (ART) for all low-income, HIV-infected patients, regardless of race.

The study is the first known to indicate a true racial disparity in antiretroviral therapy adherence, says Rajesh Balkrishnan, associate professor at the University of Michigan School of Public Health and the College of Pharmacy. Less than 30 percent of African-American HIV patients in the one-year study sustained optimal adherence to ART, compared to 40 percent of other HIV patients. "Our results show an alarming disparity in the quality of pharmaceutical care provided to African-American Medicaid enrollees with HIV," Balkrishnan said. "These enrollees have much lower adherence rates to ARTs and a 10 percent higher incidence of depression." Read more ..

The Health Edge

Flash-Heating Breast Milk For HIV Feasible For Women In Poor Countries

May 2nd 2012

Breast Milk Flash Heated

An international team led by UC Davis researchers has found that mothers in sub-Saharan Africa could successfully follow a protocol for flash-heating breastmilk to reduce transmission of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) -- the virus that causes AIDS -- to their infants. Flash-heating breastmilk is recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO) for HIV-infected mothers during times of increased transmission risk. The technique involves expressing breastmilk into a glass jar that is placed in a small pot of water and heated until the water boils. UC Davis research shows that women in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, could flash heat their breast milk to reduce the chances of HIV transmission.
Previous research from UC Davis and UC Berkeley showed that this process inactivates HIV in breastmilk, while retaining the milk's nutritional and infection-fighting properties. But whether or not women in poor countries would be willing and able to successfully use the technique had not been established.  Read more ..

Pakistan on Edge

As Peshawar’s Bookstores Close, Isolation Grows

May 2nd 2012

Bookstall at Peshawar's agriculture university
Book stall at Peshawar's agriculture university (credit: RFE/RL)

For more than 55 years, the Maktaba-e Sarhad bookstore has been a cultural monument in the heart of Peshawar.

But now, the store is closing. “Those who love reading books have no money, and those with money are busy in other activities,” owner Haji Rasheed says, with tears in his eyes, amid his once-crowded bookshelves. When he opened in 1956, he says, he had a “missionary’s zeal” to squeeze the whole world of ideas into his medium-sized shop. And he succeeded. His shop had 30,000 books in English, Pashto, and Urdu, ranging from literature to studies of law, theology, medicine, and political science.

But beginning last month, Rasheed priced everything at 50 percent off. Now, with just 3,000 books left, he is turning from selling books to the more profitable business of selling computers, radios, and televisions instead. Read more ..

The Edge of Urban Art

Murals Brighten Baltimore Neighborhood

May 1st 2012

voa image

A neighborhood in the East Coast city of Baltimore is getting a facelift. Artists from across the United States and around the world are painting murals on buildings, some of which have been vacant for years. Freddy Sam is putting the finishing touches on a large mural with an elephant at one end and mountain in the center. “This is Table Mountain from back home,” he says. “I wanted to bring some nature to Baltimore.”  Sam came from South Africa to participate in the program known as Open Walls. He’s painted murals across the world. “I get to learn about the world through painting art. If I came here as a tourist, I would never have seen Baltimore the way I saw it painting a mural.”

In fact, few tourists see this neighborhood, known as Station North. It fell on hard luck decades ago. But 10 years ago, it was designated an arts and entertainment district. Ben Stone, executive director of the Station North district, hopes the murals will attract more visitors. “Penn Station, our main train station, is in the district, so it's an easy area to get to, and this is another reason to come here.” Baltimore street artist, Gaia, curated Open Walls in the city’s Station North Arts and Entertainment District. His mural was one of the first to be completed.
Station North is also home to artists like Gaia. He’s curating Open Walls. “I wanted to choose people that weren’t necessarily the brightest stars, but were doing remarkable work throughout the world.” Like Interesni Kazki, a duo from Ukraine. Their mural features a fantasy walled city painted in bright yellow, red and orange. Individually the artists are known as Oleksii Bordusov and Vladimir Manzhos. Read more ..

The Edge of Society

TV Alcohol Advertising May Play Role in Underage Drinking

April 29th 2012

TV alcohol

Minors who were familiar with television alcohol advertisements were more likely to have tried alcoholic beverages and binge drink than those who could not recall seeing such ads, according to a study to be presented Sunday, April 29, at the Pediatric Academic Societies (PAS) annual meeting in Boston.

"Underage drinking remains an important health risk in the U.S.," said lead author Susanne E. Tanski, MD, MPH, FAAP, assistant professor in the Department of Pediatrics at Children's Hospital at Dartmouth, Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center. "In this study, we have shown a link between recognition of nationally televised alcohol advertisements and underage drinking initiation and heavier use patterns." Previous research by Dr. Tanski and her colleagues showed an association between seeing smoking and drinking in movies and adolescents engaging in these risky behaviors. This study expanded on that research by exploring whether there is an association between young people's exposure to television alcohol advertising and substance use. Read more ..

The Health Edge

Low-Income Moms Under Stress May Overfeed Infants

April 29th 2012


Single mothers and those with symptoms of depression more likely to add cereal to bottles. Efforts to prevent obesity among low-income infants should focus not only on what babies are being fed but also the reasons behind unhealthy feeding practices, according to a study, Pediatric Academic Societies (PAS). Adding cereal to bottles is one unhealthy practice that is discouraged by the American Academy of Pediatrics because it may lead to overfeeding and excess weight gain in infants. Researchers sought to determine factors associated with putting cereal in bottles among low-income, primarily Latino households in which the risk for child obesity is high.

Mothers of 254 infants were asked if they ever added cereal to bottles to help their babies sleep longer or stay full longer. Researchers also collected information on mothers' age, language, country of origin, marital status, education and income; whether the mother had symptoms of depression; and infants' age, gender and whether the infant was felt to have strong emotional reactions (a high intensity temperament). The data were collected as part of the larger Bellevue Project for Early Language, Literacy and Education Success (BELLE Project). Funded by the National Institutes of Health/National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, the BELLE Project is following infants from birth to first grade to study issues related to parenting and child development. Results showed that 24 percent of mothers put cereal in bottles. Those with depressive symptoms were 15 times more likely to add cereal than mothers who did not have symptoms of depression. Read more ..

The Americas on Edge

Latin America's Growing Scourge: Child-Soldiers

April 29th 2012

El Salvadoran Child Soldier

Approximately 300,000 children around the globe have been recruited as child soldiers. These children are forced to enter “various armed groups, civil militia, paramilitaries and government armed forces.” According to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of a Child, any person under the age of 18 years unless under specific law is considered a child. In accordance with international law, it is illegal for a child under the age of 18 to actively participate in the armed forces of their country, and the recruitment of a child under the age of 15 is deemed a “war crime.”

A child soldier is deemed as anyone “under eighteen years of age, who is part of any kind of regular or irregular armed force, any group serving in any military capacity, including, but not necessarily limited to: cooks, porters, messengers, and anyone accompanying such groups other than family members.” Young girls and boys are also noted to be recruited “for forced sexual purposes and/or forced marriage,” and are often times trafficked.

Although this age limit is moderately new (created in 2002 by the Optional Protocol to the Convention of the Rights of a Child), this decadent practice stills occurs in different parts of the world, particularly in Africa, Asia, and Latin America. It is important to highlight the fact that prior to the above-cited protocol passed in 2002, the minimum age for participating in the armed conflict was fifteen, according to the 1949 Geneva Convention and the 1977 additional protocols. Read more ..

The Health Edge

Familiarity With Television Fast Food Ads Linked to Obesity

April 29th 2012


Adolescents and young adults who recognized TV ads for quick-service restaurants more likely to be overweight. There is a long-held concern that youths who eat a lot of fast food are at risk for becoming overweight. New research shows that greater familiarity with fast-food restaurant advertising on television is associated with obesity in young people. "We know that children and adolescents are highly exposed to fast-food restaurant advertising, particularly on television. This study links obesity in young people to familiarity with this advertising, suggesting that youth who are aware of and receptive to televised fast-food marketing may be at risk for health consequences," said lead author Auden C. McClure, MD, MPH, FAAP, assistant professor in the Department of Pediatrics at Children's Hospital at Dartmouth, Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center.

Previous research has shown that watching TV is associated with obesity. Dr. McClure and her colleagues sought to determine whether recognition of fast-food ads on TV is associated with obesity in adolescents and young adults. The researchers surveyed a national sample of 3,342 youths ages 15 to 23 years. Participants were asked about their height, weight, age, gender, race, socioeconomic status, exercise, consumption of soda or sweet drinks, frequency of eating at quick-service restaurants, how many hours they watched TV each day, and whether they snacked while watching TV.

They also were shown 20 still images selected from television ads for top quick-service restaurants that aired in the year before the survey. The images were digitally edited to remove the brands. Individuals were asked if they remembered seeing the ad, if they liked the ad and if they could name the restaurant brand. In addition, they were shown 20 ads for alcohol. Results showed that about 18 percent of participants surveyed were overweight, and 15 percent were obese. The percentage of youths who were obese was significantly higher among those who recognized more ads than those who recognized few ads (17 percent vs. 8.3 percent). Even after controlling for the variables listed above, youths who recognized many ads were more than twice as likely to be obese compared with those who recognized few ads. Read more ..

Inside Africa

Banda and Sirleaf Pave Way for More African Female Leaders

April 29th 2012

Joyce Banda
Joyce Banda

Joyce Banda’s swearing in as president of Malawi this month made her the second female head of state in Africa - following Ellen Johnson Sirleaf’s election victory in Liberia in 2005. Many see this as a key advance for women on a continent that has been dominated by male political figures.

John Kapito, chairman of the Malawi Human Rights Commission, has been following Joyce Banda’s career for many years. He watched in 1990 as Banda founded the National Association of Business Women, which provides training and loans to women wanting to start up small-scale businesses. 

He also followed the creation of the Joyce Banda Foundation, a charity that helps orphans and low-income children in Malawi get an education. In 1997 Banda was awarded the Africa Prize for Leadership for the Sustainable End of Hunger - conferred by the U.S.-based Hunger Project. Banda’s slow but steady climb to the top has not been easy. She walked away from an abusive marriage in 1981 at a time when most women stayed in such situations. Much later, as vice president of Malawi and also deputy president of the ruling party, she lost her party position after refusing to support then-president Bingu wa Mutharika in his bid to have his brother take over the presidency. So, after Mutharika died suddenly at the beginning of April, Vice President Joyce Banda became President Joyce Banda. Read more ..

South Africa on Edge

Infamous Johannesburg Minibus Taxi Drivers Trained to Behave

April 28th 2012

Taxi Driver Protest
Taxi Driver Protest

In South Africa, minibus taxis are the most used and yet the most dangerous public transport. They account for double the rate of crashes than all other passenger vehicles. It is rush hour for one of the busiest taxi stands in downtown Johannesburg. Hundreds of people zigzag through the lined-up minibus taxis. One passerby almost gets hit by a taxi as it suddenly pulls out of the parking area. South Africans have a live-hate relationship with minubus taxis. Princess has been using them for over 20 years. "I take taxis because to me, it's quick, and it’s cheaper than the bus," said Princess, who is among the 65 percent of South Africans who use minibus taxis every day. The minibus taxis came into use in the 1980s, under the apartheid, to take black workers from their restricted home communities to work and back. But now it is the most available and affordable means of transportation in the country. Despite its popularity, the minibuses have a disastrous reputation for dangerous and careless driving, posing hazards to not only all cars on the road - but the very passengers who support the taxi business. Read more ..

The Edge of Society

Can Nature's Beauty Lift Citizens From Poverty?

April 28th 2012

Hawaii bay

Using nature's beauty as a tourist draw can boost conservation in China's valued panda preserves, but it isn't an automatic ticket out of poverty for the humans who live there, a unique long-term study shows.

Often those who benefit most from nature-based tourism are people who already have resources. The truly impoverished have a harder time breaking into the tourism business, according to the paper, "Drivers and Socioeconomic Impacts of Tourism Participation in Protected Areas," published in the April 25 edition of PLoS One.

The study looks at nearly a decade of burgeoning tourism in the Wolong Nature Reserve in Southwestern China. China, like many areas in the world, banks on tourism over farming for economic viability, while attempting to preserve fragile animal habitat. But until now, no one has taken a close look at the long-term implications for people economically. Read more ..

The Edge of Medicine

Slow-Growing Babies More Likely in Normal-Weight Women; Less Common in Obese Pregnancies

April 28th 2012


Obesity during pregnancy puts women at higher risk of a multitude of challenges. But, according to a new study presented earlier this month at the American Institute of Ultrasound in Medicine annual convention, fetal growth restriction, or the poor growth of a baby while in the mother’s womb, is not one of them. In fact, study authors from the University of Rochester Medical Center found that the incidence of fetal growth restriction was lower in obese women when compared to non-obese women.

Researchers, led by senior study author and high-risk pregnancy expert Loralei Thornburg, M.D., conducted the study because a wealth of data shows that obese women are at greater risk of fetal death or stillbirth. Unfortunately, in the majority of cases, doctors don’t know why. Thornburg’s team wanted to determine if fetal growth restriction – which increases the likelihood of stillbirth – might play a role. She says growth restriction may go undiagnosed in obese women because it can be difficult to get an accurate measure of mom’s belly size, which is a tool used to gauge the baby’s growth – or lack of growth.

“We wondered if the increased risk of stillbirth could be due to a high level of undiagnosed growth restriction – the idea being that if the physician doesn’t know that the baby is too small then they don’t know that mom and baby need additional monitoring, which is essential to prevent fetal death,” said Thornburg, an assistant professor in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the Medical Center whose research focuses on obesity in pregnancy.

The team, including lead study author and Maternal-Fetal Medicine Fellow Dzhamala Gilmandyar, M.D., found that growth restriction was significantly lower in obese and diabetic women; it was higher in women with preeclampsia, or pregnancy-induced high blood pressure, and smokers – a finding in line with past research. Of the babies that had growth restriction, they determined how many moms were given an accurate diagnosis before birth and found that the rate was the same for obese and non-obese women, suggesting that missed diagnoses are not a major problem in obese pregnancies. Read more ..

The Way We Are

Unlike their Fathers, Generation X Adults Show involvement in Buying and Preparing Food

April 27th 2012

Delucas Market boston ma by electric porcupine

Generation X adults prepare an average of 10 meals a week, and eat out or buy fast food an average of three times a week, according to a University of Michigan report that details the role food plays in the lives of Americans born between 1961 and 1981.

GenX men are surprisingly involved in shopping for food and cooking, the report shows. They go grocery shopping more than once a week, on average, and cook an average of about eight meals a week—much more often than their fathers did. "I was surprised to see how often GenX men shop and cook," said Jon Miller, author of The Generation X Report. "Women, particularly married women, are still doing more cooking and shopping. But men are much more involved in these activities than they used to be. The stereotype that men can't do much more in the kitchen than boil water just can't hold water, as it were."

Using data from about 3,000 young adults collected as part of the ongoing Longitudinal Study of American Youth funded by the National Science Foundation, the report details where GenXers look for information about food, how often they entertain at home and how they feel about organic and genetically modified foods. Read more ..

The Way We Are

Genes Shed Light on Spread of Agriculture in Stone Age Europe

April 27th 2012

Human Skull

One of the most debated developments in human history is the transition from hunter‑gatherer to agricultural societies. This week's edition of Science presents the genetic findings of a Swedish‑Danish research team, which show that agriculture spread to Northern Europe via migration from Southern Europe. "We have been able to show that the genetic variation of today's Europeans was strongly affected by immigrant Stone Age farmers, though a number of hunter-gatherer genes remain," says Assistant Professor Anders Götherström of the Evolutionary Biology Centre, who, along with Assistant Professor Mattias Jakobsson, co-led the study, a collaboration with Stockholm University and the University of Copenhagen.

"What is interesting and surprising is that Stone Age farmers and hunter-gatherers from the same time had entirely different genetic backgrounds and lived side by side for more than a thousand years, to finally interbreed," Mattias Jakobsson says. Agriculture developed in the Middle East about 11,000 years ago and by about 5,000 years ago had reached most of Continental Europe.

How the spread of agriculture progressed and how it affected the people living in Europe have been debated for almost 100 years. Earlier studies were largely based on small amounts of genetic data and were therefore unable to provide univocal answers. Was agriculture an idea that spread across Europe or a technique that a group of migrants took with them to different regions of the continent?

"Many attempts, including using genetics, have been made to come to terms with the problem since the significance of the spread of agriculture was established almost 100 years ago," Anders Götherström says. "Our success in carrying out this study depended on access to good material, modern laboratory methods and a high level of analytical expertise." Read more ..

The Spiritual Edge

Analytic Thinking Can Decrease Religious Belief

April 26th 2012

Praying under a Purple Sky

A new University of British Columbia study finds that analytic thinking can decrease religious belief, even in devout believers. The study finds that thinking analytically increases disbelief among believers and skeptics alike, shedding important new light on the psychology of religious belief.

"Our goal was to explore the fundamental question of why people believe in a God to different degrees," says lead author Will Gervais, a PhD student in UBC's Dept. of Psychology. "A combination of complex factors influence matters of personal spirituality, and these new findings suggest that the cognitive system related to analytic thoughts is one factor that can influence disbelief." Researchers used problem-solving tasks and subtle experimental priming – including showing participants Rodin's sculpture The Thinker or asking participants to complete questionnaires in hard-to-read fonts – to successfully produce "analytic" thinking. Read more ..

The Edge of Health

Better Patient Screening Needed to Prevent Surgical Outpatient Blood Clots

April 26th 2012


A University of Michigan Health System study examined who’s having outpatient surgery in the U.S. today, and showed 1 in 84 highest-risk patients suffers a dangerous blood clot after surgery. Hospitalized patients are often warned of the possibility of venous thromboembolism, which include blood clots that can form in the veins and travel to the lungs.

However these warnings have not necessarily been extended to the outpatient surgery population, says U-M surgeon and lead study author Christopher J. Pannucci, M.D. With more than 60 percent of procedures now being done in the outpatient setting, the U-M study revealed a need for better patient screening of the large and growing group of patients having outpatient surgery.

“Once a setting for those having simple procedures, outpatient surgery now includes a greater variety of procedures from plastic surgery to cancer operations and orthopedic surgery, and not all patients are young, healthy individuals,” says Pannucci, a resident in the U-M Section of Plastic Surgery. Read more ..

The Health Edge

Small 'Neural Focus Groups' Predict Anti-Smoking Ad Success

April 25th 2012

cigarette burning

Brain scans of a small group of people can predict the actions of entire populations, according to a new study by researchers from the University of Michigan, the University of Oregon and the University of California at Los Angeles. The findings are relevant to political advertising, commercial market research and public health campaigns, and broaden the use of brain imaging from a diagnostic to a predictive tool. As opposed to the wisdom of the crowd, the study suggests that the neurological reactions of a few—reactions that people are not even consciously aware of and that differ from the opinions they express—can predict the responses of many other people to ad campaigns promoting specific behaviors. "Brain responses to ads forecasted the ads' success when other predictors failed," said Emily Falk, director of the U-M Communication Neuroscience Lab and lead author of the study. "Our findings could help design better health campaigns. This is a key step in reducing the number of smokers and reducing deaths from cancer, heart disease and other smoking-related illnesses."

The findings, she said, might also help produce more effective political campaign ads and provide a neural roadmap to why some videos, fashions, behaviors and ideas go viral, moving from one person to many thousands of others via social media. Read more ..

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