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American History

African Slave Rebellion Lives On

February 18th 2012

America Themes - Amistad Ship

In 1839, African slaves bound for a Cuban sugar plantation escaped their shackles. They killed the captain and cook aboard the schooner Amistad and ordered their two slavemasters to sail to Africa.

Instead, the slavers steered the ship into U.S. waters. The slaves were recaptured off Long Island and tried for murder in the northeastern state of Connecticut - one of the few northern states that still permitted slavery. Now, the Custom House Maritime Museum in New London, Connecticut, offers a permanent exhibition on the saga. It tells the story of the criminal and appellate trials of the mutinous slaves, including their leader, Cinque, a 26-year-old Mende tribesman from what is now Sierra Leone. The trials became the rallying cry for abolitionists as various courts decided whether they were pirates, murderers or simply property. If property, how could they be guilty of crimes?  Read more ..


Inside Great Britain

United Kingdom is for True Life Partners

February 18th 2012

Holding Hands

Partners provide a vital source of positive emotional support for the vast majority of people in the UK. Nine out of ten people who were married or cohabiting talk to their partner about their worries, according to data from Understanding Society, the world’s largest longitudinal household study of 40,000 UK households. Ninety four per cent of those surveyed rely on their partner for support when a problem crops up.

As part of the Understanding Society study of 40,000 UK households, researchers asked people how much personal and emotional support they felt they received from not only their spouse/partner, but also other family members and friends. Respondents were also asked to rate negative support from their partner, other family members and friends including how much they felt criticised and let down by those people. Read more ..


Kenya on Edge

In Slums of Nairobi, Sex for Sanitation

February 17th 2012

Kenya Sanitary

Roughly half of all girls in slums of Kenya have sex with older men in exchange for sanitary napkins. In response to these estimates, healthcare advocates are distributing napkins to girls as part of a nationwide campaign. Health educator Lydiah Njoroge, a field officer for the Freedom for Girls Program, an initiative of HEART (Health Education Africa Resource Team), distributes towels to girls in Mathare, a collection of Nairobi ghettos where poverty is so severe that girls are unable to purchase even the most affordable brands. "The least [expensive] in the market is 40 shillings ... a packet that has eight pieces in it," says Njoroge. "So, because this girl cannot afford 40 shillings -- their mother, their parents are poor, they have other things to provide food and shelter - sanitary towels are not a priority. So the girl just goes [and] has sex with an older man, most of the time not the same man -- they would have one this month, another one next month, so they are very, very at risk of having HIV." In other words, for 40 shillings - about 50 cents - girls and young women repeatedly put their lives at risk. Read more ..


The Frontiers of Language

What Causes Language Switching in Bilinguals?

February 16th 2012

Social Topics - International Flags

The proficiency that a bilingual person has of both languages, the context in which he speaks them or unconscious changes in their use are the factors that make people who speak Spanish and Catalan switch from one language to another. The group of Cognition and Brain Plasticity at the Bellvitge Biomedical Research Institute (IDIBELL), led by Antoni Rodríguez-Fornells, has designed a questionnaire that allows understanding individual differences among bilinguals when they change the language (switching).

The study was conducted on a sample of 566 college students Spanish-Catalan bilingual and has been published in the latest issue of the journal Frontiers in Psychology. Read more ..


Russia on Edge

Russian Court Reviews Baby Mix-Up Involving Muslim, Christian Parents

February 16th 2012

Social Topics - Sullen Woman

A Russian court has begun to review the case of a hospital baby mix-up that led to a Russian Orthodox girl being raised by a Tajik Muslim family, and a Russian family raising a Tajik girl. The girls were switched in a maternity ward in the town of Kopeisk in the Ural region, where they were born at the same time in December 1998. The two families have been raising the daughters since then. In the court case, the Russian mother, Yulia Belyaeva, is demanding full access to her biological daughter, saying she is concerned the girl is being raised according to Muslim traditions.

The Tajik father, Nemat Iskandarov, says the two families' different customs and values have become a source of disagreements. "We don't frequently go to cinema, our children don't [excessively] spend time on the Internet, we don't approve of short skirts, or girls playing with boys," he says. "[Belyaeva] sees it as a problem that our girl doesn’t go to discos, and goes to an aqua park instead, and that she doesn't have a boyfriend at this age." Both Iskandarov and Belyaeva have told media that the girls would want to remain with the families who have been raising them. Read more ..


Edge of Environment

US/Mexico Cross-Border Battery Pollution Investigated

February 15th 2012

batteries
Mexican lead recycling facility

Across the Rio Grande and over numerous desert land crossings, the golden scraps of U.S. throwaway society head south. Used clothes, appliances, cars and other commodities are shipped to the huge, second-hand Mexican market where low wages guarantee steady sales. And during the last five years or so, a new market has opened up for used lead-acid batteries.

Now an international environmental agency headquartered in Canada is investigating the business amid reports from citizen advocacy groups and the media that have raised red flags. In a landmark 2011 report, the U.S.-based group Occupational Knowledge International and its Mexican partner Fronteras Comunes (Common Borders) explored the ecological and public health risks of lead-acid batteries sent from the U.S. to Mexico, where at least 21 plants extract lead for recycling purposes. Read more ..


The Digital Edge

Wireless Will Redifine the Home Audio Market as We Know It

February 14th 2012

Technology - bluetooth connecting devices

Over the next five years, wireless connectivity to mobile devices and the Internet will redefine the mainstream products within the home audio market. Despite differences in capabilities, form factors, and usage scenarios, a variety of home audio products will all increasingly incorporate wireless functionality in order to play audio streamed from mobile devices, home networks, and the Internet.

In recent years the home audio industry has been challenged to adapt to changing trends in consumers’ media consumption habits and the proliferation of Internet-based streaming audio services. As a result, consumer home audio is rapidly evolving by integrating wireless connectivity into devices such as A/V receivers, soundbars, standalone speaker docks, and home theater in a box (HTIB) systems. Read more ..


Edge of Health

Spice up Your Life and Reduce Cancer Risk with a Good Indian Curry

February 13th 2012

Food - Spices

Curcumin, an active component of the Indian curry spice turmeric, may help slow down tumor growth in castration-resistant prostate cancer patients on androgen deprivation therapy (ADT), a study from researchers at Jefferson's Kimmel Cancer Center suggests.

Reporting in a recent issue of Cancer Research, Karen Knudsen, Ph.D., a Professor of Cancer Biology, Urology and Radiation Oncology at Thomas Jefferson University, and colleagues observed in a pre-clinical study that curcumin suppresses two known nuclear receptor activators, p300 and CPB (or CREB1-binding protein), which have been shown to work against ADT.

ADT aims to inhibit the androgen receptor—an important male hormone in the development and progression of prostate cancer—in patients. But a major mechanism of therapeutic failure and progression to advanced disease is inappropriate reactivation of this receptor. Sophisticated tumor cells, with the help of p300 and CPB, sometimes bypass the therapy. Thus, development of novel targets that act in concert with the therapy would be of benefit to patients with castration-resistant prostate cancer. Read more ..


America on Edge

California Makes History by Closing its Juvenile Prisons

February 12th 2012

Social Topics - prison cell northern ireland flickr

California, often a trendsetter, could make history if it approves Gov. Jerry Brown’s bid to close all state-run youth prisons and eliminate its state Division of Juvenile Justice. Much depends, though, on whether the state’s politically influential prison guards, probation officers and district attorneys can be convinced — or forced by legislators — to agree to Brown’s proposal. That won’t be an easy sell, due to both public-safety arguments and sure-to-surface haggling over just who pays to house juvenile offenders. owing to restructure government more efficiently, Brown, a Democrat, wants to close the last three of 11 youth prisons that have long been attacked by critics as “expensive failures.” If the state phases out the last three of its aging detention centers, all future young offenders would be held, schooled and treated by California’s 58 counties.

This is the second time since taking office last year that Brown has proposed closing the state juvenile division, which is part of its corrections system. The division’s responsibility has already been slashed dramatically from 10,000 wards in the mid-1990s to about 1,100 in state custody today. Their numbers may be few, but the cost for keeping those youth in state custody runs about $200,000-a-year for every ward. Read more ..


North Korea on Edge

North Korean Accordionists are Smash Hit on Internet, and Didn't Even Know it

February 12th 2012

Korea Topics - trio in north korea
Moreton Traavik in Panmunjon, North Korea

Norwegian synthpop and North Korea are an unlikely combination. But that’s exactly the mix that has spawned the Internet’s latest viral hit. A video of five North Korean accordionists playing the 1980’s song “Take On Me” by a-ha has nearly one million views on YouTube. And that’s only in its first week online. Norwegian artist and director Morten Traavik shot the video in Pyongyang last December in preparation for the Barents Spektakel, an international arts festival currently underway in Kirkenes, Norway.  It was the culmination of multiple trips to North Korea over several years.

“I wanted them to play, since they would be playing in Norway, to include some Norwegian tunes in their repertoire,” Traavik said in a telephone interview with VOA. “I brought them three Norwegian songs that are more of a classical nature, and also the “Take On Me” by our only world-famous pop group a-ha on a CD.” Traavik says he was impressed by how quickly the young North Koreans, who attend Pyongyang’s Kum Song Music School, mastered the tune.

“I gave them the CD with no notes, no annotations, nothing whatsoever, only the song on a CD on a Monday evening, and the clip that you see was filmed on Wednesday morning,” he said. In the video, three men and two women sway to the beat of the music, their arms wrapped around the accordions. “I think this has been a revelation to quite some people around the world, you can actually have a good time in North Korea as well,” said Traavik, who is known for his sensational projects, including the Miss Landmine pageants in Angola and Cambodia Read more ..


Sudan on Edge

Northern Sudan may be on the Verge of its own Arab Spring

February 11th 2012

Sudan - sudanese and syrian protest khartoum
Protests at Syrian embassy in Sudan

Mounting economic hardships plaguing northern Sudan have given political activist group "Change Now" a reason to believe that the Arab-African state is on the verge of its own revolution. Protests, largely concentrated in Sudan's capital and other cities with universities, lack large numbers and longevity, but their increasing frequency and underlying denouncement of the government is beginning to reflect the 1985 ousting of President Gaafar Nimeiri's regime.

Last December a protest sparked by villagers displaced by a hydro-electric dam inspired a week of student demonstrations when authorities responded by closing the University of Khartoum. Similar to in Tunisia and other "Arab Spring" affected states, a participant in the demonstration explained, "It turned into a protest not just against the dam but against poverty, inflation and the bad situation for students." Read more ..


America on Edge

Companies Fail to Exhibit Social Responsibility

February 10th 2012

Social Topics - Hands holding plant

Whether eliminating child labor, creating environmentally friendly technology or working against all forms of corruption, many corporations fail to become socially responsible despite promises to change, a new University of Michigan study found. In an article recently published in the American Sociological Review, U-M sociologists Alwyn Lim and Kiyoteru Tsutsui say that corporations in developed countries "are more likely to make shallow commitments without substance" in response to external pressures from government and citizens to take socially responsible actions. 

They say, however, that some corporations in developing countries make more substantive commitments to corporate social responsibility when they face the same external pressures. In the age of cutthroat economic competition that mandates corporations to maximize profit and shareholder returns, a surprisingly large number of corporations commit to social responsibility that often does not generate immediate or tangible benefits, say Lim, a doctoral student in sociology, and Tsutsui, an assistant professor of sociology. Read more ..


Edge of Computing

Companies with their Own Social Networks can Earn Lots of Social Dollars

February 9th 2012

Computer Topics - Internet

Using Facebook and Twitter may be good for a company's bottom line, but firms can rake in even bigger profits if they have their own virtual brand community, says a University of Michigan marketing professor. "Americans now spend more of their online time at social network and blog sites than in any other activity—and firms are following the consumer," said Puneet Manchanda, the Isadore and Leon Winkelman Professor of Marketing at the Michigan Ross School of Business. "Over the next five years, social media marketing is expected to represent nearly 20 percent of marketing budgets.
 
“While the major share of firm and media attention has focused on third-party online social networks such as Facebook, many firms have made the choice to build their own such networks.” said Machanda. New research from Manchanda and Ross School colleagues Grant Packard and Adithya Pattabhiramaiah suggests a significant payoff for companies that set up their own online communities. Using data from an unnamed retailer of books, CDs and DVDs, they found a 19 percent bump in incremental revenue from customers after they joined the online community. Manchanda calls this revenue "social dollars." Read more ..


Edge of Eastern Europe

Ukraine's Cold Snap Reveals a Lack of Human Warmth

February 7th 2012

Ukraine - Ukraine homeless

Ivan Brilyuk is 45, but he looks much older. With his white beard and swollen, chapped face and fingers, Brilyuk is one of the hundreds of thousands of homeless people that Ukrainian social workers say are suffering the worst of the recent cold weather. Brilyuk is relatively lucky. He has made his way to one of the hundreds of heated tents set up by the authorities in response to a cold wave that's seen temperatures dip to minus 30 degrees Celsius.

Brilyuk, who's been homeless since being thrown out by his wife several years ago, insists he's grateful for even the most basic of comforts. "Like in the Gulag, give us at least a hut," he says. "Give us warmth, some comfort, a place to wash, to shave, to clean ourselves up. I don't have any money, I don't have anything. You can see the kind of shape I'm in. If we're needed by this state, then we want to work." But the tent where Brilyuk is trying to warm up has only a few plastic chairs. After an hour or so, he'll be back out on the street, returning to the unheated Kyiv basement where he sometimes sleeps. Read more ..


Edgy Entertainment

Madonna: Marketing and Public Relations Genius!

February 5th 2012

Entertainment - Super Bowl XLVI

In what was clearly a great Super Bowl half-time show, Madonna did a great job of entertaining the millions watching the game – and in doing so scored a Public Relations coup in reaching a new generation of fans. The guest appearances by today’s pop stars including LMFAO, Cee Lo Green, Nicki Minaj and M.I.A, all enhanced the brand that Madonna has succcessfully built since launching her fantastic career with her first hit song, "Like a Virgin" in 1984. Madonna has always proved to be be not just a megastar,  but a true marketing genius.  As a lightening rod for controversy, her songs through the years, including her first, then "Papa Don't Preach", "Like a Prayer", "Vogue", and others, have attracted acclaim, but also outrage and anger, which all helped draw more attention to her.

Clearly this Super Bowl performance continued that upward trend, showing that her genius continues well into her third decade as a performer.  Only a rare group of people can make a similar claim.
Read more ..


Israel and Iran

The End of Days in Palestine

February 1st 2012

Book Covers - Palestine the Book
Palestine the Book, by Jonathan Bloomfield

What would we do if we lived in a flood plain with no egress at all, or along a hurricane evacuation zone that just prolonged the inevitable without taking you out of the path? It is probably something few really consider until the storm is bearing down on them and reality is about hit hard. Living in the New York metropolitan area, having experienced hurricanes, nor'easters and blizzards that destroyed property, wiped out beaches, killed people and devastated lives and families, many of us can imagine the sense of urgency when an emergency is near.

Most recently, last April and May we watched the 24 hour news channels as large regions of Kentucky, Tennessee, and Mississippi were hit by the largest storms since the early 1900s, and the Morganza Spillway was intentionally opened, destroying nearly 5000 square miles of inhabited land to spare total destruction of Baton Rouge and New Orleans, on the heels of the 2005 hurricane that nearly wiped out the whole Gulf region. What if the people who lived there or were visiting the area then had no way to escape?

The prospect is frightening and for just about all of us, unimaginable. Now imagine the threat is not a tidal wave, rushing floodwaters, a violent tornado or some other natural disaster, and something that can wipe out life as we know it for years to come, destroying not just property, but everyone and everything in its wake. Imagine the threat is a nuclear explosion, the mushroom cloud in the distance, the flash of light and the torrent effect of the ripple that tears through everything in its path, leaving death and darkness then nothingness.

This is a fear that we face living in a nuclear world, but one that we here in the United States feel is either so remote or could hit elsewhere, but not in my backyard. However, in Israel, the fear is real. With the entire country being just 8,019 square miles; extending about 200 mi north to south and just 70 miles east to west; with its narrowest point being only 12 miles across, there is nowhere to go to outrun a nuclear attack, nowhere to hide and nothing to do but watch the end of the world take hold. Read more ..


The Digital Edge

TV Video Chat is Predicted to Surpass 16 Million Users in 2015

February 1st 2012

Computer Topics - video chat

The video calling market can be divided into three sub-markets, depending on the device which is being used to make the call: PCs, Mobile, and living room (digital home) devices. Living room video calling is a nascent market and currently has a relatively small user base. New NPD In-Stat research forecasts that total users will increase from 1.5 million in 2011 to 16.4 million in 2015. Asia Pacific will be the largest market for living room video calling by a significant margin, due to this being the region with the highest video calling enabled device shipments.

 

Video calling originated on the PC and these services are significantly more mature than on other device types. While PC video calling solutions have been available for several years, these services continue to evolve in functionality. The most notable change to PC video calling is the association with social networking and the unification of these solutions with social networks. Read more ..


The Way We Are

Divorce Hurts Even more at a Younger Age

February 1st 2012

Social Topics - Child alone and sad

Divorce at a younger age hurts people’s health more than divorce later in life, according to a new study by a Michigan State University sociologist. Hui Liu said the findings, which appear in the research journal Social Science & Medicine, suggest older people have more coping skills to deal with the stress of divorce.
 
“It’s clear to me that we need more social and family support for the younger divorced groups,” said Liu, assistant professor of sociology. “This could include divorce counseling to help people handle the stress, or offering marital therapy or prevention programs to maintain marital satisfaction.” Liu analyzed the self-reported health of 1,282 participants in Americans’ Changing Lives, a long-term national survey. She measured the gap in health status between those who remained married during the 15-year study period and those who transitioned from marriage to divorce, at certain ages and among different birth cohorts, or generations.

Liu found the gap was wider at younger ages. For example, among people born in the 1950s, those who got divorced between the ages of 35 and 41 reported more health problems in relation to their continuously married counterparts than those who got divorced in the 44 to 50 age range. Read more ..


The Digital Edge

Blogging May Help some with Social Distress

February 1st 2012

Social Topics - victim

Blogging may have psychological benefits for teens suffering from social anxiety, improving their self-esteem and helping them relate better to their friends, according to new research published by the American Psychological Association. “Research has shown that writing a personal diary and other forms of expressive writing are a great way to release emotional distress and just feel better,” said the study’s lead author, Meyran Boniel-Nissim, PhD, of the University of Haifa, Israel. “Teens are online anyway, so blogging enables free expression and easy communication with others.”

Maintaining a blog had a stronger positive effect on troubled students’ well-being than merely expressing their social anxieties and concerns in a private diary, according to the article published online in the APA journal Psychological Services. Opening the blog up to comments from the online community intensified those effects. “Although cyberbullying and online abuse are extensive and broad, we noted that almost all responses to our participants’ blog messages were supportive and positive in nature,” said the study’s co-author, Azy Barak, PhD. “We weren’t surprised, as we frequently see positive social expressions online in terms of generosity, support and advice.” Read more ..


Inside India

Hindu Radicals Revoke Tolerance for Minority Religions

January 31st 2012

India Topics - Hindu nationalist

It was a day of terror for Christians at St Joseph University Institute in Anekal, near Bangalore in the Indian state of Karnataka. More than 100 members of radical anti-Christian Hindu groups, assailed the campus on January 30, using as a pretext their belief that India's national flag had not been on display in observance of Republic Day. Members of India's radical Hindu nationalist groups, "Vishwa Hindu Parishad", "Bajrang Dal", "Sakthi Rashtra Sene", and  "Karnataka Rakshana Vedike" were represented among the members of the mob that broke into the university campus and interrupted lessons.

The dean of the institute, Rev. Melwin Mendonca, SJ, reported that students and faculty lived through hours of apprehension during the seige, which showed signs of complicity on the part of local authorities. According to Father Melwin, there were some municipal councilors who joined the mob. In addition, when school administrators called for police protection, it was observed that "the inspector and police officers were spectators of the violence, they even allowed that the unrest on the campus lasted for two hours", according to the dean. Read more ..


Edge of Education

Disparities in Treating Kids of Different Ethnicities in Trouble at School

January 31st 2012

Crime Topics - sonia vivas
Sonia Vivas

A good student with no disciplinary record, Sonia Vivas was on track to fulfill her dream of becoming a lawyer when an encounter with two other teens sent her life into a tailspin. Accused of stealing a cell phone and pulling a knife on a student, the 14-year-old eighth grader was tossed out of school in 2007 with little more than a cursory hearing after the mother of one of the girls, both white, complained her daughter felt threatened.

For six months, Vivas, who denies the accusations, says she languished at home, banished from classes at her Somerville, Mass., middle school where she was the only Hispanic student in the eighth grade. “It was pretty traumatizing,” she says today, reflecting on the incident she now believes was sparked by jealousy over her friendship with one of the girl's ex-boyfriend. “It made me feel pretty horrible. It changed my life.” With no due process rights to a hearing under Massachusetts law, Vivas was expelled from school after only a brief interview with the school principal to explain her side of the story. Today, nearly five years later, school officials declined comment on Vivas's dismissal but said where student safety is an issue, the expulsion process remains unchanged. Read more ..


The Gender Edge

New Study Explains Differences in Prejudices Among Males & Females

January 29th 2012

Social Topics - Couple

Prejudice against people from groups different than their own is linked to aggression for men and fear for women, suggests new research led by Michigan State University scholars. The researchers report that, throughout history, men have been the primary aggressors against different groups, as well as the primary victims of group-based aggression and discrimination.

“There is evidence going back thousands of years of bands of men getting together and attacking other bands of men, eliminating them and keeping the women as the spoils of war,” said Carlos David Navarrete, evolutionary psychologist at MSU. As modern examples, Navarrete noted the wars in Central Africa and the Balkans that were marred by rape and genocide.

Navarrete co-authored the study with MSU researcher Melissa McDonald and Mark Van Vugt of the University of Amsterdam and the University of Oxford. The researchers analyzed current academic literature on war and conflict and found that the standard social science theory did not explain the sex differences in aggressive or discriminatory behavior between groups. A novel theory, integrating psychology with ecology and evolutionary biology, has been introduced by the researchers. Their “male warrior hypothesis” explains how a deep evolutionary history of group conflict may have provided the backdrop for natural selection to shape the social psychologies and behaviors of men and women in fundamentally distinct ways. Read more ..


The Edge of Gadgets

Eureka! Kitchen Gadget Inspires Scientist to Make More Effective Plastic Electronics

January 28th 2012

Food - vacuum food sealer

One day in 2010, Rutgers physicist Vitaly Podzorov watched a store employee showcase a kitchen gadget that vacuum-seals food in plastic. The demo stuck with him. The simple concept – an airtight seal around pieces of food – just might apply to his research: developing flexible electronics using lightweight organic semiconductors for products such as video displays or solar cells.

“Organic transistors, which switch or amplify electronic signals, hold promise for making video displays that bend like book pages or roll and unroll like posters,” said Podzorov. But traditional methods of fabricating a part of the transistor known as the gate insulator often end up damaging the transistor’s delicate semiconductor crystals. Read more ..


Palestine on Edge

Are the Rights of Palestinian Women Protected by the PA?

January 28th 2012

Palestine Topics - PLO Flags

Discrimination against women is common in Palestinian society and institutionalized by Palestinian authorities in the territories, particularly in the Hamas-run Gaza Strip. Physical violence, including spousal abuse, employment prejudice and education inequities are just some of the ways that Palestinian women are mistreated on a daily basis. Like the abuse of women throughout the Arab and Muslim world, however, the media, human rights organizations and even women’s rights groups have paid little attention to these violations of human rights.

In January 2012, women employees at the Palestinian Women’s Affairs Ministry began a “hunger strike till death” to protest harassment and mistreatment of women by their own leadership. “The situation is [so] grave,” one striker said, “[that] women have received threats to be shot in their legs … [or] not to let [into] their offices.”

Such abuse, though, is only the tip of the iceberg. Read more ..


The Race for Solar

Illuminating Dark Continents with Solar Power

January 28th 2012

Energy Topics - Solar/LED streetlight

How can local governments keep public spaces and roads illuminated at night in places where there’s no electricity, or an unreliable supply? Solar power, obviously.

But there’s a catch.

“The vast majority of solar-powered streetlights and similar fixtures on the market don’t survive for long,” according to Zeev Jakoby, managing director of Israeli startup Globe Light & Water System. “That’s why we’ve devised a sturdy, solar-powered light fixture that needs no infrastructure.”

This could prove a godsend to developing nations where a lack of street lighting results in dangerous driving conditions and far slower economies. “It’s designed with the African market in mind,” explains Jakoby, who spent many years in Nigeria overseeing construction projects. Read more ..


Edge of Psychology

The Eyes are the Windows to the Mind, and Buying Behaviour

January 27th 2012

Social Topics - Eyeball Surveillance

The eyes are the window into the soul—or at least the mind, according to a new paper published in Perspectives on Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science. Measuring the diameter of the pupil, the part of the eye that changes size to let in more light, can show what a person is paying attention to. Pupillometry, as it’s called, has been used in social psychology, clinical psychology, humans, animals, children, infants—and it should be used even more, the authors say.
 
The pupil is best known for changing size in reaction to light. In a dark room, your pupils open wide to let in more light; as soon as you step outside into the sunlight, the pupils shrink to pinpricks. This keeps the retina at the back of the eye from being overwhelmed by bright light. Something similar happens in response to psychological stimuli, says Bruno Laeng of the University of Oslo, who cowrote the paper with Sylvain Sirois of Université du Québec à Trois-Rivières and Gustaf Gredebäck of Uppsala University in Sweden. When someone sees something they want to pay closer attention to, the pupil enlarges. It’s not clear why this happens, Laeng says. “One idea is that, by essentially enlarging the field of the visual input, it’s beneficial to visual exploration,” he says. Read more ..


Inside Central Asia

Kyrgyz Convicts Sew Their Mouths Shut in Protest against Inhuman Conditions

January 26th 2012

Asia Topics - kyrgyz prisoner

Almost seven thousand prisoners in Kyrgyzstan upped the ante in their hunger strike against prison authorities in the Central Asian republic. To protest what they consider excessive force used by prison guards to put down a riot at a prison facility, 1,319 of the 6,680 prisoners involved in the hunger strike have sewn their mouth shut. According to spokesperson Eleonora Sabatarova of the prison system, 600 prisoners have been transferred to medical facilities within the prison system as a result of malnutrition. Prisoners have sewn their mouths shut in order to prevent forced nutrition.

The hunger strike began on January 17, a day after Kyrgyz security forces shut down rioting at a prison in Bishkek. One prisoner died as a result, while hundreds were injured. Public Defender Tursunbek Akun said on January 24 in a press conference that prisoners have issued a series of demands that must be met so that they will remove the stitches from their mouths and return to eating. Said Akun, “The are complaining about the aggression and the loss of their rights.”  Akun added “Prison authorities claim that the convicts threw boiling water on them on January 16 during an inspection, and the prisoners say the riot police beat them for no reason” according to a local news source. Read more ..


The Race for EV's

London to be European Electromobility Capital

January 25th 2012

Automotive - Ford Focus electric

The British government and a number of private-public initiatives are successfully building the charging infrastructure for electric vehicles, says Frost & Sullivan. "London has over 500 public charging stations and is dynamically adding more to it", explains Research Associate Prajyot N. Sathe. “The launch of the Source London scheme is working towards getting 1.300 public charging stations by 2013.” By 2015, about 25.000 charging stations will be available in the greater London area. The North East England region also is pushing ahead electromobility infrastructure - the region recently has installed 300 charging stations; the goal is to get 1300 charging stations already in 2013. North East England has been included in the “Plugged-in places” project, that offers matched funding to business and public sectors to install charging stations. They have also been formulated to integrate residential charging stations with a provision for smart meters.

Nissan's strategic use of its Sunderland plant for developing Electric Vehicles (EVs) across Europe has accelerated the government’s vision to increase sustainable and 'green-collar’ jobs. The ambitious targets set by the government and heavy contracts secured by leading EV infrastructure providers are the major grounds for the impressive deployment of the EV charging stations network at strategic locations such as car parks, residential and commercial locations as well as leisure facilities. Read more ..


The Digital Edge

UK Prepares for Almost Total 4G Cellular Coverage

January 25th 2012

Technology - london calling

Demand for mobile data in Western Europe is estimated to increase by more than 500% over the next five years. This demand is being fuelled by smartphones and mobile broadband data services such as video streaming, email, messenger services, online mapping and social networking. As the UK switches from analogue to more efficient digital TV, new spectrum capacity is becoming available to meet this demand. This ‘digital dividend’ uses airwaves in the 800 MHz band, which will be auctioned along with higher frequency airwaves in the 2.6 GHz band at the end of 2012. This will be equivalent to three quarters of the mobile spectrum in use today.

Between March and May 2011, Ofcom consulted on its assessment of how 4G spectrum is likely to affect future competition in mobile electronic communications services markets. Based on this assessment Ofcom outlined a number of proposals for how the spectrum should be auctioned to promote competition in those markets. The responses to this consultation and the evidence submitted, together with further analysis by Ofcom, have helped Ofcom to develop and refine its proposals. Ofcom has now launched a second consultation. Read more ..


Russia on Edge

Putin's List: 100 Books For Russian Readers

January 24th 2012

Art Topics - Tolstoy
Tolstoy

In his latest campaign article, published in the "Nezavisimaya gazeta" daily, Russian Prime Minister and presidential hopeful Vladimir Putin takes Russia's national question and breaks it in two. How do we deal with outsiders? he asks. And what does it mean to be an insider? Accordingly, Putin uses his piece to call for several hard-nosed policies for dealing with the "outsiders" -- the nation's growing immigrant population. But at the same time, he proposes a literary gateway for those who wish to become "insiders" -- a cultural canon of 100 books to serve as required reading for all students in Russia's schools.

Speaking on January 23 in the southern city of Kislovodsk, Putin acknowledged Russia's rich legacy as a multiethnic state, but said its inhabitants had much to gain from embracing a unified Russian identity. "No one who lives in our country should forget about their religion or ethnicity," Putin said. "But everyone should be, first and foremost, a citizen of the great country of Russia." Putin noted in his article that "every self-respecting" student at leading American universities has dutifully read their way through similar lists, such as the 51-volume Harvard Classics world-lit anthology or the works included in American educator Mortimer Adler's "Great Books of the Western World." Russia, Putin implied in his article, was not to be outdone. "Our nation has always been a reading nation," he wrote, and called on the country's leading cultural authorities to get cracking with a list of their own. Prime Minister Vladimir Putin regards a book about himself during a visit to Penza in April 2011.xPrime Minister Vladimir Putin regards a book about himself during a visit to Penza in April 2011.
Read more ..


Edge of the Mind

Group Settings can Diminish Expressions of Intelligence, Especially Among Women

January 23rd 2012

Science - Mind

In the classic film "12 Angry Men," Henry Fonda's character sways a jury with his quiet, persistent intelligence. But would he have succeeded if he had allowed himself to fall sway to the social dynamics of that jury? Research led by scientists at the Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute found that small-group dynamics -- such as jury deliberations, collective bargaining sessions, and cocktail parties -- can alter the expression of IQ in some susceptible people. "You may joke about how committee meetings make you feel brain dead, but our findings suggest that they may make you act brain dead as well," said Read Montague, director of the Human Neuroimaging Laboratory and Computational Psychiatry Unit at the Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute, who led the study.

The scientists used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to investigate how the brain processes information about social status in small groups and how perceptions of that status affect expressions of cognitive capacity. "We started with individuals who were matched for their IQ," said Montague. "Yet when we placed them in small groups, ranked their performance on cognitive tasks against their peers, and broadcast those rankings to them, we saw dramatic drops in the ability of some study subjects to solve problems. The social feedback had a significant effect." "Our study highlights the unexpected and dramatic consequences even subtle social signals in group settings may have on individual cognitive functioning," said lead author Kenneth Kishida, a research scientist with the Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute. "And, through neuroimaging, we were able to document the very strong neural responses that those social cues can elicit." Read more ..


Edge on Parenting

The School of Hard Knocks does Develop Resilence

January 22nd 2012

Social Topics - Little girl upset

Your parents were right: Hard experiences may indeed make you tough. Psychological scientists have found that, while going through many experiences like assault, hurricanes, and bereavement can be psychologically damaging, small amounts of trauma may help people develop resilience.

“Of course, everybody’s heard the aphorism, ‘Whatever does not kill you makes you stronger,’” says Mark D. Seery of the University at Buffalo. His paper on adversity and resilience appears in the December issue of Current Directions in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science. But in psychology, he says, a lot of ideas that seem like common sense aren’t supported by scientific evidence. Indeed, a lot of solid psychology research shows that having miserable life experiences is bad for you. Serious events, like the death of a child or parent, a natural disaster, being physically attacked, experiencing sexual abuse, or being forcibly separated from your family, can cause psychological problems. In fact, some research has suggested that the best way to go through life is having nothing ever happen to you. But not only is that unrealistic, it’s not necessarily healthy, Seery says. Read more ..


Edge of Terrorism

Northern Nigeria Faces Apparent Ethnic Cleansing

January 21st 2012

Nigeria - Nigeria christmas day bomb
Christmas Day, 2011, bombing in Abuja

"I am trying to get in contact with Mgr. John Namanza Niyiring, Bishop of Kano but the lines do not work", reported Catholic Archbishop Ignatius Ayau Kaigama of Jos in central Nigeria. On the evening of January 20, in Kano, northern Nigeria's largest city, a series of coordinated bomb attacks and armed assaults hit several targets, among which where some police stations.

"Last night, I spoke with the pastor of the church of Our Lady of the Apostles who, over the phone, and told me he was forced to hide because he was under attack. But the information that we have so far are still fragmentary, and we are waiting for confirmation. Telephone lines are interrupted, I do not know if it is due to a technical problem or other causes. The situation is still confusing. We will see how the government reacts to this new attack", said the Archbishop of Jos.

A 24-hour curfew has been imposed in Nigeria's second-largest city, Kano, after a coordinated series of bomb attacks. Nigerian police say at least seven people have been killed in the bombings that targeted police and government offices in the northern city. The Islamic extremist group Boko Haram has claimed responsibility for the attacks. Read more ..


The Spiritual Edge

Religious People Better Adjusted Psychologically

January 20th 2012

Social Topics - victim

Psychological research has found that religious people feel great about themselves, with a tendency toward higher social self-esteem and better psychological adjustment than non-believers. But a new study published in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science, finds that this is only true in countries that put a high value on religion.

The researchers got their data from eDarling, a European dating site that is affiliated with eHarmony. Like eHarmony, eDarling uses a long questionnaire to match clients with potential dates. It includes a question about how important your personal religious beliefs are and questions that get at social self-esteem and how psychologically well-adjusted people are. Jochen Gebauer of the Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, Constantine Sedikides of the University of Southampton, and Wiebke Neberich of Affinitas GmbH in Berlin, the company behind eDarling, used 187,957 people’s answers to do their analyses. Read more ..


The Medical Edge

Non-invasive Tool Identifies Alzheimer's, Depression and ADHD

January 19th 2012

Social Topics - Baby Boomer

One out of every three people suffer from a brain-related disorder such as Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, ADHD, chronic pain or depression. But because the human brain and the conditions that affect it are so complex, blood tests and imaging are of limited value for diagnosing brain diseases and documenting the effects of treatment.

Even in the 21st century, there's a lot of guesswork involved, and that means low treatment success rates at high costs.

The Israeli company ElMindA could revolutionize the field by opening a new window into how the brain works. Its trademarked, non-invasive BNA (brain network activation) technology has shown promise in clinical studies.

"Our vision is that every psychiatrist and neurologist in the world will routinely send every patient for BNA tests," says Dr. Eli Zangvil, ElMindA's strategic advisor for business development. "Our test would add information and aid in diagnostics in a way no other existing technology can do." Read more ..


The Way We Work

Happy Workers are Better Workers

January 18th 2012

Social Topics - cubicle workers

While it may come as little surprise that happy employees are more productive, a high-performing workforce needs more than just a feeling of contentment—workers need to thrive, says a researcher at the University of Michigan. "We think of a thriving workforce as one in which employees are not just satisfied and productive but also engaged in creating the future—the company's and their own," said Gretchen Spreitzer, professor of management and organizations at the Michigan Ross School of Business. "Thriving employees have a bit of an edge—they are highly energized—but they know how to avoid burnout."

Over the past seven years, Spreitzer and Christine Porath, assistant professor at Georgetown University's McDonough School of Business, have researched the nature of thriving in the workplace and the factors that enhance or inhibit it. They, along with colleagues Cristina Gibson of the University of Western Australia and Flannery Garnett of the University of Utah, have surveyed more than 1,200 white- and blue-collar workers in various industries about learning, growth, personal energy, retention rates, health, overall job performance and organizational citizenship behaviors. Read more ..


South Sudan on Edge

More Devastation in South Sudan due to Tribal Conflicts

January 17th 2012

Sudan - Tribal Violence in Sudan
Tribal Violence has greatly increased in South Sudan

Tribal violence in South Sudan’s Jonglei state recently reached alarming levels with thousands of armed young men involved in attacks on villages. The death toll has yet to be determined, but the United Nations says tens of thousands of people in Pibor County were forced to flee attackers.

In Pibor town, hundreds of displaced people gather in the midday sun, waiting for U.N. aid workers to distribute grain and cooking oil brought in by helicopter.

For many like Labakal Kalahin, whose daughter was killed by attackers firing on the family as they fled into the bush, this will be her first meal in seven days. Read more ..


The Edge of Justice

Our Youngest Killers

January 16th 2012

Crime Topics - Kids Jail

One 16-year-old went looking for pot at a Brookline High School graduation party, then shot the guest of honor in the chest when he got a racial slur instead. The other 16-year-old stabbed a man 23 times inside his Springfield apartment, returning the next day to steal things from the victim’s home while his body lay nearby. Both crimes were horrific, but the punishments were strikingly different. The murderer in Springfield, Edgardo Rodriguez, accepted a plea deal for the 2004 killing of Joel Rivera Delgado, allowing him to potentially walk free within the next decade. The other teen, Antonio Fernandez, took his 2002 case to trial and received the harshest juvenile sentence Massachusetts permits — the harshest in the country, in fact — for shooting Perry Hughes: life in prison without the possibility of parole. Until then, Fernandez had never been charged with anything worse than stealing video games. Now, he’s sentenced to die in prison.

The two cases illustrate the profound inequities that have grown up in the juvenile justice system in the wake of a 1996 law aimed at cracking down on juvenile “super predators,” by requiring them to be tried in adult court where they face the maximum adult penalty for first degree murder, an investigation by the New England Center for Investigative Reporting has found. Before the change, juvenile killers could only be sentenced to serve until age 21 unless their case was transferred to adult court. Read more ..


Edge on Parenting

Tiger Mothers Can Learn from Nurturing Techniques of Both East and West

January 16th 2012

Social Topics - tiger mom
Dr. Desiree Baolian Qin and daughter

The Eastern view of parenting, as defined by best-selling author and self-described “tiger mother” Amy Chua, is that children should be pushed to excel at all costs. Parents needn’t worry about their happiness, she argues, only their success. But now a Michigan State University scholar is refuting that theory. In her research, Desiree Baolian Qin – who, like Chua, is a Chinese mother – found that high-achieving Chinese students were more depressed and anxious than their white counterparts. And contrary to the tiger mother philosophy, Qin said, a child’s happiness is vitally important.

“I strongly believe that happiness matters tremendously for children to develop well, so they don’t just have success now and then later on experience maladjustment,” said Qin, assistant professor in the Department of Human Development and Family Studies. “It’s really important for parents to pay attention to this.” In her best-selling book, Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, Chua, a Yale Law School professor, created a firestorm of controversy for her hardline parenting. In the book, Chua describes how she demanded straight As from her two daughters and drilled them for hours every day on the piano and violin. The girls were not allowed to watch TV, be in a school play or have a play date with friends. Qin called these restrictions “ridiculous.” She said she and her husband, Tom Buffett, would never keep their daughters – Olivia, 4, and Helena, 2 – from having play dates or other activities that build social and emotional skills. Read more ..


Edge on Human Environment

Controlling Smokers through the Social Contagion Theory

January 16th 2012

Social Topics - exploding cigaret

Citizens aren't just blowing smoke when it comes to anti-tobacco legislation—and they tend to copy what neighboring states do, new research shows. In adopting anti-smoking bans, public opinion is much more important than originally thought, said University of Michigan School of Public Health researcher and lead study author Julianna Pacheco. The closer a person lives to a state that has enacted smoking bans the likelier it is for that person to support smoking bans. Eventually, politicians respond by enacting bans in those home states.

"Democratic responsiveness is alive and well at the state level," said Pacheco, who is also a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Health & Society Scholar at the Ann Arbor-based institution. "We've always thought that public opinion was important for state policy making, but this is the first paper to empirically test the causal relationship between opinion and policy over time," Pacheco said. "Furthermore, this paper suggests that public opinion is the driving force behind why policies often spread across neighboring states." Read more ..



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