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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 ..


Nigeria on Edge

Impoverished Nigerian Workers Strike over Fuel Subsidy Suspension

January 15th 2012

Nigeria - Nigeria Oil

A labor union representing 20,000 oil and gas workers in Nigeria threatened on January 12 it would shut down all production starting Sunday, January 15 to take part in the crippling nationwide strike over spiraling fuel prices. Nigeria’s main workers’ unions are scheduled to resume their strike today (Monday) after the group said talks with the government failed to resolve their concerns over the removal of a popular fuel subsidy.

The spokesman for the Nigeria Labor Congress, Owei Lakemfa, says negotiations failed after the government refused to reinstate the subsidy. “We felt that the first thing to do is to stop the price increase, which has incensed a lot of Nigerians and pushed them on the streets,” said Lakemfa. “But the government felt that all it needed to do was to offer a price reduction, which wasn’t fundamental to us.” The unions want the government to return fuel prices to the levels before the $8 billion subsides were eliminated at the beginning of this month.

The removal, union workers say, caused fuel prices to double and led to sharp increases in food and transportation prices. The groups, which include the Nigeria Labor Congress (NLC), Trade Union Congress (TUC) and Joint Action Front (JAF) suspended their initial strike over the weekend to make room for talks with the government. But President Goodluck Jonathan and his administration have refused to reinstate the subsidy, saying it’s unaffordable. Labor spokesman Lakemfa said the government has been unwilling to resolve their concerns. Read more ..


Aging on Edge

'Virtual Village' Helps Elderly Stay in Own Home

January 15th 2012

Social Topics - walking-cane

At 91, Philip Theil lives in a century-old house in Seattle's University District and that's the way he wants to keep it. "As far as I'm concerned, I would not like to leave this place," says the naval architect. "Living in a group situation is something I couldn't tolerate. I'd kill myself before I had to do that." Many elderly Americans, who can no longer manage on their own, spend their final years in a nursing home or assisted living facility. However, the vast majority of seniors would prefer to live in their own homes as long as possible. Theil says he and his wife manage pretty well right now. Their two-story house is stuffed to the rafters with the books, artwork and projects of a life well lived. But the couple can feel their advancing age and realize they'll soon need more help with basic household chores, like changing that light bulb at the top of the stairs. "To change that tube, I have to bring in a stepladder and put it partly on the landing and partly on the stairs and climb up," Theil says. "It's kind of trepiditious."

In the old days, the Theils could ask their children to climb up there or maybe the teenager from down the street when he came over to mow the lawn. But those young helpers have grown up and gone. "We have kids and we call them occasionally, but one lives in Munich, Germany, another lives in London and a third lives in Los Angeles," Theil says. "They're not going to drop around for a weekend call type of thing." Read more ..


Medicine Edge

32 Million Americans Have Autoantibodies That Target Their Own Tissues

January 14th 2012

Science - Research and Development Chemistry

More than 32 million people in the United States have autoantibodies, which are proteins made by the immune system that target the body's tissues and define a condition known as autoimmunity, a study shows. The first nationally representative sample looking at the prevalence of the most common type of autoantibody, known as antinuclear antibodies (ANA), found that the frequency of ANA is highest among women, older individuals, and African-Americans. The study was conducted by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS), part of the National Institutes of Health. Researchers in Gainesville at the University of Florida also participated.

Earlier studies have shown that ANA can actually develop many years before the clinical appearance of autoimmune diseases, such as type 1 diabetes, lupus, and rheumatoid arthritis. ANA are frequently measured biomarkers for detecting autoimmune diseases, but the presence of autoantibodies does not necessarily mean a person will get an autoimmune disease. Other factors, including drugs, cancer, and infections, are also known to cause autoantibodies in some people. Read more ..


Society News

I Recognize You! But How Did I Do It?

January 14th 2012

Social Topics - Brain Waves

Are you someone who easily recognises everyone you've ever met? Or maybe you struggle, even with familiar faces? It is already known that we are better at recognising faces from our own race but researchers have only recently questioned how we assimilate the information we use to recognise people.

New research by the University of Nottingham Malaysia Campus has shown that when it comes to recognising people the Malaysian Chinese have adapted their facial recognition techniques to cope with living in a multicultural environment.

The study 'You Look Familiar: How Malaysian Chinese Recognise Faces' was led by Chrystalle B.Y. Tan, a PhD student at the University of Nottingham Malaysia Campus. The results have been published online in the prestigious scientific journal PloS One, This research is the first PhD student publication for Nottingham's School of Psychology in Malaysia. Read more ..


Edge on Ancient America

Americans have been Smoking for Nearly Three Thousand Years

January 14th 2012

Archaeology Topics - mayan tobacco jar

Archaeologists examining late period Mayan containers have identified nicotine traces from a codex-style flask, revealing the first physical evidence of tobacco use by ancient Mayans. The study published in Rapid Communications in Mass Spectrometry reveals the flask is marked with Mayan hieroglyphics reading, "y-otoot 'u-may," ("the home of its/his/her tobacco,") making it only the second case to confirm that the text on the exterior of a Mayan vessel corresponds to its ancient use.

"Investigation of food items consumed by ancient people offers insight into the traditions and customs of a particular civilization," explains Jennifer Loughmiller-Newman from the University at Albany in New York. "Textual evidence written on pottery is often an indicator of contents or of an intended purpose, however actual usage of a container could be altered or falsely represented."  Many of the Mayan flask vessels from the Kislak collection of the Library of Congress examined in this study were filled with other substances, such as iron oxide used in burial rituals, making it difficult to detect the original content. Read more ..


Edge on America

The Latin-Americanization of the United States Proceeds as Informal Businesses Proliferate

January 14th 2012

Social Topics - Los Angeles street vendor

Pirate profiteers and street merchants are central players in the economies of Mexico and other nations of the developing world. Although informal businesses are far from new in the United States, recent reports indicate they are growing in scope and diversity. In the pinnacle of advanced capitalism, commercial transactions based on hard cash and record-free trails exist alongside high-tech gadgetry and instantaneous financial services.

With poverty on the rise and millions of unemployed and underemployed people still scratching by in urban and rural areas of the US, the potential for expansion of the informal sector is enormous. At the same time, as some people tinker with creative ways to make a living in tough times, spurts of growth in the underground economy are laying the groundwork for new tensions and conflicts over immigration, jobs and taxes, quality of life and even national security.

In southern California, for instance, the growth of informal commerce is unleashing complaints that echo long-running ones heard south of the border. After a federal court decision struck down a local anti-street vending ordinance as unconstitutional, the number of street vendors at popular Venice Beach increased to such an extent that some locals complained it impaired their beach views. Many of the entrepreneurs sell mass-produced items including T-shirts and jewelry. Read more ..


The Way We Are

We May Be Less Happy, But Our Language Isn't

January 12th 2012

Social Topics - Wimbleton crowd

“If it bleeds, it leads,” goes the cynical saying with television and newspaper editors. In other words, most news is bad news and the worst news gets the big story on the front page.

So one might expect the New York Times to contain, on average, more negative and unhappy types of words—like “war,” “ funeral,” “cancer,” “murder”—than positive, happy ones—like “love,” “peace,” and “hero.”

Or take Twitter. A popular image of what people tweet about may contain a lot of complaints about bad days, worse coffee, busted relationships and lousy sitcoms. Again, it might be reasonable to guess that a giant bag containing all the words from the world’s tweets—on average—would be more negative and unhappy than positive and happy.

But new research shows just the opposite. Read more ..


Africa on Edge

Maternal Health Poses Another Major Challenge for Somalia

January 11th 2012

Somalia Topics - Edna-adan Maternity Hospital
Edna Adan Maternity Hospital

Two decades of civil war in Somalia have made the country one of the most dangerous places in the world for a woman to give birth. The World Health Organization says Somalia has one of the highest maternal mortality rates in the world.  In southern Somalia, the situation is grave, and the recent famine has made the health crisis for mothers and infants even worse. In camps for internally displaced people in Mogadishu, women give birth in their tents.  If there are complications, they are either taken to the clinic in the camp or, if the resources exist, transported to one of Mogadishu’s three hospitals.

At the Medina Hospital, which focuses on trauma and emergency maternal medicine, nearly 200 women give birth every month. The director, Dr. Mohamed Yusuf, says the famine is straining the hospital's already limited capacity. "A lot of people who are IDPs today, you can imagine how they are malnourished while they are in pregnancy," Yusuf said.  "And the premature delivery is frequent here, and not having an incubator is another problem.” A lack of equipment in Somalia is endemic.  There are no neonatal facilities in the south.  And without respirators or incubators - caring for premature babies is difficult. The closest incubator can be found 846 kilometers north in Hargeisa, the capital of the autonomous region of Somaliland. Read more ..


Inside Jakarta

Indonesians Use Sandals as Justice Symbol

January 8th 2012

Asia Topics - Sandals of Indonesia

Officials from Indonesia's Child Protection Commission collect sandals sent to their office in Jakarta by outraged citizens as part of a campaign to support a boy who was beaten by police and faces five years in jail for stealing footwear, January 4, 2012.

The humble flip flop is being used as a satirical symbol of Indonesia's justice system this week, with mountains of the plastic sandals piling up on the doorsteps of police stations across the country. In protest of a juvenile being tried for petty theft, rights groups say the response highlights the public's growing frustration with an institution riddled with corruption.

The flip flops frenzy was sparked by the case of a 15-year-old student from Palu, Sulawesi, who allegedly stole a police officer's plastic sandals worth around $3. The juvenile defendant, who was also interrogated and beaten by police, now faces up to five years in jail. The case has sparked nationwide condemnation, with thousands of flips flops appearing on the doorsteps of police stations across the country. Read more ..


Edge of Health

Poor Maternal Diet Increases Diabetes Risk

January 6th 2012

Health/Medicine - Diabetic Diet

Researchers funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council have shown one way in which poor nutrition in the womb can put a person at greater risk of developing type 2 diabetes and other age-related diseases in later life. This finding could lead to new ways of identifying people who are at a higher risk of developing these diseases and might open up targets for treatment.
The team, from the University of Cambridge and the Medical Research Council (MRC) Toxicology Unit at the University of Leicester, publish their findings today (Friday 6 January) in the journal Cell Death and Differentiation.

The research shows that, in both rats and humans, individuals who experience a poor diet in the womb are less able to store fats correctly in later life. Storing fats in the right areas of the body is important because otherwise they can accumulate in places like the liver and muscle where they are more likely to lead to disease. Read more ..


The Digital Edge

Splitsville—Online

January 5th 2012

Social Topics - gavel and rings

Matchmaking and marriage services on the Internet have brought millions of Americans together. But the Net has also become a helpful tool when people want marriages to end.

Splitting from a spouse is rarely easy emotionally, but in many divorces, the Internet has made the process quicker, more efficient, and cheaper.

Lindsey Short, Jr., a past president of the Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, is a partner in the largest family-law firm in Houston, Texas. He says that thanks to the Internet, the firm, which handles many high-profile divorce cases, has all but done away with its library of law books. And you’ve seen enough photos or courtroom dramas showing law libraries to know how many expensive, leather-bound volumes that must have entailed.

Simply put, Short says, “We do our research online. We hire experts through Internet resources—investigation analysts. We use the Internet dramatically, daily.” Read more ..



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