Spring has sprung, at least for most of us, which means sundresses, seersucker and boozy croquet parties on the front lawn. Goodbye happy lamp, hello mimosa.
But it’s not just champagne that’s lifting our spirits and banishing the wintertime blues. According to Salon.com (and a team of researchers from the University of Southern California, Harvard and Johns Hopkins) mental illnesses — such as obsessive compulsive disorder, depression and anorexia — are far more seasonal than we think.
“The epidemiologists, led by John Ayers, combed through every Google search performed in the United States and Australia between 2006 and 2010, looking for queries like “symptoms of” and “medications for” OCD, anxiety, ADHD, bipolar, depression, anorexia, bulimia and schizophrenia.
“The Internet, the authors note in a study forthcoming in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, is “the world’s most relied-on health resource. Because of mental health’s complexity, stigma, and obstacles to care, patients are likely to investigate their problems online.” At the same time, tracking a population’s longterm mental health indicators is difficult for epidemiologists; phone surveys are often unreliable — would you want to discuss the voices in your head with a complete stranger? — and cost prohibitive. Google queries, on the other hand, are nakedly honest and free to collect. Continue reading “That crazy time of year”
There is more student loan debt outstanding — $1 Trillion — than credit card debt! And the government is making a huge profit on it — an estimated 36 percent profit margin, reports the Huffington Post
“Here’s the real shame: The government gets to borrow for 10 years paying less than 2 percent interest on U.S. Treasury notes, while students must pay 6.8 percent interest on the loans they get from the government!
“The government is ripping off college students, leaving them with a burden of debt that averages $27,000, and for many exceeds $100,000, while they are forced to pay above-market interest rates.
“Students will spend so much time and pay so much interest getting out of student loan debt that most will never be able to afford to buy a home. Today’s homebuyers can get a 3.5 percent, 30-year fixed-rate mortgage. But today’s students may never get to take advantage of today’s low mortgage rates, because the government demands twice that rate to pay off their student loan debt. Continue reading “Let’s actually talk about student loans”
Social Security’s disability program is overwhelmed by so many claims that judges sometimes award benefits they might otherwise deny just to keep up with the flow of cases, according to a lawsuit filed by the judges themselves.
The Social Security Administration says the agency’s administrative law judges should decide 500 to 700 disability cases a year. The agency calls the standard a productivity goal, but the lawsuit claims it is an illegal quota that requires judges to decide an average of more than two cases per workday.
“When the goals are too high, the easy way out is to pay the case,” said Randall Frye, president of the Association of Administrative Law Judges and a judge in Charlotte, N.C. “Paying the case is a decision that might be three pages long. When you deny benefits, it’s usually a 15- or 20-page denial that takes a lot more time and effort.”
The lawsuit raises serious questions about the integrity of the disability hearing process by the very people in charge of running it. It comes as the disability program faces serious financial problems.
The disability program’s trust fund will run out of money in 2016, according to projections by Social Security’s trustees. At that point, the system will collect only enough money in payroll taxes to pay 79 percent of benefits. That would trigger an automatic 21 percent cut in benefits.
Congress could redirect money from Social Security’s much bigger retirement program to shore up the disability program, as it did in 1994. But that would worsen the finances of the retirement program, which is facing its own long-term financial problems.
The lawsuit was filed by the judges’ union and three judges on Thursday in federal court in Chicago. It names the agency and Acting Social Security Commissioner Carolyn Colvin as defendants. Colvin took over in February after Commissioner Michael Astrue’s six-year term expired.
The union announced the lawsuit at a press conference Friday in Washington. A Social Security spokesman declined to comment. In an interview, Astrue disputed the union’s claims. Continue reading “U.S. disability system in crisis”
“The latest decision by the Boy Scouts of America, proposing to end its ban on gay scouts but not its ban on gay and lesbian scoutmasters and den mothers, is at once ridiculous and blatantly anti-gay,” writes Michaelangelo Signorile in today’s Huffington Post, continuing as excerpted below
“Sorry, but there’s just no middle ground on bigotry. The idea that you can end discrimination against some — and actually admit that it is discrimination — but not against others is truly breathless in its illogic. The BSA actually says in its new proposal that “no youth may be denied membership in the Boy Scouts of America on the basis of sexual orientation or preference alone,” but that the organization “will maintain the current membership policy for all adult leaders.”
“So a boy can come out as gay, be a great scout and be accepted by the organization but not even think about being a scoutmaster as an adult? And how can a boy who comes out as gay, or is simply known to be gay because of his other associations and friendships, feel that he is not stigmatized by the BSA when the organization is still discriminating against gay adults? Continue reading “Signorile on the Scouts”
New York Times recently reported that 76 percent of American university faculty are adjunct professors – an all-time high. Unlike tenured faculty, whose annual salaries can top $160,000, adjunct professors make an average of $2,700 per course and receive no health care or other benefits, as the ever-insightful Sarah Kendzior writes in Al Jazeera this week.
“Most adjuncts teach at multiple universities while still not making enough to stay above the poverty line. Some are on welfare or homeless. “Others depend on charity drives held by their peers. Adjuncts are generally not allowed to have offices or participate in faculty meetings. When they ask for a living wage or benefits, they can be fired. Their contingent status allows them no recourse.
“No one forces a scholar to work as an adjunct. So why do some of America’s brightest PhDs – many of whom are authors of books and articles on labour, power, or injustice – accept such terrible conditions?
“Path dependence and sunk costs must be powerful forces,” speculates political scientist Steve Saidemen in a post titled “The Adjunct Mystery”. In other words, job candidates have invested so much time and money into their professional training that they cannot fathom abandoning their goal – even if this means living, as Saidemen says, like “second-class citizens”. (He later downgraded this to “third-class citizens”.)
With roughly 40 percent of academic positions eliminated since the 2008 crash, most adjuncts will not find a tenure-track job. Their path dependence and sunk costs will likely lead to greater path dependence and sunk costs – and the costs of the academic job market are prohibitive. Many job candidates must shell out thousands of dollars for a chance to interview at their discipline’s annual meeting, usually held in one of the most expensive cities in the world. In some fields, candidates must pay to even see the job listings. Continue reading “The academic underclass”
Parents worry a lot about the safety of children crossing the street. It looks like they should be worried about Grandpa, too.
Older people are at higher risk of being killed by a car while walking, according to new data from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, reports NPR.
“Going up against a 2,000-pound moving metal object is never a good idea. Pedestrians account for 13 percent of all motor-vehicle traffic deaths, even though walking accounts for 10.5 percent of trips.The CDC data crunchers looked at pedestrian deaths from 2001 to 2010, to get a grasp of differences in sex, age and ethnicity. Differences there are.
“The death rates were lowest for children under age 15. Maybe all that parental nagging about “stop, look and listen” is working?The risk of pedestrian death increases slowly through life and peaks with people over age 75, who are more than twice as likely to be killed by a car than are people overall. The results were published in the latest Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. This study didn’t look at why, but Laurie Beck, an epidemiologist at CDC who led the study, says that a number of factors, including the fact that older people take more time to cross the street, are responsible. Continue reading “Walking while old: The risks”
What is the proportion of female to male researchers in Europe, and how is this proportion evolving over time? In which scientific fields are women better represented? Do the career paths of female and male researchers follow similar patterns? Are statistics on women in science comparable across Europe? How many women occupy senior positions in scientific research in Europe?
Published every three years since 2003, She Figures replies to these questions. She Figures ” presents human resource statistics and indicators in the research and technological development (RTD) sector and on gender equality in science. The report is recommended reading for all policymakers, researchers and their employers, citizens with a vision of a participative, competitive and innovative Europe.
“The latest update, She Figures 2012 ( 4.32MB), shows that despite progress, gender inequalities in science tend to persist. For example, while 59 % of EU graduate students in 2010 were female, only 20 % of EU senior academicians were women. The publication also gives an overview of the scientific fields where women are better or less represented, and compares the research workforce in different economic sectors (e.g. higher education, government, and business sectors).
“The She Figures 2012 booklet has been published in March 2013 and uploaded on this website. All She Figures volumes, in addition to other relevant documents, are available through the e-Library”
More at: http://ec.europa.eu/research/science-society/index.cfm?fuseaction=public.topic&id=1282
About six in 10 Americans believe that money and wealth should be more evenly distributed among a larger percentage of the people in the U.S., while one-third think the current distribution is fair, reports the Gallup Organization today.
“Although Americans’ attitudes on this topic have fluctuated somewhat over time, the current sentiment is virtually the same as when Gallup first asked this question in 1984. Slightly fewer have favored a more even distribution since October 2008.
“The range in the percentage saying wealth should be “more evenly distributed” has been relatively narrow over time, from a low of 56% in 2000 to a high of 68% in April 2008.
“Gallup has asked the question at least once during the administration of three Republican presidents — Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, and George W. Bush — and two Democrats, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama. But there is no generally consistent pattern across these administrations. For example, the slightly lower percentage favoring a more even distribution during the Obama administration started in the final year of George W. Bush’s administration — after the onset of the financial crisis. Continue reading “Majority favor wealth redistribution”
“What happens if the gay rights movement, as it appears it may, succeeds politically on same-sex marriage, but many Christians refuse to recognize such unions and continue to declare that American society has become ungodly and immoral? Gay rights advocates often compare their cause to the civil rights struggle of half a century ago. But there is a fundamental difference,” blogs Joe.My.God, reporting on Buchanan’s recent writings in World Net Daily
“Priests and pastors marched for civil rights. Others preached for civil rights. But if the gay rights agenda is imposed, we could have priests and pastors preaching not acceptance but principled rejection. Prelates could be declaring from pulpits everywhere that the triumph of gay rights is a defeat for God’s Country, and the new laws are immoral and need neither be respected nor obeyed.
“The issue is acceptance. We know of how America refused to accept Prohibition and, in good conscience, Americans broke the laws against the consumption of alcohol. Imagine the situation in America today if priests and pastors were telling congregations they need not obey civil rights laws. They would be denounced as racists. Church tax exemptions would be in peril. Continue reading “Pat Buchanan calls for anti-LGBT civil disobedience”
This month, President Obama unveiled a breathtakingly ambitious initiative to map the human brain, the ultimate goal of which is to understand the workings of the human mind in biological terms.
Many of the insights that have brought us to this point arose from the merger over the past 50 years of cognitive psychology, the science of mind, and neuroscience, the science of the brain, the New Yorktimes reports: “The discipline that has emerged now seeks to understand the human mind as a set of functions carried out by the brain.
“This new approach to the science of mind not only promises to offer a deeper understanding of what makes us who we are, but also opens dialogues with other areas of study — conversations that may help make science part of our common cultural experience.
“Consider what we can learn about the mind by examining how we view figurative art. In a recently published book, I tried to explore this question by focusing on portraiture, because we are now beginning to understand how our brains respond to the facial expressions and bodily postures of others. Continue reading “How the brain “sees” art”
Decades ago media theorist George Gerbner coined the term “mean world syndrome” about a mindset of disproportionate fear among individuals.
Now the mean world syndrome is taking on international proportions. The communist enemy, with the “world’s fourth largest military,” has beentrundling missiles around and threatening the United States with nuclear obliteration, writes Tom Englehardt in today’s issue of Le Monde. Guam, Hawaii, Washington: all, it claims, are targetable. The coverage in the media has been hair-raising. The U.S. is rushing an untested missile defense system to Guam, deploying missile-interceptor ships off the South Korean coast, sending “nuclear capable” B-2 Stealth bombers thousands of miles on mock bombing runs, pressuring China, and conducting large-scale war games with its South Korean ally.
Only one small problem: there is as yet little evidence that the enemy with a few nuclear weapons facing off (rhetorically at least) against an American arsenal of4,650 of them has the ability to miniaturize and mount even one on a missile, no less deliver it accurately, nor does it have a missile capable of reaching Hawaii or Washington, and I wouldn’t count on Guam either. Continue reading “The New “mean world syndrome””
The participants at “Lifestyles for the Disabled” do not exactly seem like naturals as radio personalities.
There is Anthony Cossentino, 29, a huge “Jeopardy” fan who for years has been arriving at Lifestyles, a daytime occupational program on Staten Island for developmentally delayed adults in their 20s and 30s, every morning with a self-written question of the day, to pose to anyone who will listen,reports the New York Times.
“Or take Michael Halbreich, 32, who has an uncanny ability to remember the birthday of anyone he meets, and to instantly name the day of the week that any date in history fell on.
“He has yet to get one wrong,” said Burak Uzun, a staff supervisor who runs the media program at Lifestyles, which offers vocational, social, recreational and educational services geared toward independent living.And then there’s Anthony DiFato, 22, who is well known at Lifestyles for his obsession with mystery novels, films and television shows. He is known as the Mystery Man because he is never without a whodunit book.
“Ever since I was a kid, I was always into mysteries,” Mr. DiFato said at Lifestyles one recent weekday while holding a paperback copy of a book in the Mrs. Jeffries mystery series by Emily Brightwell. But these quirky skills and interests can make for good radio. Just over two years ago, Mr. Uzun, along with another staff member, Joel Richardson, began recruiting participants at Lifestyles with varying degrees of autism to record brief talk show segments on a laptop. The segments were posted online as podcasts, mostly for friends and relatives of participants and staff members to listen to.
More at: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/04/14/nyregion/radio-personalities-at-lifestyles-for-the-disabled-make-their-voices-heard.html?ref=nyregionspecial
Creativity researchers have long-ago accepted the fact that creative people are complex. Almost by definition, creativity is complex, reports Huffington Post. ” Creative thinking is influenced by many traits, behaviors, and sociocultural factors that come together in one person. It would be surprising if all of these factors didn’t sometimes, or even most of the time, appear to contradict one another.
“As creativity researcher Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi notes in his 1996 article for Psychology Today entitled “The Creative Personality,” creative people “show tendencies of thought and action that in most people are segregated. They contain contradictory extremes; instead of being an “individual,” each of them is a “multitude.”
“To me, some of the most fascinating contrasts are those found in creative performers — those who are constantly on stage and in the public eye. Out of Csikszentmihaly’s list of 10 complex personality traits of creative people, which were based on interviews with a wide variety of creative people, I think these three are the most relevant to creative performers: Continue reading “Complexity in creative personalities”
In Batgirl #19, on sale today in both print and digital formats, the character Alysia Yeoh will identify as a transwoman in a conversation with her roommate, Barbara Gordon (aka Batgirl). Taking care to distinguish Yeoh’s sexual orientation from her gender identity, Batgirl writer Gail Simone noted that the character is also bisexual, Wired Science reports
“Once banned from the world of mainstream comic books by the infamous Comics Code Authority, LGBT characters now have a stronger presence in the world of superhero comics than ever before, with gay and lesbian heroes like Batwoman, Northstar and Green Lantern Alan Scott openly declaring who they are — and even getting married. Today, DC Comics told Wired that it will continue to expand the LGBT diversity of its superhero universe by introducing the first openly transgender character in a mainstream superhero comic.”Simone attributed the inspiration for the character to a conversation she had with fellow comic book writer Greg Rucka several years ago at the Wondercon convention, after a fan asked why there were fewer gay male superheroes than lesbian ones. Rucka, who co-created (and rebooted) Batwoman as a lesbian character, replied that it would be a real sign of change for a gay male character to appear on a comic book cover — and an even bigger step for a transgender character to do the same. Continue reading “Alysia Yeoh makes history”
For a time, world hunger was decreasing – as mutual aid and agricultural advances were reducing global poverty in the aggregate. But things seems to be reversing because of environmental changes.
The world is unprepared for changes that will see parts of Africa turned into disaster areas, say food experts in a report published in The Guardian
“Millions of people could become destitute in Africa and Asia as staple foods more than double in price by 2050 as a result of extreme temperatures, floods and droughts that will transform the way the world farms.
“As food experts gather at two major conferences to discuss how to feed the nine billion people expected to be alive in 2050, leading scientists have told the Observer that food insecurity risks turning parts of Africa into permanent disaster areas. Rising temperatures will also have a drastic effect on access to basic foodstuffs, with potentially dire consequences for the poor. Continue reading “Global warming and world hunger”
Who is more exhausted: men or women?
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has the answer, though it’s one that you probably could have arrived at without a second’s thought, reports NPR.
“More women than men said they felt very tired or exhausted most days or every day, when government surveyors asked them. Overall, about 15 percent of women said they were worn out compared with 10 percent of the men.
“Now, it gets even more interesting, or maybe it’s just obvious, when you break down the responses by age.
“The biggest difference in tiredness by sex is in the 18-44 age group. Women in the group were about twice as likely as men to feel wiped out: 16 percent versus 9 percent.
“Now what in the world could be going on? Hmm. Continue reading “The fatigue gender gap”
Unemployment rates may have dropped in the U.S. as of late, but work stress is swiftly on the rise, according to a new report.
A new survey shows that more than eight in 10 employed Americans are stressed out by at least one thing about their jobs. Poor pay and increasing workloads were top sources of concern reported by American workers, reports Huffington Post
“The third annual Work Stress Survey, conducted by Harris Interactive on behalf of Everest College, polled 1,019 employed Americans by phone. The results showed a marked increase from last year’s survey, which found that 73 percent of Americans were stressed at work. This year, that number jumped to 83 percent. Only 17 percent of workers said that nothing about their jobs causes them stress.
“More companies are hiring, but workers are still weary and stressed out from years of a troubled economy that has brought about longer hours, layoffs and budget cuts,” survey spokesman John Swartz, regional director of career services at Everest College, said in a statement. “Americans have plenty of reasons to be optimistic, but anxiety among employees is rooted into our working lives, and it is important to understand new and better ways of coping with the pressure.” Continue reading “What Americans worry about most”
At first glance, it is one of the nation’s hottest new education-reform movements, a seemingly populist crusade to empower poor parents and fix failing public schools. But a closer examination reveals that the “parent-trigger” movement is being heavily financed by the conservative Walton Family Foundation, one of the nation’s largest and most strident anti-union organizations, a Frying Pan News investigation has shown. As TruthOut explains:
“Since 2009, the foundation has poured more than $6.3 million into Parent Revolution, a Los Angeles advocacy group that is in the forefront of the parent-trigger campaign in California and the nation. Its heavy reliance on Walton money, critics say, raises questions about the independence of Parent Revolution and the intentions of the Walton Family Foundation.
“While Parent Revolution identifies the Walton Family Foundation as one of several donors on its Web site, the full extent of contributions from the Walton foundation and other donors hasn’t been publicly known until now. Information supplied to Frying Pan News by Parent Revolution and publicly available tax records show that a total of 18 separate foundations have given more than $14.8 million to the group since its founding in 2009. Continue reading “Public school and private interests”