Coffee may reduce suicide risk

We know this sounds far-fetched but a new study has shown that drinking a lot of coffee may reduce suicidal thinking in some, imgresdue to the mood altering effects of caffeine.

Apparently, people who drank more than four cups of coffee a day were 53 percent less likely to commit suicide than those who drank less than one cup a day, a new study found. WebMD reported today that

“Those who drank two to three cups of coffee a day had a 45 percent lower risk of suicide, according to the analysis of data from more than 208,000 people who were followed from 1988 to 2008. During that time, there were 277 suicides, CBS Newsreported.

“The study was published in the July issue of the World Journal of Biological Psychiatry.

“The researchers said that caffeine in coffee can increased neurotransmitters, which can lift a person’s mood and act as a mild antidepressant, CBS News reported.

“Unlike previous investigations, we were able to assess association of consumption of caffeinated and non-caffeinated beverages, and we identify caffeine as the most likely candidate of any putative protective effect of coffee,” study author Michel Lucas, a research fellow in the department of nutrition at Harvard School of Public Health, said in a news release.


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College student poverty

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, 29 percent of students nationwide have household incomes below $20,000, 79 percent work full or part time in addition to taking classes, and 35 percent are parents or have dependents (17 percent are single parents). ThinkProgress reports that “These financial burdens can constrain college students’ potential. Many are forced to drop out of school, creating a vicious cycle of poverty because without education, it is increasingly difficult to emerge out of poverty and enter the middle class.images

“Overall, more college students are having to work long hours to finance their educations. The American Community Survey found that in 2011, 19.6 of undergraduates nationwide worked a full-time, year-round job. By contrast, in 2005, just under 10 percent of college students were working full time.

“The Census paper also notes that 63.3 percent of college students live with their parents or relatives, suggesting that the sluggish economy is making it difficult for students to attend college further from home and live on their ownPoverty rates in many areas of the country decline significantly when they exclude off-campus college students living on their own, a new Census Bureau working paper finds.The Census Bureau calculated that 15.2 percent of the population officially lives in poverty. But for college students living off-campus and not living with relatives, the poverty rate is 51.8 percent. When eliminating them from the official poverty rate calculation, only 14.5 percent of Americans live below the poverty level.College students who live in dorms are automatically eliminated from calculations of the poverty rate, but students living off-campus are not, so the Census Bureau isolated data for these students recorded by the American Community Survey from 2009 to 2011. Continue reading “College student poverty”

Major ruling for transgender students

Last week’s settlement between the U.S. Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights and a California school district may have been issued at the K-12 level, but the newly clear message that federal laws prohibit discrimination based on gender identity applies to colleges too, experts say.

Inside Higher Ed reports that “The U.S. Departments of Justice and Education jointly determined that California’s Arcadia School District violated Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, imgreswhich prohibits sex discrimination, by barring a transgender student from sex-specific facilities and activities. All schools and colleges receiving federal funds are obligated to comply with Title IX or risk losing that funding.

“In a 2010 “Dear Colleague” letter, OCR said schools must work to prevent gender nonconformity discrimination — when, for example, a student who is assigned a male sex at birth but does not act as a stereotypical boy (maybe by using female pronouns, or wearing dresses) is bullied.

“But this resolution agreement takes that a step further by covering gender identity discrimination — when the same student described above is barred from using the female restroom. She is not being excluded because she doesn’t act like a stereotypical boy and is therefore nonconforming, but because she has a transgender gender identity; her identity doesn’t match the sex she was assigned at birth. Continue reading “Major ruling for transgender students”

Univ of Calif affirms speech rights

The right of faculty members to speak out on matters affecting their colleges and universities has long been viewed as central to the way academic freedom and shared governance are supposed to work in American higher education, reports Inside Higher Edimages

“The University of California Board of Regents affirmed that right this month with an amendment to the system’s “Statement on the Professional Rights of Faculty.” In so doing, the board sought to undercut the impact of a 2006 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that has been used in some cases to question the faculty right to speak out on institutional governance.

“The new language states that faculty members have the “freedom to address any matter of institutional policy or action when acting as a member of the faculty whether or not as a member of an agency of institutional governance.”

“While many faculty members might just assume that they have that right, the 2006 decision (which was not about higher education) led some courts to question such rights. That ruling, Garcetti v. Ceballos, was about a suit by a deputy district attorney in Los Angeles who was demoted after he criticized a local sheriff’s conduct to his supervisors. The Supreme Court ruled that First Amendment protections do not necessarily extend to public employees when they speak in capacities related to their jobs. Continue reading “Univ of Calif affirms speech rights”

Why writers drink

Olivia Laing’s second book, “A Trip to Echo Springs,” takes its title from a line in Tennessee Williams’s play Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. It’s an apt phrase for a book about writers and alcoholism, with its combined dose of the sublime and the helplessly mortal. But “Echo Spring” is only the liquor cabinet, named after a brand of whiskey, as discussed in a review in the New Statesmanimgres-1

“Laing’s ear was apparently made to catch such notes of melancholia; the book’s subtitle, Why Writers Drink, undersells her achievement. She has produced not an answer to a glib question, but a nuanced portrait – via biography, memoir, analysis –of the urge of the hyperarcticulate to get raving drunk.
“The biographical focus is on the lives of six writers – Williams among them – and Laing visits the places in America where they variously lived, drank and dried out. The journey imposes a stagey narrative that the book could have done without, but Laing’s experiences give line-by-line pleasure and make for bright collisions with the past. A pastrami sandwich from Katz’s Deli in New York in hand, she walks to the Queensboro Bridge and remembers that this is where “John Cheever once saw two hookers playing hopscotch with a hotel room key”. Continue reading “Why writers drink”

The “ambisexual” Stravinsky

Today’s edition of Edge carries a review of Robert Kraft’s new book “Stravinsky: Discoveries and Memories”(Naxos Books), with some biographical insights not hitherto examined.images

“Craft’s book drops a bomb that, in the tawdry modern way, could yet overshadow the other Rite thinking that has attended the recent 100th anniversary.

“Calling his revelation “long overdue” yet timely in sense that things have changed, the world has changed, and these things can now be talked about, Craft writes, “It will come a surprise to most people that in the early Diaghilev period Stravinsky was exclusively in an ambisexual phase while writing ’Petrushka’ and ’The Rite of Spring.’ ”

“Even without the head-scratchers of “exclusively,” “ambisexual” and “phase,” “surprise” is a stunner of an understatement predicting the storm of controversy his assertion that Stravinsky had sex with men in the period in which he was composing “The Rite” would stir up, as it has. It would have been a poor calculation for Craft, whose career as a musician and writer, and whose own personal fame, rest on his long association with Stravinsky as colleague and confidant, to steal his master’s thunder in the Rite Year. But Craft had to know that his contention, and the raft of evidence of whatever reliability he has supplied to support it, would sell books. Whatever else, Craft is back in the news, right alongside the master. Continue reading “The “ambisexual” Stravinsky”

American’s have least vacation

One thing many working people in American don’t know that they don’t know is how poor our social benefits are compare with those enjoyed by workers in other countries, reports Sociological Images.imgres

“No doubt one reason is the general media blackout about worker experiences in other countries.  A case in point: vacation benefits.

“The Center for Economic and Policy Research recently completed a study of vacation benefits in advanced capitalist economies.  Here is what the authors found:

The United States is the only advanced economy in the world that does not guarantee its workers paid vacation. European countries establish legal rights to at least 20 days of paid vacation per year, with legal requirements of 25 and even 30 or more days in some countries. Australia and New Zealand both require employers to grant at least 20 vacation days per year; Canada and Japan mandate at least 10 paid days off. The gap between paid time off in the United States and the rest of the world is even larger if we include legally mandated paid holidays, where the United States offers none, but most of the rest of the world’s rich countries offer at least six paid holidays per year.”

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College enrollments drop

College enrollment fell 2 percent in 2012-13, the first significant decline since the 1990s, imgresbut nearly all of that drop hit for-profit and community colleges; now, signs point to 2013-14 being the year when traditional four-year, nonprofit colleges begin a contraction that will last for several years, reports the New York Times today. “The college-age population is dropping after more than a decade of sharp growth, and many adults who opted out of a forbidding job market and went back to school during the recession have been drawn back to work by the economic recovery.

“Hardest hit are likely to be colleges that do not rank among the wealthiest or most prestigious, and are heavily dependent on tuition revenue, raising questions about their financial health — even their survival.

“There are many institutions that are on the margin, economically, and are very concerned about keeping their doors open if they can’t hit their enrollment numbers,” said David A. Hawkins, the director of public policy and research at the National Association for College Admission Counseling, which has more than 1,000 member colleges.

“The most competitive colleges remain unaffected, but gaining admission to middle-tier institutions will most likely get easier.

“Colleges fear that their high prices and the concern over rising student debt are turning people away, and on Wednesday, President Obama again challenged them to rein in tuition increases. Colleges have resorted to deeper discounts and accelerated degree programs. In all, the four-year residential college experience as a presumed rite of passage for middle-class students is coming under scrutiny.”

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U.S. leads world in income inequity

Wealth data is not easy to get.

Still for three years now, Credit Suisse Research Institute has published an annual Global Wealth Databook which attempts to estimate global wealth holdings.

As posted today in Sociological Images: “The most recent issue includes data covering 2012.  According to Credit Suisse, the goal “is to provide the best available estimates of the wealth holdings of households around the world for the period since the year 2000.”


“According to the publication, global household wealth was $222.7 trillion in mid-2012, equal to $48,500 for each of the 4.6 billion adults in the world.  Wealth is defined as “the marketable value of financial assets plus non-financial assets (principally housing and land) less debts.”

“Not surprisingly, average global wealth varies considerably across countries and regions. Continue reading “U.S. leads world in income inequity”

United Nations: “Free and Equal”

UN-Born-Free-and-Equal-220x300Today, in the midst of a surge in anti-gay persecution and violence from Russia to Cameroon to Jamaica, and as LGBT rights issues continue to divide United Nations member states,

the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights launched Free & Equal, a major global outreach campaign for LGBT equality. Bilerico reports that:

“The year-long initiative, which will focus on public education and advocate for legal reforms, was launched at a press conference in Cape Town, South Africa. UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay was joined by Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Justice Edwin Cameron of the South African Constitutional Court.

“The Universal Declaration of Human Rights promises a world in which everyone is born free and equal in dignity and rights – no exceptions, no-one left behind,” said High Commissioner Pillay, a native of South Africa. “Yet it’s still a hollow promise for many millions of LGBT people forced to confront hatred, intolerance, violence and discrimination on a daily basis.”

“Indeed, a press release from the human rights office notes that consensual same-sex relationships are still criminalized in more than 76 countries around the globe, discrimination against LGBT people is rampant in education, health care, and the workplace, and hate-motivated beatings, sexual assaults, and murders have been recorded “in all regions of the world.” Continue reading “United Nations: “Free and Equal””

Fat shaming’s effects

Fat-shaming — the process of insulting, ostracizing, or otherwise stigmatizing people who appear overweight — actually does far more harm than good, according to new research reported by ThinkProgress.

“In fact, overweight people who face weight discrimination are likely to eat more, exercise less, and have a higher chance of ending up obese.

“Researchers at the Florida State University College of Medicine conducted an experiment where they tracked a nationally representative population of Americans between 2006 and 2010. The findings were striking. Americans who were overweight in 2006 — but not obese — and stigmatized for it were two and half times more likely to end up obese four years later than those who hadn’t been fat-shamed. Furthermore, those who were obese at the beginning of the study were three times more likely to still be obese in 2010 if they faced weight discrimination.

“There is robust evidence that internalizing weight-based stereotypes, teasing and stigmatizing experiences are associated with more frequent binge eating,” wrote the researchers. They also believe the stress caused by overweight Americans’ public and personal humiliation elevates hormones that promote weight-gain — a trend that has been witnessed in other demographics with high stress levels, too. Continue reading “Fat shaming’s effects”

Men & eating disorders

People of all gender identifications, ages, races and sexualities suffer from eating disorders and struggle with body image issues, but the majority of eating disorder research is conducted on young, white women.images

Huffington Post Gay Voices reports “In the past decade or so, there has been increasing importance placed on understanding the impact these issues have on men. Here are six things you should know:

“1. Male eating disorders are on the rise — or more men are becoming brave enough to seek help. A January 2013 study estimated that 10 to 15 percent of anorexia and bulimia sufferers are male. Data from Britain’s NHS has shown a 66 percent increase in hospital admissions for male eating disorders over the last decade. It’s unclear whether this signals a vast increase in men struggling with disordered eating, greater awareness of how and where to get help, or both.

“2. Men are affected by images of celebrities’ “perfect” bodies, too. “The Mask You Live In,” a new documentary from Jennifer Siebel Newsom, explores the pressure society puts on young boys to look and act “like a man.” Muscular, toned male bodies in the media are perhaps just as harmful as slim, pale female bodies.

“3. Disordered eating in men may be linked to experiences of sexual harassment. A study released in May 2013 found that, among college-age participants, men who had experienced a high level of sexual harassment were more likely to purge or take laxatives than women who had gone through similar experiences. Continue reading “Men & eating disorders”

Art and tragic events

imagesThe Economist gave the United States a whole weekend to mourn the victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary massacre before telling the entire nation to suck it up. “Those of us who view the events remotely … unless we start to evince a newfound appetite for gun-control measures to prevent future mass slayings, are doing little more than displaying and enjoying our own exalted strickenness,” writes one M.S. “This is an activity at which we, as a culture, excel.”

Why, thanks, anonymous writer, for telling an entire nation its feelings are unproductive. I am reminded of Eddie Izzard’s bit about St. Paul’s letters to the Corinthians—and the Corinthians’ response: “Dear Paul, fuck off. Who are you? Why do you keep sending us letters? You arrogant bastard, writing a letter to an entire city! What do you want us to do, put this on a board or something? Just fuck off!… Love and kisses, The Corinthians.”

On the other end of the spectrum, there was the Washington Post‘s Style section, which, earlier this week, asked its arts critics to “meditate on the role of the arts in coping with grief” and “share works that have resonated with them in such times.” Theodor Adorno once said that poetry after Auschwitz was barbaric. The Post appears to be asking its critics to hand out artworks as antidepressants. Continue reading “Art and tragic events”

Continuing value of ECT

The idea of treating a psychiatric illness by passing a jolt of electricity through the brain was one of the most controversial in 20th Century medicine. So why are we still using a procedure described by its critics as barbaric and ineffective?The BBC ran a story today discussion the continuing benefits of this controversial procedure:


“Sixty-four-year-old John Wattie says his breakdown in the late 1990s was triggered by the collapse of his marriage and stress at work.

“We had a nice house and a nice lifestyle, but it was all just crumbling away. My depression was starting to overwhelm me. I lost control, I became violent,” he explains. John likens the feeling to being in a hole, a hole he could not get out of despite courses of pills and talking therapies. But now, he says, all of that has changed thanks to what is one of the least understood treatments in psychiatry – electroconvulsive therapy (ECT).

“Before ECT I was the walking dead. I had no interest in life, I just wanted to disappear. After ECT I felt like there was a way out of it. I felt dramatically better.” The use of electricity to treat mental illness started out as an experiment. In the 1930s psychiatrists noticed some heavily distressed patients would suddenly improve after an epileptic fit. John Wattie on why he feels he needs ECT to keep severe depression at bay

“Passing a strong electric current through the brain could trigger a similar seizure and – they hoped – a similar response. By the 1960s it was being widely used to treat a variety of conditions, notably severe depression. But as the old mental asylums closed down and aggressive physical interventions like lobotomies fell out of favour, so too did electroshock treatment, as ECT was previously known. The infamous ECT scene in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest cemented the idea in the public’s mind of a brutal treatment, although by the time the film was released in 1975 it was very rarely given without a general anaesthetic. Continue reading “Continuing value of ECT”

HPV risks in men

It’s rare for men to contract an oral HPV infection, but single men and smokers face a relatively greater risk, a new study suggests, as reported on KFVS.

“The study, published online recently in The Lancet, followed more than 1,600 men to chart rates of oral infection with HPV, or human papillomavirus. HPV, which can cause genital and anal warts, is the most commonly transmitted sexual infection in the United States. Some strains of the virus can eventually lead to cancer. But it has not been fully clear how often HPV infects the mouth and throat. The answer, at least in healthy men, is not very often, based on the new findings. However, being single or being a smoker were risk factors for initial infection. Smokers had nearly three times the risk of a cancer-linked HPV infection, versus nonsmokers. Singles were about three to four times more likely to contract a cancer-linked infection than men who were married or living with someone. Overall, less than 2 percent of the study participants contracted an HPV strain linked to an increased cancer risk in one year. And for most men, the immune system cleared the virus within a year. Continue reading “HPV risks in men”

China’s economy slowing

China’s manufacturing activity fell to an 11-month low in July, hurt by a decline in new orders, according to the BBC

“The bank’s Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) fell to 47.7 from 48.2 in June. The PMI is a key indicator of activity in the sector and a reading below 50 shows contraction. This is the third month in a row that the HSBC reading has been below that level.imgres

“The data comes amid fears of a slowdown in China’s overall economy. Data released earlier this month showed that China’s economic growth slowed in the April to June period, the second straight quarter of weaker expansion. The world’s second biggest economy grew by 7.5% compared to the previous year, down from 7.7% in the January to March period. China’s manufacturing and export sectors have been key drivers of its economic growth over the past decades. However, demand for China’s exports has slowed recently, especially from key markets such as the US and Europe as they grapple with slowing economic growth. At the same time, policymakers have found it tough to boost domestic consumption enough to offset the decline in foreign sales. Continue reading “China’s economy slowing”

Male and female alcohol recovery differences

Alcohol abuse does its neurological damage more quickly in women than in men, new research reported in Scientific American suggests.

“The finding adds to a growing body of evidence that is prompting researchers to consider whether the time is ripe for single-gender treatment programs for alcohol-dependent women and men.

“Over the past few decades scientists have observed a narrowing of the gender gap in alcohol dependence. In the 1980s the ratio of male to female alcohol dependence stood at roughly five males for every female, according to figures compiled by Shelly Greenfield, a professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. By 2002 the “dependence difference” had dropped to about 2.5 men for every woman. But although the gender gap in dependence may be closing, differences in the ways men and women respond to alcohol are emerging. Writing in the January 2012 issue ofAlcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research, principal investigator Claudia Fahlke from the Department of Psychology at the University of Gothenburg in Sweden and her colleagues found that alcohol’s ability to reduce serotonin neurotransmission, was “telescoped” in alcoholic women compared with their male counterparts. Continue reading “Male and female alcohol recovery differences”

Humanities career choices and gender

imgresThere’s no shortage of explanations for the so-called crisis in the humanities, and more have come to light since the publication of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences’ recent “Heart of the Matter” report on the topic. A Recent article in Inside Higher Ed reports on a new study on gender and choices of  courses of study, academic majors, and implicit career aspirations

The finding is  “that the humanities drain is more about women’s equality than a devaluation of the humanities – is gaining particular interest from longtime advocates of the humanities, as well as some criticism.

“Ben Schmidt, a visiting graduate fellow at the Cultural Observatory at Harvard University, argues that the decline in humanities majors since their 1970 peak can be attributed nearly entirely to the changing majors of women.

“Based on data compiled for the academy’s Humanities Indicators Project, he wrote, “I think it’s safe to say that [the] ostensible reason for the long-term collapse in humanities enrollment has to do with the increasing choice of women to enter more pre-professional majors like business, communications, and social work in the aftermath of a) the opening of the workplace and b) universal coeducation suddenly making those degrees relevant.”

“He continued: “You’d have to be pretty tone-deaf to point to their ability to make that choice as a sign of cultural malaise.”

“Looking at the often-cited drop in humanities majors from 14 percent of all degrees granted some 40 years ago to 7 percent today as a whole, commentators such as David Brooks have attributed it to a disconnect with the current pedagogy. Others say that college students are increasingly career-oriented and so are rejecting degrees that don’t promise a job upon graduation.” Continue reading “Humanities career choices and gender”

U.K. national block of online porn

In a remarkable move made public today, every household in the UK is to have pornography blocked by their internet provider unless they choose to receive it, David Cameron is to announce.

As discussed in a article appearing in The Guardian, “in addition, the prime minister will say possessing online pornography depicting rape will be illegal.


“In a speech, Mr Cameron is expected to warn that access to online pornography is “corroding childhood”.

“Search engines will be given until October to introduce further measures to block illegal content.

“In addition, experts from the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre (Ceop) will be given enhanced powers to examine secretive file-sharing networks, and a secure database of banned child porn images gathered by police across the country will be used to trace illegal content and the paedophiles viewing it.”


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Abstinence only and “safe sinning”

Christianity Today carried the following story on the failure of “abstinence only” programs, as well as the concept of “safe-sinning.”images

“As a teen, I was taught abstinence-only sex education. I pledged purity, and I made it known to all the boys around me. In my freshman year of high school, I was even voted “Most Likely to Wait Until Marriage.” The very next year, at age 15, I became pregnant.

“Today, nearly half of American high schoolers, aged 14 to 18, are sexually active, according to a Centers for Disease Controlsurvey. Even Christians aren’t waiting until marriage. One survey found that 8 in 10 unmarried adult evangelicals have had sex

“Somebody has to say it: Our approach isn’t working, and it’s time to rethink “the talk.” It’s time to expand the conversation into territory where many evangelical parents dare not go.

“The familiar Christian parenting mantra of Proverbs 22:6 tells us that if we “start children off on the way they should go, when they are old they will not turn from it.” For sex education, many evangelical moms and dads hold to this verse, teaching their kids to “just say no” and trusting they’ll stick to it. Parents set on abstinence often worry if they say, “Don’t have sex, but if you do here’s how to be safe,” children will take it as permission. This implicit go-ahead for “safe-sinning,” they say, reduces the moral efficacy of the abstinence-only message and offers teens the tools to engage in pre-marital sex without fear of consequences.

“This idea of safe-sinning, though, is a myth. An overwhelming majority of teens actually say it would be easier to abstain if parents would address sex in an open and honest way. Continue reading “Abstinence only and “safe sinning””