The gendered price of success

This is depressing, but not exactly shocking. New research suggests that many men get depressed when women in their lives thrive.

As the story in today’s WebMD reports:  “Men tend to feel worse about themselves when their wives or girlfriends succeed, with their self-esteem sagging rather than basking in the glory of their partners’ accomplishments. That’s the conclusion of a study published online recently in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.

“A series of social experiments revealed that men’s subconscious self-esteem bruises easily when their partner succeeds in a task, even if they’re not competing against each other in that task, said study lead author Kate Ratliff.

imgres-1“It makes sense that a man might feel threatened if his girlfriend outperforms him in something they’re doing together, such as trying to lose weight,” said Ratliff, an assistant professor of psychology at the University of Florida.

“But this research found evidence that men automatically interpret a partner’s success as their own failure, even when they’re not in direct competition,” she added in a news release from the American Psychological Association. At the same time, a male partner’s success had no effect at all on a woman’s self-esteem, the researchers found.

“We sort of expected that women would internalize the success of their partner and actually feel better if their partner succeeded, but we found that nothing was going on,” Ratliff said. “It could be that women are used to the idea that men are expected to be successful, so when they are it’s no big deal.” The study involved 896 people in five experiments conducted in the United States and the Netherlands. The first experiment included 32 couples at the University of Virginia who took a problem-solving test. Then they were told that their partner scored either in the top or bottom 12 percent of all university students. Participants did not receive information about their own performance.

“The news of their partners’ success or failure did not affect how participants said they consciously felt about themselves, which the study authors referred to as “explicit self-esteem.” But, tests gauging “implicit self-esteem” — a person’s unconscious and unspoken sense of self — found that men who believed that their partner had scored in the top 12 percent had significantly lower self-esteem than men who believed their partner had scored in the bottom 12 percent.

“I want to be clear — this really isn’t the case that men are saying, ‘I’m so upset my partner did well.’ The men aren’t acting different toward their partners. It’s not like the men are being jerks,” Ratliff said. “It’s just hurting their sense of self to be in a relationship with someone who has experienced a success.”

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The insomniac’s mind

Brain scans of people who say they have insomnia have shown differences in brain function compared with people who get a full night’s sleep.images

Researchers at the University of California, San Diego, said the poor sleepers struggled to focus part of their brain in memory tests, reports the BBC

“Other experts said that the brain’s wiring may actually be affecting perceptions of sleep quality. The findings were published in the journal Sleep. People with insomnia struggle to sleep at night, but it also has consequences during the day such as delayed reaction times and memory. The study compared 25 people who said they had insomnia with 25 who described themselves as good sleepers. MRI brain scans were carried out while they performed increasingly challenging memory tests. One of the researchers, Prof Sean Drummond, said: “We found that insomnia subjects did not properly turn on brain regions critical to a working memory task and did not turn off ‘mind-wandering’ brain regions irrelevant to the task.

“This data helps us understand that people with insomnia not only have trouble sleeping at night, but their brains are not functioning as efficiently during the day.” A sleep researcher in the UK, Dr Neil Stanley, said that the quality of the sleep each group was having was very similar, even though one set was reporting insomnia. He said: “What’s the chicken and what’s the egg? Is the brain different and causing them to report worse sleep? “Maybe they’re perceiving what happened in the night differently; maybe what is affecting their working memory and ability to focus on the task at hand is also causing insomnia.”


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Prosecutors fail to meet with Greyson and Loubani as 92,000 petition


Two Canadian men remain jailed in an Egyptian prison with no end in sight after a prosecutor failed to show up to a scheduled hearing, reports today’s Toronto Star

“Lawyers for filmmaker John Greyson, 53, and his friend Dr. Tarek Loubani, 32, waited outside the Cairo prison in the hot sun for seven hours, but the prosecutor never appeared, said Greyson’s sister, Cecilia.


“We were all taken aback,” she said, sounding exhausted. “We were hopeful the meeting would take place… It’s been a frustrating day.”

“The lawyers were to meet with the Egyptian prosecutor to plead a case for releasing the men, presenting travel documents and official letters showing they were traveling through Cairo and had no intention of staying.

“The men were arrested Aug. 16 when they entered a police station to ask for directions. Their 15-day detention period ends Saturday, but they are now expected to remain in prison indefinitely until a new hearing takes place. Cecilia said the earliest a new hearing could happen would be next week, but nothing has been scheduled yet.

“It’s a bit of limbo. We do understand that things are chaotic there, but we need information,” she said.The prosecutor failed to show up to a number of scheduled meetings Thursday, leaving many lawyers and prisoners waiting, she added. Canadian consular officials have been helping facilitate meetings at the prison. No charges have been laid, but Egyptian prosecutors have alleged the men conspired with the Muslim Brotherhood in an attack on a police station. Minister of State Lynne Yelich issued a statement Thursday calling for the release of the two men.

“Canada remains deeply concerned about the cases of Dr. Loubani and Mr. Greyson and we are disappointed that the hearing scheduled for today did not take place,” she said.“We continue to work at the highest levels to confirm the specific charges against Dr. Loubani and Mr. Greyson. As we have not yet received confirmation of the charges, the Government of Canada calls for their release.” At the time of their arrest, Greyson and Loubani were en route to Gaza, where Loubani was to teach emergency room medicine and Greyson was thinking of producing a documentary, friends and family have said. The men have not spoken directly with their families but Cecilia has heard that they are in good spirits and health, despite being in an overcrowded cell crammed with other prisoners. A social media campaign supporting Greyson and Loubani has picked up steam, with more than 92,000 people signing a petition to free them. Filmmaker Atom Egoyan made an impassioned plea for their release in a video this week.

“The president of York University, where Greyson is an associate professor and director of the graduate film program, also issued a statement calling for the men to be freed.“The University has been in contact with government officials to express our deep concern for the welfare of Greyson and Loubani,” said Mamdouh Shoukri.

“Members of the York community, through local efforts, petitions, and statements, have been actively involved in supporting their safe return.”

In the meantime, Cecilia said her family is barely eating or sleeping, as they continue to wait for news.

“We’re extremely stressed out. It’s been pretty horrible for all of us.”


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Who wants English, anyway?

images-1Whence, and where, and why the English major? The subject is in every mouth—or, at least, is getting kicked around agitatedly in columns and reviews and Op-Ed pieces.”The English major is vanishing from our colleges as the Latin prerequisite vanished before it, we’re told, a dying choice bound to a dead subject,” writes Adam Gopnik in today’s New Yorker.
“The estimable Verlyn Klinkenborg reports in the Times that “At Pomona College (my alma mater) this spring, 16 students graduated with an English major out of a student body of 1,560, a terribly small number,” and from other, similar schools, other, similar numbers.

“In response, a number of defenses have been mounted, none of them, so far, terribly persuasive even to one rooting for them to persuade. As the bromides roll by and the platitudes chase each other round the page, those in favor of ever more and better English majors feel a bit the way we Jets fans feel, every fall, when our offense trots out on the field: I’m cheering as loud as I can, but let’s be honest—this is not working well.

“The defenses and apologias come in two kinds: one insisting that English majors make better people, the other that English majors (or at least humanities majors) make for better societies; that, as Christina Paxson, the president of Brown University, just put it in The New Republic, “ there are real, tangible benefits to the humanistic disciplines—to the study of history, literature, art, theater, music, and languages.” Paxson’s piece is essentially the kind of Letter To A Crazy Republican Congressman that university presidents get to write. We need the humanities, she explains patiently, because they may end up giving us other stuff we actually like: “We do not always know the future benefits of what we study and therefore should not rush to reject some forms of research as less deserving than others.”

“Well, a humanities major may make an obvious contribution to everyone’s welfare. But the truth is that for every broadly humane, technological-minded guy who contributed one new gadget to our prosperity there are six narrow, on-the-spectrum techno-obsessives who contributed twenty. Even Paxson’s insistence that, after 9/11, it was valuable to have experts on Islam around is sadly dubious; it was Bernard Lewis, a leading scholar on the subject, who consulted closely with Dick Cheney before the Iraq War, with the results we know. Continue reading “Who wants English, anyway?”

Unhappy workers more likely to smoke

Americans who are emotionally disconnected from their work and workplace, or “actively disengaged,” are slightly more likely to smoke than those who are “engaged” or “not engaged” on the job, reports Gallup today.

“Eighteen percent of actively disengaged workers smoke vs. 15% of engaged or not engaged employees.These data hold even after controlling for income level — meaning workers who are actively


disengaged, regardless of how much income they make, are more likely to smoke. The findings also hold true across gender, age, and education level. The actively disengaged category is the worst of Gallup’s engagement groupings, which also include “not engaged” and — the best group — “engaged.”

“These findings are based on Americans’ assessments of workplace elements with proven linkages to performance outcomes, including productivity, customer service, quality, retention, safety, and profit. These data are based on surveys of more than 50,000 American adults, including 8,011 smokers, conducted as part of the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index and Gallup Daily tracking from January through July 2013. Overall, 18% of American employees were actively disengaged at work in 2012, according to Gallup’s State of the American Workplace report.

“Gallup research has previously found a link between active disengagement at work and poor health. In fact, Gallup data have shown that the actively disengaged workers are just as likely as the unemployed to be in poor health. Those who are actively disengaged are more likely than other workers to have a host of chronic conditions and to be obese. And, they are more likely to experience stress, anger, and worry — particularly during the workweek — which could trigger them to smoke. The finding that these workers are also more likely to smoke fits with these prior discoveries.

“Having a low income, although related to both smoking and active disengagement, is not the reason why the actively disengaged are more likely to smoke. The actively disengaged, regardless of how much they earn annually, are more likely than those who are engaged to smoke.

“The causal direction of the relationship, though, is not clear from this data. It is possible that active disengagement causes workers to smoke, or it could be that something intrinsic to smokers makes them more likely to be actively disengaged on the job.

“Regardless of which direction the relationship goes, what is clear is that employers can benefit from helping employees either stop smoking or never pick up the habit at all. Not only are there obvious healthcare cost benefits to this, but now Gallup data also show that there may be productivity gains to be found as well if fewer workers smoke.”

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Fighting textbook costs

The fall semester is upon us, and that means one thing: It’s pilot (project) season for textbooks and their e-alternatives.imgres-3

Most students are stepping into their first class either this week or the next, and many of them will find themselves participating in their institution’s latest cost-saving experiment, reports InsideHigher Ed.  “In the name of student savings, institutions are testing everything from all-tablet learning to textbook rentals to open educational resources (OER) — though similar projects delivered mixed results last year.

This year’s experiments are not markedly different than those of previous years, but institutions are launching new pilot projects with “tremendous forward momentum,” said Nicole Allen, OER director of the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition, which promotes open-source alternatives in scholarly research.

“Semester after semester, students are facing higher and higher prices of textbooks,” Allen said. “There’s frustration with the fact that the current system for publishing textbooks puts up legal barriers, which is counter to what the Internet has to offer. The idea of a framework like open educational resources that makes that information available free is really appealing and in many ways common sense.”

“Put on notice by the president and pressured by cost-conscious families to make higher education more affordable, many institutions spy an opportunity to respond to the charge by curbing the cost of textbooks and other educational materials, although not necessarily with open resources. Common strategies include allowing students rent textbooks for a semester or pushing bookbag-friendly e-textbooks. Yet other institutions are launching more ambitious projects, like Lynn University’s investment in hundreds of iPad minis for its incoming freshmen, which shifts part of the cost from the student to the university.

“Lynn hosted the third and final presidential debate last October, and has taken advantage of a massive upgrade to its wireless infrastructure that was required to accommodate the campaign media circus. Faculty members have for months tinkered with laptops and tablets to familiarize themselves with the iOS platform, and this fall, the university will offer nine introductory courses through Apple’s digital course manager, iTunes U.

“Essentially, our goal is to get rid of all textbooks in our core curriculum,” said Chris Boniforti, the university’s chief information officer. “Without getting myself in too much trouble, I’d like for that to happen next year.”

“Given Apple’s tendency to update its tablets about once a year, Boniforti said students will be able to upgrade to the newest model once their iPad has turned two years old. Upperclassmen interested in the courses can also rent an iPad for $100 — less than the cost of the textbook. If a student breaks the iPad, whether by accident or not, the university will repair it and issue a rental in the meantime. That’s a lot of iPads, Boniforti acknowledged.”

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Inside Higher Ed

Selling out the university

This essay starts with utopia—the utopia known as the American university, writes Thomas Frank in The Baffler

“It is the finest educational institution in the world, everyone tells us.”Indeed, to judge by the praise that is heaped upon it, the American university may be our best institution, period. With its peaceful quadrangles and prosperity-bringing innovation, the university is more spiritually satisfying than the church, more nurturing than the family, more productive than any industry.


“The university deals in dreams. Like other utopias—like Walt Disney World, like the ambrosial lands shown in perfume advertisements, like the competitive Valhalla of the Olympics—the university is a place of wish fulfillment and infinite possibility. It is the four-year luxury cruise that will transport us gently across the gulf of class. It is the wrought-iron gateway to the land of lifelong affluence.

“It is not the university itself that tells us these things; everyone does. It is the president of the United States. It is our most respected political commentators and economists. It is our business heroes and our sports heroes. It is our favorite teacher and our guidance counselor and maybe even our own Tiger Mom. They’ve been to the university, after all. They know.

“When we reach the end of high school, we approach the next life, the university life, in the manner of children writing letters to Santa. Oh, we promise to be so very good. We open our hearts to the beloved institution. We get good grades. We do our best on standardized tests. We earnestly list our first, second, third choices. We tell them what we want to be when we grow up. We confide our wishes. We stare at the stock photos of smiling students, we visit the campus, and we find, always, that it is so very beautiful.

“And when that fat acceptance letter comes—oh, it is the greatest moment of personal vindication most of us have experienced. Our hard work has paid off. We have been chosen.

“Then several years pass, and one day we wake up to discover there is no Santa Claus. Somehow, we have been had. We are a hundred thousand dollars in debt, and there is no clear way to escape it. We have no prospects to speak of. And if those damned dreams of ours happened to have taken a particularly fantastic turn and urged us to get a PhD, then the learning really begins.”


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American Apparel’s transgender call

imgres-1American Apparel, the clothing company that has historically reached out to the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community (though some have argued “capitalize upon” would be a more appropriate way of putting it) and marketed clothing to pro-LGBT individuals, announced via Instagram an open call for “transgendered/transsexual” models last week, reports HuffPo

“The timing of the move comes just days after the transgender conversation moved into the national spotlight with Chelsea Manning coming out of the closet and the discussion of trans people in the military and prisons gaining more traction in the mainstream media.

“American Apparel is no stranger to controversy, with the company’s CEO having endured multiple lawsuits, including claims that he used one of this employees as a”sex slave.” The company has also been in hot water for allegedly having a policy of firing employees that are “too ugly” and reportedly releasing an employee that was in chemotherapy.

“While the company should probably reconsider its use of the word “transgendered” versus “transgender,” American Apparel has, in fact, used transgender models in the past — notably Isis King from “America’s Next Top Model.” The clothing company also launched a joint campaign with GLAAD earlier this year that featured an LGBT pride t-shirt”


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Ivies in debt? No Worries

Eleven of the nation’s most selective universities together have $26 billion in debt on the books, according to a new analysis, reports InsideHigher Edimages-1

“But while much smaller debt loads would be seen as risky and perhaps life-threatening for less-well-off institutions, these universities have top-notch credit ratings and could probably borrow more if they wanted.

“The Ivy League colleges plus Duke University, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Stanford University had $26.42 billion in debt at the end of the 2012 fiscal year, according to figures reported by the Cornell Higher Education Research Institute.

“In an article for Cornell Alumni Magazine, which is operated by the alumni association independently of the university proper, the institute’s director, Ronald Ehrenberg, and research assistant, Ross Milton, argue that the figures alone don’t tell the full story. Instead, they argue, observers need to look at why and for what a college borrows.

“Of the institutions they examined, Cornell had the highest ratio of debt to endowment size — $1.8 billion in debt and a $4.4 billion endowment.

“The real issue to me is, what is the impact of each of these debt-financed projects on the operations of the university?” Ehrenberg said in an interview. Continue reading “Ivies in debt? No Worries”

Greyson and Loubani in the press

John Greyson and Tarek Loubani, still held by the Egyptian government, were featured in the lead article in the Sunday New York Times. The two are detained by the Egyptian government without charge should be released immediately, states an editorial today in the Toronto Globe and Mail. “The Canadian government has demanded their release and the Foreign Affairs Minister, John Baird, says there is no basis for holding either man. Keeping them in prison for another week, as the Egyptians seem prepared to do, is indefensible.


“Messrs. Greyson and Loubani were arrested on Aug. 16 in Cairo when, according to reports, they went into a police station to ask for directions. Egyptian authorities subsequently issued a statement saying two Canadians and seven other foreign nationals had been arrested and were being investigated for threatening security and social peace, belonging to an armed gang and being in possession of firearms, ammunition and explosives. An Egyptian court ruled they could be held for 15 days without charge.

“At best, the men were mistakenly lumped in with other arrestees during Egypt’s ongoing civil unrest; at worst, the accusations are specious.

“Mr. Greyson is a professor at Toronto’s York University, a prominent gay activist, an artist and one of Canada’s most noted film directors (Patient Zero, Lilies). Mr. Loubani is a professor at Western University in London, Ont. and an emergency room doctor who has dedicated much of his life to improving ER training in Gaza. According to their supporters, they were on their way through Cairo to Gaza, where they planned to work on a joint project, and were delayed for a day. It was during their extra night in Cairo that they got lost in the city and wandered into a police station looking for directions. They have been out of contact with their families ever since; Canadian consular officials have visited them in jail and say they are in good health.

“There is no valid reason for the two men to continue to be detained. Their government has vouched for them and asked for their release, and their credentials are easily confirmed.”


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Compulsory voting in Australia

images-1Is compulsory voting in a democracy a contradiction in terms?

That is the question some Australians have been asking since voting became required by law here nearly a century ago, reports the BBC today.

“The right to vote is a freedom fiercely sought by people all over the world, but Australians do not have a choice. The continent is part of a small minority of just 23 countries with mandatory voting laws. Only 10 of those enforce them.

“Registering to vote and going to the polls are legal duties in Australia for citizens aged 18 and over, and failing to do so can result in a fine and potentially a day in court. Opponents of the system like Libertarian columnist Jason Kent say this stifles political freedom and threatens the basic principles of democracy.

“People have been sentenced to jail terms for not voting. It’s disgusting. It’s far from being democratic. We are not a democracy if we can’t vote democratically.” But Dr Peter Chen, who teaches politics at the University of Sydney, warns that this type of heated rhetoric blows things out of proportion. He says showing up to the polls every so often is not a huge burden.

“The system demonstrates a social expectation that at a minimum everyone needs to participate every few years and that’s a good thing.”

“Failing to vote in Australia may result in a fine or a day in court. Although small, the A$20 (about $18, £12) fine is enough to drive voters to the polls in substantially greater numbers than countries with voluntary vot Supporters of the system say Australia boasts some of the highest civic participation the word over, with a reported 94% voter turn-out in the last federal election, compared to about 65% in the UK’s 2010 general election and an estimated 57% in the 2012 US presidential election.  Continue reading “Compulsory voting in Australia”

OK2TALK vs. mental health stigma

OK2TALK is a media campaign to reduce mental health stigma among teens and young adults.

A new survey from the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) reveals that two-thirds of young adults have personal experience with mental health problems, states

“Although the overwhelming majority of parents and young adults are supportive of discussing mental illness more openly, more than one-fourth


of young adults (28 percent) and one in six parents (16 percent) admit they avoid talking about it.

“To encourage these critical conversations and let people know that help is available and effective, NAB today unveiled a new public service announcement (PSA) campaign featuring teens and young adults opening up about their experiences with mental illness. The “OK2TALK” campaign includes television and radio ads in English and Spanish, and uses social media to invite teens and young adults to create the conversation about mental health.

“With unrivaled reach into homes across America, broadcasters have a powerful platform to encourage young people to start talking about mental health and get the help they need,” said NAB President and CEO Gordon H. Smith. Smith’s own family has been profoundly affected by mental illness. His 22-year-old son, Garrett, took his own life in 2003, after a long struggle with depression. He and his wife, Sharon, hope that encouraging conversation about mental illness helps keep other families from meeting the same fate: “I believe that had we known better the signs of suicidal tendency, and sought help and treatment earlier for Garrett, our son would still be alive today.” Continue reading “OK2TALK vs. mental health stigma”

Video games help the brain

Playing certain types of video games can boost a person’s flexible thinking skills, according to a new study.images-2

The findings could lead to new treatments for people with brain injuries or conditions such as attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), the researchers suggest, as reported today in WebMD.

“Previous research has demonstrated that action video games . . . can speed up decision making, but the current work finds that real-time strategy games can promote our ability to think on the fly and learn from past mistakes,” said Dr. Brian Glass, of the School of Biological and Chemical Sciences at Queen Mary University of London.

“For the study, researchers looked at 72 women who typically played video games for less than two hours a week. The study authors couldn’t find any male gamers who spent so little time playing video games. Two-thirds of the participants played either basic or more complex versions of a real-time strategy game called “StarCraft,” a fast-paced game where players have to create and organize armies to battle an enemy. One-third of the participants played a life simulation game called “The Sims,” which does not rely on using memory or tactical skills.

“The volunteers played the games for 40 hours over six to eight weeks and underwent tests of their “cognitive flexibility.” This refers to a person’s ability to adapt and switch between tasks, and think about multiple ideas at a given time to solve problems, the British researchers explained. Continue reading “Video games help the brain”

The virtues of laziness

We live in a culture driven by values of success, achievement, accumulation…all the while with unemployment nipping at the heels of many.

In today’s new Statesman Jenny Diski urges you to down tools while you can, as excerpted briefly below


“Stop what you’re doing. I don’t mean stop reading this, or whatever you’re doing while you’re reading (brushing your teeth, eating, waiting for the water to boil). I mean consider the possibility of stopping whatever your answer is to the conversational gambit, “And what do you do?” Try putting the appropriate response in the past tense: “I used to be [. . .]” It’s very likely, unless your interlocutor gives up on you at that point (as an academic sitting at a Cambridge “feast” once did, turning to her other neighbour for the rest of the meal when I told her I was a novelist), that the follow-up question will be: “So what do you do now?” You might attempt to circumvent this with “I used to be [. . .] but now I’m retired”, if you look old enough, or if you’re younger you could try, “I used to be [. . .] but now I’m vastly wealthy”, but the chances are that the next question will still be in the conceptual area of “What do you do now?”, such as: “How do you spend your time? What do you do with yourself? What are your hobbies?” If you wanted to avoid the whole party chatter thing (but what are you doing at this vacuous party, anyway?), you could say: “Unemployed, thanks to the government’s economic policy, and lacking the financial resources for hobbies to pass the time until I die.” Or in a more passive-aggressive mode just answer, “Oh, these days I skive and scrounge.” Continue reading “The virtues of laziness”

Memory that strengthens with age

Forgetting things seems to be a part of getting older which everyone accepts. But could the confidence of the young be covering up their own memory slips?images

The BBC reports that older people were more consistent in memory tests, research from Germany shows – although younger people did achieve overall higher test scores.

“The assessments were carried out in Berlin on 100 older people – aged between 65 and 80 – and 100 people in their 20s. They had to show up at the Max Planck Institute for Human Development in Berlin for 100 days of tests.

“We were very nice to them and had a good atmosphere at the labs,” says Prof Florian Schmiedek.

“People got to know each other, it was kind of a social activity for them. And we also paid them for those 100 days.”

“The brain remembers things by forming connections between its 100 billion neurons or brain cells.

“Memories are formed when these connections – or synapases – are strengthened.

“Information from the senses is sent to the brain’s cortex, and then on to parts surrounding an area called the hippocampus.

“Younger people assume they have fast reaction times, especially younger men. But they have an over-confidence issue.” Dr Carol HollandResearch Centre for Healthy Ageing These ‘bind’ the memory together, before it is sent to the hippocampus itself, where information about context or location is added.

“Working” memory – crucial for solving problems and making plans – is like a blackboard of the mind, located in the prefrontal cortex of the brain. It is used to remember phone numbers long enough to make a call – but then it is usually forgotten unless it is passed on to the long-term memory for storage. The tasks were designed to test different types of memory. In one, the participants had to remember a list of words. Another had a list of numbers to memorise while simultaneously carrying out simple arithmetic on those numbers – to challenge their “working” memory.


Julian Bond on “I Have Dream”

The below letter was released today by NAACP chair emeritus Julian Bond, noting the role of Bayard Rustin in the famous “I Have a Dream” speech and event.

“Thousands are in Washington, D.C. today to re-create something so powerful and so vivid that it still plays on loop in my mind. They’re here for the 50th anniversary of the 1963 civil rights March on Washington.

“We are returning amidst a newly reinvigorated fight for civil rights that has grown rapidly to include lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender Americans.

“After all, LGBT rights are civil rights.Julian Bond Then and Now

“No parallel between movements is exact. But like race, our sexuality and gender identity aren’t preferences. They are immutable, unchangeable – and the constitution protects us all against discrimination based on immutable differences.

“Today, we are fighting for jobs, for economic opportunity, for a level playing field free of inequality and of discrimination. It’s the same fight our LGBT brothers and sisters are waging – and together we have formed a national constituency for civil rights.

‘And while we haven’t fully secured Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s most remarkable dream, we are getting closer every single day.

Julian Bond with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and more recently at an HRC event.

“In August 1963, I was the Communications Director for the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), led at the time by John Lewis, the march’s youngest speaker that day.

“A gay black man by the name of Bayard Rustin was one of the chief organizers – an early embodiment of the unity and commonality that bonded the movement for LGBT equality with the fight for equal treatment of African-Americans.

“In his honor, HRC will help lead a commemoration of Bayard’s incredible contributions to the civil rights movement on Monday. And it was recently announced that President Obama will posthumously award Rustin the Presidential Medal of Freedom – the highest civilian award in the United States. Continue reading “Julian Bond on “I Have Dream””

Normalcy, Never Again

imagesFew people know that Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech was actually entitled “Normalcy, Never Again.”

The famous line for which the speech came to be known came as an improvisation as King was ending and Mahalia Jackson called out:  “Tell them about the dream, Martin!”

Today the 50th anniversary of the speech was celebrated at the US Capitol, as reported by the BBC as follows:

“Thousands have gathered in the US capital to mark 50 years since Martin Luther King’s famous “I have a dream” speech on civil rights. Today’s civil rights activists came to Washington with concerns that include jobs, voting rights and gun violence. They marched to the Lincoln Memorial and a new monument, the Martin Luther King Jr Memorial.

“The mother of Trayvon Martin, a black teenager shot dead in Florida last year, was among those due to speak. Sabrina Fulton told the BBC many young African Americans had been left afraid by the acquittal of his killer, neighbourhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman. She called for a change to laws in many American states which allow the use of deadly force if a person feels seriously threatened. Mr Zimmerman’s acquittal sparked protests in more than 100 cities. Eric Holder, the first black attorney general in US history, paid tribute to the original protesters, in a speech from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial.

“They marched in spite of animosity, oppression and brutality because they believed in the greatness of what this nation could become and despaired of the founding promises not kept,” he said.He said the spirit of 1963 now demanded equality for gay people, Latinos, women, the disabled and others. Saturday’s event is being led by the Rev Al Sharpton and King’s son Martin Luther King III. It comes a few days before the actual anniversary of the original march on 28 August 1963. King, who was assassinated in 1968, led about 250,000 people to the Lincoln Memorial on the National Mall and delivered his famous speech from its steps. Continue reading “Normalcy, Never Again”

Smoking and the mentally ill

“The lives of people with serious mental illnesses are about 25 years shorter than the rest of the population, on average, and the main causes of early death are tobacco-related diseases.imgres-5

Patients in psychiatric hospitals who take part in smoking cessation programs during their stay are more likely to be smoke-free after 18 months, compared to patients who don’t participate in the programs, says a new study as reported by Reuters today.

“What’s more, researchers found that quitting smoking appeared to be safe for the patients and was tied to a decreased risk of being admitted back into the hospital.

“That’s a new finding and it needs to be replicated, but we’re excited that it didn’t cause any harm and may have supported their recovery,” said Judith Prochaska, the study’s lead author from the Stanford Prevention Research Center in California.

“Prochaska and her colleagues write in the American Journal of Public Health that it’s estimated people with mental illnesses use two to four times more tobacco than the general population. Most U.S. hospitals have been smoke-free since 1993, but at least half of hospital psychiatric units allow smoking and sell cigarettes, according to the researchers. “It used to be that people with mental illnesses had a waiver,” Dr. Steven Schroeder, the Distinguished Professor of Health and Health Care at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF), told Reuters Health. Schroeder, who was not involved with the new research, said some people believed psychiatric inpatients were not ready or didn’t want to quit smoking and that giving up smoking might make their conditions worse. Continue reading “Smoking and the mentally ill”

Standardized test scores drop

With a 20.9 composite average, the 2013 ACT scores are the lowest they’ve been in five years, with the biggest drops occurring in the English and reading sections, reports InsideHigher Ed.

“The high school class of 2013’s composite average is down 0.2 points from 21.1 last year, and English and reading scores (averaging 20.2 and 21.1) are down 0.3 and 0.2 points, respectively.images

“The diversity of students in the pool continues to grow, which is a good thing. The aspirations of those students continues to rise, which is a good thing,” ACT President Jon Erickson said. “But the performance of the students still leaves something to be desired.”

“More students are taking the exam — some of whom are required by schools to do so but have no collegiate aspirations — which accounts in part for the lower scores, Erickson said. ACT also made some logistical changes this year: updating the reading and science benchmarks, and including scores of students who were accommodated with extra time.“I’m kind of looking at this as a new normal,” he said, “a new baseline.”

“The score decline in composite average as well as for each individual benchmark — English, reading, mathematics and science – was steeper among students who did not complete a high school core curriculum comprising four years of English and three years of each other benchmark subject. Twenty-six percent of tested students – one percentage point higher than last year – met all four subject benchmarks, which indicate a 50 percent chance of making a B grade or 75 percent chance of a C grade in corresponding college courses. The majority of students (64 percent) met the English benchmark, while 44 percent met reading and/or math benchmarks and 36 percent made it in science.”

Read more:
Inside Higher Ed

Greyson & Loubani gain Cairo attorney

Supporters of two Canadians detained in Egypt — including a London doctor — have hired a Cairo lawyer and hope he and diplomatic staff will meet with the pair Thursday, as reported in the London Free Press”Tarek Loubani, an emergency room doctor in London, and filmmaker John Greyson of Toronto have been detained in Egypt since last weekend. No charges have been laid against them but the prosecutor has issued a 15-day detention order while the prosecution investigates.”Wednesday, supporters hired a lawyer, Adam Khaled El Shalakany, to represent the jailed pair in Cairo. He’s expected to meet with Loubani and Greyson Thursday, at the same time as consular staff from the newly re-opened Canadian Embassy there hope to visit the two jailed men. Friends and family members have said allegations against the pair — of possessing firearms and explosives, threatening security and social peace and belonging to an armed gang — are “wide-ranging, far-fetched, and outright bizarre.””The two were en route to Gaza to do medical relief work. They were passing through Cairo, helping people injured in the uprising at street clinics, when they were arrested. Several Canadian groups — filmmakers, doctors and humanitarians — are calling for their immediate release. “There is absolutely nothing precluding Tarek and John’s release on any day of this 15-day period. Continue reading “Greyson & Loubani gain Cairo attorney”