Featured

Is American democracy in crisis?

courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

The Federal shutdown may be the most striking evidence to support claims that America’s political system is broken, but it is far from the only example. Writing in Governance, acclaimed political scientists Norman Ornstein and Jared Diamond explore if tribalism is at the heart of the problem, or if the U.S. is facing a far greater political crisis.

“The state of our overall political process as the most dysfunctional I have seen in over 44 years of watching Washington and American politics up close,” writes Norman Ornstein, from the American Enterprise Institute. “If we are not in the most dysfunctional period in our history, we are certainly in the top five.”

American political history has recorded many inept and ineffectual congresses, from the scandals of the 1970′s to the divided house of the 1860′s, so what makes the 112th and 113th congresses any different? Ornstein argues that the rise in political extremism, manifested in open tribalism, is to blame.

From acts seeking to tighten the rules over gun ownership, to commissions established to tackle America’s debt problem, the list of legislation that has been sunk by tribalism continues to grow into President Obama’s second term.

“Political dysfunction has serious consequences for the health, well-being, and future prospects for the country that go well beyond gridlock or political gamesmanship,” concluded Ornstein. “American history suggests that these problems are cyclical, that eventually we will come out of it and restore a modicum of problem-solving rationality. But ‘eventually’ does not mean anytime soon.”

In contrast, Jared Diamond, writing from the University of California, proposes that the United States is facing four existential threats to its democratic system.

“Our form of government is a big part of the explanation why the United States has become the richest and most powerful country in the world,” said Diamond. “Hence, an undermining of democratic processes in the United States means throwing away one of our biggest advantages.”

Diamond argues that political compromise has been deteriorating in recent decades, that restrictions on voting are reversing the positive historical trend of political enfranchisement, that the gap between rich and poor continues to grow, and that public spending by the government In areas such as education is declining.

“Large segments of the American populace deride government investment as ‘socialism,’ but it is not socialism. On the contrary, it is one of the longest established functions of government,” said Diamond.

Sciencenewsroom@wiley.com
44-012-437-70375
Wiley

World

Winners and losers in globalization of world’s economy, health and education

Globalization has made the world a better and more equal place for many more people than was the case a few decades ago. However, it has also created two well-defined worlds of poor countries and wealthy nations, according to Vanesa Jordá and José María Sarabia of the University of Cantabria in Spain. In an article published in Springer’s journal Applied Research in Quality of Life, they studied the distribution of well-being over the last wave of globalization between 1980 and 2011.

Well-being is generally described as the state of being happy, healthy or prosperous. The researchers used the UN Human Development Index as an indicator of quality of life. It offers a realistic perspective of the national levels of well-being of 130 countries, covering almost 90 percent of the world’s population. The Index also takes into account non-income dimensions such as education and health.

It shows that globalization has brought higher levels of development to more countries than was the case 30 years ago. However, the intensity by which well-being has increased differs across countries. This has created two well-defined clusters: one of least developed countries in especially Sub-Saharan Africa, and another of highly developed countries. At the same time, medium developed nations, such as China and India, have caught up with the advanced economies.

Overall, income inequality across countries has only been reduced by less than ten percent. Because of the so-called “poverty trap,” poorer countries struggle to rise to the top within the competitive common global market. Such efforts are hampered by difficulties in acquiring supplies and public services in least developed countries, which makes accessing global markets difficult. Foreign money is also invested heavily in oil exporting countries rather than in countries that do not export oil. Leader countries in each region of the world are able to overcome such obstacles, and experience higher levels of development compared with the nations around them.

The greatest decrease in disparities was found in education, which presents reductions of up to 64 percent. This is thanks to enhanced efforts towards education in developing countries over the last 40 years, especially in Asia. It is consistent with the belief that globalization promotes investment in education and helps countries to develop.

On the health side, no real catch-up or convergence was seen during the nineties. However, this is changing over the past ten years thanks to the expansion of health technology and medicines. Greater access to HIV/AIDS medications, tuberculosis treatment, and insecticide-treated mosquito nets to reduce cases of malaria are of benefit.

“The benefits of globalization have increased a number of aspects of well-being in most countries. However, these advantages have not reached a group of countries which are not able to overcome the human development barriers in health and income. They are being trapped in a low pole which shows little sign of their catching up or converging to the general trend,” conclude Jordá and Sarabia.

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Reference: Jorda, V. & Sarabia, J.M. (2014). Well-being distribution in the globalization era: 30 years of convergence, Applied Research in Quality of Life, DOI 10.1007/s11482-014-9304-8

joan.robinson@springer.com
49-622-148-78130
Springer

Health

Cancer is avoidable as you grow older. Here’s how.

Is cancer an inevitable consequence of aging?

Although it is widely thought that cancer is an inevitable consequence of aging, the risk of developing several common cancers decreases with age.

Researchers have long been puzzled by the apparent decrease with age in the risk of developing certain adult cancers.

A possible solution to this puzzle was presented in a recent paper published in Biophysical Reviews and Letters by Professor James P. Brody of the Department of Biomedical Engineering at the University of California, Irvine.

“Most cancers have a characteristic age at which they occur. Testicular cancers mostly occur from age 25-40, bone sarcomas in the teens. Beyond the characteristic age, the incidence of these cancers decreases. Several common cancers appear to have a characteristic age greater than the typical lifespan. Observations of these cancers have led to the belief that the incidence of these cancer increases without limit.

However I believe that we just don’t see the decrease of the incidence for some common forms of cancer because people don’t live long enough to see it.

One possible explanation is that many cancers originate early in life, possibly before birth. This is called the developmental origin of disease hypothesis. If true, this suggests that a test could be developed that would determine whether a person might develop a specific form of cancer decades before they actually develop it.

Ultimately this test would lead to earlier diagnosis and preventing many forms of cancer from ever developing to the life threatening stage.

Cancer research has three general focal points: how can we diagnose tumors earlier, how can we treat cancer patients to prolong and enhance their lives, and how do tumors originate. This work provides insight into how cancers originate and it may ultimately lead to an understanding of how to reduce the number of cancer patients.

###

The paper can be found in the Biophysical Reviews and Letters journal.

 

US News

Tea Party support linked to educational segregation, new study shows

In January of 2009, Barack Obama assumed the U.S. presidency in the midst of the most severe recession since the great depression of the 1930s. While many Americans hoped the new administration would take an active role in providing relief for those harmed by the economic collapse, a “Tea Party” movement emerged to oppose Obama’s agenda.

University of Notre Dame political sociologist Rory McVeigh, whose study, “Educational Segregation, Tea Party Organizations, and Battles over Distributive Justice,” was recently published in the American Sociological Review, says “The political polarization that we witness today is linked to the way in which Americans live in segregated worlds.”

McVeigh and coauthors, Kraig Beyerlein, Burrel Vann and Priyamvada Trivedi, examine why certain U.S. counties are conducive to the establishment of Tea Party organizations. Their statistical analyses show that even after accounting for many other factors, Tea Party organizations were much more likely to form in counties with high levels of residential segregation based on education levels, and that college graduates were more likely to indicate support for the Tea Party if they resided in a county characterized by high levels of educational segregation.

“Acceptance or rejection of the Tea Party’s views on the government’s role in redistributing wealth is shaped, to a large degree, by the extent to which those who have benefited from higher education are set apart in their daily lives from those who have not,” says McVeigh, who specializes in inequality, social movements, race and ethnicity.

“As the article explains, the commonly held view that individuals and families who are struggling to get by are undeserving of government assistance is reinforced when the highly educated have limited contact with those who have been less fortunate.”

The research focused on identifying Tea Party organizations in 2010, when the grassroots component of the movement was at its peak and supporters were protesting the proposed Affordable Care Act. McVeigh says the grassroots component of the Tea Party was especially important because it helped send a message that there was something more going on than elite sponsorship from highly resourced conservative groups.

In recent years, the grassroots aspects of the movement have died down, yet, as we approach mid-term elections, Republican politicians are still focused on appealing to Tea Party supporters.

“If they represent a district where there is a lot of Tea Party support, they are vulnerable to challenges in primary elections from candidates who claim to be representing the Tea Party agenda — supporting sharp spending cuts and low taxes and vigorously resisting most any proposal that Obama and the Democrats have put forth,” McVeigh says.

“So even without the protests and the rallies, politicians have to be mindful of the Tea Party, and there are highly resourced conservative organizations that are willing to back candidates advancing the Tea Party agenda and oppose those who are not.”

“The analyses help us understand,” McVeigh says, “how a movement enabled by highly resourced conservative organizations has been able to draw the support it needed to credibly present itself as a grassroots movement representing ordinary Americans, and thus exert influence on voters and the political process.”

mcveigh.3@nd.edu
574-631-0386
University of Notre Dame

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