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.

###

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

Potential ‘universal’ blood test for cancer discovered

Researchers from the University of Bradford, UK, have devised a simple blood test that can be used to diagnose whether people have cancer or not.

The test will enable doctors to rule out cancer in patients presenting with certain symptoms, saving time and preventing costly and unnecessary invasive procedures such as colonoscopies and biopsies being carried out. Alternatively, it could be a useful aid for investigating patients who are suspected of having a cancer that is currently hard to diagnose.

Early results have shown the method gives a high degree of accuracy diagnosing cancer and pre-cancerous conditions from the blood of patients with melanoma, colon cancer and lung cancer. The research is published online in the FASEB Journal, the US Journal of the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology.

The Lymphocyte Genome Sensitivity (LGS) test looks at white blood cells and measures the damage caused to their DNA when subjected to different intensities of ultraviolet light (UVA), which is known to damage DNA. The results of the empirical study show a clear distinction between the damage to the white blood cells from patients with cancer, with pre-cancerous conditions and from healthy patients.

Professor Diana Anderson, from the University’s School of Life Sciences led the research. She said: “White blood cells are part of the body’s natural defence system. We know that they are under stress when they are fighting cancer or other diseases, so I wondered whether anything measureable could be seen if we put them under further stress with UVA light. We found that people with cancer have DNA which is more easily damaged by ultraviolet light than other people, so the test shows the sensitivity to damage of all the DNA – the genome – in a cell.”

The study looked at blood samples taken from 208 individuals. Ninety-four healthy individuals were recruited from staff and students at the University of Bradford and 114 blood samples were collected from patients referred to specialist clinics within Bradford Royal Infirmary prior to diagnosis and treatment. The samples were coded, anonymised, randomised and then exposed to UVA light through five different depths of agar.

The UVA damage was observed in the form of pieces of DNA being pulled in an electric field towards the positive end of the field, causing a comet-like tail. In the LGS test, the longer the tail the more DNA damage, and the measurements correlated to those patients who were ultimately diagnosed with cancer (58), those with pre-cancerous conditions (56) and those who were healthy (94).

“These are early results completed on three different types of cancer and we accept that more research needs to be done; but these results so far are remarkable,” said Professor Anderson. “Whilst the numbers of people we tested are, in epidemiological terms, quite small, in molecular epidemiological terms, the results are powerful. We’ve identified significant differences between the healthy volunteers, suspected cancer patients and confirmed cancer patients of mixed ages at a statistically significant level of P<0.001. This means that the possibility of these results happening by chance is 1 in 1000. We believe that this confirms the test’s potential as a diagnostic tool.”

Professor Anderson believes that if the LGS does prove to be a useful cancer diagnostic test, it would be a highly valuable addition to the more traditional investigative procedures for detecting cancer.

A clinical trial is currently underway at Bradford Royal Infirmary. This will investigate the effectiveness of the LGS test in correctly predicting which patients referred by their GPs with suspected colorectal cancer would, or would not, benefit from a colonoscopy – currently the preferred investigation method.

The University of Bradford has filed patents for the technology and a spin-out company, Oncascan, has been established to commercialise the research.

j.watkinson2@bradford.ac.uk
44-127-423-6030
University of Bradford

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

ChattahBox Video Of The Day! WTC Attack from New York Police Helicopter

Business

Neuroeconomists confirm Warren Buffett’s wisdom

Investment magnate Warren Buffett has famously suggested that investors should try to “be fearful when others are greedy and be greedy only when others are... Read more »


Sports

Athletes’ fear of failure likely to lead to ‘choke,’ study shows

A new study by sports scientists at Coventry University and Staffordshire University shows that anxiety about a competitive situation makes even the most physically... Read more »


Featured

Is American democracy in crisis?

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... Read more »


U.S.

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... Read more »


Entertainment

Artificial intelligence identifies the musical progression of the Beatles

Music fans and critics know that the music of the Beatles underwent a dramatic transformation in just a few years, but until now there hasn’t been a scientific... Read more »


Health

Potential ‘universal’ blood test for cancer discovered

Researchers from the University of Bradford, UK, have devised a simple blood test that can be used to diagnose whether people have cancer or not. The test will enable... Read more »


Curiosity

More left-handed men are born during the winter

Various manual tasks in everyday life require the use of the right hand or are optimized for right-handers. Around 90 percent of the general population is right-handed,... Read more »


Technology

Revolutionary microshutter technology hurdles significant challenges

NASA technologists have hurdled a number of significant technological challenges in their quest to improve an already revolutionary observing technology originally... Read more »


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... Read more »


Science

Researchers discover boron ‘buckyball’

The discovery 30 years ago of soccer-ball-shaped carbon molecules called buckyballs helped to spur an explosion of nanotechnology research. Now, there appears to... Read more »