Study: Supreme Court decision complicates prosecuting child abusers

July 19, 2017

A Supreme Court decision that limits the types of statements that can be admitted as evidence unless the victim testifies in court discourages prosecutors from trying some child maltreatment cases, according to a recent national survey of more than 200 prosecutors.

Nearly 42 percent of the prosecutors who participated in the online survey reported that the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2004 decision in Crawford v. Washington increased the need for abuse victims to testify in court and decreased their prosecutions of child abuse cases either “greatly” or “somewhat.”

The prosecutors who responded to the survey reported that they had reviewed an average of about 20 sexual abuse and 10 physical abuse cases during 2014 – but had prosecuted just half of these cases.

Insufficient physical evidence to corroborate victims’ allegations was the primary reason prosecutors elected not to indict, followed by child victims who were either emotionally unable to testify or to provide credible testimony.

State and local prosecutors from 37 states responded to the survey, which was conducted by University of Illinois social work senior research specialist Theodore P. Cross and independent child abuse researcher Debra Whitcomb.

The findings suggest that the Court’s decision in Crawford v. Washington has had a “real but limited impact… on the need for child testimony and on the decision to prosecute,” the researchers wrote.

In Crawford v. Washington, the Supreme Court considered whether a criminal defendant’s Sixth Amendment right to confront his accuser in court was violated when prosecutors presented as evidence a witness’s tape-recorded statement to police. Because the witness elected not to testify during the trial, the Supreme Court ruled that admitting her statement as evidence violated the defendant’s right to confront his accuser in court.

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4 Reasons Everybody Should Consider Investing in American Agriculture Business

June 6, 2017

What comes to mind when investments are mentioned? Most people immediately begin to think about stocks, bonds, and real estate. This is predictable because most income earners invest their savings in these three conventional ways, but do you know you that you can earn high returns from investing in agriculture? Agriculture offers a conservative way of growing your money and earning consistent returns. You just need to buy quality agricultural land and use the right farming techniques for your region. The good thing about investing in agriculture is that you earn from the produce and the land. Here are more reasons why you should invest in agriculture in America.

1. Ever-Increasing Demand

The demand for food, energy, and fiber is increasing in the US and across the world. The growing population in developing countries pushes the demand for food higher every year. The demand for agricultural products does not decline significantly with inflation or economic challenges. In fact, experts in agriculture investments such as Crawford Park Farming AG will tell you that investing in the field is a hedge against inflation. You will make money from agricultural land and produce even when prices of commodities go up.

2. Impact on the National Economy

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Single-payer reform is ‘the only way to fulfill the president’s pledge’ on health care

February 20, 2017

Proposals floated by Republican leaders won’t achieve President Trump’s campaign promises of more coverage, better benefits, and lower costs, but a single-payer reform would, according to a commentary published today [Tuesday, Feb. 21] in Annals of Internal Medicine, one of the nation’s most prestigious and widely cited medical journals.

Republicans promised to repeal the Affordable Care Act on the first day of the Trump presidency. But the health reform effort has stalled because Republicans in Congress have been unable to come up with a better replacement and fear a backlash against plans that would deprive millions of coverage and raise deductibles.

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Population density pushes the ‘slow life strategy’

February 14, 2017

Big cities with lots of people usually garner images of a fast paced life, where the hustle and bustle of the city is met, and at least tolerated, by those who live there. They live for the “rush” of city life, and all of the competition that lies therein.

But a new study by Arizona State University shows the opposite may be true – that one psychological effect of population density is for those people to adopt a “slow life strategy.” This strategy focuses more on planning for the long-term future and includes tactics like preferring long-term romantic relationships, having fewer children and investing more in education.

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Why are the oldest people the most excluded?

January 4, 2017

People over the age of 85 are significantly more likely to suffer social exclusion than those in the 65 to 84-year-old bracket, according to new research.

In a study* of more than 10,000 people over the age of 65, social policy researchers found the so-called ‘oldest old’ – classed as those 85 and over – have more trouble accessing services such as healthcare and food shops, with 16 per cent reporting ‘significant’ problems, compared with only four per cent of their younger counterparts. And women were found to be less likely to be able to access services than men.

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The war on drugs has failed and doctors should lead calls for change

November 15, 2016

The enforcement of prohibition – a ban on the production, supply, possession, and use of some drugs for non-medical purposes – causes huge harm, and doctors should lead calls for drug policy reform, argues The BMJ today.

Editor in chief, Dr Fiona Godlee, and features and debates editor, Richard Hurley, say prohibition laws, colloquially known as the “war on drugs,” cost at least $100bn annually but have failed to curb either supply or demand, reduce addiction, minimise harm, cut violence, and reduce profits for organised crime.

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President Obama has constitutional power to appoint, not just nominate, successor to Scalia

March 24, 2016

After the death of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, Republican senators, led by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, announced that they would neither consider nor vote on any nominee to the court picked by President Barack Obama. According to a new paper co-written by two University of Illinois legal experts, that position may be more problematic – both pragmatically and constitutionally – than those senators realize. Read more

Placing your value on time more than money is linked to happiness

January 8, 2016

Valuing your time more than the pursuit of money is linked to greater happiness, according to new research published by the Society for Personality and Social Psychology.

In six studies with more than 4,600 participants, researchers found an almost even split between people who tended to value their time or money, and that choice was a fairly consistent trait both for daily interactions and major life events. Read more

Why good people do bad things

June 5, 2015

Honest behavior is much like sticking to a diet. When facing an ethical dilemma, being aware of the temptation before it happens and thinking about the long-term consequences of misbehaving could help more people do the right thing, according to a new study.

The study, “Anticipating and Resisting the Temptation to Behave Unethically,” by University of Chicago Booth School of Business Behavioral Science and Marketing Professor Ayelet Fishbach and Rutgers Business School Assistant Professor Oliver J. Sheldon, was recently published in the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin. It is the first study to test how the two separate factors of identifying an ethical conflict and preemptively exercising self-control interact in shaping ethical decision-making.

In a series of experiments that included common ethical dilemmas, such as calling in sick to work and negotiating a home sale, the researchers found that two factors together promoted ethical behavior: Participants who identified a potential ethical dilemma as connected to other similar incidents and who also anticipated the temptation to act unethically were more likely to behave honestly than participants who did not.

“Unethical behavior is rampant across various domains ranging from business and politics to education and sports,” said Fishbach. “Organizations seeking to improve ethical behavior can do so by helping people recognize the cumulative impact of unethical acts and by providing warning cues for upcoming temptation.”

In one experiment, business school students were divided into pairs as brokers for the buyer and seller of a historic New York brownstone. The dilemma: The seller wanted to preserve the property while the buyer wanted to demolish it and build a hotel. The brokers for the seller were told to only sell to a buyer who would save the brownstone, while the brokers for the buyer were told to conceal the buyer’s plan to develop a hotel.

Before the negotiations began, half of the students were asked to recall a time when they cheated or bent the rules to get ahead. Only 45 percent of those students thinking about their ethics ahead of time behaved unethically in the negotiations, while more than two-thirds, or 67 percent, of the students who weren’t reminded of an ethical temptation in advance, lied in the negotiations in order to close the deal.

In another experiment involving workplace scenarios, participants were less likely to say it is okay to steal office supplies, call into work sick when they aren’t really ill, or intentionally work slowly to avoid additional tasks, if they anticipated an ethical dilemma through a writing exercise in advance and if they considered a series of six ethical dilemmas all at once.

In other words, people are more likely to engage in unethical behavior if they believe the act is an isolated incident and if they don’t think about it ahead of time.

The results of the experiments have the potential to help policy makers, educators and employers devise strategies to encourage people to behave ethically. For example, a manager could control costs by emailing employees before a work trip to warn them against the temptation to inflate expenses. The notice could be even more effective if the manager reminded employees that the urge to exaggerate expenses is a temptation they will encounter repeatedly in the future.

The most powerful learning ‘tool’

April 10, 2015

It is cultural transmission – the ability to pass knowledge on from one individual to another even across generations – that makes us unique among animals. True, we also learn by observing what happens in the world around us, for example, by associating events that frequently occur together (or in a rapid sequence). However, human “communication” may constitute such a powerful instrument that it overrides “statistics”, as observed in a study just published in PLOS One and conducted by Hanna Marno, researcher at the International School for Advanced Studies (SISSA) in Trieste.

“Human beings learn from statistical associations between events and objects. If, for example, one event very frequently follows another, we’ll learn to associate the first with the second and to use this association in our daily lives” explains Marno. “However, this is not the only way we learn. For humans, in fact, sharing information by communication is a vitally important factor”. This means that whereas normally we will associate an object with an action after observing their co-occurrence for a certain number of times, when certain communicative “cues” intervene (eye contact or verbal reinforcement from another person), then learning could take place far more rapidly and without any need for repeated observations.

“In our experiments, infants aged about 18 months watched an adult interact with a box that had two buttons and a heart-shaped lamp on it; when either of the two buttons was pressed the heart lit up” explains Marno. In the “baseline” condition only the efficiency of the action varied: in one case, the button on the right would light up the heart-shaped lamp two-thirds of the time (high efficiency) and the one on the left only the remaining one-third (low efficiency), whereas in the other case the situation was reversed. In the experimental condition, a “communication” variable was added: the demonstrators could remain neutral (as at baseline) or interact with the child through non-verbal (eye contact) and verbal cues (in so-called “motherese”, the typical way adults talk to young children) to emphasise their action. Then, in a later phase, the children were left alone to interact with the box and the investigators recorded which button they pressed first.

“The results demonstrate that in these experiments the ‘communicative’ signals are more important than the efficiency of the action” explains Marno. “Compared to children’s tendency to choose the more efficient button in the neutral condition, in the experimental situation they tended to prefer the button with low efficiency if this had been highlighted by the adult’s communicative signals”.

More in detail…

Marno started her studies on the effect of communicative signals by testing adult subjects. In fact, communication seems to play a specific, powerful role for adults as well. “Information about an object may be contingent or general. For example, when learning about an object, we can learn its position, which is most of the cases transitory information related to a specific moment in time, or we can learn more general features like its shape and function, which are not bound to any specific time period”.

In her experiments with adults, Marno observed that while mere observation of objects can contribute to the acquisition of contingent and transitory information, when communicative signals are also present, there is a bias to acquire some permanent, more general information. “Our studies clearly demonstrate the huge importance of communication in human learning”.

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