Wednesday, 18 April 2018

What’s the deal with genetically modified (GM) foods? [feedly]

a post by Mary M. Landrigan and Philip J. Landrigan for the OUP [Oxford University Press] blog

CC0 Public Domain via pxhere.

It’s complicated; but here is a quick summary of what the controversy over genetically modified foods is all about.

GM engineering involves reconfiguring the genes in crop plants or adding new genes that have been created in the laboratory.

Scientific modification of plants is not something new. Since time began, nature has been modifying plants and animals through natural evolution, meaning that the plants and animals that adapt best to the changing environment survive and pass their genes on to their offspring. Those that are least fit do not survive. Farmers, too, have been helping nature improve crops for generations by saving the seeds of the best tomatoes and apples to use for next year’s crop. This is a kind of genetic selection – the most favorable plants succeed.

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What So Many of Us Get Wrong About Assertiveness

a post by Margarita Tartakovsky for the World of Psychology blog

Most of us are familiar with the term “assertive.” We have a general idea of what being assertive means. But that doesn’t mean we fully understand it. And, in our society, many myths still abound, which adds another layer of confusion. Which is a problem, because these misconceptions can lead us to stay silent about our needs, stew in our resentment and let others walk all over us.

According to psychotherapist Michele Kerulis, EdD, LCPC, “Assertiveness is when people clearly communicate their positions, wants, and needs in respectful ways to others. This includes standing up for yourself, honoring your values, and being firm about your boundaries.”

Below, you’ll learn the facts behind common misconceptions, along with helpful pointers for being assertive – because it is true that being assertive is not easy.

Tell me about it! I have done TWO courses on how to be less aggressive and more assertive.
I know the theory.
I need to put it into practice more.

UK police train machine-learning model using Experian data that stereotypes people based on garden size, first names, and postal codes

a post by Cory Doctorow for the Boing Boing blog

The police in Durham, England bought a license to the "Mosiac" dataset from the credit bureau Experian, which includes data on 50,000,000 Britons, in order to train a machine learning system called HART ("Harm Assessment Risk Tool") that tries to predict whether someone will reoffend.

The Mosiac dataset attempts to group people based on their demographic characteristics, creating marketing categories with names like 'Disconnected Youth,' 'Asian Heritage' and 'Dependent Greys.' People are sorted into these categories based on a suite of criteria that includes their first names (people named "Chelsea" and "Liam" are likely to be classed as "Disconnected Youth"), their exam marks, the size of their gardens, messages they've posted to pregnancy advice websites, and other criteria.

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Here’s Why Human Rights in Healthcare Are Needed More Than Ever

a post by Ruth Campbell for Rights Info: Human Rights News, Views & Info

Image Credit: Ken Treloar / Unsplash 

My Grandpa is getting old. Last year after a particularly bad fall, he spent four months in hospital.

The tall, slim man with coal black hair who used to be able to haul a whole sheep on his back across the family steading can’t move as quickly as he used to. His memory has been getting worse and worse – although he can still recall with alarming precision all of the grammar rules he learned at school.

When he was born in 1928, it would still be two whole decades before anyone had even heard of the NHS. His mother gave birth to him at home, with no doctor present so they didn’t have to pay for it.

A Growing Impact in Healthcare

He’ll be 90 this year, and has lived through medical, technological, and social changes which have revolutionised healthcare.

He’s seen diseases eradicated, hip replacements, heart transplants, IVF, medical technology advancing at a rate unfathomable for someone born in a house without electricity.

What he might not realise – indeed he might be the first to tell you, despite my best efforts, that human rights are only for terrorists and criminals – is that he’s also been witness to the growing impact of human rights in healthcare throughout his lifetime.

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What Role Does a Difficult Past Play in Your Life Now?

a post by Christiana Star for the World of Psychology blog

For many individuals, the past is not past but remains an ever-present influence in their present life. Even though the physical effects of past events often demand more attention, the psychological legacy may be much more difficult to move on from.

If past events are processed as experiences to learn from and grow as a person, pain and upset can be transformed into greater wisdom and strength. However, if not resolved, past challenges keep us hooked into the emotional charge of the time.

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Tuesday, 17 April 2018

Identifying Income and Wealth-Poor Households in the Euro Area

an article by Philip Müller (University of Göttingen, Germany) and Tobias Schmidt (Deutsche Bundesbank, Frankfurt am Main, Germany) published in Journal of Poverty Volume 22 Issue 2 (2018)


In this article, the authors analyze different measures of asset and income poverty using microdata for 15 Euro-Area countries from the 2010 Household Finance and Consumption Survey. The authors are particularly interested in the way in which specific definitions of income and wealth poverty affect the number and sociodemographic characteristics of poor households, as well as their portfolio composition and consumption expenditure.

The authors find that adding wealth to the poverty definition mainly influences the percentage of poor households but has a limited effect on the documented sociodemographic composition, portfolio structure, and food consumption of poor households compared to the patterns under a pure income poverty measure.

Pets, animal-assisted therapy and social inclusion

an article by Sue Holttum (Canterbury Christ Church University, Tunbridge Wells, UK) published in Mental Health and Social Inclusion Volume 22 Issue 2 (2018)


Humans have close relationships with animals for companionship and in working roles. The purpose of this paper is to discuss recent papers on pets and dog-assisted interventions, and relates their findings to social inclusion.

A search was carried out for recent papers on pets, animal-assisted therapy and social inclusion/exclusion.

One paper discusses theories (often lacking in studies of animal-assisted therapy) of why animals may be good for human health and development.
A recent review shows evidence that family pet ownership may aid children’s well-being, learning and social development, but too few studies have followed children over time in pet and non-pet households.
Studies of dog-assisted interventions show stress-reduction, which in turn may explain why therapy for mental health in young people and adults was more effective with a dog than without. Social inclusion is hinted at but not measured directly, yet dog-assisted therapy might be helpful in this regard.

All the papers discussed in detail here represent up-to-date understanding in this area of knowledge. Benefits of human-animal bonds, especially with dogs, appear to be well-supported by biological as well as observational and self-report evidence. More research is needed on how much these attachments may assist social relating and relationships with other people, and social inclusion.