Archive for January, 2012

From Olympic massacre to the Olympic Stress Syndrome

January 31, 2012

From International Review for the Sociology of Sport

The first in our series of articles highlighting various aspects of Olympic Games to celebrate the countdown to 2012 this article considers how the development over the last 40 years of anti-terrorism measures has resulted in Olympic Games that have been held without terrorist attacks aimed at political change. Since the disaster of the 1972 Munich Olympic Games where 11 Israeli athletes were killed by Palestinian gunmen, the world has been alerted to the importance of Olympic security; since then, the Olympic Games have become the standard-bearer for national organization and international cooperation on anti-terrorism within society generally.

However it is argued here that the investment in security and policing can prove counterproductive as a defensive antiterrorist strategy, for several reasons. First, rather than creating the feeling of a safe  environment, it can lead to a climate of fear among the people to be protected. Second, it can lead to an exaggerated focus on one specific arrangement (the Olympic Games), with a parallel under-focus on other possible targets: terrorists can stay away from the Olympics and concentrate on other unprotected or under-focused targets. The author suggests that we are approaching an Olympic Stress Syndrome in the field of Olympic anti-terrorism measures and points out that we can never be too secure, but we can spend too much on security. The future will show if the increasing focus on security does result in a fortification of the Olympics and in a prohibitively expensive Games.

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Tobacco consumption and the poor

January 26, 2012

Tobacco consumption and the poor: An ethnographic analysis of hand-rolled cigarette (bidi) use in Bangladesh

From Ethnography

There are an estimated 1.1 billion smokers worldwide, among whom 80 percent live in low and middle income countries. This paper explores the link between cultural norms of reciprocity and hierarchy as well as the socio-economic structure of Bangladesh with its inequality, poverty and exploitation contribute to the tobacco consumption and related health problems of the poor. It specifically examines Bidis, or hand-rolled, filterless tobacco cigarettes, marketed to and consumed by the poor in Bangladesh. Inexpensive Bidis offer smokers relief from physical ailments specific to the poor: hunger, indigestion and constipation. More than this they are a socially accepted mood-altering drug offering relief from their everyday tensions, angers, perceived exploitations and disappointments.

This study considers the bigger picture and highlights how Consideration of tobacco use goes far beyond health to aspects of education and social justice: it is on the wane amongst the wealthy and on the rise amongst the poor, and profits from its production are heavily concentrated amongst the elitist few. Meanwhile, the workers – who represent so many of the users – live in abject poverty.

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Silicone implants and autoimmune conditions (ASIA syndrome)

January 25, 2012

Special Issue ASIA – Autoimmune Syndrome Induced by Adjuvants

From Lupus

In 1976 researchers in Japan reported on 9 cases of systemic sclerosis in subjects with silicone implants. A further 100 similar cases were quickly then discovered followed by  hundreds of case reports and patient studies reporting the development of diverse clinical symptoms following the insertion of silicone implants, which especially when these implants had ruptured. However, even when not ruptured an increased incidence of autoantibodies was recorded in many of these subjects. We now know that an asymptomatic presence of autoantibodies in the serum may precede the eventual development of full blown autoimmune diseases by several years. This new syndrome has been called ASIA (Autoimmune syndrome induced by adjuvant). Silicone was selected for use within implants because of its consistency as well as the belief that it is inert and would not be targeted by the immune system, yet it has been found to act as an adjuvant, especially when invading neighboring tissues when an implant ruptures. The recent use of cheaper implants by the French company PIP has highlighted the increased rate of early rupture in such products and raised the importance of investigations into the development of ASIA. This special issue of Lupus (February 2012) details many clinical conditions which form the ASIA syndrome.

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UK death in a home setting on the rise

January 24, 2012

Reversal of the British trends in place of death: Time series analysis 2004–2010

From Palliative Medicine

Although around two thirds of us would prefer to die at home, in the developed world the trend in recent years has been for the majority to spend their final days in an institutional setting. But according to this study the tide has now turned and an increasing number of people in the UK are dying at home. In this study, the researchers analyzed death registration data from the UK Office for National Statistics for all those who had died between 2004 and 2010 – over 3.5 million records. The team found that, following trends in the USA and Canada, dying at home is now also becoming more prevalent in Britain. Earlier research drew attention to the gaps between preferences and actuality, which changed Government policy, leading to greater emphasis on meeting patient preferences. Although more of the very elderly are dying at home based on these ONS statistics, the most elderly in Britain continue to have fewer chances to die at home than other age group.

Even for those who do die at home, little evidence has been gathered to establish whether they, and their relatives, experience better care than those who die in institutions such as hospitals, hospices or nursing homes.

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Prediction that 1 in 16 Black men will be infected with HIV flags a neglected crisis in US Black communities

January 19, 2012

Heterosexual risk for HIV among Black men in the United States: A call to action against a neglected crisis in black communities

From American Journal of Men’s Health

Alarmingly, recent data gathered in the United States predicts that 1 in 16 Black men in will be infected with HIV in their lifetime. Black men at heterosexual risk of HIV have largely been neglected by research, program, and policy, as the focus historically has been on risks for homosexual Black men and drug users. This article presents data documenting heterosexual risks for HIV among Black men and outlines how this trend is a major concern. Findings suggest that Black communities may be moving toward a more generalized HIV epidemic.

The authors outline the seriousness of the situation by highlighting the fact that It has now been 30 years since the first cases of HIV were recognized as a potential epidemic for the US. At that time both the government and society were slow to respond with serious repercussions for the gay community. They warn of repeating history by ignoring the current danger of the HIV epidemic among straight Black men.  They conclude with a call to action to increase awareness and support for research, program, and policies that can improve HIV prevention and testing as part of the national agenda to reduce rates of HIV in Black communities.

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Examining the impact of the Family Violence Option on women’s efforts to leave welfare

January 18, 2012

From Research on Social Work Practice

In 1997, while reforming federal welfare programs, the U.S. Congress established the Family Violence Option (FVO) to prevent reforms from adversely affecting those welfare recipients who are domestic violence victims. This research investigated if known domestic violence victims, and in particular those who received an FVO waiver, remained on the welfare rolls longer and worked less than other welfare recipients, as many critics speculated. The study wanted to assess what difference the FVO, in practice, has made on women’s ability to leave welfare and find employment. Using administrative and interview data the findings do not indicate that FVO waivers encourage women to stay on welfare longer. However, the poor outcomes of undocumented victims indicate that some individuals may be slipping through the cracks of a well-intentioned policy.

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Contracts in the classroom: An unconventional promising grading system

January 17, 2012

Use of contract grading to improve grades among college freshmen in introductory psychology

From SAGE Open

While contracts are an indispensable tool in the modern workplace, this study has found that they may also be very effective in contemporary classrooms. Students designed their own course based on a contract and this lead to both higher grades and higher student satisfaction than traditional points-based courses. A total of 40 college freshmen enrolled in one introductory psychology course to a traditional or contract grading system. Those assigned to the contract system signed a contract at the beginning of the semester in which they indicated what grade they were aiming to receive and specified which assignments they would complete to receive that grade. Students who wanted to receive a better grade had to complete more assignments and receive a higher score on exams than those aiming for a lower grade. Though the instructor and course materials were identical for both sections, at the end of the semester, the group of students who were graded contractually were three times more likely to earn an A grade, one third as likely to fail or withdraw from the course, perceived a higher degree of control over their grade, and consistently rated their own effort, their instructor, and the course overall more favorably.

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Are online newspapers the modern day equivalent of 19th century bourgeois cafés for democratic discussions?

January 12, 2012

Public sphere 2.0? The democratic qualities of citizen debates in online Newspapers

From The International Journal of Press/Politics

If bourgeois cafés were the scenario of democratic discussions in the nineteenth century, and newspapers played a crucial role in mediating public opinion in the twentieth century, it is time to assess whether online newspapers provide a new incarnation of the public sphere,

becoming the digital cafés of a Public Sphere 2.0. Using a sample of more than 15,000 comments was selected from the online versions of five national newspapers this article assesses to what extent online news forms of digital discussion fit in Habermas’ principles for democratic debate. Two models of audience participation emerge from the analysis, one where communities of debate are formed based on mostly respectful discussions between diverse points of view and another of homogenous communities, in which expressing feelings about current events dominates the contributions and there is less of an argumentative debate. While the results of the study suggest a rather bleak overall picture of comments in online news as a space for the reproduction of hegemonic points of view and the expression of the citizen frustrations with the ruling class, they also provide evidence that some users do engage in thoughtful discussions enjoying the exercise of trying to provide the most convincing argument.

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Over time, awareness of common humanity reduces empathy and heightens perpetrators expectations of forgiveness

January 11, 2012

Awareness of common humanity reduces empathy and heightens expectations of forgiveness for temporally distant wrongdoing

From Social Psychological and Personality Science

Forgiveness is a desirable outcome to conflict. It has been shown to foster both mental and physical health among victims as well as improvements in well-being and self-esteem among perpetrators. According to Archbishop Tutu, forgiveness is only possible if victims and perpetrators of wrongdoing recognize and build upon their shared humanness. This research investigates the relationship between common humanity and forgiveness expectations. The study finds that focusing on common humanity will increase expectations of forgiveness among perpetrators, particularly if the wrongdoing occurred at a subjectively distant point in time. It is argued that this effect is less likely to occur in the context of subjectively recent wrongdoing. It found that perpetrators expect forgiveness when categorized at the human, compared to social, level. The findings indicate that perpetrator groups may feel a passive disregard for victim suffering in addition to becoming directly adversarial when focused on common humanity. Awareness of common humanity might facilitate victims’ willingness to forgive but also leads perpetrators to gratuitously expect forgiveness—a potential recipe for a rocky road to reconciliation.

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Health and environmental consequences of illegal residential marijuana grow operations

January 10, 2012

Consequences of large- scale production of marijuana in residential buildings

From Indoor and Built Environment

North America is one of the largest industrialized nations involved in marijuana production, although it is illegal to produce and sell this plant in that nation. This demand has caused an increase in the number of illegal ‘‘marijuana grow operations’’.  This study considers the health impacts when living in or near the conditions required for the cultivation of marijuana. There are risks involved with the inevitable moisture, damp, mould, and fungi, plus there are potential hazards associated with pesticides, carbon monoxide and unvented combustion appliances.

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