Tag Archives | Emerging Issues

Apocalypse Tao: Austerity Hits the Export Economies

Seventh SealAgence France-Presse, via MSN News, calls our attention to the typically under-stated way in which the 2nd trumpeter plays his solo*:

Large-scale strikes have hit China in recent weeks, as workers resentful about low salaries or lay-offs face off with employers juggling high costs and exports hit by lower demand from the debt-burdened West.

Politburo member Zhou Yongkang said authorities needed to improve their system of “social management”, including increasing “community-level” manpower.

“In the face of the negative impact of the market economy, we have not formed a complete system of social management,” Zhou said in a Friday speech to officials reported by the state Xinhua news agency at the weekend.

“It is urgent that we build a social management system with Chinese characteristics to match our socialist market economy.” China’s economy grew by 9.1 percent in the third quarter, down from 9.5 percent in the previous quarter.  Manufacturing — a key engine of growth — slumped to its lowest level in nearly three years last month, amid slowing demand from the European Union and the United States.

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Laptop Wi-Fi Said to Nuke Sperm …?

Destroy SpermReports Reuters via Yahoo News:

The digital age has left men’s nether parts in a squeeze, if you believe the latest science on semen, laptops and wireless connections. In a report in the venerable medical journal Fertility and Sterility, Argentinian scientists describe how they got semen samples from 29 healthy men, placed a few drops under a laptop connected to the Internet via Wi-Fi and then hit download.

Four hours later, the semen was, eh, well-done. A quarter of the sperm were no longer swimming around, for instance, compared to just 14 percent from semen samples stored at the same temperature away from the computer.

And nine percent of the sperm showed DNA damage, three-fold more than the comparison samples. The culprit? Electromagnetic radiation generated during wireless communication, say Conrado Avendano of Nascentis Medicina Reproductiva in Cordoba and colleagues.

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The Neuroeconomics Revolution

NeuroeconomicsThe left/right paradigm is coming to a quicker end than I thought. Robert Schiller writes at Al Jazeera:

Economics is at the start of a revolution that is traceable to an unexpected source: medical schools and their research facilities. Neuroscience — the science of how the brain, that physical organ inside one’s head, really works — is beginning to change the way we think about how people make decisions. These findings will inevitably change the way we think about how economies function. In short, we are at the dawn of “neuroeconomics”.

Efforts to link neuroscience to economics have occurred mostly in just the last few years, and the growth of neuroeconomics is still in its early stages. But its nascence follows a pattern: revolutions in science tend to come from completely unexpected places. A field of science can turn barren if no fundamentally new approaches to research are on the horizon.

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You Don’t Want to Know

Hear / Speak / See / No Evil

Tōshōgū shrine, Nikkō, Japan. Photo: David Monniaux (CC)

Via ScienceDaily:

The less people know about important complex issues such as the economy, energy consumption and the environment, the more they want to avoid becoming well-informed, according to new research published by the American Psychological Association.

And the more urgent the issue, the more people want to remain unaware, according to a paper published online in APA’s Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.

“These studies were designed to help understand the so-called ‘ignorance is bliss’ approach to social issues,” said author Steven Shepherd, a graduate student with the University of Waterloo in Ontario. “The findings can assist educators in addressing significant barriers to getting people involved and engaged in social issues.”

Through a series of five studies conducted in 2010 and 2011 with 511 adults in the United States and Canada, the researchers described “a chain reaction from ignorance about a subject to dependence on and trust in the government to deal with the issue.”

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U.S. & Israel To Hold Their ‘Largest and Most Significant’ War Games (Video)

Via Press TV:

U.S. Assistant Secretary for Political-Military Affairs Andrew Shapiro says the U.S. and the Israeli regime are set to hold their ‘largest and most significant’ joint military maneuvers without offering details about the time and location of the war games.

More than 5,000 U.S. and Israeli forces will take part in the war drills, said Shapiro, in a Saturday speech at the Israeli-sponsored think tank, the Washington Institute for Near East Policy (WINEP). He reportedly did not mention a specific time and location for what observers have described as part of the new U.S.-led publicity campaign aimed at raising the threat level against Iran.

The joint military maneuver will simulate Israel’s ballistic missile system and will allow Washington to ‘learn from’ Tel Aviv’s experience in warfare, the senior American official added.

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7 Billion People and Counting: Concerns From Around the World

PopulationGreat roundup of opinion found in the Detroit Free Press:

What’s the biggest issue facing humanity as the global population reaches seven billion?

Montreal’s Le Devoir newspaper asked for an answer from correspondents around the world. Here are the replies, including a link to that from the Free Press. Note the recurring theme of fresh water, not a problem here in the Great Lakes region, but a critical issue for millions of people in many regions.

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Abolish Student Loan Debt?

Student DebtWriting for the journal Reclamations, George Caffentzis wonders why there is no movement in the United States to abolish our increasingly oppressive system of institutionalized student loan debt:

Debt has had a crushing impact on the lives of those who must take student loans to finance their university education in the US. For tuition fees that have been so notoriously high in private universities now are rising in public universities so quickly they are far out-pacing inflation. Average loan debt per student in the US has been much higher than in Europe (with the exception of Sweden), though recent developments there would indicate that this gap may soon no longer exist (Usher).

We should also take into account the fraudulent way in which the loans have been administered by the banks and the vindictiveness with which those who have been unable to pay back have been pursued by collection agents.

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Big Alternative Medicine Threatens Suit Against Skeptical Blogger

BrainSaltThe alt-med controversy is often framed as a David-and-Goliath clash between small-time distributors of natural heath products, on one hand, and “big pharma” on the other. It is worth considering, however, that alt-med has become a lucrative industry in its own right, capable of engaging in the same abuses often associated with powerful pharmaceutical companies.

In Europe, draconian libel laws are increasingly being used to intimidate bloggers who question the validity of specific alt-med products or modalities. The most recent case involves the multinational homeopathy manufacturer Boiron and an amateur blogger in Italy. Steven Novella at Science-Based Medicine writes:

There have been many cases now of big companies or organizations, or wealthy individuals, threatening to sue or actually suing a blogger for libel. The most famous case is that of Simon Singh who was sued by the British Chiropractic Association over comments he made in an article. Simon braved through the expensive and exhaustive legal process (which is especially onerous in England), but he is not just a lone blogger.

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