Friday, 17 July 2015

The benefits of Sesame Street

  • Early childhood education by MOOC: Lessons from Sesame Street - Early childhood education has important effects on the academic readiness and ultimate life chances of children. This column examines how the introduction of the educational television show Sesame Street in the US affected primary school outcomes for disadvantaged children. Those from counties that had better access to the broadcast had superior educational outcomes through their early school years. These effects were particularly pronounced for black, non-Hispanic children, and those living in economically disadvantaged areas. The extremely low cost per child of such interventions make them ideal for addressing educational inequality in childhood.
  • Europe’s dirty little secret is Greece will never pay back its debt - The simple story is that Greece's debt might have been manageable before, but it's not anymore.
  • The surprising decline in US petroleum consumption - Petroleum consumption in the US has, rather unbelievably, been decreasing of late.
  • No, Earth is not heading toward a ‘mini ice age’ - According to the research, solar activity at this time should resemble conditions last seen in the mid-1700s during a period known of low solar radiation known as the “Maunder Minimum.” The interesting thing about this period was that it coincided with a “little ice age” in Europe and North America — a time marked by unusually cold temperatures and bitter winters. Now that Zharkova and her colleagues are predicting another solar minimum coming up, media coverage has jumped on the idea that a modern “mini ice age” is in store. It’s a dramatic idea, but it isn’t being embraced by many climate scientists, who argue that anthropogenic global warming — brought on by a human outpouring of greenhouse gas emissions into the atmosphere — will far outweigh any climate effects that might be caused by the sun. As far as the solar variations go, “The effect is a drop in the bucket, a barely detectable blip, on the overall warming trajectory we can expect over the next several decades from greenhouse warming,” said Michael Mann, distinguished professor of meteorology at Pennsylvania State University.

Thursday, 16 July 2015

Kale the silent killer?

Sorry, Foodies: We're About to Ruin Kale | Mother Jones:

Today's kale-fixated juice-heads may doing themselves a disservice.

That's a possibility raised by an article in Craftsmanship magazine by Todd Oppenheimer. The piece doesn't establish a definitive link between heavy kale consumption and any health problem, but it does raise the question of whether too much of even a highly nutritious food like kale can have unhappy side effects.

The article focuses on an alt-medicine researcher and molecular biologist named Ernie Hubbard, who began to notice an odd trend among some of his clinic's clients in California's Marin County, a place known for its organic farms, health-food stores, and yoga studios. Extremely health-conscious people were coming into to complain of "persistent but elusive problems": "Chronic fatigue. Skin and hair issues. Arrhythmias and other neurological disorders. Foggy thinking. Gluten sensitivity and other digestive troubles. Sometimes even the possibility of Lyme Disease."

Hubbard began to find detectable levels of a toxic heavy metal called thallium in patients' blood samples—at higher-than-normal leves—as well as in kale leaves from the region. Meanwhile, "over and over," he found that patients complaining ofsymptoms associated with low-level thallium poisoning—fatigue, brain fog, etc.—would also be heavy eaters of kale and related vegetables, like cabbage.

And he found, in the form of this 2006 peer-reviewed paper by Czech researchers, evidence that kale is really good at taking up thallium from soil. The paper concluded that kale's ability to accumulate soil-borne thallium is "very high and can be a serious danger for food chains." And here's a peer-reviewed 2013 paperfrom Chinese researchers finding similar results with green cabbage; a 2015Chinese study finding green cabbage is so good at extracting thallium from soil that it can be used for "phytoremediation"—i.e., purifying soil of a toxin—and a2001 one from a New Zealand team finding formidible thallium-scrounging powers in three other members of the brassica family: watercress, radishes, and turnips.'via Blog this'

Wednesday, 15 July 2015

Denmark to follow the Australian example on keeping refugees out

  • DF wants video to tell refugees to stay away - Drawing inspiration from Australia, the Danish People’s Party wants to launch a video campaign telling asylum seekers that Denmark is not the place for them. “If you want to seek happiness in Europe, Denmark is not the right place.” 
That’s the message that the anti-immigration Danish People’s Party (DF) wants to send loud and clear to asylum seekers. DF spokesman Martin Henriksen is calling on Denmark to replicate Australia by releasing a video in English and Arabic that will discourage asylum seekers from making their way to Danish shores.
“Too many people are coming to Denmark to seek asylum and we want them to stay away from Denmark. That is the message we wish to formulate to human smugglers and potential asylum seekers around the world,” Henriksen told Politiko. Henriksen pointed to a video made by the Australian government, in which a stone-faced General Campbell tells asylum seekers “you will not make Australia home”.

Henriksen wants Denmark to make a similar message that will include information about new restrictions on gaining asylum in Denmark and bringing family members to the country as well as the newly-announced cuts to refugees' benefits.
Governing party Venstre initially expressed a willingness to consider DF’s idea but as backlash to the proposal began to spread on Wednesday, Venstre spokesman Jakob Ellemann-Jensen threw cold water on the idea. “I don’t think the Australian video is an example to replicate in Denmark. The video is a bit tough and I don’t think it is a Danish way to communicate. It’s fine if it works in Australia, but I can’t immediately see it being used in Denmark,” Ellemann-Jensen told Politiko. Australia has implemented a strict policy of denying entry to boats filled with refugees and sending them out of Australian waters.
  • The Frenzy About High-Tech Talent - Are there enough jobs for all the people currently being trained in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics?
  • Bad news week for BBC as Murdoch press sharpens claws - ... it really does seem as if – with Leveson and the phone hacking scandals fading into history – that the cosy relationship between the Conservatives and the Murdoch press is gradually returning to normal.
  • What to Expect From Myanmar’s Elections - Last week, Myanmar announced that its much-anticipated elections, the first free national election in twenty-five years, would be held on November 8 of this year. With the election’s date finally set, after months of rumors, the country’s political parties—and there are more than eighty of them that may run in the election—can begin campaigning in earnest.