Pacific Standard

In Some States, Almost 30% of Children Don't Get Enough to Eat

Last month, the Hamilton Project, a policy initiative spinoff of the Brookings Institution, hosted a conversation with United States’ Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack on food insecurity. The event was accompanied by the Hamilton Project’s new report on the topic, which makes for mostly grim reading. The report finds that, though food insecurity, which increased sharply during the Great Recession, has declined, it still hasn’t returned to pre-recession levels. In fact, in states with particularly high levels of food insecurity, almost 30 percent of children live in a food-insecure household.

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How Peer Pressure Can Really Make People Save Water

After four years of drought, California governor Jerry Brown announced that the state is imposing a mandatory 25 percent cut in water use for the vast majority of the state's water districts. This is the first time in California history officials have mandated people use less water.

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How Being Lazy Can Help You Lose Weight

Social critics fret that Americans are growing fat and lazy. Well, newly published research suggests we may be able to combat our obesity problem by tapping into our inherent unwillingness to get up off of our butts.

It finds choosing a healthy or unhealthy snack may come down to which of them is nearest to our fingertips. St. Bonaventure University researchers Gregory Privitera and Faris Zuraikat report that, if placed within easy reach, people will eat more of a low-calorie treat, “even in a competitive food environment in which a preferred, higher calorie food is also made available.”

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Hate Kills: How Homophobia Takes Years Off of Your Life

This article originally appeared at Pacific Standard, and is reprinted here with their permission.

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Scientists Say There Are Messages Wafting in the Smells of Your B.O.

We, people, typically think of ourselves as people. It can be jarring to remember that we're also mammals who, like most other mammalian species, unconsciously send odor signals to each other carrying information about our gender, our health, ourreproductive state, our mood, and even our potential to be a compatible mate. If the idea that your secretions say something about you creeps you out, then you won't welcome the news that the revealing scent signals we emit may actually be the end-products of microbial fermentations carried out in our bodies' damp, low-oxygen creases. A recent study of scent signals in hyenas presents the best evidence to date that bacteria are responsible for producing pheromones in a mammalian species. The implication of these results is that the bacteria in our underarms may have a surprisingly complex role in our social lives.

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Losing Weight? That May Not Mean You’re Any Healthier

Why do we go on diets, anyway? Two answers immediately come to mind: To look better, and to be in better health.

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Eerie and Depressing -- Why Ordering a Big Mac Comes With a Side of Impatience

Are you feeling impatient right now? Do you find it difficult to slow down long enough to enjoy life’s simple pleasures, such as a sunset or a beautiful piece of music?

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Is Your Neighborhood Red or Blue? Americans Are Increasingly Segregating Themselves in Ideological Enclaves

This piece originally appeared on Pacific Standard.

Pacific StandardDoes your next-door neighbor vote the same way you do? How about the couple who live across the street, or your friends on the next block?

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Everything You've Been Told About How to Eat Is Wrong

If you go to the National Institute of Health’s website today, you will find a section on a “Healthy Eating Plan.” That plan recommends a diet “low in saturated fats, trans fat, cholesterol, salt, and added sugars, and controls portion sizes.” These recommendations may well have been copied and pasted from 1977.

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How Ronald Reagan Turned Out the Lights on Solar Power

Although the Americans invented the first practical solar cell and until 1980 almost all solar cells were built in the United States, the American government has held, until very recently, a schizophrenic policy, generously funding photovoltaics for military satellites while withholding support for the use of solar on Earth for civilians.

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Giving Weapons to Citizens Has Often Been in the Name of Defending Tyranny, Not Fighting It

With Aaron Alexis’ killing of 12 people in Washington’s Navy Yard last Monday came, predictably, renewed calls for more gun control. Senator Dianne Feinstein of California said later that day that “Congress must stop shirking its responsibility and resume a thoughtful debate on gun violence in this country.” Some gun rights advocates will protest this as a violation of our rights, arguing that we are, unlike most other (safer) nations, armed to the teeth to allow us to rise up and overthrow tyrannical governments. Or, perhaps more charitably, we have guns as a barrier against tyranny so that our rulers won’t try to take too much power.

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Surprise -- Young Mothers Are Some of the Biggest Consumers of Energy Drinks

ure, balancing diapers while also balancing a finance portfolio is pretty extreme, in and of itself. But we all know the true measure of XTREME: daily energy-drink consumption. And, well, moms just might be the most XTREME of all.

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Medal of Honor Recipient, in New Act of Valor, Thanks His Shrink [Video]

The video below, from Stars and Stripes, shows Staff Sgt. Ty Carter’s speech at a ceremony awarding him the Congressional Medal of Honor yesterday. Carter, one of only five living recipients of the medal who fought in post 9/11 conflicts, was cited for his actions during a battle in Afghanistan in which he attempted to rescue a fellow soldier, Spc Stephan Mace. Carter pulled Mace to safety and treated him amid a 12-hour-long battle. Mace, wounded grievously, eventually died.*
Carter’s speech is notably different from the popular image of a war hero receiving a medal. In lieu of crisp salutes and talk of duty, Carter spends much of his time speaking about loss, and frankly discussing his own mental health after the ordeal. To be clear, Staff Sgt. Carter appears to be a person of extraordinary mettle. In his presentation, however, he does not mind projecting another image, of a young man who has seen too many terrible things. Speaking in what can only be called a tone of vulnerability, he tells the White House audience, including President Obama:
Only those closest to me can see the scars that come from seeing good men take their last breath. During the battle, I lost some of the hearing in my left ear. But I will always hear the voice of Specialist Stephan Mace. I will hear his plea for help for the rest of my life.
He goes on to talk about how he recovered from the experience.
However, thanks to the professionalism of my platoon Sgt, Sgt Hill, and my behavioral health provider, Capt. Cobb, and my friends and family, I will heal.
“Behavioral health” is a synonym for mental health. A “behavioral health provider” is a therapist. In a ceremony traditionally designed to showcase bravery in battle, Carter is taking the extraordinary step of focusing on how he, the classic American war hero, came home from Afghanistan with his head in a bad place. He goes on to speak of anguished families of the soldiers lost in the same violent battle for which he received the medal. President Obama also remarks on the mental health issue.
Certainly what the video below displays is a cultural shift, from the 1940s image of the hard-bitten GI, to the modern, human hero like Carter. It’s also tempting to read the focus of this week’s ceremony as a tacit pushback against an emerging skepticism about war’s role in a wave of military suicides over the past half-decade-plus. Coincidentally, two weeks ago a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association claimed that military deployments were not to blame for the widely-reported rise in suicides among service members since 2005.
The study, which has sparked intense debate, found ”suicide risk was independently associated with male sex and mental disorders but not with military-specific variables.” It cited a rise in alcohol and drug abuse among the soldiers studied as likely causes for the increase in suicides, but did not consider those influences “military-specific.”
*UPDATE 08/28/2013: This post originally stated that Staff Sgt. Ty Carter was one of only five living recipients of the Congressional Medal of Honor. In fact, he is one of five who have received the MOH in the post 9/11 conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq.
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Is Widespread Drug Use to Thank for the Inventions of the Classical World?

The United States has worried seriously about citizen drug use for more than 40 years. Here’s President Richard Nixon back in 1971: “America’s public enemy number one in the United States is drug abuse. In order to fight and defeat this enemy, it is necessary to wage a new, all-out offensive.” Concern grew in the 1980s with the escalation in the use of crack cocaine, inspiring President Ronald Reagan to create the Office of National Drug Control Policy to coordinate drug-related legislation and research.

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Is Being Fat a Disease? The American Medical Association Says Yes, Though Its Definition of Obesity Is Flawed.

Disease: a disordered or incorrectly functioning organ, part, structure, or system of the body resulting from the effect of genetic or developmental errors, infection, poisons, nutritional deficiency or imbalance, toxicity, or unfavorable environmental factors; illness; sickness; ailment.

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Do Psychiatrists Create the Very Mental Problems They Claim to Treat?

Imagine for a moment that the American Psychiatric Association was about to compile a new edition of its Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. But instead of 2013, imagine, just for fun, that the year is 1880.

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Only a Few Weeks of Mindfulness Training Boosts Test Scores for Memory and Reading Comprehension

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Experiment Shows How Facebook Can Spread Racist Thoughts

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Penis Snatching on the Rise -- Africa’s Genital-Stealing Crime Wave Hits the Countryside

Elaborate greetings are the norm, I’ve found, when one enters a Central African village. So it was a surprise when I noticed that many people weren’t shaking hands the morning I arrived in Tiringoulou, a town of about 2,000 people in one of the remotest corners of the Central African Republic, in March 2010. I soon found out the reason: the day before, a traveler passing through town on a Sudanese merchant truck had, with a simple handshake, removed two men’s penises.

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5 Big Reasons Why Americans Don’t Save Their Money

Imagine your car needs a new transmission. It’s going to cost $2,000. Can you scrape that together within the month? If so, you’re better off than nearly half your fellow Americans.

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How Speed Bumps Help Predict Appendicitis

Time is a killer when it comes to appendicitis. Ignore that howling stomachache long enough, and you risk a burst appendix and infected belly. But the condition is notoriously difficult to diagnose—maybe it’s gas, maybe it’s cramps—and emergency surgery carries risks all its own. For doctors, it’s a choice between two lousy options; the rate of “negative appendectomy,” where the sac is removed only to be found uninflamed, is as high as 42 percent.

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Gun Owners Are Obsessed with Zombies

This piece originally appeared on Pacific Standard.

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Is Sugar a Killer?

Among the least likely viral megahits on YouTube is a 90-minute lecture by the food scold and pediatric endocrinologist Robert Lustig entitled “Sugar: The Bitter Truth.” He delivers it in a windowless room at the Osher Center for Integrative Medicine at the University of California, San Francisco. The talk is simultaneously boring and powerful, combining the gravitas of a national health crisis, the thrill of conspiracy theory, and the tedium of PowerPoint slides. Midway through the talk he scans the hall for approval. “Am I debunking?”

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Study: Recent Elections Show a Strong Link Between Racism and Political Preference

As he looks back on his first term, President Barack Obama can take satisfaction from a series of significant accomplishments. But according to a new analysis by a Brown University political scientist, his rise to power has also produced a less-welcome result: A renewed alignment between political preference and “old-fashioned racism.”

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You’re Being Tricked Into Buying That Awful Sweater!

This piece originally appeared on Pacific Standard.

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Why Is it So Hard for Police to Admit They've Messed Up?

After honor student Stephanie Crowe was stabbed to death in her bedroom in Escondido, California in January 1998, police briefly questioned (and collected clothes from) Richard Tuite, a drug-addicted, mentally ill transient who had been spotted prowling nearby the previous evening and scaring the Crowes’ neighbors. But the first person to get the third degree by detectives was Stephanie’s 14-year-old brother Michael, who weathered 10 hours of grueling interrogation without his parents or attorney present.

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The Weird Things Money Does to People

Given the tone-deaf comments a wealthy political figure recently made while addressing some equally affluent donors, you’d almost think money makes a person less able to relate to the feelings of others.

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