‘Heroes’ Judged Harshly for Bad Behavior, Study Finds

SATURDAY, Feb. 26 Your past record of good deeds won’t help you escape blame when you do something wrong, suggests a new study. But you may get off easier if you’re perceived as a victim.

U.S. researchers looked at study participants’ reactions to a number of fictional scenarios representing real-life transgressions, ranging from stealing money to harming another person.

The results showed that, no matter how many previous good deeds a person had done, they received just as much blame if not more than people with less heroic backgrounds.

“People may come down even harder on someone like the Dalai Lama than they do on ‘Joe Blow,’” study author Kurt Gray, an assistant professor of psychology at the University of Maryland, said in a university news release.

“However, in our research those who have suffered in the past received significantly less blame, even if such suffering was both totally unrelated to the misdeed and long since past,” he added.

The study findings are published in the March issue of the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology.

“Our research suggests that morality is not like some kind of cosmic bank, where you can deposit good deeds and use them to offset future misdeeds. Instead, people ignore heroic pasts, or even count them against you, when assigning blame,” said Gray, director of the university’s Mind Perception and Morality Lab.

In fact, people tend to simply divide the world up into do-gooders and evil-doers, so “psychologically, the perceived distance between a hero and a villain is quite small, whereas there’s a wide gap between a villain and a victim. This means that heroes are easily recast as evil-doers, whereas it’s very hard to turn a victim into a villain,” Gray explained.

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Afghan Sentenced to Prison for Committing Fraud Against USAID

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASEAugust 31, 2010 Press Office: 202-712-4320Public Information: 202-712-4810www.usaid.gov

Washington, DC – Ahman Samim Sediqi of Kabul, Afghanistan, was tried and sentenced in a local Afghan court on forgery and embezzlement charges stemming from his work on a development project funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), announced USAID Office of Inspector General spokeswoman Dona M. Dinkler.

A three-judge panel found Sediqi guilty of embezzling nearly $193,000 while working as a finance coordinator on a $229 million local governance program financed by USAID and implemented by an American contractor. The program is intended to assist provincial governments and improve stability within the provinces by supporting public administration and governance and promoting community development. On August 2, 2010, the court sentenced Sediqi to 7 years in prison as prescribed by the Afghan Penal Code-2 years for the falsification of income and rental tax deposit receipts, for which payment was never made, and5 years for embezzlement of funds. The defendant is also required to pay $160,000 in fines.

Sediqi was responsible for depositing the American contractor’s monthly tax payments to Afghanistan’s Ministry of Finance into a local bank account. When the Ministry reported that it had not received the payments, an investigation was initiated. Local law enforcement officials, aided by investigators from USAID’s Office of Inspector General (OIG), discovered that the bank deposit slips Sediqi had submitted to the contractor to prove he had made the payments were not legitimate. Sediqi was arrested on May 11, 2010.

USAID OIG investigators in Afghanistan work closely with local law enforcement authorities in an effort to hold accountable Afghan citizens who engage in criminal misconduct while working on USAID projects.

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8 things that really do help

We’re constantly told ways that we can be greener and help the environment. That’s great and all, but which ones really do help?

These eight changes really do help our planet. And here’s why:

Switching to reusable bags

You’re at the grocery story check out and they ask you: “paper or plastic?” The correct answer? Neither one. The dangers of plastic bags to our environment is one that we often hear. About 90 billion plastic bags were used in the US just last year… And even though it takes about 12 million barrels of oil to make them, that’s not even the half of it. It takes about four times the energy to make paper bags.

Instead, choose reusable shopping bags. Store one in your purse, a few in your car, and the rest by the front door.

Using a reusable water bottle

We sure love our H2O. But the fact that it takes about 25 bottles of water to produce the plastic for a one-litre bottle doesn’t really help the environment. Terrible. The simple solution to to stop buying bottled water. Purchase a stainless steel or aluminum bottle instead, filling it up at home, in the office, at fountains and where ever you can. If you leave it at home and have to opt for a plastic bottle, choose ones that are numbered 1,2,4 or 5.

Say goodbye to paper towels

Paper towels are handy, sure, but not exactly great for the environment. For cleaning, use microfibre towels–they do a better job and you can easily through them in the washer to use them over and over.

When paper towels are a must, look for “green” or “recycled” varieties. Although these in terms of toilet paper might not be the most pleasant, they’re great for paper towels. If every household in the US used recycled ones instead, almost 550,000 trees would be saved per roll.

Stop washing on hot

Washing machines are powered by about 10 percent to run the motor. So where does the rest come from? Heating that water. The bad news isn’t just your energy supply, but your wallet, too.

Choose to wash on cold water by a simple swap on your washing machine’s temperature setting. If you have very heavy soiled towels, socks, or similar, use warm if you absolutely need to. Most new, high-efficiency washers and driers are designed to work better on cold water, too.

And stop drying altogether

How necessary is it to run that dryer? Not really at all. In fact, dryers are the second largest energy user in the average house (first being the fridge). If it’s necessary (like a large load of socks and underwear, be sure to clean the lint filter and only dry full loads of clothes.

The rest of the time, opt for outdoor drying on a clothesline, or indoor on a clothes rack.

Turn down the heater or air conditioner

Yep, it’s chilly. The answer? Put on another layer and get under a blanket. Similarly, a fan, shorts and a tank-top will keep you pretty darn cool in the heat of summer. Save some money–and some energy–by setting your thermostat a few degrees cooler in the winter and a few degrees warmer in the summer. Better yet, nix the air conditioning altogether.

Run that dishwasher when it’s full

Dishwashers are cost-efficient, especially newer ones. They often use less water than handwashing, and save you a lot of time. For the most part, they use about a third less water than washing the dishes by hand, which can save up to 20 gallons of water a day. Click the heat-dry setting “off”, and let them air-dry until you’re ready to unload.

Recycle and compost

By now, if you haven’t started recycling and composting, we wonder where you’ve been all these years. Most paper, plastic, aluminum, food scraps, and cardboard doesn’t have to go in the trash. If you’re community hasn’t started a program, use the compost in your garden, and contact the city to find out what you can do with your recyclable goods.

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Thanksgiving for Kids Part 2: Dessert and Appetizers

Yesterday we talked about our holiday menu!  Today, we’re talking about appetizers and dessert.  In a few hours, we’re going to actually talk.. on the radio!

In keeping with our healthy holiday principles from yesterday, we came up with an appetizer that fit all three criteria. No crackers and cheese for this family!

Using small baking candy cups, we were able to have bite sized servings of:

We curled the ends of the celery sticks by peeling the ends with a vegetable peeler and dunking in ice cold water. (see our old post for curling celery)

For dessert, we had pumpkin pie, in a gluten free way.  For some reason, my dad used to do this growing up. We would only bake the inside of the pie, without the crust.  No one had a problem with gluten, we just loved the middle so much!  So, I just follow the recipe on the pumpkin can, and made pumpkin pie- no crust.  It still is dessert! There is still sugar.  But without the crust you can save a little fat and calories .

We cut the sugar slightly, so the final recipe reads:

Mix all ingredients thoroughly. Pour into a greased pie plate. Bake at 425 for 15 minutes, reduce temp to 350 and bake for another 45 minutes. Pie is finished when toothpick can be inserted in the center and come out clean.

Serve with whipped topping. Garnish with nutmeg.

What are you serving for appetizers and dessert?

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Problems with UK National Health Service

The British show a mixture of pride and embarrassment when they speak about the National Health Service, and contrast it to health systems based on private health insurance.

We are proud of the cherished NHS principles: that it is ‘free at the point of use’ and that treatment is decided on the basis of a patient’s needs rather than the depth of his pocket. Those are sources of justified pride. Private health schemes cannot claim these virtues. However, they do with reason claim a greater sophistication and an ethos of caring for individuals in a more comfortable and individual way.

In terms of comfort and luxury as opposed to medical care, the NHS standard is indeed a basic one and that can be the cause of embarrassment, when the state of NHS hospitals is compared to the higher standards of comfort and even hygiene which often seem to obtain elsewhere. It is partly because of this that many choose to opt out of the NHS, and rely on privately funded care for a less traumatic experience when a serious illness strikes them or a family member. The draw-back of private insurance is of course that all insurances have a financial limit and when that runs out, care may no longer be funded. However, at that point the patient has the right to return to the NHS.

Provision of health care has always been contentious. The post 2nd world war UK government spent long hours and months at the negotiating table arguing with doctors about the terms under which the National Health Service would come into existence. The compromise which was eventually reached was one which allowed for the continued existence of the private sector, and since then it has continued to thrive alongside the NHS.

In recent years we have seen the influence of a more conservative political climate, increased influence from the United States, together with increased expectations which have grown along with scientific advances. These factors have fed into an expanding and successful private sector, which has continued to grow alongside an NHS which is itself better funded than ever before.

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USAID Assistance Tops $105 Million for Nigeriens in Need

The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) is expanding support for food-insecure people and acutely malnourished children in Niger. USAID has committed more than $105 million in humanitarian assistance to date in Fiscal Year (FY) 2010.

In response to alerts from early warning systems and field assessments as early as October 2009, USAID began to procure U.S. food aid in November 2009. When later assessments indicated increased needs, USAID increased funding for emergency programs supporting food security, nutrition, agriculture, and economic recovery and market systems and drew on the resources of the newly authorized Emergency Food Security Program to provide grants to the U.N. World Food Program (WFP) and non-governmental organizations for local or regional procurement of food commodities and/or the use of food vouchers.

To address the food needs of up to 8 million Nigeriens over the next 5 months, USAID has contributed more than $47 million in emergency food assistance, including in-kind food aid and funding for the local and regional purchase of food aid. USAID’s assistance will help cover a majority of the estimated needs to support current WFP emergency operations in Niger.

USAID is increasing efforts to treat, mitigate, and prevent acute malnutrition among children in Niger under the age of five. USAID-funded nutrition programs, targeting approximately 1 million children and pregnant and lactating women, include support for community management of acute malnutrition (CMAM) initiatives, malnutrition screening, data collection and analysis, and the purchase of ready-to-use therapeutic foods and essential medicines.

USAID is also supporting economic recovery and market systems initiatives to increase household purchasing power, targeting an estimated 215,000 households in Niger through the provision of small cash grants and support for cash-for-work programs. With money to spend in local markets, Nigeriens are able to purchase food and restore assets sold or traded for food, helping to prevent or mitigate populations from adopting negative coping mechanisms, such as reducing food intake and eating difficult-to-digest wild foods, during the current hunger season. To help increase the likelihood of an adequate harvest during the September 2010 season, USAID has also provided support for agriculture and food security programs that provide agricultural supplies – such as seeds and tools – to farmers in affected areas.

The United States remains committed to helping the people of Niger in their time of need. In FY 2009, USAID provided more than $23 million in response to the global food price crisis in Niger, supporting nutrition, agriculture and food security, and economic recovery and market systems interventions, and emergency food assistance.

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Class of Drugs Linked to Higher Heart Risk in Older Diabetics

SATURDAY, June 25 New research shows that older people with type 2 diabetes who take drugs known as sulfonylureas to lower their blood sugar levels may face a higher risk for heart problems than their counterparts who take metformin.

Of the more than 8,500 people aged 65 or older with type 2 diabetes who were enrolled in the trial, 12.4 percent of those given a sulfonylurea drug experienced a heart attack or other cardiovascular event, compared with 10.4 percent of those who were started on metformin.

In addition, these heart problems occurred earlier in the course of treatment among those people taking the sulfonylurea drugs, the study showed.

The head-to-head comparison trial is slated to be presented Saturday at the American Diabetes Association annual meeting in San Diego. Because the findings are being reported at a medical meeting, they should be considered preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed journal.

With type 2 diabetes, the body either does not produce enough of the hormone insulin or doesn’t use the insulin it does produce properly. In either case, the insulin can’t do its job, which is to deliver glucose (blood sugar) to the body’s cells. As a result, glucose builds up in the blood and can wreak havoc on the body.

Metformin and sulfonylurea drugs the latter a class of diabetes drugs including glyburide, glipizide, chlorpropamide, tolbutamide and tolazamide are often among the first medications prescribed to lower blood sugar levels in people with type 2 diabetes.

The findings are important, the researchers noted, partly because sulfonylurea drugs are commonly prescribed among the elderly to lower blood glucose levels. In addition, cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death among people with type 2 diabetes.

For several reasons, however, the new study on these medications is far from the final word on the issue, experts said.

For one, people who are started on the sulfonylureas instead of metformin are often sicker to begin with, said Dr. Spyros G. Mezitis, an endocrinologist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City. Metformin cannot be prescribed to people with certain kidney and heart problems, he said.

Both medications lower blood glucose levels, but go about it in entirely different ways, he explained.

“The sulfonylureas lower blood sugar by making the body produce more insulin, and this may cause low blood sugar or hypoglycemia,” he said. In contrast, metformin enhances the activity of the insulin that the body produces.

Previous research has shown that metformin is not linked with as high a risk of low blood sugar as the sulfonylureas. Hypoglycemia robs the muscles including those in the heart of the glucose they need for energy, so they don’t work as well.

This is why these drugs may confer a higher risk for heart attack, Mezitis said. The new study, however, is based only on observations and does not prove any cause-and-effect relationship between these drugs and heart problems.

Dr. Jerome V. Tolbert, medical director of the outreach team at the Friedman Diabetes Institute in New York City, urged caution in reacting to the new findings.

“I wouldn’t bet on this study and say, ‘Everyone stop taking sulfonylureas,’” he said. But, “we are using less and less of these drugs because there are now newer and better drugs out there,” he added.

Some of the newer drugs are more costly, he noted. “If you are concerned about your risks, talk to your doctor for reassurance,” he said, adding that people should never stop taking any prescribed medication without first talking to their doctor.

Dr. Joel Zonszein, director of Clinical Diabetes Center at Montefiore Medical Center in New York City, agreed that the latest findings are far from definitive.

But, “we are using sulfonylureas less and less now,” he said. “And we are only using them in very specific patients and often for short periods of times to treat high blood sugar, and then we switch to another drug.”

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