Archive for May, 2015

‘Is this white enough for you?’ Dutch immigrant children rally against segregation

Immigrant children and their parents in two Amsterdam neighborhoods took to the streets on Friday asking for families to enroll their “white” children in local schools, which are becoming increasingly segregated.

The 100 or so schoolchildren – mostly from Africa and the Middle East – took part in a rally, AFP reported. They were wearing bright wight t-shirts imprinted bearing the phrase “Is this white enough for you?” Their message was that they wanted more Dutch native classmates to help them integrate.

The Netherlands generally calls on greater and smoother integration of migrants into society, encouraging them to learn the language and take special tests. But on a social level, things have not gone as smoothly as planned: Approximately 90 percent of pupils at the two schools in Amsterdam – De Avonturijn and Catharinaschool – have immigrant backgrounds.

As more families leave the districts, making way for the growing migrant influx, there are fewer and fewer children enrolling every year, and the schools are now threatened with closure.

“When, for different reasons, a school ‘becomes blacker’, it’s very difficult to reverse the trend,” the schools’ spokesperson Diane Middelkoop said, AFP reports. “White children’s parents no longer want to be part of the school. I can understand that: We all want to feel at home and that means that we want to see people who share our origins and culture.”

A woman wearing a T-shirt reading "Is this white enough for you? " gives out a leaflet on May 22, 2015, in Amsterdam. (AFP Photo / Remko DE Waal)

A woman wearing a T-shirt reading “Is this white enough for you? ” gives out a leaflet on May 22, 2015, in Amsterdam. (AFP Photo / Remko DE Waal)

“It’s shameful that it’s come to this, that children have to take to the street to go to school with white children,” AFP quotes one elderly local resident, also an immigrant from Suriname.

In order to help their children integrate into society, parents were going door to door distributing flyers saying “We’re looking for white pupils.”

“I want my children to be integrated in Dutch society and to learn about different cultures,” said one of the marching children’s mother.

But as migrant numbers rise, so does the support for far-right and anti-migrant politicians. One example is the Party of Freedom, currently holding 10 percent of the Dutch Parliament’s seats, and its founder Geert Wilders, who blames migrants for not integrating enough.

Boy, 11, graduates from California college with 3 degrees

A California boy, 11, just graduated from college with three degrees. Tanishq Abraham says his dreams are to become a doctor, a Nobel Prize-winning medical researcher, and President of the United States.

Abraham graduated from American River College in Sacramento, possibly the youngest graduate in the college’s 60-year history.

The assumption is that he’s the all-time youngest,” American River College spokesman Scott Crow told NBC Bay Area on Thursday. “But we don’t have all the archives to completely confirm. He was definitely the youngest this year.”

I like to learn,” he told KTXL following the graduation ceremony. “So I just followed my passion of learning, and that’s how I ended up here.”

Tanishq was home-schooled by his mother Taji, a veterinarian who reportedly took a break from her own PhD studies to teach him. Last year, at age 10, he satisfied all the state requirements and graduated high school.

We did it as a family, as teamwork,” said Taji Abraham. “And I was just cheering, I was just crying there when I saw Tanishq walk down the stage.”

Intellect apparently runs in the family. His father, Bijou Abraham, had a perfect math score on his SAT. He is a Cornell University graduate and software engineer. Tanishq’s younger sister Tiara, 9, is also a prodigy; both children joined Mensa International at the age of four.

Even in kindergarten,” Taji Abraham said, Tanishq “was a few years ahead. It just went from there.”

Tanishq started taking classes at American River College when he was 7. According to KNTV, he had enough credits for associate’s degrees in mathematics and physical science, general science and language studies.

The boy’s summer plans include taking an eight-week Calculus II course, and a family vacation. His long-term goals include attending Stanford University, becoming a doctor, winning a Nobel Prize in medicine, and becoming President of the United States.

Dasani Bottled Water Has 4 Ingredients: Tap Water, Known Teratogen, Lethal Drug, and Salt

I remember the first time I tasted Dasani bottled water. It was 2004 and I was at a gym in Orange County, California. The drinking fountain at the gym was out of order so I purchased a bottle of water from a vending machine. I cracked open that lid and—YUCK! I had never tasted water so disgusting. Who knew water could have such a strong taste? At the time, I assumed my taste buds were off and eventually I drank Dasani bottled water again… always with the same reaction. Gross! I’ve finally learned my lesson. Unless I’m extremely parched, I would rather remain thirsty than drink Dasani. While everyone’s bodies are different, I personally have a visceral reaction to Dasani. After drinking Dasani, my stomach sometimes hurts and I almost always have terrible dry mouth. Have you noticed any of these side effects after drinking Dasani?

Years later, during a trip to Costco, I noticed that Costco brand Kirkland Signature water lists several ingredients added “for taste.” Out of curiosity, I drank the water and—light bulb!—there was that familiar, metallic Dasani taste. It seemed clear to me that Costco and Dasani had shared water “recipes.” When I noticed that Costco brand water had multiple ingredients in addition to water, I wondered if Dasani had additives as well. What I learned surprised me. Not only does Dasani water have additives, but these additives are known to cause much more than dry mouth and abdominal pain. These chemicals can, at high levels, cause birth defects and death.

Dasani bottled water contains four ingredients: tap water, magnesium sulfate, potassium chloride, and salt. The Dasani label claims these ingredients are added for taste, and while that may be true, these ingredients change a lot more than taste. Do you know what’s really in your bottled water? 

Dasani Ingredient #1: Tap Water. It’s no secret that Dasani, which is owned by Coca-Cola, bottles tap water. In general, I have no problem drinking tap water. Although tap water often tastes noticeably different from spring water, I acknowledge that drinking tap water is an environmentally conscious choice…. but bottling tap water?! That seems to defeat the purpose. If you’re going to drink tap water, drink it from the tap.

Dasani Ingredient #2: Magnesium Sulfate. AKA Epsom Salts or Bath Salts. FDA Pregnancy Category D Teratogen, Drying Agent, and Laxative. On its own, anhydrous magnesium sulfate is a drying agent. (Side note: Could this explain the strange dry mouth I experience after drinking Dasani water? It’s ironic that Coca-Cola has added a “drying agent” to a beverage that is intended to quench thirst. If trace amounts of magnesium sulfate residue remain on your tongue after you drink a bottle of water, making it difficult to quench your thirst, it seems reasonable to question whether this might encourage you to purchase another bottle of water or perhaps a soft drink, either of which would benefit Coca-Cola. Could this be a dangerous ploy from the marketing masterminds at Coca-Cola?) In addition, magnesium sulfate has many powerful purposes in medicine. Off label, it has been used to delay labor by inhibiting uterine contractions in pregnant women. However, this practice is declining because recent studies show that magnesium sulfate causes birth defects at high doses. After studies suggested that just 5-7 days of in utero exposure to high doses of magnesium sulfate caused birth defects, the FDA recommended that magnesium sulfate be classified as a Category D Teratogen. Coca-Cola would probably prefer that the many pregnant women drinking Dasani water don’t know that an ingredient in their water can, at high doses, affect unborn babies. So what exactly happens to the babies of mothers who are exposed to high doses of intravenous magnesium sulfate? After just 5-7 days, exposed babies experienced bone structure changes and weaker bones. For these reasons, magnesium sulfate is now listed as a known teratogen (Pregnancy Category D) with positive evidence of human fetal risk, according to the FDA. Yes, Dasani water lists a known teratogen as an ingredient. As with any chemical, the dose makes the poison, but I personally choose to avoid water with additives. You can learn more about the FDA’s position here. One more thing: Magnesium sulfate is known to have a “bitter taste.” So why is Coca-Cola adding it to their already foul-tasting water?

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The Effects Of Television On Humans

Hassam,Waking Times

While controversy continues to surround the way the content screen media affects our thoughts and behaviour, a growing body of empirical evidence is indicating that watching television causes physiological changes, which are really not for the better. Most of these effects occur irrespective of the type of programme that people watch – whether it is violence or teletubbies (fun, games, etc). It is the medium, not the message.

Watching television is now the industrialised world’s main pastime, taking up more of our time than any other single activity except work and sleep. However, biological sciences are fast becoming the new arena for examining the effects of society’s favourite pastime. And in industrialised societies, the findings are set to recast the role of the television screen as the greatest unacknowledged public health issue of our time.

Attention and Cognition

The general guidelines recommend that children under the age of two should not watch TV or any form of screen entertainment at all because television “can negatively affect early brain development” and that children of all ages should not have a television in their bedroom.

Early exposure to television during critical periods of synaptic development would be associated with subsequent attention problems. Little thought has gone in to the potentially crucial role that early childhood experiences may have on the development of attentional problems.

Children who watch television at ages one and three had a significantly increased risk of developing such attentional problems by the time they were seven. For every hour of television a child watched per day, there was a significant increase in attentional problems. New brain-imaging studies have found that different parts of the brain deal with different types of attention and so there can be types of attentional damage.

Television elicits our instinctive sensitivity to movement and sudden changes in vision or sound. The orienting response to television is apparent almost from birth: infants, when lying on their backs on the floor, will crane their necks around 180 degrees to watch. Twenty years ago, studies began to look at whether the medium of television alone – the stylistic techniques of cuts, edits, zooms, criticism, sudden noises, not the content of the programme – activates this orienting response. This was done by considering how electroencephalogram (EEG) responses were affected.
It is known that these stylistic techniques can indeed trigger involuntary physiological responses of detecting and attending to movement – dynamic stimuli – something television has in abundance. These techniques also cause us to continue to pay attention to the screen.

Most of our stares at a television screen are highly prone to termination, lasting less than three seconds. But as we continue to stare, it becomes progressively less fragile, gaining a powerful attentional inertia after about 15 seconds. By increasing the rate of edits – camera changes in the same visual scene – one can increase the subject’s physiological excitement along with attention to the screen.

Others have compared the attentional demands of children’s programmes made in the public and private sectors, that is, commercial television. Children’s television programmes increasingly demand constant attentional shifts by their viewers but do not require them to pay prolonged attentional shifts to given events.

Researchers are now asking if it is possible that television’s conditioning of short attentional span may be related to some school children’s attentional deficits in later classroom settings and whether the recent increase of attention deficit disorders in children of school going age might be a natural reaction to our modern, fast culture – an attention deficit culture.

Compared to the pace with which the real life unfolds and is experienced by young children, television portrays life with the fast-forward button fully pressed. Rapidly changing images, scenery and events and high-fidelity sounds are highly stimulating and extremely interesting. Television is the flavour enhancer of the audiovisual world, providing unnatural levels of sensory stimulation.

The actual currency used to pay off and corrupt the reward system may come in the form of the neurotransmitter, dopamine. The release of dopamine in the brain is associated with reward. In particular, dopamine is seen as rewarding us for paying attention, especially to things that are novel and stimulating. This underfunctioning of dopamine may fail to reward the brain’s attention systems, so they do not function effectively.

Interestingly, adults with attention deficit disorder, who are given dopamine-boosting methylphenidate (Ritalin) before doing a maths test, find it easier to concentrate. This is partly because the task seems more interesting. More research is needed into the extent to which this reward system involving dopamine (and other neurotransmitters) is set in childhood by exposure to electronic media such as television.

380396_f260Early exposure to television is now found in another childhood condition. The very latest research on communication disorders suggests that early childhood television viewing may be an important trigger for autism (communication disorders), the incidence of which appears to be increasing.

Research into Alzheimer’s disease are concluding that each additional daily hour is associated as a risk factor. This, in turn, leads to cognitive impairment in all measures, including attention, memory and psychomotor speed. For example, a study looking at differences in cerebral blood flow between children playing computer games and children doing very simple repetitive arithmetic adding single digit numbers found that computer games only stimulated activity in those parts of the brain associated with vision and movement as compared to arithmetic-stimulated brain activity, adding single-digit, numbers-activated areas throughout the left and right frontal lobes.

Television viewing among children under three years of age is found to have a negative effect on mathematical ability, reading recognition and comprehension in later childhood. Along with television viewing displacing educational and play activities, it is suspected that this harm may be due to the visual and auditory output from the television actually affecting the child’s rapidly developing brain.

A 25-year study, tracking children from birth has recently concluded that television viewing in childhood and adolescence is associated with poor educational achievement by 30 years of age. Early exposure to television may have long-lasting adverse consequences for educational achievement and later, the socio-economic status and well-being.

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Is Martial Law Justified If ISIS Attacks The United States?

Brandon Smith/ActivistPost

A group of foreign militants infiltrates the U.S. using student visas, weak borders, bribery and cooperation with drug cartels. Secret cells integrate within metropolitan areas and blend with the populace. At the precise moment, they activate, unleashing small attacks across the country in coordinated blitzkrieg-style terror campaigns against everything from suburban neighborhoods to public schools to shopping malls, striking fear into the citizenry, which now believes no one is safe, even in the heartland. With normal law enforcement overwhelmed, the economy on the brink and the populace ready to riot, the military is deployed domestically; curfews, price controls and rationing are initiated; and special operations agents act as infiltrators in order to subdue the terrorist factions. The loss of common liberties is welcomed by most as safety and security become the paramount motivator.

A glimpse into the future? Well, perhaps. Actually, it’s the plot narrative to a Chuck Norris movie called Invasion U.S.A. The terrorists in that movie were communists from places like Cuba and Venezuela (hey, it was the ’80s, and we had no idea that the communists were elitists that had already taken over from within), but the premise is strangely not far from what the government is trying to sell to us as a potential real-life scenario today.

As Americans, we have been bombarded with propaganda for decades, which conjures rationalizations for domestic military operations. This propaganda always presents us with an all-or-nothing option: relinquish liberty and beat the enemy, or “cling” to the “outdated” Constitution and fall as a society. There never seems to be a third option, an option that does not require the loss of freedoms and allows for security. In the film Invasion U.S.A., I suppose we had Chuck Norris as a third option, which is not a bad third option in the world of cinema; but I’m sorry to say that Chuck alone cannot save us from what is coming in the real America.

I am highly suspicious of the rhetoric coming out of Washington lately in terms of the ISIS situation. ISIS has apparently secured the Iraqi city of Ramadi and put the government there on the defensive, meaning that despite the recent claims that ISIS leadership has been hit in Syria, the group continues to advance.

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Losing my religion: US population becomes less Christian

Christianity has experienced a sharp decline in Americans identifying as a member of that religion. Meanwhile, the number of people belonging to non-Christian faiths is growing, as is the number of unaffiliated people, according to a new report.

The number of people identifying as Christians in the US has dropped almost eight percentage points since 2007, from 78.4 percent to 70.6 percent, the Pew Research Center found in its 2014 Religious Landscape Study. At the same time, the number of unaffiliated Americans ‒ meaning atheists, agnostics and those who identify as “nothing in particular” ‒ increased more than six percentage points, from 4.7 percent in 2007 to 5.9 percent in 2014.

“What we’re seeing now is that the share of people who say religion is important to them is declining,”Greg Smith, associate director of research at the Pew Research Center, told the Washington Post.“The religiously unaffiliated are not just growing, but as they grow, they are becoming more secular.”

Americans are not as religiously insular as they once were. The poll found that among Americans who have gotten married since 2010, nearly four in 10 (39 percent) are in mixed-religion marriages, compared to 19 percent among those couples who got married before 1960.

“American religion is as caught up in change and innovation as any other part of American life,” John C. Green, a political scientist who studies American religion at the University of Akron and who was an adviser to the study, told the Salt Lake Tribune.“That’s not to say all are happy about it.”

The United States’ religious makeup is changing as people readily switch faiths and increasingly marry people from other traditions, he noted.

The so-called “millennial” generation is the most likely to be unaffiliated, as the median age of those who don’t identify with a faith is 36. The unaffiliated are becoming younger in general, as the median age of that group in 2007 was 38. While millennials are marrying later than their parents’ and grandparents’ generations did, they’re not becoming more religious as they age.

“Some have asked, ‘Might they become more religiously affiliated as they get older?’ There’s nothing in this data to suggest that’s what’s happening,” Smith said.

As the young become more secular, the median age of people belonging to Christian religions is going up. Half of all mainline Protestants are 52 or older, up from a median age of 50 in 2007. For Catholics, the median age grew from 45 to 49.

“There’s a continuing religious disaffiliation among older cohorts. That is really striking,” Smith said. “I continue to be struck by the pace at which the unaffiliated are growing.”

There are now about 56 million religiously unaffiliated adults in the US, up 19 million from 2007. Men are more likely to have left their sect than women.

“It’s remarkably widespread,” said Alan Cooperman, director of religion research for the Pew Research Center, according to the Washington Post. “The country is becoming less religious as a whole, and it’s happening across the board.”

As Christianity shrinks in the US, mainline Protestants and Catholics are those most likely to have left their faiths.

“That’s a striking and important note,” Smith said. “That means that there are more than six former Catholics for every convert to Catholicism. There’s no other group in the survey that has that ratio of loss due to religious switching.”

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Vienna installs gay-themed traffic lights ahead of Eurovision 2015

Vienna has introduced gay-themed traffic lights in preparation for this month’s Eurovision contest, aiming to present the city as open-minded. Supporters also say the changes could improve road safety, attracting the attention of drivers and pedestrians.

A total of 120 pedestrian crossings in the city will be replaced with the new installations, which show male and female gay couples in the standard colors of green and red.

According to Greens MP Maria Vassilakou, the move is designed to show how open-minded Vienna is. But the progressive effort comes at a cost of €63,000 (US$70,779).

It’s a figure that has infuriated some residents.

“That’s our tax money – not your private play money! Couldn’t a better use for it have been found?” one person wrote in the comments section of Kronen Zeitung newspaper, The Local reports.

“There’s not enough money to help single parents or build new play parks but there seems to be plenty of money for senseless things,” another said.

But Vassilakou said the lights have another aim – to improve traffic safety. She said the city hopes the unusual images will attract the attention of drivers and pedestrians, thereby decreasing road accidents.

The implementation of the lights is part of a ‘test phase’ which will last until June. The city will then analyze data to determine whether the campaign helped traffic safety.

Last year, 22 children were injured at pedestrian crossings in the city.

It’s not the first time that traffic lights in Europe have been the source of controversy. Last year, the dominance of male figures in traffic lights in the western city of Dortmund sparked debate, with some politicians urging the city to pursue gender equality at pedestrian crossings.

In response, the German newspaper Westdeutsche Allgemeine Zeitung proposed a light-hearted compromise – the introduction of traffic light couples. Although the suggestion wasn’t taken up in Germany, it seems Vienna was more than happy to oblige.

About 40 countries are taking part in the 2015 Eurovision contest, with the Grand Final scheduled to be held on May 23. The contest, which will celebrate its 60th anniversary this year, has long been a fixture in the gay community.

Vienna is hosting the contest following last year’s triumphant win by bearded drag queen Conchita Wurst, who resides in Austria.